Paving the Personal Path to a Literary Life

123_1We’ve all travelled unique paths to the present. I found my way to this literary life a little later than most, after decades in information technology and corporate America, after extensively volunteering for non-profit organizations and freelancing as a business writer while raising a daughter. Computers, my fascination with them and the world they create and deliver, have been a constant thread throughout each of these opportunities.

Not many of you, and fewer as time goes on, will remember their first glimpse of a computer. I was eighteen, not long out of high school, soon to be married, and tucked into a windowless sliver of low-ceilinged room at the now-defunct First National Bank in downtown Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The soon-to-be-married status was unfortunate as was the fact that I was NOT one of the promising Central File Clerks chosen to digitally transform the department.

I befriended the chosen. They allowed me to look at their glowing monitors, only when our supervisor, Elsie, was out of the room. They tabbed and typed names and numbers into what I found out were fields, and, oh, I so wanted to also bask in the blue light of their IBMs.

I earned that chance after escaping the dungeon and the aforementioned dragon, and transferring to another department and a keyboard of my own. Eventually, I landed with a pre-public-access-Internet information service reached by external, screeching 300-, 1200-, then 2400-baud dial-up modem, some with acoustic couplers, cabled to computers with names like Commodore 64, RadioShack TRS 80, Apple II or Apple IIe. This service, through these computers, allowed the sharing of news archives (a radical notion at that time in that industry), and the retrieval (if you had enough time and money) of the full text of articles, one letter at a time, about as fast as the slightly-above average typist could type. Starting in the early 1980s, we distributed news stories from “The Daily Oklahoman” and “The Dallas Morning News” and a growing list of news sources from across the U.S. and eventually the world. Even without delivering a single graphic or photo, and nearly two decades away from a website or hotlink, we were hot shit! What nirvana.

From the technical side of the newsroom, I formed a fascination with the writers, their stories and storytelling, and after a magical sperm-meets-egg moment that created one life (my daughter’s) and transformed another (mine), I journeyed into that side of the world. I explored this fascination with writing, choosing to better myself, further my education, and become the mother I wanted for my daughter. I pursued an undergraduate degree in English with a creative writing specialization and an MFA in literature and nonfiction.

My current role as Craft Talk Editor of The Tishman Review, marries these things I love—computers, storytelling, improvement of self. It allows me to bring together disparate perspectives and interconnect a worldwide community of writers and readers in online conversation about other writers, writing processes, books, prose, and poetry, to encourage the sharing of hard-earned insight and wisdom and to help writers deliver their best work while expanding the possibilities of that work. Bottom line, my purpose is to serve the best interest of writers in order that each is richer in idea and craft and the world is richer for having heard what each has to say.

The online world, The Tishman Review, and I are ready for your ideas.

Charlie Lewis
Craft Talk Editor

[Submissions to the Tishman Review Craft Talk are made via Submittable. While I prefer pieces between 700 and 1,000 words, I will gladly read the longer.]

What We Plan to Read for 2016

What We Plan to Read for 2016

Books to Read in 2016
Books to Read in 2016

I started 2016 with an extensive list of “must-read” books (>200) in an Excel spreadsheet (a little obsessive?) and with multicolored trees of unread hardbacks and paperbacks growing out of shelves and counters around my home and in my office.

In the last two weeks I’ve consumed Tiny Beautiful Things and The Art of Memoir, nonfiction by Cheryl Strayed and Mary Karr; Everything I Never Told You, a novel by Christine Ng; and I’ve centered myself with Talisman, Lisa Krueger’s stunning poetry collection. Next up, I plan to attack Mary Gaitskill’s Veronica for the first time and to both start and finish (this time) the remarkable tomes of Bob Shacocochis and David Foster Wallace, The Woman Who Lost Her Soul and Infinite Jest.

And yet, like most other readers and writers, I am always looking for who and what to read next and I depend on my smart, well-read reader and writer friends to keep me informed. Here’s what a few of my TTR associates are planning to read in the coming months.

