Writers on the Web

Welcome to the first installment of a new series called WOW (Writers on the Web), a title so bad it’s not even good, which is good enough for me. It will cover what some writers are doing and saying on and around the web. This week, Stephen Graham Jones, Kris Saknussemm, Ian McEwan, Chuck Palahniuk, and Darwin. Some line-up

LitReactor previews Ten Obvious Truths about Fiction, an essay on craft by the category-defying Stephen Graham Jones.

Really, any scene that’s only getting across what’s happening on the surface of that scene—two guys loading boxes into a truck, say—then that scene’s dead. Instead, let those two men load boxes, but only one of them knows the other’s tranquilized pet is in one of the boxes. It changes everything, for the better.

Annie Murphy Paul at The New York Times finds fiction readers have better brains.

A 2010 study by Dr. Mar found a similar result in preschool-age children: the more stories they had read to them, the keener their theory of mind — an effect that was also produced by watching movies but, curiously, not by watching television.

But even more interestingly, or obviously, this article offers a scientific explanation for why we sometimes remember fictional characters as real. To our brains, they are.

There is evidence that just as the brain responds to depictions of smells and textures and movements as if they were the real thing, so it treats the interactions among fictional characters as something like real-life social encounters.

Back to LitReactor, and Zanesville author Kris Saknussemm joins an illustrious line-up of instructors for a workshop starting in April. Saknussemm, fresh from his Reverend America Tour tackles place, a subject dear to the heart of this oft-displaced writer. Tell him I sent you.

Over at The Cult, Chuck Palahniuk is offloading the faux Yin Yang table from The Fight Club to raise money for a Portland Dog shelter. If you live in Portland, he’ll even come over and help you assemble it, so get out your Allenkeys, people.


And finally Ian McEwan at The Guardian draws parallels between science and literature over issues of originality, not nearly so much an anachronism in this digital age as you’d think.

[Darwin’s] reluctance to upset his wife Emma’s religious devotion, or to contradict the theological certainties of his scientific colleagues, or to find himself in the unlikely role of iconoclast, a radical dissenter in Victorian society, all were swept aside for fear of another man taking possession of and getting credit for the ideas he believed to be his.

Rear view mirrors of the mind.

A month of firsts

It has been a month of firsts in a year of firsts. Last week, I was interviewed for the first time ever, an out-of-body experience if there ever was one, so watch this space; I sent off my first collection of shorts to the sublime and savvy Le Zaparogue, got my first cover art, and my first foreword —authored by the formidable Kris Saknussemm. Oh, and I bought my first Crock Pot.

So I finally have one of those volcanic, bubbling, gloppy mechanical kitchen monsters that my friends used to have when I was a kid.

And, I’m thinking for the first time in a long time about friends. Not a strong suite of mine, I’ve always thought, being a friend. But lately I’ve been getting to know some really smart, creative people, and I’m letting them be my friends, and am hoping, for the first time, that I measure up.