December 2006

Bonnie Glover

by Susan Henderson on December 30, 2006

A brush with death leads to following her dream.

I love talking to authors about their books and the road to publication. But my main reason for talking to authors is to show appreciation for their work in a business that’s likely beaten much of the life out of them. This is how I see it: A writer spends three years, maybe twenty-three years, writing a book. In that amount of time, they’ve racked up enough rejections to fill a drawer: “I just didn’t fall in love with it.” “We’ve recently purchased a story too similar to yours.” “I didn’t care enough for the narrator.” “Let us know when you have another.”

For the lucky few who make it so far as to see their books in print, they have to deal with lukewarm book reviews (or no reviews) and book tours with only the most faithful friends in attendance. They have family members who expect free copies of the book, friends who promised they’d buy the book but don’t, and colleagues who said, “Fingers crossed!” throughout their efforts and then become bitter and distant when those efforts finally lead to success. Their publishers report their poor sales. Their editors and agents try to tell them what to write next. For the amount of effort that goes in, a writer’s career nets very few tangible rewards.

My friend (and webmaster) Terry Bain taught me the habit of writing thank you notes to authors and saying, “I read your book and it moved me/changed me/inspired me.” This is why I do my blog, to say: You matter. Your books matter. Your unsold novels sitting on your hard drive matter. The life you’re trying to capture on paper, the wild things you imagine, the evocative words you write down, the story you wrestle with and can’t seem to get right–it all matters.

So now, let me introduce Bonnie Glover, author of THE MIDDLE SISTER (One World/Ballantine Books, 2005). This is the story of three sisters living in New York in the 1970’s. When their father leaves the family, they must move to the projects with their mother, who has become increasingly confused and unable to care for herself. It is a story of how individuals must shift their family roles and what they desire for themselves in order to survive as a unit. And if they can expand their definitions of love and family, they might find joy in the midst of tragedy.

Bonnie, tell me something about you that would surprise my readers.

Hum – well, I almost died nine years ago. Came so close that the doctors told my husband to call everyone and get ready. Other women never tell you that having a baby is dangerous to your health go figure! I had eighty blood and blood product transfusions. I had to have physical therapy to help me walk again and I really, really looked awful.

All I could think about was getting home to my family and doing the things that I always said that I would do one of which was writing. About a year after my brush with death, my husband surprised me with my very own laptop and that was the fateful beginning.

Tell me about THE MIDDLE SISTER (Ballantine, 2005) and how you first got the idea for the book?

THE MIDDLE SISTER was first a short story entitled “Searching with Kwai Chang” and was published in a Hong Kong journal called Yuan Yang. As a black kid growing up in the 70’s, the television show “Kung Fu” was one of my favorite shows. We watched and never understood what the hell was happening until Kwai Chang had to fight. We understood fighting and protecting yourself in East New York. We also understood family, loss and being poor. We had crazy people all over the place. I’ll always remember this lady who lived on my block walking up to me and pulling at my dress saying it was too short and commenting on the fact that I was well developed for my age. Only she didn’t say I was well developed. There were few niceties where we lived.

So, “THE MIDDLE SISTER” was born because I tried to blend many of my experiences growing up with even harsher realities: what would it be like growing up with an absent father, a crazy mother and two sisters?

When in the process did you find your agent, and describe the agent hunt?

Okay, I know some people might not want to read this so shut your eyes. This was easy for me because I was recommended to an agent by a friend that I had met over the internet. We met on Zoetrope. He was living in India, I was in Florida. He came to the US to attend a writer’s colony, Ledig House in upstate New York. We met. He got an agent and told her about my work and I sent Elizabeth Sheinkman of Elaine Markson and now, Curtis Brown too, a copy of my short story turned novel and liked it.

I about busted a gut when I got an agent.

Tell me about the book submission process–the ups and downs of it, and how you dealt with the stress of waiting.

It was around Christmas time when Elizabeth took me on as a client. She told me later that she almost didn’t take me because she was in the process of moving to the UK to set up the London branch of Elaine Markson. But she liked my characters and felt compelled to take me on after I cried and begged so hard. Big smile!

