Bucks County Writers Workshop

Bucks County Writers Workshop


The Bucks County Writers Workshop
Article Archives #5 2005

  • FICTION WRITERS USED TO PROMOTE WAR IN IRAQ. The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times report that pro-American propaganda is being planted in the Iraqi press by paying off Iraqi journalists and using operatives posing as free-lance writers. For a look at those behind the effort go to Editor and Publisher.

  • STAN BERENSTAIN DIES IN BUCKS COUNTY. The co-creator of the Berenstain Bears books, some 250 of them, was eighty-two.

  • WRITERS ROOM OF BUCKS COUNTY CLOSES ITS DOORS. Two weeks after the abrupt resignation of its director, Jonathan Maberry, after only eight months on job the organization's board announced that it has shut down its offices on Oakland Street in Doylestown "due to rising costs," and that the group is reassessing its options for the future. The latest dilemma follows the announcement that the group had changed its name from the Writers Room to the Bucks County Center for Writers. The organization, which already ceased publication of its quarterly literary magazine, says it will continue its programs and publications "to the extent that circumstances allow." However, no programs are scheduled, and the board asks for "continued patience in this time of transition." One week before his surprise resignation, Maberry was quoted as saying, "Any trouble that we had been having is no longer there." In an email dated Nov. 7, Maberry said he quit because of "the demands of my own career." NOTE: the BCWW is not affiliated with the Bucks County Center for Writers.

  • NATIONAL BOOK AWARDS ANNOUNCED. William Vollman wins for fiction, Joan Didion for non-fiction. Special honors for Norman Mailer, Lawrence Ferlinghetti. By Edward Wyatt in The New York Times.

  • ZUCKERMAN JUICED. Since turning 60, an age when most renowned writers start having trouble making stuff up, Roth has written, arguably, four of his finest novels. By Peter Mehlman in The New York Times.

  • NOVELIST JOHN FOWLES: DEAD AT 79. Fowles's originality, versatility and skill were nowhere more evident than in his most celebrated novels, among them The Collector, The Magus, and The French Lieutenant's Woman. I interviewed Fowles in 1985. To hear it go to: WIRED FOR BOOKS.

  • GOOGLE PRINT USHERS IN VIRTUAL LIBRARY. Ten months ago, Google announced it planned to scan, digitize and make searchable the collections of five of the largest libraries in the world. Despite the surrounding controversy -- including lawsuits from authors and publishers over copyright -- the beta of Google Print is up and running. It reflects the first phase of the program, and is limited to public domain works that don't have copyright protection. You can search by title, author or key words. For example, type in "birdcage without any bird" -- and up pops the page with the e.e. cummings poem

  • TIME MAGAZINE'S LIST OF THE 100 BEST ENGLISH-LANGUAGE NOVELS SINCE 1923. Who makes the cut, who doesn't? The sometimes eccentric picks, good and bad, are the opinions of two Time Magazine critics. And since the most of the choices are of relatively recent vintage, the selections may be an indication of the relative youth of the critics, Lev Grossman and Richard Lacayo.

  • POET, 79, WINS PRIZE AND NEW AUDIENCE. Why did Landis Everson stop writing poetry for 43 years? Also -- James A. Michener (of Bucks County) was in his forties when he published his first (Pulitzer Prize-winning) book -- and he wrote until he was near ninety. It's never too late to be a writer (or too early).

  • JOHN BANVILLE WINS MAN BOOKER PRIZE. The Man Booker Prize is the most distinguished literary award in the U.K. (like the Pulitzer Prize in the U.S.) Hear Don Swaim's interview with Banville at WIRED FOR BOOKS

  • BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES 2005. This annual collection is now out in hardcover or paperback -- and edited by novelist Michael Chabon. It's required reading for BCWW members. In it, we learn what's being written today and where it's being published. It's available at any good book store or at Amazon.com. NOTE: the comparable annual O. Henry collection now comes out in January.

  • GOD'S LITTLE TOYS; CONFESSIONS OF A CUT AND PASTE ARTIST. Back in the typewriter days, Beat writer William Burroughs was famous for cutting and pasting (he called it the cut-up method). William Gibson (the science-fiction writer) in Wired Magazine tells us that now in the computer age nearly everyone's doing it.

