A green light to greatness.®

mag-2008


Write Hard, Die Free

The impact of Bob Shacochis on my writing career is a bit like that of a terrorist attack from an Al-Qaeda sleeper cell: explosive and devastating, but triggered by an incredibly long fuse.

Storytelling Under Siege

I never wanted to write a book about Everest. There were too many already, a lot of them bad, some pretty good, and at least one of them an intergalactic bestseller. Serious writers tend to avoid topics that have been prodded to such eye-crossing extent, but suddenly—yes, it happened like that, suddenly, while finishing a magazine story about Everest’s calamitous 2006 season—it struck me that I didn’t just want to write an Everest book, I had to.

Gator Bait

I became a journalist at 19, a published novelist at 50. Despite the long span between those two events, they spring from the same inspiration: growing up in a storytelling family on the banks of Bayou Black, La.

Fear and Loathing in a New Mexico Cabin

Eighteen hundred miles east from where I sit, shivering at my cluttered plywood desk, and eight thousand feet below down the long continental slope, I believe I have a home, though I have not set foot in it for 11 months. And I am fairly certain I have a wife, residing in that home, who goes about her business without me, at least until the Florida legislative season ends in June, when she will head my way again. It will of course be lovely to see her, though not so wonderful to watch her eyebrows raise as she asks, Well?–meaning, Is the book I’ve been working on since 2002 finished?– and sort through my menu of responses–Leave me alone. Quit nagging. What do you want from me? Can’t you see I’m losing my mind? How are you fixed for cash?–until I sigh and answer, simply, No.

A “Novel” Approach to Storytelling

On April 28, 2006, I sent my editor an e-mail with a two-word subject: Mexican Girl.

She had come up a day before, a passing name in small talk with an immigration judge. I was finishing months of work in and out of his courtroom, following Korean sex workers through the system, and had asked about any cases of note on the horizon. There was this teenage girl in the green card pipeline, he said, a girl he heard had been a captive, a concubine for most of her life.

Conan is a Bad Ass

It’s dark outside and Robert E. Howard is wrapping up his latest story. Twelve hours banging away at his Underwood typewriter—a normal day’s work, short even, by his standards. Sometimes he writes for 18 hours. He has to. He needs the money. The medical bills for his mother keep rising. Lately, ever since the operation on her spleen, he is constantly taking breaks from writing to feed her, change her clothes and bathe her.

Living Shield N. Scott Momaday

N. Scott Momaday learned storytelling as a child. Kiowa families would gather around the table after dinner, expecting a tale. The old man would get up, and without making an announcement, go into his room. He would ease into his rocking chair and close his eyes. The children would slip away from the dinner table too, one by one, forming a circle below his chair. The old man’s face would be tranquil. Silently, the children would wait. No one dared move. Even the tiniest member of the tribe sat still, waiting for the magic. They knew what was coming. And after a while the old man would open his eyes and say in a deep, slow voice, Ah-KEAH-de, They were camping. A row of tiny smiles would light up, and the old man’s eyes would open to take them in, as he spoke the traditional beginning of a Kiowa story.

Confessions of a Literary Agent

Call it Donovan’s Equation of Book Viability. It’s a highly unmathematical formula that would make a mathematician grab his binomials.

I’ve been a literary agent for 15 years. Previous to that I was a trade book editor, and before that I held jobs in the retail end of the business—bookseller, store manager and bookstore chain buyer. Any dunderhead stationed on the front lines of the bookselling battle would learn something about the purchasing preferences of book buyers. I hope to God I did.