She submitted to my dream editor and this person turned TMS down because they had a very similar project in the works. That hurt. That’s the point where I said I wasn’t going to think about anything anymore. I was going to let Elizabeth do her job and I was going to worry about getting and keeping a day job. So, I know there were a few places that she sent my work to but I tried not to and still refuse to be the type of client that is constantly calling or emailing.

She called me one day out of the blue, I think it was February and told me that there was an editor at One World that was really digging “Searching with Kwai Chang” and wanted to speak with me. That’s when I lost it. When that editor called me, Elizabeth Dyssegaard (who is now at the Smithsonian), I could barely get out an intelligent sentence. She asked for my address so that she could give me an idea of some of the wonderful projects she had worked on and I couldn’t remember my address. I had to hunt for a bill to tell her what it was. Amazing!

Any stories about signing contracts, getting your advance, choosing cover art, gathering blurbs, or working with a publicist that you’d like to share? I love to hear all the behind the scenes work of getting a book off the ground.

As a first time author, although I was consulted and perhaps might have been able to change things if I hadn’t liked the cover, the art work and graphics was handled by One World. What got to me was the line editing. I think I must have gone through TMS a dozen times and still there are things that I missed. And then, I had to write more. TMS is not a great tome. In fact, it was even more slender when I first submitted it to Elizabeth Sheinkman. During the year and a half before publishing (yes, you have to get in line), I did a lot of creative thinking and conjuring. I didn’t want a mundane or ordinary first book.

How did it feel the first time you held the finished product in your hands?

Okay – I cried. But, I cry easily so…

But then I looked at the dedication and I started to cry again. Both my parents are deceased so I wanted to give this first one to them, especially since they lived right there in East New York with me.

Any stories to tell about book tours or book reviews?

Well, one time I did a reading with five people and that included my husband and my 7th and 8th grade math teacher. That was an experience. And too, picking something I could read without giving too much away and without offending people. TMS ain’t exactly for the faint of heart. When I gave a copy to the Pastor or our church, my husband asked me if I had warned him.

Any advice to writers who are just starting the process?

Advice to writers: Follow your dream. Things will click for you because it’s right and because you believe that it will. Stay up late, get up early, drag into work. Kiss your spouse. Put off sex. Or, have sex if it motivates you to write. Focus. Make it a priority. See your name on the spine of a book and get ready to do what you’ve been saying you would do. Love your gift. Put a pencil in the hand of your child and let her watch you while you work. Cry. Meditate. Watch that Nike commercial. And then take a deep breath and write.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Pearl Buck, Susan Fromberg Schaeffer, Louise Erdritch, Stephen King, Wayne Dyer, Maya Angelou, J.K. Rowling, Richard Wright, Octavia Butler, Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen, Russell Banks, Edward P. Jones and the list could go on and on.

I have very eclectic tastes. I love reading traditional kids books, science fiction and fantasy as well Victorian novels.

What are you working on now?

A new novel and the overall theme is generations. I know, very vague. But I hold my cards close, just like my daddy taught me.


Peter de Seve

by Susan Henderson on December 27, 2006

For years I’ve chosen books by their covers and read picture books over and over to my children because I enjoy them as much as they do. And all this time, I noticed the author’s name but not the illustrator’s.

More recently, as friends have had books published, I’ve listened to their joy and disappointment when they see the cover art that’s been selected. Again, I paid attention to the author and not the illustrator.

Then along comes a friend (I’ll introduce him later in the week), who talked to me about the process of designing a book cover and my eyes were opened to this whole other world. So today, I’m delighted to kick off my weeklong focus on illustrators who will discuss the process of drawing and collaborating, the career breaks that changed their lives, the choices they make between well-paying commercial work and the kind of art they’d create even if it never sold a penny.

My first interview is with a man whose art I’ve known for years and years but whose name – shame on me! – I never bothered to learn until recently. Like many writers, the moment I get The New Yorker in the mail, I take a long look at the cover and then rush to the table of contents to see who wrote the fiction piece.

But who has drawn those New Yorker covers for the past 13 years?

Meet Peter de Seve, an incredibly likable and generous man, who – besides creating magazine and book covers and Broadway posters and characters for movies like Ice Age, A Bug’s Life, Treasure Planet, and Finding Nemo – still makes time for my little blog!

