A Little Shameless Self Promotion

This blog is not typically a “product” blog. I don’t endlessly sell items, though I do try to promote my own work and the writing of others from time to time.

This is a little bit of a departure. Not much, but a little.

There are a couple of events coming up for which you may find yourself looking for a gift.

Mother’s Day

If you've lost a loved one - a parent, spouse, even a child - you know the desire to have "one more day, one more conversation, one moment more" with that dear, departed one.

If you’ve lost a loved one – a parent, spouse, even a child – you know the desire to have “one more day, one more conversation, one moment more” with that dear, departed one.

I’m not selling flowers, cosmetics, or gift cards, but I got to thinking: Some of you may have someone in your life (a mother, aunt, grandmother, etc) who you have encouraged, over the years, to write some of her personal history. For over a year now I’ve been teaching Legacy of Words writing classes here in the Bradenton and Sarasota area. A Legacy of Words writing class is a great way for people to “get started” in the process, but some people either don’t live nearby, or they don’t want to participate in a formal, class environment. Earlier this year I developed my Legacy of Words Workbook to be used by would-be Legacy writers. It’s a good introduction and starting point to help someone get a start on their own efforts to leave a written legacy. And, Mother’s Day might just be the perfect excuse to give someone a copy of this workbook.

(For those unfamiliar: Legacy Writing is a literary form that draws on several other literary traditions: genealogy, auto-biography, family history, and memoir. Leaving a Legacy of Words is one way we can leave behind a piece of our story to children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, siblings, and friends. This workbook is designed to help the individual, would-be Legacy writer, as well as to be used as a resource for my classroom series: Your Legacy of Words.)

The workbook (professionally bound paperback, with lots of writing prompts and space to write) cost is $15.00. You can learn a little more about the workbook at my website. Or, you can order it here, and have it delivered to your door, or shipped practically anywhere. (The product page also includes a preview of the book…)


The book, Letters to Me: Conversations With a Younger Self, is available in both print and ebook editions. I'm very happy to have been asked to be a contributor to this book.

The book, Letters to Me: Conversations With a Younger Self, is available in both print and ebook editions. I’m very happy to have been asked to be a contributor to this book.

Sometimes an unassuming project takes on its own life. It isn’t that I thought of the Letters to Me project as something unimportant, but I will admit that it wasn’t something I thought of as “life-changing”. The editor of the project, Dan Schmidt contacted me and offered to include my take on the concept of “a conversation with a younger you.” It sounded interesting enough, and it is always nice to have someone seek out my writing. I’ve been involved in some other anthologies/collections, and I was happy to be a part of this one, as well. I purchased a dozen copies and shared them with some of my favorite young folks and people who regularly work with college-aged students. It was a good experience.

But recently I stopped by the Amazon page for Letters to Me and read through the reviews. I was very happy to see how well-received this collection of essays has been, and very proud to have some little part of that.

Head over to the Amazon page and read some of the reader response, and if you have someone in your life who is graduating, Letters to Me offers stories filled with compassion, insight, and humor from a variety of writers who know something about new horizons.

You can buy Letters to Me: Conversations With a Younger Self as a paperback book or an e-book from Amazon. Paperback, $12.99. E-book, $4.99

There’s No More Time To Shop: Here’s a List of Books to Buy Anyway!

All of the titles mentioned in this blog post (with the exception of out-of-print books) can be found here: http://astore.amazon.com/wileymag – Look under the category, “2012 List” (I know. Some of you don’t like Amazon. That’s fine. You can buy these books anywhere you choose to buy them. Thanks.)


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It is Christmas Eve Day and if you haven’t finished buying gifts for the special writer in your life (or, yourself) then it’s too late!

This isn’t one of those, “Hurry, it’s your last chance to buy something!” posts. This is a, “When the dust of the commercialized Holidays has settled, you can check out this list, and see if it is helpful to you,” kind of post.


What List is This Which Laid to Rest on Eric’s Desk is Waiting?

At the end of my Fictions Basics and Legacy of Words classes this quarter, I passed out a list of some of the books I’ve found useful and influential the last few years. I compiled this list because I was getting a number of questions like: What have you been reading? What books do you recommend? What should I buy next? Etc.

Because the two courses are very different, in one sense, but also overlap, in another, I compiled one list for the students.

I also gathered all of the books together in my Amazon-powered, personalized electronic bookstore. You can find those links above.

