A Boss Blogs About Her Mate

beth wareham, co-founder of Lisa Hagan Books

I did something ridiculous; I published my husband. That’s him – a music critic at the New York Times – looking decidedly unlike any classical music critic I’ve ever seen. His book is entitled Something I Heard, and if you love music – and more importantly, GREAT writing – he’s your guy (along with The New Yorker’s Alex Ross, once a young critic under my husband’s tenure as chief critic.)

I’m no classical music fan. Hendrix is my go-to and I’ve been waiting for Cardi B all my life. But I’ve learned about classical music – oh, how I’ve learned – sitting in concert halls around the world with him, rushing up the aisle so he could get home to file his review. I know my Haydn and found out I’m an Alban Berg fan (who knew?)  I’ve been to Puccini’s house, saw Wagner operas in Berlin and know where Dvorak  wrote Rusalka. Weird, right?

But that’s not why I fell in with the dude. I fell in love with a writer and what he wrote and what he read. In his book Something I Heard, you’ll hear it, great writing like this:

Tango I

“The tango is sublimated warfare. It rarely smiles. Elegance, ritual and a deep dignity win out over darker impulses. In a single Argentine dance form the universal paradoxes of romance between two human beings seem to gather.”

That’s one hot paragraph and it’s what the guy does, boiling intense experience into a few tight sentences.  It’s the writing that he’s known for, but don’t ask me. Ask The New Yorker. They say, “no one today can match the limpid elegance and intellectual precision of his style, which recall the heyday of Virgil Thomson.”

Wow. That’s some praise. I do chase him about the house yelling, “what does Mr. Limpid say to that, huh?” But man, what praise. I agree with those rascals at The New Yorker. If you want to understand music more deeply or just want to roll around in great writing, this just may be your book. But what do I know, I’m just the wife.

To order Something I Heard, click on the title.

Formats: e-book, paperback, hardcover, audio book

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#writering: Don the Bomb

#writering is a random blog blathering on about writers, books and publishing

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by Beth Wareham of Lisa Hagan Books, an Indy publisher.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of a “literary gathering,” you do not know the wonder of a room of fashion victims trying to beat one another over the heads with words. I listened to two New York Times critics go down for the count over whether France was on the uptick, culturally-speaking, or not.  I got bored, wandered away, and there was Michi, describing a performance piece where monkey brains were consumed. (You should have been around when Art Garfunkel asked Michi out. What a to-do.) It was a party, Michi, and you just made my cheese spread and cracker look unappetizing.  Nothing has more “literary” pathology for study than one of these events. The war is always on and it’s all words.

Enter the man above. When he walks in a room, even those that have not stopped taking for decades shut up.  The very definition of “walk softly and carry a big stick”, “don’t open your mouth unless you have something to say,” and “outsider artist” ooze from this man.  He’s not your plaything or your patsy; he doesn’t perform for the mob. He’s in a leather bomber amongst the bad tweed and sensible shoes. He works his way across the room and all the posers and nattering nabobs part. They know the King of the Jungle when they see him.

Random facts:

*Don DeLillo has never gone online. He sees it as a complete assault on his individuality and his life: He does not know there are ebooks of his work. He may know now, but he didn’t for years.

*He was obsessed with the image of a man falling through space many years before he wrote Falling Man. (He wrote that book using a simple chronology, didn’t like it, and rewrote it starting in the future and backtracking to 9/11. Don’t try that at home, kids.)

*When Underworld was first published, critics received no additional information about the book. How could you capture the 20th Century with a press release? The book, however, is the finest novel about that most violent 100 years in human history.  The last word of the book is very famous.

*His editor and publicist almost came to blows over what kind of condiments Don liked on his sandwich. Silly? You bet. But that’s how ridiculous it gets around this great American novelist. Everyone wants to please him because he is great. Oblivious to all of these machinations, Don DeLillo lives in a part of the atmosphere where we can’t get.