  • WALTER TEVIS: MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH PROJECT. Now out as a Criterion double DVD package, which includes a reissue of the Walter Tevis novel, as well as the David Bowie film. BCWW's Don Swaim's AUDIO INTERVIEW with Tevis is part of the DVD package.

  • MANY AUTHORS EMBELLISH THEIR PASTS; OTHERS MAKE THEM UP ENTIRELY. Intriguing deceptions among authors -- by Ben Macintyre in The Times of London.

  • LITERARY LETTERS, LOST IN SPACE. Terrific essay in the New York Times Sunday Book Review by Rachel Donadio that explores what happens when the correspondence of potentially great writers vanishes into email. How do you save it?

  • BCWW RAYMOND CARVER ENTRIES POSTED. Many of the stories submitted as part of the BCWW Summer Writing Project (see below) can now be read online -- as well as John Wirebach's illuminating essay on the life and work of Raymond Carver. Click on the headline above to go to the BCWW's online literary magazine, Errata.

  • WIREBACH, BAUER TOP WINNERS AT BCWW AWARDS DINNER. The awards were passed out on August 9th by Christian Bauman and John Scioli as part of the 2005 Bucks County Writers Workshop Summer Writing Project, which celebrated the work of Raymond Carver. For the story go to BCWW NEWS. To see pictures go to 2005 DINNER. And read the newspaper account in the BUCKS COUNTY HERALD.

  • STEAL THIS BOOK -- OR AT LEAST DOWNLOAD IT FREE. After publishing 27 books, Warren Adler, author of The War of the Roses, has turned to Internet publishing. He also offers tips on getting published in this New York Times article by Claudia H. Deutsch.

  • SO YOU WANNA GET A STORY PUBLISHED. Tips on placing your story (and about everything else at this web site)

  • EVAN HUNTER, DEAD AT 78. Hunter, author of The Blackboard Jungle, wrote police procedurals under the name Ed McBain. Listen to Don's interview with Hunter at WIRED FOR BOOKS.

  • FINDING AN AGENT (PART I). Here's a helpful site on, yes, finding an agent -- with a directory from WritersNet.

  • FINDING AN AGENT (PART II). AgentQuery bills itself as the net's largest and most current database of literary agents.

  • FINDING AN AGENT (PART III). FictionAddiction.Net lists agents alphabetically along with submission guidelines.

  • FINDING AN AGENT (PART IV). Writer Beware. Here's a site with suggestions on how to avoid the wrong agent.

  • EVERYONE WHO'S ANYONE IN PUBLISHING (EWAIATP) Must read site by Gerard Jones, an angry most-often rejected dissident with a sense of humor. "Okay, in case nobody's noticed lately, I'm singlehandedly kicking the total crap out of the $25 billion-a-year publishing industry and I'll no doubt do the same with the movie business when I get around to it."

  • HOW TO WRITE A BOOK (PART I). Amusing essay by Jim Kunstler, a former reporter who actually got a book published.

  • HOW TO WRITE A BOOK (PART II). Tongue-in-cheek advice by one A.B. Credaro.

  • TRAGEDY OF MANNERS. Jonathan Yardley in The Washington Post says in all American literary history, no writer has fallen so fast and so far as John O'Hara.

  • BCWW MEMBER CHRIS BAUER WINS MARYLAND WRITERS ASSOCIATION AWARD. See BCWW NEWS for details.

  • MENCKEN AS SEER? From the spring 2005 issue of MENCKENIANA, Quarterly Review:

    Did H.L. Mencken foresee a future president to be a moron? ... Yes, he predicted that event in the Baltimore Evening Sun (July 26, 1920). Writing of the presidential contest between Sen. Warren G. Harding and Gov. James M. Cox, Mencken held each candidate in low regard: "Harding is simply a third-rate political wheel-horse" with "the imagination of a lodge joiner" and Cox had a "gift for bamboozling the boobs" with a "touch of the shyster in him." ... Mencken concluded: "The presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. ... On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."

  • WOULD YOU, COULD YOU IN A BOX? (WRITE, THAT IS.). In a blending of art and fiction, three writers are composing novels in three neighboring clear plastic pods. By Judy Salamon in the New York Times.

  • MASTERLY! EAGERLY AWAITED! PARSING THE BLURBOSPHERE. Originally published in the New York Times Magazine, this essay by William Safire on hyping new books was republished in the Houston Chronicle.

