Last Call: New England

If you've wanted to take my Grub Street Writers class NOW is the time. I am moving to Michigan in September (more on this later!), and August's class will be the last for a while. It will be held August 12-15 (Monday-Thursday), 10:30am-1:30pm at 162 Boylston Street (2 mins from Boylston Street T; discounted parking available). All writers welcome, including creative, business, nonprofit, and academic writers. Sign up now! … [Read more...]

What To Do If You Are Stuck in the Middle of a Project

Middles are tough. It's no accident that Dante began The Inferno, his allegorical journey through Hell, thusly: Midway upon the journey of our life I found myself within a forest dark, For the straightforward pathway had been lost. Or that Christian, the pilgrim in John Bunyan's allegory The Pilgrim's Progress, encounters the bog called the “Slough of Despond” midway along his journey. At Grub Street Writers, where I teach, many writers refer to the “Murky Middles” of writing projects. Dark forests, bogs, murk: you might get the idea that a lot of people find middles not just difficult, but confusing and downright scary. Here's the problem with middles: The piece (or project) is no longer fresh and new and shiny. Your early energy and enthusiasm are waning. At the same time, the piece is at maximum entropy: meaning, what you've done up till now is super chaotic and disorganized. You've also become more aware of the piece's problems. It's not living up to the pristine, Platonic vision that … [Read more...]

Amanda Palmer on Why Artists Should Self-Promote (Bonus: How To Do It Without Selling Out!)

Last week I wrote about Amanda Palmer's excellent keynote speech for the Grub Street Writers' Muse and the Marketplace conference, where she made an impassioned plea for artists to validate themselves instead of waiting for a publisher, gallery owner, studio, or other gatekeeper's endorsement. She also had a lot of useful things to say about self-promotion: Another image struck me, and it was this: the garrett. the one in the attic. i’ve thought about it before when asked about the music business. the garrett belongs to that set of romantic notions we all had or have, painters, writers, musicians, and how they work. “up there.” with a pen, a paintbrush, a piano. by candlelight. alone. the space is isolated and fraught with artistic tension. drunk. chainsmoking. agonizing. creating. up here. in the garrett. separate. then…. down to the ground floor, out the front door: you have the marketplace. loud. the stalls of exchange. the sound of bargaining and bartering and changing cash registers. … [Read more...]

Amanda Palmer on Artistic Legitimacy

Musician Amanda Palmer recently gave a keynote at Grub Street Writer's Muse and the Marketplace Conference. She's whip smart and really "gets" this brave new world of social media, and so we should always listen to what she has to say. Her talk at Grub was about something much more important than social media: it was about legitimacy. That's a huge topic in artistic productivity, and a major focus of class discussions. Some writers think, for example, that until they've been published in the "right" way and by the "right" people, they aren't "real writers." So: Published by a commercial publisher? Real Writer! Go forth and conquer. Indie published? Fake Writer! Hang your head in shame. Published in established literary magazine. Real Writer. Published on a blog (yours or someone else's)? Fake. Similarly, some artists believe they're not "real" until they've been invited to participate in certain shows, represented by certain galleries, or reviewed by certain magazines. Feelings of illegitimacy … [Read more...]