It’s Pi Day! VIDA takes action…

VIDA recently released their annual count, which charts the number of female and male writers in major literary publications. I’ve pasted an email send from their list today, in hopes some BigOther readers might participate in pressuring these publications to fix these numbers!


It’s March 14 – happy Pi Day! In honor of our 2012 Count pies, VIDA is celebrating with a national day of email-writing and phone-calling and more. We’re hoping that everyone in our community will join in so we can make our voices HEARD.

This year, we’ve listed contact info for every publication we Count on the bottom left corner of every 2012 pie (

From Amy King’s “Mic Check Redux” 2012 Count introduction: “[…] we hope that you will help extend the conversation by contacting individual publications to let them know of your appreciation or disappointment regarding their inclusion, or lack of, female writers in their publications.”

Today, VIDA invites you to join us in calling/writing/typing/faxing/gluesticking in order to question, prod, poke, and/or thank the editors and publications who deserve it most.

Please spread this call far and wide!


To Contact:
Holly Burdorff
Operations Director
VIDA: Women in Literary Arts

Guest Post: The Next Big Thing…Kate Durbin

Davis tagged me…


What is the working title of the book?

Kept Women

Where did the idea come from for the book?
I was inspired by the reality TV show The Girls Next Door, the show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, the show Cribs, the language of crime scene investigations, and the language of decorating magazines.

I also was inspired by chalk outline drawings at murder scenes.

What genre does your book fall under?
Prose poetry / conceptual writing / tabloid

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
There are no actors.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Kept Women is a poem-tour of the Playboy mansion, a search for the missing bodies of Hugh Hefner’s former girlfriends.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
About a month

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
There is a rabbit vibrator and two bottles of OPI nail polish.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
My chapbook was just published by Insert Blanc Press.

Writers I am tagging.

Bianca Stone

Joseph Mosconi

Jon Rutzmoser

Guest Post: The Next Big Thing…Jose Perez Beduya

Thanks, Davis Schneiderman, for inviting me here to participate.

What is the working title of the book?

Throngfrom &NOW Books, winner of the Madeline P. Plonsker Emerging Writer’s Residency Award.

Throng_Cover-front only2

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Guest Post: The Next Big Thing…from Cris Mazza

Thanks,  Davis Schneiderman, for inviting me here to participate.  It seems your energy, enthusiasm and playfulness have pulled me along in your wake for a while now. How many times have we given readings together, yet I’m still out there in the audience cracking up when you perform? We also wrote a piece together about this new era of author do-it-yourself book promotion. Since I’m a guest here on Big Other, I’ll refer anyone who doesn’t know what’s going on back to your post to explain the game.

You know as well as anyone that book-promotion is one of my anti-talents. I suck at it. It’s almost like taking someone who has played a lot of flag football tournaments and putting her into a rugby game. I don’t know how to get the ball, but then when I suddenly have it, I don’t know what to do with it, and all too soon I’m underneath a big pile of other people.  

What is the working title of the book?
The working title was Leave Her Alone, but the title became Something Wrong With Her.  The book also has a subtitle (being a memoirish type of thing, they always seem to need one), but I’ve been having trouble having the subtitle come directly from my mouth (or fingers) to another’s ear (or eyes).  I’m going to have to get past this (and my aversion is part of what the book’s about).  But here’s the cover:


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‘The Next Big Thing’ Meme and Some Writers Who Helped Me Un-Think It

It’s been a long time since my last BigOther post, but I hope to make up for it, a bit, in the next week or three. My apologies for the somewhat promotional aspect of this post, yet, as you’ll see, that bit is built into the topic.

I also would like to extend the invite for any other BigOther contributors to join in, and post your own entry, if you like.


When the first invitation to participate in the author-promotion meme called “The Next Big Thing…” hit my inbox, my first reaction was to offer a kind, “No thanks.” When the second came, less than an hour later, I took a closer look.

The idea is simple: an author completes and posts a self-interview, tags writers who will do the same interview approximately one week later. The loving vibes spread, as a Chicago-writer friend noted to me via email, in the form of a “Ponzi promotion.”