  • HOW TO BE YOUR OWN PUBLISHER. Self-published or Print on Demand (POD) books may be changing the publishing landscape. By Sarah Grazer in The New York Times

  • CHRISTIAN BAUMAN TO JUDGE BCWW WRITING PROJECT. Bauman, author of The Ice Beneath You and the upcoming Voodoo Lounge, will judge the competition, in which each BCWW member submits a story in the style of Raymond Carver. See BCWW NEWS for details.

  • THE CARVER CHRONICLES. Here is the famous article by D.T. Max that appeared in the August 9, 1998, issue of the New York Times Magazine. In it, Max explores the notorious literary relationship between Carver and editor Gordon Lish. Must reading to put Carver in perspective.

  • MISTAKES ARE BAD NEWS. As writers, we should all be on the alert for bad writing, whether print or broadcast. My old friend Mervin Block, broadcast writing veteran, tells us how to identify bad writing on the tube.

  • WE ALL HAVE A LIFE-MUST WE ALL WRITE ABOUT IT? The memoir has been on the march for more than a decade. By William Grimes in The New York Times.

  • FOR DA VINCI CODE AUTHOR, 24 MONTHS IN A CIRCUS. Dan Brown has all but gone into hiding after the smash success of his thriller. By Edward Wyatt in The New York Times.

  • NEW YORKER WRITER IS NEW EDITOR OF PARIS REVIEW. Philip Gourevitch says the magazine needs to be revitilized., not remade. By Edward Wyatt in The New York Times.

  • VICTORIES SWEET AT ST. PETERBURG BOOK FAIR. The book you could have bought for pennies may be worth hundreds or thousands of dollars today. By Michael Browning in The Palm Beach (Florida) Post.

  • GORDON LISH: NOTES AND REFLECTIONS OF A FORMER STUDENT. Profile of the colorful and controversial writing teacher, editor, and author. By George Carver in pif Magazine. And still another profile of Lish by David Bowman in SALON.

  • LARRY McMURTRY TO CLOSE HIS WEST TEXAS BOOK STORE. For years, the tiny town of Archer, Texas, has been a destination for book lovers -- but not after this year. By Scott Gold in The Los Angeles Times.

  • SPIRIT OF A 5000-BOOK LIBRARY ENLIVENS A GHOSTLY HAMLET. Monowi, Nebraska, is down to a single resident, but the one remaining house fit for living is a library with 5000 volumes. By Stephanie Simon in The Chicago Tribune.

  • JAMES PURDY: THE NOVELIST AS OUTLAW. Here's an essay about the under-recognized novelist by Gore Vidal in The New York Times Book Review. Two of Don Swaim's three interviews with Purdy have been posted at WIRED FOR BOOKS.


  • HOW TO BEHAVE AT A WRITERS WORKSHOP. I found this list of tips at the online Critters Workshop. Two key rules are often broken: the writer being critiqued should remain silent and try to absorb the criticism; those delivering the criticism should aim it at the words on paper, not the writer.

  • COPYRIGHT: IS SOME GOON GONNA TO STEAL YOUR STUFF? Not unless you've made a ton of money. I've posted this link before, but it's worth reviewing -- and it's been updated to reflect Internet issues. Fact: the moment you write something it's copyrighted. You don't need to put on your scripts a bunch of © marks and the like, amateurish and laughable. Also note: in recent BCWW submissions, some obviously copyrighted fictional characters (Spiderman, Harry Potter) were misappropriated. This is a no-no -- but there are exceptions.

  • FIVE RULES FOR WRITING SUCCESS. They were written by the great sci-fi writer Robert Heinlein and posted on Robert J. Sawyer's web site. These rules are excellent -- and they apply to every aspiring writer.

  • THE TEN RULES FOR WRITING. By James N. Frey. I'm not familiar with Mr. Frey's work, but he has something here.

  • HISTORICAL FICTION: WHO RULES? A number of BCWW members write historical fiction. Here's some advice from an editor, Caro Clarke.

  • MARK TWAIN'S RULES OF WRITING. Chris Bauer encountered these rules on the Internet -- and they still hold up.

