Tag Archives: women writers
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Leaving

3 Jun

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28 Mar

Sheryl Sandberg Quote

Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In was one of my favorite books of 2013.

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“A Secret Hidden in This Book”

21 Mar

KathyAckerQuote

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“I Am No Bird”

14 Mar

Charlotte Bronte Quote

Happy National Women’s History Month

7 Mar

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March is National Women’s History Month. I’ll be posting quotes by women writers each Monday of the month.

You might also like:::

  • NY chapter of Scripps (the women’s college) book club reads Burning Furiously Beautiful 
  • How to murder a woman’s sense of worth
  • VIDA does a great job tracking women writers
  • Vice’s suicide poet: Elise Cowen

 

 

 

 

Festival of Women Writers Shines Spotlight on Me

26 Aug

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The Festival of Women Writers in Hobart, New York, recently featured me in their newsletter! You can read it in full here.

I can’t wait for to get up to this cute little town of books up in the Catskills. It’s such an honor to be included in this year’s festival. The line-up is spectacular:

I’ll be reading from Burning Furiously Beautiful as part of the Hobart Book Village Festival of Women Writer opening readings on Friday, September 5th at 3:30pm. Then on Saturday, bright and early at 9:30am I’ll be teaching my popular workshop The Role of Place for Reader and Writer. Workshop participants will look at several examples of great setting from literature and then do writing exercises to explore unique ways to imbue the story with a sense of place. You can register here.

Find out more on the Hobart Festival of Women Writers website.

Check out the blog.

Help support women writers by contributing to this event.

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For my other upcoming events, check out my appearances page. If you’re interested in booking me for a reading or hiring me to lead a writing workshop, you can contact me at snikolop {@} alumna.scrippscollege.edu.

I’m Mentioned in Sojourners

11 Jun

Oh my gosh!  I forgot to mention back in April that I was mentioned in Sojourners!!  Such an honor.

My Burnside Writers Collective colleague Larry Shallenberger, whom I attended the Festival of Faith and Writing with, wrote the article “On the Need to Start an Ole Boys’ Club For Writers” about strong women literary voices, and there was my name alongside Kim Gottschild, Rachel Held-Evans, Sarah Thebarge, Karen Spears Zacharias, Jo Hilder, and Susan Isaacs.  I’m so fortunate to be part of a collective that has strong literary voices — both male and female — and that is an incredible support network.

In the article, Larry mentions my work in writing about Jack Kerouac.  It’s so interesting that he specifically mentioned this, as opposed to my visual arts writing for Burnside, because the Beat Generation has often been criticized for not being more open to women’s voices.  Furthermore, so many women have told me they don’t enjoy reading Kerouac because of his hyper-masculinity.

Larry blogs about things like, oh, “God Talk and the Stenciling on an Atomic Bomb” and “The Personality Bending Power of Story.”

Behind the Curtain: A Magazine Roundtable

8 Mar

Everyone complains about the cost of living in New York City, but I’ve never lived in any other town or city that offered such amazing free events.  It was a Leap Day miracle when McNally Jackson’s Bookstore held a free literary event featuring the esteemed literary editors of top magazines.  Behind the Curtain: A Magazine Roundtable brought together Deborah Treisman of The New Yorker, James Marcus of Harper’s, and Ellah Allfrey of Granta for a conversation moderated by Granta editor John Freeman.

 

 

And like all worthwhile free events, this one was PACKED!  Even many who got there early had to stand in the aisles of bookshelves because there were so many attendees.  Those who got there late listened from the stairs.  It was worth it.

The editors discussed using interns—MFA candidates, mind you, not undergrad students—to read through the slush pile (unsolicited manuscripts).  The result was that some interns turned away some really great work before the editors had a chance to see it, while other interns erred on the side of caution, passing too many candidates along to the editors.  I’ve read through slush piles for my grad school’s lit mag and for the children’s book department at my office, and what struck me was how patient the panelists were.  Reading through slush piles is a lot like panning for gold: most of it is just dirt that should be tossed out.

 

 

The panelist of editors were genuinely excited about working with new authors—even to the point of overlooking cover letters with the nebulous “Dear Editor/Reader.”  At one point, Freeman asked Granta’s associate editor Patrick Ryan, who was in the audience, to come up and share heartfelt stories of giving first-time contributors their big break.  For those looking to break into lit mags, it’s reassuring to know that the editors really do want to find great, undiscovered writers and are even willing to go through several rounds—one editor mentioned an astounding twenty-one!—of revisions to get a solid piece of work from a writer just starting out in his or her career.

