Monday, March 31, 2008

Poet William Stafford was once asked, "When did you decide to become a poet?"

Stafford responded that the question was wrong. "Everyone is born a poet," he said, "a person discovering the way words sound and work, caring and delighting in words. I just kept on doing what everyone starts out doing. The real question is--why did other people stop?"

--Adapted from Writing the Australian Crawl (University of Michigan Press)

I Was Tortured By The Pygmy Love Queen

and other odd book titles. Click here.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Friday, March 28, 2008

If you're thinking a Creative Writing MFA is in your future and you want to know more about it, click here.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Can you imagine over a million copies of your book in print? It's beyond me.

Actually, all of these numbers are beyond me, but when I look at the list of 1 Million+ titles, I'm gratified to see just how many of them are examples of really good writing. I know my sample is just one year, and not necessarily representative of the whole, but look at some of these titles--McCarthy, of course, and Marquez, but also Eugenides and Edwards with over a million copies of their very literary novels! All have two things: fascinating stories and excellent writing. (I haven't read THE KITE RUNNER or WATER FOR ELEPHANTS; have any of you?)

From Publisherly's Weekly:

Listed on the following pages are trade paperbacks and mass market titles published in 2006 and 2007; the rankings are based only on 2007 sales. To qualify, trade paperbacks had to have sold more than 100,000 copies in 2007; for mass markets, sales of more than 500,000 were required. A single asterisk (*) indicates the book was published in 2006; a double asterisk (**) means the book was published earlier but either remained or reappeared on PW’s bestseller charts in 2007. These reappearances are most often movie tie-ins. A pound symbol (#) indicates that the shipped-and-billed figure was rounded down to the nearest 5,000 to indicate the books’ sales relationship to other titles. The actual figures were given to PW in confidence, for use only in placing titles on these lists.

Trade Paperbacks

1 Million+
Eat, Pray, Love. Elizabeth Gilbert. Rep. Penguin (4,274,804)
**The Kite Runner. Khaled Hosseini. Rep. Riverhead (2,022,041)
Water for Elephants. Sara Gruen. Rep. Algonquin (1,450,000)
The Road. Cormac McCarthy. Rep. Vintage (1,364,722)
*The Memory Keeper’s Daughter. Kim Edwards. Rep. Penguin (1,362,585)
The Pillars of the Earth. Ken Follett. Rep. NAL (1,310,419)
Love in the Time of Cholera. Gabriel García Márquez. Rep. Vintage (1,298,554)
#**90 Minutes in Heaven. Don Piper and Cecil Murphey. Orig. Revell (1,273,000)
Jerusalem Countdown. John Hagee. Revised. Frontline (1,200,000)
**Middlesex. Jeffrey Eugenides. Rep. Picador (1,000,000)
**Measure of a Man. Sidney Poitier. Orig. HarperOne (1,000,000)

**Skinny Bitch. Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin. Orig. Running Press (987,000)
Into the Wild. Jon Krakauer. Rep. Anchor (918,234)
Three Cups of Tea. Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. Rep. Penguin (843,390)

The 5th Horseman. James Patterson & Maxine Paetro. Rep. Grand Central (707,340)
*Night. Elie Wiesel. Orig. Hill & Wang/FSG (705,053)
Rachael Ray: Just in Time. Rachael Ray. Orig. Clarkson Potter (703,681)
**What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Heidi Murkoff, Arlene Eisenberg and Sandee Hathaway. Revised. Workman (696,134)
Blink. Malcolm Gladwell. Rep. Little, Brown (630,376)
**The Alchemist. Paulo Coelho. Orig. HarperOne (603,000)
Additional titles:
*The Pursuit of Happyness. Chris Gardner and Quiny Troupe. Rep. Amistad (600,000)
Dear John. Nicholas Sparks. Rep. Grand Central (576,173)
The Five Love Languages. Gary Chapman. Rep. Moody (562,337)
**Atonement. Ian McEwan. Rep. Anchor (562,124)
Suite Française. Irène Némirovsky. Rep. Vintage (530,353)
The Purpose Driven Life. Rick Warren. Rep. Zondervan (525,000)
Your Best Life Now. Joel Osteen. Rep. FaithWords (503,350)

