Archived entries for

Donald Antrim – MacArthur Fellow 2013

Congrats to a writer we’ve always loved, and are honored to have as an fb alum — Mr. Donald Antrim — winner of a 2013 MacArthur Foundation genius grant, a coveted accolade that earns them $625,000 and a spot in cultural history…and I lifetime worth of pancakes.

Love By Drowning – Q&A with C.E. Poverman

Front Coverfb alum Buzz Poverman’s latest novel, Love By Drowning, was just published….the seeds of which we help sew here at failbetter.  We had the great pleasure of publishing several excerpts of the book in its most earliest stages — and are happy to see the project come to fruition.  We’re grateful to Buzz for letting us show his work, and even more happy that he recently took a moment to answer a few questions for us.

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ABOUT HOW MANY YEARS WAS LOVE BY DROWNING IN THE MAKING?

I wrote Love by Drowning day and night for five years.  It was like a blast furnace.  Whatever I fed it, it took it and melted it down.  I went on like this, and I was just exhausted and consumed.  When I finished, the book was 680 pages.  Over the next few years, different people read it and made suggestions and each time I dug back into the manuscript.  This is just a few sentences, what I’m explaining, but each time I returned to the world of the book, often for weeks or months, it was a kind of crisis of confidence; can I cut this?  Am I doing the best thing here?  Eventually, the book came to be the length it is now—440 pages in manuscript, the novel as it is being published.  Looking back, I feel good, almost lucky, about the path its editing and revision have taken.

HOW DID PUBLISHING THE NOVEL IN PARTS HAVE AN IMPACT UPON THE BOOK’S ULTIMATE FORMAT AND/OR NARRATIVE STRUCTURE?

Four parts of the novel were published by failbetter.com , and this would come to have a major impact on the book and its ultimate form.  Caitlin Johnson, Andrew Day and Thom Didato read the opening, MARLIN, and pointed out where the piece took off for them and how it could reach this place faster.  With very little back and forth, I made the adjustments and everyone was happy.

Several years later I sent Thom Didato the next section, which was simply entitled, VAL.  It was much longer—maybe 35 pages.  Thom asked that it be broken into three sections, each to be given a title so that he could publish them in succession.  I looked at how and where he had made his breaks and thought they made real sense.  I went back into each section to see if titles would emerge, and in doing so I found that each time three or four good possibilities would surface, and when I came back to them a day or two later, I knew which one was right.  I realized that this process gave me another opportunity to rethink and clarify the narrative.  This is a variation on what you do when you write anything—a sentence, a paragraph, a scene, a story.  You find out where it’s going, and then, once you know, you write and rewrite toward that place, refining it until you hit the exact note you hear.  Going back to break the narrative into sections and put in titles allowed me to reenter that process one more time in a comprehensive way in what was a long novel.  It allowed me to find a method for re-inventing, reinvigorating and renewing the reader’s focus.  And so, when I came to do the final editing, I applied this process to the rest of the book.  I looked for places where I could make breaks and title those sections, and this forced me to think harder about the book as a whole and what it was about and how it took its steps in getting there.  I never would have done this if Thom hadn’t made that initial request.  It became instrumental to the final form of the novel.

IN AN AGE WHERE EBOOKS AND PUBLISHING DIRECT OPTIONS ENABLE AUTHORS TO BY-PASS THE TRADITIONAL INDUSTRY STRUCTURE (AGENTS, EDITORS, PUBLISHING HOUSES), WHAT YOU DO PERCEIVE TO BE THE ROLE OF EDITORS AND PUBLISHERS IN THE FUTURE?

While acknowledging the changing world we’re living in, I would like to see the role of editors restored to the extent that they help a writer realize his/her work.  Let me illustrate by speaking directly from my own experience.  I’ve mentioned the effect of failbetter’s editors on the parts of Love by Drowning which they edited.  In addition, there were others.  Dan Green, who had formerly been an editor at Simon and Schuster, and who for some time was my agent on the novel, was very helpful in making broad editorial suggestions; he helped me shape and cut the manuscript down.  In addition, I’m grateful to the work of Kit Duane, the editor who accepted the novel at El León and then spent months line editing the entire manuscript with me.  She was patient and astute and helped bring the book into its final fine focus; in my acknowledgements, I thank her for being an angel on my shoulder, which is exactly how I came to feel her presence.  I would like to see the restoration of editors to that role: angel on the shoulder.  It will make writers and books better.

Happy Ho Days!

fbtatooWe’re taking a few well-deserved weeks off at the end of the year, but already have a bunch ‘O new works set to be published in the New Year.   In the meantime, if you are still looking for possible gift ideas, might we suggest this…

You Likes Us…You Really Like Us!

NewPagesLogoOrangeBlackWell gee golly gosh….We just got a nice little review on New Pages.  More importantly, they seem to like  what Ann Tashi Slater, Noha Al-Badry and Kara Candito have to say in our latest issue.  Of course,  we’re always happy to provide our readers with some damn good reads and have a bunch more in store.  But for now, we’ll bask in the limelight and say this.

