Monday, July 20, 2009

New Home

We've moved! The Fringe Blog can now be found HERE, as part of the fantastic new Fringe Magazine site! Check out the brand-new issue of Fringe, and while you're at it, please update your bookmarks, links, and RSS feed subscriptions accordingly, and as always, thanks for reading!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

How Boston Spoiled Me As A Reader

I am a Florida resident now. I live in a place we’ll call Fahrenheit 101 (hey, can’t go pissing off the natives while still seeking employment). Down here they have something called a “Heat Index,” a number you reach by doubling the temperature in Boston and then adding another twenty. My skin is browning, my hair de-browning. I am a short drive away from white-sand beaches dotted with white-haired people. I am one of the youngest in my neighborhood. Most days, I sit on my back patio and watch dolphins play in the [Censored] River, reveling in my newfound (relative) youth.

Were I still a Boston resident, my umbrella would be my closest companion. My skin would be pale, my hair wet. The closest beach would be Revere, and that’s no fun in any weather. I would come down on the nearer-my-god-to-thee side of the median age. I’d sit on my balcony and watch the dark clouds pour more water into the harbor.

But at least I’d be reading a book.

The Brattle Bookstore was right behind my building. Commonwealth Books, steps away from the Emerson Bookstore, which was steps away from the Iwasaki Library, was a four-minute walk. The magnificent BPL at Copley was a mere ten minutes by footor 45 by T (if the Green Line was having a good day). I never had to resort to Border’s or Barnes & Noble, because in a one-mile radius from where I lived, there were thousands and thousands of books to browse, borrow, or buy.

There are no bookstores in Fahrenheit 101, Florida.

Allow me to repeat that. There are no bookstores in Fahrenheit 101, Florida. Not one. Not even a mom & pop (or, to be more Florida-appropriate, grandmom & grandpop) joint. The local library has a Paperback Mystery section that is separate from, and nearly as big as, its Fiction sectionwhich itself is stocked with row after row of hardcover mysteries, most of them in large print. Here in Fahrenheit 101, the only books in a one-mile radius from where I live are those stocking the shelves of my neighbors. And I have yet to be invited in.

Help. Into a literary wasteland I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up.

Boston is poetry readings in coffee houses. Fahrenheit 101 is obituaries that rhyme. Boston is sidewalk stalls of used books. Fahrenheit 101 is yard sales featuring complete sets of Guns & Ammo and ATV Magazine. Boston is walking the same streets that Poe, Emerson, and Lowell walked. Fahrenheit 101 is walking the streets only when your monster truck breaks down and no other monster truck stops to help. And Boston is where all of my books are, stashed in a cardboard box in a dark corner of some warehouse, waiting for the moving company to load them onto an eighteen-wheeler.

I know, I knowwhy didn’t I bring a few for the interim? Because I did not study my new surroundings in advance. I did not Google “Fahrenheit 101 Bookstores,” nor did I browse the [Censored] Library’s online catalogue. And with spotty Internet at my new home, I can’t even order books online. And even if I could, I’m pretty sure that the USPS is collecting all of my mail in giant sacks, and then hurling the sacks into the Charles.

(Speaking of which … if you see, bobbing along in that water, envelopes addressed to me in my own handwriting, and the return addressors are literary magazines, and inside the envelopes are what appear to be 3” x 5” pieces of thin, impersonal paper, please let them continue on into the harbor and out to sea.)

So revel in your books, Bostonians. Sit amongst the Brattle’s outdoor stacks and breathe in the smell of the worn pages. Walk (walk!) to the BPL, choose a title at random, take a seat in a sheltered area of the courtyard, and read a few pages as you listen to the rain pelt the flower petals. Appreciate what you have while you have it, else you’ll turn out like me.

Sorry, grandmom & grandpop, but you leave me no recourseI’m off to the Barnes & Noble six towns over. If I leave now and catch all the traffic lights, I can be home and reading a new book by tomorrow afternoon. And it’ll only cost $28.50 (excluding gas and aspirin). Which they’ll just take out of my first paycheck. If they’re hiring.

And if I get the job.

--Post contributed by Assistant Fiction Editor, Dave Duhr

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Dick Cheney needs your help

Just kidding. Not really.

Dick Cheney just signed a contract for the publication of his memoir, and while the Bush years will be a big chunk of it, the memoir will span his entire career in public, uh, service.

The Washington Post is running a contest for submissions of the first chapter of Cheney's memoir. The sample, on the Post's website, reads as follows: Undisclosed Location, Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 2009: Well, the baton is passed. Our work is finally done. Eight years, one devastating terrorist attack, two wars and one recession later, it's finally time to relax. It's been an amazing ride.

Submit your one-paragraph draft by July 2 to The best entries will be published. Further details can be found at the contest entry page. Best of luck!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Key(s) to Writer's Block

My writing routine includes a Mac book and an empty Word document. Slowly, but surely, the screen intermittently fills with letters, creating a peppered portrait. At least that's what used to happen before you came along, Writer's Block. Ever since my release from college a month ago I've undergone a painful case of writer's block. It's time for confrontation.

Dear Writer's Block,

I've tried everything: changing my atmosphere, hosting writing workshops on my porch, reading, doodling, listening to the radio, book clubs, events, and writing (gasp). The change in atmosphere only creates a drifting mind and, when applicable, intense sessions of people-watching and inner dialogue. Writing workshop turns into a wine manifesto, events are fun but mindless, and writing turns into illegible babble.

What else can I do, Writer's Block?

Buy a typewriter, you say? Why yes, a quaint typing machine that clicks and clacks should do the trick. A vintage toy that makes the sweetest of sounds, is irresistible to touch and impossible to ignore. Typewriters don't have Facebook or Google. Typewriters don't have iTunes or colorful, distracting screens. Typewriters help you get right to the point ...
Write. To. The. Point.

Thank you, Writer's Block, for understanding. I'm currently waiting, rather impatiently, to pick up a vintage Underwood - the kind that Kerouac once used. My fingers eagerly await their unborn masterpiece.

Yours truly,

P.S For more information on typewriters and which authors used what, click here. Joan Didion used a Royal KMM, William Faulker used an Underwood, and Joyce Carol Oates used an SCM Smith Corona Electra. The site also directs you to your nearest typewriter store. Fingers, rejoice!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Seattle's Pilot Books

Seattle has a new independent book store, tucked away in a second floor story of a shopping plaza off Broadway and specializing in poetry and small press releases. Pilot Books doesn't sell all the latest bestsellers, and it probably won't change that anytime soon. If you're looking for chapbooks, local zines or small press novels you'll be well suited to stop by. The store is open 12-8 every day except Wednesday.

The owner, Summer, is a friendly and knowledgeable book lover with a rockin tattoo of mastadons on her arms. "I’m always saying Pilot Books is for the now, the new, authors writing and publishing in times such as these," writes Summer on the bookstore's blog.

Don't fear that you'll have a hard time browsing just because you don't see the latest Dave Eggers or Jhumpa Lahiri. Handmade signs bearing slogans like "new" and "local artist" stick out of books. I'm sure Summer would be happy to discuss any of the titles in detail with you.

The tiny upstairs features a lending library and armchairs. According to the Pilot Books blog, Summer's planning on hosting weekly themed writing workshops and possibly reading groups in the future, too. During my visit the store was crowded with curious shopper and well-wishers, and was getting ready to welcome its first reading later that week. Not bad for a shop that had been open three weeks.