*The Five People You Meet in Heaven. Mitch Albom. Rep. Hyperion (481,183)
**# The Wisdom of Menopause. Christiane Northrup, M.D. Revised. Bantam (475,000)
**My Sister’s Keeper. Jodi Picoult. Rep. Washington Square (457,000)
**Tuesdays with Morrie. Mitch Albom. Rep. Broadway (450,000)
*Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. Lisa See. Rep. Random (447,035)
**What to Expect the First Year. Heidi Murkoff, Arlene Eisenberg and Sandee Hathaway. Revised. Workman (404,370)
The Year of Magical Thinking. Joan Didion. Rep. Vintage (402,276)
**1,000 Places to See Before You Die. Patricia Schultz. Orig. Workman (402,271)
*The Glass Castle. Jeanette Walls. Rep. Scribner (396,000)
1,000 Places to See in the USA & Canada Before You Die. Patricia Schultz. Orig. Workman (394,846)
The Emperor’s Children. Claire Messud. Rep. Vintage (389,695)
*Love Walked In. Marisa de los Santos. Rep. Plume (380,000)
**Running with Scissors. Augusten Burroughs. Rep. Picador (375,000)
The World Is Flat. Thomas Friedman. Rep. Picador (375,000)
**The Tipping Point. Malcolm Gladwell. Rep. Little, Brown (370,716)
Baby Proof. Emily Giffin. Rep. Griffin (350,000)
**The Secret Life of Bees. Sue Monk Kidd. Rep. Penguin (333,901)
**Their Eyes Were Watching God. Zora Neale Hurston. Rep. Harper (333,511)
The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Michael Pollan. Rep. Penguin (330,189)
Skinny Bitch in the Kitch. Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin. Orig. Running Press (325,000)
**Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Robert T. Kiyosaki with Sharon L. Lechter. Orig. Grand Central (323,937)
Everyday Food. Martha Stewart Living magazine. Orig. Clarkson Potter (321,217)
*The Inheritance of Loss. Kiran Desai. Rep. Grove (320,800)
Stumbling on Happiness. Daniel Gilbert. Rep. Vintage (319,902)
#*The Constant Princess. Philippa Gregory. Rep. Touchstone (318,000)
No Country for Old Men. Cormac McCarthy. Rep. Vintage (316,870)
The Parting. Beverly Lewis. Orig. Bethany House (315,478)
The Best Life Diet. Bob Greene. Rep. S&S (309,596)
**Battlefield of the Mind. Joyce Meyer. Orig. FaithWords (303,636)
Fix-It and Forget-It 5-Ingredient Favorites. Phyllis Pellman Good. Orig. Good Books (302,200)
The Nanny Diaries. Nicola Kraus and Emma McLaughlin. Movie tie-in. Griffin (300,000)
Life Picture Puzzle. Editors of Life. Orig. Life (292,369)
Mayflower. Nathaniel Philbrick. Rep. Penguin (287,481)
**Wicked. Gregory Maguire. Rep. Harper (281,431)
The Thirteenth Tale. Diane Setterfield. Rep. Washington Square (281,000)
The Guy Not Taken. Jennifer Weiner. Rep. Washington Square (281,000)
The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous, & Broke. Suze Orman. Rep. Riverhead (280,368)
**The Miracle Ball Method. Elaine Petrone. Orig. Workman (279,098)
Plain Truth. Jodi Picoult. Rep. Washington Square (278,000)
Irish Hearts. Nora Roberts. Reissue. Silhouette (264,000)
The Freedom Writers Diary. The Freedom Writers with Erin Gruwell. Movie tie-in. Broadway (255,846)
*The Tenth Circle. Jodi Picoult. Rep. Washington Square (255,000)
**The Audacity of Hope. Barack Obama. Rep. Three Rivers (252,819)
Caring for Your Baby and Young Child. American Academy of Pediatrics. Revised. Bantam (250,000)

