Get Hooked On Writing!

Issue # 13 Monday, August 24, 1998

This Week's Author: Amy Holman

Amy Holman, author

Amy Holman has worked for 13 years on behalf of poets and fiction writers, educating them about the fair practices of publishing and how to be detectives and get their work published. She is co-founder of the Publishing Seminars, writes the online column, Amy Holman's Literary Report and directs the Literary Horizons program all at Poets & Writers, Inc. (www.pw.org), a nonprofit literary organization in New York City.

Amy is also a poet with forthcoming works in Zone 3 and Metropolitan Review. She is currently writing a novel and has two published chapter books, Tissue and Bone and The Cathedral of My Head (1997, 1998 Linear Arts Books).

Literary Horizons is prepared to offer online publishing seminars in the late fall of 1998 and those interested email Amy Holman at amy@pw.org.

 

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Reading for Writers

Designing A Sports Car

Some people love to read in the same way that some love to drive sports cars. I'm astonished when a poet demands publication yet doesn't have time to read the work of other poets or when a fiction writer claims to write like no one else, but can't name favorite novelists. I've counseled poets, fiction writers and essayists for years about the business of writing, most recently teaching how to publish seminars, and even those who are avid readers unnecessarily panic at the thought of finding publishers for their work.

If you were going to design a sports car, you'd test drive as many as you could. You'd have owned one sometime in your life. Maybe, you'd work as a mechanic. Tacked up on your walls would be pictures of the best models. Subscriptions of Car & Driver, Road & Track and American Sports Car would arrive monthly. And while your machine would be special, advancing the collective vision for the form, you'd also be incorporating perfections on the details you'd admired in others–0-60 acceleration speeds, road traction, aerodynamic exterior curves and cool interior features. A sports car is a lyric, is a literary novel.

Reading is essential to the writer, as inspiration and as connection to the contemporary literary community. We are not just reading for the pleasure of it, nor writing to lose ourselves in a universe of our own rendering. We are communicating through art–poem, story, novel, essay, memoir. It's difficult getting all the ideas to work in union, and often we sacrifice an ideal, but ultimately, take pleasure in the stars viewed through the moon roof despite that convertible dream. Reading lets us in on the variety of themes, characters, and structures of the literatures of our time, who is choosing to present them, and how, as writers, we may contribute to them.

A sports car designer recognizes the general classifications of existing cars–beauty, speed, price–and has his or her own rating system. As writers, we also know our convertibles from sun roofs, our experimental from formula. In any assessment, there is difference. I think Mazda Miatas are closer to the old MG's than Ferrari's Testarossa, and yet they are all sports cars. Ann Lauterbach's poems differ from Cathy Song's and their work is published in different magazines. Andre Dubus and T. Coraghessan Boyle both write stories about relationships, but are so wildly different in prose style and attitude that when a magazine has published both of them, that tells you a great deal about the editor's aesthetic scope.

Reading invites you into the writing community through kindred voices and stories. By maintaining an interest in poetry's many forms and the unconventional ways of telling a story, we become and remain writers. I am more Song than Lauterbach and we both have had poems published in the Hawaii Review. Where in the published community do you fit?

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Text © 1998, Amy Holman.
Editor: Heather Chwastiak.
Production: Erin Grainger.

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