What do you tell parents of would-be poets who worry about their children’s ability to make a living writing sonnets? — Your father, Sierra Vista, Arizona P.S. Do you want me to send you that law school application?

It is perfectly natural to feel the worry you express, and especially if your child is nearing the end of her MFA program that offers no job placement upon completion, but I don’t think she is relying solely on her ability to write sonnets to make her living. The great Nobel laureate, poet and essayist Joseph Brodsky makes a bold and validating claim that, in my personal experience, I have found to be true:  “The more one reads (and by extension, writes) poetry, the less tolerant one becomes of any sort of verbosity, be it in political or philosophical discourse,… More…

One great way to briefly turn the conversation toward myself at a party is to answer the question, “So, what do you do?” with, “I’m a writer.” Not that most of the people I’ve met at parties have read my novels or short stories or feature articles; when they ask, “Have I seen any of your stuff?” I shrug and the conversation moves on. If I want attention for an hour or so, however, I’ll tell them my horrible secret — for several years I made much of my freelance income writing term papers.

I always wanted to be writer, but was told from an early age that such a dream was futile. After all, nobody ever puts a classified ad in the paper that reads “Writers Wanted.” Then, in the Village Voice, I saw just such an ad. Writers wanted, to write short pieces on business, economics, and literature…. More…

 

How much does it cost to be a poet? — Kerri L., Cordova, Tennessee 

I wrote poems when I was 13 and it didn’t cost a dime. Unfortunately, most poets want recognition, and that can cost a lot. True, poets don’t need to go to school to write good poems, but these days poets are expected to give lectures, conduct workshops, and write intelligible and pertinent blurbs on the back of other poetry books. Those all require a decent amount of education, probably including grad school, which can get expensive depending on where you go. But that’s just the monetary cost — there are others.

When you are a poet in this age, your eyes go bad from too much time spent in front of the computer screen and you may develop carpal tunnel syndrome from deleting and… More…

 

One of the unfortunate side effects of being female is the constant marketing of products as specifically “for women.” It’s not just deodorant and cheap pink razors. There are books, and then there are books for women.

Seal Press calls itself the publisher of “Groundbreaking Books For Women, By Women,” but theirs is a very specific definition of “women.” Their idea of womanhood is no less narrow than that of the We Channel: Television for Women. The We Channel may define women as those creatures who believe happiness lies in finding the right wedding planner and pilates instructor, but Seal Press defines women as tattooed 20- and 30-somethings who use alternative menstrual products and think that working in the sex industry imbues you with Wisdom.

A large percentage of the books Seal publishes are how-to guides. How to… More…

In the months leading up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, I believed that my patriotic duty was to give up gasoline, so I stopped driving a car for a while and picked up a bike. I live in Los Angeles, a city known for traffic, freeways, and smog. But it’s a perfect place to ride a bike, too. The weather is beautiful and the streets are wide and mostly flat. Biking gave me a new perspective. I’d lived in Los Angeles for a decade already, but the city didn’t really snap into focus until I saw it from the saddle of my father’s 1968 Realm Rider 10-speed.

I saw things I’d never noticed, but most of all, the city stunk. Riding down the street was an olfactory deluge. The leaden stench emanating from automobiles and buses wasn’t the half of it. That was tolerable and expected, like the hamburger… More…