Pilot claims to be Seattle's Most Secretive bookstore. If you're in the area give it a shout-out and maybe we can change that reputation.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Virtual eclipse

This spring, a project I'd been eagerly awaiting went live. EcoArtTech, who is Cary Peppermint and Christine Nadir, released its Eclipse project on the net-art site. This lil program grabs photos of U.S. national parks from Flickr, then uses real-time air quality data from to mess with the images.

I tried it out for the first time on the Great Smokies National Park, and despite a current air quality rating of G (that's "good" to you), the images were corrupted with pleasingly colored but alarming horizontal lines. A couple of them had a feel similar to to one of my favorite recent shirt.woot entries—in particular, a photograph of huge grey-black rocks in a slow-moving stream, the water reflecting an odd bright yellow in the original photograph, became a disorienting/abstract thing with bands of magenta and cyan interrupting the flow of water around the rocks, the flow of the shapes the rocks made.

I tried the Sumter, SC, national forest, another site dear to my heart, but got a message saying that AQI values aren't available for it right now. Wonder why.

If we could see the effects of factors like air pollution all the time, we'd become inured to them. In fact, that's probably how we manage to stand seeing the ones that are visible without hyperventilating. There's the kind of filters that keep the world manageable—and the kind that make important parts of the world visible to us. That's what this project feels like. For our emotional survival, we have to keep the first kind intact; for our long-term survival, we have to keep making more of the second kind of filter, keep finding ways to see what's subtle or painful or too big to conceptualize. Keep it up, EcoArtTech!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Unspeakable, Unthinkable Fiction

Apparently, some fiction does not enjoy first amendment protection.

Consider the case of Dwight Whorley. This Virginia man authored an icky pornographic story that included pedophilia, then emailed his fantasy to likeminded internet friends, Wired reports. Whorley was convicted for possessing obscene Japanese manga and for possession of a filthy piece of print -- his pedophiliac fantasy.

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has declined to hear his case, setting the stage for a Supreme Court Appeal.

On the one hand, the production of written kiddie porn probably does hurt children by helping to create an atmosphere that suggests that it's ok, or by helping condition a person's orgasm to an illegal act that threatens the safety children. On the other hand, Whorley's being prosecuted for writing down a private fantasy and sharing it with others, an act that any writer will be familiar with.

The whole situation makes me uncomfortable. I generally think of writing as a safe space to experiment with concepts, situations, and characters that might make me uncomfortable in real life. This case pushes that conception to its limit.

I find Whorley's fantasies reprehensible, but the idea that the law could punish someone for expressing their feelings, no matter how deviant and disgusting, disturbs me as a writer.

I'll be interested to read what happens next.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Review: Where Did You Sleep Last Night? by Danzy Senna

Danzy Senna subtitles her latest book, Where Did You Sleep Last Night?, as a "personal history" rather than a memoir. The difference between the two terms is subtle but important--the book is as much a chronicle of her ancestors and a racially-divided world as it is a story of her own life.

Outwardly, the book hinges on the relationship between Senna's parents: Fannie Howe, a writer from the prominent white Boston upper-crust, and Carl Senna, a black intellectual from fuzzy Southern origins. The unlikely couple married in 1968, full of hope and revolutionary zeal, only to divorce in 1975, their union a victim of alcoholism, domestic abuse, and the social pressures of an inter-racial marriage on the heels of the Civil Rights Movement. More significant, however, is the relationship between Senna and her father. At the book's core is the author's dogged search for information regarding her father's roots--an often exhausting and heart-wrenching search that propels her on a journey through the South.

I found myself completely wrapped in the tangled threads of Senna's family history, eager for her to solve the mystery of her heritage. However, there was something keeping me from becoming completely involved in the story--something in her tone that's always bothered me. Senna was a visiting writer where I attended college and I took a creative writing seminar with her my last semester of senior year. I don't remember much about her--only about the writing prompts she gave us, the circles we would form for peer review. I think it's because she never seemed fully present or fully invested in our development as writers. Something about her kept us at a distance, even when we were surrounding her at a long table.

Given that I had taken a writing course with her, I read the book on multiple levels. On one of those levels, I wondered if her multi-racial identity grants her writing an authenticity and depth that would be somehow lacking in my own. All of her books (two novels and this memoir) focus on this idea of racial duality--of the constant struggle for identity when there isn't just one constant. But what does it mean when you're just...white?

While reading the book, I couldn't help feeling like without some element of another ethnicity to add dimension and significance to our experience, we racially plain people are one-dimensional, flat, without substance. There is an underlying tone of scorn for her mother's side of the family, described at one point as "a crowd of screaming red Irish faces, or a room of tight-lipped dismissive Wasps who assume their own significance and wit and intelligence as if they were still central, despite the evidence to the contrary." It was frustrating to feel like our ethnicity alone defines us and how we feel, see, and think about the world around us. Perhaps this is because my experiences have never hinged on my race--a luxury I certainly don't take for granted; however, I would like to believe that it is the totality of our life experiences that define us--not just our DNA.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Coming VERY Soon...

It's almost here! Thanks to your generous support and contributions, the new Fringe site will be ready to launch on June 29. Designing and building a brand-new site is a pretty complicated task, and we appreciate your patience and understanding as we work out the last few tweaks.

As part of the redesign, the blog will be fully integrated with the main site. Stay tuned for specifics and our new address. We can't wait to show off the new face of Fringe!

Shout Out to Zahra Rahnavard

A big Fringe shout out to bad-a** mother-feminist Zahra Rahnavard, wife to Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's main competition in Friday's Iranian election.

After Ahmadinejad questioned Dr. Rahnavard's credentials during a televised debate with her husband, the spunky academe called a 90-minute press conference where she proceeded to excoriate Ahmadinejad for lying, humiliating women, and debasing the revolution.

"Those who made up this case against me wanted to say it is a crime for women to study, to get two graduate degrees, to become an intellectual or an artist," she said.

In addition, she threatened to sue Ahmadinejad for slandering her academic qualifications if he did not publicly apologize to her within 24 hours.

Dr. Rahnavard put on her feminist hat to woo young and female voters promising that, if elected, her husband will do away with the morality police, end discrimination, ensure that women are treated like humans, not second class citizens, and appoint women to cabinet posts.

For a woman in Iran (or anyone in Iran), this is ballsy busty styff, but because she's a woman, Rahnavard's been able to indict Ahmadinejad more strongly than any of his male competitors.

You can read more about her at the London Times, the AP, The New York Times, The New Internationalist Blog, and Wikipedia.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Open Book: Jorie Graham on Balancing Parenthood and Poetry

I'm a fan of Slate V's Open Book: Writer's on Writing—a collaboration between Slate and the NYU Creative Writing Program. Check out their most recent video interview of Jorie Graham in “Balancing Parenthood and Poetry.” I love the image of Graham rubbing her pregnant belly on Emily Dickinson's grave!

True Currency

"The only true currency in this bankrupt world... is what you share with someone else when you're uncool."

In a recent essay for Rumpus, Rick Moody confesses his dark past as a high school outcast. Ostensibly, this is surprising--though not necessarily a household name, Moody is very well-known in the literary set, and gained fame with his novel, The Ice Storm, which later became a feature film starring Kevin Kline, Tobey Maguire, and Sigourney Weaver. However, those who know writers and other creative types pretty well will tell you that most of us share a bond stronger than art--we were all tragically uncool in high school.