Let’s start with the NYer. When did you design your first cover for them, and how did that job come about?

Incredibly to me, it was in 1993! I had done a few drawings for Chris Curry, the Art Director for the interior pages of the magazine. Francoise Mouly, the cover editor, contacted me and asked whether I would be interested in pitching designs for covers. I had always daydreamed about doing covers for the NYER but never imagined I’d get the chance.

I don’t usually go looking for an idea but I felt that this time I needed to go out and actually find one. I decided I would go to Coney Island. It had just the combination of character and atmosphere that I’m drawn to. My wife Randall and I went for a stroll down the boardwalk and it really is a creepy place. There’s something really depressing about old and chipped painted signage depicting cartoon kids of a different era eating hotdogs and ice cream.

Anyway, there we were, looking for a New Yorker cover, when Randall pointed to a rather rotund man selling balloons and said something like, “Hey, that guy looks just like one of his balloons.” And I said, “yeah, that’s cool, but we need an idea!” Well, of course that ended up being the concept for my first cover.

Can you describe the process of designing a NYer cover – do you have free reign? Do you have to pitch ideas to anyone? And please describe how you get an idea, how many drafts, and how long it takes to have a final product.

The process is unlike working for most, if not all of the mainstream magazines being published today. Essentially, Francoise is ready to look at any ideas I think are worth pitching. They can range from seasonal ideas to specific holidays, from the absurd to serious social commentary.

There are some rare occasions where she will call and ask me an artist to tackle something specific. For instance, during the first Bush/Gore race, ballots were still being counted in Florida and the outcome of the election was still anybody’s guess. Apparently, Francoise had commissioned a few covers but for some reason they hadn’t solved the problem. I never saw them, but my guess was that perhaps they were too decisive in one way or another and the only real solution was to be ambiguous.

The result for me was a drawing called “By a Nose”. It was a drawing of a donkey crossing the finish line ahead, but maybe not, of an elephants’ trunk. I had less than twenty-four hours from the phone call to the finish. It’s one of my favorite drawings. It has a spontaneous quality to the line that only pure terror can produce.

Generally, the process goes like this: I think of an idea, and email it to Francoise. I never title it or send an explanation. If, Even in this rough form, it doesn’t communicate the idea and requires explanation, it’s a failure.

Occasionally, Francoise will make a suggestion on how to improve it and that’s where the ballet begins. We both try to make our points understood without rankling the other. It has, more than once, ended in a stalemate.

Doing a cover is like telling a joke, one has his own style of delivery and a suggestion from another person doesn’t always translate. To her credit, though, I have to admit, Francoise has convinced me a couple of times to alter a drawing to its benefit. That’s why I always, at the very least, try to consider her suggestion.

If you want to say, I’m dying to know what you get paid per cover and what kinds of rights you give up.

I’d rather not say exactly what I’m paid for a cover but I will tell you that it is pretty well above the average in the magazine world. As for reproduction rights, the image is mine, minus the NYER logo and I must agree not to republish it within a year of it’s running on their cover.

I know you do plenty of other work – animation, book covers. Can you tell my readers about some of the other art you’ve created?

Over the years I’ve done drawings for book covers, including a fun series called The Enchanted Chronicles which was a very clever young adult series that took a wry look at the world of fairy tales. It was just right for me and allowed me to indulge my love of that genre without taking it too seriously.

I’ve created a few posters for Broadway shows, which were thrilling to do. It’s pretty wild to drive through Time Square and see a drawing that you’d done a few weeks before, plastered onto the side of a building, three stories high.

I worked in the trenches for twenty years doing editorial illustrations for countless magazines, including Forbes, Newsweek, Business Week and The New York Times. It was pretty demanding and required turning around two or three pieces a week at times. All of which was fabulous training but ultimately exhausting. Somewhere around 1995 I got a call from Walt Disney Feature animation, inviting me to help with the character design for “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and although the drawings went largely ignored, it began my career as a character designer on feature films, which continues to this day.

