Wednesday, December 22, 2010

At least there are still jobs for journalists...

Ever since I subscribed to Groupon a few months ago, I've been receiving short, witty blurbs in my Inbox everyday, each enthusiastically describing bargains and deals for restaurants, spas, and various types of instruction.

Little did I realize that the people writing those Groupon blurbs represent a new wave of journalism, and that Groupon itself is becoming one of the biggest employers of journalists (and creative writers) in the country. An article in the Dec. 20th The Atlantic ( Forget Journalism School and Enroll in Groupon Academy - Elizabeth Weingarten - Technology - The Atlantic ) states that "Forty percent of Groupon's writers have prior journalism experience, 70 percent were creative writers and 20 percent wrote marketing or business copy." Groupon's CEO even declares in the article that the "most well-read publication now might be Groupon."

Many of the Groupon "deal" blurbs are clever and cute, but a long and steady diet of what the article calls this "hybrid journalism-advertising prose" is getting a little cloying and wearisome for me. Each blurb is, essentially, a clever lede (journalism-speak for a catchy and/or mood-setting first paragraph of a story) that leads to a mere classified ad/description. Some recent examples:

Herbert Hoover won America's hearts and votes when he promised a college-educated chicken in every pot and a kayak in every garage. Get a taste of the American dream with today's Groupon...

Eating with your hands is a joy second only to playing a woodwind instrument with your feet. Dig in with all four hands with today's Groupon: for $15, you'll get $30 worth of Ethiopian food...

Defy the whitening forces of winter and transform yourself into a bronzed god, goddess, or Gilbert Gottfried with today’s Groupon...

Photographs provide a more concrete way of recording recollections than sketching portraits in sand or dictating memoirs to an empty jam jar. Preserve precious memories with today's Groupon...

Should I really complain? It may not be poetry or even good journalism,  but at least writers are getting work (and I am, occasionally, getting organic rotisserie chicken and other such succulent delights for 50 percent off...).

Friday, December 10, 2010

Suggested gifts for writers, or those who love good writing

Anyone who really knows me understands that I am not the biggest fan of the Christmas season. I dislike the annual frenzied, consumer-driven ritual it has become, and the constant, media-inflicted we-must-save-the-American-economy guilt.

However, if you love Christmas and/or feel the need to buy gifts, you might as well support good writing, and publications that deserve to continue. [Note: These are not paid promotions...]  Here are a few of the things I am giving to others and to myself:

I Just Lately Started Buying Wings is by Writing Home friend, Kim Dana Kupperman.
    "In this collection of essays, Kupperman looks at major life events—divorce, death, falling in love—with a candor and wisdom that gently places the reader into scenes from her life. We experience her mother's crazed neglect, her father's distance, a new lover's exquisite beauty. ...Kupperman proves that she has found her own wings, and is soaring." [from my review]
     For more on this book, see the NYT book review and NYT Paper Cuts interview with Kim.

A wonderful surprise arrives in my mailbox every three weeks in the form of one story magazine, which provides just what it says—one short story—in a pocketbook-sized issue. While other short story markets continue to dry up, OS keeps plugging away, publishing more than 140 short stories since 2002. I have to admit that it's the size that prompted me to subscribe to it—it's just a little bigger than the early issues of my own (defunct) a very small magazine. But it's the stories that keep me reading and wanting more.

Amazingly, The Sun magazine has been continuously publishing intelligent writing since the mid-1970s and, in recent years, without the support of advertisements. What began for publisher Sy Syfransky as a venture put together in a friend's garage and hawked from his backpack on the streets of Chapel Hill, N.C., is now a respected prize-generating enterprise; stories and essays from The Sun are regularly picked for Pushcart, Best American..., and other publishing awards.
      The long interview, at the front of the magazine, is almost always provocative and interesting; "Readers Write," at the back of the magazine, offers lyrical glimpses into readers' lives; and the fiction and essays in the center of the magazine showcase some of the best writing around. My only criticism of The Sun is that is can veer toward the dark and depressing a little too often. But not to read it is to miss out on things that feel important and necessary.
    The Sun is currently struggling, it seems, to stay afloat, requesting contributions and suggesting that subscribers give friends gift subscriptions. So, if you subscribe to The Sun (as a present to yourself), consider also giving gift subscriptions to people you know who cherish good writing.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Yes I did!

Grab the time and do it—that's what I learned from NaNoWriMo 2010. Because of that contest, I wrote a 50,011 word novel in 30 days, a book that otherwise would never have been written.

I'm not sure that anyone can write a deeply nuanced and eloquent novel in a month—mine certainly isn't. But I didn't expect it to be. And that lack of expectation really gave me a wonderful freedom to write.

The other great thing about NaNoWriMo is that I could actually talk about it with people. I charted my progress on my profile page there (see chart from it, above), and put occasional updates on my Facebook page. It made my fiction writing visible, for once; I felt a part of a (temporary) community. And it made me write, no excuses. Dirty dishes, unmade bed, work deadlines—so what? I had 1,665 words to write each day and until they were done, I put other things aside. But, as you can see from the chart, I struggled to always find the time to write. Sometimes regular life was unavoidable.

In my novel, I wrote from the perspective of a 12-year-old girl, something I probably never would have otherwise attempted. It was the first thing that popped into my head on November 1st and I had to see it through, no time for redos or rewrites or more than minimal editing. I couldn't lose time to rethinking the plot or the characters. They were mine for 30 days.

Writing for the YA audience also required a more resolved and happier ending than the usual melancholy ending I fall into when writing for adults. I found the happy ending wasn't that difficult when it was inherent or organic to the story, so I hope I can write happier endings in the future even when I'm not writing for children.