January/February 2015

Our annual Inspiration Issue features a special section exploring the engine of ideas that drives our writing, including tips for generating more ideas faster, a quarrel over art versus life, our tenth annual look at debut poets, and fresh writing prompts for the new year; as well as a new column, Reviewers & Critics, featuring Dwight Garner of the New York Times; the art of reading John Berryman; and much more.

Special Section

Breaking Into the Silence: Our Tenth Annual Look at Debut Poets

by Melissa Faliveno

In our tenth annual look at debut poets, we’ve asked the more than one hundred poets previously included in this feature to nominate their favorite debut collections of 2014. From that longlist of outstanding work, we’ve selected ten poets to feature here, who share their inspirations and influences, how their books began, and advice to those hoping to get their own books out into the world.


Art Vs. Life: A Quarrel Between David Shields and Caleb Powell

by David Shields and Caleb Powell
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What comes first—the human or the writer? David Shields and Caleb Powell discuss the origins and collaborative process behind the four-day argument about life and art that became their new book (and film), I Think You’re Totally Wrong: A Quarrel...

Quieting the Mind: The Sound of Letting Go

by Sarah Herrington
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While at a ten-day silent meditation retreat, a writer reluctantly puts away her pen, choosing instead to fully inhabit herself and her experience.

Growing in a Poet's Garden

by Steven Ross Smith
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A writer learns that letting go of the need for perfectionism, and instead allowing the creative impulse to guide him fluidly and freely, can revitalize the practice of writing.  

News and Trends

Page One: Where New and Noteworthy Books Begin

by Staff

With so many good books being published every month, some literary titles worth exploring can get lost in the stacks. Page One offers the first lines of a dozen recently released books, including Edith Pearlman’s Honeydew and Rikki Ducornet’s The Deep Zoo, as the starting point for a closer look at these new and noteworthy titles.

Literary MagNet

by Travis Kurowski

Literary MagNet chronicles the start-ups and closures, successes and failures, anniversaries and accolades, changes of editorship and special issues—in short, the news and trends—of literary magazines in America. This issue’s MagNet features Ninth Letter, Gulf Coast, Gigantic, and Parallax.

Small Press Points: Manic D Press

by Staff

Small Press Points highlights the innovation and can-do spirit of independent presses. This issue features the San Francisco–based Manic D Press, which publishes a broad array of books by authors who would otherwise be, as editor Jennifer Joseph says, “shunned by the traditional publishing establishment for their lack of commercial viability.”

Muradov's Accidental Inspiration

by Kevin Larimer

“My work is a lifelong celebration of futility.” Artist Roman Muradov, designer of this issue’s cover, discusses his various wells of inspiration, his relationship to the written word, and the importance of doing nothing.

The Written Image: Sorted Books

by Staff

In her Sorted Books project, Nina Katchadourian arranges books from libraries—including William S. Burroughs’s personal collection, as well as those housed in museums and galleries across the country, to find a kind of poetry in the spines.


The Practical Writer

The Savvy Self-Publisher: Keith Devlin

by Debra W. Englander

When science author and NPR Math Guy Keith Devlin decided to cut a section from his soon-to-be published book on Fibonacci, he realized he had a unique opportunity—to self-publish the deleted content as an e-book alongside the hardcover book. We hear from Devlin, his agent Ted Weinstein, and publicist Amy Ferro on this uniquely challenging and exciting endeavor.

The Literary Life

Ethnicity and Craft: Creating Characters, not Caricatures

by Jennifer De Leon
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A writer and editor shares her thoughts, as well as lessons learned from authors such as Junot Díaz, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Celeste Ng, on writing of and from a culture that may be foreign to the reader: what do we explain, italicize, or translate? How...

Feckless Pondering: Emotional Beats and the Art of Repose

by Benjamin Percy
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A case for balancing action with introspection in fiction, in order to avoid “gumming up the gears of your story.”  

Why We Write: Going Back to Where It Was

by Carolyn Roy-Bornstein
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After finding him paging through her diary, a mother confronts the ethical and emotional struggles of writing about her son’s traumatic brain injury.