Laura Jean Schneider, Assistant Editor

I have The Mare, by Mary Gaitskill, who was an acquired taste for me. I actually stopped halfway through a short story collection of hers. But once I picked it up, and finished it, I was amazed at how she uses language. I also have Claire Vaye Watkins’ Gold Fame Citrus. I’m interested in women writing from and about the West. Joy Williams’ The Visiting Privilege is going to make me explode with joy, and I’m afraid to start it since I know that it then the end is in sight. Love Joy Williams. Trying to read women authors more and more. Loving it!

Ani Kazarian, Art Editor

On my shelf I have Tolstoy’s War and Peace–I have the Constance Garnett translation and the newer Anthony Briggs translation. I will read both (ideally), but I think I’ll be starting with Garnett’s translation. It feels silly to explain why I’m eager to read War and Peace: I imagine anyone reading this right now has already read it or is just as eager to read it. Still, this holds first place on my shelf for 2016 because Tolstoy is the best writer I have encountered. When I read Anna Karenina I thought, Now this is literature.

Anthony Martin, Reader

There are three books I am looking forward to:

On Boxing by Joyce Carol Oates. What is it about boxing that draws, in particular, writers to the ring? And how is it that someone who has never boxed a round could write such a renowned and respected collection of essays on the sport? As a boxer myself, I cannot wait to learn about the psychological and human aspects that give boxing such depth.

Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys. I discovered Jean Rhys in the archives of the Art of Fiction series, published by Paris Review: http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/3380/the-art-of-fiction-no-64-jean…. Apart from this engaging interview, I know little of the author. Still, a few writers have recommended this book to me—this is typically all I need.

Kinda Sorta American Dream by Steve Karas. I just received Steve’s collection of short stories yesterday. I have kept up with Steve’s short prose publications, which I’ve enjoyed immensely, and appreciate his generosity and engagement on Twitter. If my instinct is at all accurate, this collection will be heartfelt, humorous, and profound, much like Every Kiss a War by Leesa Cross-Smith.

Adam Collins, Assistant Editor

I find myself slacking on my reading as of late, so I have two methods to help me get through more books in the next year. My friends and I put together a book club in November 2015. I just finished our book, The Ice Twins by S.K. Tremayne. It was really suspenseful and a quick read.

Besides the club, I want to try a reading challenge I saw on Facebook (original site: http://modernmrsdarcy.com/2016-reading-challenge/).

Here are some of the titles I’ll be reading to meet the challenge:

America Pacifica by Anna North (A book previously abandoned.)

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (A book that was banned at some point.)

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (A book I should have read in school.)

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (A book that intimidates me because it’s so long!)

The Evening Hour by Carter Sickels (A book I’ve been meaning to read, because it’s written by someone I met in Portland and about a town in my home state of West Virginia.)

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (A book I’ve read at least once.)

Alisha Erin Hillam, Assistant Editor

I tend to read widely (112 books last year) and randomly. I keep a running list of books I want to read, and order or borrow from the library whatever suits my mood. That said, here are some of the books I see on my horizon this year:

In Fact: The Best of Creative Nonfiction edited by Lee Gutkind

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

The Best Early Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald edited by Bryant Mangum

My Father’s Guitar and Other Imaginary Things by Joseph Skibell

Felicity: Poems by Mary Oliver

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota

And because I love to bury myself in regionalism, I will be page-turning on all things New England, including:

Lexington and Concord: The Beginning of the War of the American Revolution by Arthur Bernon Tourtellot

Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 by Stephen Puleo

Our Town by Thorton Wilder

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Paul Gardner, Reader

As sort of a palate cleanse I like to start the year off with something short and lean (and often a bit noir-ish or pulpy) or nonfiction / essay / historical. I’ve started Fat City by Leonard Gardner, a 1969 novel that’s lean like the welterweight scrappers of Central California it depicts.  I’ll likely follow with Lafayette In The Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell, who, if you couldn’t tell by the title, is a cheeky and witty historical author that explores the nuances of history and how it can reflect in our modern consciousness. In March I look forward to The Throwback Special by Chris Bachelder, whose novel U.S.! is a favorite of mine. 2666 by Roberto Bolaño is a challenge off in the distance, and The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner has also been sitting near the top of my pile for a year now.

Now, comment below, or on Twitter and Facebook to tell us what’s on your shelf for 2016!