The main focus of Moody's essay is about Bill, a band composed of Bill Gage, a man with Down's Syndrome, and his brother John, whom Moody was friends with in high school. Moody sets the stage for his discovery of this band by describing his group of high school friends: a motley and eccentric group of outcasts that others called a "cult." They were fused together in their loneliness and creativity--talent that gets automatically labeled "weird" by teenagers everywhere.

I was, of course, uncool in high school, as were many of the most awesome people I know. The only thing that kept me going was my band of friends--like Moody's "cult," we didn't have much in common except for that subliminal quality that set us apart from the popular kids. We converted the small yearbook room at the back of the library into our headquarters--we monopolized the school newspaper, yearbook, and drama club. Nearly all of us were in band or orchestra, and on Friday nights, instead of partying, we made movies.

It all makes me wonder if being labeled "different," being jeered at, laughed at, and torn down is what makes great artists great (I am by no means implying I am a great artist. But at least I have some imagination.) This isn't to say that those popular kids won't go far--they will. But without that special brand of angst only found in lonely teenagers, we wouldn't foster the kind of introspection and pain needed to create great art--or some of the best friendships of our lives.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Best. Gift. Ever.

A move from one apartment to another made me realize how extensive my book collection got. As I moved my books from a box to the windowsill I looked at each one individually - scanning my eyes over the covers, flipping through the pages of folds, highlights and notes. Each book sparked a memory whether I bought it, found it, or received it.

The best gift to get (and give) is a book with a personal message written inside. There’s something so telling about books as gifts. Just this weekend I was reminded of that delightful feeling when my friend and I went to the Printer’s Row Lit Fest in Chicago. As we fingered through piles of used books he grabbed “Everything is Illuminated.”

“I’m buying you this,” he said, not even asking if I read or owned it. Later as we sat over a pre-5 o’clock pitcher of sangria he opened the book to its front-page and began to write.

“Don’t read it until later,” he said closing the cover and slipping it into my purse. I was all kinds of excited. I played fair and waited until I got home.

“It’s a rainy day in June. We bought this book a few hours ago and when I think about it I can’t help but feel excited about what you’re going to read. I hope you enjoy it; there’s more feeling and innocence and love in these words than you’ll have time to appreciate. Enjoy.”

Yes, I teared up. Why? Because I’m a girl and sometimes girls cry about weird things. But come on … words are the indeed the best gift. Anybody have a similar experience?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Submarine, Joe Dunthorne

“One of the things I have discovered is that, although my father’s beard looks ginger from a distance, when you get close up it is in fact a subtle blend of black, blond and strawberry.
I have also learnt that my parents have not had sex in two months. I monitor their intimacy via the dimmer switch in their bedroom. I know when they have been at it because the next morning the dial will still be set to half way.”

Oliver Tate is 15. He is abnormally preoccupied with his parents’ marital relations, determined to lose his virginity before he turns 16, and has a girlfriend who can do some very clever things with matches. Oliver is fond of new words, translucent skin, and will happily feed rat poison to your dog if he thinks it will 'safeguard' your long-term emotional stability.

Joe Dunthorne has a real flair for language, splattering the pages with one-liners and odd observations, as gleaned from the delightfully skewed mind of a protagonist whose mixture of intelligence and immaturity is best served in the guise of a teenage boy. Oliver can pen witty diary entries to appease his girlfriend (crafting delicious parodies of Adrian Mole), yet remain stubbornly oblivious to notions of tact, subtlety, and common sense. Misadventures and grievous errors are sure to ensure.

Consistently funny without ever feeling too forced, the narration far outshines the plot, which is a little random and not as compelling as Oliver’s observational nuggets. This is a novel perhaps best enjoyed in small segments, for as witty as Oliver’s precisely phrased narration is, the resulting detachment can feel a bit chilly at times. Indeed, Dunthorne’s protagonist is curiously reminiscent of Mark Haddon’s infamous autistic narrator (also a fifteen year old boy). It is the sort of deadpan delivery that is initially striking but can feel a bit oppressive if you don’t take a break after a chapter or two.

Despite its teeny tiny shortcomings, Submarine remains an impressively assured debut from a very promising new(ish)* talent.

*(It was published last year, so shame on me for taking so long to find it.)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Teh Internetz: #BEA09

Today kicks off Book Expo America at the Javitts Center in New York City. BEA is the largest book convention in the country, though this year is smaller than others.

This year's vibe, I'm told, is going to be somewhere between "we're effed" and "where do we go from here?" Interesting discussions will hopefully happen and break ground for new business models in publishing.

You can follow the chatter on Twitter by watching the #BEA09 hashtag.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Forage Oakland Anthology CFS

You don't have to live in the east bay to participate in this project! Forage Oakland is a neighborhood bartering food underground, allowing those with extra fruit trees to share with their neighbors. Those on the east coast might not understand that the streets of Berkeley and Oakland are LITTERED with free fruit for the taking...meyer lemon trees, orange trees, persimmons, figs, plums. Not to mention the rose geranium, lavender and rosemary that substitute for shrubbery.

You can find out more about the Forage Oakland project here, but if you write about the intersection of food and comunity, please consider submitting.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Interview with Chamber Four--Part II

Here's the conclusion of our interview with Chamber Four:

Aside debates about the value of ereaders, and clips of other sources discussing the value of ereaders, what type of content are you trying to publish?

Sean: We're really trying to promote the book reviews as a source of book information for readers by readers. The database is growing steadily, and our ambitions for it are big; we'll be importing it to a searchable, cross-referencing database at some point, hopefully soon. We're also planning to launch a digital magazine soon.

Nico: I've always been frustrated with the way book reviews are done. Music and movie reviews are geared toward telling people if the music/movie is good or not, why aren't book reviews the same way? On the blog side, we also post about literature and reading, as well as ebook issues. I think our best posts are the more sprawling, big-picture pieces, because we're all in the midst of figuring out this tectonic shift in a medium that's been stable for almost 600 years, so I find pieces that can encompass the magnitude of that shift to be the most compelling. And while we do repost some big news items, we filter a lot of stuff out: our goal is to keep the lay ereader/literature aficionado informed without overwhelming him or her with the details of all the minutiae of either ereaders or publishing.

Is Chamber Four available for eReaders?

Sean: Right now the whole site is in a blogroll format, which can easily be compiled and added to ereaders through programs such as Calibre. When we launch the magazine it will be available for free in an ereader friendly download, probably as PDFs and ePubs.

As MFA students/graduates, how do you see eReaders changing the way writers try to publish?

Nico: I think the big difference is that anybody can publish their own ebook. One thing we need, as more and more books are published every year, is a filtration system…In a world of digital distribution, hopefully there will be a lot more room for small press books to get a more equivalent share of notoriety because the cost of distribution will be leveled out. For writers, it means that simply getting published will no longer be a goal in and of itself.

Sean: Right, but hopefully writers will remain focused on creating the best art they can. We know good authors will still be good, regardless of the format their books are delivered in.

Nico: Another great thing about digital publishing is that it allows for more experimentation. If we start seeing more ebook-only publishers, their books won't necessarily need to all be 300 pages anymore, and their books won't need to have huge audiences because the costs of production will be much lower.

