Guest List for Parties I Will Host When I’m Famous

A photo by Quentin Dr.

  • Lorin Stein and his entire family (including pets)
  • Teju Cole
  • Taro Gomi, author of Everybody Poops
  • Jack Nicholson
  • My running mate for President of the United States, a seagull
  • Bill Clinton
  • John McPhee
  • My cousin Earl
  • Lena Dunham, of Girls
  • Michael Cunningham
  • Ann Beattie 
  • Kanye West
  • This penguin, who wears a backpack full of fish
  • Marty, the Alaskan ranger from the program Mountain Men
  • The ghost of Truman Capote
  • Melvin, the man who stands on the corner outside the 24-hour deli

…and you! You can RSVP to be placed on the guest list @City_Sasquatch or at

Burned! The Toast Is Closing!


Alas, another reputable journal stops its presses. This time it’s the thoughtful online zine, The Toast, founded by Nicole Cliffe and “Dear Prudence” columnist Mallory Ortberg.

Slate magazine offers a wonderful list of ‘best ofs’ from the archives of The Toast. How did I miss “Let’s Make Meat Loaf A Lesbian Icon“?

Thanks to the untiring folks at The Review Review for tipping me off to this sad bit of news. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Follow me on Twitter @City_Sasquatch, you inimitable humans, so you don’t miss my next prescient prediction.


Books = Phones = Computers = Zombie Overlords


In this comprehensive article from January, Racher Nuwer over at the BBC questions the role of paper books in a publishing economy that has given up quite a bit of ground over the last decade to e-books. Nuwer considers what the future might hold for traditional publishing, pointing out that “e-book readership has steadied over the past year.” On the other hand, according to her sources, everybody read less of everything, printed texts and the electronic ones, in the first months of 2015.

Nuwer goes on to cast doubt on the long-term viability of printed books as well, comparing them to “woodblock printing, hand-processed film… folk weaving,” and even – GASP – “poetry”!

But my response is a bit more jaded. Traditional publishing as we (ahem, my apologies – you, you humans) know it is already a shambling revenant of its former self – what was traditional is now ancient history, and what was recent history is now distant history, and what was contemporary is now traditional… And now. And now. And now again.

Look, for example, at the role of literary magazines in today’s fast-paced media whirlwind. Many journals are now charging submission fees in order to stay afloat (see this thoughtful defense of submission fees by Martha Nichols at Talking Writing). Many more don’t stay afloat at all. This has become such a widespread problem that there’s now a literary journal, called The Rookery, whose purpose is to archive and store the contents of other journals that have closed their doors. Those that endure, through some feat of business acumen, are relegated to the sidelines of an industry engaged in open warfare with competitors and with other creators of narrative, like Netflix and Hulu, or distraction machines like Twitter (Follow me @City_Sasquatch!).

Who is reading literary magazines in this topsy-turvy environment? Predominantly other writers. And their friends and families. But good luck breaking through the paper curtain. In a thoroughly-informative Buzzfeed piece, longtime editor and lit mag savant Lincoln Michel begrudgingly admits that “editors simply can’t read the slush themselves,” and that if your story doesn’t grab the attention of a part-time, volunteer slush reader, it is unceremoniously dumped into the ‘rejection’ pile. A struggling author’s best shot at getting published in a reputable journal might be to submit to contests, Michel says, despite the daunting number of other writers who take the same approach. I liken this strategy to shooting the moon in the game of Spades.

So books and literary magazines both huddle in their warrens like endangered jungle cats, mewling and watching the leaves for sudden movements. I, on the other hand, will continue on as I always have: by reclining on a moss-eaten log, lighting my artisanal corn cob pipe, and donning my Warby Parker spectacles for a long night of reading by moonlight.


Interview of the Month: Jonathan Franzen

ONE USE ONLY FOR SEVEN jonathan franzen photographed for seven by jonathan frantini

Among the curious tidbits scattered among the larger morsels in The Paris Review‘s 2010 interview with blockbuster author Jonathan Franzen for that journal’s series titled The Art of Fiction, we might find:

  • The six books on Franzen’s desk at UC Santa Cruz – Friedrich Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra, four works by John Steinbeck, and a study of William Faulkner.
  • His stance on the writing process: “The writer’s life is a life of revisions.”
  • The two emotions associated closely with writer’s block: “Shame and fear.”
  • Word most hated by Msr. Franzen: Creative.
  • A speech that highly influenced the author: Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Nobel acceptance speech.
  • His most surprisingly un-writerly admission: “I just like attention, I do!”
  • And finally, the length in pages of Franzen’s manuscript of his first novel, The Twenty-Seventh City, completed when he was twenty-five: Thirteen hundred.

A florid bow to The Review Review‘s founder and editress, Becky Tuch, for recommending this article in a profile of Tuch at The Missouri Review blog.

Modern Commentary

moss face

I do enjoy a good gingerbread cookie (although I am still acclimating to cookies sans dirt. It’s a learning process). In honoring that sentiment, I went seeking a recipe for said cookies on the interwide net web. Upon locating an excellent little concoction, I absent-mindedly scrolled to the bottom, where I was further delighted by the appearance of a number of comments from the general cookie-eating public. However, one comment submitted by a Msr. Al-Kasser Forum, which I have excerpted in its entirety below, caused me to pause (several times) and furrow my brow in consternation. Perhaps you can decode its mysteries better than I:

I beloved as much as you will obtain performed right here. The cartoon is tasteful, your authored subject matter stylish. nonetheless, you command get bought an nervousness over that you would like be turning in the following. ill indisputably come more beforehand once more as exactly the same just about a lot ceaselessly inside case you shield this increase.

As our friends the British might say – Wot?

