February Newsletter Available

Our February newsletter went out to subscribers earlier this week. Archives are available only to subscribers, but the current issue has been republished here. Check it out (and remember subscriptions are absolutely free–subscribe at our web site).

By the way, I don’t know why the link to the CRWROPPS list below and within our links list is not working right now. I hope that will resolve soon.

Prizes for Student Writers

(This opportunity I learned about via CRWROPPS.)

Collision Literary Magazine, a publication of the University Honors College of the University of Pittsburgh, is accepting nonfiction, art, and photography for its next issue. “Send us your best personal essays and narratives, travel pieces, profiles, and poems. Or, send us your favorite art and photography.” The top three submissions will win cash awards: $150 (first prize); $100 (second prize); $50 (third prize). “All published writers will receive a copy of Collision’s Spring 2006 issue and an invitation to read at our April release party.”

There’s no submission fee. The only “major stipulation” is that writers must be current undergraduate or graduate students. Students need not be U.S. residents to submit.

For full information and submission instructions, click here.

Thumbs Up for Oprah

I don’t normally watch Oprah Winfrey’s television show. Nor do I usually tape it. In fact, I don’t even know how to set the VCR timer on the television I recently acquired. Though it’s a hand-me-down from its previous owners–my generous parents–it’s still much newer than my truly “old” television and includes ultra-modern “built-ins” for VHS cassettes and DVDs.

But knowing that James Frey would appear on yesterday’s show, I found a solution. I simply left the tape running while I was out. And last night, after I fast-forwarded through preliminary scenes from General Hospital (Oprah follows the soap on the ABC station here in Boston), I settled down to watch.

I didn’t take any comfort in Frey’s obvious suffering. But I was heartened and impressed by Oprah herself. It takes a lot of courage to apologize and to tell your critics that they are “absolutely right” (in this case, for criticizing her impassioned defense of Frey and his book during her now-famous call-in to the Larry King show). Which is what Oprah did.

And she did more. She explained exactly why she is “embarrassed” and upset, and she emphasized the responsibility of publishers (and authors) as they present nonfiction to the reading public. At the same time, she showed Frey compassion, acknowledging that she knew this wasn’t an easy time for him and saying she appreciated his presence on the show.

I also noted her comments about her next book club choice, Night. I’m glad she clarified the history of this choice–that it indeed preceded l’Affaire Frey. I’m one of those who had been a little skeptical about that, and I’m happy to learn that I was wrong. I agree with the commentator who noted the particular importance of yesterday’s show and its emphasis on the primacy of truth given the fact that Night is coming next.

There’s one (hopefully last) point I want to make. I’m not sure I’ve ever understood where people have come up with this idea (still floating around) that a memoir is by definition less “true” than, say, an autobiography.

Way back when I started learning about memoirs, I learned that what differentiated them was scope, not degree of veracity. A memoir examines a portion of a life, an aspect of a life. It doesn’t provide a birth-to-old age chronological account. But the account it provides is, theoretically at least, true to the best of the author’s recollection. It’s not “embellished” just to make the story “better,” meaning, of course “more marketable.”

I’m not entirely alone in my understanding of what defines a memoir. There’s a Brooklyn schoolteacher who’s telling her pupils the same thing: “a memoir is a piece of our personal history highlighting a real-life experience in a specific point in time.” So thumbs up for Mrs. Clarke, too.

Job Announcement: KHN Center for the Arts

This just in from the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts:

Executive Director

Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts

801 3rd Corso, Nebraska City, NE 68410, 402-874-9600

The Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts has an immediate opening for the Executive Director position to manage the operations of its artist-in-residence program. The Executive Director reports to the Center’s Board of Directors. The KHN Center seeks a creative, energetic individual with a passion for the arts dedicated to teamwork with strong organizational ability; excellent writing, communication and interpersonal skills with familiarity and comfort with computer programs.

The KHN Center, which hosts 40 artists, writers and composers annually, is located in the center of historic Nebraska City, settled during the Civil War on the western bank of the Missouri River approximately 130 miles north of Kansas City and 50 miles south of Omaha. The community of over 7,200 is surrounded by apple orchards and is the home of the national tree-planting holiday, Arbor Day. The Center is housed in a renovated luxury triplex.


* Manage all aspects of Resident selection process, including scheduling residents, arranging selection meetings, and oversight of application processing, develop Selection Committee objectives and pool of future jurors.
* Serve as liaison between artists during residency sessions; advise the Board on Resident, facility and personnel matters.
* Manage communications with Residents including development of alumni relations; maintain Resident photo album and visual art collection.
* Assist with new Resident arrivals, provide orientation session, and assist with Resident requirements during their stay.
* Provide the Board with various reports in a timely manner.
* Arrange Resident community events such as readings and workshops and exhibitions as needed.
* Keep abreast of contemporary arts world and assist the Center in development of artist recruitment.
* Plan special community events as needed that bolster the Center’s mission, and assist in producing communications such as newsletters and brochures.
* Manage all special projects and programs such as the Art Gallery, special events, and communications.
* Maintain the Center’s art collection.
* Promote the Center and its programs, locally, regionally and nationally.
* Supervise and work in collaboration with the Development Director, and supervise the Resident Caretaker.
* Manage the annual budget in collaboration with the Development Director.


Minimum: B.A. in the arts or related field.

Preferred: MFA or MA in the arts. Experience in arts administration.


$36,000 per year. Health insurance benefits are not provided.

Screening of applicants begins March 31, 2006.

To apply, send via email PDF or Microsoft Word files only.

1. A letter of application
2. A vita that includes names, addresses, telephone and email addresses of three references.

Email to: jruffo(at)KHNCenterfortheArts.org

Joseph M. Ruffo, Interim Executive Director


E-book requests

As of 10AM (U.S. eastern time) all 12 complimentary gift e-books, as offered in our newsletter (which went out this morning), have been ordered! Thanks to all of you for participating. More later–must get back to fulfilling the requests!

Elie Wiesel and Night

Here’s another topic I didn’t necessarily want to address publicly, so I’ll be brief.

I’ve owned a copy of Night for a long time. How long? The price on the cover reads $2.95. Fifteen years ago Wiesel signed the book for me when he came to speak at my college dorm. That book means a lot to me.

And I want it to mean a lot to others, too. I’m glad so many people will be reading it now that it’s received the giant “O” stamp of approval. But I’m not happy to have Wiesel’s name placed alongside that of a certain someone else (Mr. Frey, for those of you who can’t guess), almost as if to loan Frey (and his benefactor) the protection of Wiesel’s experience and reputation. I’m even less happy to have people lump Night with Frey’s fiction and question how “true” Wiesel’s story is.

Again, I’m not going to go on about this. There’s plenty of good coverage around, and so far I’m particularly keen on (most of) what’s being posted over at GalleyCat. In particular, I recommend for further reading:

Blake Eskin’s Nextbook feature


TIME Magazine’s “10 Questions for Elie Wiesel”.