From My Bookshelf

Drivers
Stories by Nathan Leslie
Hamilton Stone Editions, 2005

Everyone who knows me knows I don’t particularly like to drive. Many people–ranging from friends and family to the guy who inspects my car each year–routinely tell me that given how infrequently I use the car the fact that I own one makes absolutely no financial sense. A few years ago I thought I’d write a short story about someone who either didn’t like to or was simply afraid to drive. I started that story, but, as can happen, the piece soon turned into a story about something else; a story truly “about driving” eluded me.

So I wasn’t quite sure how I’d react to Nathan Leslie’s new collection, Drivers. In the end, I was a little surprised and quite delighted by this group of 23 stories, most of which have previously appeared in print and online magazines. (Leslie, the author of another story collection, A Cold Glass of Milk, is himself fiction editor for The Pedestal Magazine. He also teaches at Northern Virginia Community College in Sterling, Virginia.)

It’s tough to assemble a story collection, and it can help if you have a theme connecting the components. Leslie definitely has that. The “drivers” of this book, while mainly residing in Middle Atlantic states (Leslie was born in Minneapolis but raised in Ellicott City, Maryland) illustrate a variety of compelling “driver” characters and situations. That’s also an admirable achievement, because it’s far easier to write not-very-variable variations on a theme than it is to create distinctive yet related stories.

In “Stuck on Woodrow Wilson,” for example, a woman seethes behind the wheel while caught in accident-exacerbated traffic on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge leaving DC. In “Shape,” a car salesman evinces a surprising sales approach as well as a deep–if conflicted–concern for his troubled sister, to whom he lends a car (with problematic results).

The main character in “The Hit and Run” is a driving instructor making money off parents’ fears. He’s a pretty disturbing instructor: he makes it to his class through ice and snow “at 65, skidding all over the road and blaring right through the stop lights, stop signs, and anything else in the way.” He’s also responsible (though apparently not particularly remorseful) for killing a mother and her daughter in a hit-and-run.

Some stories reflect a sheer love for and/or knowledge of cars. Again, I’m no expert even when it comes to my poor neglected Honda, but the references to Duryeas and Hillmans seem authentic to me.

Whether you like cars, or like short stories, or both, you’re likely to enjoy Drivers. Find out more here.

Magazine for International Students Seeks Submissions

Maybe it’s just me being hypercautious (something I’ve been called many times!) but I’m always a little skeptical of online job announcements from publications that don’t include a link to a website. Sometimes, however, just a little extra research can reassure me. Not only do I come to feel that I know the publication a little better (which certainly helps me if I actually do want to pitch an idea its way) but it just makes the publication itself seem more legitimate and professional.

Today, for instance, I saw an announcement on FreelanceWriting.com for World Scholar, “a news and lifestyle magazine for the over 13 million international students studying and living in the United States.” The magazine accepts articles, student profiles, and columns. As you’ll see if you read the announcement, columns (up to 900 words) pay $45; features pay $.10/word.

I thought about posting this for others who might be interested, but I didn’t want to do that without at least looking for the magazine first. And I think I found it. Here.

Birthday Preparations

I’m preparing the next issue of The Practicing Writer, our free monthly newsletter, which always goes out to subscribers during the last week of the month (the February issue goes out next week). It’s hard to believe but this forthcoming issue will mark the newsletter’s second anniversary. (Subscribers–stay tuned for a special celebratory surprise!)

Subscribers can always read through our archives. And the current issue (at the moment, that would be for January 2006) is available to all at freelancewriting.com.

Back to work!

Fee-Free Contests

Writing contests. You see them advertised everywhere. And they can sound so promising.

The trouble is, many, if not most of them, charge fees to participate. And those fees sure can add up fast.

But there are lots of “no-cost” competitions–awarding cash, publication, residencies, and conference attendance, among other plums–for writers in every genre. They don’t charge fees. The Winter 2006 edition of The Practicing Writer’s Guide to No-Cost Literary Contests and Competitions profiles 221 such opportunities. And the complimentary preview includes several sample listings. Check out this great resource for your writing practice today (it’s updated semiannually to remove “dead” programs and revise links as needed while adding new opportunities).

Boot Camp for Journalists

Writing about public health? “The six-day CDC Knight Public Health Journalism Boot Camp offers a crash course in the basics of public health and biostatistics.” This year’s Boot Camp will take place June 25-June 30, 2006, in Decatur, Georgia. “Approximately 15 journalists will be selected for the Boot Camp, which is made possible through lead funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The camp will provide housing, breakfast and a per diem stipend of $25 for other meals. Participants are required to finance their own transportation to and from the camp.” The application deadline is March 15; there is no application fee. I checked over the list of past participants, and among them are several freelancers/book authors. You’ll find much more information, and the application form, right here.

More Resources for Hurricane-Affected Writers

Just a quick note to remind you about our blog page listing emergency resources for writers. This page began in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It was updated this past weekend to include two more programs:

1) Louisiana Cultural Economy Foundation Program
Post Office Box 44202
Baton Rouge, LA 70804
Tel. 225.342.8196
(Deadline: April 3, 2006)

“In an effort to defray the costs related to physical loss or property damage, relocation, or other specific economic harm suffered as a result of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Foundation has earmarked designated relief funds to aid Louisiana’s cultural economy in its recovery.” Grants funds may support individual artists; cultural economy small business; and galleries, museums, collectives and nonprofit cultural organizations. Grants to individual artists may not exceed $5,000; grants to artist businesses and small/medium-size organizations generally may not exceed $10,000; and grants to nonprofit cultural organizations may not exceed $25,000. Download the application/full guidelines at the website, and/or contact the Foundation for complete information.

2) A Studio in the Woods Restoration Residencies
13401 River Road
New Orleans, LA 701131-3204
info (at) astudiointhewoods.org
(application fee on a sliding scale, $5-$20)

“As our response to the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina, A Studio in the Woods has created eight four-week residencies during February 2006-January 2007…for New Orleans visual artists, musicians, composers, writers and performing artists who have lost their homes in the hurricane and are displaced into other cities and communities.” In addition to food, lodging, and studio space, the residency awards include transportation costs to and from New Orleans and within the city (up to $1350), a $2000 stipend, and assistance from staff members. Visit the website for full guidelines/an application. Note that applications must be postmarked (or received by e-mail) “on the 25th day of the second month preceding the residency you want.” (As an example, January 25, 2006 for a March 2006 residency. However, the deadline for February residency applications has been extended to January 22, 2006.)