Yep, it’s a chain letter, sort of. While I have never been one for chain letters, this is not a chain where you must engage in a private act of letter-writing futility nor simply forward the special offer from Bill Gates to beta-test his email service.

No, you self-promote; mention how you picked up the chain and whom you’ve tagged for future glory. I suppose the entire roster of participants eventually raises the level of the discourse from crass self-promotion to a thing everyone cool is doing. I imagine the space where that line changes, from one reader or participant to the next, remains open to serious debate. I wondered, as I sent out my invitation for a future tag to a slate of writers I admire — some of whom chose not to play — whether others would perceive this enterprise as either an opportunity to promote their work unbounded by the usual accusations of self-promotion, or a thing too close to the stigma of many self-published or vanity enterprises.

Of course, I realize that’s it 2013, and an active social network presence is essential for most writers. And yet, I’m 38 and no stranger to this internet-thing-that-lets-you-do-stuff-on-computers, but I have noticed a near-constant talking point of many writers of my generation and older: Anxiety with the intensity of social networking expectations for promotion of one’s own work, with curmudgeonly recourse to J.D. Salinger-style laments about privacy and the almost-fascist importance of “the work.”

I share this anxiety only to the extent that I also lament the amount of time I spend staring at screens, and often feel unable to put them down, and therefore wish that there were ways to minimize this screen time when “working it” for a new book. It’s not that I think I am missing out on some exciting happening in my own yard late at night (raccoon family, let’s just agree to disagree), or that I am taking time away from my children, it’s just that my entire sense of “relaxation” is geared almost entirely to electronic pursuits.

I suspect I am not alone.

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Guest Post by Laura Szumowski

In The New York Stories, I came up with 40 illustrations to go along with Ben Tanzer’s collection of short stories. Each of the 17 stories has an illustrated chapter head plus one additional illustration, both inspired by the content and subject matter of the story. I also added six full-color illustrations throughout the book to highlight particularly vivid images from the text, and to convey the overarching themes of the book.

While I consider this project separate from my larger body of work, illustrating The New York Stories took me down a new path, artistically. Continue reading

A fitting tribute to Steve Jobs, may his soul find eternal repose, sent to me in email form

Dear Davis Schneiderman,

It has been one month since the world was shocked by the sudden death
of Apple founder and technology pioneer Steve Jobs.

To mark this occasion and in conjunction with the release of his
official biography, the team here at The Reading Site have
decided to offer something to his customers and the people at
Lake Forest College.

This week only, we are offering lifetime membership to The Reading
Site to iPad, iPhone and other smartphone owners for 50% off.

This membership will enable you to download unlimited FREE eBooks,
comic books, newspapers and magazines to all your portable devices.

Some popular titles you can get from The Reading Site for FREE include:

– THE HELP, by Kathryn Stockett
– THE LITIGATORS, by John Grisham
– THE HUNGER GAMES, by Suzanne Collins
– A GAME OF THRONES, by George R.R. Martin
– DIARY OF A WIMPY KID, by Jeff Kinney
– THE TWILIGHT SAGA, by Stephenie Meyer

Just visit to start downloading and
use the promo code “RIPSTEVE” at the sign up page.

Steve was a great man, a visionary, and a revolutionary, and had a
passion for both technology and reading.

He will be missed.

Rest in peace, Steve.


The Team at The Reading Site

PS- Feel free to email any tribute messages about Steve to us,
and we will publish them in our member’s only area.

54 Stone Street, New York
NYC, New York 10012
United States

Fyodor Dostoevsky predicts social media / in The Brothers Karamazov (1880)

“Oh, we love to live among people and to inform these people at once of everything, even our most infernal and dangerous ideas; we like sharing with people, and, who knows why, we demand immediately, on the spot, that these people respond to us at once with the fullest sympathy, enter into all our cares and concerns, nod in agreement with us, and never cross our humor.”