Don’t Make a Black Woman Take Off Her Earrings. Tyler Perry. Rep. Riverhead (245,226)
**Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook. Dawn J. Ranck and Phyllis Pellman Good. Orig. Good Books (244,750)
#The Boleyn Inheritance. Philippa Gregory. Rep. Touchstone (242,000)
Cesar’s Way. Cesar Millan and Melissa Jo Peltier. Rep. Three Rivers (236,701)
Summer Pleasures. Nora Roberts. Reissue. Silhouette (236,000)
#**The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Stephen R. Covey. Rep. Free Press (235,000)
Labyrinth. Kate Mosse. Rep. Berkley (230,646)
**The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Mark Haddon. Rep. Vintage (228,969)
**The Devil in the White City. Erik Larson. Rep. Vintage (228,663)
Table for Two. Nora Roberts. Reissue. Silhouette (226,000)
Extreme Fat Smash Diet. Ian K. Smith, M.D. Orig. Griffin (225,000)
Nature Girl. Carl Hiaasen. Rep. Grand Central (222,340)
Sanctuary. Nora Roberts. Reissue. Berkley (220,602)
Sunrise. Karen Kingsbury. Orig. Tyndale (220,265)
*Something Blue. Emily Giffin. Orig. Griffin (220,000)
Thirteen Moons. Charles Frazier. Rep. Random (215,850)
Healthy Aging. Andrew Weil, M.D. Rep. Anchor (212,533)
Ever After. Karen Kingsbury. Orig. Zondervan (210,250)
Summer. Karen Kingsbury. Orig. Tyndale (206,078)
Rise and Shine. Anna Quindlen. Rep. Random (203,917)
*I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell. Tucker Max. Orig. Citadel (200,000)
Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven. Fannie Flagg. Rep. Ballantine (199,153)
Life Original Picture Puzzle. Editors of Life. Orig. Life (197,441)
Forever. Karen Kingsbury. Orig. Tyndale (195,574)
Just Beyond the Clouds. Karen Kingsbury. Orig. Center Street (191,283)
*A Raisin in the Sun. Lorraine Hansberry. TV tie-in. Vintage (191,115)
The Sneaky Chef. Missy Chase Lapine. Orig. Running Press (190,000)
Start Late Finish Rich. David Bach. Rep. Broadway (188,080)
*Rachael Ray Express Lane Meals. Rachael Ray. Orig. Clarkson Potter (187,633)
Charlie Wilson’s War. George Crile. Movie tie-in. Grove (187,473)
**Dreams from My Father. Barack Obama. Rep. Three Rivers (186,839)
What Is the What. Dave Eggers. Rep. Vintage (185,778)
Blue Shoes and Happiness. Alexander McCall Smith. Rep. Anchor (185,687)
**The Lady & Sons Savannah Country Cookbook. Paula Deen. TV tie-in. Random (181,904)
**Rachael Ray 365: No Repeats. Rachael Ray. Orig. Clarkson Potter (180,487)
**The Pact. Jodi Picoult. Rep. HarperPerennial (179,170)
**Perfect Match. Jodi Picoult. Rep. Washington Square (175,000)
#*The 6 Most Important Decisions You’ll Ever Make. Sean Covey. Orig. Touchstone (175,000)
**The Lovely Bones. Alice Sebold. Rep. Back Bay (172,461)
**Salem Falls. Jodi Picoult. Rep. Washington Square (172,000)
**Vanishing Acts. Jodi Picoult. Rep. Washington Square (170,000)
**What to Expect the Toddler Years. Heidi Murkoff, Arlene Eisenberg, Sandee Hathaway. Orig. Workman (166,316)
The Gathering. Anne Enright. Orig. Grove/Black Cat (166,225)
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. Bill Bryson. Rep. Broadway (165,836)
Fiasco. Thomas E. Ricks. Rep. Penguin (164,227)
Wish You Well. David Baldacci. Rep. Grand Central (163,540)
Special Topics in Calamity Physics. Marisha Pessl. Rep. Penguin (163,362)
Come Back. Claire and Mia Fontaine. Rep. HarperPerennial (162,193)
*Wild at Heart. John Eldredge. Rep. Nelson (161,952)
Evening. Susan Minot. Rep. Vintage (161,218)
Chicken Soup for the New Mom’s Soul. Jack Canfield, et al. Orig. HCI (161,167)
Possible Side Effects. Augusten Burroughs. Rep. Picador (160,000)
Robert Ludlum’s The Arctic Event. James H. Cobb, series created by Robert Ludlum. Orig. Grand Central (156,148)
Chosen by a Horse. Susan Richards. Rep. Harvest (155,781)
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Celebrating Mothers and Daughters. Jack Canfield, etc. Orig. HCI (154,351)
Lost and Found. Carolyn Parkhurst. Rep. Back Bay (154,172)
**Mere Christianity. C.S. Lewis. Rep. HarperOne (154,000)
*Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die. John Piper. Orig. Crossway (152,900)
**One Hundred Years of Solitude. Gabriel García Márquez. Rep. HarperPerennial (152,878)
A Man Without a Country. Kurt Vonnegut. Rep. Random (151,537)
The Secrets of a Fire King. Kim Edwards. Rep. Penguin (151,302)
*1776. David McCullough. Rep. S&S (150,415)
Lost & Found. Jacqueline Sheehan. Orig. Avon (150,000)
Culture Warrior. Bill O’Reilly. Rep. Broadway (147,227)
Manhunt. James L. Swanson. Rep. HarperPerennial (145,951)
**Captivating. John and Stasi Eldredge. Rep. Thomas Nelson (143,987)
**Wicked. Gregory Maguire. Tie-in edition. Harper (143,820)
**The Zombie Survival Guide. Max Brooks. Rep. Three Rivers (143,684)
In Defense of Israel. John Hagee. Orig. Frontline (142,000)
**How to Grill. Steven Raichlen. Orig. Workman (141,684)
*Snow. Orhan Pamuk. Rep. Vintage (141,683)
