Delusions of Grandeur

Today’s post comes from our friend Grant Faulkner, head of National Novel Writing Month, and co-founder of 100 Word Stories

Be Deluded. Be Grand.

The phrase “delusions of grandeur” generally carries a negative connotation. It connotes one who’s out of touch with reality. One who is arrogant. One who expects the royal treatment.

It can be all of those things, but I want to put a twist on such notions. I posit that a writer needs to seize delusions of grandeur when they strike, to even nurture those delusions and view them as the rare and precious gems they are.

After all, much of one’s writing life is spent in the opposite frame of mind, right? After suffering through states of crippling self-doubt, if not self-damnation, shouldn’t we be granted a moment of reprieve to dream that the novel we’re writing will capture Oprah’s eye, win a National Book Award, and be made into a movie by Martin Scorsese (with a cameo role for the author, of course). Oh, and then there’s Elton John’s Oscars party, where a Vanity Fair photographer will snap a photo with George Clooney, Meryl Streep, and the usually overlooked author.

Many a great actor has been inspired by his or her Oscar speech, conjured in moldy showers or on dreary bus rides to dreary jobs. Most of those actors don’t get the Oscar, so you can call them deluded, but where would they be without the hope?

The life of an artist is filled mainly with rejection. I think being a writer is like being a baseball player: if you have a .300 batting percentage, you’re a really good hitter, but most of the time you don’t get on base.

After a day of head banging synaptic sclerosis at our writing desks, it’s too easy to muck around in the gloomy thoughts that we’re not good writers–that maybe we shouldn’t have even embarked on this crazy endeavor.

As T.S. Eliot once said, “When all is said and done the writer may realize that he has wasted his youth and wrecked his health for nothing.”

Such realizations can only be balanced by the opposite: our hopes and dreams. Great creations are spawned by many things, but appropriate doses of fanciful reveries are sometimes underrated when compared to the lauded artistic battering rams of diligence and self-criticism. Great creations are fueled by our dreams. Our dreams, as crazy and seemingly delusional as they might be, are the best antidote to self-doubt; in fact, they’re a slickly paved pathway to vigorous and daring creativity.

“Boldness has genius, power and magic in it,” as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said.

If you’ve had a tough day of writing, I recommend taking a shower and rehearsing what you’ll say to Oprah. Toast your present and future self with the humble, generous remarks you’ll make when your kick-ass, awe-inspiring novel sweeps the world away. And don’t forget your glass of champagne at Elton’s. You deserve it.


 

Grant_Faulkner_Profile_1

Grant Faulkner is the author of Fissures, and holds an M.A. in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. He has presented at the Frankfurt Book Fair, AWP, and LitCrawl, but is also available for weddings and bar mitzvahs. 

The MFA Debate: What You Need, Regardless

Today we bring you the final thrilling chapter in associate editor Lyndsay Hall’s series about her journey to the MFA. 

Something happened with Antioch’s mailer service. I don’t remember what it was exactly, but the requested brochures weren’t mailed until six weeks before the MFA program’s application deadline. I didn’t know whether or not I wanted an MFA: was it worth the time? The money? If jobs aren’t guaranteed afterwards – never mind that the degree is terminal – does the diploma matter? I was never an excellent student.

As I said, I’m two semesters into the program. It’s low-residency, which means I attend seminars, workshops, and readings only twice a year for ten days at a time. For those ten days, school’s similar to a 9-to-5 job; for the rest of the year, correspondence is via email and phone conversations with a mentor.

During our first official meeting last December, my mentor asked me my favorite book.

“I don’t know,” I said. I knew this was the wrong answer, but impossibly, I’d forgotten every book’s title.

“Do you have one you enjoyed recently?”

I shrugged. “I guess I haven’t read enough,” I said.

“If you don’t read, and if you can’t answer these questions, you’ll never be a writer.”

Initially, part of the reason I decided on graduate school, I’ll admit, was to justify being 25 and waiting tables. Initially, part of the reason I decided to move to New York was to tell strangers I’d lived in New York. Those reasons changed. Both an MFA and New York carry weight (enough to engage in a debate over their merits), though I cannot imagine why that is.

You get out of everything the effort you put into it. I have benefitted tremendously from both MFA and NYC. I’ve networked in ways I otherwise wouldn’t (two published authors wrote my recommendation letters, for example); I am halfway eligible to teach at a college level, which is a dream of mine.