The invitation came at a perfect time for me, when I was starting to feel a little burned out by the editorial grind. It was a chance to let my sketches do the talking for once and have them be the final work. I always felt that, like most artists I know, that my sketches were some of my best work. To be honest, though, character design has been a little bit of a deal with the devil and has taken my energies away from creating finished work, which I recognize is ultimately what I need to get back to.

Speaking of character design. I just designed some for a Dodge car commercial involving a focus group of unspeakably cute characters and their reaction to a car that is designed to be “Anything but Cute”. I did this through
EF=””>Hornet Inc. who represent me for commercial work and it was animated by Framestore, a brilliant animation house in Soho, NY. The commercial started running the second week of June 06.

Where were you trained? And what’s the most helpful thing you were taught?

I went to Parsons school of Design and to say I was “trained” would be a little inaccurate. At that period in time, 1976-80, the philosophy at Parsons was to let the student discover things by himself, without being spoon fed techniques. Honestly, I wouldn’t have minded a little spoon-feeding. Most of what I learned technically I taught myself or learned from other students. In fact, I would say that the greatest thing about art school was the introduction to other young artists, each with a different point of view. It was from the other students that I learned the most.

Describe the difference (in satisfaction, pay, etc) between the art you do that is commissioned versus the art you feel compelled to do regardless of knowing if it will sell.

Here is my guilty secret: The work I am commissioned to do, is my art. When I am given a job, I bring everything I can to it and when I’m done, I just want to relax. I wish I were one of those driven people compelled to create, no matter what. I’m a pretty lazy guy when all is said and done.

I do enjoy sketching and have published a little book of those doodles (Editions Paquet) and am working on another.

While I’m on the subject, I should also mention another project that I’m a part of; A beautifully produced little anthology of comics by 10 of the visual development guys at Blue Sky Studios (Ice Age, Robots). They were kind enough to invite me to throw in with them and I produced a minor little four page story called The Mermaid. The book is called OOP (Out of Picture) and is again published by Editions Paquet.

You’ve received a number of awards. Which ones have meant the most to you?

I would say that The Hamilton King award remains the one of which I’m most proud. It’s given by the Society of Illustrators for the best piece in show by a member. Did I do the best piece in the show? Of course not, but I see the award as a recognition for being around for a while and still being worth a nod.

What do you consider your breakthrough job? How did you land that job, and what kinds of doors did it open for you?

I’m not sure I could tell you exactly what were breakthrough jobs for me. My career has evolved in a very gradual and organic way. From tiny jobs, to medium to great and wonderful.

Who are some of your favorite writers and illustrators?

I won’t presume to recommend writers but will stick to what I know. There were a whole cadre of artists that had a huge impact on me. It included Wally Wood, Graham Ingles, Jack Davis and of course Frank Frazetta. These were the EC comic artists from the 50’s. Their work appeared before my time but I discovered them through some of their artistic descendants; Berni Wrightson, Mike Kaluta, Jeff Jones and other comic artists who were in their prime during the 70’s when I was growing up. Collectively all of these guys made a huge impression on me. All of them were great draughtsman but with a love of humor and darkness, in equal measure.

Beyond them I’ve been influenced by and copied an endless stream of artists. Here’s a fraction of the list: Lautrec, Daumier, Kley, Frost, Dulac, Rowlandson, Doyle, Tenniel, Sorel, and well, tons more.

One other major influence I always forget to mention, but more and more recognize as having been defining, were the Chuck Jones cartoons. Especially Bugs Bunny. Now he was a great character.

I also love illustrated books, and years ago rationalized the purchase of any book that gave me any artistic nourishment. As a result, I’ve got a pretty good book collection. I’ve also applied the same rationale to purchases of original artwork, which of course has been severely limited by my budget.

The good news for me though, has been that I love the art of the sketch. I love to see how an artist thinks and to see his mistakes on the page. The half-erased drawings underneath the ink tell me volumes more about the artist than any of his finished work could. And lucky for me, sketches are cheaper than paintings!

Share 3 pieces of advice for anyone interested in this field.

1. Figure out what you love to draw and what you want to say, then find a way to do it in a way that also serves the illustrators raison d’etre: to communicate.