What is your take on self-publishing?

Nico: I just want to read good books, I don't care where they come from. I think the biggest problem with self-published books is that the good ones can easily be missed.

Sean: The prohibitively steep costs of publishing make things especially difficult for unpublished writers. Self-publishing can help dedicated writers get their stuff out there for all to read, even if a firm won't take a risk on it. eBooks certainly help in this regard. Of course, the volume of poor quality self-publication will likely increase with ebooks (it already has), but like with their deadtree counterparts, if it isn't good, no one will read it anyway.

Currently, your site is ad free. Will that be changing in the future?

Sean: We're going to try our best not to change that. We toyed with ad space, but with our focus toward unbiased reader advocacy, we didn't want a bunch of Kindle and Sony ereader ads popping up all over the place. When the Kindle 2 came out, Amazon gave a 10% cut of any sale to the site that referred the buyer. This caused a weird imbalance in Kindle reviews, despite the fact that in the best light it is no better than its competition. We didn't want to be a part of that.

When does Chamber Four plan to start a literary magazine? How do you hope to distinguish yourself from other literary magazines? How does starting a literary magazine fit into the site's overall mission?

Sean: Our hope is to launch the first issue in the autumn of 2009. Each issue will be available for DRM-free download at no cost. Too often, stuff printed in lit journals tends to read as if it was written on only for other writers, perhaps because they are mostly read by other writers. We want to do something different.

Nico: To a certain extent, it's us putting our money where our mouth is. We think digital publishing is the way of the future, so we're going to get into it, and see what we can do. We're going to have to stay quiet on specifics for now, but the magazine will definitely be reader-centered, like the rest of Chamber Four.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Interview with Chamber Four--Part I

Fringe has been collaborating with Chamber Four on an interview swap to exchange information about digital literature. It's been an interesting dialogue--the interview with Fringe's Editor-in-Chief Lizzie Stark can be found here. Now it's Chamber Four's turn to answer some questions! Lizzie sat down with Chamber Four founders Sean Clark and Nico Vreeland (Eric Markowsky wasn't available, due to a little thing called his thesis) to talk about writing and reading in the digital revolution.

Part I now, Part II will be published tomorrow.

Why did you decide to start this site? How did you come up with the name? Who are its founding members and how long did it take you to get the site up?

Sean: The three of us (Eric, Nico, and Sean--all from Emerson College's MFA program) came up with the idea while discussing books and Nico's new Sony e-reader. We actually got the first build put together after a long week of work, but some of our planned improvements are still being worked on. I think an enormous disconnect seems to exist between readers (and to an extent writers) and publishing as a business. Since finishing school, I've longed for a better way to discuss and share good books. The name references William Blake's Marriage of Heaven and Hell.

Nico: I had a whole lot of trouble finding good information about e-readers, especially the Kindle. After a lot of research, I found out that the Kindle has a lot of downsides: you can't borrow digital library books with it, you can't buy any book not sold through Amazon, and you can't buy much of anything that isn't crippled with DRM. So a big part of Chamber Four is detangling the mess of e-reader information out there. The other parts, like our book reviews, evolved out of that desire to inform readers, and our frustration as readers ourselves with the publishing and e-publishing industries.

There is endless debate about the role of e-books in literature. How does Chamber Four contribute to this dialogue?

Nico: We all like ebooks. We try to analyze how readers will be affected by the digital publishing revolution. A lot of sites and organizations look out for authors and publishers and publishing professionals, but very few honestly break down the effects all of this will have on readers. For example, a lot of publishers tell you that digital rights management (DRM) is necessary to protect their investments or stop piracy. But DRM drastically limits the way people can use ebooks compared to paper books, and there's no research to support claims that DRM actually prevents piracy.
Sean: The less difference people see between books and ebooks, the better. In any format, literature is words placed together in a precise order by a writer. However, there are a lot of opportunities for books and book distribution to flourish and improve in a digital environment, and readers will have unprecedented access to everything ever written. Basically, our stance is that people should read more, and in what manner they choose to read is secondary to that.

E-readers are slowly becoming more mainstream, but don't seem to be there quite yet. What do you think will be the tipping point?

Nico: It's important for ereader skeptics to actually see one. That said, the technology isn't quite there yet. Another few years of development will do wonders. Other than that, I'm not sure there will be a tipping point, exactly. Ebook readership picks up every year, and I think that will continue until basically everybody reads ebooks.

Sean: The term we (well, Nico) coined for this moment is the Great eReader Adoption. And Nico's right about actually seeing and manipulating an ereader. I still do most of my reading on paper books, but I actually find reading on an ereader quite comfortable. For me the turn off is the DRM. The tipping point for ereaders will likely be most evident when schools and textbooks make the switch. Younger readers will lead the push towards these devices being an everyday necessity.

Nico: Yeah, getting rid of DRM is one of the drums we bang. There are already horror stories of Amazon locking people out of the books they paid for and they can do that because almost everything they sell you is crippled with DRM, which means that you don't own it, you only license it.

Is DRM really all that bad? In this media market, where the demand for books, and for literary fiction in particular, have been dropping, when fewer people than ever are willing to shell out $25-50 for a hardback, why should publishing companies (and authors) give the public an infinitely replicable file for less than $10? Wouldn't doing so make the already not-very-lucrative profession of book writing even less appealing? Authors need royalties in order to continue writing.

Nico: Yes, it's that bad. First of all, DRM does not prevent piracy, which is ostensibly the whole reason it exists. What DRM does do is cripple media by locking music and books to specific machines by brute force. There are also horror stories about Kindle users getting locked out from their books and music buyers losing the DRM keys to their music.

Essentially, DRM means that you don't own the music or ebooks you buy; you only license them, and at some point that license will expire. I've personally had a lot of trouble trying to put old DRMed music onto new computers, or different mp3 players—and I've had trouble moving ebooks from one ereader to another. And you can forget about borrowing a friend's book like we're all used to.

DRM exists because media companies see every illegal download as a lost purchase. But I don't believe that's true. As Neil Gaiman said in a talk a while ago there's a long history of people discovering new writers or artists by borrowing books and music from their friends. There has to be a lot of experimental downloading—people trying new music or movies that they would not purchase otherwise—which is a good thing for authors and musicians, especially struggling ones for whom notoriety is of the highest importance. Plus there's new research out that suggests downloaders buy more media than non-downloaders.

Sean: I'm the type who obsessively organizes iTunes, makes sure every album has cover art, a genre, etc. A big reason why I haven't made the shift to a digital library is that DRM prevents me from doing this with my ebooks. A lot of DRM systems also feed into proprietary formatting, which is especially frustrating, and fragments the market in a way that isn't good for readers or writers. DRM forces a situation where nobody wins besides the guys selling machines for twice the cost of production. And don't forget, right now anyone can read any book they want, totally free and legally: just walk into a library. DRM does nothing to help authors (exposure helps them more than anything); it merely perpetuates a failing business model.

Do you see a place for ebooks in bookstores, or will bookstore giants suffer for the cause?

Nico: My heart doesn't quite bleed for Borders. When big corporate bookstores try to dictate which books readers buy, the whole publishing industry suffers. I sincerely hope ebooks reduce the power those bookstore chains have.
Sean: If Amazon, Borders, and other big corporate bookstores strong arm their way to exclusive deals (both ebook and deadtree) and forgo the publishing houses altogether, I think we'll see a real decline in quality publication, as good literature makes for risky sales.

