5 Random Things: Read Like a Rock Star

Posted on 01 April 2013

1. Ask this, not that. Here’s some advice to help guide audience members toward the better questions to ask during a reading. It covers everything from the dreaded “Where do you get your ideas?” to the more specific “How can you be a mother and still find time to write?” (As for that last question: Would you ask a man how on earth he finds time to father? Let’s change the world by only asking men this question.)

2. Fake slush. Did you hear about the writer who submitted a previously published New Yorker story to multiple magazines, only to see it rejected everywhere (including the New Yorker)? Here’s why that was a really big waste of everyone’s time. I couldn’t agree more.

3. Part of the problem. A book reviewer conducts a VIDA count of his own work and realizes that he’s part of the problem: “Since 1996, I have reviewed 280 books for various publications … I’m ashamed to say that of those 280, only 66 were written or edited by women. That’s a dismal 23.5%.”

4. Follow your passion, but only after you clock out. The Onion has some advice for writers: “Just find the thing you enjoy doing more than anything else, your one true passion, and do it for the rest of your life on nights and weekends when you’re exhausted and cranky and just want to go to bed.”

5. Read like a rock star. When Dan Chaon advised aspiring writers to actually read the publications they’re submitting their work to, this Salon piece essentially says, “Why bother? Today’s literary fiction is awful.” It’s easy to make blanket statements about literary fiction, or to call it “really fucking boring,” but when I hear that from someone, it generally tells  me that this person likely doesn’t read widely in the genre (or is making an incendiary statement in an online article to get more clicks). At the least, it may be coming from readers who don’t do what Chaon suggests in the first place, which is to seek out the work that speaks to them. By all means, read a range of genres. That’s fantastic, and I can’t imagine Chaon was suggesting literary fiction writers only read current lit mags. But if a writer is actually submitting his work to these magazines, he should be reading them. And if he doesn’t like what he sees there, in any of the hundreds of journals that publish a wide range of voices and styles, then he shouldn’t be submitting his work to any of them. Period.

What are you reading and what are you asking?

Photo: quapan

6 responses to 5 Random Things: Read Like a Rock Star

  • Downith says:

    I’m reading The Kite Runner and I’m asking myself if I can be bothered to stick with it. (especially when Wild is newly arrived on my Kindle.)

    • Downith says:

      PS -Read the slate piece on submitting previously published work. Favourite line?

      “Then there’s the guy who (and it’s always a guy)


      • I know, I laughed at that, too. I think I’ve mentioned before how I was in a writing group with someone who submitted a plagiarized story for critique. He called it a “test.” A test he told none of the other writing group members about except me.

  • Sarah W says:

    “Just find the thing you enjoy doing more than anything else, your one true passion, and do it for the rest of your life on nights and weekends when you’re exhausted and cranky and just want to go to bed.”


    I’m between books at the moment . . . it’s such a weird feeling!

  • Catherine says:

    Great points and the slush pile one, OMG.. To think I had a piece sent back from TNY last week. What was I thinking?

    I’m reading ‘Carpentaria’ by Alexis Wright, a huge novel about Indigenous people in northern Australia.

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