Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tim Gunn is My Hero

OK, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but ... Simply put: Tim Gunn is awesome. I don't watch Project Runway, but after seeing Tim Gunn do various TV spots over the last year, I might have to start watching just to get more Tim Gunn. I would like to present the two following examples of Tim Gunn's awesomeness and why every writer should love him:

Tim Gunn: Dictionary

10 Questions for Tim Gunn
(fast forward to 5:25 if you don't want to watch the entire video, but the whole thing is great)

When I finally publish my first book, I may have to send him a copy out of sheer admiration. That's not creepy, is it?

Monday, November 30, 2009

I Am A Winner!

I have participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) several times over the past few years, but this is the first time I can say ...

I am a NaNoWriMo WINNER!

Despite the fact that I work full-time and attend graduate school part-time, I have successfully written 50,000+ words in 30 days.

The exhilaration of finally completing NaNoWriMo is more than I expected.  I didn't think I would be so excited, so elated, so self-satisfied with my success.  And this is really quite a big accomplishment.  While it is most certainly not the best thing that I have written, it is by far the longest piece that I have ever written.  For a long time - several years, really - I doubted whether I possessed the stamina to write a novel-length piece.  Thanks to NaNoWriMo 2009, I have proven to myself that I can.  While I still have quite a few more words to write before the story is complete, I am now confident that I can complete it, and even though I know that it's not my best work, after I write those last few chapters I know that I will have a complete rough draft to work from - and you can never have a great final version without a (crappy) rough draft as your starting point.

Have you ever attempted NaNoWriMo?  How did you do?

Monday, November 16, 2009


OK, so not entirely FAIL.  But I am behind.  VERY behind.

We are at the halfway mark, which means I should have 25,000 words.

I only have 12,708.

Which means, in order to catch up by next Sunday (because there is no way that I am writing 12,300 words in one day - I need to pace myself) - I need to double my word count.  That's right, I will need to write 3,334 words per day for the next seven days in order to catch up.

I'm starting to have a panic attack.

So, I will leave you with the following as I ponder my NaNo fate ...


"I believe that the so-called 'writing block' is a product of some kind of disproportion between your standards and your performance ... one should lower his standards until there is no felt threshold to go over in writing. It's easy to write. You just shouldn't have standards that inhibit you from writing ... I can imagine a person beginning to feel he's not able to write up to that standard he imagines the world has set for him. But to me that's surrealistic. The only standard I can rationally have is the standard I'm meeting right now ... You should be more willing to forgive yourself. It doesn't make any difference if you are good or bad today. The assessment of the product is something that happens after you've done it."

-- William Stafford, poet
(This was posted to one of the NaNo message boards by BeeJay.  It makes me feel slightly better.)

Monday, November 9, 2009

I Felt the Need ...

... to change my layout.  What do you think?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Year of the Flood Event

I was very fortunate this past Friday to have the opportunity to attend one of the few Year of the Flood Events.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, this is the promotional tour for Margaret Atwood's new book, The Year of the Flood, and it's unlike any promotional book tour you've ever seen or heard.  Rather than a typical reading and Q&A, The Year of the Flood Event is a multimedia presentation, narrated by Atwood, dramatically read by actors and accompanied by live music, in a vein similar to a holiday cantata or a medieval mystery play

What I found so fascinating about this event was how it evolved in an organic manner, which is thematically consistent with the book.  Central to the plot of The Year of the Flood is a new religion called God's Gardeners, who strive to unite faith, science and nature, and like any other religion God's Gardeners have their own hymns.  According to Atwood, her agent's partner was so inspired by the hymns in the manuscript that he began setting them to music, and when Atwood heard his compositions, she thought they were a perfect match for the narrative, and the idea evolved from there.

And what was really fantastic if that they made every attempt to make this tour eco-friendly, especially considering that this is a major theme of the book.  Rather having a traveling cast and musicians, the only participant to travel with the production was Atwood herself; nearly every actor and musician was a local artist, selected by those producing locally (the one exception was that for this production, we were lucky to have Orville Stoeber, the composer, serve as guitarist and lead vocalist).  Also, each production was allowed to freely interpret the script and score, so that each performance was unique.  So, not only did they minimize fuel emissions by not using a traveling company, they are also highlighting local talent.

This event was a great introduction to the narrative, giving me enough to get interested in reading the book (I only purchased it a few days ago, and so didn't have the opportunity to read it in advance), but it didn't give too much away.

