Friday, July 30, 2010

Web directories and resources for creative writing: Yahoo directory

I was excited recently to discover that Yahoo still maintains a Web subject directory (which, ironically, I found via a Google search); even more excited to see that one of its subject categories is Literature > Creative Writing.

[For those of you who don't know Yahoo's history, before Yahoo had devolved into a celebrity news port, its focus was on indexing the Internet—this was before the Internet got so crowded. I heard a Yahoo rep speak at librarian conference in the mid-90s about their subject indexing.]

But I'm not sure that I can trust this directory as being either comprehensive or unbiased. When I looked at the Yahoo sub-listing for Literature > Creative Writing/Blogs, I was puzzled that they list only 25 blogs, and wondered why they'd listed Neil Gaiman's blog first—which meant the list isn't alphabetical, but it didn't say if it was listed by popularity ranking either.

Of course I wanted to help them plump up the list, so I clicked on the top link that says "Suggest a Site"—this links to a page that says:

There are two ways you can submit a site to the Yahoo! Directory.

No time guarantee


Yahoo! Directory Submit
7- Day Guarantee (If you choose Yahoo! Directory Submit we guarantee that your site will be considered by our editors within 7 business days.)
US$299.00 non-refundable, recurring annual fee

So, writer beware. I'm sharing the link to this listing, but not necessarily endorsing it.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The dark bookends of my reporting career

When I started work at the Winston-Salem Journal in the summer of 1985, a dark cloud hung over me, especially as I walked to work from the public parking garage that first day of work. It was an unease that was with me until I was safely inside the building.

The previous year, on her way to work, newly hired copy editor Deborah Sykes was murdered just a few blocks from where I was walking. (Sykes had just been hired by the Journal's then-afternoon paper, The Sentinel).

Although the circumstances were slightly different—I was going into work at 9 a.m., a busier time than her early a.m. entrance—I felt her ghost with me every morning and every evening as I walked to my car, even after I got to park in the closer-by company parking lot.

A few weeks later, I moved up to Boone to work at the paper's Northwest Bureau. I relaxed there, unworried about keeping late hours since my office was on King St., the town's main drag. I could park my car right in front at night and walk to it straight from my building.

But just weeks after I left Boone for graduate school in Chapel Hill, a young female reporter at the local Watauga Democrat was found murdered near the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Her first name was Jenny. She was young, sweet, dark-haired, still fairly fresh from college. The newspaper accounts at the time said she'd been on her way to work early in the morning, probably accosted in downtown Boone and driven out to the Parkway where she was murdered.

"That could have been me"—a whispered epiphany. Since then, whenever I've left work in the dark, I've enlisted co-workers or building guards to walk out with me, especially when the streets are quiet and empty. I don't feel paranoid, but cautious—a caution composed equally of regret and sadness and fear.

Is it the price women pay when we walk alone? If not death, then the persistent threat of death, no matter how undeterred or indifferent we pretend to be. It is the price two newspaper women in one state paid in the space of two years. Since men outnumbered women at newspapers at the time, imagine the statistics.

Maybe the worst thing about these murders was that they were expected, in a horrible, subconscious way—they were out when no one else was out, they were women, they were alone. Yet in that time period, as far as I know, no male reporter in North Carolina (or anywhere in the United States, as far as I know) was murdered or assaulted.

I put on a brave face, walking out of the Winston-Salem Journal and into the dark. I was one of the guys when I was in there, typing away, drinking coffee, slinging words around. But out there, in the silence, I was different from them, vulnerable in a way they probably couldn't understand, a vulnerability I probably would have denied, even to myself.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Follow-up: The unbearable briefness of a dance career

When I wrote about dance as an ephemeral art recently, I talked about how a dancer's career is shorter than a writer's because the body ages out of it. But I failed to mention the possibility of injury cutting that career even shorter. The near-constant possibility of injury makes dance even more precious and fleeting—something that viewers of So You Think You Can Dance have recently witnessed. Alex Wong, my favorite dancer from the current season, was injured last week during a rehearsal for a Bollywood number. He leaped and then crashed down, his Achilles tendon ripped.

The next night, Alex stood on crutches while judge/producer Nigel Lythgow told the audience that Alex will have surgery this week, which is predicted to be "80 percent effective." Then Alex must recuperate for three months. That means three months without work for Alex, who left his post as the principal dancer with the Miami City Ballet to be on the TV show and, in so doing, was told by the company's director not to come back. There's a 20 percent chance he may not be able to dance again, anywhere.

The audience gasped at the news and Alex wept, tears streaming down his face.

Alex was in two of the best dances in the past few weeks: a modern dance routine to Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah in the first competition broadcast; and a hip-hop number, amazing because he is a ballet dancer but still acquired hip-hop so quickly. (I can't embed the dances here because Dick Clark Productions is continually forcing them off of YouTube; I've done my best to find them on the SYTYCD web site, in the links above, but the clips I've found may not be exact. Each clip is probably also, unfortunately, preceded by a 25-second ad on their web site).

What if these are Alex's last two, best dance performances? Is it enough that they were seen be a national audience for those few precious minutes? Will they be the sum of his body's artistic work?

I remember what Joni Mitchell said in her "Miles of Aisles" live album: "No one ever said, 'Paint me another Starry, Starry Night, man'," referring to the impermanent art of the performer (perhaps one reason she retreated to painting).

If everything I wanted to say as a writer could be compressed into a three-minute dance, would I risk dancing it if it meant I couldn't express myself again? Of course not—my fingers ache nearly every day to say something, to put something down. But most professional dancers must face this question, however subconsciously, each time they perform; any dance could be their last.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Follow-up: The Last Page (one more thing I like about Smithsonian Magazine)

I failed to mention one of my favorite features in Smithsonian Magazine in my June 25th post: The Last Page, a one-page humorous essay that has appeared in the magazine for several years now. I often turn to it first when I pick up a new issue. Some of my favorite recent pieces include Green Eggs and Salmonella? ("Beware the hidden hazards lurking within popular children's books"); and Words to Remember ("Amanda McKittrick Ros predicted she would achieve lasting fame as a novelist").

I can't find a direct link to its archive on the magazine's web site, but you can hunt it down online two ways:
  • Go to the full issue magazine Archive, click on each individual issue, and look for The Last Page as the last listed item, or
  • Try your luck with an advanced search I devised on Google, searching for The-Last-Page as part of the URL (this may not bring up everything).
It's also worth noting that The Last Page is cited on many writers' web sites as an excellent potential market for humor writers and essayists—probably because, right now, it pays $1,000 for accepted pieces, according to the magazine's The Last Page Humor Column Writer's Guidelines.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The future of books

• NPR's "On the Media" devoted a full hour to the future of books and publishing in its July 2nd show, Book It. (This is an updated re-broadcast of a previous show.) The broadcast includes an interview with Neil Gaiman on what authors in the future will have to do to make money. According to this show, formats like the iPad or the iPhone will be how books will be delivered in the future. Drat!

• On the Media's information page for this show includes a link to a 2008 New York magazine article, The End, which is on the end and/or the transformation of the publishing business.

• Realizing this was becoming one of my Links posts, I googled "future of the book" and found: