Writers’ Day Jobs, Lethem’s Legends, 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.

The Los Angeles Times has announced the finalists for its 2018 book prizes, including Jos Charles for Feeld and Terrance Hayes for American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin in poetry; Tayari Jones for An American Marriage and Rebecca Makkai for The Great Believers in fiction; and R. O. Kwon for The Incendiaries and Tommy Orange for There There in first fiction. Three special awards will also be given during the awards ceremony on April 12: Kiese Laymon will receive the Christopher Isherwood Prize for Heavy: An American Memoir; nonprofit publisher Library of America will receive the Innovator’s Award; and the Robert Kirsch Award will go to Terry Tempest Williams.

The shortlist for this year’s Aspen Words Literary Prize is also out: The five fiction writers in the running for the $35,000 award are Tommy Orange for There There, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah for Friday Black; Tayari Jones for An American Marriage, David Chariandy for Brother, and Jennifer Clement for Gun Love. (NPR)

Private investigator. Subway conductor. Building superintendent. Twelve writers, including Elizabeth Strout, Amy Bloom, and Nicole Dennis-Benn, discuss the jobs that kept their creative lives afloat. (Medium)

Novelist Jonathan Lethem and Pushcart Press founder Bill Henderson have joined forces to create Lethem’s Legends, a series that will republish out-of-print works; the series’ first title, Bad Guy by Rosalyn Drexler, is slated for release this week. (Publishers Weekly)

Underneath the lettering, the parchment of manuscripts is inscribed with a second story—the genetic material of the animal hides that make up the pages. Matthew Collins’s team of archaeologists are parsing texts for the genomes of cattle, and a thousand-year-old plague. (Atlantic)

“The mental space feels different when you work with paper. It is quieter. A momentum builds up, a spell between page and hand and eye.” At the New Yorker, Tim Parks considers the ways the mechanism of writing influences its style.

Over at the Creative Independent, writer Anna Della Subin explains the importance of being idle, and choosing one’s battles in line editing. “You have to treat it as a kind of out-of-body experience, to step outside yourself and see a sentence or paragraph through as many eyes as possible.”

“I was a few pages in, with my pencil ready, before I understood that I had to change everything or nothing.” A decade after the publication of her essay collection Notes From No Man’s Land, Eula Biss realizes her book is far from finished. (Literary Hub)