Bucks County Writers Workshop

Bucks County Writers Workshop

The Bucks County Writers Workshop
Article Archives #8 2008

  • GEORGE W. BUSH'S READING LIST. Bush's intellectual powers may be suspect, but his confederate, Karl Rove, insists he's an inveterate reader. By Richard Cohen in the Washington Post.

  • HAPPY BIRTHDAY, J.D. SALINGER. The author of The Catcher in the Rye, who turns ninety on January first, remains a recluse in New Hampshire. By Charles McGrath in The New York Times.

  • BARGAIN HUNTING FOR BOOKS -- AND FEELING SHEEPISH ABOUT IT. Publishers are hurting, as are both new and used bookshops, but NOT for lack of book buyers. For better or worse, the Internet is changing the habits of devoted readers. By David Streitfeld in The New York Times.

  • THE DEADLY DANGLING MODIFIER. It's a grammatical malady that afflicts even the most polished of writers. A dangling modifer attaches itself to a word different from the one intended resulting in ambiguity and often hilarious confusion at the writer's expense. Editor Philip B. Corbett addresses this specific issue in The New York Times. Here's a whole page of odious dangling modifiers at KeablesGuide.

  • TYPING WITHOUT A CLUE. “The unlicensed pipe fitter known as Joe the Plumber is out with a book this month, just as the last seconds on his 15 minutes are slipping away. I have a question for Joe: Do you want me to fix your leaky toilet? I didn't think so. And I don't want you writing books. Not when too many good novelists remain unpublished.” This is a MUST READ essay by Timothy Egan in The New York Times.

  • BCWW GUESTBOOK. Allows members and non-members to post comments.

  • NEW YORK TIMES: THE 100 NOTABLE BOOKS OF 2008. In The Sunday Book Review of Dec. 7, 2008. How many have you read?

  • PUBLISHING'S SPLIT PERSONALITY. One publisher is so uncertain about the economic climate that it has temporarily shut its doors to most manuscripts while another is celebrating a banner year by handing out extra bonuses. By Motoko Rich in The New York Times.

    The New Yorker

  • THE WILD WORDSMITH OF WASILLA. "...frayed syntax, bungled grammar and run-on sentences that ramble on long after thought has given out completely are a candidate's [Sarah Palin's] valuable traits?" By Dick Cavett in The New York Times.

  • THE TEN MOST IRRITATING CLICHES IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE. The 2008 list was compiled by researches at Oxford University. By Charlotte Bailey in the Telegraph.co.uk.


  • 'JURASSIC PARK' AUTHOR MICHAEL CRICHTON DIES. The best-selling writer was 66. Don Swaim interviewed Crighton four times. Go to Wired for Books.

  • STUDS TERKEL DEAD AT 96. The Pulitzer prize-winning author and commentator established the oral interview as an important historical genre. To hear Don Swaim's interview with Studs, go to Wired for Books. William Wharton (author of Birdy) died on Oct. 29, 2008. Listen to Don's interview with Wharton here.

  • THE END. The book business as we know it will not be living happily ever after. With sales stagnating, CEO heads rolling, big-name authors playing musical chairs, and Amazon looming as the new boogeyman, publishing might have to look for its future outside the corporate world. By Boris Kachka in New York magazine.

  • TEST YOUR WRITING SKILLS AGAINST THE NETWORKS'. My friend and former CBS colleague Mervin Block, veteran newswriter, challenges you to answer what's wrong with the twenty-one sentences Merv has compiled from the network TV news broadcasts. If you can't get from nine to sixteen right, then English remediation is called for.

  • EIGHT PAGES OF BEAUTY AND HEARTBREAK. A beautiful graphic story by Darko Macan and Tihomir Celanovic about a magical bookseller who sells every book every published. You'll love this.

  • BULWER-LYTTON FICTION CONTEST RESULTS 2008. Top Winner: "Theirs was a New York love, a checkered taxi ride burning rubber, and like the city their passion was open 24/7, steam rising from their bodies like slick streets exhaling warm, moist, white breath through manhole covers stamped "Forged by DeLaney Bros., Piscataway, N.J."

    Like his contemporary Mark Twain, Ambrose Bierce, however reluctantly, embraced the new technology of typewriters as early as 1902. Go to Don Swaim's article here.

