Alizah

(Pronounced A-lee-za)
Why be a writer when you could be human?

You starve to death for ten years before your publisher knows you’re any good.

Raymond Chandler, born on July 23, 1888, in conversaton with Ian Fleming in a rare BBC recording from months before his death – the only surviving audio of Chandler’s voice. (via explore-blog)

(Source: , via explore-blog)

“The first thing I learned [from my mother] about storytelling is that it’s just damn hard work, no matter how talented people are or not.” 

I loved hearing Lawrence Blume, Judy Blume’s son, say these words. Blume was one of my first literary heroes, and I was one of the fan girls super exited when I saw Tiger Eyes was being made into a film.  It was one of the first books I remember reading that completely drew me into another person’s experience, and it taught me that descriptions of place and plot twists are nothing without exploration of a character’s inner landscape.  

Check out my interview with Lawrence Blume here.

Trayvon

I wasn’t hurt, just shaken. I had my life, but not my iPod. 

It wasn’t a mugging type of day. It was a weekday morning, not too early. I’d finished my run in Riverside Park and stopped at the foot of the steps at 120th street to catch my breath. It was sunny out. My endorphins were pumping. My newly-minted masters from Columbia was just a few days old. I remember I had a whole day to do whatever I wanted, a rare luxury. I put my hands on my knees and breathed deep. I felt good. 

And then an unfamiliar arm swung around my chest and pinned my arms to my sides. I thought it was a joke. A friend, maybe. Then I saw black fingers pry my white fingers off of my iPod, which I clenched tightly. It wasn’t someone I knew. The arm let go, I turned around, and two boys stood feet away. Not men. Definitely boys. I looked one straight in the eye, and I was surprised to see he looked as terrified as I felt. I froze. By the time I told my feet to move, they’d already started sprinting, taking my iPod with them. 

People in New York talk about being mugged like it’s a badge of honor, like it’s a right of passage. It seemed so cliche to be mugged, as if it gives people who move to New York fake street cred. It doesn’t. I didn’t fight back, I didn’t lose much. And even though they never found the guy, justice was on my side. 

I ran to the campus security station, reported what had happened, and they were on it. I hopped in a police car and we canvassed the area where I’d just been running. They took me to the police station and I scrolled through pages and pages of faces that fit my description. Black males between the ages of 15-18. Pages and pages and pages of boys who had records, boys who looked like boys, boys who could’ve easily been my students when I taught 11th and 12th grade. A few times I thought I saw the face, but I wasn’t positive. “Are you sure?” the police asked me. “Are you really okay?”

Was I sure? Did it matter? Had I picked any one of those faces, the police would’ve believed me. I should’ve felt good about the fact I was getting a chance to identify my mugger, but I felt uncomfortable, on the right side of an inequality that felt wrong. In that moment, I wasn’t myself. I was a white woman mugged by two young black men. 

The police knew nothing about me, yet I was automatically given a tremendous amount of power. My story was never questioned. I wondered what would’ve happened had I identified one of the boys. Sure, I wanted them to be found. I wanted my iPod back. I think they should’ve been held accountable. The justice system worked hard for me, but I know that doesn’t mean the system is working. It is strange to think I could’ve easily abused that power to create some kind of false closure to my story. But I had no desire  to feel vindicated, no need to see justice served by nabbing the crooks. Justice was serving me well. 

I don’t know what I can say about Trayvon Martin that hasn’t already been said. But  maybe I can offer this anecdote of what happens to people like me, who experience a very different sort of justice. We have a lot of stories about injustice, but they become even more glaring juxtaposed against the light. 

On rejection

Since so much of my time is spent researching and writing pitches for stories that never run, I thought it might be instructive to share some info about my rejections as a freelancer — in the past two weeks alone. This began as an exercise in trying to figure out my acceptance to rejection ratio (not as a pity party, as it may seem.) I’ve included the pitches that were green lighted for good measure. 