*DeLillo is obsessed with the 1951 MLB playoffs when outfielder Andy Pafko ran to the left field wall and watched Bobby Thomson’s 3-run homer fly over his head. DeLillo opened Underworld with this scene, wrote about the event for Harpers Magazine, and published a novella entitled Pafko at the Wall in 2001.

If you haven’t read the great man’s books, I humbly offer my reading list: White Noise (the first book I read and simply the best with its “airborne toxic event”); Libra, a novel imaging Lee Harvey Oswald on his journey toward a world-shattering act; Falling Man, his novel of 9/11; and finally, a sweeping look at the 20th Century, Underworld.

“A writer’s writer” does not describe him. DeLillo is a law onto himself and will remain so forever.  DeLillo is the consummate individual, a term I think he would like.

Do right by Don DeLillo. Turn off all the gadgets that allow you to read this and sit down with one of his books. Don’t read criticism or look to the opinions of others. Don’t natter with nabobs about him, ever. This read is for you, the one thing that cannot be replicated. Let your particular arrangement of molecules collide with DeLillo’s story and see what comes about.

Because all truth must reside in one individual before it spreads, DeLillo wants you to step up, quit bullshitting and walk the walk. He wants you to read and think, activities in short supply these days. (See references to “the base” in mainstream reporting…)

Yup. That guy is the real damn deal and he’s not letting anyone off the hook. Think for yourself, folks. Read. Stop acting like cows. We are individuals responsible for ourselves and our actions. Anything else is just nattering and nonsense, a series of “literary gatherings” filled with sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Ask DeLillo, he knows.

 

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#Cliches are not good, but… #writing

 

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from Keep It Short by Charles Euchner

#CLICHES

To give clichés life—to make them fresh and original again— find something surprising to add to them.

Too often, we use familiar ideas without really under- standing their meaning. We repeat phrases and ideas carelessly.

When we overuse expressions, we live in a fool’s paradise. We cannot hold a candle to the halcyon days, our salad days, when we suited the action to the word and revealed the naked truth. But we give short shrift to language, writing with neither rhyme nor reason. And we lose such stuff as dreams were made of, at’s neither here nor there, since these expressions are dead as a doornail. Coming full circle, we realize, more in sorrow than anger, and it’s a foregone conclusion that overuse of such terms is a fatal vision. So, in one fell swoop, we throw cold water on it.

All of those expressions come from Shakespeare. ese expressions once expressed ideas with freshness and originality. But used over and over, they have lost their vitality. Too o en, we use these clichés not because they express ideas well, but because they o er a simple way to say something. ey let us say something without thinking.

Remember you want to make the reader see, feel, helpless, harmless. Milo’s dead.” By using the slack, disinterested tone of a gumshoe, Lynch moves us away from sickly sentimentality.

 

Samuel Beckett uses clichés in playful ways to make them fresh. He writes: “Personally I have no bone to pick with graveyards.” And then, describing the odor of graveyards, he added that he will breathe in the smell of corpses “when take the air I must.” In her memoir of family suicide, Joan Wickersham freshens a stale image: “Cal may have had pots of family money, but my husband didn’t even have a small saucepan.”

Whenever possible, though, avoid clichés. Lush detail—observation of sights, sounds, smells—helps to create original expressions.

Nack could just say, “I thought about that horse day and night. I couldn’t get Secretariat out of my mind. It popped up no matter where I was or what I was doing” Zzzzzz. Instead, Nack uses compelling images to show how Secretariat shaped every minute of his life.

Write like Bill Nack. Always look for the fresh images—ideas that are familiar, but which other writers have not used before—to help the reader experience the scene –

smell, taste, touch, imagine—and think of more familiar the images, the less you will engage your reader.

“Cliches,” Geoffrey Hill notes, “invite you not to think.” Cliches give use easy, lazy was of expressing our- selves. As Hill notes, “you may always decline the invitation.” When you feel tempted to use a cliché, stop. Get in the habit of considering how to state a point simply—or think of a fresh, original way of making a point.

