Thursday, April 18, 2019

New Books for Readers # 202!

New Books for Readers #202! Reviews of books by J.G. Ballard, Arthur Dobrin, Birgit Mazareth, Roger Mitchell, Natalie Sypolt, and more.   See the issue at

Monday, April 01, 2019

Edith Konecky Dies

Edith Konecky 1922--2019

Edith Konecky, a member of my writing group and author of many wonderful novels and stories, died on March 28, 2019. Read more about her here. See some of her books here.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

New Review of My Website!

I got a nice review and recommendation for my Website from an online editing services company. It actually appears that the reviewer looked closely at the website! Please take a look at

Saturday, February 09, 2019

The Raised Relief Map Method of Drafting Prose

The Raised Relief Map Draft

For short stories and even novellas, I have begun drafting in a new way. I always try to read over and organize my notes and put them in a single digital file, but I've begun to do this in a more formal and disciplined way. It is certainly a part of the process of writing, but it feels different from writing to me. It is primarily left brain work that doesn't sink into the creative depths.
That not-sinking into the deepest creative place is the discipline. Rather, I try to get the material tidied into piles first. I scrape any notes I have into digital heaps and shove them around so that I have a little landscape of homemade hills. I often give the piles temporary names: The Book Club; Bobby One; The Psychiatrist; Bobby Two. I use the heaps of material as a genre writer uses the standard genre format or as a biographer uses the chronology of a life. The form is not a choke collar or a cage, but a landscape to explore.
One I have the heaps, after I've laid it aside for a while, I come back and write from the beginning, letting one thing lead to another, letting myself sink into the scenes and ideas and sensations. This is not the same as a clean start, something I recommend when there seems to be too much material to revise. In a clean start, you start the beginning with an empty screen or blank sheet of paper. Having no notes in front of you allows your mind to bring back only the best parts, and you usually get a leaner, cleaner, altogether better draft.
The raised relief map technique groups the materials as a structure, as a map. You can make side trips, stop to smell the flowers. You can be surprised by what is hiding in a cave or an old mine shaft. You can excavate or wander off, usually to come back to the path, or at least to sight of it.
This technique is pretty straightforward with a short story or even a long story or essay, because I usually only have maybe half a dozen of the heaps of ideas and materials. It is more challenging, or at the very least more time-consuming, with a novel. Need I reiterate that this is something to play off of, not get stuck in? The plan may change radically before you're done, but for the moment, you have (1) an excellent way to see what you have, the lay of the land; (2) a direction and at least a hypothetical structure; and (3) lots of material to explore--and explode.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

New Issue of Books for Readers!

See Meredith Sue Willis's Books for Readers Issue #201 at:

Reviews by MSW, Eddy Pendarvis, and George Brosi.  Books by Marc Kaminsky, Jessica Wilkerson, Jaqueline Woodson, Eliot Parker, Barbara Kingsolver. Philip Roth, George Eliot and more.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Copyright Issues

      Here's a discussion of property and copyright with David Weinberger that I found really interesting.  The basic question is, why is owning a copyright or patent not the same as owning a house or a piece of heirloom lace?  I've been participating in a mostly polite discussion of this on the Authors Guild listserv.  David, by the way, is about to publish his fifth book on issues of the meaning of the Internet.  And  he's my husband's brother! 


Saturday, December 29, 2018

Issue #200 of Meredith Sue Willis's BOOKS FOR READERS!

Have a look at the 200th issue of Meredith Sue Willis's Books for Readers Newsletter.  I wrote, "This is the last issue of Books for Readers Newsletter for 2018, and it is the 200th issue overall since I began it in December, 2000. At that time, I was trying to figure out how to participate in the World Wide Web and the 
digital age. It started as a way to have a place for reviews of books I and my friends wrote and for publicizing books from small publishers and independently published books. It was abundantly clear even then that there were big changes coming in publishing. The number of outlets for book reviews was already plunging. Many of the great print newspaper book pages have folded, as have many of the great newspapers. In their place, we have multiple small, specialized literary blogs, and a plethora of literary newsletters, as described in an interesting article in Wired. The article asserts that the "futurebook" is already here. The future of the book is here, says the article, and it's a plain old paperback or a Kindle that looks the way Kindles have looked for years. In other words, the future has already happened, and the object we read from is less changed than the steps leading up it-- print-on-demand, indie publishing, etc. The article also talks about major changes in related technologies like audiobooks listened to on smartphones, e-mail newsletters, and more.
Books for Readers Newsletter now has a pretty solid mailing list of just under a thousand-- not an enormous number of people, and they don't all open every issue, but they tend to be writers and readers, and it pleases me to know they are taking a look.
Please do tell your friends about it--it's free, and you can always ignore it if you're not in the mood.
So Happy Issue # 200, and Happy 2019 to all. Send me your reviews, announcements, lists of favorite books, lists of least favorite books, links to your work online, and links to things you think other people would enjoy. Join the conversation!  Read more here....

