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


    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.

  2. 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.

  3. "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.

  4. "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. 

  5. 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.)

  6. That year I reread Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and came upon these lines: “The sadness was form, the happiness content. Happiness filled the space of sadness,” and that formula entered me, allowed me to write about love properly, and has never left. It’s the richest sort of advice and it keeps giving and changing and revising itself in each new narrative. Every life ends, and everything runs toward its end, but in the meantime, how much happiness can be withstood? Narrative, or at least one type of narrative, seems to be about just that, and it’s the deepest sort of quest for a writer—to find the perfect sad ending with so much happiness in it that it is almost indistinguishable from a happy ending.

    — A quote from my brilliant colleague and friend Rebecca Lee, author of this year’s beautiful story collection Bobcat. Read the full entry via the blog of The Story Prize.

  7. Poetry is part of everything. You can’t have a really good work if it’s not touched by poetry. Poetry manifests itself in millions of ways: as rhythm, metaphor, mood. Sometimes it’s a type of emotional outpouring or necessity that’s not expressed through characters but through feelings. To me, poetry is the tragic sense of man. It’s a way of seeing things in the most complete way, the most absolute, and, to a certain extent, the most perfect. Where there’s no poetry, there’s no beauty, and without beauty no kind of artistic work can exist.

    — The late Cuban author Reinaldo Arenas in a 1983 interview: http://nyr.kr/1f4dEJd (via newyorker)

    (Source: newyorker.com)

  8. NCWN's 13 for '13: Emily Louise Smith →

    Thanks to the North Carolina Writers’ Network for this fun interview. It’s not every day that I think about the fictional character with whom I’d like to have a torrid but guilt-free affair!  

    At the North Carolina Writers’ Network 2013 Fall Conference, I’ll sit on Saturday’s “Brilliant at Breakfast Panel Discussion” titled “How to Work with a Publisher (So They Want to Work with You)” along with my Ecotone/Lookout colleagues Anna Lena Phillips and Beth Staples. I’ll also sit on Sunday’s panel, “Agents and Editors,” along with Michelle Brower of Folio Literary Management, Paul Lucas of Janklow & Nesbit Associates, and Christine Norris of Press 53.

  9. Failing and Flying by Jack Gilbert

    I posted this poem here years ago, but it remains a compass for me, a  reminder that we don’t fail at love; sometimes we just come to the end of  triumph.

    by Jack Gilbert  via The Academy of American Poets

    Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.
    It’s the same when love comes to an end,
    or the marriage fails and people say
    they knew it was a mistake, that everybody
    said it would never work. That she was
    old enough to know better. But anything
    worth doing is worth doing badly.
    Like being there by that summer ocean
    on the other side of the island while
    love was fading out of her, the stars
    burning so extravagantly those nights that
    anyone could tell you they would never last.
    Every morning she was asleep in my bed
    like a visitation, the gentleness in her
    like antelope standing in the dawn mist.
    Each afternoon I watched her coming back
    through the hot stony field after swimming,
    the sea light behind her and the huge sky
    on the other side of that. Listened to her
    while we ate lunch. How can they say
    the marriage failed? Like the people who
    came back from Provence (when it was Provence)
    and said it was pretty but the food was greasy.
    I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,
    but just coming to the end of his triumph.

  10. Lookout's next project! →

    Have I mentioned how excited I am about Lookout’s next project? Astoria to Zion includes twenty-six stunning stories from Ecotone's first decade of publication, with a foreword by NBCC winner and Ecotone contributor Ben Fountain. To top it off, I had the opportunity to work with the terrific design team at Stitch on the cover. We’ll launch the book officially at AWP in Seattle, and I look forward to seeing you at the off-site event! If you’re a blogger or reviewer and would like an ARC, please be in touch. My address is listed on my UNCW faculty page.


    After uploading the ARC yesterday, we’re one step closer to the March 2014 release of Astoria to Zion: Twenty-Six Stories of Risk and Abandon from Ecotone’s First Decade with a foreword by Ben Fountain.

    image[Lookout intern Katie Jones putting the finishing touches on the ARC back cover.]

  11. I’m a huge fan of Coralie Bickford-Smith.


    Anything Coralie Bickford-Smith, all of the time.

  12. Lit Mag Spotlight: Ecotone →

    Thanks to Ecotone’s lovely managing editor Sally Johnson for this generous interview about the magazine, in which she mentions Lookout Books.

  13. Now THIS is how to start a day! →

    Yoga on the Beach, Key West

  14. Hey, Key West, thanks for coming out and listening last night. And thanks to Jonathan Woods and Jessica Argyle for organizing such a fun and inspiring event.