Two ship metaphors
The 1000 Words Brooklyn book launch and a reading week
If you’ve been hanging around a while, you know I’ve done 1000 Words of Summer six times. Ask me to list everything I love, and 1000 Words of Summer will definitely make the list. Every time, it has created a major shift in my writing life or resulted in some writing accomplishment. There’s a high that comes with devoting oneself with such intensity to a project for a defined period of time, and I look forward to the rush of it all year.
This past week, Jami Attenberg published 1000 Words: A Writer's Guide to Staying Creative, Focused, and Productive All Year Round, which is full of all the advice and encouragement she’s collected from other writers and sent to the 1000 Words community over the years. The book went into a third printing before it even came out and, as I type this, is backordered on Bookshop.org and Amazon. I’m ecstatic for Jami and even more excited about 1000 Words of Summer 2024.
On Thursday, I went with my friends Bailey and Jess to the Books Are Magic launch event for 1000 Words, which was held at St. Ann and the Holy Trinity Church here in Brooklyn. Jami had with her a panel of writers: Emma Straub, Kristen Arnett, Alexander Chee, and Mira Jacob. Jami read a little from the book and they all shared some writerly wisdom and the pews creaked and the chandeliers sparkled and the whole thing was recorded so you can watch it if you want.
It feels good to support writers who are kind and encouraging to other writers. I’ve probably told this story here before, but when I was very close to finishing my first novel draft in 2017, I went to the launch event for Jami’s novel All Grown Up at Greenlight (the Flatbush location, RIP). I sat at the very front and was one of the first in line to get my book signed, and I don’t remember if I eagerly or shyly told her about my novel project, but she looked me in the eye and said very seriously, “You will finish your novel, and it will change your life. Maybe not in a big way, but it will change your life.” Her words were exactly what I needed to keep going, and to this day I keep the button that was a giveaway at that event on my desk as a sort of talisman.
This week in writing
One of the book excerpts Jami read at Thursday’s event was about not giving up in the middle of a novel draft — don’t abandon ship, she said, another ship metaphor and something I tell myself not infrequently. Get the boat to the other side and then you can see if it’s worth sailing again, she said. And I felt so happy to have just done that. It is a relief to hit land, even if you’re not sure whether the vessel you’ve been sailing has another journey in it.
I took a break from writing this week. While I am eager to be deep in my next project, I craved a little space between. I still showed up to my daily writing clubs. I journaled a bit, but mostly I used the time to read.
This week in reading
I read whatever I felt like reading! I picked up and put down books from my shelf. I paged through my magazine backlog and sank into whatever seemed interesting. I clicked on links I wouldn’t normally click, following rabbits not down the tunneled holes of novel research but into random thickets and brush.
I don’t usually read this way, making it even more pleasurable and almost indulgent after pushing hard to finish a pond novel draft.
Some things I read during the time I would normally be writing:
A Palestinian Poet’s Perilous Journey Out of Gaza by Mosab Abu Toha
If you click one link in this newsletter, let it be this one. When the deluge of horrors flashing across our social feeds starts to have a numbing effect, it is tempting to look away, but long-form, first-person accounts have the power to counter that numbness and help us to understand in a more human way the impact that U.S.-backed and U.S.-driven war has on real people’s lives.
Graffiti Gentrification: Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore on the Exploitation of Basquiat by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
MBS is a true gem. I just bought and can’t wait to read Touching the Art.
Trapdoor by Kathleen Alcott
I was not familiar with Alcott or her work before this essay and now I’m intrigued!
This article was torn apart in the comments for not providing a “why” for the closure of Astra, and I agree that there are some unanswered questions but the “why” is mostly obvious — it’s HARD and EXPENSIVE to run a literary magazine, especially a print one. I am lucky to work on print projects as part of my day job, so I know first-hand the time and attention that must go into them, and I also understand the costs and have so much respect for printers and their art. I hope that in the coming years we see a renaissance of print magazines as the quality of digital print technology continues to increase, making short-run and on-demand printing more viable for magazines and small presses. If you, like me, were excited about Astra and disappointed by its quick demise, may I recommend American Chordata? I’m biased because they’ve published me (issue 5!) but this magazine is the real deal, and brb because writing this just reminded me to renew my subscription.
A Short Interview with Natalie Merchant by Lauren LeBlanc
Upon the 35th anniversary of Merchant’s album In My Tribe, LeBlanc asked her a bunch of questions about what life was like when the album came out, when she was only 22.
Deliver Us by Maureen Langloss
Taylor Swift comes to visit the narrator and her dying mother and everyone has complicated feelings!
Wherever you are looking for inspiration this week, I hope you find it.