&NOW announcements

&NOW 5 at UCSD as a wild, raucous ride, courtesy of our many participants and the world’s best organizers: Amina Cain and Anna Joy Springer. HERE are some responses. Now, more news:

1)   &NOW 6: Paris, June 7-10, 2012:
2)   &NOW releases the second Plonsker Prize book, from our 2010 winner: 
3)   Madeleine P. Plonsker Writer’s Residency Prize 2012 (Year 5)–open for submissions! 
4) The &NOW AWARDS: The Best Innovative Writing / 2, October 2012, needs your nominations/submissions

1)   &NOW 6: Paris, June 7-10, 2012:
Check, and submit HERE by Dec 1, 2012.
Question we’ve received: Hey, this is just months after UCSD. Is &NOW messing with it’s biennial schedule?
Answer we offer: No, consider this a smaller special conference. We expect &NOW 7 to occur during the Fall of 2013 in the US. Exact location, TBA.

#AuthorFail: Index

Ah, #AuthorFail, how we miss you.

And how.

And how we now present, in your memory, the index of your shame.


#AuthorFail 1: Mark Spitzer  / June 6, 2011

#AuthorFail 2: Sean Beaudoin / June 13, 2011

#AuthorFail 3: Gretchen E. Henderson  / June 20, 2011

#AuthorFail 4: Jeffrey DeShell / June 27, 2011

#AuthorFail 5: A D Jameson / July 4, 2011

#AuthorFail 6: Jarret Middleton / July 11, 2011

#AuthorFail 7: Robin Becker / July 18, 2011

#AuthorFail 8: Alexandra Chasin / July 25, 2011

#AuthorFail 9: Richard Thomas / August 1, 2011

#AuthorFail 10: Laura Goldstein / August 8, 2011

#AuthorFail 11: Roxane Gay / August 15, 2011

#AuthorFail 12: Stephanie Strickland / August 22, 2011

#AuthorFail 13: Debra Di Blasi / August 29, 2011

#AuthorFail 14: Greg Olear / September 5, 2011

#AuthorFail 15: Jeff Bursey / September 12, 2011

#AuthorFail 16: Wendy Walker / September 19, 2011

#Author Fail 16: Wendy Walker

Good riddance, failures.

Today ends this column, at least in weekly form, which for the 15 weeks past has detailed a series of missteps, blind alleys, redirections, redactions, and lessons never learned. Ok, I know, many of the writers in this space and its readers have intimated lessons, although this was never my intent.

To paraphrase the call for the column, this investigation of failure is not mean to add to the narrative of redemption constructed from hindsight, which in all is bespectacled glory reifies traditional notions of Authorship (the development over time, the mastery of headspace).  No, the idea here could be that failure can be valuable (or useless) in an of itself–as an articulation of the limits of writing, or our ambitions, of our egos.

Thus, while you may take a warm glow from all of this, don’t overlook the dark pall. On that note, we let Wendy Walker, one of my favorite writers in the tradition of constraint, feel the stage crook pulling her prose from the stage.


My Man & other Critical Fictions

In the years following 9/11 I found myself feeling an urgent need to grapple with the issue of war. I chose as my subject the quintessential war of story, the Trojan War.  It had key female figures, both mortal and immortal.  The work would be a novel centered on three points of view, those of Helen and Paris, the conflict’s relatively clueless catalysts, and that of Athena, who plans and orchestrates the destruction in order to test a number of her new inventions.  I would call the novel The City Under the Bed.

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#AuthorFail 15: Jeff Bursey

Welcome, dear failures, to the penultimate #AuthorFail…super-hero edition.

My Schnide-y sense is tingling, and it says this column will soon go the way of the dodo. Until then, let us revel in our ineptitude.