But maybe you don’t need this. Maybe you have a writing habit; maybe you write even while on vacation. Maybe you read Ulysses at twelve. I’m not that person. In time, we learn our needs: I learned I needed my ass kicked into shape.

There are two things one must do to become a writer: one must read, and one must write.

One must read feverishly, with both an analytical eye and for entertainment, without prejudice for genre or decade or page numbers. One must read with coffee and sometimes at the bar, swirling glasses of expensive whiskey like they know the difference between this and the cheap shit. One should invest in a reading light for bed and an assortment of highlighters and a bookcase. Mine was purchased at a thrift store; I need a second.

One must write feverishly, more stories or poems or chapters than a medical professional would deem stable, with neither disdain nor admiration for their own work. One must write drafts that are awful, that even their kindest peers would consider awful, that will make them want to throw in the metaphorical towel (but what is actually an ancient laptop) altogether. One must write on napkins and in their iPhone notes and on airplane barf bags, every day. Every single day. One should buy a notebook from the closest drug store and fill every line and erase nothing and use the receipt as a bookmark for all those aforementioned books they’re reading.

One must buck up or shut up.


 

Lyndsay HallLyndsay Hall is an associate editor for NonBinary Review and Unbound Octavo. She was the original model for the Statue of Liberty, because (don’t let her fool you) she’s older than she looks, although age has obviously brought her great wisdom. 

 

Giving Up Time

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. It’s a 90-minute trek to see my mother, and my intention was to visit and spend the afternoon doing crafts with her. Not “doing crafts and writing,” or “doing crafts and checking my email,” or “doing crafts and watching television.” I knew going in that I was going to spend at least six hours doing this one thing, and I was mentally and emotionally prepared that no phone calls would be answered, no texts would be sent, no reading would get done.

On the 90-minute drive home after a productive afternoon, I realized that I am rarely that accepting of the time I allot myself to write. When I am in front of my computer trying to get my own writing done, I periodically take a break to check social media, or email, to look something up, or watch a hilarious video someone sent me. The net effect is that I am never as immersed in the work as I would like to be.

I’ve been there — eyebrows-deep, oblivious to everything else going on in the world, as I create a world of my own where interesting things are coming thick and fast. It’s hard to get there, and it’s even harder to stay there, since emotions can be intense and uncomfortable and the excitement can be a little much. On the other hand, if you’re not in that space, it shows on the page.

The only times I’ve consistently been able to get in that zone and stay there was when I was with friends who were all doing the same thing. There’s something about gathering with a group of people, even when you will be putting on your headphones and staring at your individual screens while totally ignoring each other, that feels like permission to give up that time to one single purpose. Permission to not answer your phone, to skip dinner, to drink too much tea, to let someone else walk the dog, because in the world that you’re creating, there’s no dog, no phone, and nothing but tea because it’s not even close to dinner time.

I’m giving you permission to give up that time. To do nothing else but work on that thing that you really know needs to get done. To give up the (mistaken) notion that something else is more important, or that you can effectively do both things at the same time. Leave your phone in the other room. Turn off the television. Tell your family that they cannot speak to you for an hour while you do something that only you can do. For those of you who need a little more drastic measures, you might want to try Freedom, software that disables your wireless connection for a pre-set amount of time. If that’s too drastic, you could try Self Control, which only blocks the websites you choose in advance (handy if you still want to be able to look stuff up, but don’t want to be distracted by social media or email). Both of these are Mac only, so if you have any suggestions for PC folks, let us know. And if it’s a kick in the productivity pants you’re looking for, Write or Die can challenge you to type like the wind.

Best of luck, and I’ll be over here, finishing this novel.


 

lise-quintanaLise Quintana is the publisher behind Zoetic Press. She is a novelist, a feminist, a pacifist, a philatelist, and wears two watches at a time. 

 

The MFA Debate: The Unconventional Education

Today brings part 2 of Lyndsay Hall’s own take on the MFA Debate, wherein she makes some discoveries about what is and isn’t necessary to a writing career. 

In time, we learn our needs – in a relationship, our careers, financially – usually through trial and error, after missteps with varying degrees of severity: neglectful boyfriends, unfulfilling secretarial jobs, a nasty credit card bill or a declined debit card. As for writing, my students (all between the ages of eight and fourteen) sometimes need only a prompt to start a story, though more often they need a parent to drive them to weekly writing class and a teacher (me) who demands they sit quiet and work. In the winter of 2012, I didn’t know what I needed, but I was getting nowhere in my dad’s spare bedroom.

