Walt Whitman Turns Two Hundred, Firecracker Award Finalists, and More


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

Happy birthday to Walt Whitman, who was born two hundred years ago today. NPR covers how the poet known today as the “father of free verse” came to write Leaves of Grass—and how he could hardly give the book away when he self-published it in 1855.

The Community of Literary Magazines and Presses has announced the finalists for the 2019 Firecracker Awards, which honor self- and independently published books as well as literary magazines. The finalists include Sherwin Bitsui for the poetry collection Dissolve and Nicole Rivas for the flash fiction collection A Bright and Pleading Dagger. The organization also named small press Tender Buttons the recipient of this year’s Lord Nose Award for “a lifetime of superlative small press publishing.”

At the Paris Review, Julie Orringer talks about combining fact with fiction in her depiction of real-life World War II hero Varian Fry in her novel The Flight Portfolio. “We pick up a novel to live an extended moment with a character—not for a pure delineation of fact, but for a truth that goes beyond fact, one that creates a commonality of experience between reader and subject through the suspension of disbelief.”

Read more about The Flight Portfolio in “Ten Questions for Julie Orringer” at Poets & Writers.

“You will have to figure out for yourself what your level of comfort is when it comes to reviews, Goodreads, social media, and Thanksgiving meals with relatives who have opinions, but if you can figure out a way to think of bad reviews as pieces of data about how readers engage with narrative, you’re golden.” Kelly Link shares nine pieces of advice for debut authors at the One Story Literary Debutante Ball.

Esquire revisits the Bennington College of 1982 and the incoming freshman class that included future literary stars Donna Tartt, Bret Easton Ellis, and Jonathan Lethem. “All three would mythologize Bennington—the baroque wickedness, the malignant glamour, the corruption so profound as to be exactly what is meant by the word decadence—in their fiction that, as it turns out, wasn’t quite, and thereby become myths themselves.”

Hulu has announced it will adapt Sally Rooney’s best-selling novel Normal People into a twelve-episode series. Rooney, who adapted her book alongside writers Alice Birch and Mark O’Rowe, will serve as one of the show’s executive producers. (Deadline)

What even is a “beach read”? Allison Duncan traces the history of summer book recommendations. (Vulture)

“My thesis is that this administration, this character, needed a different kind of writer.” Michael Wolff, author of 2018’s best-selling account of the Trump White House, Fire and Fury, and its forthcoming sequel, Siege, responds to criticism of his books as inaccurate. (New York Times)