For the event, they only performed seven of the fourteen hymns featured in the book.  I was pleased to learn that Mr. Stoeber produced a CD of all 14 hymns, which I bought immediately after Ms. Atwood signed my book (I was fortunate to be in the front of the line), and I am looking forward to listening to the whole thing!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Save the Black Rooster Pub!

Hello, readers.

I know that this isn't writing-related, so please forgive me.

This is something that is very dear to me and I am reaching out to everyone I know through all the various social-networking sites and in-person groups that I belong to, in an attempt to try to affect some sort of change.

As some of you may know, for the past three years my husband has worked as a bar manager at the Black Rooster Pub, which is located in mid-town Washington, DC; before he began working there, it was our place to hang out, bring out-of-town friends, etc. The Black Rooster Pub has been a staple on the DC mid-town scene for almost 40 years, many of those spent peacefully co-existing in the same building as the Peace Corps.

Recently, the Peace Corps has launched a hostile takeover of the small corner of the building occupied by the Black Rooster Pub, forcing a local independent business to close and putting my husband (and 15 other employees) out of work in a depressed economy. The thing is, the Peace Corps doesn't need to do this. There is plenty of unoccupied, available office space in the immediate area that they can utilize; but for the Black Rooster, there is no available commercial space in the area for the pub to re-locate.

You can learn more online at

If you want to sign our petition, please visit

You can visit the Black Rooster website at

And if you are inspired, please feel free to pass this on, post it to your blog, put it on Facebook, post it on MySpace, Tweet about it. Every little bit helps. But there is very little time left. Please help us save this historic pub, not to mention the job of my husband and all our friends.

Best regards,
Erin Skelly Cameron

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A New Discovery

Oprah: she can be a dividing force - some people love her, some people hate her. Me? I'm on the fence. I'm certainly not an avid follower, but I'm on her e-mail list and sometimes I find cool stuff on her website. And, of course, I hope that one day she will select one of my books for her book club and make me a millionaire so I can quit my day job and focus on my writing. But I digress.

Thanks to her daily newsletter, I discovered something fantastic today - and I'm so excited, I just can't hide it!

On her website is an article from the most recent issue of O magazine, about Michael Silverblatt and his weekly public radio show Bookworm on KCRW out of Los Angeles. Bookworm isn't syndicated by NPR, so if you live outside the L.A. area you won't be able to listen to it over the airways ... but the Bookworm online archive has podcasts of nearly 1,000 interviews with various authors. That's what I said: almost 1,000 half-hour interviews! I can't wait to get home and start downloading!

(I told you I was excited!)

Anyway, for your reading pleasure, here's an excerpt from the article I thought was great and speaks to the reader and writer in all of us:

From his book-lined apartment (no kidding, even in the kitchen cupboards—and all alphabetized), Michael tells me: "I believe in the elaborate taking care of others. And we live in a culture where 'I'm not my brother's keeper,' 'That's your responsibility,' 'Get a life' have become bywords, code phrases, anthems for elaborate indifference, selfishness, greediness, and the failure of empathetic acceptance. In the same way that we need to repair the economy, we need to repair the effects of an economy of selfishness. And that isn't just the filling in of the big bucks that have fallen out of the system. The rescue that we need is emotional rescue, communicative, large-hearted. I've always dreamed that people listening to the show would hear that readers and writers are expanders of feeling centers, of the global ability to imagine other lives. And I want people listening to the show, yes, of course, to grasp its intelligence, but to also hear that it wants to show the feeling that reading and imagination inspire in writers and readers. We want to share those things with listeners. There are all sorts of other things that you get on radio and television, but I wanted listeners of Bookworm to hear words, ideas, but particularly emotions that don't get discussed in public if at all elsewhere. That is to say, for one reason or another, the show is a crusade that's much larger than the subject of books."

To read the full article, please visit The article also includes audio links for several of Silverblatt's interviews wtih some big name writers, like Salman Rushdie.

If you could interview any writer (living or dead), who would you choose, and why? What would you ask?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Finding the Time (To Read)

My friend Gwen blogged the other day, “Are You Addicted to Reading?” It was almost a silly post, but it made me take pause to think about reading time.

Both Stephen King and Richard Russo say that they devote several hours a day to reading, and all writers will agree (or most writers will agree, anyway) that exhaustive reading is a key component to being a good writer.

