Finds for Writers

Description: closed trunk and text label announcing, "Finds for Writers."
Image of a wooden trunk, with text label that reads, “Finds for Writers” beside it

Each week (typically Fridays), the Practicing Writing blog offers writing and publishing resources, news, and reflections to peruse over the weekend.

  • Some thoughts “on poems that don’t win prizes…from someone who sifts and judges the work.” (That someone is Katie Hale.)
  • This week on Freelancing with Tim: “how to ask for more money — and actually get it.”
  • In which Leigh Stein delves into the fact that although “almost every single woman novelist I know is dying to be chosen for one of these [daytime TV] book clubs,” Stein doesn’t know one woman “who watches daytime television.” Research and intriguing findings ensue.
  • This week on My Machberet: prize news, new-issue alerts, and more from the world of Jewish books and writing.
  • Also mentioned on My Machberet: my latest Substack post, an out-of-sequence “special edition” necessitated, as I explained within, by several concerning developments in the literary sphere last week. If you haven’t read it, please take a look. And then come back here for the update I’ll post below. NB: As one reader who shared the post on Facebook astutely noted, in the context of the post’s (ahem) extreme length—you can begin reading it from the segment titled “L’Affaire Guernica.” Especially since the (also out-of the ordinary) addendum to this bulleted list that I’m going to share in a moment concerns the segment that immediately follows that one: “An(other) Open Letter to PEN America.”

All righty, then. Caught up? Good. Because in order to keep this post somewhat shorter than that one was, I’m not going to offer a detailed recap.

I’ll say simply that when my Substack post went out, just a few days had passed since the influential website Literary Hub had published—with its own characteristically problematic background information—another open letter to PEN America. (If you indeed followed my plea above and went to the Substack post, you accessed both a link to that letter, and my detailed, documented observations about it.)

This week, PEN America responded to that letter. Please go read that response.

Almost immediately thereafter, a few people asked for my thoughts on this new statement, which seemed to some to be overly concerned with soothing the critics. Perhaps they wondered if the support I expressed for the organization in my Substack post might be wavering in its aftermath.

Reader, it was not. To those inquiries, I responded that PEN America’s statement impressed me as a highly thoughtful, compassionate, and measured response to the massive (and as I have indicated in my Substack, and as the evidence seeded within PEN America’s new statement shows, highly unfair) pressure they’d been facing from a highly vocal group within their membership. Even as I may personally disagree with some elements of some of PEN America’s statements—and I wish they didn’t have to devote so much effort to appeasing what I consider, in my least charitable moments, to be a bunch of biased bullies (I’d never be able to remain so patient and compassionate, which is one of several reasons why I will never run a large organization—or even a medium-sized one)—I give the organization a lot of credit for actually trying to live up to its mission and principles and remain committed to fairness (and compassion) for all.

I think that some of my questioners thought that this might be the end of it. How (I imagine they wondered) could PEN America’s critics possibly be dissatisfied with the organization’s response?

As it turns out, not only were the critics insufficiently satisfied; they ratcheted up their demands.

As you can see for yourself in yet another letter that they’ve addressed to PEN America. (I’ll give you three guesses as to which major literary outlet again published this arrogant, outrageous, and overall appalling text.)

It bothers me (a lot) that the critics’ vocality (and platforming, and not only by clearly biased sources such as Literary Hub) is so demonstrably outweighed by barely visible public support from those of us who appreciate the important work that they continue to do, all while they strive to remain open and responsive to all writers. To that end, I’ve been heartened by comments I’ve seen—mostly, but not only, in private spaces and emails—regarding support for PEN’s principled stance. Thank you, all.

Now, we need to do more. I understand that not everyone is comfortable expressing their views in a blog post or on a social media platform. But I believe that PEN America needs us. If you agree, I encourage you to share your appreciation and encouragement privately, perhaps via email (to them! not to me!). It seems clear that at some level, they sense an obligation to hear out and acknowledge the most vocal among their stakeholders.

When I checked their website, it wasn’t easy to track down a “contact us” tab or instructions. But you can contact individual staff via email addresses provided. You might, for instance, communicate directly with the Chief Communications Officer.

PEN America’s critics, as the headlines routinely pronounce, include “prominent” authors. They are exceedingly well-organized. On the other hand, supporters (like me) may be far less prominent, and far less collectively-resourced. But, especially after hearing from so many of you this past week after my Substack went out, I know that we exist.

I believe that we owe it to PEN America to know that we exist, too. And we need to do it now.

If you agree, you know what to do.

And as a practicing writer, you certainly know how to do it.

Have a good weekend.

Description: closed trunk and text label announcing, "Finds for Writers."