Month: July 2014

Literary Paraphernalia: 10 Bookish Shoes For Your Wardrobe

If there’s one thing a girl can’t have too much of, it’s shoes. Or is it diamonds. Hm. Regardless, these literary kicks are an adorable way to show off your love of writing and books. And a few of them could even be made yourself, if you happen to be crafty and can work a paint brush and glue.

Where The Wild Things Are Van Shoes

The Hobbit Handpainted Shoes

Library Due Date Canvas Shoe

Spiderman Sneakers

English Teacher + Infant = Literary Photo Shoot

I love being an English teacher. I get to read great books with great kids all day for the entire year. I also love being a father. I get to raise a human being, teach him how to throw a baseball, and introduce him to the Star Wars films. This is a wonderful life.

This summer, life got even sweeter. It was my first as a father. Rather than get to my to-do list items as I normally do during summers, I decided to distract myself with a father-son project. With the help of my eight month old son Gabriel, we recreated some cover art from a few great pieces of literature. So, in case you were wondering, this is what happens when an infant is left in the care of an English teacher for the summer.

 

1 cover

 

Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

2 Gabriel and Hobbes

2 calvin-and-hobbes-calvin-and-hobbes-1395531-800-600

Story Shots: Fireworks

Story Shots: Fireworks Our monthly column featuring creative nonfiction from our contributors—stories so short you can read them in the amount of time it takes to drink a shot.

When I think of July, one thing comes to mind: fireworks. July is a month that is full of barbecues, beer, family, and fireworks. Americans love to celebrate Independence Day by playing with mild explosives after probably a few too many hot dogs and Bud Lights. So for this month, we asked our writers to create a story shot with the inspiration of fireworks.


“I don’t want to see fireworks. None. I’m too mad at America today.”

“Okay,” he replied.

“And I don’t want American food, either. No cheeseburgers – in fact, fuck cheeseburgers.”

“Got it.”

He listened to my stupidity so well. He shared my anger, I think, or at least he let me vent it. The Fourth was not a day of celebration for me; indeed, the fireworks depicting independence and sovereignty were lost in irony to me. Earlier that week, the Supreme Court had ruled that corporate religious rights outweighed individuals rights of free choice and privacy when it came to medical treatments. The night before the Fourth, the Supreme Court had extended this decision to include not just Christian for-profit companies, but non-profit companies as well.

I showed up downtrodden. He gave me a smile and we went inside. Nothing was red, white, and blue. We sat and watched Blazing Saddles and then grabbed some Indian food for dinner. Later that night, we both comforted his dogs through the loud bangs that echoed in the dark. For a bitter, sad lefty like me, the night was perfect.

As I drove home, I couldn’t help but see fireworks going off in the air. They sparkled, but I saw no reason to acknowledge their shinning. I lost the awe and wonder of shiny things long ago, and instead of being dazzled by the brief and wondrous flash of chemicals burning up the night’s sky, leaving behind a pollutant tail of ash, I saw the burnt up cinders of freedoms and rights we had fought so hard to win not too long ago being blown away on a wind bellowing in the wrong direction.

– Amanda Riggle


When I arrived at George’s house, I pulled down the mirror and checked my makeup, spreading more balm on my chapped lips. They were at the park down the road, waiting for the fireworks to go off, and I was late. I had tried on my entire closet before settling on a gauzy, tie-dyed top and a pair of jean shorts. I made it half way out the door before realizing I had forgotten to shave. I stared down at my legs, where a thin layer of hair had begun to sprout. “Shit,” I muttered. Now, as I walked down the hill, I rubbed my ankle against the smooth skin on my calf, casually trying to get rid of the itching sensation that had begun to spread across my legs.

When I saw him, my heart began beating so loudly I could feel it rattling in my skull. My breath came in sharp puffs. I tried to summon the rhythmic chanting of my yoga instructor, breath in and out. Or was it out and in. I no longer remembered. Half the time, I lay curled up on a mat at the back of the classroom—the dark, musty atmosphere lulling me to sleep. They were headed in the opposite direction, and when he saw me, his lips curled into a smile. His sharp canines spilling over his full lips.

“Leaving already?” I asked as I joined them.

“George forgot the whiskey,” he said, lightly punching his friend’s arm. Later, the night grew foggy and dense. Ice clinking in a glass. Billiard balls smacking into one another. My torso bent over the green cloth as I closed one eye and aimed, his palm resting, for a moment, on my hip as he passed behind me. And later, spilling onto the carpet, together, because the bed we shared creaked too loudly under our weight. It was the first time I missed the fireworks. I could hear them, the high-pitched whistle as they shot into the air. The crackling, staccato explosions as they descended, their willowy branches dissipating as they reached the earth. I was nostalgic for them, even then. It felt like I was turning my back on something, leaving it behind like my belief in the tooth fairy or Santa. Like my belief in God.

