Archive for January, 2008

The Internet is Really, Really Great (for writing community)

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

I don’t get to blog on here as often as I’d like to, and I certainly never find the time to blog thatliars_diary.jpg I’m going to blog. Why would I, anyway?

Well, because if someone asks me to participate in something that combines books, internet community, and helping awesome people who could use a little help right now, I’m gonna say “Golly gee, those are three of my favorite things! Sign me up!” So:

I’m blogging to say I’m going to blog on January 29th. About debut novelist Patry Francis and her book The Liar’s Diary. And I’m telling you now, because I hope you will too.

I don’t know Patry Francis, but everyone who does confirms her wisdom, talent, generosity, and spirit. Me, I just like the “wild stories, unpredictable outbursts, and polite bookish commentary” she offers on her blog. Not to mention the name Patry.

A waitress and mother of four, she sold her first novel shortly before being diagnosed with cancer. When the book comes out in paperback on 1/29, her friends and colleagues in the writing and blogging world will be doing the promoting for her, so Patry can focus on important things like getting better. Please join the hundreds of people coming together to flog this flogworthy book. In the words of Susan Henderson, one of the true heroes of online literary camaraderie, it’s a chance to show “support for Patry, for cancer survivors, for writers helping writers, and for the strength and spirit of the blogging community.” Tell her you’re on board here.

08: Dan Goldman On the Campaign Trail

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

What a thrill it was to open up the January issue of GQ and see an excerpt from 08: A Graphic Diary of the Campaign Trail, the forthcoming book from Dan Goldman (who we humbly note was catapulted into acclaim here on SMITH for his incredible co-creation with Anthony Lappé on Shooting War) and big political scribe Michael Crowley. The duo have been deep in the mix on the campaign trail to document the election for 08, which pubs this fall from Three Rivers Press. The GQ piece takes the chicken’s-eye view of Giuliani campaigning in South Carolina. It’s smart, funny, colorful, and perfectly timed for the events before us on these intense primary days. Congrats to D—among the very best artist, thinkers, and men we know.

Two other personal stories of note in the same issue of GQ: In “All My Children,” an anonymous sperm donor reflects on his many possible progeny, and his decision as to whether or not to allow his identity to be revealed to those who believe he’s indeed their father….or at least half their creator. And in “G-L-O-R-Y,” the always incredible Jeanne Marie Laskas gets inside the life and mind of the Ben-Gals, the cheerleaders for the Cincinnati Bengals. It’s a moving, deeply personal portrait of women who make nearly nothing for it, but do what they do because they simply cannot imagine a world in which anything could be better. Both pieces are fascinating windows into other peoples’ obsessions.

One Life. Six Words. What’s Yours?

Monday, January 14th, 2008

Hello to New York Times readers, as well as those from less prominent spots across the media world. If you’re new to SMITH, there’s lots to tell you. But our top story at this moment is our forthcoming book, NOT QUITE WHAT I WAS PLANNING: Six-Word Memoirs By Writers Famous & Obscure. Give our video a spin, then come back and submit your six-word memoir, or any personal narrative. SMITH is your place to tell your story. Everyone has one, after all.

The Reel Geezers

Friday, January 11th, 2008

I’ll take this over Ebert and Doe any day — the hottest new film critics, available only on YouTube, are the Reel Geezers. A duo of screenwriter Lorenzo Semple, 84, and Marcia Nasatir, 81, an agent and producer, they go on YouTube and give their movie reviews and some discussion of each movie. Apparently, they’re now big enough in Hollywood that they rated a recent feature in the Los Angeles Times. And, in my humble opinion, they deserve it. Here’s their review for Juno, picked only because I too love the movie.

You’re going to die. So, what’s on your list?

Friday, January 11th, 2008

2035748576_1c15eba0d7_b.jpgAt SMITH, we have a thing for lists. From random to-do lists—here’s how mine reads for today in no particular order: 1) edit test 2) SMITH blog 3) gym 4) write pitch 5) deposit check 6) call editors about missing checks—to New Year’s resolutions (face it, we all have more than one) and, of course, the master list, the king of all lists: the things-to-do-before-you die list.

Ah yes, my point: a new movie starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman hits theaters today and its all about the master list. Aptly titled, The Bucket List (like before you kick it), the film is about two terminally ill patients from two totally different worlds. You see where this is going. Freeman and Nicholson become best buds and the duo decided to bolt from their hospital beds and live out what’s on their bucket list. Think skydiving, traveling the globe, and driving a race car. So far the film has gotten some not so nice reviews, I think the words “sappy” and “geezers” were thrown around in one review, while another called the screenplay “mediocre.”

Still, I’m inclined to see this movie because, despite the predictability of it, a) I know I’ll enjoy it and likely shed a tear (what can I say, I have a soft spot for sap cinema) and b) there’s something about those bucket lists that inspire me, especially when I read about someone who’s actually crossing stuff off their before-I-die list: Get laid off, go to India. Check.

So, what’s the number one thing on your bucket list?

