Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Emerging Writers Network

I bought a new computer a couple of weeks ago, and it has not yet broken me in correctly. It sent out my blog to everyone with whom I have ever exchanged an e-mail. Customer Service Chat Reps. Yard Sale Scavengers. Republicans. So now I am fielding angry complaints like hard grounders at third base and removing the names of the grunting disgruntled as quickly as I can, but it is like pulling burrs out of your butt after stumbling in the woods. Not all of these unintended recipients wanted to tar and feather me. One who works with the Let Them Hear Foundation thanked me and planned to read all my previous blog postings. I never would have presumed to send my blog to Let Them Hear, whom I sometimes, refer to as my California do-gooder insurance advocates. Bless them one and all, busy as they are jacking up insurance companies caught trying to leave the scene of expensive medical treatments such as cochlear implants.

In another case, I did intentionally forward a copy of my recent posting Our Fathers to someone I did not know personally and who certainly had not asked for it. Nonetheless, he replied with an e-mail that his own father was “also WWII, Mason, baseball fan. But maybe a more troubling person to be the son of.” I might not concede that claim without a struggle. My reader included a link to the Granta on-line series of essays about fathers. My favorite was by Hal Crowther, the wonderful author of Cathedrals of Kudzu. A little internet cross-reference about Granta, of which I was shamefully ignorant despite its prestigious literary genealogy, led me to a posting on the Emerging Writers Network, another hole in my literacy. I could not help but linger and look around, wondering if emerging from 30-plus years of working for a living at other things would qualify me. Dan Wickett hosts the Emerging Writers Network site, which grew from his e-mail distribution of book reviews and interviews from 1999 – 2002. Wickett’s “backgrounds and qualifications to be judging the works and words of others?” He says, “They are nothing I have proof of - no University degree in Literature or English. No MFA in Creative Writing, or job history as a book reviewer. My qualifications are a long history of reading literary fiction, in large volumes, and the dedication to passing along my views on such, at as rapid a pace as I can, until the writers of such fiction get more recognition.” This reluctance to engage in own-horn tooting is the only shortcoming of the Emerging Writers Network, a sparking mine of gems. Reviews. Announcements. Litblogs. Author websites. The difficulty is knowing where to start. Pick anywhere.

My first attention was caught by Bonnie Jo Campbell through Wickett’s review of stories from The Southern Review. Bonnie Jo is not a Southerner, but the characters in her stories are the natural neighbors of Flannery O’Connor. Campbell has her own website, where I read two spectacular stories available there. Solutions to Ben’s Problem, takes the form of a bullet point list of advice to a man with a drug addict for a wife. The story begins, “While Connie is at the store buying formula and diapers, load up the truck with the surround-sound home entertainment system and your excellent collection of power tools, put the baby in the car seat, and drive away from this home you built with your own hands.” It ends some-agonizing-and-sweet-where else. Boar Taint, is about farm life for those born there and those who graduated in to it from a Big-10 university ag school. Click on these stories now, if you didn’t already. Get in line behind me on the wait-list at the library for her short-story collection Women and Other Animals. Campbell also writes a blog called The Bone Eye: A Writer’s Adventures.

Legendary Antioch College writing professor Nolan Miller became convinced before he died that there were “too many writers, not enough readers.” Nolan spent more than half his life as fiction editor of The Antioch Review. Students in his cozy college class over the years included Rod Serling, Herb Gardner, Lawrence Block. Nolan had a gift for making all his students feel as special as those famous writers. His life of more than 90 years was not quite long enough to see the internet become the best friend of writers and readers since the invention of the library.

Copyright 2009 by William C. Cotter

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

well , this explains why I started recieving your blog post in my in-box . I was not offended and have enjoyed some of the post . Delete is an easy button to use . So write - on ! :-)


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