How to Read for an Audience

How to Plan a Book Reading That Delights Your Audience

Reading your writing in public can be daunting, but the audience is your ally. Keep them engaged with these planning tips from public speaking coach James Nave and workshop leader Allegra Huston, co-authors of How to Read for an Audience: The Stuff Nobody Teaches You.

Vintage lady reading

The Future of Reading: The Syllabus

I recently received the following request from a friend & former classmate: Can you suggest a few key / huge / current books on the evolution of e-books and e-media, especially in the face of print culture? Theory, numbers, personal essays, experiences? How print and electronic texts augment each other or not? What a great […]

© The fantastic Tom Gauld

Why Isn’t Literary Fiction Getting More Attention?

Today’s guest post is from April Line, a freelance writer and writing teacher. Read her previous guest post for this site, Can Children Develop Adequately Without Books?, and visit her online at April Line Writing. When I was in the home stretch of my liberal arts studies, something kind of shitty happened. I got pregnant. Being […]

Jane Reading on Her Kindle

12 Must-Read Articles From 2011

Here are the most brilliant online articles I read this past year. You may not agree with the arguments you’ll find, but you have to give them credit for being original and thought-provoking. They will enrich your thinking about writing and publishing, and give you a more nuanced perspective of the industry. Also, you probably […]

Reading Notebook #33: Enlightenment (and Love) Taste of Freedom

From “How to Know It’s Real Love” by Martha Beck, in Oprah magazine. Buddha once said that just as we can know the ocean because it always tastes of salt, we can recognize enlightenment because it always tastes of freedom. There’s no essential difference between real love and enlightenment. While many people see commitment as […]

Reading Notebook #32: Happiness Is About How We Intertwine

From “Social Animal” by David Brooks (The New Yorker, January 17, 2011) I guess I used to think of myself as a lone agent, who made certain choices and established certain alliances with colleagues and friends. Now, though, I see things differently. I believe we inherit a great river of knowledge, a flow of patterns […]

Reading Notebook #31: A Writer’s Appetite for Fame

From “Writing and Winning” by Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker (October 18, 2010). Click here to read the full piece. Since the first strum on the oldest lyre, literature has been about competition and the possibility of recognition. Pindar, the father of lyric poetry, took as his chief subject the winning of games, and the […]

Reading Notebook #30: Existential Reasons for Procrastination

From “Later” by James Surowiecki, The New Yorker (October 11, 2010). Click here to read the full article online. But before we rush to overcome procrastination we should consider whether it is sometimes an impulse we should heed. The philosopher Mark Kingwell puts it in existential terms: “Procrastination most often arises from a sense that […]

Reading Notebook #29: When the Author Became More Important Than the Publisher

From “Talent Grab” by Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker (October 11, 2010) … a parallel revolution was taking place in the publishing world, as authors and their agents began to rewrite the terms of their relationship with publishers. One of the instigators of that revolution was Mort Janklow, a corporate lawyer who, in 1972, did […]

Solitude by Anthony Storr

Reading Notebook #28: Happiness Without Close Relationships

From Solitude by Anthony Storr: Many fortunate people do make intimate relationships which continue until death, and which constitute their major source of happiness. But even the closest relationship is bound to have flaws and disadvantages, and it is often because people do not accept this that they are more unhappy than they need to be, […]

Solitude by Anthony Storr

Reading Notebook #27: What to Do When Your Existence May Need to Be Reappraised

From Solitude by Anthony Storr: The capacity to be alone is a valuable resource when changes of mental attitude are required. After major alterations in circumstances, fundamental reappraisal of the significance and meaning of existence may be needed. … Changes of attitude take time because our ways of thinking about life and ourselves so easily become […]

C.G. Jung

Reading Notebook #26: Difficulties Are Necessary for Health

From C.G. Jung’s The Transcendant Function: Collected Works: The new attitude gained in the course of analysis tends sooner or later to become inadequate in one way or another, and necessarily so, because the flow of life again and again demands fresh adaptation. Adaptation is never achieved once and for all. … In the last […]

C.G. Jung

Reading Notebook #25: Accepting the Positive and the Negative

From an essay by C.G. Jung, where he quotes a patient: Out of evil, much good has come to me. By keeping quiet, repressing nothing, remaining attentive, and by accepting reality—taking things as they are, and not as I wanted them to be—by doing all this, unusual knowledge has come to me, and unusual powers […]

Solitude by Anthony Storr

Reading Notebook #24: Our Life at the Office Is (In Fact) Important

From Solitude by Anthony Storr: Human beings need a sense of being part of a larger community than that constituted by the family. The modern assumption that intimate relationships are essential to personal fulfillment tends to make us neglect the significance of relationships which are not so intimate. … The fact that a man is […]