On my 24th birthday, my step-sister, Nina, and I sat on the dock in our backyard, sipping Bud Lights. Our house was on the Intercoastal Waterway; water taxis, yachts, and speedboats at their slowest speed drove past, their wake beating against the seawall.

“I decided that 24 was the age I’d buck up or shut up,” Nina said. Her own birthday was two weeks earlier. To celebrate, we had visited Chicago and apartment shopped. “I thought if I don’t leave Fort Lauderdale now, I may never.”

Her logic is sound, I thought. Neither of us had yet established career goals; we could move anywhere. I had a public relations job in college, but currently I filled the gap in my resume with a part-time hostess gig I took to save money (for what?) and allow time for the writing.

I raised my beer bottle. “To bucking up or shutting up.”

I moved to New York in February 2013, took a waitressing job at a burger joint, and couch-surfed until I found an apartment: a 330 square foot two-bedroom in Hell’s Kitchen, with a roommate who, I’d soon learn, didn’t pay rent. Was any of this essential to becoming a writer? No. Had I the discipline or the courage to write one crappy draft after another, I could’ve lived anywhere, and probably saved thousands of dollars doing so. I could’ve sat on that dock, watched the boats snail by, wrote a novel. Instead, I posted up in my Ikea bed – leaving the apartment became too expensive – and, because I associated New York City with hard work, I got to work.

The Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop, established by Iowa alum and Cutting Teeth author Julia Fierro, is not a school, but rather a collection of individual workshops: an author teaches classes in his or her own home. I took four of these workshops. I interned as a reader at a literary agency in SoHo. I ran dog-related errands for the editor-in-chief of a boutique magazine. (Well, I wrote filler articles, too, but mostly dog errands.) I attended a literary conference in Brooklyn. Once I wrote an email to Sam Lipsyte soliciting writing advice and he generously responded.

Now, was any of this essential? No, not really, although all of it was awesome. I learned something, and I am forever an advocate for unconventional education.

Winter came to New York, as it does. I discovered seasonal depression is a thing. I wasn’t writing or reading, and half the time I was the empty seat in my writing workshops, the student who never submitted response letters. In January, the informational packet I’d requested months earlier, never received, and all but forgotten, arrived in the mail: MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University Los Angeles.


 

Lyndsay HallLyndsay Hall is an associate editor for NonBinary Review and Unbound Octavo. She lives in Los Angeles, where she writes, studies, teaches children, and is faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive, but needs a running start to leap tall buildings. 

Guilty Secrets

As the publisher of two literary journals and a working writer myself, I read a whole lot. I absolutely try to read all those books you’re “supposed” to read (some people would call them “the classics,” but I think of them more as “the peer pressure books“). I read a lot of them in high school and college because they were assigned reading – I would likely never have read Beowulf or The Canterbury Tales  if they hadn’t been assigned. But for other books – Moby-Dick and 1984, for instance – my reason for reading was less lofty.

I hate being left out of a joke.

Do you remember around 1982-3 (if you’re too young to remember that far back, just wait, you’ll catch up) when everyone was making references to George Orwell’s 1984? Everyone was talking about Big Brother and the quasi-police state under which we were living. This was the tail end of the cold war, and people my age had lived their whole lives under a nuclear threat. In 1983, I decided that if I was going to keep hearing about it, I owed it to myself to read 1984 so that I could at least understand the references being made. And it worked! I was able to watch Terry Gilliam’s Brazil with a certain knowingness that, I’m sure, made me insufferable.

Similarly, the ability to understand every War and Peace, Don Quixote, or Remembrance of Things Past reference (although, let’s be fair, there’s only that one) became important to me. I saw references to classic literature everywhere, and I felt like more of an adult for being able to understand the full text of what was being said.

But let’s be honest – I’m not the person sitting on my chaise longue listening to Vivaldi and reading nothing but Harold Bloom-approved literature. I feel that one thing “the canon” seems to be missing is FUN, and I don’t know about you, but I like to read for fun. I can read trashy mysteries, goofy sci-fi, psychological horror and fantasy all day long. I’ll read anything by Neil Gaiman or Terry Pratchett, neither of whom has a place on Bloom’s canonical list. I read Kyril Bonfiglioli over and over because his stuff is funnier than anything I have ever read.

