1. We were acquaintances becoming friends. We sensed poetic movements within each other like two houses side by side where lights were turned on in different rooms and the occupants of each house, going their separate ways to different destinies, pause to recognize the neighboring pattern of illumination.

    — Janet Frame, from the third and final book of her autobiography, The Envoy of Mirror City, with thanks to lovely Hannah for lifting this one off the page and sharing

  2. We uploaded this gem to the printer yesterday evening! Look for Ecotone's summer issue on newsstands in about a month. Featuring new pieces by some of my favorite writers (with whom I was extraordinarily privileged to work), including Belle Boggs, Joni Tevis, Ander Monson, Delaney Nolan, Carrie Fountain, Vievee Francis, Margaree Little, Dexter Booth, and Melissa Range, as well as a story by Matthew Neill Null, whose novel Honey from the Lion is forthcoming from Lookout in 2015. The cover painting and art portfolio are by South African artist Kirsten Sims, and my conversation with her will appear in the issue as well.

    We uploaded this gem to the printer yesterday evening! Look for Ecotone's summer issue on newsstands in about a month. Featuring new pieces by some of my favorite writers (with whom I was extraordinarily privileged to work), including Belle Boggs, Joni Tevis, Ander Monson, Delaney Nolan, Carrie Fountain, Vievee Francis, Margaree Little, Dexter Booth, and Melissa Range, as well as a story by Matthew Neill Null, whose novel Honey from the Lion is forthcoming from Lookout in 2015. The cover painting and art portfolio are by South African artist Kirsten Sims, and my conversation with her will appear in the issue as well.

  3. And it is good when you get to no further.

    And now I cannot remember how I would
    have had it. It is not a conduit (confluence?) but a place.
    The place, of movement and an order.
    The place of old order.
    But the tail end of the movement is new.
    Driving us to say what we are thinking.
    It is so much like a beach after all, where you stand
    and think of going no further.
    And it is good when you get to no further.
    It is like a reason that picks you up and
    places you where you always wanted to be.
    This far, it is fair to be crossing, to have crossed.
    Then there is no promise in the other.
    Here it is. Steel and air, a mottled presence,
    small panacea
    and lucky for us.
    And then it got very cool.

    John Ashbery’s poem, commissioned for the Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge

  4. Pleased to have three poems forthcoming in The Southern Poetry Anthology Volume VII: North Carolina, due out this fall. Thanks to editors Jesse Graves, Paul Ruffin, and William Wright.

    Pleased to have three poems forthcoming in The Southern Poetry Anthology Volume VII: North Carolina, due out this fall. Thanks to editors Jesse Graves, Paul Ruffin, and William Wright.

  5. To have been loved once by someone—surely
    There is a permanent good in that,
    Even if we don’t know all the circumstances
    Or it happened too long ago to make any difference.
    Like almost too much sunlight or an abundance of sweet-sticky,
    Caramelized things—who can tell you it’s wrong?

    — John Ashbery, from “When the Sun Went Down”

  6. It turned out that I didn’t need more time in my life; I needed more life in my life.

    — The wonderful story writer Shawn Vestal on publishing after becoming a father, from his essay for the My First Time series on the Quivering Pen.

  7. The universally recognized paragons of humanity—the Nelson Mandelas, Dietrich Bonhoeffers and Martin Luther Kings—did not organize their lives around self-fulfillment and bucket lists. They, no doubt, found a sense of meaning in their heroic acts of self-sacrifice, but they did not do what they were doing in order to achieve that sense of meaning. They did—like my father and some of those kids from town—what they felt they had to do.

    — Gordon Marinoa, from “A Life Beyond ‘Do What You Love’" in the NY Times (May 17, 2014)

  8. But beautiful women are not fighters against time, leaping desperately against the rapids; they are investors in the moment. And their chief property is their imagination. I recently saw [Catherine] Deneuve at the Cannes Film Festival, and she looked like a human being who was only just beginning to embody her specialness.

    True beauty outwits its own fallibility. Don’t misunderstand me. There’s something fantastic about the beauty of youth—the spectacle of a new person suddenly arriving at their physical peak. And we can celebrate that happy accident for what it is: a case of time and nature working pleasingly to an individual’s advantage. But beauty in youth requires nothing of the possessor. It is only later that we expect the woman to step in, to take over, to augment that initial, guileless attractiveness with something deeper: confidence, instinct, self-knowledge, style, upon which lasting beauty depends. You can love a young woman for her freshness but you love her more when that freshness comes with a sense of promise.

    That might be a defining feature of beauty in the women I’ve been talking about, a natural determination, a historic one, perhaps, not to allow their beauty to be at war with their talent … now perhaps we can look at a beautiful woman and know she will be beautiful to the end of her life. She will be different, of course. And yet, like a fine Proustian sentence, she will have gathered time and harvested memory, lived through a million bodily shocks and mental joys and arrived at the perfect embodiment of herself right now. The girl she once was in the summer dress had always known this could happen.

    — Excerpted from Andrew O’Hagan’s essay “Laws of Attraction” in T magazine (August 25, 2013). 