  • TWENTY RULES FOR WRITING DETECTIVE STORIES. While we're on the topic of rules, let's repeat these, Written by S.S. Van Dine (creator of Philo Vance) The tips were first published in 1928 -- and they still hold up! Must reading for our detective writers.

  • THE HEIRS OF AYN RAND. It's the centennial of Rand's birth. A review of Rand's influence by Scott McLemee in Lingua Franca (September 1999). And a retrospective, AYN RAND: THE LAST ROMANTIC, by Edward Rothstein in The New York Times. Don Swaim conducted historic interviews with the major figures in Ayn Rand's life: Nathaniel Branden, Barbara Branden, and Leonard Piekov [still incomplete] at WIRED FOR BOOKS.

  • SUNDANCE ODDS GET EVEN LONGER. What are the chances of selling your film script? Not good, says movie producer Adam Leipzig in The New York Times.

  • HUM INSIDE THE SKULL REVISITED. Young writers talk about the authors who most influenced their work: a symposium. By Susan Choi in The New York Times.

  • MY SECRET STASH OF BOOKS ON TAPE. An English professor confesses that it was the spoken word, and not the written one, that first drew him to literature. By Thomas H. Benton in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

  • LOUIS AUCHINCLOSS, LAST OF THE GENTLEMEN NOVELISTS. Now 87, Auchincloss has published his 60th book. By Boris Kachka in New York Magazine. Hear two interviews with Auchincloss by Don Swaim at Wired for Books.

  • THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM. As a new edition of Nelson Algren's masterpiece is published, Kurt Vonnegut hails a literary pioneer. In The Guardian (UK).

  • FOUR ACADEMIC PLAGIARISTS YOU'VE NEVER HEARD OF. A special report by Thomas Bartlett and Scott Smallwood in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

  • SUSAN SONTAG DEAD. Sarajevo authorities will name a street after Sontag, who helped the city's residents during the 1992-95 Bosnian war. The novelist and essayist died at the age of 71 in New York from complications of leukemia. Last year I posted on this site her The New York Times Magazine essay THE PHOTOGRAPHS ARE US. In it, Sontag suggests the shocking photos of U.S. torture and abuse in Iraq and elsewhere disclose the true character of America's current leaders. Hear an interview with Sontag by Don Swaim at Wired for Books.

  • STUPID NAMES. Here's a list of names I collected from my spam email over a two-day period. Feel free to use any or all for the characters in your next piece of fiction. They're hilarious -- Don.

  • CITY OF JOHN STEINBECK TO CLOSE ALL ITS LIBRARIES. Salinas, California, may become the largest city in the nation without a library. By Marc Cabrera in The Monterey Herald.

  • WHAT'S THE GOOD WORD FOR 2004?. Linguists are about to vote on the word(s) of the year. By Amy S. Rosenberg in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

  • A LITTLE JOURNAL FOR NEARLY EVERY LITERARY VOICE. The US boasts 1,000 literary magazines, more than at any time in history, with average readerships of 2,000 and annual budgets of under$10,000. By Felicia Lee in The New York Times.

  • PARKED IN THE DESERT, WAITING OUT THE WINTER OF LIFE. This story of the elderly waiting for the end in the California desert is an example of beautifully-written journalism using fictional techniques. It will have you weeping. By Charlie LeDuff in The New York Times.

  • GOOGLE TO ADD MAJOR LIBRARIES TO ITS DATABASE. The operator of the world's most popular Internet search service announces an agreement to convert major library holdings into digital files that would be freely searchable over the Web. By Edward Wyatt in The New York Times.

  • WHAT AMERICAN BUSINESS CAN'T BUILD: A SIMPLE SENTENCE. Millions of inscrutable e-mail messages are clogging corporate computers by setting off requests for clarification, and many of the requests, in turn, are also chaotically written, resulting in whole cycles of confusion. By Sam Dillon in The New York Times.

  • APOCALYPSE (ALMOST) NOW. The "Left Behind" series, the best-selling novels for adults in the U.S., enthusiastically depict Jesus returning to slaughter everyone who is not a born-again Christian. By Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times.

  • SOMETHING BORROWED. Should a charge of plagiarism ruin your life? By Malcolm Gladwell in The New Yorker.

  • LILY TUCK WINS NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FOR FICTION. Lily who? (NOTE: I read Tuck's short story collection, Limbo and Other Places I Have Lived, and it's excellent--Don) By Edward Wyatt in The New York Times.