To me, the important thing is not necessarily that one pick only the most iconic, “important” literature in the world. Frankly, there’s just too much great writing, and everyone’s criteria for what constitutes a great work of fiction is different. What’s important is that whatever you choose to read, you look at with a critical eye. What methods does the author use to create the effects you find moving? Read whatever you like – then re-read it to discover why you liked it. That’s the real important thing. It’ll make you a better reader, and a better writer.


 

lise-quintanaLise Quintana is the publisher behind Zoetic Press. She has read Infinite Jest, Moby Dick, War and Peace, and 2666 and has underlined all the naughty parts. 

The MFA Debate: A New York Case Study

We promised you guest posts about the MFA Debate, and true to our word, here is the first of a three-parter by our associate editor Lyndsay Hall. We want to make it clear that despite her self-denigrating slacker narrative, she is a rock star of an editor. – ZP

One does not need an MFA to be a writer, nor must one move to New York, or anywhere for that matter. One does not need a traumatic adolescence or a narcotics addiction. One does not need financial privilege, a supportive spouse, an empty nest, or a passport and time to kill. There are only two things one must do to become a writer: one must read, and one must write.

That said, I am in my second semester of graduate school studying creative writing and I lived for two years in New York City. I made both of these decisions because I was neither reading nor writing.

A few months shy of college graduation, I broke up with my boyfriend of four years. Overnight, I could go anywhere! I could be anything! So I drank a lot. I slept on my mother’s living room sofa. All of my belongings sat in the back seat of my Volkswagon Jetta, that I once parked in downtown Miami, and someone smashed the passenger side window to steal my CD case. Eventually, without any trigger besides boredom, I borrowed The Great Gatsby from a friend and applied to New York University’s Writer’s in New York program, which was scheduled to begin a month after graduation and last throughout June. (Of course, I did not do this without first tattooing birds on the back of my neck, supposedly indicative of my free spirit.)

At NYU, craft classes took place on Monday and Wednesday afternoons, and workshops were on Tuesday and Thursday. Readings were held every night. Black and white portraits of Kurt Vonnegut and E.L. Doctorow hung on the wall of the Lillian Vernon Writers House, and the floorboards creaked. Here, I was told that to be a writer one must read – a hobby that I was admittedly (embarrassingly) lazy about – and it was here, too, I received the first criticism and praise of my storytelling. This was also the first time I was held accountable to my writing.

When the program ended, I was motivated to write: the friends I made agreed to keep in touch and exchange work, I found future literary happenings, I drank at the White Horse Tavern, famed for Dylan Thomas’ visits in the early 1950s. A week after that, I felt lost. No one kept in touch. I lost the list of lit events. I hiked in New Jersey because even that – an activity I approached both ambivalently and desperately, in need of something, anything – seemed better than writing. Confused and lonely and broke, I packed my bags and returned to South Florida to live with my dad.

There, I read only Hemingway. I grew tired of Hemingway because three months of exclusively Hemingway is too much Hemingway. “Did you know,” I said to Dad over mid-day coffee, dressed still in pajamas, “Hemingway wrote from 7:00 a.m. until noon every day.”

“Uh-huh, and when will you write today?” he asked.


 

Lyndsay HallLyndsay Hall is an associate editor for NonBinary Review and Unbound Octavo. She lives in Los Angeles, where she writes, studies, teaches children, and enjoys a diet of whiskey and vegetables. 

The Truth About Fanfic

I was lucky enough to be asked to participate in a roundtable discussion about non-linear fiction. We talked about tools for creating nonlinear fiction, how one decides what stories to tell, etc. At the end of the evening, I was asked for my opinion about fanfic.

To most people, “fanfic” is something written mainly by sad, nerdy teenagers who spend too much time fantasizing about their favorite fictional worlds, or by middle-aged women who have no lives apart from the quasi-pornographic books they consume in huge quantities. They write awkward, terrible prose about the character pairings they wish they could see, or the scenes they feel have been left out of their favorite books. But to limit your notion of fan fiction to those scenarios is to limit your understanding of what fiction is and how writing works.

The first stories people shared were of two kinds: recounting battles, or explaining nature. When talking about defeating enemies on the battlefield, or about hunting difficult prey, they gave their opponents glorious attributes so that their own victories sounded that much more impressive. These stories became myths and legends that many of us still recount today, and those myths and legends became the seeds of other stories. Before people developed the tools and the disciplines we know as “science,” they made up stories about the natural world to explain things whose origins or causes weren’t immediately obvious. Again, those stories became myths and legends, and went on to inspire generations of stories. The point is, these tales were created from observation of an actual event.