**A People’s History of the United States. Howard Zinn. Rep. HarperPerennial (141,174)
#Veil of Roses. Laura Fitzgerald. Orig. Bantam (140,000)
**Mountains Beyond Mountains. Tracy Kidder. Rep. Random (139,514)
Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader? Michael Benson. Orig. HarperEntertainment (136,492)
Dispatches from the Edge. Anderson Cooper. Rep. Harper (134,975)
*The Worst Hard Time. Timothy Egan. Rep. Mariner (134,890)
*Keeping Faith. Jodi Picoult. Rep. HarperPerennial (134,479)
You Are Captivating. Stasi Eldredge. Orig. Nelson (133,839)
Digging to America. Anne Tyler. Rep. Ballantine (132,577)
World War Z. Max Brooks. Rep. Three Rivers (132,549)
*#The History of Love. Nicole Krauss. Rep. Norton (132,100)
*Son of a Witch. Gregory Maguire. Rep. Harper (132,030)
**Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. John Gray. Rep. Harper (131,892)
*Saving Fish from Drowning. Amy Tan. Rep. Ballantine (131,693)
Fast Food Nation. Eric Schlosser. Rep. HarperPerennial (131,286)
Whistling in the Dark. Lesley Kagen. Orig. NAL (130,570)
The Silver Palate Cookbook 25th Anniversary Edition. Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins with Michael McLaughlin. Orig. Workman (130,025)
Heart of Texas: Vol. 2. Debbie Macomber. Rep. Mira (129,707)
Happiness Sold Separately. Lolly Winston. Rep. Grand Central (128,203)
Everyman. Philip Roth. Rep. Vintage (128,092)
Heart of Texas: Vol. 1. Debbie Macomber. Rep. Mira (128,009)
The Looming Tower. Lawrence Wright. Rep. Vintage (127,321)
*Confessions of a Video Vixen. Karrine Steffans. Orig. Amistad (127,000)
Wisdom of Our Fathers. Tim Russert. Rep. Random (125,398)
Simpsons Comics Beach Blanket Bongo. Matt Groening. Orig. Harper (125,099)
A Dirty Job. Christopher Moore. Rep. Harper (125,060)
**#Slaughterhouse-Five. Kurt Vonnegut. Rep. Dial (125,000)
**#Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom. Christiane Northrup, M.D. Revised. Bantam (125,000)
In the Company of the Courtesan. Sarah Dunant. Rep. Random (124,444)
Eye Contact. Cammie McGovern. Rep. Penguin (123,540)
**The Screwtape Letters. C.S. Lewis. Rep. HarperOne (122,000)
#Blind Side. Michael Lewis. Rep. Norton (121,000)
Absurdistan. Gary Shteyngart. Rep. Random (120,615)
*A Whole New Mind. Daniel Pink. Rep. Riverhead (120,014)
*The Fat Smash Diet. Ian K. Smith, M.D. Orig. Griffin (120,000)
Thunderstruck. Erik Larson. Rep. Three Rivers (119,679)
The Biggest Loser Fitness Program. Orig. Rodale (118,308)
P.S., I Love You. Cecelia Ahern. Movie tie-in. Hyperion (117,906)
**The Poisonwood Bible. Barbara Kingsolver. Rep. HarperPerennial (117,014)
**Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister. Gregory Maguire. Rep. Harper (116,521)
The Volumetrics Eating Plan. Barbara Rolls. Rep. Harper (116,125)
*The Book of Useless Information. Noel Botham. Orig. Perigee (115,283)
**#The American Academy of Pediatrics New Mother’s Guide to Breastfeeding. American Academy of Pediatrics, etc. Orig. Bantam (115,000)
The Redemption of Sarah Cain. Beverly Lewis. Movie tie-in. Bethany (114,773)
*1491. Charles C. Mann. Rep. Vintage (113,189)
*The Mermaid Chair. Sue Monk Kidd. Rep. Penguin (113,043)
Savannah Breeze. Mary Kay Andrews. Rep. Harper (112,140)
A Spot of Bother. Mark Haddon. Rep. Vintage (111,605)
**Reading Lolita in Tehran. Azar Nafisi. Rep. Random (111,362)
Chicken Soup for the American Idol Soul. Jack Canfield et al. Orig. HCI (111,006)
**Mercy. Jodi Picoult. Rep. Washington Square (111,000)
The Green Book. Elizabeth Rogers and Thomas M. Kostigen. Orig. Three Rivers (110,613)
**#Confessions of a Shopaholic. Sophie Kinsella. Rep. Dial (110,000)
**#Cat’s Cradle. Kurt Vonnegut. Rep. Dial (110,000)
**Plain Truth. Jodi Picoult. Rep. Washington Square (109,000)
Porn for Women. Susan Anderson. Orig. Chronicle (107,894)
*An Inconvenient Truth. Al Gore. Rep. Rodale (107,742)
The Space Between Us. Thrity Umrigar. Rep. HarperPerennial (107,672)
A Thousand Tomorrows. Karen Kingsbury. Rep. Center Street (106,591)
Abundance. Sena Jeter Naslund. Rep. HarperPerennial (104,596)
The Best American Short Stories 2007. Edited by Stephen King. Orig. Houghton Mifflin (103,047)
Kabul Beauty School. Deborah Rodriguez. Rep. Random (102,719)
*The Joy Luck Club. Amy Tan. Rep. Penguin (102,573)
*Team of Rivals. Doris Kearns Goodwin. Rep. S&S (102,161)
The Rising Tide. Jeff Shaara. Rep. Ballantine (100,774)
*Darkly Dreaming Dexter. Jeff Lindsay. TV tie-in. Vintage (100,441)
*Smashed. Koren Zailckas. Rep. Penguin (100,382)
Love over Scotland. Alexander McCall Smith. Orig. Anchor (100,123)
My Life in France. Julia Child. Rep. Anchor (100,102)
Anybody Out There? Marian Keyes. Rep. Avon (100,000)
Big Boned. Meg Cabot. Orig. Avon (100,000)
Changing Faces. Kimberla Lawson Roby. Rep. Avon (100,000)
Queen of Babble. Meg Cabot. Rep. Avon (100,000)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