As an aside, the comments on this very interweb blog site of mine, infrequent though they are, seem to demonstrate an unfortunate lack of spellilng errors, usage confusions, or subject/verb disagreement. Now I am jealous of the cookie one. Hm. Let’s work on that, shall we?

How to Launch A Lit Journal: Step 2


Last month I posted a typically-sage prescription for launching a literary magazine in which I provided a list of “7 Golden Rules” for doing so. Among the tidal wave of responses was one by a little magazine called The New Yorker. In its pages, Stephen Burt argued that a literary journal “…needs a reason to exist…”

I wholeheartedly concur. Which brings me to Step 2 in my ongoing series, How To Launch A Literary Journal.

I don’t believe in giving away trade secrets, but I’ll make an exception in this case. If you, dear reader, are preparing to launch your own journal – the Homo Sapien Review, let’s call it – you would do well to answer Stephen Burt’s important question. Why should your journal exist?

To help your friends get published, of course! Why else?

There’s no better reason to voyage out into the misty waters of the boutique publishing industry in your proverbial dingy than to provide a place for your cronies, your pals, your retinue, and your entourage to publish their own cramped little writings – their “Odes to a Water Lily” and their “Self Portraits as Herman Cain,” etc etc. Because, really, that’s why literary journals exist in the first place, isn’t it? To serve as promotional tools? Naturally that is why. To expand upon my previous analogy, a rising tide lifts all boats… Or, um, there’s always more fish in the ocean… Or, ahem, as Gandhi said, “Humanity is like an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”

And so on. You get the point.

Fight For Your Work

TypewriterToday on English Kills Review, Melissa Duclos tries to find an appropriate metaphor to describe her lost hope for her unpublished manuscript. She considers birth, death, and relationship metaphors. “I had a ten-year relationship with a book, but it didn’t work out,” she writes.


I apologize. I got carried away there.

At any rate, we modern writers need encouragement. The publishing landscape and the distracted readership that awaits us on the other side of the gilded portal whose plaque reads “Beware, All Ye Who Receive A Book Deal” have changed significantly since the era of our long-gone literary heroes.

I remember when I was a little cub, scrawling haikus on driftwood bark near the shores of Ozette Lake. To me, those poems represented the height of hubris. But now, dear reader, I have moved up in the world. I scribble chapters of my novel on toilette paper and glue them on my ghostwriter’s bathroom mirror. I don Ray-Ban Clubmasters as a disguise and wait for an agent like Daniel Lazar to leave the gym so I can sniff the seat of his stationary bike. All in the name of art!

But do not despair. One day, our neglected masterpieces will finally be exposed to the world. Hope springs eternal, like the sulferous gases of Old Faithful, the blowhole that made my old stomping grounds famous.

I will keep writing, just like that blowhole, and I hope you do too.

If this entry was encouraging to you, let me know. Or offer your own account of your travails –


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5 Ways To Get Your Book Noticed

cat and books

As a soon-to-be-published (?) memoirist and a creature of myriad opinions, I think it’s high time to offer you, cherished reader, some of my patented unsolicited advice. Consider the following if you are having difficulty getting your book noticed:

1. Proclaim the end of “<insert cultural trend here>”

Hipster mustaches. Brushing your teeth. Those fuzzy hats with ears on them. Be incendiary and grandiose as possible in your language.

2. Don’t harass your dream editor. Beckon unto them.

beckon to mconaughey









3. Preserve your dignity.

An illustrative anecdote: Upon arriving in this glittering metropolis, I proceeded forthwith to the offices of The New Yorker. There, I brandished a homemade sign emblazoned with the words “BUY MY MEMOIR PLEASE LORIN STEIN” and began chanting loudly. Strangely enough, passersby scattered. Within moments, I had cleared the sidewalk entirely.

My point is, precious reader, to preserve your dignity. I suggest taking your sign indoors and whispering vehemently. And if that doesn’t work, there’s always Facebook.

4. Guerilla marketing.

Just stuff your book in people’s mailboxes. I actually saw a guerilla do this once. You humans should have a much easier time with your hairless opposable thumbs.

5. Scratch n’ sniff book cover.

I recommend banana or a citrus-based fragrance like lemon. Psychologically, these scream ‘clean writing.’

There you have it. Don’t employ all of this advice at once, or you may develop a writing hernia. Do you have any book publishing tips to contribute? Send them to me at

Let Henry James Publish You

maisie henry james

Yesterday feminist webzine The Toast shared a list of 22 ways to tell “…If You Are In A Henry James Novel.” How charmingly practical of them! I must remember to impress the thoughtful editresses Nicole Cliffe and Mallorie Ortberg. <grooms self in mirror for 3 hours>

I’m back! So it seems I am, indeed, a character in a Henry James novel. To review:

“6. You’ve come to a devastating resolution on a train.”

Yes, recently.

“9. In colloquial Italian, your name means something unspeakable.”

Piede squallido, no? Hmm…

“12. You’ve met an aristocrat who is about to change everything for you.”

Lorin Stein. Well, we haven’t met, per se. Technicalities.

“20. English is your first and primary language, but, comme cela se trouve, you frequently employ French to communicate sarcasm.”

Per se!

“15. You are driven by a single, indiscernible desire.”

Absolutely. I think? No, definitely. Not sure what for. But yes.

“21. You may be someone else who the narrator is referring to and you may also be yourself; it is impossible to say at this juncture just who “you” are.”

I don’t have the faintest idea what you are talking about.


So you see, precious reader, there’s no doubt I am a character in a Henry James novel. That’s one way to get published!

(NB – In other news, Neil Gaiman offers his advice via Buzzfeed for how to get published.)