Treisman, Marcus, and Allfrey also talked about what sort of writing they’re looking for, and while responses and desires ranged it was clear that they’re looking not only for high-quality writing (in fact, they admitted to sometimes having to turn away well-written pieces simply because the timing wasn’t right) but for writing that is unique, that covers an area that is has been underserved.  This includes writers from areas of the world where literature isn’t being promoted in the United States or England.

 

 

The magazine editors addressed the VIDA controversy, admitting that magazines are failing when it comes to representing women writers.  Treisman said there is a generational divide.  Older women weren’t submitting work to The New Yorker at the same rate as their male counterparts.  Today’s younger generation of women writers, though, are more apt to submit their work to bigger magazines earlier on in their writing careers.  The practical application here is that women writers should be submitting their work to big-name publications.

The big take-away from the night was that the short-story form is not dead.  As someone with a book publishing background, I’ve been taught to be leery of short-story collections.  They just don’t sell.  I’ve repeated this to hopeful writer friends of mine, perhaps crushing their tender, creative spirits.  However, it was clear from the Behind the Curtain discussion that, though the amount of publications have diminished, there are still beloved magazines publishing works of short fiction.  A lot of these magazines also publish personal essays.

Biggest Advice for… English Majors

22 Mar

 

I’ve received a lot of emails lately from students at my alma mater, Scripps College, wanting to know how I got started in book publishing and what advice I have for them.  I’ve been responding to emails individually but I thought it might be helpful to do a series of career-advice posts in addition to my regular Writing Wednesday posts here on the blog.

As with all my posts, this is simply my opinion.  There are a lot of great books, articles, and career counselors who can set you on the path to choosing and establishing your career.  I’m offering my perspective because it’s been requested and because sometimes it’s helpful to hear personal experience, but it’s by no means the only advice and methods available.

First up in this series is my biggest advice for English majors.

 

Congratulations!  You’ve decided to become an English major.  An English degree is incredibly versatile.  It can be applied to such exciting fields such as book publishing, journalism, teaching, writing, law, and so much more.  You need to know how to write and comprehend the written word in practically every job, whether you’re writing your cover letter for an application or writing a compelling business proposal once you’ve gotten the job of your dreams.

Plus, English majors are just plain cool.  They’re always walking around with dog-eared paperbacks.  They scribble poetry in blue ink on hand-bound journals and think typewriters are still relevant.  They’re in touch with their emotions.  They’re in touch with the emotions of others around them.  They know big words.  They read the book before the movie comes out.  Okay, so maybe I’m stereotyping, but there’s just something so romantic about English majors as opposed to many of the other majors.  I should know.  I was one.

I knew going into college that I wanted to major in English.  I love working with words.  Reading them, writing them, painting them, savoring them.  Though I do wish I’d taken a few more “practical” courses, I don’t regret my decision to major in English.  It’s had a tremendous impact in my career choice as a writer and editor, and I just plain enjoy studying literature on a personal level.

Here are a few tips garnered from my personal experience as an English major that I hope will help those of you pursuing your degree.