We're already seeing bookstores set up digital kiosks for selling ebooks. E-books can provide publishers the opportunity to produce more great titles at a fraction of the cost. My hope is that ebooks help them produce and sell stuff we want to read that will also make them the money to keep in the ring with the big boys.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Target Women

While surfing the internet in the name of procrastination, I stumbled upon my favorite new comedian: Sarah Haskins

She takes a look at the way advertising targets women, and the result is hilarious. I recommend you spend the next 45 minutes-4.5 hours watching you tube clips.

The Play's The Thing

I took Theories and Methods of Cultural Studies in grad school, so I have read Edward Said and Gayatri Spivak on the theoretical complications of first world writers "representing" colonial and postcolonial groups; these problems range from stereotypes and race/class-based assumptions and paternalism to simply projecting Western cultural emotions and motivations onto Others, just to name a few. My feeling on the subject back then was that it would be better for a writer not to try to speak for the Other at all, rather than to try but get it horribly wrong and come out looking like an elitist or racist.

"Little did she know," a narrator might say, since several years later I am an expat and legal resident in Malaysia, and I'm really starved for the company of other people interested in writing. I was excited then when I saw that the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Center is inviting submissions for a short play festival. I have written several short plays, so I looked through my DRAMA file and found that my plays are all based on assumptions and cultural norms for the U.S. and particularly Louisiana where they were performed. I believe that good drama has the potential to speak beyond its own space and time, but I never claimed to be Shakespeare or even David Mamet. Besides, I think an event like this is a good impetus to write something new.

For the past two months I've been drafting a play in dialogue with Malaysian life and culture. Enter the concerns I listed in the above paragraph. Is it culturally sensitive? Are the characters authentic in terms of avoiding stereotype while presenting immediately recognizable personalities? Am I being so politically correct as to water down the aesthetics? I had a couple of Malaysian friends to read it for me, although even with them I wonder what the difference might be between how they represent themselves to expats, versus to each other. I get the feeling there's an entire other world I live in the middle of but am insulated from, and I am sure that's what causes some of the problems with representation listed in paragraph 1.

I'll have to wait a while to find out if my play is going to be performed, but it's been fascinating to write far, far outside my comfort zone. The hardest part has been considering my audience, mostly Malaysian with a few expats judging by the crowd at KLPAC events I have attended. What do you think about such a writerly cultural situation as mine?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Is 30 Rock Feminist? Or, my eternal love for Liz Lemon.

Recently, in the recesses of the interwebs, people have been discussing the feminist merits of every nerdy girl's favorite show, 30 Rock.

A few weeks back Jonah Weiner, of Slate, called out 30 Rock for being anti-feminist and secretly conservative here. The Pursuit of Harpyness (one of my favorite blogs!)weighed in, and Bitch Magazine's blog joined in on the discussion, too. (There was also a Maxim article bemoaning Liz Lemon's low libido and the affects this will have on their female audience. Gasp! Horror! Bring back Sex & the City.)

The question at the heart of this discussion seems to be: Is Liz Lemon a feminist? Unfortunately, everyone is banging their heads against the wrong door. The real question we need to ask is this: Is 30 Rock a feminist show? This is a very significant difference. Liz Lemon doesn't need to be motivated by feminism, nor Tracy Jordon by civil rights for the show to be a smart critique and satire of gender and race relations.

Jonah Weiner (note: his last name is Weiner) writes:
Flawed people are funny, sure, but why does Liz Lemon have the traditionally gendered flaws she does? Elaine Benes and Murphy Brown, for example, were strong, feminist-friendly characters and funny, to boot.

She's a real woman. Woman have flaws. Some of those flaws are, gasp, "traditionally gendered". Weiner is giving preference to Jack Donaghey as the more-perfect character because his flaws are gendered male (endless ambition, stunted emotions). Liz Lemon's flaws are worse because they are "feminine" problems. (baby hungry, hungry hungry, in love with night cheese). The underlying argument here is that the only way to be a feminist is to be like a man. Masculinity is still better than femininity. Isn't this precisely what we're trying to undo?

I love Murphy Brown and Elaine; they are some of the great t.v. female characters of our time. But to privileged them for their "masculine" characteristics and "masculine" flaws is, to say the least, problematic.

Furthermore, to answer your question Weiner, it's SATIRE. Liz Lemon's gendered flaws are serving a purpose within the narrative of 30 Rock. Indeed, if you look at all the characters of 30 Rock (which some of these articles--I'm looking at you Weiner and Bitch--are hesitant to do), everyone is a caricature of their character/a stereotype. Tracy Jordon? Jenna Maroney? Frank? Toofer? Jack? Kenneth?

They are all absurd. They are all mocking the stereotypes of sitcoms before them, and of our cultural stereotypes. The satire of 30 Rock is about mocking the system from within. The danger with satire, of course, is that people, like Weiner, will miss the joke. You run the risk of people missing the tongue firmly planted in your cheek.

Is Liz Lemon a feminist? She'd say yes, but it doesn't matter. Is 30 Rock a feminist show? I say, while cuddled in my slanket, yes.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Teh Internetz: Browsers and Jewelry

I'm hoping that 98% of y'all won't need me to tell you this, but I'll do it anyway: STOP. USING. INTERNET EXPLORER.

OK, so the latest version of IE isn't too bad, and as far as customization goes, Microsoft's browser of choice is greatly improved from its past versions, but still. All the cool kids are using Firefox. Don't you want to be using what all the cool kids are using?

There are tons of browser options out there: IE, Chrome, Opera, Safari. But Firefox will always be my baby because of its amazing range of add-ons.

Add-ons are kind of like accessories in Final Fantasy games. Ribbons protect you from status ailments, sprint shoes help you move faster, that sort of thing. If you aren't using add-ons for Firefox, you're seriously missing out on the best you could have.

Here are some of my favorite add-ons:

Adblock Plus will get rid of all annoying ads. If you feel frisky, get the Add-Art bundle that replaces all ads with modern art.

SearchStatus will give you the Google Page Rank and Alexa Rank of every page you visit so you can tell what's an awesome site and what's lame.

There are tons of Twitter clients but I like TwitterFox for its simple, out-of-the-way appearance in my Firefox toolbar. It also makes retweeting and sharing a breeze.

HYPERWORDS. Seriously, download it now. Hyperwords allows you to highlight any text on a web page and, with a simple right click, open up a world of possibilities. Instantly Google, Wiki, share via all types of social media, translate, or compare prices. You can instantly Google Map an address, you can price compare a brand of camera, you can find out what the Russian word for "love" is. It has seriously changed my life.

Just like there's an iPhone app for everything, there is a Firefox extension for everything. I'm sure there are a billion awesome ones that I'm missing. Let us know in the comments if I passed on your do-or-die add-on.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Vernacular Spring Gala--THIS Friday!

The members of Emerson College’s literary blog, VERNACULAR, are proud to present:

Vernacular Spring Gala
An evening of live music, food and drink, and social networking

Join us on Friday, May 15th from 7p.m.-10p.m. at GRUB STREET (160 Boylston St, Boston, 4th floor) for a chance to mingle with local publishing professionals, writers, bloggers, students, and Emerson College faculty. Check us out at for details about the event, and to purchase discounted advance tickets! ($3 advance / $5 door) Free booze and food included in ticket price-- yes, really!!

