If you’re a serious writer (or just want to be one) avoiding Poets & Writers magazine is a huge mistake. Even if the articles aren’t useful, the back of the magazine is filled with current information on grants, awards, contests, and submission deadlines.
As someone who thinks of herself as more of an editor than a writer, some of the content isn’t especially useful for me. I’m not sending out stories or trying to land a publisher for my novel on zombie robots. But I do take an interest in the news and other interesting topics discussed within his magazine (as I have said before in previous posts).
This issue’s focus was literary agents. There was a really helpful article by Betsy Lerner called “How Agents Operate” which gave an inside look on how agents find publishers, network, and work with writers. There was also a round table of interviews with four literary agents, which gave some insight into how they do what they do.
The section I found most interesting, however, was “First Fiction 2011″. It consisted of short interviews with five of the “summer’s best debut fiction” authors. Hearing these new authors (already gaining considerable attention) was helpful and thought-provoking. One author, William Giraldi, spoke about waiting to write your first novel:
“Until Busy Monsters, my fiction was only mediocre. I just wasn’t original, wasn’t good enough in my twenties to publish a book. I had nothing vital happening on the level of the sentence. Busy Monsters is coming out when I’m thirty-six and not twenty-six simply because I was not good enough.”
I found this admission to be really refreshing. Lately it seems like anyone (regardless of age or talent) can write a book and self-publish it either in print or e-book form. Some of this work is worth the trouble, I’d argue most of it isn’t. I think it’s important for writers to be self-aware enough to know when they are good enough to write a novel and when they might need more time reading, learning, and building experiences. I’m glad this author was brave enough to own the fact that he wasn’t good enough at 26. I think more young writers could take a page from his book and in the long run be more successful for it.
What was also great about this section was that it introduced me to new writers and their work in ways I never would have been otherwise.
Some short pieces in this issue were pretty lame, however. A one-page article on how to use Twitter to connect with readers was pretty humdrum, and didn’t really give any information that isn’t already (I believe) common knowledge. Suggestions such as “Categorize your tweets using hashtags” and “tweet twice a day” aren’t exactly hot tips.