Discovery at the Doctor’s Office

Yesterday mid-morning I put the computer to “sleep” and headed over for a quick medical appointment (everything’s fine!). While I waited to hear my name called, I flipped through the magazine collection (doesn’t every writer do this?) and found an intriguing new offering: Wondertime. I liked it, so I’ve done a little bit of follow-up research.

According to its Web site, Wondertime, produced by the editors of Disney’s Family Fun, is dedicated to “helping parents nurture their children’s love of learning. A blend of how and why, Wondertime inspires moms of infants through 6-year-olds to see the world through the eyes of their children, and to celebrate the wonder of this all-too-fleeting time.”

Although the magazine is not accepting unsolicited work at the moment, the editors are currently looking for a particular kind of contribution: “For a new section of Wondertime in which parents swap their experiences, techniques, and general tricks of the parenting trade, we would like to hear your answers to the following question: What are your favorite ways to teach your child basic manners–please and thank you, friendly greetings, acceptable interruption techniques (Excuse me!), and other everyday niceties?” If your letter (with attribution) is published, you’ll receive $75. For more information/submission guidelines, click here.

Call for Submissions: Literature of the American Apocalypse

As Green Mountains Review prepares for its twentieth anniversary the journal plans a special double-issue on “Literature of the American Apocalypse.” They’re seeking work (poems, essays, and stories), “darkly comic or deadly serious, that centers on American dread, inspired by everything from the current Administration’s war on terror and war on privacy, to continuing threats of environmental degradation, nuclear annihilation, world-ravaging disease, corruptions of culture and language, takeover by clones and computers, natural disasters that some say are caused by global warming and others say are acts of an angry god, or whatever else can be imagined by an end-of-days mind.” Submissions will be read throughout this year (including summertime). Anticipated publication date is May 2007. Payment will be $20/page. For more information, read the announcement.

Resource for Book Reviewers

Most publications that publish book reviews–especially those that publish daily, weekly, or monthly–seek reviews of new books only. Of course, the definition of “new” can vary. Some less frequently published literary journals will review books published within the past six to twelve months; if you read your local newspaper’s book reviews chances are only the most current releases are getting any attention there.

New book reviewers often want to know how (and where) they can find out about new books. They’re especially interested in finding out how to locate books that haven’t yet been published–this gives them the time to pitch a review, secure an assignment, and write a review that will indeed be “current.”

There are lots of ways to go about this–and I cover them all with the writers who study book reviewing with me. But this morning I learned about a new resource that will interest poetry book reviewers in particular. It’s a list of spring 2006 releases compiled by the Academy of American Poets. Check it out here.

Writers Who Smoke

Like many others, I was very saddened yesterday to learn about Dana Reeve’s death. There’s a lot behind my reaction, and I’m not going to delve into it all. But part of it is definitely related to the fact that I’ve lost a loved one to this disease, and I know how terribly its victims suffer, however bravely.

Since my aunt’s illness–she died almost exactly ten years ago–I’ve been a rabid anti-smoker. Yes, it’s true that even non-smokers (like Dana Reeve) are diagnosed with this cancer every year. But the truth remains that the vast majority of lung cancer cases (80%-90%) are among smokers. Smoking is the single most preventable risk factor for the disease. And of the non-smokers who fall victim to it, experts agree that secondary smoke inhalation (Dana Reeve’s work as a singer brought her into many smoke-suffused environments) may well be a cause.

At my MFA program, I earned something of a reputation for both pleading with others not to smoke, and for staying away from the clusters of “smoking writers” gathered in bars and elsewhere. Frankly, this behavior isolated me from a lot of conversations and socializing. Good. Having watched my aunt prepare to leave her three then-twentysomething children–and now watching all her grandchildren grow up without their grandmother–I was also offended by the hypocrisy of the writers who would wax eloquent to (childless) me about how much their children mattered to them and the joys of parenting. I often wanted to tell them: “If you want to see your children grow up–and spare them what my cousins went through tending their mother on her deathbed–put out that damn cigarette.”

In Betsy Lerner’s The Forest for the Trees (an absolutely wonderful book about writing and publishing), we read that “the only place you’re likely to find more alcoholics than an AA meeting is a writing program.” She may be joking, but it’s also highly probable, judging merely from the drinking that also went on in my MFA program. But I wonder about lung cancer cases among writers, too. I can’t believe that writers are not overrepresented here. And now that we’re realizing that secondary smoke can be so harmful, I have to wonder about lung cancer cases among those writers live with, too.

I can’t make others quit smoking (I’ve tried, and in one case am still trying, if in a less nagging manner), but I can try to protect myself from their secondary smoke.

When I began attending the annual conferences of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP), I was stunned by how pervasive the smoking was. I could barely spend more than five minutes in one of the conference hotel bars or restaurants without becoming nauseated.

Last year, the conference was held in Vancouver, and the smokers had to take it outside. While I’m skipping this year’s conference, I’m truly happy to know that it’s taking place in Austin, Texas, which recently enacted a ban on smoking in public places as well.

I hope AWP will continue to hold its conferences in cities that look out for the health of their citizens and tourists. Yes, the writers who smoke may be inconvenienced a bit. I wish the audiences who went to hear Dana Reeve sing had been similarly inconvenienced.