Live music provided by Gentlemen Hall and Heinz Healey Schaldenbrand; food provided by Teele Square Cafe; drinks provided by Narragansett Beer and Equal Exchange Cafe.

I challenge you to find a better deal in the city this weekend! See you there.

Note: You must be 21 years of age to consume alcoholic beverages. Food and drink will be provided while supplies last.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Mission: Accomplished!

Thanks to all of you, Fringe has reached our fundraising goal (and then some)!

You can look forward to a hot new design coming to Fringe in June. We hope you're all as excited as we are.

Monday, May 4, 2009

social networking in modern times: or, what happens when your folks join facebook

A couple weeks ago, my roommate was lamenting that her mother had joined MySpace. Worsesaid my roommate, she wants to friend me. I'm going to have to reject her. I don't want to be friends with my mom on MySpace.

Years ago, employers were apt to fire people for talking about work on social networking sites such as MySpace. Today, for better or worse, your boss is more apt to be signing up for such sites. So are Mom and Dad. And underage siblings.

I keep tabs on my mother, aunts and little brothers via Facebook, and though none of them read my blog they could certainly find it with little difficulty. Yes, there are all sorts of awkward negotiations that go along with this kind of family sharing. My mother tends to ask me what Every Single Status Update means.

While my mother employs Facebook primarily for its social uses, she also uses LinkedIn, the business-oriented networking site that allows you to "tag" personal and professional connections, and recommend past employees. LinkedIn is refreshingly professional, a form of social networking that's focused on sharing less, not more. Or rather, on sharing only job-specific accomplishments.

Recently I accepted a consulting gig from an older gentleman (78, to be precise) looking to take advantage of social networking for his business. He asked if he should join LinkedIn. Then Facebook. Then Twitter. When I mentioned MySpace, he said sure, why not? If it's valuable

I almost wanted to laugh...I'd spent maybe fifteen hours with this man and knew he'd either be really frustrated by Twitter or incredibly, exhaustedly addicted to it. Then, seriously, I told him he should only join LinkedIn, and Facebook if he wanted to keep in touch with far-flung relatives or colleagues.

More and more, it will be people my age and younger inviting people past a certain age into the technological wilderness of blogging, social networking, and new-media marketing. Inasmuch as we may owe it to them (to anyone, really) to give them skills they'll find useful, what specifically should we be teaching them? Should we make the judgment over what we think they would understand and enjoy? Should we invite them to share in our own digitized lives? Who is welcome at the party?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Reflection on Cinco de Mayo in Malaysia

For my husband and me Cinco de Mayo means margaritas and fajitas served under a pinata and flanked with paper mache flowers, and we decided to bring an evening of Mexican yummy goodness to Malaysia. We didn't even know what the holiday actually stands for until checking on Wikipedia when our first guest confirmed attendance and asked what Cinco de Mayo was about since she's Indian. As the confirmations and regretful declines poured in, so did the questions about our holiday which Malaysians, Australians, and the British had never enjoyed. In the parts of the U.S. I have lived, this holiday means less anything about the outnumbered Mexican army's defeat of the French and more about enjoying a contextless tribute to Bacchus in the form of tequila, jalapenos, and cheese on everything.

While party planning, the little devil on my left shoulder that spent a lot of time reading cultural studies theory in grad school whispered that I was appropriating culture and serving it up for consumption as though Mexico could be condensed to a playlist of Mariachi bands; shouldn't I use this opportunity to raise awareness about Mexican immigrants, drug cartels, or the missing women of Juarez? Or would my espousal of any activist sound bites be equally reductive, albeit with noble intent?

There is a weird multi-level of nostalgia wrapped in all this for me. My fifth of May is a bright, enjoyable picture of what Americans imagine of Mexico, and to bring the celebration to Malaysia I have to create the idea of Mexico for the guests while also creating the nostalgia. My interpretation becomes a double level of nostalgia for the way Americans celebrate nostalgia for Mexico, but I can only succeed in it if I make abject the pieces of Mexican culture that didn't fit into the party mold.

All my mental meandering isn't stopping us from hanging red, yellow, and green balloons from the ceiling and making quesadillas, Mexican cornbread, and 7-layer bean dip, but I don't think that means these aren't questions worth asking. What will you be thinking when you raise your Corona on Tuesday?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Drink in a tasty cup of word coffee

Greetings fellow Fringe fans; I return from my brief but fun-filled travels (cut short by icky hot weather) and have thrown myself into the choppy waters of the publishing world once more – or, to be a tad more accurate, I am trying to dive back into them in what, admittedly, has become my rather badly timed job hunting adventure.

My frenzied rummaging around the interweb has thrown up all sorts of little treasures in regards to independent publishers and relevant news pieces in general, amongst which I discovered a slick little outfit dubbed Bookkake, a self proclaimed ‘new’ type of publisher of ‘transgressive literature’ which appears to have an erotic bent. They use a handy-looking outfit called Lightning Source to print on-demand, when (and only when) someone orders a title. Sounds like good idea in terms of minimising waste/saving some trees and not being burdened with a costly warehouse of books to push onto already chock-full market.

I later stumbled upon another piece of oldish news – a magical photocopier that squeezes out whole books in minutes. The Espresso Book Machine has been winging their way around the US/Canada/Australia for a while now, but only made their UK debut at the London Book Fair last week, so this is shiny and new to me.

So what does all this speedy book making mean? For one, obscure and out-of-print titles can find their way back into the hands of those who want them, plus it also means smaller presses can hopefully continue doing what they do best; publishing riskier titles which range from the sublime to the shocking, keeping that door to a viable future propped open for niche markets.

This potential freedom may also open up the way for almost endless choice, which bodes less well for new writers yearning for that big break, as one would imagine it’s trickier to get your voice heard in over a increasingly noisy rabble, no matter how fresh or dazzling that voice might be. But then if your heart is still pure and you’re not in it for the money or the glory anyway, there’s nothing new to fear.

Next week: the dirty world of self-publishing

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Teh Internetz: Bloggity Blog Blog

Writing on Teh Internetz. We all do it. You may not want to call it blogging, but whatever.

Today, I bring you profiles of some of the more ubiquitous blogging tools. You know. In case you wanna get in on some of that easy blogging money!

(Caveat: There is actually no easy blogging money.)

Speaking of, these are all free services. Unless you want to get fancy, you can run a blog on these platforms for no money at all.

1. Blogger

Blogger is the blogging platform that's owned by Google. You know it; you're looking at it right now. It's Fringe's platform of choice, and it's fairly easy peasy. If you've got a Google account (also known as a Gmail account, though it does more than Gmail, people), then you can log in to and get started right now. However, there's not a ton of room for fancy personalization.

2. Wordpress

A favorite among the slightly tech-savvy, Wordpress sports a clean, streamlined look that can be calibrated to your personal tastes with lots and lots of options. It started life as an open-source blogging service at, but now it's got the balls of corporate backing. A favorite in my line of work because it's got some great content management systems.

3. Typepad

To my young eyes, it seems as if Typepad has been around since time began. It was one of the first blogging platforms, and it's grown a lot. Typepad is owned by the company Six Apart, which you may know as the creators of Movable Type, another of the early blogging tools. It's actually not too different from Wordpress, but in terms of branding, Typepad has always felt old person's blogging platform. Something almost business-like, I mean.