For me, a student of letters, finding the time to read is near impossible at times! Many aspiring writers or students complain that it's so hard to find the time to write; I think finding the time to read is even harder.

I have a list of books I intend to read, which grows longer by the day, and I despair at the thought, not knowing how I will ever complete this overwhelming task. I work full-time and attend school part-time, which involves not only class time but also writing and reading (aka homework) outside of the classroom; I also have to consider taking care of myself physically, which includes daily workouts (to be commenced in September, or earlier if the weather cools), and maintenance of my home life (regular cleaning, groceries and other chores; finally, I do have to pay attention to my husband occasionally so that he won’t divorce me.

What’s a girl to do?

Of course, I could speed read through the books just to get them read and checked of my list, but I’m not a half-assed effort kind of girl. If I’m going to read these books I want to learn something from them; I want to take away more than just a few hours of entertainment. (If I want a few hours of entertainment, I’ll go to the movies.) To really read closely, a need to invest a certain amount of time – I’m going to re-read sections, underline things, write notes in the margins, etc.

Recently, I learned of something called a dialectical journal, and I am dumbfounded that I’m only learning of this now. Why wasn’t I required to keep a dialectical journal at some prior point in my education? The link I provided here is a little basic – most instructions/definitions for dialectical journals seemed geared towards middle or high school students rather than college or graduate students. Still, I think the practice will be useful; when I take notes I find that my recollection and understanding is more comprehensive, and I expect that keeping journals of this nature will come in handy down the road, especially if I end up teaching. The notes will also help me to compose reviews of the books that I read, which I plan on posting both here and on GoodReads.

What kind of reader are you? Do you rush through books, because you can’t wait to see what happens or you’re eager to move on to the next book? Or are you a slow, savoring reader? Do you take notes? Underline? Highlight, even?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Richard Russo Reads @ Politics & Prose

And I'm back! The first two months of summer have been hectic, hectic, hectic for me, and I'm enjoying August and trying to unwind a little bit before fall semester starts up. I may blog about my summer adventures in a future post, but right now I want to write about Richard Russo.

I had the opportunity last night to attend a reading by Richard Russo at Politics and Prose. (That's him reading in the picture.) If you're unfamiliar, Politics and Prose is a local independent bookseller in NW DC, and they do a lot of author events. I'm a little ashamed to admit that I'd never been to Politics and Prose until last night, even though I've lived in DC for over 5 years now - it's a real hike for me, considering that I live on the other side of the city and I have to take the Metro and a bus to get there. But I was willing to make the pilgrimage in honor of Richard Russo and the opportunity to get a book or two signed.

So far, I've only read Empire Falls (for which Russo won the Pulitzer). I liked it so much that I promptly purchased three more of his books, which are (of course) all waiting in my queue to be read, and I purchased his newest book, That Old Cape Magic, in preparation for this reading. After hearing Russo read, I've decided to bump That Old Cape Magic up to the front of the queue.

I knew this was going to be a big reading, so I got there an hour early to secure a good seat. There were already 30 or 40 people waiting, but I managed to snag a single empty seat in the second row. As I waited, the seats filled quickly and pretty soon it was standing room only, adn there wasn't much of that to be had, either. A woman behind me mentioned that this was the most people she'd ever seen at a reading at Politics and Prose.

If you ever have the opportunity to hear Richard Russo read, don't pass it up. He is charming, funny and a delight to both watch and listen. He mentioned that the big stores sell his books now - everyone carries your book after you've won the Pulitzer, he noted - but he never would have made it without independent booksellers like this one hand-selling his books, so he prefers to do readings at independent sellers over the "big stores". (He mentioned the "big stores" by name, but I'm not going to; you know who I'm talking about.) I really respect that, and it makes me respect him even more as a writer than I had before. I'm glad to see that he wants to bring them the business, to repay them for the way they supported him.

(On a side note, I immediately felt guilty for buying his book at a "big store" when it came out, instead of going to an independent seller ... I bought several books after the reading to try to make up for it.)

The passage that he chose to read was right on target: engaging and well-written (and well-read, as well; Russo has excellent delivery), enticing but not too revealing. The audience loved it ... as did I. I can always tell how much I enjoy a reading when my face starts to hurt and I realize that I've been grinning the entire time without realizing it.

