Bucks County Writers Workshop

Bucks County Writers Workshop

The Bucks County Writers Workshop
Article Archives #10 2010


  • Pal of Lawrence of Arabia
  • Intimate of Ernest Hemingway
  • Hero of the Spanish Civil War
  • Lover of Tokyo Rose
  • Defier of the communist witch hunts

    to read his incredible story click HERE

  • MARK TWAIN'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY FLYING OFF THE SHELVES. The publisher cannot print copies quickly enough, leaving some bookstores and online retailers stranded without copies just as the holiday shopping season begins. By Julie Bosman in The New York Times.
    Editorial note by Don Swaim: This edition of Twain's biography is an unmitigated bore. It's an example of archival material posted by academics gone mad. The book is too big and too crammed with irrelevancies. Even an autobiography needs restraint and judgment, something the publisher, University of California Press, didn't do -- and they're threatening two more editions. Literary history may bless this publisher in the long term, but I'll pass. I prefer something readable.

    PATRICIA HIGHSMITH. Independent filmmaker Alexander Roman is working on a documentary about Patricia Highsmith (Strangers on a Train, the Ripley novels). His demos include a montage -- showing Matt Damon and Jude Law -- of questions Don put to Highsmith in a CBS Book Beat interview. Go to: YouTube. To hear the actual broadcast with Highsmith: listen. And for the raw, unedited Wired for Books interview: listen

    CLASSIC SCIENCE FICTION. Writers and scientists nominate science fiction books that should be called classics. In The Washington Post

    COPY-EDITING THE CULTURE: The Rise and Fall of Woody Allen, as Experienced Through His Punctuation. By Nathan Heller in Slate

    ARCHY, MEHITABEL, AND JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY. By Don Swaim. The contrast between two poets born in the 19th century couldn't be more evident. The observations of a cockroach and alley cat created by Don Marquis remain vibrant while James Whitcomb Riley's rural corn, much in dialect, is painful, almost embarrasing.

    Incredibly, many newspapers, including The Washington Post, refused to run this Non Sequitar cartoon on Oct. 4, 2010, for fear it might offend or inflame Muslims. Muhammad appears nowhere in the cartoon.

    America's literary treasure Ray Bradbury turned ninety on August 22, 2010. Don interviewed Ray twice:
  • Green Shadows White Whale. 7/20/92. Listen
  • 40th Anniversary, Fahrenheit 451. 9/18/92. Listen
  • UCLA Birthday Tribute Here

  • DIANE SAWYER: WHEN WORDS FAIL HER. Former CBSer Mervin Block runs his own television newswriting workshop, and keeps a close watch on the many editorial misdemeanors commited in the name of broadcast news. The sloppy grammar and other jounalistic errors of ABC's Diane Sawyer have fallen under the scrutiny of Merv's critical eye. [Any errors in this paragraph?]

    AUTHORS FEEL PINCH IN AGE OF E-BOOKS. "Priced much lower than hardcovers, many e-books generate less income for publishers. And big retailers are buying fewer titles. As a result, the publishers who nurtured generations of America's top literary-fiction writers are approving fewer book deals and signing fewer new writers." By Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg in The Wall Street Journal.

    HEIRS FEUD OVER STEINBECK'S LITTLE FISHING PLACE. "Death is not the end," wrote Ambrose Bierce. "There remains litigation over the estate." So it is as John Steinbeck's heirs squabble over his simple sanctuary in Sag Harbor, Long Island. By Corey Kilgannon in The New York Times.

    Not such a big deal anymore since so few people read. Nevertheless, all writers should remain vigilant. For details go to Banned Books.

    U.S. DEFENSE DEPT. GIVES NEW MEANING TO THE OXYMORON 'MILITARY INTELLIGENCE.' Not only has our government bought out (to destroy) the entire first printing of a new book about the Afgan War, it has heavily censored the second printing -- even though the censored material is readily available. By Scott Shane in The New York Times.

    A LITERARY VACATION IN...PENNSYLVANIA. Writer Joe Queenan decided to vacation closer to home this summer. To Reading, Scranton, and Pottsville-- small cities with literary pasts. In The New York Times Book Review.

    F**K ME, RAY BRADBURY... This music video, celebrating the American literary gem, has become an Internet sensation. Reportedly, the ninety-year-old Bradbury has seen the video and approves. The twenty-three-year-old woman doing the singing is Rachel Bloom, an NYU grad who wrote the song. It's hilarious, but don't watch with the sound on while the kids are around. Go to: YouTube.