4. LiveJournal

LiveJournal, or LJ, is a blogging platform used mostly by suicidal teenagers and fans of Twilight. LJ is NOT classy. It's NOT pretty. It's NOT simple to customize. And it's certainly not a blog URL you'd want printed on your Big Girl business cards. But LiveJournal is good at community building, and if you want to bitch about TV shows and hot vampires, this is the place to do it.

I can say all these horrible things about LiveJournal because I use it. In fact, I use all these different services for different blogging projects. Depending on what you want your blog to be about and how much effort you want to put in its maintenance, you can decide for yourself.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

New Blood

Along with the approaching redesign,
the gorgeous spring weather, and our interactive Round Robin story project, we at Fringe are excited about a few shakeups going down behind the scenes.

We are pleased to announce two new editors joining the staff with our upcoming June installment! Llalan Fowler has taken the reigns of our nonfiction section from Shuchi Saraswat, who has shifted to fiction editor. Llalan is the editor of the Globe Corner Bookstore blog, writes a weekly column about beer for Bostonist, and also writes weekly for Emerson College's Writing and Publishing blog, Vernacular. She is also a worthy arm-wrestling opponent and devoted Cleveland Indians fan.

Dara Cerv is helming our (de)Classified section. She has an MFA from Emerson and continues to be a Boston-area poet. Her work is forthcoming in Sixth Finch. She's currently working on a chapbook of love poems that really aren't love poems at all.

Please join us in welcoming Dara and Llalan to the Fringe family!

papercut zine library to leave harvard square?

image courtesy of gruntzooki

I saw a note in the Phoenix a couple of weeks back that the Papercut Zine Library would likely be moving out of its location on Mt. Auburn to a soon-to-be-determined location. Cynical person--ahem, old-school masshole--that I am, my first thought was that Harvard owned the building, and the zine library would be forced out to make room for some student organization. My second thought was that the landlord wanted to attract another sandwich shop or chain store to the square.

Ten years ago the square had a diner, a plethora of used and new bookstores, and independent coffee shops. While cute local businesses like Herrell's, Newbury Comics, Tealuxe and Bartley's remain, they're increasingly sharing a block with cookie cutouts of fast food and suburbia (hi, American Apparel, Lush, phone stores ad infinitum). While the above paragraph could have been written angrily in the year 2000 and still rung true, I have to ask how much longer Harvard Square can embrace the mainstream before there's anything interesting left?

Papercut opened in 2005 and houses over 7000 zines; the space also offers workshops and concerts. I got in touch with the Papercut folk recently to see if the move was going to be definite and here's what they had to say:

Hi library patrons,
At the meeting, we discussed potential spaces where the zine library could move (most likely sometime after the end of June), as well as fundraising possibilities. If you have any ideas about potential spaces, feel free to let us know. Your ideas are our bread and butter.

So...looks likely. I've asked them for some more meaty info, in the interest of passing it on, but in the meantime it looks like the same story going down in Cambridge...another fun, intelligent store forced to leave the square, another cookie cutter vacancy. Rise up, Harvard, rise up. Help use your dollars to keep the counterculture spirit of Cambridge alive.

this post brought to you by the Tasty, the House of Blues, Toscannini's, Avventura, WordsWorth, and the Starr Book Shop, some of the many fine businesses forced out of the square.

Monday, April 27, 2009

On Keeping A Notebook

"The impulse to write things down is a peculiarly compulsive one, inexplicable to those who do not share it, useful only accidentally, only secondarily, in the way that any compulsion tries to justify itself."--Joan Didion, from the essay, "On Keeping a Notebook"

My first notebook came to me as a Christmas gift from my sister when I was six. She had made it in a crafts class at the junior high, and it was pink, with multicolored paper pages and the word "diary" stamped in gold on the front cover. Though I wrote in it sporadically, I didn't start keeping a faithful journal until the winter of my freshman year of high school. Writing in a notebook is a practice I've kept up with, more or less regularly, since starting that random February day. I keep twelve years' worth of notebooks in a large red storage bin in my closet here in Boston. About once a year, on some rainy Saturday, I'll pull one out and start reading. Half-forgotten memories can pull me in, sometimes for hours at a time, but mostly I tire of myself quickly and put it all away in disgust. But I would never throw them away.

In her essay, Didion says she doesn't keep a notebook as any kind of attempt to record the facts of her daily life or to fossilize the events of the world around her. So then, why? Why bother writing random snatches of thoughts, imagined encounters and half-remembered lines of dialogue? "Remember what it was to be me: that is always the point...our notebooks give us away, for however dutifully we record what we see around us, the common denominator of all we see is always, transparently, shamelessly, the implaceable 'I.'"

I had never questioned why I keep a notebook before reading this essay several weeks ago. It's just something I've always done, for better or worse. A compulsion to write things down, as Joan calls it. Though I now write for several blogs, once kept a livejournal, and can type faster than I can write, it's always been a notebook and pen that I come back to. Something about having a physical record gives me comfort.

It always surprises me to learn that some writers don't keep personal notebooks or diaries. There's nothing much of note or interest in my notebooks, except to me, but writing there helps me sort out my thoughts and get out my angst.

How many of you keep journals or notebooks? Do you have a routine or schedule?

Friday, April 24, 2009

NY Times Co. Chairman gives the Globe until May 1

Check out last night’s coverage from NECN on the latest Globe woes and Arthur Sulzberger, Jr.’s hopes to keep her going despite the need for 20 million in Union concessions. The Boston Newspaper Guild (made up of over 700 Globe employees) has a petition and is holding a rally this Friday at Faneuil Hall. BU Journalism Chair, Lou Ureneck, voices Phil Bronstein’s comments that distributing news for free is not sustainable. The NY Times Co. is keeping to its 5/1 deadline for the Union to meet its demands.

Help support the Globe by buying a paper to read on your commute (your eyes will thank you for avoiding the typos in the Metro). Or sign up for home delivery like I just did. The Globe is offering 50% off home delivery subscriptions. Every little bit helps at this point. If you’re mooching off free news (hey, my hand is raised too), it’s time to support those writers about to get the ax.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Chamber Four Interview

Check out this interview with Fringe editor-in-chief Lizzie Stark over at Chamber Four. Later on, we'll be posting an interview with the minds behind Chamber Four in this space, so stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Celebrate Earth Day with Fringe

In honor of Earth Day, why not take a gander through Fringe's most recent and environmentally-themed issue

And while you're at it, we're a mere $114 away from our website re-design goal. Consider a $5 or $10 donation through the widget on the right.

Newburyport Literary Festival

Looking for something to do this weekend? The weather promises to be gorgeous here in New England, so why not take a trip to Newburyport for the 4th Annual Newburyport Literary Festival?



Mission of Fourth Annual Festival is to Encourage “Reading for a Lifetime”

Newburyport once again welcomes local and national authors and readers alike to celebrate “Reading for a Lifetime” at the Fourth Annual Newburyport Literary Festival (NLF), organized by the Newburyport Literary Association, on April 24 – 25, 2009.

Located in Newburyport, Massachusetts, with its rich literary heritage, the NLF is a unique opportunity for local and nearby community members to meet with and to hear from well-known authors from every genre in a picturesque setting.