Folllowing the reading, the floor was opened to questions. He was asked about his writing day (he writes for four hours, and then he reads until it's time to make dinner), his professional relationship with his editors (he's only had two in his career: his previous editor just gave him general feedback and he revised as he saw fit; his current editor gives him detailed line-by-line notes/edits and he revises as he sees fit); Jenny Boylan (a transexual fiction and memoir author who is a close friend), among other topics.

My favorite question was when a young woman asked him about his response to a recent accusation of misogyny in Newsweek (, not because of the question, but because of the answer. He said that he chooses not to respond to the article, but he did say that "books are arguments" that have to stand on their own, and he chooses to have his books do the same; essentially, if someone wants a response to the Newsweek article, then his books will stand as his response. His comment was very eloquent, and was an excellent explanation as to why as writers we need to be so precise with our language.

(For the record, I do not believe Richard Russo to be a misogynist.)

But the best part for me was when he signed my books. I waited forever - I always end up at the end of the line, somehow - but it was worth it. I always get tongue-tied and stupid around authors I admire, so I try to temper my star-struck verbal diarrhea. I told him I was a writer and that I was pursuing my M.A., and he said - very sincerely, more so that I might have expected - "That's really great. But you know, it's really tough out there right now." I said that I knew, but I was going to keep plugging away, and he responded, "If you keep at it, you'll make it." I thanked him for signing my books, and let him move on to the next person.

How great was that? Really great! He was so genuine about the whole thing, too, which I hadn't really expected. I didn't know what to expect, honestly - I'd lay odds that any number of people tell him they write fiction on a regular basis, so he just as easily could have blown me off. So, yet another reason to like him. I hope that I'll have the opportunity to meet him again someday and really talk to him, after I've read more of his books and when I'm not one in a line of 200 people. I have a lot to learn from a writer like Richard Russo.

Do you read Richard Russo's books? Which is your favorite, and why?

Thursday, May 7, 2009


I apologize for not posting much lately - I have been in over my head lately with school-work and work-work. On the upside, I discovered that I had a lot more readers than I knew! (Some of you asked either myself or my husband why I hadn't posted anything - thanks for making your presence known!)

Class ends this week, so I will have more time to post in the coming days, weeks, months ... in the meantime, here is a little something to tide you over:

There's a new Kindle being released. Read about it at

What do you think of the Kindle? Do you have one? If so, do you like it? If not, do you want one? Or do you prefer to stick with printed books?

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Work of the 'Shop

I go to a writer's group regularly. Last fall, I was in the Jenny McKean Moore Fiction workshop at George Washington University, and I participated in a number of fiction workshops in undergrad. And now I'm in a graduate program, and I'll be doing my first workshop session in a few weeks.

Needless to say, I am familiar with the concept of a workshop. I diligently read and critique each piece, making detailed notes in the margins and between the double-spaced lines and writing detailed comments on separate pages. I take this VERY seriously.

So - like many of my peers who take this VERY seriously - I get irritated when we workshop my writing, and all I get are a few bland comments, like "Good story" or "I really liked it" or "I think it's fine the way it is." I want you to rip my story apart! Tell me what doesn't work and what really caught your attention. I want to make my writing better! So bland, non-helpful comments tend to infuriate me.

Until today.

I just read a great article that was included in the most recent Glimmer Train Bulletin (it's kind of like their newsletter for writers), title "Workshop Is Not For You". It really opened my eyes - I'm going to think differently about workshopping from now on! we workshop to become better writers through out critiques of others - not be getting feedback on our own work. If you participate in writing workshops, you need to read this article!

For anyone interesting in subscribing to Glimmer Train's bulletin, click here. To check out archived bulletins, click here.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Book Publishers (and Authors and Customers) Breathe a Sigh of Relief!

I LOVE Borders Books! I do the majority of my book shopping there, as it is on my way to the Metro, they always send me great coupons and they have the best Bargain Section around.

Apparently the company has been struggling in these tough economic times (you wouldn't know it if you went to my local Borders!) due to lagging sales. But have no fear, book lovers: Borders Group and Pershing Square Agree to One-Year Extension of Loan Agreement. Hopefully, this extension will give the bookseller enough time to re-group and get their finances back on track so they can stick around for many years to come.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Getting to Know the Biz

After an almost refreshing Spring Break, I am back! I say "almost refreshing" because a week off from classes meant that I got stuck working late nearly every evening last week. So much for reading and research!