– Melanie Figueroa


Author Spotlight: Mark Chiusano

markchiusano

Mark Chiusano is a graduate of Harvard University, where he was the recipient of a Hoopes Prize for outstanding undergraduate fiction. His stories have appeared in Guernica, Narrative MagazineThe Harvard Review, and online at Tin House and The Paris Review Daily. He was born and raised in Brooklyn.

9780143124603_large_Marine_Park
Buy the book here:
Amazon
IndieBound

TPP: Describe your collection is ten words or less.

Mark Chiusano: Far out in Brooklyn, growing up, sometimes shoveling snow.

TPP: What inspired you to write the stories in Marine Park?

MC: Plenty of books have been written in or about Brooklyn, but Marine Park is basically invisible in all that literary productivity. I wanted to show a different side of the borough from the land of popular publishing imagination.

TPP: What do you want readers to take away from your collection?

MC: A picture of a lesser-known neighborhood, and the best way to get kicked off a Brooklyn basketball court (don’t try at home!). If it’s possible to give away slices of pizza from Pronto’s on Avenue R that would be great too.

TPP: What advice can you give aspiring authors? What advice do you wish you were given?

MC: I once heard Denis Johnson say that he writes three minutes a day, at least, which I’ve tried to do since then—usually you write more but at least you’re sitting down and doing it no matter what.

TPP: Name two to three songs that would be on a soundtrack for Marine Park.

MC: Billy Joel’s “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant,” Black Star’s “Definition,” and Z100’s morning mix.

To learn more about Mark Chiusano, visit his website!

Stay Cool While Your Writing Environment is Hot

California - the land of the congested road and 100 degree weather. Why do people live here again?
California – the land of the congested road and 100 degree weather. Why do people live here again?

I live in California. This past Thursday, the temperature reached 100 degrees. It was hot. I was hot. But, more importantly, my house was hot and I was trying to write.

It’s not very easy to write when you’re hot and sweating while sitting on a computer, at least not for me. Despite my discomfort, I had to write anyway, but I did find a few things that helped me stay cool.

First and foremost, I got away from the computer. I’ve noted that my laptop emits a ton of heat, and it compounds the heat already within the hotness of my room and makes it rather unbearable, plus, I hear it’s not great to run a laptop in the heat anyway. Instead, I’ve turned to writing by hand and typing it up later in the evenings when it cools down or in the mornings before it gets too hot. This way, my room doesn’t get extra hot and my laptop doesn’t overheat. For me, this is a win-win.

Prewriting Characters

Alas, my friends, I’m here to admit that I was wrong (gasp!), which is probably something my boyfriend would be shocked to hear me say—so let’s not tell him. Last November, all of the contributors at The Poetics Project decided to join together in a pact to complete our own NaNoWriMo projects. We failed, miserably, but along the way we wrote about our failure and our writing processes. I wrote this little gem about how I hated the idea of outlining an entire novel. It’s much better to dive right into the unknown, right? Wrong.

You see, I didn’t actually say I didn’t see the need for an outline. Instead, I said that I prefer to write a shitty rough draft before wasting my time with one. After all, the stories that form in our minds as we excitedly conjure them up at the most inconvenient times—in the shower, in the car, or, you know, in the throes of passion (yep, that is how you spell throes)—are not entirely formed. And diving, as it were, is not a horrible idea. A little free writing can help spark connections in your developing plot and help you feel out the direction you want to take things in.

What I was wrong about, however, was the value of prewriting.

Read These Stories from The New Yorker Before They’re Gone!

(Image Source: Wikipedia.Org)

TheNew Yorker is filled with many things, from contemporary news stories to literary criticism. What I want to focus on in this post are the short stories that are often published within the New Yorker which have been free for all to access. That is about to change. The New Yorker is planning on putting up a pay wall so that only people who have subscriptions or pay for web access can read these wonderful pieces of literature.

Personally, being left-leaning and open-source-friendly, I’m not too enthused that these wonderful pieces of literature which have been open for all are going to soon come with a price tag attached, but I do understand that to continue publishing the New Yorker does need to make revenue somehow.

If you’re broke like I am, that revenue won’t be coming from you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy some of the wonderful stories that are to be found before the pay wall goes up. Below are some fantastic stories to be found on the New Yorker for you to check out before the summer is over.