Later, people made up stories that were based on those original stories, rather than on the events in those stories. And more stories were based on those first stories. This was so common that the Bible itself says “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

Putting aside the notion of recycled plots, there is the notion of how we teach writing. One of the most important things any writer can do is to read the works of others. Reading critically, with an eye toward picking out exactly how authors achieve the effects that move their audiences, is the best way to make one’s own writing stronger. So, it seems a little disingenuous to tell people “study other writers” and then denigrate them for trying their hand at similar writing. There are great writers out there, like Lois McMaster Bujold, Meg Cabot, Neil Gaiman, and Orson Scott Card who started out by copying authors who came before them.

At the end of the day, the writing we deride as “fanfic” is often just fiction written by someone whose name you haven’t heard yet and whose literary influences are particularly identifiable. Does that make it unworthy of critical attention? Absolutely not! How are the great writers of tomorrow going to learn their craft, if not at the feet of the great writers of today?


 

lise-quintanaLise Quintana is the publisher behind Zoetic Press. She is the author of many derivative short stories, and still reads under the covers with a flashlight after bedtime. 

The MFA Debate: What Are You Bringing to the Table?

Get any group of writers together, and sooner or later, you’re going to hear some version of The MFA Debate. Does going through the exercise of getting an MFA make a person a better writer? Does it make their work more valuable? Is is a way to guarantee writing success? We’re going to look at those questions in the coming weeks, and we’ve invited some guest bloggers to weigh in. I’m going first, though.

What Are You Bringing to the Table? 

When I started to apply to MFA programs, I had to ask my writing friends for letters of recommendation. I’d been working in and around writing for more than a decade, and my friends were more than happy to help me out – except one. In his refusal, he told me that he believed that MFA programs are all pyramid schemes that do nothing but train up more writing teachers who must, in turn, fill their own programs with unwitting dupes.

It turns out that my friend had gotten an MFA from a good school many years earlier, and all he had to show for it was a single novel-length manuscript that he finally finished years later and never (to my knowledge) submitted anywhere. He felt that he had wasted all this time and money on something that would never be more than a hobby for him. It made me start thinking very hard about exactly what I was looking to achieve with my degree.

I realized that, in addition to helping me hone my writing by giving me some better tools, I was looking for community. Too many times in the past, I had reached out to people on various message boards, in Facebook groups, etc., trying to build a community of writers who were not just interested in sitting around in coffee shops and doing the typing part of writing, but who were willing to look critically at each other’s work, and give suggestions about where that work could be marketed. Every time, those groups crumbled because people were too busy to make the writing a priority.

When I got to school, I made it my business to meet people. I joined the staff of the literary magazine, I joined the Facebook group so that I could keep up with my widely-scattered low-residency MFA peeps while we were all at home, and I participated eagerly in our online discussions. Now, a year and a half after I’ve graduated, I’m running an online workshop group with some of my fellow graduates and I’m still actively engaged in the community.

I am a firm believer in the value of an MFA program, but only for those who understand up front what there is to be gained – and, more importantly, what you have to do on your own.


 

lise-quintanaLise Quintana is the publisher behind Zoetic Press and NonBinary Review. She received her MFA from Antioch University, Los Angeles, and does all her work while binge-watching murder mysteries. 

Living Out Loud

This coming Saturday, editor Allie Batts and I will be reading at the Drunk Monkeys/Kleft Jaw event in Long Beach, CA. Allie and I have attended and participated in hundreds of readings over the years, but I know quite a few writers who don’t read their work – not in public, not in private, not anywhere.

And yet, just about everyone who dispenses writing advice will tell you that reading your own work out loud is an invaluable tool for making your work as strong as it can be.

You can click through and read all those other articles that will outline for you why reading aloud will help you identify and correct rough spots in your own writing, so I’m not going to waste time elucidating that. What I am going to tell you is what it can do for your ego and your audience.