I had the opportunity yesterday to attend a meetup group in my area, the Write To Publish Group. I mention this because to be a writer today, it's not enough just to write. You need to know all aspects of the business if you want to be a writer in today's world. Publishers are cutting marketing and publicity all the time; at the same time, there are more and more presses out there, and so you've got to compete with a lot more books than you would have, say 25 years ago. As a writer, you need to be your own publicist. You need to sell yourself, because your book isn't going to sell itself.

Yesterday, our topic was Publishing 101. We talked about the Pros & Cons with different options for publishing and how to work around those and to make the best of your publishing situation.

Robin, the woman who runs this meetup group, is a great resource and her knowledge is staggering. She published a blog that I recommend to any aspiring writer to get to know the ins and outs of the industry. You can find her online at

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Books as Decoration?

" A home without books is like a room without windows "
—Henry Ward Beecher

The Strand bookstore is taking this to the extreme, offering a service to compile libraries for clients based not necessarily on content, but aesthetic appeal as well! (Although they can compile a library based on subject as well.)

Check it out on their website at

They also offer rentals for theater sets and the like.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Catch of the Day

Do you like to fish? Do you like to write poems? You might be interested in the following article that caught my eye recently:

For a Weekend, Fishermen Measure Haul in Verse

For all the people out there that think poetry is a frou frou art all about love and flowers, think again. Poetry is what you make it - and some people make it about fishing. The annual Fisher Poets Gathering is, well, exactly that.

From the website:

"Fisher Poetry" comes from experiences living and working in the industry, and ranges in writing style from fast-moving rhyming couplets to crafted free verse or literary prose, and includes poems, songs, short stories, personal memoirs and essays, along with art.

Just goes to prove that you can write poetry about anything - even fish.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Want To Read Books On Your iPod? Now You Can!

It's true! According to Brad Stone in a recent article for the NY Times:

"Shaking up the nascent market for electronic books for the second time in two months, will begin selling e-books for reading on Apple’s popular iPhone and iPod Touch.

Starting Wednesday, owners of these Apple devices can download a free application, Kindle for iPhone and iPod Touch, from Apple’s App Store. The software will give them full access to the 240,000 e-books for sale on, which include a majority of best sellers."

To read more, click here.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, March 2, 2009

I Didn't Win, But ...

This past December, I submitted work for the first time: I submitted my short story "Southern Comfort" to several writing competitions, one of which was the Glimmer Train December Fiction Open.

For those of you not familiar with Glimmer Train, it is a well-know, well-regarded literary journal. It has a HUGE circulation - 16,000 - for a literary journal, and the selection process is extremely competitive; the editors are known for being highly selective. If you want to read good fiction, go out and pick up an issue. They publish quarterly and are available at most major booksellers.

I heard back from one contest several weeks ago - it was a flat-out rejection. Then a week or so ago I received an e-mail from Glimmer Train. It was a really nice e-mail, telling me how much they had enjoyed my story. I didn't win, but ...

My story received an Honorable Mention!

It's not winning, but it's almost as good! Heck, it's almost as good as getting published! For my first time submitting work, to receive an Honorable Mention from such a well-respected journal is a big deal. It's very encouraging - especially since I'm waiting to hear back from two other journals regarding the same story.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

First Post: Meet the Blogger

For my first post, I thought that I would take just a few minutes to introduce myself and talk about what I envision for this blog.

My name is Erin, and I write literary fiction - mostly short stories, but I am currently doing research for what will be my first novel. I've always wanted to "be" a writer - I wrote stories all throughout my childhood and adolescence, and even majored in creative writing in college - but life got in the way and I stopped writing for a number of years.

We all know there's a difference between wanting to be a writer and actually writing. The desire to write had been gnawing at me the entire time I wasn't writing, and I reached a point where I had to return to writing, and a year or two ago I took up writing again.

Since then, I've joined a writers' workshop group and a write-to-publish group, taken a writing workshop at George Washington University and in January I began the part-time M.A. program in Writing. I've been learning a lot, and I've found some great resources, and I think it would be great to share these; I also think this would be a great place to post about books I'm reading, courses I'm taking and pieces that I'm working on.

I named my blog "Almost Published" because I feel that's where I am right now ... like Almost Famous, but in the literary world. I'd like to be published eventually, but I'm happy to be Almost Published for now, as long as I can keep writing!

I hope you enjoy reading!