There’s an interesting piece in this week’s Time Out New York by James Hannaham that asks the question: Why do so few people of color work in publishing? Possibilites discussed are:
The low salaries.
It’s not a race issue, but a class issue.
White female college grads like to hire other white female college grads.
Apparently no one would go on record for this article except Charise Davis from Plume. Were people afraid of being misquoted, or just didn’t want to face the issue? What do you think, dear readers?
Master short story writer and political activist Grace Paley died of breast cancer yesterday, at her home in Vermont. This is a huge loss for the short story community.
I met Grace Paley once when I was a student at NYU, and she came to talk to a craft class I was taking with Paule Marshall. The students had prepared lists of complex questions to ask her, about how she created her characters, how she crafted her sentences, how she did all the magical things she accomplished on the page. To every question she simply answered, “I just do it.” I remember that some of the students became annoyed, but I left that room feeling completely enlightened. What had seemed like a complicated, impossible-to-enter world had been made simple. She had opened the door. You can not second guess yourself or try to plan or over analyze. All that has to come later in the process. While creating, the most important thing is to stop thinking and just do it. Just write. For years I’ve had that quote tacked over my desk. And I’ve always kept her collected stories nearby, next to Flannery O’Connor and Amy Hempel.
“I saw my ex-husband in the street. I was sitting on the steps of the new library.
Hello, my life, I said. We had once been married for twenty-seven years, so I felt justified.
He said, What? What life? No life of mine.
I said, O.K. I don’t argue when there’s real disagreement. I got up and went into the library to see how much I owed them.
The librarian said $32 and you’ve owed it for eighteen years. I didn’t deny anything. Because I don’t understand how time passes. I have had these books. I have often thought of them. The library is only two blocks away.”
We owe Grace Paley much. Her humor, her good sense, and her spirit will be greatly missed.
The view from Le Sirenuse last year.
Sirenland returns! Join One Story author Dani Shapiro, along with John Burnham Schwartz and One Story editor Hannah Tinti at the Sirenland Writers Conference, March 9-15, 2008, at the stunning five star hotel, Le Sirenuse, in beautiful Positano, Italy.
Each day begins with a writing workshop. Afternoons are free to enjoy trips to Pompeii, and Herculaneum, private writing time, or spa treatments at Le Sirenuse. Evenings include talks about publishing, visiting distinguished authors, and readings by instructors and participants. Applications for fiction and memoir are being accepted from now until October 31st. Visit www.sirenland.net for more information.
The matter of fact-ness of Jason Grunebaum’s “Maria Ximenes da Costa de Carvalho Perreira” is what got me from the start. Maria’s husband is missing. He has been missing for fifteen years. And what follows is a story of quiet courage, an exploration of the unending period of stasis that happens to people who are missing loved ones. There is no way for them to mourn, or put their grief to rest, and after a time the hope they hold becomes a kind of burden. The weight of Maria’s search grows with every useless conversation and bit of misinformation that she collects. So when the big scene arrives at the end, with Tito’s story of the bodies falling into the ocean, it is absolutely horrible, but at the same time oddly satisfying. Maria has finally heard the truth of what is happening, and there is a release of tension that is completely palpable. Normally I’m against “bombs” that drop at the end of stories, but in this one, it completely works.
Steve promises that it includes:
A televised brawl with Sean Hannity
Love letters to Oprah Winfrey
A lot of naughty oversharing
One amazing lobster pad thai recipe
Tributes to Kurt Vonnegut and insufferable Red Sox fans
I have no kids of my own, but I did work as a nanny for several years, and have lots of baby sitting under my belt (the first job I had was when I was twelve years old, caring for an infant and toddler. I look at twelve year olds now and wonder if that particular mom was crazy, or simply desperate for an afternoon off). In any case I’ve been intrigued by the TV shows Supernanny and Nanny 911, both of which make me a bit queasy with their stripping of troubled families. At the same time, I have to keep reminding myself that these parents have asked to be on the show. They have auditioned. So when Kiara Brinkman’s If You Can Hear Me Thinking came across my desk, telling the child’s point of view in this scenario, I was instantly pulled in. But on top of that, I was won over by Kiara’s steady prose, and piercing observations. Ronan is so troubled and unsure. He actually does need a nanny, or at least some kind of parental figure. And his decision to close his eyes and keep them closed–to blind himself to everything–builds a great deal of emotion. It is a risky move for an author (having to tell a story using only the other senses–sound, touch, smell, taste), one that Kiara Brinkman succeeds with beautifully, all the way to the final moment.
This year I’m on the jury of a really interesting and unique award that One Story readers might be interested in hearing about. It’s called the Tiptree award, and it’s awarded to a work of speculative (or fantastic, or non-realist, or whatever term works best for you) literature that “explores or expands our ideas of gender.” The award was named after the writer Alice Sheldon, who wrote under the pen name James Tiptree Jr., and whose work was described as “fundamentally masculine” until her identity came to light. (A fabulous, and award-winning, biography entitled James Tiptree Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon, was published last year.) Writers such as Kelly Link, Geoff Ryman, Matt Ruff, Ursula K. LeGuin, and Shelley Jackson have received the award, and it was co-founded by writers Pat Murphy and Karen Joy Fowler. The award not only recognizes work that’s dealing with gender but helps to foster discussion about how ideas of gender are changing in our society, and I’m so excited to be serving on the jury for 2007.
Much of the work the jury considers comes via web recommendations — if you’ve read something recently that you’d like to recommend, you can drop us a line here. To learn more about the award, visit the website.