The Shadow. The Spider. G-8. I thought of these pulp heroes on seeing the first Burton Batman movie, and as I regularly walked to work in 1989-1990 I wondered if an audience, keen on the revamped Batman, would be interested in the Spider once more. The violent stories about him often contained traces of masochism and sadomasochism, as well as insane opponents. (He could be a bit mad also.) The 1970s paperbacks of those three figures were around the house when I was growing up, and later I read Phillip José Farmer’s ‘biography’ of Doc Savage. These memories combined with the re-visioning of Batman to give me the idea for an adventure story primarily set in India and Tibet that would link G-8 (mad from his war battles) and his twin half-brothers, who eventually would become the Shadow and the Spider. The pre-story explained a bit of what they’d done in WWI, what happened to them in the 1920s, and how two of them emerged, 45s blazing, on the side of justice (though not always the law) in the 1930s. (G-8 didn’t get out of the 1920s alive.) In 1993 I finished writing Pulpseed, and sent it off. Continue reading

#AuthorFail 14: Greg Olear

The Beast Rises (well, not really).

Dare we call this a triumph against evil?

Until next week….


My Brain Is Full, my first completed novel, concerned the creative frustrations of a pretentious twenty-two-year old college junior—no big shock, as its author was also a pretentious twenty-two-year old college junior.  I printed up a bunch of copies of this masterpiece, shared it with (generally receptive) friends, and otherwise basked in the glow of what was my first literary success; although the New York editor I sent it to passed, saying the book “showed promise” and encouraged me to keep writing.

For my sophomore effort, I decided to undertake a more ambitious project.  Babylon Is Fallen was conceived as a Gothic novel, a work of horror that would draw heavily on Biblical allusion and End Times prophesy.  I dreamed up most of the plot during a summer working at McDonald’s: a college student would knowingly spread the AIDS virus around the small campus (which had actually happened a few years earlier at a college in my home town).  His motive?  He believed he was one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, whose job it was to bring the plague.

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#AuthorFail 13: Debra Di Blasi

Welcome back, my friends, to lucky #13. My good friend and publisher, Debra Di Blasi, speaks best for herself.

Go failure!


Seems everybody has a memoir these days.  Seems I’ve been trying to have one for years.  Like an egg that won’t drop.  A stuck turd.  The opposite of purgation.  Ah, yes, shit. Indeed, allow me to remain scatological for a few words longer.

I’m not constipated about my past, my many lives lived large. No remorse, no regrets.  Neither the drugs nor the booze, neither sex nor abortions, neither mobsters nor terrorist(s), neither poverty nor wealth, disease nor health, Jesus nor Buddha nor nothing that cannot be and everything than might…  Failure to complete a memoir – four memoirs, to be exact – is for me a failure to apologize.  Failure to apologize is a failure to demand revision. Continue reading

#AuthorFail 12: Stephanie Strickland

Ring the bells, sort of.

Stephanie Strickland is a wonder of compelling poetic investigations. Experiencing her works–try “slippingglimpse” for a quick fix–is only slightly less exciting than having coffee with her.

In either setting, she’ll offer a series of interconnections between things that appear to have no interconnection, so that rising from the table after the event places you thick into edges of a spider web, one that has been woven around your table and one that has now trapped you, sticky and glued, to its gossamer edges.

And so, here, Strickland delights us by doing the opposite of what she normally does. Here, the web is woven, bright and clear, but it catches only itself in its word glue.

Sure, this #Authorfail is three times the length of the guidelines, but if anyone deserves the right to fail for so long, it’s Strickland.

See you next week, and the weeks of this column are rapidly waning.


Proto-Collaboration with Potential Collaborator:  A Digital Poem In Prospect 

Stephanie:  I want to make a work of e-lit based on the mathematics of jingling (bell change-ringing).

Potential Collaborator (Jeremy Douglass):   I’m unclear right now on whether you are interested in authoring a specific work of e-literature based on the mathematics of change-ringing, or looking to produce a kind of change-ringing media player within which many works might be authored.

Stephanie:  I want to make a specific work of e-lit, but my sense is that programming the system for it would be in some sense equivalent to programming the “machine” or media player for it. I want to explore various kinds of historic “changes,” to see which would really work as a literary project. That’s not something I can know ahead of time without playing with it first. I find it is not so useful to explicitly define a whole project from the top, and so there is always a kind of negotiation going on with the programming, which in the best cases is a kind of back-and-forth. I envision a textual instrument on which many works might be authored and played.