    VERISIMILITUDE... For a writer it's the art of making a story true or real. But BCWW members know that the indisciminate laying on of facts in order to bring out the reality of a character or scene can get into the way of the story. Tim O'Brien, whose classic anti-war story "The Things They Carried" should be read by all, has addressed this issue in. Go to: The Atlantic.

    WE ARE DOOMED! A rare and used book dealer in Sacramento, California, shares verbatim the conversations he's had with people calling or entering his store. Go to Bookmine. Read and laugh--or weep.

    I write like...

    SARAH PALIN ... A pinhead on one hand, the Republican Party's best hope on the other. But give this backwoods babe credit: she has her own lexicon. Alexandira Petri in The Washington Post writes: "Maybe she'll prove me wrong and refudiate will catch on. But if she runs in 2012, I hope we're horpswangling enough to grountify her. And I mean that in the nicest possible way."

    I WRITE LIKE ... A statistical analysis tool, which analyzes your word choice and writing style and compares them with those of the famous writers. Paste in a few paragraphs of some of your own writing, then click on Analyze.

    WORD FAILS ME. "Why doesn't Microsoft's writing tool actually help writers?" By Mark Gimein at Slate's Big Money.

    BAD WRITING: WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR? "Crappy prose is our most abundant resource, so let's put it to work." By Laura Miller in Salon.
    To sample some really, really bad writing -- both individually and collectively -- go to the BCWW's 2003 group novel, The Yellow Bus. The authors seemed to have no idea of what came before nor who the major characters were nor what their role in the story was.

    AUTHORS UNBOUND ONLINE. No so tacky to self-publish your book anymore. Virginia Heffernan in The New York Times Magazine says, "Book publishing is simply becoming self-publishing."

    A CINDERELLA STORY. How unknown Paul Harding's oft-rejected novel, Tinkers, won a Pulitzer Prize. By Motoko Rich in The New York Times.

    BETRAYING SALINGER. How a small publisher, Orchises Press, got the reclusive J.D. Salinger to agree to a book deal -- but blew it. By Roger Lathbury in New York Magazine.

    HARD TO GET RICH AS WRITERS (MOST OF THEM). Using data compiled in 2008, the National Endowment for the Arts analized all areas of artistic endeavor. Full-time authors and writers had a median age of 44 with a mean income of just over $50,000 in 2005 dollars. Revealing study.

    BOOK COLLECTING AND THE E-BOOK. "The [Kindle], which consigns all poetry and prose to the same homely fog-toned screen, leaves nothing to the experience of books but reading. This strikes me as honest, even revolutionary." By Virginia Heffernan in The New York Times Sunday Magazine.

    BOOKS IN THE AGE OF THE iPAD. Book-designer Craig Mod says, "Print is dying. Digital is surging. Everyone is confused." About the printed book, Mod says, "good riddance."

    THE GOOD EARTH. The Bucks County literary experience by Angelina Sciolla in Bucks & Montgomery County Living.

    MORE RULES FOR WRITING FICTION. Inspired by Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules of Writing, The Guardian.UK asked some two dozen writers to list their own rules, ranging from the practical to the familial. Trust me, this is required reading.

    A WRITING CAREER BECOMES HARDER TO SCALE. "The writer's apprenticeship -- or perhaps, the writer's lot -- is this miserable trifecta: uncertainty, rejection, disappointment." By Dani Shapiro in the Los Angeles Times.

    DON's J.D. SALINGER ENTRY AT ... Book Beat: The Podcast.

    DON DELILLO: RARE INTERVIEW. By Charles McGrath in The New York Times.

    THE WORLD'S BEST-SELLING NOVELIST IS... JAMES PATTERSON! Patterson's so successful he has a stable of writers to write his books for him, nine published last year alone. Click HERE to read a huge cover-page article in The New York Times Sunday Magazine. Don interviewed Patterson before he made it big: LISTEN. Wouldn't it be great to be so successful that you don't have to write your own books but can pay scribes to write them for you?

    MORE TO PUBLISHING THAN MEETS THE SCREEN. Jonathan Galassi, president of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, makes a spirited defense of traditional publishing as opposed to the e-book. In The New York Times.

    A GOOD AUTHOR IS HARD TO FIND. A devastating critique of hopeful writers who burden the desks of literary agents with out-and-out crap. By "The Rejectionist" in the Seattle Stranger.

    SCREENPLAY ELEMENTS. How to read and understand a screenplay in one easy lesson. By Stuart Cummings Ripley III.

    Bucks County Writers Workshop

    Top of Page