  1. Everyone thinks their own voice sounds strange. But once you get over the weird, you can listen objectively for intonation, cadence and vocabulary. And with time, you’ll begin to appreciate the wonderful instrument that is your own human voice. Who doesn’t want another reason to feel good about themselves?
  2. Dramatic reading is a thing. If you’ve listened to enough audiobooks, you know that there’s a huge difference between a competent reading and a really inspired reading. Great voice actors use different tones, accents and cadences to mark out different characters. They pace their reading to give dramatic scenes more tension and make descriptions come to life.
  3. Reading out loud makes you friends. When my kids were little, I would bring a book to restaurants so that I could read to them while we waited for our food. They loved it, other patrons loved it, the waitstaff loved it. Kids from other tables would want to join us to hear the story. Nowadays, when my kid is trying to memorize something, she recites it out loud to me while we’re out running errands or out for a meal. And it still never fails to draw a crowd.
  4. Finding venues to read your work expands your network and helps you get published in more places. Once you’re out of the Big Five, the world of small, independent presses is very small. It’s one of the phenomena that makes AWP less intimidating and scary. The very talented writers that we’ve published in NonBinary Review and Unbound Octavo are also editors at their own small presses who have published us and other people we haven’t met yet but will soon, and those people are likely editors at yet other small presses. If you get out in public and let people hear you, those people will know that you’re someone they want to publish. The bigger the audience, the more editors and other writers you’ve made aware of your work!

You may have rationalized not reading – you don’t need to do it, your work is fine. Your work sounds better when somebody else reads it. You don’t work in a genre that works when read aloud. But they’re just that – rationalizations. Excuses for not getting your writing to where it could be. And it’s a shame, really, because I would love to hear your work.


 

lise-quintanaLise Quintana is the publisher behind NonBinary Review. She is a writer who specializes in making people uncomfortable and has serious conversations about syntax with her dog, Dalziel. 

The Importance Of A Balanced Diet

Just as it’s normal to reflect on one’s mortality after the death of a loved one, it’s normal to reflect on the state of publishing and the literary world after AWP.

One of the popular topics of conversation at every AWP is the VIDA count – a sort of scorecard of how many women are being published and hold editorial positions at various publications. Places like The New Yorker continue to underrepresent women both as authors of the pieces they publish and as authors of the books they review, whereas Tin House, which was slightly skewed toward men in 2010 has achieved parity by 2014.

Gender parity in publishing is the kind of issue that provokes such strong feeling that it’s creating a schism that might destroy the Hugo Awards, with Connie Willis declining to present and authors declining nominations. There have been other venues where white, heterosexual men have felt that the inclusion of more people who are not them is some kind of discrimination against them, and their cries of “Unfair!” baffle those of us who have been fighting for some kind of level playing field for so long.

At one panel on women in editing, a woman in the audience gave an anecdote about a middle-aged white man in a class saying that he now felt discriminated against, since so many publishers publish only women, or only people of a specific ethnicity, or only people who identify as genderqueer. She wanted to know how to gracefully respond to that man. Most of us in the room nodded our heads, because that feels like the conversation we’re all having in one venue or another. If we don’t include heterosexual white men they cry discrimination, but if they don’t include anyone else, they claim it’s because no one else measures up.

When I had my first kid, I fed her all sorts of stuff – sushi and tofu and weird vegetables – and she developed a taste for all of it. She would try just about anything, because that’s what she had been accustomed to. I know of other parents whose children will eat nothing but chicken nuggets or mashed potatoes, and so they feed their children nothing but chicken nuggets or mashed potatoes and figure that they’ll deal with the consequences later.

That’s exactly what’s happened to the literary canon – as school kids, we’re fed the chicken nuggets and mashed potatoes of heterosexual white male literature and told “this is what’s good and important.” It means that when we encounter a chayote squash or a star fruit, we have no idea how to approach it, and therefore reject it as not being as good as what we’re used to. Never mind that both chayote squash and star fruit are more nutritious than chicken nuggets or mashed potatoes, or that their delicate flavors demand a little more attention to appreciate – most people will never know, because they don’t even see those things as they’re making a beeline toward the chicken nuggets and mashed potatoes.

This is not to say that nobody should ever have chicken nuggets or mashed potatoes. This is only to say that there is a wide world of other things out there – from paella and tiny presses that publish the most esoteric, hard-to-read experiments to arugula and imprints of huge conglomerates that publish names you just haven’t heard yet – that one can incorporate into one’s own literary diet. And yes, it means that in some places, white heterosexual men won’t be first in line when they’re handing out bylines or book reviews, but it’s not like they won’t be in the line at all. With more books being published than ever before, and more than 7 billion people on the planet, I think there’s room for everybody.

lise-quintana


Lise Quintana is the publisher behind Zoetic Press, the author of a considerable number of short stories, and the kind of person who will put jalapeño tabasco on just about anything.