To avoid the dreariness of clichés, play with them. Start by looking at its literal meaning. Porter Abbott explains:

When the orator urges his or her auditors “to strike while the iron is hot,” how many of them see the sweating blacksmith at his forge and feel his magical transmutation into new meaning? The answer is none. But when one tramp suggests to another that “it might be better to strike the iron before it freezes” the original vehicle is revived in its literal state.

Taking words literally reveals the cliché’s original insight. When you do a genealogy of clichés, you discover vibrant images that can be revived.

When you change the context of cliché, you can give it new life. In a memoir of his life as an undertaker, Tomas Lynch writes about the death of a neighbor: “Milo is dead. X’s on his eyes, lights out, curtains.”

 

For more details on Keep It Short, click on the title.

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We Serve Writers #ThursdayWrites

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/bethwareham

Lisa Hagan Books

We are a publishing company owned by writers and agents, a new experience in a new world order. The internet made it possible. The writers make it fly.

Our ideas are simple:

  1. Help writers write.
  2. Connect writers with other professionals that can help them write and publish.
  3. Put books together with core readership.
  4. Live in the world of ideas.

Yup. Four things we want to achieve. Just 4. These 4 ideas were formulated after decades in the biggest publishing houses in the country, an experience that drew us FURTHER away from the reasons we got in this business in the first place. We love hands-on work with creative minds. We love the joy of seeing those ideas made manifest in two covers and a bunch of nicely trimmed pieces of paper. Or, better yet, tiny pixels that allow us to take a library anywhere we go.

We use a distributor based in Chicago for those works that need traditional distribution. Still others are tailored to work solely online. Depends on the subject and what the author hopes to achieve.  In today’s world, more is possible and we are reaching further to offer different types of reading experiences that suite different needs.

Talk to us, we’re always here.

@Shadowteams  or @GiantSweettart on Twitter

@ShadowteamsNYC on Facebook

Or, send us an email: Beth@LisaHaganBooks.com or Lisa@LisaHaganBooks.com

We mean it. And join the conversation every Thursday when writers, agents, and publishing professionals chime in about their projects, tell you what they are searching to publish, and solve writing problems right there in the twitter feed. #ThursdayWrites 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Sins of Bullshit Writing

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from Charles Euchner’s KEEP IT SHORT: A Practical Guide to Writing in the 21st Century (click on title to read more)

If you don’t know what your ideas are, if you haven’t flushed out details or set your purpose clearly, you might commit one, two or all three sins of bullshit writing. And that, says Euchner, is when “things get ugly. When we try to bull our way through sentences and paragraphs.”

The 3 deadly sins of bullshit writing are:

•We repeat ourselves.

•We use vague phrasing – adjectives and generalizations – instead of clear crisp logic                and details.

•We ramble, piling words and phrases, with a hope we will discover some telling detail  or concept, but usually moving further and further away from the point.

 

When you feel any of this creeping in, you know you’ve lost the grip somehow. Backtrack and flush the idea, plotting, character development, background research and how you are going to tell you story. We suggest beginners start with the beginning, move on to the middle and then give us the end.

If you see any of those those 3 deadly sins popping up a lot in that book in your hand, you may want to put it down and go get another. Life’s short and there are just too many great books to read.

Join us every Thursday on Twitter with the hashtag

#ThursdayWrites and tell us what you’re working on. 

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Visit our website at www.LisaHaganBooks.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

I LEARNED IT IN HOLLYWOOD

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/BethWareham

 

I have been editing, writing and publishing for about 25 years in New York City and it took a trip to Hollywood to get my head straight. That’s right: Hollywood. The light came on when I was jamming a giant turkey burger down my wattle at the Warner Brothers’ commissary.  My lunch partner and partner partner said it. It was electrifying.

Continuity.

“The treatment lacks subtext and continuity,” she said, smiling over tiny blanched vegetables.

For some reason, this word “continuity” word blasted through my brain in a way “arc of the narrative” never could.

“Bullshit,” I said.

“No, we’re fixing it,” she said, tiny purple carrot at the edge of her ruby red mouth.

I looked over at George Clooney’s basketball court and squinted.

“You know, I think you’re right,” I said.