Rainy day with neighbors at MAM

     We were at the Montclair Art Museum yesterday to celebrate the life of a neighbor and a scholarship being established in her name: Kathryn Marie Juliano.  She was a student for many years at the Montclair Art Museum, and that's where the scholarship will be. Part of the afternoon was a tour of the current exhibit "Constructing Identity in America (1766-2017)." 
    Then, before joining the Juliano party downstairs for a reception, we saw the Kara Walker installation, which closes next week.  It is pretty amazing as her work always is--in your face and horrifying with its lynchings and rapes and big black silhouettes so sharply set off from the white backgrounds, but you can't stop looking.  What impresses me increasingly, though, is how her work is also delicate and so carefully executed.  The big one was the Virginia lynching  (see right) but also a huge triptych drawing that gave a different view of how she sees the world.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Reading at the Jefferson Market Public Library in New York City

Last night’s reading at the Jefferson Market Library in New York City marks the official end of my fall promotion tour for Their Houses.  I have another couple of events planned and potential, and I have some further ideas, but I’m closing it down for now.  It has been a wonderful three months of readings, workshops, interviews and visiting with old friends and making new ones.  Honestly, I’m going to glow for a long time.
Last night Diane Simmons and I presented “Beyond the Hudson: New York Writers Who Still
Go Home” to more than thirty people.  Many of them were old friends (some of mine from forty and more years ago and continuing), but others came because they had a connection to West Virginia or were simply interested in the topic.  One older woman said she was a native New Yorker and always admired the courage of those of us who came from elsewhere!  We had audience members from Brooklyn and New York, and at least one New Jersey friend.  My writers group, to whom I dedicated Their Houses, was there, and a couple of present and former students, and our nephew and his wife!  But others came because the topic interested them, and Diane and I included a good period of discussion after I read the Mountain Militia Chapter from Their Houses and she read her essay about explaining the results of the 2016 election in her home region of Eastern Oregon, the high desert, to northeastern intellectuals  This essay was published earlier this year in Czech in a major Czech Republic magazine.  She read it in its English version, and talked about how there is a gap in many countries, including the Czech Republic, between urban and rural people.
We had a lovely warm discussion after the readings, and I sold a few books and feel all warm and fuzzy this morning.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Next Year's Words in New Paltz, New York


   Last night, November 14, 2018, I was part of a reading series in New Paltz, New York, called Next Year's Words.  It is curated by poet Susan Chute, who prepares excellent, entertaining introductions for her writers.  Three people read, and people who sign up for the open mic are interspersed with the scheduled readers.  It's an excellent format, and it was a lovely, warm atmosphere--including an intermission with homemade snacks! I was honored to share the stage with poets David Appelbaum and Anne Richey. Earlier this year, my friend West Virginia poet laureate Marc Harshman read on the same stage.
   Also part of the fun was visiting my old friend Ingrid Hughes, author of Losing Aaron: A Memoir.

See my webpage at

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Reading Wednesday November 14 in New Paltz!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

 Reading at  Next Year's Words: A New Paltz Reading Forum, Jewish Congregation of New Paltz Community Center, 30 North Chestnut St. (on Route 32) from 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm. New Paltz, New York. See flyer here.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

New Issue of Books for Readers #199

Take a look at 

Books for Readers #199

Reviews by Ed Davis & Phyllis Moore; reviews of books by Richard Powers, Rachel Kushner, Craig Johnson, Elizabeth Strout, Thomas Mann, Eliot Parker and many more!

Friday, October 26, 2018

Workshop on Making Your Novel the Best It Can Be...

... at the West Virginia Book Festival.  I had at least 40 people (I'm the yellow and black bumble-bee person in the front).  Talked about, and did exercises for, jump-starting your novel (or other prose narrative like memoir); getting a grip on the shape of the "loose, large, baggy monster"  (Henry James); and then various types of revision specific to novels; and finally  structural revision.  Attendees were eager to share and laugh, and I had a great time.

Afterward, I hung out in the "Marketplace" with all the book sellers and presses and had lovely reunions with George Brosi of Appalachian Mountain Books as well as Carter Seaton and Eliot Parker, and Derek Krissoff, the director of my publisher WVU Press as well as Susanna Holstein AKA storyteller Granny Sue and many more.  Really a pleasure to see old and new friends.  In the evening, I went over to Taylor Books to hear WV Poet Laureate Marc Harshman read, and there saw Anna Smucker and Valerie Nieman and Nancy Adams.  Such fun!  
     And, for random occurrences of special weirdness: in the coffee shop at Taylor Books along with customers and a a pack of neatly suited Special Service Operatives, was Ivanka Trump.  What was she doing there?  Well, according to the Charleston Gazette article linked above, she was been driven home from pushing deregulation in Kentucky (which has lost a ton of coal mining jobs since her dad became president) and thought it was too rainy to go on, so stopped at Taylor Books for coffee, music, and to buy a children's book for her little ones.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

In Charleston WV for the West Virginia Book Festival!


A long drive to Charleston, West Virginia, today, but I was listening to lectures about the Italian Renaissance and looking out at lovely low-key-color, rusty tipped deciduous trees with flashes of orange maples and yellow oaks.  Here's a view from Sideling Hill in Maryland on Route 68:

I'm staying in an airbnb in an old hill neighborhood in Charleston with lots of lovely stately houses and charming cottages.  Everything is on a slope with tall trees and flowers and ivy and, oh yes, political election signs!   See the backyard (and a corner of the gazebo with a hot tub) where I'm staying:

The Book Festival with my workshop starts tomorrow.