  • WHY ARE PEOPLE STILL READING JOHN STEINBECK? This is the question posed by Jonathan Yardley in The Washington Post. "I no longer can read him -- too often, for me, reading his prose is like scraping one's fingernails on a blackboard..."

  • WHY IS STEINBECK OFF THE LITERARY MAP? By Robert Gottlieb in The New York Review of Books "The extraordinary thing about John Steinbeck is how good he can be when so much of the time he's so bad."

  • THE COPY EDITOR: R.I.P. Like the author of this piece, Lawrence Downes in The New York Times, I have a soft spot for the copy editor. While Downes specifically cites the newspaper copy editor, we used to have them in broadcast news as well. I know. My first job at CBS was that of news editor. Then, poof! I suspect the copy (line) editor in publishing has been diminished as well.

  • JUNOT DIAZ. Raised in New Jersey of Domincan parents, Junot Diaz won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. The CBS News "Sunday Morning" broadcast did an interesting profile of Diaz which aired June 8, 2008. I made a Quicktime video of it, which you can play here [please be patient -- the video take a while to open].

  • GORE VIDAL: LITERARY FEUDS. "I truly loathed [Truman Capote] the way you might loathe an animal." At the age of 82 novelist Gore Vidal is still giving them hell -- as you'll see in this interview by Robert Chalmers in The Independent (U.K.).

  • OAKLEY HALL DEAD AT 87. The prolific novelist, who died May 12, 2008, wrote five popular novels with Ambrose Bierce as the central character.

  • BCWW GUESTBOOK. New Workshop Guestbook allows simple feedback and discussion from members and visitors alike.

    Eric Shansby, Washington Post

  • YOU'RE AN AUTHOR? ME TOO! Rachel Donadio in The New York Times Sunday Book Review says that the age of print on demand has made an author out of just about anyone who wants to be. Now everyone "can afford to preach in the desert."

    click to enlarge
    How a now graffiti-blighted San Francisco alley came to be named after Ambrose Bierce.
    Photo-essay by Don Swaim

  • ON THE LAM WITH KEN KESEY IN MEXICO. Lawrence Downes in The New York Times tries to retrace the footsteps of Kesey and his drug-fueled Merry Pranksters as they "hid out" in coastal Mexico in the 1960s. Novelist Robert Stone, one of Kesey's Pranksters, talks to me about the experience at Wired for Books.

  • EULOGIES NEAR FOR PRINT ENCYLOPEDIAS. Back in ancient times (1960s) I was proud owner of a set of Funk and Wagnalls encylopedias, each volume purchased weekly for $1.00 (reasonably decent money at the time) at the corner A&P. The Internet has rendered printed encylopedias almost obsolete. Go to: Ideas & Trends by Noam Cohen in The New York Times.

  • GEORGES SIMENON, EXISTENTIAL HACK. Paul Theroux on Inspector Maigret's creator, the Balzac of blighted lives, who was confident of winning the Nobel Prize. Go to: TimesOnline [UK].

    Shoe by Chris Cassatt & Gary Brookins © Tribune Media Services

  • THE WRITER AND HIS BOTTLE. Is there evidence, other than assumption, that there's a greater amount of alcoholism among writers than the general population? Joseph Tarakovsky in the Los Angeles Times tries to make the case that there is. Go to: The Spirits Behind the Writer.

  • THE NAME GAME. How does a book get its title? Here's a nice piece I lifted from CBS TV's Sunday Morning broadcast of March 2, 2008. Anchored by Charles Osgood. View it with any program that reads mp4 video files, such as iTunes or Quicktime. (As it runs 6:41 please give it time to load.) Click here.

  • WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY, JR. , who died at the age of 82, is remembered as an erudite defender of Joseph McCarthy, founder of the right-wing National Review, and father of modern conservatism. But he also wrote eleven spy novels starring a James Bond-like hero, Bradford Oakes. To hear Don's 1985 interview with Buckley, go to Wired for Books.


    I outgrew comic books when Mad Magazine came along, and I recall the hysteria that was almost as deranged as the right wing's communist witch hunts. David Hajdu's book, The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic Book Scare and How It Changed America [Farrar Straus & Giroux, March 18, 2008] is an account of the moral panic that led to arrests, book burnings, and the emasculation of the industry. To read an excerpt go to bookforum.com

  • BOOK LUST. Apple Computer's Steve Jobs, named by Fortune Magazine as the most powerful person in business, says people don't read anymore. But National Book Award winner Timothy Egan, in his blog, suggests it's unfortunate that someone so brilliant says something so stupid.


