What It’s Like to Write for One of the Top 10 Blogs for Writers (Not this One)

Did you know I write for another blog?

Yup.  It all started a year or so ago.  I was following a bunch of writing blogs, and one day The Write Practice put out a call for regular contributors. I applied and got it! This week I learned that it was named one of Write to Done’s 2015 top 10 blogs for writers! Woohoo!

I would like to say this accomplishment is because of me (heh, heh), buuut I actually first discovered The Write Practice because it won the same honor in 2012 (or 2013?). Still, it feels pretty good to know that I at the very least have not brought it down.

Anyway, the experience has been cool. It’s made me a part of a solid virtual writing community. Joe Bunting (the founder and manager of the blog and basically my boss) gives me blogging tips, writing encouragement and Starbucks cards! And because each post includes a writing prompt, our readers are actually really involved. They take 15 minutes to write a scene or two and post them right in the comments.  It’s awesome to see!

One of my favorite posts is when I asked readers to write a scene from the point of view of an animal. The attempts were so funny!! I even took a stab at it myself.

Generally, however, I try to write posts that coincide with what I dealing with a writer.  So, for example, if I’m struggling with my POV, I’ll write a post about POVs.

I also try to reference writers of color and female authors as much as possible. It’s like Chris Rock said (more or less)-  sure, minority/female writers aren’t the only ones who need attention, but the chances are much less likely that they are getting it already. It’s just harder out here when you’re not a white dude (just click around my blog to learn why).  To the extent I can help, I’m like—why not?

The post (written by me) that got the most comments was when I asked readers to describe this Italian painting and then compare it to Zadie Smith’s description. Zadie Smith isn’t my favorite author, but my goodness that woman knows how to draw an image with her words. I felt really inspired by her skills, and it was cool to see others were as well. I’ve also written posts inspired by everyone from Walter Mosley to Uzo Iweala to a Washington Post Press Pass mentee.

Anyway, The Write Practice has more than 200,000 subscribers and accepts posts from guest bloggers all the time. If you’re interested, I encourage you to submit one for consideration!!


Chillen with A Doctor-Novelist

uzoSometime around Thanksgiving I had drinks with a friend who had written a novel.  I was so excited when he hit me up on his visit to his hometown in Maryland/DC from Nigeria because I remembered in college we had at least 2 or 3 really nice convos in the dining hall.  It was one of those things where you end up eating together because the only person you knew during that meal was your friend’s brother, but then you walk away and are like “Hmm.  I think I’m smarter now” or “I feel enlightened, but I have no idea why” and then it’s over until like a year later when the whole thing happens all over again.*  So when I heard from my friend Uzo Iweala , I obviously couldn’t wait to get smarter and be enlightened!  I was also in writing-group withdrawal and a blog hiatus, meaning I really needed to have a fiction-writing conversation.  While fascinating to discuss the writing process with someone (and by someone, I mean a doctor) who published a critically acclaimed novel and is working on the next one while simultaneously saving the world (I’m serious)…it was also hilarious.  I mean I actually said “when I think about a career as a full time novelist, it just seems a little bit too solitary for me.”  It’s like kind of absurd to say something like that with a straight face with someone who actually can have a successful career as a full-time novelist, you know?  Nevertheless, he indulged and said he could relate because he didn’t see many people while writing his masterpieces (my word, not his).  He then explained the pros/cons of the opposite experience of being on book tour (of course, another concern I have, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get there ;))

My biggest fiction-writing takeaway from the convo though was about authenticity.  Specifically, Uzo said that his thesis advisor Jamaica Kincaid told him (and I may be messing this up, so don’t quote me) that if you write that a farm tastes like arsenic—you better have tasted that farm!  Ok,  I KNOW I messed that up, but you get the point.  Authenticity makes or breaks a piece of writing, in my opinion.  I think it’s also what makes the process so hard.  On the one hand, you want to be honest because you know the reader is going to feel and probably reject your restraint.  On the other hand, nobody is trying is to put all their business out there.  And by nobody, I mean me!  I want to write about a girl, but it’s not going to be an autobiography, believe me!  Rather, I want to write about someone whose very clearly NOT me. But how?  Thankfully, this thought did come to me as I was chatting with my novelist-doctor friend, so I asked him how he’s able to capture characters who have lived completely different lives than his.  He basically said interviews, which I found encouraging because I used to be a journalist!  I also love when people give me simple, applicable answers/advice. Thank you.  As for the inner most feelings/thoughts of these characters…I’m beginning to learn that just because you haven’t experienced how wonderful it feels to win the lottery, doesn’t mean you can’t describe happiness.  Or you don’t have to have had a dog die to be able to write about grief, if that makes sense.  This is what I think at this point, but I’m still figuring it out.

Anyway, my New Year’s resolution is to blog regularly again.  I’m bizzzack peoples!  Hasta luego!

*Side note: I basically told Uzo this entire story and his response was that he barely knew me in college, he only came to my dorm to visit his brother and sister and he only hit me up in DC because I felt so bad that I was supposed to go to his book signing but then didn’t because Politics & Prose is just way too far away. So sad.

How to Hang Out with a Fiction Writer In the Next 2 Weeks

Recently one of my friends said that I’m “always” going to book signings and hanging out with authors and stuff.  That’s not exactly true, but I do try to keep an eye out.  Sometimes I fail spectacularly, like when I missed Michelle Obama signing her garden cookbook a block away from my job.  Other times, my dreams come true.  Anyway, in New York it’s pretty easy to find out the haps in the literary world.  Just ask the love of my life, New York Magazine; however, I live in DC now, and I’m starting to think the key to hanging out with a fiction writer here is Politics & Prose.  Some pretty cool people role through there.  Below are some upcoming events in DC (in order of date, not importance).  I’m hoping to report back on 2 of the 3.  Let me know if you want to join me!

1. Kurt Andersen signing True Believers at Politics and Prose tomorrow @ 7pm.  I honestly know nothing about ole Kurt except to say that his book True Believers was reviewed by the New York Times and the Washington Post, so he must be important.

2. UZO IWEALA signing “Our Kind of People: A Continent’s Challenge, a Country’s Hope” at Politics and Prose Thursday @ 7pm.  Uzo takes this book writing thing way more seriously than I do, which he tells me is a gift as well as a curse.  We went to college together back in the day, when he turned his senior thesis Beasts of No Nation (about child soldiers in Africa) into a published novel (which I think is on some of Harvard’s syllabi now…?).  Anyway, what I’m saying is that this is his second book and he wrote it WHILE IN MED SCHOOL.  I’m expecting to get some thought provoking wisdom on writing and writing + doing something completely unrelated and incredibly demanding from him Thurs.  Can’t wait!

3. Emily Giffin signing “Where We Belong” at Urban Chic Georgetown July 30 @ 12pm and at B&N Bethesda July 30 @ 7pm.  My girl Emily Giffin, the queen of chick lit, creator of “Something Borrowed,” which as you may know became a movie with Kate Hudson and the dude from The Office.  I think she safely falls into that category, although her debut novel did have a lawyer protagonist (as opposed to a magazine writer or bake shop owner).  Before publishing a bunch of novels she was a lawyer at a big law firm! Love this one!

What is else is going on this month??