2. Never stop observing, even when you don’t have a pencil in your hand.

3. Do what I’ve never done enough of: EXPERIMENT! You’ve got nothing to lose!!

Thank you, Peter!

And to the rest of my readers, take a moment to notice who illustrated the book or magazine you’re currently reading. Maybe look up what other work they’ve done.


Roundtable: 8 authors discuss the business.

I have a roundtable discussion today, so grab a cup of coffee and meet some amazing writers as they discuss the pros and cons of the business. All of their bios are listed below, and I hope you’ll click on their links and get to know them better. After reading these answers, may you feel comforted, alive, inspired.

What is the most rewarding thing about being a writer? What’s the most difficult part about this profession for you?

Kate Gale:

The most rewarding part is when you’ve been sitting a long time writing and you read it over and you feel the room vibrating.

The most difficult part about writing, in the immortal words of Stephen King is connecting your ass with the chair.

Seth Greenland:

The most rewarding thing about being a writer is the knowledge that you escaped a life of doing something you weren’t passionate about. The writer’s existence is such a gamble and certainly isn’t the kind of thing anyone with your interests at heart encourages you to do, so when it works out, it’s like rolling lucky sevens. And that’s very satisfying, if not always terribly remunerative.

Susan Straight:

The best thing about being a writer – this week, the week I’m just back from a long trip into a rainy East Coast to sell books in what seems a totally antiquated way by reading and talking to people in great bookstores – is finding out how passionate and loyal readers are to novels. When you write, alone and for me, at night, in isolation and often ignorance about where your narrative is headed, you cannot wonder who will love the book, and then when you are finished, after a year or five years, you have to wonder who will love the book. Meeting readers and booksellers who say they stayed up very late and couldn’t put down the book because they had to find out what happened is wonderful, because that’s the way I feel when I read a novel I love, and it’s like being drunk, I guess.

(Don’t know – don’t drink at all, since my friends and I did all our serious drinking when I was twelve and thirteen.)

The most difficult part is the wondering, though.

Rachel Resnick:

Once upon a time, there was a stepfather with two missing fingers. He shot them off to avoid going to Vietnam. The marriage didn’t last long. Before it ended, he chopped up my dollhouse with an ax. Maybe that’s why I dig Kafka’s line: “A book must be the ax for the frozen sea within us.” That’s how I go at writing, swinging my ax. Infinitely rewarding. Chop chop.

But most of all, I’m blown away when a stranger is moved by something I wrote.

Most difficult? After penury, the blank page. Digging deeper, way down to my inner China. Getting it up every day. Why I start my day on my knees not performing fellatio, but praying. Praying and meditating. For faith. For flow. To write bigger than myself. To be of service.

Amy Wilentz:

The most rewarding thing about being a writer? (I can certainly think of the least rewarding: financial return!)

Taking your own experience and making it visible and even valuable to your readers.

Getting your own emotions and experience out of you and onto the page, so that they are at a remove from your own internal mess and more controllable – that’s a therapeutic aspect; one I don’t often think about but that I think is part of the good side of writing.

Making characters whom I love.

Writing something funny.

Most of all, making something beautiful. That’s when the act of writing is almost endurable, when you can see something of beauty emerging. It’s rare – so much, especially in a novel, is more a cobbling together of workable pieces, with the desperate hope that the final product sewn together will be beautiful. But there are those sections that really move, where writing feels transcendent, like passion and art, instead of dull and painful, like duty and obligation.

The most difficult part is sitting down and writing every day, filling out the idea; if you’re lucky enough to have one. Plotting – I hate making plots, yet I believe that plot is what really seduces the human mind. Plots are like math, awful and inexorable, the underlying structure.

Joy Nicholson:

The writing part of writing – that is, creating and fully entering an imaginary world, then describing it – is wonderful and gives the writer a great connection to living and love. The publishing part – ‘how many books didja sell’ , ‘how can we best market you’, ‘does Barnes and Noble like your book?’ – is awful. Just heinous. Sick-making.

Bruce Bauman:

That I can live in my own reality, create my own world and no one cares or will lock me up in the funny farm. Though this might be changing in Bushie’s America and the America of the future no matter who is president.