We’re Back!

were-backGet ready folks!  Fall is here and guess who is back?  That’s right failbetter fans, we’re back baby!  Our fall 2012 issue is unfolding as we speak.  Sure, some folks might not be so excited about the news.  And others still may mock the point of it all.  But we’re thrilled (just like this guy) and we hope you are too.  Sure, we could make this personal, but really, this is all we’ve got to say.  After all, if you are reading this , it is kinda self-evident. So….We’ll let the new issue speak for itself.  Go check out Girl X.  And feel free to listen to our snazzy non-official theme song for the issue as well.

We’re Taking The Month Off — August

hand drawn cartoon characters - swimsuits and tanning 2392097Folks -

We here at failbetter need a break from the heat…and the computer.  Thus, we’re taking the month of August off.  Rest assured we’ll be back in September with new works and exciting things for your viewing pleasure.  Until then, power tan.

Join The Party…How I Learned to Stop
Worrying and Love the Web

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For those of you who will be descending upon the decadence of Chicago for the upcoming AWP Conference (Feb 29 – March 3rd) we invite you for an evening of cheap drinks and free readings.

Join failbetter and friends from Blackbird, Drunken Boat, Memorious, and Midway Journal for night of worry free, poetry and prose! Come hear authors Michael Martone, Randall Brown, Sean Hill, Margaret Luongo, Nicky Beer, Erica Dawson, Caki Wilkinson, Sibyl Baker, Michelle Chan Brown, Shira Dentz, and fb alum Mr. Daniel Nester.

poetryreadingAfter Words Books is walking distance from the AWP Conference Event Hotel, and is a straight shot down State Street, just off the corner of State Street and Illinois Street.

Here are the whens and wheres:

March 1
6:15-8:15
After-Words Bookstore
Phone: 1 312.464.1110
23 E. Illinois Street
Chicago Illinois

If you can, please join the party.

Good News in the New Year

pushcartJust before the hell of the holidays, we took a moment to reflect upon our greatness in 2011 to single out the best of what we had to offer.  Thus,  here are our Pushcart Nominees:

for poetry:

*   “The Domino’s Pizza Gorilla” by Kerrin McCadden from failbetter 39

*   “Firsts” by Margot Schilpp  from failbetter 40

*   “Dark Matter”  by Henry Israeli from failbetter 41

for fiction:

*  “He Tells Her a Story” by James Fleming from failbetter 38

*   “Aero ● phobe” by Nathan Hill from failbetter 38

*   “The Escape Artist” by Ken Weaver from failbetter 41

Congrats to all!

What does the grave say?

What does the cave save? Small bones to make its teeth.
Where do their ghosts sleep? In a bowl of feathered rest.
What bird flies best? The one with his long throat open…

End of the Beginning…

bookshelf_iphoneNo, I’m not talking about the current events in Egypt. Nor are we here at failbetter about to get all religious on your ass. What we’re witnessing these days is a business, the publishing business, that amidst our apparent economic turmoil may actually be, or should I say finally be, coming to terms with the future. Ah yes, dear Mr and Mrs Book Publisher, the digital age is here to stay. Of course, some will claim it may be to our own cultural downfall, but others have hopefully put a more humorous and intellectual spin on the possibilities.

Day one here at the annual Associated Writing Programs Conference has afforded me the opportunity to take a look at the many pub colleagues who are finally embracing, or at least, facing the realities of the digital world — eBooks and ePub, Kindles and mobi, iPad and apps — all in effort to see to the book’s survival. For years, decades really, folks have been touting the supremacy of the eBook and its replacement of our old paper friend…yet the number never backed up such bold statements. Now in the past year alone, those proclamations seem to be coming to fruition. According to the folks at CLMP and more specifically, from the big six publishers taking part in the recent Digital Book World meetings, digital sales put up some rather startling numbers in the past year. Here’s just a few facts from US sales alone:

  • 10.5 million dedicated eReaders (i.e., Kindles) were sold
  • 10 million tablets (i.e., iPads) were purchased
  • Strangely enough over 1/3 of the iPad owners also own a Kindle
  • Over 20 million Americans read an eBook in 2010
  • They spent 1 billion dollars on eBook purchases
  • Sales predictions for 2011 are estimated at 1.3 billion

The last figure of course reveals that much of the market share remains in within the pages of the printed book. But while sales continue to steadily decline in that format, the predicted 30% increase in e-sales for this year alone is more than just a trend.

Meanwhile, thanks to Moore’s Law, the purchasing price of eReaders has dropped to nearly $100. A few years ago, when an audience was asked to raise their hands if they owned such a device, perhaps only a handful would. In just a few years, those days are no longer the case (certainty not here at AWP). So, even the hundreds of little literary publishers represented here this conference, the supposed “seventh” publishing house of the industry, now find themselves scrambling to make the backlists immediately available in pdf, no longer fighting the simultaneous release of books in both printed and electronic form, and venturing down the path of creating their own direct sales shops via apps that can work on iPhones and Androids.

All that doom and groom that cast a pal over the industry now gives way to hope. As one recent poll suggests, more than 66% of the reading public find themselves reading more because of digital readers. In the ye-olde-digital age, literature will not just survive, it can thrive.



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