You may think all this means I’m very persistent, or just a masochist. I think I’m just trying to tip the scales of the internet. Let me state the obvious: writers use social media as a way to promote their work. I do. I have no problem with it, but there are days when everyone seems far more interesting or successful than I am. So in honor of the disease of constantly comparing yourself to others, here’s my list.

Pitches, no response:

  • The economics of ice (why is my iced coffee so expensive?) for Businessweek 
  • What Rick Perry gets wrong about abortion for Slate
  • Essay on teaching in Turkey (tied to protests) for The Awl
  • Economics of ice, re-pitched to Buzzfeed Longform
  • Nostalgia’s bottom line: Why 90s boy bands are making bank this summer for Businessweek
  • Essay on the literary origins of North West, Page-Turner
  • Five Chapters (fiction)

Pitches, received actual rejections

  • Essay on Judy Blume’s Tiger Eyes for Daily Beast (was already being covered too)
  • Essay on The Greek House for Daily Beast (was already being covered too)
  • Turkey’s domestic violence epidemic for Women’s e-News (note: site had a similar article lined up, was offered another assignment upon rejection)

Pitches, acceptances:

  • Essay on “North West” at the Millions
  • Film/Book Comparison of Judy Blume’s Tiger Eyes for Los Angeles Review of Books
  • What’s it like to be a woman working in retail? for Women’s e-News

Assignments, received from editors:

  • e-Commerce posts (2)
  • Custom publication articles (2)

Read More

The problem with Storyboard and FacebookStories isn’t that Tumblr or Facebook wanted to generate editorial content, or even that they only wanted to do so to draw attention to their own users. It’s hard to sift through social media sometimes, and platforms should highlight the best content they host. Rather, the problem was that both companies misunderstood their most valuable journalistic product: not puffy human interest stories, but the aggregate data they gather about how people behave online.

The New Republic 

(Source: newrepublic.com)

Ebooks accounted for 22.55 percent, or nearly a quarter, of U.S. book publishers’ sales in 2012, according to a full-year report released by the Association of American Publishers Thursday. That’s up from 17 percent of sales in 2011 and 3 percent in 2009. Ebook growth continued to plateau, however, suggesting that the industry is maturing.

Ebooks made up 23 percent of US publisher sales in 2012, says the AAP — paidContent (via infoneer-pulse)

(via futurejournalismproject)

Gertrude Stein, with Alice B. Toklas in their famed Parisian literary salon.

Gertrude Stein, with Alice B. Toklas in their famed Parisian literary salon.

“We have this very Newtonian view of causality,” Watts, a square-jawed Australian, shouted over the din. “Like, billiard balls hitting each other, that’s the most complicated thing that we can wrap our heads around.” But his research suggests that the commonly understood, Gladwellian model of virality, with its linear progression through influencers and tipping points, doesn’t really reflect the way viral messages spread. Instead, he says, they tend to grow from seeds scattered in little clusters, popping up all at once like toadstools after a rainstorm. BuzzFeed has found its most popular posts don’t take off because Kim Kardashian shared them but because many people did in small groups the median figure is just nine Facebook friends.”

http://nymag.com/news/features/buzzfeed-2013-4/index3.html

When I write, I fall into the zone many writers, painters, musicians, athletes, and craftsmen of all sorts seem to share: In doing something I enjoy and am expert at, deliberate thought falls aside and it is all just there. I think of the next word no more than the composer thinks of the next note.

RIP, Roger Ebert – the beloved critic on writing and life. (via explore-blog)

(Source: , via explore-blog)

[I] imagine that there’s some secret to writing, and no one will tell me what it is. I know it’s not true, but still, despite all the evidence to the contrary, all the years of working on my books, part of me does still feel that if I ever really learned how to do this, I would stop writing such crazy material, such bad first drafts, and get it right the first time.

Andrea Barrett (via theparisreview)