Most of what I’ve written I haven’t published and won’t- and I like that. There’s something very freeing in knowing it is just for me.

I don’t have to go to an office job every day – I did that for a while and I was so depressed and thought about suicide quite frequently – and I am not joking. But that’s when I knew I was doing the wrong thing cause lots of my coworkers loved their jobs.

That I don’t have to leave my house very often – I’m becoming more and more of an agoraphobe.

As I said in the earlier Q&A, the letters and emails from people who have been touched in some way by my work seem to make much of the bs worthwhile.

When it goes from being a creative life to a “profession” it is all difficult. Ya know, rejection and being demeaned, it’s what I live for . . . .

Samantha Dunn:

Books and what I took from them saved my life, shaped my life, in no small way. I find it incredibly gratifying to enter the larger conversation; what I mean is that I am continually humbled and inspired to realize that something I write essentially just for myself, alone in a room (because I always write alone in a room), will, at some undeterminable point in the future, be read by people I don’t know, in places I’ve never been. I hope those readers will be turned on by what they read, but even if they’re not, even if they hate what I’ve done, they will be provoked and spurred to consider their own opinions, maybe even to reflect on their own experiences. So, we are, in essence, in conversation with each other.

There is also the enviable wardrobe of a writer, namely the coffee-stained pajama bottoms and T-shirt, which comprise my winter and fall uniforms. For summer, I opt for a wife-beater over the aforementioned PJ bottoms.

The beauty of our “metier” almost makes up for the suck-ass way writers are paid, or should I say not paid. And yes I’m whining.

When all is said and done, how would you like to be remembered as a writer?

Rachel Resnick:

For being a Big Blonde.

Joy Nicholson:

I don’t think people really remember much about writers. Or much about anything, really.

Bruce Bauman:

Paul Elouard, the French poet, is another one of my heroes. He was a great poet and it seems, from what I’ve read, a greater person. So I’d like to be remembered as someone like that, someone who was esteemed by his peers, was generous to as many people as I could be without being an ass kisser or an asshole, and wrote and spoke the truth and confronted the hard questions of life to the best of my abilities. So basically, I’d like to be remembered as a better person than a writer.

Susan Straight:

I’d like to be remembered as a great regional writer. I love Ernest Gaines and Tim Gautreaux out of Louisiana, and Manette Ansay’s earlier Wisconsin work, and Chris Offutt and Gary Soto and Toni Morrison’s Lorain, Ohio, from her early novels. I think American novelists capture our different landscapes like no one else. I want to be remembered as showing everyone my postage stamp of Faulknerian soil – Riverside, California.

Amy Wilentz:

One: I would simply like to be remembered as a writer! Hard enough to make people notice your work while you’re alive and kicking.

Two: As someone who cared about humanity and was not trivial.

Samantha Dunn:

Truly, not to be difficult, but if I thought about this kind of thing I would be an even bigger nut job than I am now. It’s hard enough just to make it to the computer in the morning (and at night; personally I don’t work much in the afternoons…).

Seth Greenland:

I recently discovered a writer called Ludwig Lewisohn, a German – American who wrote some brilliant books in the ’20s and ’30s. Today, he is forgotten and his books are all out of print. For me, being remembered at all would be an accomplishment.

Kate Gale:

The story I told was raw, true and spoke to the human condition like looking in a fragmented mirror and seeing some slice of oneself and imagining oneself whole.

In a perfect world, writers would have fame, riches, and immortality. But if you had to choose, what would it be?

Kate Gale:

Immortality. Because I have already learned to live well without fame and riches, but I want the work like my children, to survive when I am gone, walking forward on feet without shoes, learning to run.

Amy Wilentz:


Immortality second, because all art is produced in the face of death, as a kind of defiance.

BUT on the other hand, you can’t enjoy your own artistic immortality. What good is immortality doing for Charles Dickens, the actual man?? Still lies a-mouldering in the grave…

So fame is better.

Joy Nicholson:

Fame would be fun if it could get a person free plane tickets and nice, tasty food. The rest wouldn’t be very good, though.

Riches would be great because they provide free time and a sense of not fearing for survival.

Immortality doesn’t really matter to me, I guess.