If you want to buy anything from this list, you can buy it there in the online bookstore, or, you can just use the links to see product descriptions, read reviews, and decide if you want your local bookstore to order it for you. Most of the books will even let you read a few pages before you decide.

Ten Novels from MFA

I read a lot more than ten novels during my MFA years, obviously, but these were the ten that really stuck with me:

  1. Hot Springs, Geoffrey Becker
  2. Room, Emma Donoghue
  3. As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner
  4. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  5. Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
  6. The Boy, Naeem Murr
  7. Empire Falls, Richard Russo
  8. The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
  9. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
  10. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh

Ten Novels – 2012

If you’ve been following the blog, you also know I’ve read way more than ten novels this year. These are the ten that I read in 2012 that influenced me the most, regardless of year of publication:

  1. Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Truman Capote
  2. Spartina, John Casey
  3. What the Zhang Boys Know, Clifford Garstang
  4. The End of the Affair, Graham Greene
  5. To the End of the Land, David Grossman
  6. The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway
  7. The Snow Child, Eowyn Ivey
  8. Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri
  9. The Piano Teacher, Janice YK Lee
  10. Nude, Naeem Murr

Five Non-Fiction – 2012

Like the fiction list above, these are the top five non-fiction books that impacted my literary sensibilities in 2012:

  1. The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist, Matt Baglio
  2. Life at the Bottom, Theodore Dalrymple
  3. The Privileged Planet, Gonzalez and Richards
  4. Subliminal, Leonard Mlodinow
  5. The Paris Review Interviews, Vol. 1 (Various)

Five Poetry – 2012

One of my goals for this year was to read more poetry, both books about writing poetry AND actual collections. I’m really, really glad I read these beautiful books:

  1. Poems of Jerusalem and Love Poems, Yehuda Amichai
  2. Poems of the Night, Jorge Luis Borges
  3. On the Street Where We Live, Kelly Fordon
  4. The Goodbye Child, Dominique Traverse Locke
  5. Selected Poems, Fernando Pessoa

Three Books on Writing – 2012

I read, and have read, a lot of books about the craft and process of writing. These three stood out to me, this year:

  1. Revision and Self Editing, James Scott Bell
  2. Writing 21st Century Fiction, Donald Maas
  3. Writing About Your Life, William Zinsser

Books With Fiction Writing Prompts

Fiction students often ask me which books I recommend for writing prompts. These are the ones I use most often:

  1. Now Write, Sherry Ellis
  2. What If? by Anne Bernays
  3. 3 AM Epiphany, Brian Kiteley
  4. Steering the Craft, Ursula K Leguin

Books I Used to Create My Fiction Writing Curriculum

I rely heavily on these books when I’m teaching Fiction Basics classes:

  1. Creating Fiction, Leebron and Levy
  2. Writing Fiction, Janet Burroway
  3. Fiction Writing Workshop, Josip Novakovich
  4. Becoming a Writer, Dorthea Brande

Books I Used to Create My Legacy Writing Curriculum

These are the books I rely on for my Legacy of Words classes:

  1. Legacy, Linda Spencer
  2. Writing About Your Life, William Zinsser
  3. Your Life as Story, Tristine Rainer

Two Great Books, No Matter What You Are Writing

  1. Write Tight, William Brohaugh
  2. It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences, June Casagrande

I don’t know if you will find this list helpful, but I hope you do. If you have other suggestions, or just want to share some of your favorite books with readers of this blog, feel free to leave a comment or two in the “comments” section, below.

Thanks for reading, and happy writing!

Friday Thoughts: My “To Read” Shelf Keeps Growing

Sometimes, I don't even have room for all the books I want to read on my "to read" shelves.

Sometimes, I don’t even have room for all the books I want to read on my “to read” shelves.

There are two shelves built into my desk space where I keep the books I plan to read next. There are, as of this morning, thirty-six books waiting for my attention. There are new novels and classics, poetry and non-fiction, books on the craft of writing. Each of these books called out to me, “Read me!” or “How have you lived this long and not read me?”

And then, there’s the quandary of the short-story writer: I also need to be reading, widely, from literary magazines, short fiction journals, and online literary outlets in order to “keep up” with current trends and know “what we are looking for” when I submit my own work to editors.