NLF 2009 Honorees include:

David McPhail – McPhail is an award-winning author and illustrator of nearly 200 books beloved by children, parents and librarians across the United States. McPhail is one of the most prolific and influential children’s authors in the country. McPhail has garnered many prestigious awards, including a New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Book of the Year for Mole Music in 2001.

Dorothy LaFrance - LaFrance recently retired from the Newburyport Public Library after serving as Head Librarian for 30 years. In addition to functioning as a City Department Head, she is a former past President of the Merrimack Valley Library Consortium. In Newburyport, she is a member of several organizations include the Cultural Alliance Roundtable and the Lifelong Learning Lyceum.

“This year as the Newburyport Literary Association prepares for our fourth festival we are delighted and proud to announce our honorees,” stated the NLF Chairperson, Vicki Hendrickson. “We are so fortunate to live in a community where reading is valued and where we have folks like Dottie and David who are here to guide us along the way.”

Confirmed authors include Anita Shreve, Julia Alverez, Elinor Lipman, Richard Bausch, Peter Orner, Lewis Turco, Anne Easter Smith, David Crouse, and, of course Newburyport’s own, Andre Dubus III.

The Newburyport Literary Festival (NLF), organized by the Newburyport Literary Association, annually celebrates the joy of reading and writing as well as the love of books. The NLF in 2009 features more than 40 writers of distinguished fiction and non-fiction – including short story writers, children's authors, biographers, nature writers, critics, screenwriters, poets, novelists, and journalists – who will read and discuss their work in venues throughout Newburyport's historic downtown

For more information on the NLF, including authors and their work, please visit

*Photo courtesy of David Miller

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A few of my favorite things

One comment to my April 1st post ushering in National Poetry Month suggested that I tell you my favorite places to read poetry online. These are just a few of the many places I like to browse when I am searching for a new poem to write or want to read something besides what's on my shelves.

Mannequin Envy is a site that I enjoy as much for the poetry as for the carefully selected images that accompany the texts. The poems on the first read might seem "off the cuff," but they aren't messy first drafts. As I reader I feel that these poems hit the unexpected, get dazed, and keep going in order to do it again.

H_ngm_n: A Journal of Online Poetry and Poetics is fun to navigate, and the layout feels fresh. They publish a handful of poems and longer poems by the poets so you get a good sense of each individual voice. This poetry seems to need to be read aloud, preferably in the company of an improvisational jazz band in the background; it makes me feel like I need a cigarette and I don't even smoke.

There's no need for me to say anything about what Ploughshares offers in poetic quality since so many established writers have been published there, but what you may not know is that the web editions of each issue rotate which texts are available. So if the Duhamel poem is locked today, next week it might not be.

No Tell Motel updates with a new poem almost every day, and they usually publish several poems by each poet so sometimes I find someone I like and start looking for other things they've written that are available on the web. The styles and subjects are really varied, so if the first poem isn't to your liking, just keep scrolling down for something different.

And lastly, I adore The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. Each writer has a Southern Legitimacy Statement,but they are mostly not Jeff Foxworthy rip-offs. The poetry and fiction are well-crafted contemporary pieces with dashes of regionalism, identity, and place.

So tell me what are your favorite places to read poetry (or any other genre) online?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Teh Internetz: National Poetry Month

As you should all know by now, we're smack-dab in the middle of National Poetry Month. Oh, poets! You will never make any money.

But don't worry, poor prisoners of verse. There are ways to celebrate digitally.

DailyLit, a service that will e-mail you books in manageable installments or provide them on your RSS feed, is offering free bite-sized chunks of poetry throughout April. Their Masters of Verse collection is a nice way to remind yourself of all those stanzas you had to memorize in high school. And it will give you a chance to LOL at the title choice of Good-By and Keep Cold by Robert Frost (because everyone knows the original title was STAY FROSTY).

If you're struggling to write your poetry but can't concentrate because your roommate's new girlfriend squeals like a pig and the walls in your apartment are paper-thin (for example), maybe you need a distraction-free text editor like WriteMonkey. I'm pretty sure Byron used something very similar.

And hey, do you remember the slightly scammy old Well, now it's been bought by, the Print-On-Demand (POD) company, and they will apparently give poets money sometimes.

So April is totally not the cruelest month. I mean, it's no cakewalk, but it's certainly not the worst. So suck it up, Eliot.

Monday, April 13, 2009

But I’m a writer.

Recently, at work, my position as copywriter has morphed into something ugly: Social media pimp. Or social media whore. Maybe both.

It started innocently enough. After a few weeks on the job, wanting to prove myself, I suggested including a blog on our Web site. My boss loved the idea. They had been wanting to “do more” with the site for ages, she told me, but no one had the time. Enter Julie.

So I set up our blog. Then our Twitter page. Then our blog feed. Now, I spend my mornings trolling the Web for other blogs related to what we do. I read post after post about the use of online networking and then blog about those posts. My tweets are links to other blogs and online articles. I’m blogging and linking and Twittering, reading and referring, commenting and responding.

And I have to say, though I’m using words to do these things, it doesn’t always feel like writing.

Granted, I’m not complaining. I have a job that I enjoy in a suicide-worthy economy. My co-workers are great, and my boss treats us to lunch most days.

But. Some days I long for the kind of writing you can sink your teeth into. You know, paragraphs without links. Thoughts and sentences longer than 140 words. While I know that social media is the writing train of the future and we all have to get on board, I still have my old-lady moments — moments in which I want to slow it down and take stock of what we’re missing, and losing. Because sometimes it feels like a lot.

Perhaps that can be my new Facebook status.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Phil Bronstein on the Colbert Report

I'm sure most of you had heard of the Globe's recent financial troubles. Check out San Francisco Chronicle VP and Editior, Phil Bronstein, on The Colbert Report discuss the current state of newspapers. He says that sources like AOL and Google should pay papers for linking to their content and points out that financing stories, like the Globe's breaking piece on the Catholic Church sex scandal, cost those papers lots of moolah.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Phil Bronstein
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorNASA Name Contest

Friday, April 10, 2009

Fringe contributors: 2008 Best of the Net finalists

We're happy to announce that two Fringe contributors were finalists for the 2008 Best of the Net anthology: Jehanne Dubrow, for her "Fragment from a Nonexistent Yiddish Poet" number 22, and Pattabi Seshadri, for his poem "Chairs." Two of Jehanne's poems, which appeared originally in the excellent Mezzo Cammin, were chosen for the anthology. This year's guest judge for poetry was Dorianne Laux.

You can read #22 and three more of Jehanne's poems in Fringe issue 13. Pattabi's "Chairs" plus two more poems appear in Fringe issue 11.

Best of the Net, put out by Sundress Publications, gathers fabulous fiction and poetry from online litmags and puts it all in one spot. Each year. Since 2006. Props to Erin Elizabeth Smith, managing editor and poetry coordinator. Keep it up, Sundress! And congrats to Jehanne and Pattabi.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Fringe Contributors Rock: Poetry Edition

Here's the third of a series of semi-regular posts that will showcase the fine work of Fringe contributors past. Today we look at the loads of poetry that our former contributors have tossed onto the internetAnd please remember: Fringe is still in the midst of a fundraising campaign for our web redesign. We're so close -- only $299 away from success. We need to raise the funds in the next 30, so please consider a $5 or $10 donation. It'd make a big difference to a small literary journal.

Zehra Khan's The Vinyl Studies, oil on vinyl record covers.