So – I’d have to choose riches.
Rachel Resnick:

In Bangkok, you can eat Immortality Soup. I did. I would like to eat more of that. So I’d pick riches. That way I could fly back to Bangkok, eat more soup and maybe get two-for-one.

Samantha Dunn:

Oh, that “riches” thing is looking good right now, as I sit here at the computer eating my yogurt bought from the 99 Cent Store (true). But, honestly, I think the idea of having my work read after I’m dead is the biggest, the most exciting prospect – going back to that idea of being part of a larger, ongoing conversation that is part of the human experience. Fame in one’s own lifetime, from what I have seen, pretty much guarantees you’ll transform into some degree of asshole, so better to skip that one. Besides, we have to put “fame” as a writer on the relative scale of current culture – even Stephen King can walk down the street without the paparazzi stalking him; I’m pretty sure that were John Updike to ever walk into a Denny’s he’d have to wait for a table just like the family of four.

Seth Greenland:

Given what can happen posthumously, I would choose immortality, since it’s the one I have a real shot at now.

Susan Straight:

And I’d pick immortality, because I’m a single mother in a crazy neighborhood, with three kids, three chickens, ten rabbits, and two jobs, so all the other stuff, as they say in my neighborhood, is not hardly happenin noway.

Bruce Bauman:

As a young person you have to believe in yourself and that these are all possibilities. Of course you learn that they are near impossibilities.

I remember this line from Fitzgerald to his daughter when she was contemplating becoming a writer, “The conclusion is: it will not win you financial independence or immortality.” In an earlier letter he’d talked about fame, and how he was famous at 27 and forgotten at 40. In the end, despite his books being out of print when he died and getting royalties of under 20 bucks his last year of life, he has gotten immortality, but his life is not one I would want and I believe he wrote the truth.

I realize that 99 and 9/10f all writers will not attain immortality. As smart as my students are, I bet only a tiny handful could name one great writer from each decade of the last century. And although I’d love to be in that select group, well -that’s out as a reality.

I might’ve taken fame if I were 25 and single. Now, I don’t even like being recognized by my neighbors.

So, I would take wealth – with the full knowledge it wouldn’t last – though we’d never worry about how to pay the next month’s bills, we’d buy art and help other artists and political causes. But that’s a kind of wealth that can’t be quantified.

Two last things, I want to thank everyone who participated – may you receive the accolades and rewards you so deserve.

And thanks so much to Sue who has been so
supportive of my work, even if she did tell the world I was watching Britney, but hey, I was also watching the baseball game.

Thank you, wonderful writers. Your answers gave me goosebumps.

My roundtable guests were so humble, I had to brag for them in their BIOs:

Bruce Bauman, my guest on this week’s blog, is a senior editor at Black Clock and author of And the Word Was.

Samantha Dunn is the author of Failing Paris, a finalist for the PEN West Fiction Award in 2000, and the memoir, Not By Accident: Reconstructing a Careless Life, a BookSense 76 pick. Her most recent memoir, Faith in Carlos Gomez: A Memoir of Salsa, Sex and Salvation, is published by Henry Holt & Co.

Kate Gale is President of PEN USA, Editor of Red Hen Press, Editor of The Los Angeles Review, Director of the Los Angeles Summer Institute, author of five books of poetry, one novel, one bilingual children’s book, editor of four anthologies, and has recently completed the libretto for the opera “Rio de Sangre” by Don Davis.

Seth Greenland‘s play Jungle Rot won the Kennedy Center Fund For New American Plays Award and the American Theatre Critics Association Award. His first novel, The Bones, was just published by Bloomsbury. Movie rights have been sold to Sony, and he is currently writing the screenplay. He also writes for The Huffington Post.

Joy Nicholson is the author of two novels: The Road to Esmeralda was chosen as a Los Angeles Times Favorite Book of 2005, and The Tribes of Palos Verdes was an L.A. Times bestseller. Her website, One Dog At A Time describes her mission to rescue dogs from euthanasia in animal shelters all over Los Angeles. Time permitting, she is currently working on her third novel.

