publishing tip

Thoughts from F. Scott Fitzgerald

f-scott-fitzWhen the initial sales of his mediocre book The Great Gatsby failed to meet expectations, Fitzgerald expressed his disappointment in a letter to his editor, Max Perkins. In the letter, he decried the trend at the time of honoring the so-called “American peasant.” Wrote Fitzgerald:

Some day they’ll eat grass, by God! This thing, both the effort and the result have hardened me and I think now that I’m much better than any of the young Americans without exception.

Do you notice the barely-concealed contempt for grassy cuisine? He went on, however, to declare that:

There’s no point in being an artist if you can’t do your best.

I can’t disagree there, although, on the whole, I dare say I give better advice to young artists. For example, I was the first to utter the now-ubiquitous commonplace, never wipe your hindquarters with bark. That was me.

For that little gem and innumerable others, follow me on the Tweeter at @City_Sasquatch

(Notes on F. Scott from the laudable biography by Andrew Turnbull)


Today’s Recommended Fiction

Keith Gessen, novelist and editor of Brooklyn journal n+1, published a fascinating essay called “Money” in Chad Harbach’s outstanding anthology MFA Vs. NYC: The Two Cultures of American Fiction. Gessen tells the story of the time he taught a creative writing class while simultaneously going through the final editing process on a feature article destined for a magazine. Juggling teaching responsibilities with the demands of the publishing industry took a toll on him.

I sympathize with Mssr. Gessen. Or rather, I sympathize with my sympathy for him. If Yale would only return my emails, I would have a tenured position on the English faculty and, therefore, I would also have something cutting to say about the burden of grading papers and creating lesson plans on top of the vocation of writing. Ah well, good things come to those who… forget it, I’ll get to the point.

I shall now note, for your benefit, my erudite reader, a few works of fiction that Gessen included in the syllabus for his workshop, works that should cause the dedicated writers among us to perk up their ears. Those stories include:

  • George Saunders’ “Sea Oak”
  • Sheila Heti’s How Should A Person Be?
  • Ludmilla Petrushevskaya
  • Curtis White’s “Combat”
  • Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections
  • Chris Kraus’s “Trick”
  • Philip Roth’s Goodbye, Columbus

A promising reading list, to be sure. Have at it! And let me know which is your favorite at @City_Sasquatch.


Kickstarter Spotlight: ‘Distilled Lit’ Magazine

notebook pen

“Write dangerously” is coined from Nietzsche’s “Live dangerously.” We believe if you’re not writing dangerously, not taking risks, not telling secrets, not being vulnerable, not throwing yourself into into the craft, then you’re not truly writing.

These are fighting words from the Kickstarter fundraising campaign page for an exciting new literary journal based in South Florida called Distilled Lit. South Florida, you say? Quite so. This region rarely receives the attention it deserves for its literary scene. I remember the constitutionals I used to take in my youth, several hundred years ago. I loved to lumber dashingly through the knee-high marshes of Florida, swatting egrets and singing Baudelaire at the top of my lungs. Ah, youth! Those halcyon days cause a swell of nostalgia to flow through me like a churning tsunami through the ocean of time!

Anyway, Distilled Lit proclaims its intention – feistily, no less – to champion the “ignored voices of South Florida writers,” especially those writers who have been “ignored for your unknown name, lack of awards or prestige, lack of titles, or lack of conformity to a contemporary aesthetic…” Hear, hear! This journal has won me over. Let’s offer them our support.

Visit their fundraising campaign page sometime in the next 41 days and contribute whatever you can, humans. As of this moment, they only have $2,379 left to raise. Sally forth, I say! And do your duty.

Also, if you know of another plucky journal, underrated author, or dogged artiste that would benefit from a tad of internet publicity (a la sasquatch), refer them to me! Little birdies may tweet me @City_Sasquatch or email me at


Advice On Advice, For Writers

book in handThe internet is a big place. A veritably infinite gamut of information gamely surfs the invisible waves of the digital sea. But there’s one type of information that, in my humble opinion, the web still lacks: that of unsolicited advice.

That’s where I come in. Aren’t you glad you’re reading this?

In response to some well-intentioned submission strategies for the working literati over at The Writer’s Circle, I propose to you, my earnest idolaters, this unsolicited bit of counsel: write either with a pen, a pencil, or at a keyboard. This approach should solve most quandaries quite directly. However, contrary to the Circle’s second rule of submitting, I see no reason why you should read your work over. You’ve just written it. Why read it again?

If you do insist on reading the piece you’ve just produced, then allow me to suggest a heuristic which you might find helpful. Have you been writing with your eyes closed? Open them. I think you’ll be surprised at what you’ll see.

If that glittering emerald of advice doesn’t tide you over, there’s always this brisk run-down of helpful ways to think about your writing, thanks to the enchanting editors at The Review Review.