I’m on track to read somewhere between 80 and 90 books this year, not counting most of the short fiction I read. At that pace, my current “to read” shelf ought to get me at least 1/3 of the way through 2013.

The reality is, though, that I’m planning to scale back my reading next year, and increase the time for actually, you know…writing. It’s hard, though. There are so many books I want to read, and new ones join that list every day. Striking a balance between input and output is an important thing, though, and I plan to adjust.

In the meantime, here is the list of books I read in November:

  • Twelve Times Blessed, by Jacquelyn Mitchard – Didn’t hate it, but man, this book meandered in some very frustrating ways, and ultimately, I didn’t particularly resonate with the characters. Educational, for me, though, in considering revisions for my own novel.
  • Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, by Beth Hoffman – I read this on the recommendation of one of my Legacy Writing students. She touted it as her favorite book, and I can see why she liked it. For me, though, the main character – while likable – was so even that she wasn’t that interesting. Mostly, CeeCee was an observer, not an actor, and that left this feeling flat to me.
  • Writing 21st Century Fiction, by Donald Maass – Another intriguing book by Maass, who has also written Writing the Breakout Novel and The Fire in Fiction, which I also recommend.
  • The Privileged Planet, by Gonzalez and Richards – This book argues that not only is sentient life in the universe likely very rare, but that our point of view as residents of Earth in the Milkyway Galaxy gives us a nearly unique perspective for studying and comprehending the mysteries of creation. Much of the actual science was beyond me, but it was an eye-opening read, regardless.
  • Scars from a Memoir, by Marni Mann – The follow-up novel to Mann’s Memoirs Aren’t Fairytales. Another rapid, compelling story of addiction and loss. Search for Marni Mann here on the blog to learn more about the author and her books.
  • Selected Poems, by Fernando Pessoa – Full of lovely images and well-executed poetry. The edition I read is a British version, and may no longer be in print, but there are several options for you if you want to read Pessoa’s poems.
  • How to Use a Runaway Truck Ramp, by Shawn Smucker – I read an advanced copy of this upcoming book. Keep your eyes open here…I will be telling you more about it in the coming weeks.
  • Gulf Coast (Vol. 25, Iss. 1), a literary journal – 250 pages of new fiction, poetry, and essays.

As always, you can review the books I’ve read in earlier months by following the links below. Next month, as the year draws to a close, I’ll not only feature an exhaustive list of all the books I’ve featured this year, but also pick my favorites and demand you read them. (Haha!!)

Seeing Your Name in Print: Unboxing “Letters to Me”

I was asked to be a contributing author to a new anthology, Letters to Me – Conversations With a Younger Self.

My copies of the book arrived today, and I thought I’d share with you the moment writers live for: seeing our work in print.

You can read a little more about the book here. (Includes links to ordering a copy, or ten, for yourself!)

Letters to Me: Available Now

As I mentioned last week, today is the official launch day of a new book, Letters to Me: Conversations With a Younger Self. About half-way through the book, you’ll stumble across my name, and my letter to a younger Eric in which I try to give him a little advice about the long transition into adulthood. (Spoiler alert: He doesn’t listen.)

I’m very happy to have been asked by the book’s editor, Dan Schmidt, to be a part of this project. The other contributors come from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences, but in each of their stories I find some head-nodding moment, some brief recognition of, “Yes, I wish I’d known that back then.” Even more intriguing, are those moments of clarity that are not just things I wish my younger self had known, but inspire and motivate me, today. Yes. Even the OLDER me can find value in this book.

The target audience for this book is those who are making the transition from teenager or college student into the adult world and for those love and care for young adults. But, knowing my own life–my own path of nearly constant change and adaptation–I’ve found there are nuggets of wisdom for anyone who is facing an uncertain future, seeking their place in the world, and struggling to understand their role in the Big Picture of life.

The new book, Letters to Me: Conversations With a Younger Self, is available today in both print and ebook editions. I’m very happy to have been asked to be a contributor to this book.

The e-book (Kindle) edition of Letters to Me is selling for $4.99 and the paperback (print) edition is $12.99.

From the back cover:

A broken heart, a new job, an unexpected pregnancy, a confrontation, a win, a setback—not uncommon experiences when you’re between 18 and 30. But what if you could talk to yourself just when that was happening, in the light of everything since: what would you say? With LETTERS TO ME, you can listen in as artists, teachers, poets, consultants, bloggers, pastors, and activists from a wide range of backgrounds recall a significant event—and then speak to a younger version of themselves with compassion and wisdom about what it means, and how it mattered.