Rachel Resnick, a writer based in Topanga Canyon, California, is the author of Go West Young F*cked-Up Chick : A Novel of Separation. Her fiction, essays and interviews have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, BlackBook, Women’s Health, Tin House, The Best American Erotica 2004, The Dictionary of Failed Relationships and Women On The Edge: Writing from Los Angeles, among others. She recently completed the mod-noir novel SWAY, with a forthcoming excerpt in Black Clock. A graduate of Yale and a former private detective, she has taught writing at CalArts and the UCLA Extension Writers Program, and owns a homicidal scarlet macaw named Ajax (and has the scars to prove it.)

Susan Straight, professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside, is the author of the newly-released A Million Nightingales , Highwire Moon, which was a finalist for the National Book Award, I Been In Sorrows Kitchen And Licked Out All the Pots, Aquaboogie, for which she won the Milkweed National Fiction Prize, Blacker Than A Thousand Midnights, The Gettin Place. She received the prestigious Lannan Foundation Award in 1999 and a 1997 Guggenheim Fellowship. Click here to read her work in Salon.

Amy Wilentz won the PEN/Martha Albrand Prize for nonfiction and the Whiting Writers Award, and was a nominee for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1990. She is the author of Martyrs’ Crossing and The Rainy Season: Haiti Since Duvalier, and has written for The Nation, The New Republic and The New York Times. She was the Jerusalem correspondent for The New Yorker from 1995 to 1997.



by Susan Henderson on December 20, 2006

That’s right! You are my special guest today!

By the time you read this, I will be knee-deep in Christmas preparations and family gatherings. In gratitude to all of you who hang out at LitPark and make this place what it is, here is your chance to pimp yourself, pimp a friend, list your website, show off a new publication, solicit MySpace friends, or anything of that nature.

All I ask is that you keep it to a paragraph or less.

I’ll start. Here’s my shout-out. It’s to Frank Daniels, expert riot starter and author of FUTUREPROOF. This is a book you can’t read passively. It grips you by the throat, it gets your blood pumping as you watch a fiesty kid strike out on his own after living at home becomes impossible. And as you see him spin in and out of relationships and spiral with heroin use, you alternately want to shout at him and cheer for him. In the end, you’ll learn as much as any of the characters in the book about the value of life, friendship, and hope for new beginnings. Fast-paced, raw, and highly recommended.

Okay, your turn.


Don’t forget: I will not be blogging again until the new year. I’ll be busy hanging with all my extended family. And if I could still fit into this little red dress, I would wear it for sure because it always made me feel great!

During my break, I’ll re-run a few oldies but goodies (they’ll appear on Wednesdays and Saturdays), and feel free to comment because those guests will surely stop by and read what you have to say. I’ll pop in if I can, and then I’ll be back properly on Monday, January 8th. Love to all of you.

Enjoy the holidays!


Question of the Week: Vacation

by Susan Henderson on December 18, 2006

Whatcha doing over the holidays? Want to share a favorite holiday tradition?


I’ll announce Wednesday’s guest in a minute, but first I have to show you a picture of one of the houses I pass nearly every day:

Do you know anyone with more Christmas spirit than these guys? If you roll the window down as you drive by the house, you’ll hear various tunes by Alvin and the Chipmunks. You’ll also hear the blower vents that keep those nine balloons inflated.

Some letters that went out this year, complete with typos:

Dear Santa,

For Christmas a would like LEGO Starwars 2 the computer game. Also a new bike please. Thats all.



Dear Santa Claus,

For Cristmas I would like only 2 thing. First of I would like a “computer-watch” which is a digital watch with a 2.5 inch screen but if you press a certain button its screen will unfold. one side a computer screen the other a keyboard. A right side tray will pop out with two buttons and a touch pad, the buttons are for the left and right mouse button and the touch pad is for moving the mouse. a left side table will pop out to reaveal a small stick used to press the tiny keyboard keys. Finally a satalite will pop out the back able to pick up the internet.

The second thing I want is the “air Scooter II along with plentiful fuel for it. Thank you very much.



Okay, ready for my announcement? Don’t kill me but I’m not going to tell you just yet. Wednesday is my most special guest ever, so please stop by. I hope it will be a nice surprise!