you say. say. – Review by Marc Schuster


you_say-say-cover-darkThe introduction to the latest anthology of poetry from Uphook Press, you say. say., exhorts the reader to read “with both eye and ear.” This, it turns out, is very good advice, for the poems gathered in this volume are as visually interesting as they are challenging to read aloud–challenging in a good way.

Take, for example, the second poem in the collection, Samantha Barrow’s “Would You Blank?” The first two lines of the poem read, “If I took off my_____________/Would you_____________?” The poem then goes on for several more lines in a similar vein before the narrator note, “Someone once told me that I was very adjective noun.” From a visual perspective, the poem catches the eye due to its Mad Libs-style appearance, and intellectually the reader gets it; as the title suggests, we’re supposed to fill in the blank. And taking this a step further, as with Mad Libs, the blanks in the poem allow for infinite readings and interpretations. At the same time, though, there’s the question of how to read the poem aloud. Does one simply pause silently at each blank? Does one say the word “blank”? Or does one improvise, filling in the blank with a different noun/verb combination for each reading? Given the myriad possible approaches to a live reading of this poem and the others in the volume, it’s easy to see (and hear) why Uphook Press specializes in “promoting a nationwide community of performing poets.”

Needless to say, the possibilities inherent in reading the poems in this collection aloud are not the only reason to read this volume. The poems throughout do a wonderful job of defamiliarizing the world around us–i.e., taking the day-to-day world we know so well and forcing us to look at it with new eyes. A first, tentative caress is likened to a game of Operation. A sandwich made of money comments on our culture of vertiginous if meaningless accumulation. A kitten curled up on a roadside–alive or dead–does the only thing it knows how to do in order to find something approaching happiness.

Overall, you say. say. offers a world of infinite possibilities–for the eye, for the ear, and, most significantly, the mind.

Read Marc Schuster’s “Everybody Knows Kurt Vonnegut but Me” in the forthcoming anthology The Best of Philadelphia Stories, Volume II, due later this month from PS Books!

Michelle Wittle On Inspiration

Michelle Wittle On, Writing Tips

At last year’s Philadelphia Book Festival, I was one of the many people treated to hearing Joyce Carol Oates read from her then current book of stories called, Dear Husband. As she was setting up the story for the audience, Oates mentioned how she reads the morning paper every day. In her readings, she came across the newspaper article about the woman who killed her children and then herself. Her story “Dear Husband” was the wife’s letter to her husband before she killed herself. It was, as with most of Oates’ material, a very raw and haunting piece.

I never thought about the power of reading newspaper articles until now.

With my blog ( I have been noticing a very nice trend. Because I have been living on the New York Times webpage, my blogs are becoming more and more viewed. I am taking the time every day (truth be told, it’s more like an hour or so a day, depending on how things are moving) to search through the Times and look for articles that appeal to me. I read the articles and then I post my opinion on them.

But the Times aren’t just helping with my blog; it is also helping me with my writing.

I notice my writing becoming different. My writing voice is sharper. Also, as I read these articles, I can start to see how the articles can turn into a story.

I am finding new inspiration in newspaper articles. I am taking the old, washed up stories in my head and giving them a different spin. I am looking at the world and changing it the way I think it should be changed.

  Sometimes a news article is so bizarre it can’t be made up.

If you find yourself in a writing slump (which I have been in for a pretty long time now) I suggest these two basic things.

One: Pick a newspaper and start looking through it. Find articles that you like and hold on to them. Practice writing what you think happened before or after the article you read. Look at the person the article is reporting on and try to get inside his or her mind.

Two: Change your reading habits. My mother used to say “you are what you eat” and I like to just twist that statement a bit to “you are what you read”. For a while I was reading a lot of poorly written novels. I read them because the books were easy to get through, but my writing suffered. Now I am reading novelists I admire again and I am seeing my writing improve.

The only way to become a better writer is to practice it. Practice is not only writing but also reading and opening up your reading world.

Michelle Wittle On a Writer’s Room

Michelle Wittle On, Writing Tips

In the novel, The World According to Garp, Garp talks about the library across from his apartment in Vienna having a writer’s room. It wasn’t much of a room really. It had a dark wooden desk and a chair. The room had a lamp and a door to shut the writer in and keep the writer’s mind focused. The room was used by a then popular poet who Garp’s reads and defines the poet as utter rubbish.

What appeals to me is the idea of a library having a writer’s room.

How do you get a writer’s room? Do you just walk into a library and explain you need one? Is it the like room of requirement in the Harry Potter books? For me, I would need to have a room with no internet access, seconds away from a bathroom, and sound proof. Is that asking too much?

I had a friend who had access to a writer’s room. I wasn’t so taken with the idea then, so I regrettably didn’t ask more about the room. I just heard my friend say she used one in a library and had a key to it and everything.

Writer’s rooms have keys?

I need to get a writer’s room.

I need another key for my key ring!

Let’s face it, writing isn’t a hobby. Writing is a job… that I openly admit to despising more than I hate liars. So, doesn’t it make sense I should have an “office” somewhere?