  • RESULTS OF 2004 BULWER-LYTTON FICTION CONTEST. Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, author of The Last Days of Pompeii, is often said to be worst published writer ever, best known for his opening sentence in the novel Paul Clifford, "It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents--except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the house-tops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness." For how to enter the contest go to The Rules.

  • AMBROSE BIERCE AND THE JOY OF OUTRAGE. New Essay on Bierce's time and place by Jack Matthews, Distinguished Professor of English at Ohio University, Athens. He is also the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a three-time Ohioana Book Award-winner. An expert on book collecting and rare books, Matthews is the author of more than twenty books of fiction and non-fiction.

  • THE DING-DONG OF DOOM. Postage stamps, those quaint and colorful vestiges of a vanishing twentieth-century mode of communication, figure conspicuously in the strange career of William Faulkner. By Christopher Benfey in The New Republic.

  • NANCY DREW'S FATHER. Next year, Nancy turns seventy-five, and, having sold more than two hundred million books, she has been rewarded with a twenty-first-century makeover. "Nancy Drew Girl Detective" is a new series launched by Aladdin Paperbacks, a division of Simon & Schuster. By Meghan O'Rourke in The New Yorker.

  • HEMINGWAY HISTORY STRUGGLES TO SURVIVE. An effort to save Hemingway's home, an American cultural treasure and an important Cuban tourist attraction, is threatened by a storm of politics. By Ginger Thompson in The New York Times.

    PHILIP ROTH: "THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA"

    Publicity photo by Nancy Crampton for The Plot Against America, 2004
    If Charles Lindbergh had been elected president in 1940 what might have been the fate of American Jews? Essentially, it's the story of a family, based on Roth's own, caught up in troubled times. Despite the seemingly farfetched theme the story comes across as perfectly plausible and therefore even the more frightening. Click on the title above to read Roth's story behind the novel in The New York Times Sunday Book Review. For the take of columnist Frank Rich in The New York Times, go to: FRANK RICH. And for a detailed profile of Philip Roth by Al Alvarez in The Guardian (U.K.) go to GUARDIAN BOOKS

  • DISSING THE DIRT. Slang outruns its iffy past. By Jan Freeman in The Boston Globe.

  • THE WIDENING WEB OF DIGITAL LIT. Here's a sensational list of web sites devoted to books, writers, and writing. There's one site, "Everyone Who's Anyone in Adult Trade Publishing," that is so useful -- and funny -- that I gave it a permanent link on the index side of this page. I know you'll find these sites helpful. By David Orr in The New York Times.

  • LOWERCASING THE INTERNET. Wired Magazine has dropped the capital letter on "Internet" and "Web," prompting a commentary by linguist Geoffrey Nunberg, heard on NPR's "Fresh Air."

  • NEW HEMINGWAY TALE TURNS UP. Eighty years after they were written, a previously unknown story and a handwritten letter ascribed to Ernest Hemingway have surfaced to stir a literary and legal dispute. By Alan Cowell in The New York Times.

  • 20 YEARS AND 5 EDITORS LATER... How long should it take to write a book? There's no easy answer. By Jonathan Mahler in The New York Times.

  • SINNER TAKE ALL: THE REDEMPTION OF GRAHAM GREENE. Norman Sherry's third volume of Greene's biography is out. By Matthew Price in Book Forum.

  • RICHARD YATES: A NEW AWARENESS. Beset by alcoholism and years of rejection (nine years after his death The New Yorker finally published one of his stories), the late Richard Yates has mostly been forgotten until now. James Wood salutes Blake Bailey's generous biography of Yates, A Tragic Honesty, in The Guardian.

  • E.L. DOCTOROW: THE UNFEELING PRESIDENT. The influential novelist's essay was written for a Long Island newspaper, The East Hampton Star. Listen to Don Swaim's 1986 interview with Doctorow at Wired for Books.

  • PAPERBACK WRITER. Paperback originals: A possible trend? By Laura Miller in The New York Times Sunday Book Review.

  • GOLDEN BOY. Too Brief a Treat: The Letters of Truman Capote. and The Complete Short Stories of Truman Capote. A review by Thomas Mallon in The New Yorker. Don's Swaim's interview with Capote's biographer, Gerald Clarke, at Wired for Books.


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