You see, the hardest job a writer will EVER have is writing short. I had written a novel that had to be boiled down to a treatment (think beef glace here) and I wasn’t experienced or instinctive enough to achieve that goal. Three hundred pages needed to be thirteen. We got the action compressed but not the detail and back story that make a story a story. It had no ecology. We needed later pages of the treatment to feed off the first pages and I hadn’t put any tiny fish or plankton in and everyone was starving. At least INSIDE the book, I had extra Doritos.

This of your stories as you think of a pond or a meadow. One thing must fit into and feed off the rest. Nothing is separate, ever. (Quantum theory or a hallucinogenic drug trip explains this, you decide which.) This ecology must be intact no matter how short the joke, the paragraph, the chapter, or the book. No one can read your work and still be hungry.

Try writing short. It’s really hard. And because we know that, we’ll soon have something for you that will change your approach to writing forever.

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Visit on Facebook at @bethwareham  @shadowteamsnyc 

 

 

 

 

 

Write your own damn book.

 

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www.shadowteams.com 

/beth wareham

Synchronicity is not my thing. It’s too subtle and I’m a two-by-four kinda gal. But strange signals are coming to me in such rapid succession, even my gray matter is a’swirl.

The year began with a fall out over a book I wrote and three scenes I included – with permission – that, upon reading – made the permission-giver feel funny.  I had already had a contract with a film producer who LOVED those scenes and there it was, my childhood friend had peed on my livelihood. Regrettable. The issues got sorted on…mainly by me working up something with equal humor – and I went on my way, swearing not to hang out with people who didn’t understand where creativity came from.

After passing through my childhood friend’s first bad reviews, I encountered a readership that was wildly curious about how much of the heroine was me and what did my husband think about all this?  He read it and helped with typos. If a man knows art and creativity, it’s him. He was happy his wife was busy and fulfilled. Besides, he’s got better things to do, what with his own books and all.

Years after that first book came out though, my husband my husband – a man of few words – yelled “THAT BOOK WAS ABOUT ME!” Someone else had brought it up at lunch and I had forgotten I had written it.

I began remembering other scenes of writer discomfort. A friend, after writing an amazing memoir of how her father created a baseball team instead of a family, met me for dinner pale-faced and announced “my mother is reading the final draft” as she pulled up her chair.  I remember her talking about what a tense week that was.

To add fuel to my fire, I hit Elena Ferrante’s second half of her final book in the Naples series and it was all about her neighborhood hating her writing about her neighborhood. The Solaras threatened her and she saw how gross the place really is. I thought “same old shit” as I read but don’t tell me! I’m not finished with these remarkable books yet.

Finally, on a much more serious note, another writer, now in her late 80s, called today requesting I remove two pages of text that disturbed a family member. I heard the pain in her voice and I knew exactly where it came from: the creator inside wants to protect what is so difficult to show to the world.

I told her what I tell all my writers: You’re not going to do it, are you?

To a person, they say no.

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BLOODS TO INK

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While working at a medium-sized publisher, I published a book called The War of the Bloods in My Veins by Dashaun Morris and Jason Davis.  My bosses were not pleased at my authors’ blackness that I was bringing into their temple of arts and letters.  (See Publishers Weekly hard-hitting expose – and yes, my words are ironic – entitled something like “Why is Publishing So White?” Well, It’s white because the white people in charge like it that way.)

My bosses were also not pleased because these were young black gang members and THEY would do the writing. No Yalie would be looking and studying them from afar; the voices would be raw, rising from the street. The point of view would be real, the authors had walked the walk through the violence and horror. They had generated a fair amount themselves.

This, I felt, was the way for the book to have real meaning for others. To create understanding. Even perhaps a little empathy. Anything else, at least to me, was more academic masturbation. It’s easy to feel less fear about a group of people if you categorize them like, say, insects or bacteria strains.

I didn’t understand then that we would all become friends; I would see both young men end of their gang-banging careers. They are now both deeply engaged in raising children, working, and creating. They write a lot about what happened, what they did, what they can’t undo.

