München, België

Years ago, when I was traveling through Mexico, I found myself constantly correcting people’s pronunciation of my name. My name is Gabriel – and it sounds just like it’s spelled. But the people of Mexico kept insisting that my name was Gabriella. It couldn’t possibly be Gabriel, because Gabriel was a man’s name. And I was clearly not a man. This is true, I would say. Nonetheless, my name is Gabriel – there’s no translation for a name. It just is what it is. In America, I would still call you Jose or Juan – I wouldn’t change it to Joe or John. Why? Because that’s your name. It’s as simple as that.

But it’s not that simple. Not really. I know this. Still, I was surprised to learn that place names are also changed. And I’m curious as to why that happens. Sure, I know that pronunciations differ from place to place – Mexico in Mexico is pronounced Meheeco. And even Italy, in some places, is pronounced Italia. Okay. Close enough. But, I have to ask – what the heck is going on with Munich and Belgium?

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P&W Prompt 11: TBW

This week’s Poets & Writers’ prompt:

Choose a poem that you are in the process of revising. Draw a map of that poem, paying attention to the details of its landscape, its realities and abstractions, its landmarks, the spacial relationships among its features. Use the map to guide a revision of the initial work.

This week’s prompt is TBW (to be written). The whole “mapping out” thing is a little too abstract for my very concrete mind. But, I’ll give it a shot – just not now (I am in Europe at the moment, after all!). Nonetheless, I wanted to make sure YOU have the prompt. And if you have ideas on how to tackle it, I’d love to hear from you.

I promise to link to my own attempt when I get around to doing it. Give me a couple of weeks 😉

Self-Publishing for Poets & Literary Fiction Writers?

You may have heard the news. New York Times bestseller, Barry Eisler, has turned down a $500,000 publishing deal with St. Martin’s Press to self-publish his next book. The blogosphere is all abuzz with the news. And I suppose this marks the moment when we start to have this conversation for real.

And by “we,” I mean those of us writing poetry and literary fiction.

Eisler, Konrath, Hocking and the numerous other e-novelists making money hand-over-fist through Kindle sales are genre writers. They write thrillers and YA vampire novels and the like. Genre fiction, let’s face it, is much more likely to have a following than authors of more high-brow literary stuff. After all, we don’t have characters who live through three novels to conquer the aliens, defeat the terrorists, catch the bad guys and…you get the idea. I’m not knocking it – I enjoy a good, quick read as much as the next girl. I’m addicted to John Grisham novels. But there is a difference in readership. The question is: does that difference make self-publishing a good deal for us or not?

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The New York Times to Begin Charging for Online Content

The New York Times is going to begin charging for online subscriptions as of March 28. Read the notice below and tell us what you think about this move – a move that will surely change all online news content in the future.


An important announcement from the publisher of The New York Times

Dear New York Times Reader,

Today marks a significant transition for The New York Times as we introduce digital subscriptions. It’s an important step that we hope you will see as an investment in The Times, one that will strengthen our ability to provide high-quality journalism to readers around the world and on any platform. The change will primarily affect those who are heavy consumers of the content on our Web site and on mobile applications.

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Are Publishers “Off Limits”?

I can be a pretty tough critic. I know this about myself, and anyone who has read my reviews is likely to know it too. I make no apology. When we live in an era that sees each new batch of college freshman arrive to their composition courses without the ability to construct a complete sentence, I say: the time for high standards is now. I say, if you can’t do it well, keep trying. But don’t get all fired up because someone called you on it. And just to be clear: I hold myself to these same high standards as well. Doesn’t mean I don’t fail. I fail all the time. I fail most of the time. And when I fail in print? Someone will tell me about it. Probably also in print. That’s the way the game’s played, folks. But a friend recently questioned my decision to essentially slam a small press publisher for doing what I think is a bad job on the copyediting of a book I recently reviewed. And that conversation has me wondering, are publishers “off limits?”

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P&W Prompt 10: Nothing But the Kitchen Sink

This week’s Poets & Writers’ prompt:

Choose a cliched phrase (“fit as a fiddle,” “think out of the box,” “running on empty,” etc.) and turn it around. Use the new meaning created by this reversal to fuel a poetic meditation.

I struggled with this prompt not because of the prompt itself, but because of the subject matter that has been weighing on me lately. As I’m sure you are all aware, Japan is in the midst of one of the most devastating natural disasters in history. Coming up with a cliche to turn around was pretty easy – I almost immediately when to “everything but the kitchen sink” and flipped it to “nothing but the kitchen sink.” There’s a good site you can go to if you need inspiration for cliches: Cliches: Avoid them Like the Plague.

So, having my cliche in hand, and knowing that the Japanese situation was heavy on my mind, I immediately decided to attempt to NOT write about it. Maybe you’ve tried this before – it never really works for me. If something is filling my brain, it’s going to come out on the page. There’s just no avoiding it. But, just for fun, I thought I’d show you some of my failed attempts at NOT writing about Japan. Here’s the first:

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3Quarks Finalists Are In

For those of you following the 3Quarks Arts & Literature prize, the finalists are in! Congratulations to the authors of the blog posts that made the grade. You can check them out here:


  1. 3 Quarks Daily: Joothan: A Dalit’s Life
  2. Accidental Blogger: The Leopard _ Giuseppe Tomasi Di Lampedusa
  3. Chapati Mystery: The Stay-at-Home Man
  4. Jadaliyya: The Poetry of Revolt
  5. Millicent and Carla Fran: Why Don’t Women Submit?
  6. Sepia Mutiny: Letter to a Young Islamophobe
  7. The Millions: Her Story Next to His: Beloved and The Odyssey
  8. The Millions: Reading and Race: On Slavery in Fiction
  9. Writing Without Paper: Consider the Pomegranate

Like it or Shut Up: On Bad Reviews, Part II

Last month I wrote about the importance of bad reviews – mentioning the fact that without bad reviews, good reviews become meaningless. I also noted the reviewer’s obligation to readers and what writers might be able to learn from the bad review. But today, The Millions mentions a study that further encourages me in my belief that a bad review can be a good thing:

Is all publicity good publicity? Are all reviews—even bad ones—good for books? The answer,according to a new study [pdf] by the journal Marketing Science, depends on whether the writer is well known or unknown. The study examined the impact of a New York Times review on the sales of more than 200 hardcover titles. For books by established writers, a negative review led to a 15% decrease in sales. For unknown authors, a negative review increased sales by a healthy 45%.

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Are We Responsible?

Yesterday’s post about the gang rape of an 11-year-old Texas girl received the highest number of hits ever recorded on AngelSpeak. I don’t say this with any amount of celebration. But it does raise a question that I think is relevant to the topic of this blog: are writers encouraging a rape culture? Are we, in some way, responsible for the atrocious acts that are committed against women every day?

I used popular fashion advertising to make my point yesterday. Like it not, deny it if you will, but we have a rape culture in this country. As Roxane Gay said in her posting on The Rumpus:

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