    Click to enlarge
    Traces a new book to its ultimate fate. Issue of Feb. 25, 2008.

  • TOO BEAUTIFUL. For Valentine's Day and long after, you'll love this short film, "Tulips," by the visual artist Jeff Scher. It's one in "The Animated Life" series in The New York Times, and it's adorable. Go to: Tulips and click on the video. You'll thank me for it.

  • WHAT F. SCOTT FITZGERALD'S PAT HOBBY STORIES TELL US ABOUT THE WRITERS STRIKE. Fitzgerald vs. Hollywood by Paul Greenburg in The New York Times Sunday Book Review.

    HOW TO WRITE A NOVEL IN 100 DAYS OR LESS. Day-by-day inspiration by John Coyne at Peace Corps Writers.


    HOW TO WRITE A NOVEL. By David Louis Edelman.

    HOW TO WRITE A NOVEL. By Justine Larbalestier.

    HOW TO WRITE A NOVEL. By Kate Maloy.

    HOW TO WRITE A NOVEL. By Leon Bambrick.


    HOW NOT TO WRITE A NOVEL. By Anita Sethi.

    HOW NOT TO WRITE A NOVEL. By John Hewitt.

    HOW NOT TO WRITE A NOVEL. By Tim Dowling.

  • A CLASSIC OR A FRAUD? Plagiarism allegations aimed at Wallace Stegner's Angel of Repose won't be put to rest. By Philip L. Fradkin in the Los Angeles Times.


    1.   Have faith -- not cynicism
    2.   Dare to dream
    3.   Take your mind off publication
    4.   Write for joy
    5.   Get the reader to turn the page
    6.   Forget politics (let your real politics shine through)
    7.   Forget intellect
    8.   Forget ego
    9.   Be a beginner
    10. Accept change
    11. Don't think your mind needs altering
    12. Don't expect approval for telling the truth
    13. Use everything
    14. Remember that writing is Heroism
    15. Let Sex (The Body, the physical world) in!
    16. Forget critics
    17. Tell your truth not the world's
    18. Remember to be earth-bound
    19. Remember to be wild!
    20. Write for the child (in yourself and others)

    There are no rules

  • TWO LITERARY LIONS BATTLE IT OUT. Michael Chabon vs. Erica Jong. The Washington Post Opinion Page.

  • ROBERT FROST HOUSE VANDALIZED. More than two dozen drunken teens arrested in Vermont. By Dan Barry in The New York Times .

  • WILL THE KINDLE BECOME THE iPOD FOR BOOKS? Apple's Steve Jobs says Amazon's new electronic book reader will fail because "people don't read anymore." But Randall Stross in The New York Times reports that it's not all that bleak for the publishing industry. [Note: according to this article, the entire U.S. publishing industry is expected to generate $15 billion in 2008; in 2007, Apple alone earned $24 billion.]

  • DMITRI'S CHOICE. Nabokov wanted his final, unfinished manuscript destroyed. Should his son, Dmitri, burn it? Ron Rosenbaum reports on the dilemma in Slate. To hear Don's interview with Dmitri, as well as a related interview with Brian Boyd, Nabokov's biographer, go to Wired for Books.

  • SAYING FAREWELL TO MICROSOFT WORD. Virginia Heffernan of The New York Times writes: "Oh, Word. For 20 years, you have supported and tyrannized me...After lo this lifetime of servitude, I intend to break free. I seek a writing program that understands me."

  • "SUBPRIME" VOTED 2007 WORD OF THE YEAR. "Subprime" edged out "green" "surge," "Facebook," and "waterboarding." So says the American Dialect Society in its annual list. This is a pdf file.

    NON SEQUITUR by Wiley Miller

  • MAILER, PALEY, VONNEGUT: SAME ERA, DIFFERENT VOICES. The passing of three Americn fiction figures. By Morris Dickstein in the Los Angeles Times.

  • A PATIENCE TO LISTEN, ALIVE AND WELL. In recent years a spate of articles and books have lamented classical music's tenuous hold on the popular imagination and defended its richness, complexity and communicative power. By Anthony Tommasini in The New York Times.

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