We can call many things a “gang.” Banks and corporations are now thought of as “gangs” by many Americans (I like cabal or cartel better). Wars are simply one large gang against the other. Every continent with people has them. Asia and North Africa just gave the world’s gang culture a doozy in ISIS.

Before you read my interview later in the week with my co-author Jason Davis,  you may want to check out the book and/or the newest book trailer.

It’s time we see what this gang thing is really all about. And change it, just like Jay.

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Post on Facebook at Hair Club Burning   Shadowteamsnyc   or  Beth Wareham

 

 

 

 

 

#somethingIheard makes twitter debut

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On Thursday, November 19 at 9:00 pm est, tune into the twitter account @shadowteams for a provocative discussion about capturing music in words, what we’re listening to and why. While we are not Bernard Holland and this isn’t as poetic and penetrating as Something I Heard, we can talk about the genius of writing short, using one art to describe another, and celebrate the sheer joy of shutting one’s mouth and listening to the music of those that came before us.

Thursday, November 19 9:00 pm  Use this hashtag #somethingIheard

See you then!  @shadowteams

 

 

 

A HAUNTING CULINARY MEMOIR FROM A POET, MEMOIRIST, FARMER AND CHEF

L I S A  H A G A N  B O O K S

THIS WEEK WE DELIVER THE GIFT

OF

A GREAT RECIPE… READ ON

Hive-Mind novel by Gabrielle Myers, organic farming, cooking, California organic produce, Chef

Gabrielle Myers author, cook and chef releases  Hive-Mind with Lisa Hagan Books/ShadowTeams

“In powerful lyric prose that sometimes can’t help give way to poetry…

Gabrielle Myers sings her own, very personal love song to the soil under all of our feet. The voice in Hive-Mind is complicated, edgy, vulnerable and deeply in love with fig trees, cherry tomatoes, and the sound of crickets on a hundred and ten degree summer day.  In these dark, environmentally catastrophic times, we need books like this one to shake us out of our slumber, remind us where we came from, reconnect us to what we are.”

Pam Houston, Author of Contents May Have Shifted

 

“It’s gorgeous. The writing is so precise and riveting that you can’t tear yourself away from any moment. Myers is a writer of elegance and heart, and also of extraordinary intelligence. I’m not quite sure how you create this hardhearted and yet spiritually elevated work; but she has somehow managed it. It’s a remarkable experience to read this book. So please do.”

Wesley Gibson, author of Personal Saviors

  The quotes above will hopefully convince you of the writing in Hive-Mind. Now we want you to know that Myers can also cook. This puree will become a go-to dish for entertaining or that magic hour of just sipping a drink at day’s end.

And really, how much hummus can we eat?

     Lemon-White Bean Puree

“I suggest using following recipe as a base bean puree recipe. From this basic recipe, you can add chopped olives, tomatoes, spinach, or capers, crushed fennel seed or cumin, or even sautéed ribbons of kale and escarole. While you can lather the puree on a toasted baguette and top it with a generous drizzle of olive oil and pinch of parsley, this smooth mix also acts as a healthy alternative to the ranch and sour cream dips often served with crudité. Try this savory puree as a substitute for the often canola-heavy mayonnaise in your favorite sandwich.”

3 cups cooked or canned cannellini beans

2 lemons, zested

1 lemon, juiced

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

1/8 to ¼ cup water, depending on consistency

1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper

salt and pepper, to taste

 

1. If you use canned cannellini beans, rinse the beans in a colander under cold running water until the starchy residue is removed. Allow the beans to drain until all the excess liquid is gone.

2. Place all the ingredients in a food processor, and blend until smooth. If the mixture seems too thick and the ingredients aren’t easily blending, add a few tablespoons of water.

3. Season the puree with salt and pepper. If you like more spice, consider adding an additional 1/8 = 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper.

4. You can serve the puree immediately, or store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

-Enjoy!

Gabrielle Myers

(This  recipe originally appeared in the Prostate Forum Blog in September 2013: prostateforum.com)

 

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