The Obama Moment and the WeTube Election

Thursday, January 10th, 2008

Atlantic_Obama.jpgAs I flew back from Vegas over New Year’s, I read Why Obama Matters, Andrew Sullivan’s cover story in The Atlantic (yes, that periodical and Vegas make no sense, but it was working for me). Maybe it was the altitude, but I was swept up in the writer’s case for this Obama Moment, a moment America would have days later in Iowa. It’s a great read* about the senator’s chance to push us past the paralyzing battles of the baby boomers and into something that looks like the future. And it got me thinking that Barack Obama really is very much the Personal Media Candidate. Obama is a master at personal media, using his gifts of oratory to electrify from above, and a massive social network to build his base of support from below. His “we” message reminds of many of the tenets of personal media, from peer to peer networking to the wisdom of crowds. And unlike so many politicians, the guy actually wrote a good memoir. Damn if we didn’t try to get his six-word memoir. But you can’t win them all.

*And among the best issues of a print mag I’ve read in a while. Elsewhere in its pages, Bill McKibben writes the piece about the joys and genius of Internet radio I’ve been waiting to read; Michael Hirschorn dissects the “most emailed lists” of the dailies and lays out a plan for their print daily’s relevancy; and there are some very cute photos of pandas, too.

Reading File: The Blog of War

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

olmsted.jpgThis piece was in The New York Times, so it’s not as if it hasn’t gotten some play; if you missed it, writer Brian Stelter offers a nice summation about the life, death and blog of Andrew Olmsted, a 38-year-old United States Army major, and blogger for The Rocky Mountain News. Major Olmsted wrote a lengthy and moving letter—3,000 words—which was to be posted to his blog in the event of his death, which occurred on January 3, 100 miles northeast of Baghdad. Here’s an excerpt of what is titled “Final Post”:

Believe it or not, one of the things I will miss most is not being able to blog any longer. The ability to put my thoughts on (virtual) paper and put them where people can read and respond to them has been marvelous, even if most people who have read my writings haven’t agreed with them. If there is any hope for the long term success of democracy, it will be if people agree to listen to and try to understand their political opponents rather than simply seeking to crush them. While the blogosphere has its share of partisans, there are some awfully smart people making excellent arguments out there as well, and I know I have learned quite a bit since I began blogging.

Read the post in its entirety here.

LAST MINUTE EVENT: Mix It Up With Lappé and Crispin Miller

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

SW_cover.jpgOn this very Tuesday evening, Shooting War creator Anthony Lappé will be in conversation with New York University professor and media gadfly Mark Crispin Miller at NYC’s coolest independent book store, McNally Robinson, at Prince and Mulberry Streets. The chat starts at 7pm, and if these two media creatures are true to form, is sure to be a smart, intense, and entertaining night.

Happy National Smith Day, Happy Birthday To SMITH

Sunday, January 6th, 2008

196466935_e060d088cc_m.jpgToday we are two.

SMITH Magazine launched exactly two years ago, on January 6, 2006, after we raced to launch timed to what I had learned was National Smith Day. National Smith Day has nothing to do with storytelling (until two years ago, at least), but is in fact a holiday cooked up to celebrate the birthday of one of the country’s original Smiths, Capt. John Smith, the English colonist who led the Jamestown settlers. Here’s what I wrote two years ago about the beginning of the beginning.

I want to thank everyone who has given this storytelling labor of love real legs—none more leggy than cofounder Tim Barkow and senior editor Rachel Fershleiser. We’ll soon* be unveiling a whole new look, feel, and in many ways function for SMITH, one we feel is the natural evolution of a people-powered storytelling site. Assuming lead relauncher Mr. Barkow doesn’t collapse or kill me, this next stage in SMITH’s young life is going to be one giant step. We’ll be celebrating two years of storytelling and the release of our book, NOT QUITE WHAT I WAS PLANNING: Six-Word Memoirs By Writers Famous and Obscure, with a big fete on February 9 in New York City, and some events around the country shortly thereafter. Details coming via your next SMITH Newsletter—stayed tuned.

That’s our story on year two. What’s yours?


*What can I say? We had hoped to push the button on the redesign on the exact day of our two-year anniversary. But it’s hard out here for a SMITH. And let’s face it, few of you would have remembered this was the anniversary date without reading the above post, so we figure why unleash this beast before its time. But it will be ready shortly: we’re dancing as fast as we can.

Birthday cupcake via Flickr user and self-described “mama, blogger and overachiever” gisarah, who coincidentally lives in Portland, Oregon, where Tim Barkow toils.

The Real Reason Obama Won

Friday, January 4th, 2008

Oh, sure, sure, the pundits will have plenty of explanations for why Barack Obama took the Iowa caucuses yesterday. And sure, there’ll be some of those “facts” and “polls” we’ve heard so much about, but I know the real reason. One day before the caucuses, the Internet phenomenon known as “Obama Girl” came back and, well, I guess everyone just figures maybe if he wins she’ll finally shut up and go away.

Anyway, here’s the video — I gotta hand it to the team behind it, the production values are getting better, and this is decently funny, even though this horse was glue months ago.

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