I have a lot of trouble writing at home. I have the wireless internet. My cat likes to sit on my lap and sometimes across my neck which makes writing very difficult. There is always a chore I think I should be doing instead of writing. There are pop tarts that need to be eaten and chips who want to be dipped in sour cream.

I can’t work from home.

I could go to a bookstore, but that starts to wear on me after a while. Some little bratty kid will come in screaming he wants a cookie while his clueless mom asks about the freshness of the coffee. Or some dude picks up his cell phone and has a twenty minute discussion on the pros and cons of seeing a movie.

I need a little section all to myself where I could just tap away on my computer and create.

I need there to be no more excuses.

I need a writer’s room.

A Small Guide to Self-Publishing

Writing Tips

I’ve self-published 3 novels, one a year during the past 3 years, and have done extensive research on the subject. I’ve made my share of mistakes until getting the process down.

At the moment,  I beleive the best deal going is an Amazon owned company, CreateSpace.

http://www..createspace. com

I don’t mind sharing this cost info. to give you an idea of how it works. My latest novel, “Night of the Walrus,” is a 292 page 6″ X 9″ trade paperback printed on demand. When I placed my first order for 100 copies, my cost including tax and shipping totaled $511.48 or $5.11 per book. Shipping costs vary depending on the number of books ordered. There is also a one-time $39.00 “pro plan” fee which I won’t go into here. You can research that on the CreateSpace web site.

There is a minimum threshold price that you need to set for your book which is very reasonable (again, I’ll let you research that on their web site). I set my book price at $15.00 and wholesale it to book stores at 40% off or $9.00 each.

The printing quality is very good. Covers are crisp and paper stock has a decent weight. This isn’t the cheap newsprint quality that you sometimes find in self-pubbed books or mass market paperbacks. I can say, though, that their bright white paper is better than their cream colored option.

A huge benefit of going with this company is they provide the ISBN for free and setup a free listing for you on complete with their “Inside the book” feature, and they allow you to setup an Amazon Author Page which is also free. There is also a Kindle option, but I haven’t checked into that yet. As you know, you are on your own by going the self publishing route, so it is essential that you have a way to sell your books online. I didn’t want to deal with the hassle of adding a shopping cart to my website and packing and shipping books. Amazon does all of this. Obviously, your cost goes up a few dollars for this service, but it’s worth it. They send me checks for these online sales when profits accumulate beyond a certain threshold which I believe is $50.00.

Now I’ll drop the other shoe. You have to format your own book block and design your own cover. Don’t panic. I learned how to do it, so you can too. You’ll feel empowered by the process of choosing your font size and style, etc. The CreateSpace website walks you through the entire process and they have the proper downloadable formatting for Microsoft Word. You can also use their template for cover design, but I prefer doing my own with Microsoft Publisher. I get my artwork from royalty-free websites like I paid $25.00 for royalty-free use of the artwork for my latest book, “Night of the Walrus.”

Email me back if you have other questions. I invite you to visit my website: http://www.dennisroyer. com which links to my books on Amazon where you can see the final result. Oh, and by-the-way, feel free to buy a copy while you’re at it!

Dennis Royer
http://www.dennisroyer. com
dennis@dennisroyer. com

Michelle Wittle On the Numbers Game

Michelle Wittle On, Writing Tips

It is 11 am.  I woke up at 10am. As I was dusting the dream about kids not listening to me once again from my mind, I started getting all these ideas and numbers started floating in my head.

I notice I am the type of writer who can only work on short deadlines. If you tell me I have a few months to get something done, I will do everything but work on it for the first few months leaving myself just about two weeks to complete the job. I often will wonder what I did that was so important I couldn’t get the task done sooner. Then I remember all the twitter updates. I start recalling all the quizzes I took on face book (because I just needed to know what teacher from Hogwarts I was(Dumbledore) and what Sex in the City character I lived my life like (Carrie)). I waste time because I do. It’s not that I am unmotivated. I just know I can do it later (but those quizzes…no I have to take those right away).

Imagine my surprise when I woke up today with a list of things I already wanted to do.

I have two short story ideas in my head (left over from last night because I refused to get out of bed and start writing them). I also know there is one publication I want to get published by and the deadline in November 15th. As I see it, I will take four stories, sharpen them all up. Once I get the best one, I will find 10 places I wouldn’t mind being published in and off that story will go. Each story will follow that pattern. In doing the math, by November 15th I should have 40 places reading my work.

Then, I started thinking; I should really focus on that book idea.

The number 10 pops in my head again. Some outside yet inside voice says, “get ten literary agents and send a query letter and a sample”. I say, “why of course that sounds like a perfect idea.”

I know this seems like a lot to have one’s plate. I am sure I will only get maybe two short stories out to a few places. But here is the real reason behind my ambitious plan.

If I have no plan, I will sit on the computer watching cats do dumb things on YouTube. I will spend hours taking those nonsense-ical quizzes on face book. This will all add up to my utter complaint that I am not published. I am sick of blaming myself.

So now it’s time to blame others.