  9. Berlin and Akhmatova were from a culture that assumed that, if you want to live a decent life, you have to possess a certain intellectual scope. You have to grapple with the big ideas and the big books that teach you how to experience life in all its richness and make subtle moral and emotional judgments.

    Berlin and Akhmatova could experience that sort of life-altering conversation because they had done the reading. They were spiritually ambitious. They had the common language of literature, written by geniuses who understand us better than we understand ourselves.

    The night also stands as the beau ideal of a certain sort of bond. This sort of love depends on so many coincidences that it only happens once or twice in a lifetime. Berlin and Akhmatova felt all the pieces fitting amazingly into place. They were the same in many ways. There was such harmony that all the inner defenses fell down in one night.

    — 

    Excerpted from David Brooks’s op-ed in the Times (May 2, 2014), on the meeting of Isaiah Berlin and poet Anna Akhmatova in Leningrad in 1945. It’s based on a passage he read in Michael Ignatieff’s biography of Berlin.

  10. Ecotone’s Migration issue cover is a NewPages pick

    image

    Thanks to NewPages for selecting Ecotone's Migration issue cover as one of their Lit Mag Picks of the Week. I’m delighted to have worked with the talented photographer Alicia Savage on it.

    Don’t have a copy yet? Pick up one here.

  11. Astoria to Zion on Bill and Dave's Cocktail Hour →

    My friend and colleague David Gessner posted a little love for Ecotone's new fiction anthology, Astoria to Zion, on his blog yesterday. Head over to read all about it. And don’t forget that you can snag a copy today only for just $10 by entering promo code PUBDAY.

  12. "The first book I acquired as an editor was a book by a local writer. His agent was in New York, and the book was out with other editors. It had an experimental feel to it, a structure unlike most books I’d read so far … fable-like. It felt like the kind of novel that people would either “get,” or they wouldn’t, so it felt a little risky for it to be the first book I bought. Still, my Editorial Director, Shannon Ravenel, was firmly in agreement—there was something so exciting and original and moving about this father-son story—and so she gave me the go-ahead to make an offer.

    "That book was Big Fish by Daniel Wallace. I remember that I was so green that Shannon kept passing me post-its with messages about what I should say to the agent (which in retrospect, I’m sure he could detect in my halting delivery as I engaged in my first negotiation. I wish I had a recording of that conversation now.) And we had no idea how big that book would become, or that within weeks, film rights would be optioned—or that it would actually become a movie. Anyway, it was an auspicious start. Seventeen years later, I still think you have to have that feeling that something is risky; those are the books that are the most exciting to publish. But I’m a little better on the phone these days."

    — Feeling inspired by this interview on The Millions with Algonquin Senior Editor Kathy Pories, in which she talks about her first book acquisition. As she says, it was an auspicious start. But I’m even more in love with this line, which says at all: “I still think you have to have that feeling that something is risky; those are the books that are the most exciting to publish.” Amen.

  13. "Sometimes, when I have spent an hour or more, pouring all my enthusiasm and sensitivities into an effort to tell these stories in the fullness in which I see and experience them, I feel drained and exhausted. I think it works on the student, but I do not really know. Much of the time I feel dreadfully alone with it—and don’t even know whether I am alone with it."

    —Karl Weintraub, on the distinctively difficult task of teaching the liberal arts well

    — 

    Years after Carol Quillen, now Davidson College’s President, left the University of Chicago as an undergraduate, Karl Weintraub, a former professor who’d taught her a defining course on Western civilization, included this in a letter. It has resonated with me since reading it in this excellent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

    It leaves me thinking about my own teaching—the hours and energy I invest in preparing, tracking down timely articles for discussion, concocting assignments that I hope will meaningfully engage my students, offering substantive feedback, trying to inspire them to innovate and take risks and dream and, most of all, champion the manuscripts they love. Occasionally I glance across the classroom and find one scanning his iPhone under the table, another doodling, and I don’t know whether or how any of it gets through. 

  14. So you don’t exactly have rules or a guidebook when you set out to become a fiction editor. You learn by just doing it. You start at the bottom and you teach yourself by reading, reading—reading the dead and the living. You read the dazzlingly good and the really stinkingly, hilariously bad stuff, and the stuff in between. You make decisions about acquisitions and you comment on books by your authors and they correct you and help you—and they send back something that completely surprises and delights you and blows the hat right off your head.

    If you are lucky enough to still have a job in book publishing, you also learn by observing the work of people whose work you admire. And by this I mean not just the private, and hopefully invisible, work editors do with writers.

    But you learn I think by observing what happens when all sorts of colleagues & competitors, all of whom soon enough become your friends, follow their passions. When they take risks & stick their necks out for something they love. When they are loyal to authors and put them first. When they talk and write and schmooze for and sometimes seem to even sing about the books they are working on with such brilliance and charm and insight that it makes your own ears feel hot. When they help with books published by somebody else. When they express their character and who they are through books.

    — 

    the inspiring remarks of Robin Desser at Knopf upon accepting the Center for Fiction’s Maxwell E. Perkins prize.

    (An abridged version has been posted here, from which the above is excerpted.)