The Man Without Qualities

Reading Notebook #23: Why Things Are the Way They Are

From The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil: “At this moment he wished to be a man without qualities. But this is probably not so different from what other people sometimes feel too. After all, by the time they have reached the middle of their life’s journey few people remember how they have managed to […]

Reading Notebook #22: Love, Grief, & Letting Go

From “A Cruel Country” [excerpts from Roland Barthes’ journals after his mother’s death] in The New Yorker (September 13, 2010): [Intro] Those who love Barthes are reminded, by his writing, of what true intimacy entails: supreme attunement alternating with bewildered estrangement. Instability—the instability of meaning, in particular—is his constant theme.  … In these excerpts, grief […]

The Way of Zen

Reading Notebook #21: I Am Fleeting and Intangible

From The Way of Zen by Alan Watts (which I find myself re-reading and re-reading for fuller comprehension): We learn, very thoroughly though far less explicitly, to identify ourselves with an equally conventional view of “myself.” For the conventional “self” or “person” is composed mainly of a history consisting of selected memories, and beginning from the […]

The Way of Zen

Reading Notebook #20: Humanness Is Superior to Righteousness

From The Way of Zen by Alan Watts: It was a basic Confucian principle that “it is man who makes truth great, not truth which makes man great.” For this reason, “humanness” or “human-heartedness” was always felt to be superior to “righteousness,” since man himself is greater than any idea which he may invent. There are […]

Reading Notebook #19: Death As Liberation

From “Letting Go” by Atul Gawande in The New Yorker (August 2, 2010): Almost all these patients had known, for some time, that they had a terminal condition. Yet they—along with their doctors—were unprepared for the final stage. … Surveys of patients with terminal illness find that their top priorities include, in addition to avoiding […]

Reading Notebook #18: There’s More Bad Writing Than Ever

From an interview with Clay Shirky over at the Barnes and Noble Review: I’ve always adopted the Bill Burroughs mantra, which is, “If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.” Which is to say that if there is any intrinsic value in writing or expressing yourself or taking a photo, it’s worth doing […]

Reading Notebook #16: Life Interferes With Work & Vice Versa

From Bill Murray interview in Entertainment Weekly (via TerryStarbucker.com): “I just really want to work when I want to work. Life interferes, you know. When you’re young and all you have is your career, some of your life can be in second place. And then you want your life to take first place, and other […]

Do Pain and Struggle Constitute a Fundamental Part of Love?

Artwork by Tonia Davenport—from her wonderful series “B&W and Red All Over” A while back, I read this relationship break-up anecdote at Galleycat, from a poetry-devoted reader: The book was a collection of love poems by William Carlos Williams. The poem was “Asphodel, that Greeny Flower.” And the specific line of the poem over which we […]

Reading Notebook #15: Americans Don’t Like to Listen

From a phenomenal personal essay: “Go West” by Peter Hessler in The New Yorker (April 19, 2010). Note: All of Hessler’s pieces for The New Yorker are incredible. The American appetite for loneliness impressed me, and there was something about this solitude that freed conversation. One night at a bar, I met a man, and […]

Kindle vs iPad

Reading Notebook #14: Best Coverage of Publishing’s Current Dilemma

Snippets from “Publish or Perish” by Ken Auletta (New Yorker, April 26, 2010). You MUST go read the full article. Excellent stats from article Independent booksellers have declined from 3,250 to 1,400 since 1999 Big Six publishers account for 60% of all books sold in the U.S. Breakdown of book sales in U.S. 30% – […]

Six Feet Under

Reading Notebook #13: What Makes You Happy Comes From the Inside

This is taken from a Salon interview with Alan Ball, creator of Six Feet Under—my most favorite TV series, with the most hard-hitting ending of all time. [Nate] just has the wrong idea of what’s going to make him happy. He feels that happiness comes from someone or something outside of himself. So he changes […]

Reading Notebook #12: Existential Angst at Work

From Kenny Moore’s blog post, “Losing Your Job? Psychological, Spiritual & Practical Advice.” This is the most meaningful discussion I have ever read about what causes angst/anxiety at work. Must-read. (All of Kenny Moore’s posts are valuable and thought-provoking; he’s a former monk who now counsels corporates.) In corporate life, if you’re good at solving […]

Reading Notebook #11: The Source of (My) Anxiety

Transcribed from Examined Life (Zeitgeist Films), the words of Avital Ronnell. If we’re not anxious, if we’re okay with things, we’re not trying to explore or figure anything out. So anxiety is the mood of ethicity. Now I’m not proscribing anxiety disorder for anyone. … This is something Derrida has taught. If you feel that […]