  1. Select a wide variety of English courses.  Variety is the spice of life!  Instead of limiting yourself right away to a particular time period in English literature, load up on courses from different time periods and regions.  You’ll gain a more complete awareness of the full history of English literature and learn how they interact and respond to each other.  Remember that in order to fully understand postmodernism, you need to also study modernism.  Take a Southern Gothic class and an Elizabethan Shakespeare class.  Take a women writers course and an Asian American lit course.
  2. Be open-minded.  My undergrad program was heavy on British literature.  At the time I didn’t really appreciate reading books by Samuel Johnson and poetry by Edmund Spenser because I wanted to study the Beats.  Now, while my focus is still on Beat literature, I’m so thankful that I have a wider knowledge of English literature because it informs me of the history and progression of writing.  Plus, Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, published in 1759, could give postmodernists a run for their money any day!
  3. Research the authors you read.  A little trick I learned in grad school was to look up information on the author before I came to class.  Knowing the author’s biography and bibliography helps give context to their books.
  4. Take creative courses outside your major.  One of the courses that had the most impact on my writing was not an English literature class; it was Introduction to Film, taught at Pitzer College by Professor Alexandra Juhasz.  Through the jump cuts and camera angles, I learned about craft and point of view in a way I’d never thought about so clearly before then.
  5. Take digital art classes.  I studied digital art under Professor Nancy Macko at Scripps, and having that background opened up opportunities in web design, typesetting and page layout, branding and marketing, and production.  Even though I have a production manager now who deals with printer specifications of my books, it helps that I have an understanding of production issues.  Furthermore, I know how to create logos and manipulate images, which I can use on my personal blog to promote my own writing.
  6. Find a second subject that captivates you.  If you’re planning on becoming a writer of any sort or working at a publication, it will be useful to have specialized knowledge in a subject outside of literature.  Whether it’s classical music or psychology, the subject will inform your style and subject matter.  I took History of New York at CMC and continually find myself drawn back to what I learned in that class.  It gave me a broader scope of the New York lit scene I admire so much, and I’ve since gone on to study writing under one of the authors of the books we read in that class.
  7. Think outside the campus bubble.  While many college campuses lend themselves to picturesque academic landscapes, I have to brag that in 2010 Forbes ranked Scripps’ campus one of the most beautiful in the world.  The campus is so pretty and yet the academics so rigorous that I really didn’t think much beyond Elm Tree lawn while I was there.  Not only is there life after college, there’s life going on while you’re at college.  Try to picture where you want to be after college and look into what options are available.  Schoolwork is invaluable but so is eating, so try to remember that your schoolwork is only a means toward something greater: your career.  One lousy paper isn’t going to matter in the grand scheme of your career.  In fact, seeking help from your professor may foster a mentoring relationship that will help you in the long run.

All of this is what I learned from trial and error.  I’d love to hear from other English majors.  What advice would you give to undergrads?  What would you do differently?

I’d also love to hear why those of you who were or are English majors chose that major.  What career do you have or hope to have?

30 Rock, Franzenfreude, and VIDA: Women Writers

1 Mar

Last week’s 30 Rock was an episode titled “TGS Hates Women,” a commentary on late summer’s “Franzenfreude” and the recent findings by VIDA that women writers don’t get as much attention as male writers.

When I look around the publishing house I work in and the classroom at the MFA program I attend, I see women.  Lots of them.  That’s not to say there aren’t any guys.  There are.  I see them in their windowed offices, I attend the lectures they organize, and I read the newsletters they write.  That isn’t to say there aren’t women in high-level, high-visibility roles.  There are.  But the percentage of men versus women in these upper-management roles is significantly skewed.

That’s why I wasn’t surprised when I read VIDA’s “The Count 2010.”

The short take is that men far outnumber women in getting published in lit mags and having their books reviewed.  I definitely agree with the commenters that the statistics are inconclusive without the facts of how many women versus men submit manuscripts. My editor friend Elizabeth sent me this follow up to the article, in which the editors responded to the criticism that their publications don’t publish an equal ratio of women to men.

Part of the problem is that women do not submit to well-known, “gender-neutral” publications at the same rate as men.  A few months ago, I went with my writer friend Jane to hear Lorrie Moore (Birds of America) talk with fiction editor Deborah Treisman at the wonderfully designed (hello, tilting fish-tank!) (le) Poisson Rouge for The New Yorker Festival. One of the comments that stuck out the most for me (Elissa Bassist, with whom I took class taught by Susan Shapiro, offers further notes on The Rumpus) was that men more often than women submit stories to The New Yorker, which is why men, more often than women, get published in The New Yorker.

I am a feminist, not a whiner.  I don’t believe in railing against the injustices of this or that without actually doing something positive to enact change.  Dialogue itself is useful but dialogue without action is meaningless.  It reminds me of the whole Christian debate of faith versus works, which is solved quite eloquently by the phrase “faith without works is dead.”  In other words, we can talk until we’re blue in the face about how more women should be published but unless more women are submitting quality work and unless more women are studying and working hard to become editors and unless we get over the silly notion that matters of politics are for men and the world at large and matters of domestic life are for women exclusively then all our philosophizing is for naught.  (Yes, I just said “for naught.”)

Women, if you want to be taken seriously as writers and if you want to get published then study writing, write, revise, and submit to publications!  Aim high.  If you get a rejection, try to find out why.  Then find another publication that you believe is a good fit for your writing style (remember there’s a huge difference between Cosmo and The Times) and submit.  Take classes, form writing groups, seek out professional freelance editors, and work on your craft, continually submitting high-quality work.  Make your writing so good they can’t say no!

Let’s not end up like Elaine Mozell in Meg Wolitzer‘s The Wife. Let’s look at the example Tina Fey set by becoming the first female head writer of Saturday Night Live.   And wouldn’t you know it, she’s a Greek!