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#AuthorFail 11: Roxane Gay

Welcome, fellow duds, also-rans, has-beens, and cast-offs.

I had followed Roxane Gay’s intriguing online posts over the recent years, and somehow stumbled upon the fact that she teaches at Eastern Illinois University. Delighted by this relative proximity to my Chicago-area enclave of Lake Forest College, I invited her to join a panel on publishing (given her work with PANK) and to give a reading will fellow Illinois writer William Gillespie (Spineless Books).

Their performances in early 2011 were anything but failures–both inspiring and strange and suggestive and absurd.  Anyone who has encountered Roxane, I imagine, has had a similar experience.

And so, it seemed appropriate to ask her, here, in the most unsuccessful corner of the internet, to discourse on the failure, the complete failure, that stands in such stark contrast to the Roxane I have seen mesmerize an audience the way a flickering candle might entrance a small child.

I have always liked the idea of thematic collections. For my MA thesis, my original idea was to create a collection of stories about motion titled (E)Motion. I was young and felt terribly clever. All the stories would be about people living on the road or dealing with unstable situations, always moving toward things or away from things. I planned to write about Mormon missionaries, truck drivers, flight attendants, traveling strippers, and migrant workers, which I hoped would give way to some kind of eloquent statement about displacement, movement and emotion. Alas, that didn’t work out so well. I spent more time thinking about the thematic approach than the stories themselves so I ended up doing something quite different–though I did end up writing a couple of road stories. At the time, I was so proud of my (E)Motion title, but I am pretty mortified by it now.

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The fourth Madeleine P. Plonsker Emerging Writer’s Residency Prize, from Lake Forest College and &NOW BOOKS

This just in….
Lake Forest College is pleased to recognize fiction writer Elizabeth Gentry as the fourth winner of the Madeleine P. Plonsker Emerging Writer’s Residency Prize, awarded annually.

Gentry will be in residence on the campus of Lake Forest College from February 1 to March 31, 2012, where she will work to complete her winning manuscript, Housebound. She will receive $10,000 and, upon editorial approval, the finished book will be published by the &NOW Books imprint of Lake Forest College Press, with distribution by Northwestern University Press. She will also take part in the Lake Forest Literary Festival and offer a series of public presentations while in residence at the College. Continue reading

#AuthorFail 10: Laura Goldstein

Um, well, this is embarrassing: if you checked this post this morning between 9 am – 9:26, you would have found an incomplete entry: devoid of this snappy opening, and truncated, it the main text, from its full form.

Could it be that #AuthorFail has had its first fail?  Would this then equal success.

I feel miserable, I mean happy…I mean, well, something else.

As Jean Francois Lyotard notes in The Inhuman, the sun will burn out one day.  Thus, all human activity is under the sign of this eventual catastrophe (no, I don’t think he considers widespread space colonization). I wonder if the sun will fail in its great and final task, to burn into nothing.

When you look into the sky today, enjoy the steaming ball of ambivalence–before that, enjoy this serious failure of a column from Laura Goldstein.

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Printers’ Ball 2011

Artifice editor James Tadd Adcox, ready to dunk!

This past Friday was Printers’ Ball–a great annual tradition in Chicago at Columbia College put together by Poetry Foundation and Poetry magazine with the Center for Book & Paper Arts, the Chicago Underground Library, Columbia College Chicago, and MAKE magazine–under the organizational energies of Fred Sasaki.

The event was covered by Amy Yee of The Economist, here, with comments from Sasaki, Zach Dodson of Featherproof, and Danielle Chapman, director of publishing industry programs at Chicago’s Office of Tourism and Culture.

The piece also features my torso as its lead photo, and a short discussion of the Busted Books: The Great Soak guillotine/dunk tank event, where attendees chose between dunking a book (usually a classic from the “dunking library”) or a Kindle.

Note: Kindles were dunked 70+ times compared to books, which were dunked 25+ times.  We stopped counting after 100 or so dunks, but the general proportion held up for the rest of the evening.