Committed

Reading Notebook #10: How to Destroy a Relationship

From the marvelous Elizabeth Gilbert, in her book Committed: There is nothing wrong with a married person launching a friendship outside of matrimony—so long as the “walls and windows” of the relationship remain in the correct places. It was Glass’s theory that every healthy marriage is composed of walls and windows. The windows are the […]

The Story of Your Life IS Your Life

On my Facebook profile, I state my religious beliefs as “The story of your life becomes your life.” After my happiness post, I realized I didn’t comment on one of the key linchpins in happiness: storytelling. Daniel Kahneman, in his excellent TED talk above, speaks to two different kinds of selves: The experiencing self, or […]

Jane - 1997 in Cambridge - maudlin and idealistic youth

You Are Bad at Making Yourself Happy

My job as Writer’s Digest publisher often leads people to remark what a great life I have. So young, so accomplished, so happy! Well, you know the old cliche about people who appear to be living the perfect, enviable life? Right—well, I am thankful and lucky for what I have. I won’t go into the […]

Reading Notebook #9: The Loss of Dreams

From “Slow Fade” by Arthur Krystal, about F. Scott Fitzgerald in Hollywood (The New Yorker, November 26, 2009) Fitzgerald’s scripts were hobbled by the same quality that lifted his fiction above the superficial: the complicated nature of his mind. Although he came to believe that “life is essentially a cheat … and that redeeming things […]

Reading Notebook #8: Another Secret to Success Is Confidence

From “Beyond the Elevator Speech” by Michael Carroll, Shambhala Sun (March 2010) My survey indicates that most of us think we want to be happy, successful, and stress-free at work, but we also know that such aspirations are wishful thinking. We all know that work offers both success and failure; happiness and angst. We know that work, […]

Reading Notebook #7: The Secret of Successful People (at Work)

From “We Can Measure the Power of Charisma”, Q&A with Alex Pentland, Harvard Business Review (Jan-Feb 2010); read full article at HBR site. The more successful people are more energetic. They talk more, but they also listen more. They spend more face-to-face time with others. They pick up cues from others, draw people out, and get […]

Reading Notebook #6: Why the World Needs More Women Directors (Like Ephron & Taymor)

From “Man of Extremes”, a profile of James Cameron by Dana Goodyear, in The New Yorker (October 26, 2009) Cameron behaves as if he were the embattled protagonist of one of his own films—an ordinary Joe beaten on the anvil of extraordinary trials. “The words ‘No’ and ‘That’s impossible’ and phrases like ‘That can’t be […]

Reading Notebook #5: Life Patterns & Something Out There

From “The Secret Cycle” by Nick Paumgarten, in The New Yorker (October 12, 2009) And yet patterns exist, and we slowly discover them. Seasons, migrations, moons: the template is there. Consciously or unconsciously, most people accept certain components of cycle theory. We seek and see patterns in things. It is the way our minds work, […]

12 Actions and 12 Diversions

12 Self-Creating Actions and 12 Preoccupational Diversions

[Click here for full-size image.] On the last page of my 2009 Museum of Lost Wonder calendar, I found the following. Find out more about Museum of Lost Wonder by Jeff Hoke. 12 Self-Creating Actions Not seeing: or not-knowing, leads to Wonder and curiosity. This starts the whole big wheel rolling. The lost blind man is […]

Amelia Earhart

Reading Notebook #4: Not to Endure Even an Attractive Cage

From the New Yorker article on Amelia Earhart by Judith Thurman (September 14, 2009) [From Earhart’s letter to her husband on her wedding day] You must know again my reluctance to marry, my feeling that I shatter thereby chances in work which mean so much to me. … In our life together I shall not […]

Michel de Montaigne

Reading Notebook #3: I Distrust My Thoughts

Snippets from “The Life and Essays of Michel de Montaigne” by Jane Kramer, in the September 7, 2009, issue of The New Yorker. Montaigne … often warned his readers that nothing he wrote about himself was likely to apply for much longer than it took the ink he used, writing it, to dry. … “Yes. […]

Art of Possibility

Reading Notebook #2: Invent a Story That Enhances Your Life

Snippets from The Art of Possibility by Benjamin & Rosamund Zander.(See a really cool TED talk by Benjamin Zander.) It’s all invented anyway, so we might as well invent a story or a framework of meaning that enhances our quality of life and the life of those around us. … Virtually everybody wakes up in […]

Reading Notebook #1: You Can Write Well & Behave Badly

From “Slang-Whanger” by Arthur Krystal in New Yorker (May 18, 2009) We don’t for a moment believe that Hazlitt is inept, or unattractive, or capable of behaving like a lunatic. You can’t write well and behave badly. But, of course, you can, and Hazlitt did. He cheated on his wife, alienated friends, and when Napoleon […]