The Cheater’s Guide to Love by Junot Diaz

The first novel I read by Junot Diaz was The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Within that story, Diaz was able to create well-rounded, likable, and complex characters that jumped off the page and felt like too familiar to just be fictional beings. He has a great style that mixes family, history, politics, love, and tragedy in the way a conductor leads a full orchestra. The Cheater’s Guide to Love doesn’t fail to live up to Diaz’s talent.

Literary Paraphernalia: 10 Necklaces for Word Lovers

Generally speaking, I try to find some clever way of introducing these Literary Paraphernalia posts, but the truth is, it’s just me, plugging away all of the literary stuff I wish I wasn’t too broke to purchase. But I’m okay with that. In truth, there’s something cathartic about putting it down. It helps me get it out of my system. And there’s always the off chance that my boyfriend happens to come across a post (yes, Chris, I would like ALL the jewelry) and decides to surprise me. A girl can hope, right?

In reality, it’s more likely that a friend comes in to class, waving her newly-bangled arm in my face and thanking me for introducing her to the literary Etsy shop that sold it to her—a page from a book glued to its surface. Hi Missy.

This week, I happened to stumble across a necklace, the words “I am I am I am” dangling from the chain—the same words I plan on getting tattooed on my skin one day. The words come from Sylvia Plath’s book, The Bell Jar, and while they may mean something different to each person who reads them, their rhythm closely resembles that of a heart beat. “I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart. I am. I am. I am.”

And that, my friends, was the inspiration for this week’s post—the Plath necklace being the first item.

“I am I am I am” Necklace

“The Great Oz” Key-Pendant Necklace

The Hobbit Necklace

“Down the Rabbit Hole” Necklace

Hillary Clinton’s Favorite Books and Authors?

Despite the next presidential election being more than two years away, hopeful candidates are already carving out a spot in the public eye. Hillary Clinton, probable democratic front runner for 2016, spoke to the New York Times about what books she’s read recently, as well as her list of favorite authors. While some, like Ralph Nader, doubt Clinton’s sincerity when it comes to having actual read these books, I’ve decided to run the numbers.

I know I’m a decently busy person, and this year, despite that schedule, I have read a total of 30 books. I will admit that half of those books were for classes, but overall, I have read about 15 books this year for pleasure (not that my school books aren’t pleasurable—I love my major and my reading).

I’m on the fence when it comes to Clinton’s sincerity. I think one dedicated and with a love for reading and books could most definitely find the time to do the reading on her list. But, with all of the campaigning she is doing, plus her former positions as a member of President Barack Obama’s cabinet as U.S. Secretary of State, Senator for New York, and, of course, her stint as First Lady, it is really hard to picture her with a lot of down time for reading.

I won’t try to sway the reader one way or the other on the likelihood of Clinton actually reading this list, instead, I will provide a list of the books, the page count, and the time it would take to read the book based on an average reading rate of 450 words (which is generous. I read faster than that, but the average reading rate of say, a college student, is about 350 words a minute).

 

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

The Goldfinch is 775 pages long. With roughly 250 to 300 words a page average for books, that makes this book about 193,750 to 232,500 words long. At the reading rate of 450 words per minute, it would take roughly between 7 hours and 15 minutes to 8 hours and 45 minutes to finish this book.

Author Spotlight: Adi Alsaid

adialsaid

Adi Alsaid was born and raised in Mexico City, then studied at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. While in class, he mostly read fiction and continuously failed to fill out crossword puzzles, so it’s no surprise that after graduating, he did not go into business world but rather packed up his apartment into his car and escaped to the California coastline to become a writer. He’s now back in his hometown, where he writes, coaches high school and elementary basketball, and has perfected the art of making every dish he eats or cooks as spicy as possible. In addition to Mexico, he’s lived in Tel Aviv, Las Vegas, and Monterey, California. A tingly feeling in his feet tells him more places will eventually be added to the list. Let’s Get Lost is his YA debut.

Let's Get Lost_Adi Alsaid_cover
Buy the book here:
Amazon
IndieBound

The Poetics Project: Describe your novel in ten words or less.
Adi Alsaid: Leila, mysterious girl, crashes into four teens’ lives.

TPP: What inspired you to write Let’s Get Lost?
AA: It was partially inspired by my own travels and road tripping. It aims to be more than just a road trip novel, told through the points of view of different characters along the way, so it’s about more than just traveling. Each character’s section is imbued with its own inspirations, large or small, mostly stemming from my interest in the idea of a story about how we affect the strangers around us, my almost life-long interest in what’s going on in other people’s thoughts.

TPP: What was the most difficult aspect of writing your novel?
AA: Probably in finding the right balance of internal moments and external action. I wanted the book to be both emotional and yet fun, and so it took a few drafts (and my editors’ smarts/talents/etc) to strike the right balance.