Work-in-Progress: Midweek Notes from a Practicing Writer

(Still experimenting with a new title/format for these midweek posts. Thanks for bearing with me!)

Well, not exactly. But my extended family has found, these past several years, that it’s often easier for all of us to gather for a holiday on less-than-exact dates that are at least in the general vicinity of the holiday in question.

Thus, last weekend found us pre-celebrating Hanukkah. Below, one of the gifts Auntie Erika bestowed: B.J. Novak’s The Book With No Pictures (the picture doesn’t capture the excitement/joy that the gift evoked as soon as it was unwrapped; this was one of my more inspired/successful choices!).


This week brought the conclusion of the terrific workshop I’ve been part of this fall. It also brought an effort–now stalled, I admit–to work on a new essay. And it brought a poetry acceptance (more about that soon, I trust!).

I knew the workshop was coming to an end. I suspected that the essay might not “work.” And I hoped the poem might find its home.

But I did not, in any way, anticipate this lovely note which arrived via email yesterday, about one of the short stories in Quiet Americans: (more…)

Wednesday’s Work-in-Progress: Notes from a Practicing Writer

I’m such a creature of habit. But occasionally, I am prompted to change. This week, I’m thinking about shaking up these Wednesday posts. In part, I’m inspired to do so by the structure and content of this terrific post from C.A. LaRue’s BoneSpark blog. For now, we’ll keep the rubric of “work-in-progress.” But don’t be surprised if these posts get a new title soon. And here’s an early effort to follow the blogging impulses now stirred. (more…)

Wednesday’s Work-in-Progress: Read My Latest Newsletter!

In my previous “day job,” my supervisor, who’d taken a close look at my website and resources for writers, asked me to create an office newsletter. Thereafter, I’d distinguish between “The Practicing Writer” and “Academically Speaking” (the newsletter I produced for that office) by saying that “The Practicing Writer” was a true labor of love (and literary citizenship) whereas “Academically Speaking”–my affection for it notwithstanding–was a newsletter I was actually paid to write, edit, and distribute.

I’m no longer in charge of “Academically Speaking,” but as of yesterday, I’m coordinating a new newsletter in town, and again, I’m actually getting paid to do it: the newsletter for Fig Tree Books.

That’s right, our first company newsletter went out yesterday afternoon. Please take a look and let me know what you think. (This newsletter also represents the beginning of my working relationship with MailChimp, so I’ll be especially grateful for any special tips any of you may have for making the most of that service.)

And if you want to do me a super-special favor, please subscribe! Thank you!

Wednesday’s WiP: Getting to Know the New York Society Library

The New York Society Library's quiet tribute last Wednesday evening to Maya Angelou, who passed away earlier that day.
The New York Society Library’s quiet tribute last Wednesday evening to Maya Angelou, who passed away earlier that day.
As someone who works a 9-5, M-F “day job” in a midtown Manhattan office, I’m a homebody during much of my out-of-office time. I’m lucky to live in an apartment I love. Ideally, I’d get lots of writing done there.

In fact, much of my at-home time is spent decompressing, darting in-and-out (errands, exercise, trips to my sister’s place nearby), housekeeping, laundering, and all those other activities that can keep us busy with everything except writing. Which may explain why my parents chose a special gift for my most recent birthday: a membership to the New York Society Library.

My parents have always been intrigued by the Library, which, like my sister’s apartment, is located within easy walking distance. They’ve encouraged me to think about getting a membership there. I guess I dithered too long, because this spring, they went ahead and treated me to said membership themselves. And after work last Wednesday evening, I made my inaugural visit in conjunction with the organization’s party for new members.

So, what is the New York Society Library? A brief summary: “Founded in 1754, the Library is open to all for reading, reference, and many events. Circulation and other services are available to members. Our landmark building houses over 300,000 volumes, reading rooms, study spaces, a children’s library, and an exhibition gallery.” Notably, in addition to its individual study rooms and impressive periodical collection (which I surveyed on Wednesday evening), the Library offers a variety of “Writer Services” that I’m starting to look into.

Unfortunately for me, I’m coming to all of this at a fairly inauspicious time of year. The Library is closed weekends during the summer, and it’s open past five only two days each week. Hardly ideal for any writer with a day job! Nonetheless, I’m hoping to experiment a bit with this new location for me to write and to read. We’ll see what happens. Meantime, we can all enjoy the Library’s archived event recordings. (I’m likely to begin with Meg Wolitzer in conversation with Delia Ephron re: The Interestings.)

Wednesday’s WIP: Anniversaries

Number7Seven years ago today, I returned to full-time (M-F, 9-5) employment, in a writing-intensive staff job at The City University of New York.

Happy anniversary to me!

This seems to be an appropriate moment to revisit a post from two years ago (day-job anniversary #5), in which I shared a list of day-job benefits that included–but went beyond–the stable paycheck, health insurance, and retirement account. So many of you commented so wonderfully on that post, so why not give it another look?

In other news, the February issue of The Practicing Writer went out at the end of last week, marking the conclusion of 10 full years of the newsletter’s publication and the beginning of Year 11. Happy anniversary to all of us on that one! And thank you all for being part of my writing practice!

P.S. Not an anniversary, but another highlight of this last week: my second book review for The Washington Post. See what I had to say about Elisabeth de Waal’s The Exiles Return.

Thursday’s Work-in-Progress: Five Years In, Five Things to Appreciate About Being a #Writerwithadayjob

This week marks a small milestone in my working life: Five years ago, I left my full-time freelancing/adjuncting practice, which had itself followed a period in which I combined an academic appointment with freelancing and adjuncting. Five years ago, I returned to a desk job in an away-from-home office, Mondays through Fridays, 9 to 5.

In other words, five years ago this week, I became what I sometimes append to my tweets: a #writerwithadayjob.

And I’ve been really lucky. I landed in an environment where I work with smart, generous people, and I tend to agree with the policies and philosophies of the organization’s leadership. As I know from previous experiences, it’s not at all nice when you aren’t in that kind of congenial environment.

But as a writer with a day job, I’m also grateful for some aspects of my job that have particularly enriched and improved the quality of my writing life. Here are five of them. (more…)