P.S. Sorry I forgot to give you the mayonnaise.

For 100 great last lines, click here (Flannery made the list!)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

For Some (More) Reasons Stories Fail, click here.
National Magazine Award Finalists: click here.

Monday, March 24, 2008

It's a question like the one about the milk and the cow

Would you still buy the actual book if you could download a copy for free? Click here.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The story behind Stop-Loss: click here.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Interesting!: Click here.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

For Jonathan Yardley's review of THE MAN WHO MADE LISTS: Love, Death, Madness, and the Creation of Roget's Thesaurus by Joshua Kendall, click here.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

For the latest word on the novelists' strike, click here.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Favorite book when you were a child: Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews. So? So? I'm not ashamed. I still sort of love it.

Your top five authors: Flannery O'Connor (especially Wise Blood); Vladimir Nabokov (yes, Lolita, and I can also tell you the audio Lolita as read by Jeremy Irons is FANTASTIC); Milan Kundera (read The Unbearable Lightness of Being and The Art of the Novel and see below); Marguerite Duras (read The Lover); Andre Dubus (my favorite is The Times are Never so Bad). These are the writers I read and re-read.

Book you’ve faked reading: The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. I was supposed to read this book for Tobias Wolff's Forms of the Novel class in grad school, and I tried to, I really tried. It's considered one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century, and it's got everything I like: weird religious stuff (including Pontius Pilate, Judas, and a talking black cat named Behemoth); love, sex and passion; slapstick comedy and politics; and the line every writer should understand--"Manuscripts don't burn." After hearing the class discussion of it and realizing everyone else not only read it, but also adored it, I tried it again and failed. Again. Too many people much smarter than me love this book, so I know the problem isn't the book. There's a copy of it on my shelf. Maybe it's time to give it another go.

Book you are an evangelist for: The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera. I have bought, lent, lost more copies of this book than any other.

Book you’ve bought for the cover: Lucky Girls by Nell Freudenberger

Book that changed your life: My answer to this probably changes by the minute. The Gift by Lewis Hyde.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Why was your novel rejected? Click here.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

It's Spring Break, and this has to do with neither writing nor reading. And I can't decide whether I think it's horrible or really really cute. Click here.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

People who had to deal with me last semester will remember this: click here.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Can I tell you how sad I am to just now learn that this book--which I loved when I was 11; I seem to remember reading it in something like a Reader's Digest hardcover edition--is also a fraud?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

A long list of bogus books: click here.
I guess I believe an "article" or a "piece" or any "journalist tomfoolery" that's been "labled as fiction" is, uh, a "short story."

Silly me.

Click here.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Do you like personal essays? Click here.