April 24, 2005


daniel olivas

ah, this was the panel i wished i could have attended. bret and i shared the podium at the recent writers' week sponsored by uc riverside..."corpus christi" is a beautiful collection and bret's reading was pitch perfect. he also is quite funny and kept the audience laughing throughout (despite fighting a horrible cold). shame i had to follow his act. and merrill is a doll. when i started writing 7 years ago, she took time to read my first book and offered very helpful suggestions; "chattering man" is one of my favorite collections. and i can't say enough about aimee bender; a big influence on my writing and very accessible. mark, thank you for bringing the festival to us. perhaps i'll make it next year (when there'll be a panel of litbloggers, right?).

Harold J. Johnson

You may find this interesting (or not). Today I attended a panel on independent publishing. One of the panelists, Adam Parfrey, mentioned blogs in a meaningful way: as a means of marketing that book you're trying to get published. Neither of the other panelists seemed to take blogs seriously; my girlfriend mentioned this to me on the way out, though I'm not entirely certain why she felt this way. Perhaps it was because the other two panelists described themselves as traditionalists, more or less.

You can listen to a recording of this panel, downloadable from my narrative audio site "Something that Happened" at SomethingthatHappened.com. As I post this, it's not yet available, but I'll be posting the link soon.

Harold J. Johnson

Here's that link, in case you wish to listen:


By the way, I'm enjoying your interview on Pinky's Paperhaus.


"Blogs as a means of marketing that book you're trying to get published": that strikes me as the opportunist reductionist way of viewing blogs, and anyone who approaches blogs on such a level will be, I think, intensely frustrated. This thriving phenomenon of blogs is, much like Los Angeles itself, too complex-bodied and slippery and decentralized to be summed up in a sound bite or two (that doesn't revert to cliches of one kind or another). You can walk through a couple of neighborhoods and 'get' New York, or at least feel you do; LA is not so accessible. You have to live here, spend time here, and even then it remains difficult, I think, to try to 'explain' LA to people. So you get the paradox of a city that attracts so many of the best and brightest and most literate -- and has been doing so for years -- and yet retains the great bimbo rep.

Likewise, if you don't live in the blogosphere (although blogosphere hardly seen as a 'bimbo', more like some brilliant but difficult younger upstart child who dresses funny) on some level, at least for a little while, you're not going to 'get' what it is or how it works as anything other than a potential sales tool; you're not going to take it truly seriously because you don't understand what it is (and what it's trying to be), but you'll still chase down Mark (or others) with your novel in hand and try to sell him on it when it suits you.

Ah, I ramble. Too much gin. Thanks for such thorough postings, Mark; I wasn't able to get to the campus or Vermin this weekend, but thanks to TEV don't feel quite so berefit....


Harold -- sorry -- I hope I didn't come off as criticizing you or the panel -- just expressing some reactions to things I'd heard elsewhere, that your post just happened to trigger. (and like I said, the gin...)

Tod Goldberg

Thanks for providing coverage -- and wonderful as always to see you out causing trouble.


I was the lone Mexican in the room I was also part of the Aimee Bender Cheering section. Disclaimer: the cheering section does not represent Aimee Bender nor Aimee Bender Inc. or it’s subsidiaries.

I do agree Tod did keep the panel a bit light. I go up to make a comment and it was going to be really good. I was going to make note that all of the panelists were white, in other years there was a bit more diversity in the short story panels. Certainly, there was diversity in terms of writing styles. However, I'm speaking to the ethnic composition of the group. I was going to pose the question, being that all of the panelists have taught or are currently teaching what they thought about the this “hyphenation” of fiction in terms of ethnic lines, and how they deal with it in their workshops. Alas I didn't get a response, as I didn't get a chance to ask my question. I had a quick moment with some of the panelists after but not enough to really get an answer out of them.

Maybe I can get an answer here? Any takers?


Tod Goldberg

I think it's a good question, Oscar. Last year, if memory serves, it was Sherman Alexie, Mary Yukari Waters, the woman who wrote There Are Jews In My House and a guy who wrote a collection of stories on Abe Lincoln, I think, which ethnically was a far more diverse group, you're right. I'm always troubled when people refer to Mary as the "Japanese-American writer" or Sherman as "the native-American writer" or things of that nature. Why aren't they just called writer? In a workshop, or at least the ones I teach, it's not something that typically comes up in that I don't look at a story or a novel and then address it according to the ethnicity of the writer in question. I had a fantastic student a few quarters ago, however, who always asked her fellow students, "But do you feel that I'm speaking for my people here? Do you see the lines I'm trying to draw? Have I educated you on X?" And it always felt false in some way, like she wasn't satisfied that her story worked (and they usually all did) unless it exacted some kind of sociological change. That's not a bad thing, but I think in the scope of a writing class the question becomes muted simply because we get focused on other aspects first -- the characters, the conflicts, etc. -- and the societal impact is left for emotional consideration later on. But perhaps to answer your question more succinctly, as long as there are people who are margenalized -- be it by race or religion or sex -- there are always going to be these hyphens, I think, as a way of showing that perhaps these people first speak to the community in question and second speak to the world at large.

Angela Stubbs

I can only count on TEV for such specifics regarding Almond's writing. "assfucking and facials without much to commend itself for" . . . I love it. Thanks for the play-by-play. I couldn't do both days at FOB. But damn, how fast you type! I'm impressed. And Tod says you were looking very rico-suave all weekend. Y'know, not overdressed, not underdressed but dapper--or something like it.

Next year--bloggers panel.


I was at this panel; your assessment of it is grossly inadequate. You seem most interested in how people manage to get published without an Internet connection, and not what the writers had to say about short stories. (Wasn't that the point of the panel?) Is this some kind of circle jerk of "yay-bloggers!" or do you really care about providing your readers with insight? Who cares if Aimee Bender had a cheering section? Why didn't you tell people about her intriguing views on plot? Or instead of writing about how many collections Merril Garber's published, why didn't you report on the difficulties she recounted as a woman writing short stories in the 1950s?

It's a shame that you chose to supply those who couldn't attend the panel with such a superficial and transparently narcissistic version of events. I'm also amazed that folks who have actually published, like Tod Goldberg, aren't calling you out on this nonsense. Is he really that desperate for "coverage"? I used to read TEV to get updates on lit events in and around LA and came to look upon your site as valuable and productive. But I realize now that this is something I no longer want to be a part of.

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