STARRED REVIEW in for Marcie Colleen & Alison Oliver’s THE BEAR’S GARDEN!

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Category: Announcements/Agency Biz

Congrats to both Marcie Colleen and Alison Oliver for their first, starred review for their picture book collaboration, THE BEAR’S GARDEN, from Kirkus Reviews:

One little girl understands that urban spaces need tender loving care.

When a little black girl with her hair in two puffballs looks at her city street, she sees people who rarely slow down enough to imagine the possibilities of beauty around them. But she does…Inspired by a true story of a stuffed bear found in what has become the Pacific Street Brooklyn Bear’s Community Garden, this tale of urban renewal shows how one person with an imagination, a little dirt, and a few seeds can transform a concrete village into something beautiful. Oliver’s endpapers depict maps of the garden site—the front endpapers sans garden and the rear ones featuring [more]

Big congratulations to Brian Broome on the sale of his stunning debut memoir, LIKE THIS, to Rakia Clark at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt!  LIKE THIS is a poetic, uproarious, and raw coming of age story about Blackness, masculinity, and addiction in America’s Rust Belt.

Brian is a Moth finalist and is currently in the MFA program at the University of Pittsburgh. I first heard him perform his work at a reading series in Pittsburgh, and the entire audience just fell in love with him. I know you’ll be just as captivated by him when you read his work!  The book will be out in May 2021.



“When you’re making things, time goes fast.”

Vera B. Williams, Scooter

I’m serious here.

Once upon a time I taught composition and rhetoric, and one of the things I’d tell my students is this: If you’re bored while writing your papers, I guarantee you that I’ll be bored while reading them. But if you are interested in what you’re writing, or even having fun—why, that quality will come through in your prose.

It can sound counterintuitive—this idea that our best work comes when we’re playing and having fun—but I’ve always found that to be the case.

If marrying the words “play” and “fun” to “work” sparks scorn, think of it more as showing the sort of keen focus and deep involvement that children show when they are playing hard. In his swell little book Keep [more]

Going into NaNoWriMo, the temptation will be to write as much as you possibly can each day. It makes sense, right? You’re trying to write as many words as quickly as possible, so if you’ve got more fuel in the tank once you’ve hit your daily goal of 1,000 or 2,000 words, why not use it? Get down as many words and as much of the story so that you can meet your ultimate goal.

I am here to tell you not to do that. My advice—and the advice of many, many writers with more skill and wisdom than me—set a target number of words, write until you reach that goal, and then stop. Some stop mid-sentence (see Graham Greene, who stopped at 800 words exactly); others stop in the vicinity of their target, … [more]

Some of you may have written an outline of the novel you will be writing. Some will have sketched out only the barest minimum—starts here; something happens over there; this thing takes place; somehow it all wraps up. Many of you will have no outline at all, but only a premise, a sense of some characters, a handful of scenes, and—if you’re lucky—an insistent voice dictating the telling of a story.

Outliners start with some gas in the tank, but for those of you who write without a certain idea of where you are going, starting can be gulp-inducing. Happily, NaNoWriMo is almost tailor-made for seat-of-the-pants writers. Plunging ahead is a great way to blaze a trail through the dark of an unknown story. Your trail may ultimately turn out to have wrong turns and … [more]

[Repurposing an old post about writing 1,000 words each day. But calibrated for NaNoWriMo inflation.]

In my younger and more vulnerable years, I was given a piece of advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. (And no, it is not to shamelessly rip off The Great Gatsby‘s opening line; that I do all on my own.) The advice was this: During the month of NaNoWriMo, write two thousand words of your work-in-progress each day. No more, no less. Just a cool two grand.

Here’s the why of the advice:

  • Two thousand words is a fair bit, to be sure. But it’s not so much that you can’t see the end of your target when you sit down to begin. It’s not so much that you can get deeply lost. It’s

You’ve heard this piece of wisdom a thousand times, from your toddler days right up to this present moment: Many baby steps add up to one giant leap. And you know this, know it down deep, where you don’t even really have to think about it anymore because, duh, it’s so obvious.

But it is precisely that quality of obviousness—that sense of this idea being shopworn and past its prime and thus in a way somehow beneath notice—that requires it be brought up now. Writing a book is all about baby steps. About putting one foot in front of the other again and again, tirelessly, ceaselessly, until thirty days from starting, you discover you’ve written an entire novel.

And that’s part of the genius of NaNoWriMo: It forces you to split the gargantuan task of … [more]

(Samuel Auster, 1940s; The Invention of Solitude by Paul Auster)

Believing that your voice and story matter can be difficult.

No more so than when you are facing an empty page, a blank screen, a yawning expectation that whatever you compose must justify everything: The time you’ve spent away from loved ones, from work, from sleep; the investment you’re asking readers to make in your world and your characters; the cash you’ve spent on your computer, your fountain pen, your bespoke composition costume, on your Word/Scrivener/Final App/what-have-you program, on classes and how-to books and on and on. To prove that you are not a monster of ego, but that you have something to say that the world may enjoy hearing. (The world may well need to hear what you have to say, but that’s … [more]

T-minus 7 days

“I can’t imagine anyone becoming a writer who wasn’t a voracious reader as an adolescent.”

—Paul Auster, The Paris Review Interviews, Vol. IV

Writers read.

I mean, of course. In order to write well, you need to read well, and in order to read well, you must read. A lot.

“You should read the entire canon of literature that precedes you, back to the Greeks, up to the current issue of The Paris Review,” William Kennedy said in The New York Times back in 1990. But that seems a pretty tall order while dashing out a first draft during a one-month marathon. Maybe we can just agree that you shouldn’t skimp on reading while you’re writing your novel.

Why? Because reading refills the well. It replenishes you. Reading primes your brain with words, sure—but … [more]

T-minus 7 days
T-minus 8 days until you catch lightning in a bottle.

“I write when the spirit moves me. And the spirit moves me every day.”

—William Faulkner

Mason Currey has assembled an invaluable little book called Daily Rituals, and it is required reading for process obsessives. The whole organizing conceit behind it is the one heading this blog post: namely, that ritualized work processes free us up to do our best work. Indeed, this idea is also one of the primary motivations behind NaNoWriMo itself—helping writers develop a habit of creating.

Devising and sticking to a routine is how we demarcate in our brain a sacred space devoted to creating. Set aside a time you will work every day. If possible, set aside a space. Follow such a routine for enough days and weeks, and … [more]