What folks are saying:

I’ve often wished I could go back and have a strong talking to with my younger, more idiotic self. These stories are funny, heartfelt, and important. Reading them will make you think and imagine a better life — maybe even give you the courage to live one.—Jeff Goins, author, Wrecked: When a Broken World Slams into Your Comfortable Life

The talent of these storytellers is revealed in how universal their personal stories are. In their stories you will experience agony and joy, pain and healing, fall and redemption. -Adam S. McHugh, author Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture

One of the most unnerving, unsettling things one can do in life is stare at themselves in the mirror – eye to eye. Letters To Me is the sacred chance to witness person after person pause their present as they stand naked in the mirror, facing everything they’ve been and everything they’ve done. To listen to what they hear in their souls, to see their past as they truly do. Oh, how I wish I’d been given this collection of stories earlier in my life. The entrance into adulthood would have been painted with so much more grace. -Lauren Lankford Dubinsky, founder of Good Women Project

New Book: Letters to Me

I was honored to be asked to participate in a new anthology called, Letters to Me.

Letters to Me is written by an eclectic collection of writers, business people, ministers, and artists. Each essay is a letter from the adult to his (or her) younger self offering advice or life lessons or other tidbits of information the writer would have found most useful in his late-teen and early adult years. (Or, for some of us, it is more likely we would have ignored that advice from our adult selves, anyway, but that is what makes this sort of book interesting, I think.)

Anthology editor, Dan Schmidt, has assembled an interesting cast of characters to write these essays, and I think this may be a great resource for the student in your life who is transitioning through the end of high school and into the chaos of college or career. There are many paths that lay before us when we are young and eager and ready to take on the world. Letters to Me is one tool in helping to focus some of that youthful energy.

The book launches next week, and if you keep your eyes open, you’ll see more about it right here in the coming days.

Letters to Me: Conversations with a Younger Self is a new anthology featuring some great writers. The book launches next week.

October Reading List

Another month is gone, and another batch of books made the migration from the “to be read” shelf to the “been there, done that” shelf.

Here’s the list of books I read for October:

  • Portable Film School, by DB Gilles – I’m not done with this book, yet, but I’m going to go ahead and list it as an October read. Film making has long been an interest of mine, though mostly on a conceptual level. This book gives an interesting overview of the types of things one would learn in film school. I’ll not likely ever spend the kind of money it takes to go to film school, but for less than $15 I can satisfy some curiosity.
  • Disturbing the Peace, by Richard Yates – Perhaps not as finely drawn as Revolutionary Road, this book certainly delivers a very Yates-esque dysfunctional world. Intriguing and infuriating at times.
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s (and three short stories), by Truman Capote – The Modern Library edition is wonderful because it also includes three of Capote’s short stories, along with the classic, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. It’s a thin book, and very easy to read, but that doesn’t take away from the lovely prose and the unforgettable characters.
  • Poems of the Night, by Jorge Luis Borges – I continue with my effort to read more poetry, and I’m glad I picked this volume up. Borges is a wonderful poet, and there were so many lovely moments in this book. I’m already looking forward to reading it again, somewhere down the road.
  • Answering the New Atheism, by Hahn and Wiker – I am also continuing to read through responses to the “new atheism” movement. This book is specifically targeted at the popular author Richard Dawkins.
  • You Will Not Be Forgotten, by Andrea Cumbo – Nope. You can’t read this book. At least, not yet. I was thrilled to have a chance to read my friend Andi’s book in draft form as she prepares to send it out to agents and publishers. I’m looking forward to being able to recommend this book to you, someday soon.
  • The Piano Teacher, by Janice YK Lee – Two unique story lines converge in pre- and post-war Hong Kong. A very good first novel, set in a fascinating time and place, full of interesting characters. Not a perfect book, certainly, but I found it compelling and moving.
  • The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist, by Matt Baglio – This is not sensationalist propaganda. If you are looking for long descriptions of pea-soup-spitting demons, this isn’t the book for you. If, however, you’ve ever been interested in understanding the concept of exorcisms and spiritual matters of that sort, this is an even-handed, well-written place to start. A true story, but very well written so that it is both informative and engaging.

As always, you can comb through the prior months:

Off we go, into NOVEMBER!!

Happy writing!