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How To Get An Agent

How do I get an agent?  If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked this, I wouldn’t have to have an agent. Do you need an agent? Yes, yes and (most of the time) yes. Finding one isn’t all that difficult, but finding the right one can change your life. First of…

What If I Don’t Get An Agent?

But what if I don’t get an agent? Don’t despair. Write on. Keep your arse in the seat. Get the words down on the page. Do what you love. Fight. Persevere. Find the magazines and journals you like. Go to the contributors list. Find the name of the editor. Then find his or her e-mail.…

Finding the Right Editor

A great editor is a precious thing. Maybe it’s your best friend. Maybe it’s a classmate. Maybe it’s a workshop participant. Maybe it’s your husband. Maybe it’s someone you hire. Or maybe it’s the editor at your publishing house. No matter what, the right editor has to be someone you trust. You have to give…

No Literary Olympics

Learn this: you don’t write in competition with others. There are no Olympics in literature. No gold medal, no silver, no bronze, even if the award ceremonies suggest that it is so. You will soon find out that the word best is not part of the true endgame vocabulary, though the word better can be…

A Hero of Consciousness

The whole point of good literature is to make newness durable. You are creating alternative time. You are making vivid that which did not exist before. You are not just the clockmaker, but the measure of the clockmaker’s creation. This is quite a responsibility. You are shaping past, present, future. Respect it. Maintain it. Begin.…

The Word Made Flesh

BOXING. You can press the language out of it. The sweathouse of the body. The moving machinery of ligaments. The intimate fray of rope. The men in their archaic stances like anatomy illustrations from an old-time encyclopedia. The moment in a fight when the punches slow down and the opponents watch each other like time-lapse photographs—the sweat frozen in midair, the blood still spinning, the maniacal grin like the teeth themselves have gone bare-knuckle.

Don’t Be A Dick

Don’t get attached to the romantic illusions of yourself as a writer. It’s not about cocaine or the White Horse Tavern or the vial of laudanum or the late night of bottled beer bravado. It’s not about the hangover. Or the warehouse party. Or the jacket photo. Or the Facebook entries. Or the tweets or…

Smash That Mirror

Writing can hurt. Frankly it doesn’t matter if it hurts just you alone, but if it begins to hurt others, especially those near and dear to you, you should smash that mirror you’re staring into. Stop writing about yourself. Don’t steal directly from your friend’s life. Don’t write about your father’s woes. Don’t use your…

How Old is a Young Writer?

How old is a young writer? The young writer is any age. Seventeen, sixty, forty-six, who cares. The youngest of young writers always wants that book out before they’re eighteen or at the very latest twenty-five. It’s a noble ambition and not one to be scuppered, but if you don’t make it, don’t fret. Thirty…

But Always Meeting Ourselves

A LONDON nursing home. The shape of a figure beneath the sheets. My grandfather could just about whisper. He wanted a cigarette and a glass of whiskey. “Come up on the bed here, young fella,” he said, gruffly. It was 1975 and I was 10 years old and it would be the first — and probably last — time I’d ever see him. Gangrene was taking him away. He reached for the bottle and managed to light a cigarette. Spittle collected at the edge of his mouth. He began talking, but most of the details of his life had already begun slipping away.

If You’re Done, You’ve Only Just Begun

Just because you’ve written a book doesn’t mean that you’ve actually finished a book. A book might take a few years to write, but even after it’s written it still has to be finished. Writing is about 75 percent of the job. There’s the editing. And then there’s the editing. Oh and then there’s the…