Novels to Escape the News, Fictionalizing the Past, and More


Every day Poets & Writers Magazine scans the headlines—from publishing reports to academic announcements to literary dispatches—for all the news that creative writers need to know. Here are today's stories:

Celebrated novelist and essayist Marilynne Robinson has been named the 2016 winner of the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction. She will be presented with the lifetime achievement award at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. on September 24. At the Washington Post, Robinson discusses receiving the award that tells us “something new about the American experience,” as well as her thoughts about our current political landscape.

If the American political environment is too overwhelming right now, Flavorwire suggests twenty-five great escapist novels to help you hide from media frenzy, “while still maintaining your intellectual integrity.”

At Jezebel, deputy editor Jia Tolentino writes about poet, musician, and visiting Iowa Writers’ Workshop professor Thomas Sayers Ellis, who earlier this month was accused of sexual misconduct and abuse by a number of anonymous women on the VIDA: Women in Literary Arts website. The VIDA post was prompted by an earlier statement published in the music magazine Brooklyn Vegan by Ellis’s former bandmate Larkin Grimm, who accused Ellis of sexual harassment and physical threats. Since VIDA’s anonymous post, Ellis—who founded the Dark Room Collective in the late 1980s and has long been an influential activist for writers of color—has been unofficially removed from his position at Iowa. Tolentino reports on the problem of the “important, inappropriate literary man,” proposing that Ellis’s case, and his subsequent removal from his Iowa post, suggests that “the important, inappropriate literary man is going to face his retribution. Or at least, certainly, the literary community is poised to bring him to some end.”

A collection of twenty-nine letters from late To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee will go to auction this week. The letters include correspondence with Lee’s friends Doris and Bill Leapard, as well as with her longtime admirer Don Salter. Online bidding for each letter begins at $750. (GalleyCat)

“Can the poem be a place in which leisure and work can be said to coexist? Can we see within the poem a model that suggests ways in which this kind of merging might be possible on a larger scale?” At the Kenyon Review, poet Sasha Steensen talks about her process and inspiration for her forthcoming collection, Hendes.  

Fiction writer Kelly Kerney, who spent more than a decade writing her new novel that spans a hundred years of Guatemala’s history, Hard Red Spring, discusses the difficulties and intricacies of writing historical fiction. (Publishers Weekly)  

In an interview with Lambda Literary, fiction writer Kaityln Greenidge talks about writing fully realized characters beyond the author’s own experience, and her debut novel, We Love You, Charlie Freeman. “If you write a character and think ‘I don’t really have to explore their motivations,’ then you have failed that character. Now, in our age of meaningless irony, writers try to get around this by having a character voice their own superfluousness…. But if you start from the place that this character is a whole person, outside of whatever identity you have assigned them, you are working in the right direction.”