Author Archive

The Best of SMITH in 2007

Monday, December 31st, 2007

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Every story that comes in is special to me. Whether an assigned feature from one of the editors, an out-of-nowhere memoir-in-progress from a previously unpublished writer, a heavily scripted and designed chapter of our newest webcomic, A.D., or Mario Batali sending me a half dozen six-word memoirs in the middle of the night, each one is like a mini-birth. And this home for storytelling gets richer and richer with each contribution. As we get set for some very exciting changes in January—and celebrate two years of storytelling and the release our book, NOT QUITE WHAT I WAS PLANNING: Six-Word Memoirs By Writers Famous and Obscure—I wanted to look back at some of my favorite stories, and SMITH Mag moments, of 2007. What’s yours?

The 2007 SMITHies

Best Story Which Left the Writer Always on Top: Writing the Whip, the ongoing diary of Mistress Y, a working dominatrix in New York City.

Most Impressive Celebrity Six-Word Memoir Score: SMITH memoir guru Rachel Fershleiser meets Amy Sedaris at the Blogher conference in Chicago and returns home with her six.

Personal Confession That’ll Knock Your Socks Off: Cole Kazdin’s hilarious recounting of her experience posing nude.

Best Video: The six-word memoir video, created by SMITH cofounder Tim Barkow, and seriously some of the best three-minutes around. (more…)

A.D. On the Move

Friday, December 28th, 2007

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It’s been an exciting year for our second webcomic, A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge. We launched it on January 1, 2007, and eight chapters later it’s been hailed as one of the best comics of 2007, from deep geek comic insiders to USA Today.

Chapter 8 came out in piece over these last few months, but the final third has just been posted, making it 20 panels strong. Newcomers will want to read A.D. from the very beginning.

A.D. will continue over the coming months until the stories of Leo, Michelle, Denise, the Doctor, Hamid, and Kevin have been told. As 2007 nears its end, I asked A.D. writer and illustrator Josh Neufeld to talk about what the A.D. community has meant to him as an artist. Here’s Josh.

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As the year winds down, it seems appropriate to reflect back on a full 12 months of A.D.. I’ve immersed myself in this project in a way I never have before, and it’s been incredibly exciting and fulfilling to see that effort bearing fruit.

From January, when editor Larry Smith and I traveled down to New Orleans to interview our subjects, through the rest of year writing and drawing the actual story, it’s been a long journey to where we are now, the cusp of 2008. At times it can seem as if the story of six people who survived and escaped Katrina will go one forever (and, of course, in a sense it truly does). So if you think that the often slow pace can be agonizing on your end, believe me, I get just as frustrated crafting the story in my painstaking fashion!

But one thing keeps me constantly revitalized and determined to move forward: the response from the A.D. community. I’m not just talking about the story’s subjects themselves—Leo & Michelle, Denise, Hamid, the Doctor, and Kevin—nor even the amazing reaction we’ve gotten from the press and blogosphere. No, what means more to me than all that is the wonderful reader feedback we’ve received on the A.D. message boards. (more…)

One Photo, One Story, Every Day

Wednesday, December 26th, 2007

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Back in April, we spied our own Rachel Kramer Bussel on Bill Wadman’s 365 Portrait Series, a project in which Wadman promised to shoot a person a day until December 31, 2007. As 2007 winds down, the shooter’s made good on his promise—and the bounty is big. His site features people of all ages and all walks of life, in different states of being: moonwalkers, pundits, authors, royalty, paper-pushers, dancers, educators, musicians, and one tied-up sexpert. Wadman tends to shoot his subjects up close and personal—and the results are a feast of expression, delight and intensity. He doesn’t offer captions or tell their stories, but rather leaves it to a lively community of commentators that has sprung up (and has plenty to say). It’s a fantastic example of one person’s personal media passion expertly executed, and made possible by using the simple technology right at all of our fingertips. I found the experience of viewing the 365 Portraits Series absolutely addicting.

Take a spin through Wadman’s amazing year here; join his Facebook group here.

Play it Again, Santa

Monday, December 24th, 2007

96597381_35a0950c92_m.jpgA few days ago, Kathy scoured Flickr for some hilarious shots of Saint Nick seemingly torturing the children—man, those kids could make faces. As I get ready to join America on its highways and byways to make my holiday getaway, I stumbled upon these glorious Christmas shots from Magnum Photos, published on Slate. Whether your holiday finds you on Santa or someone else’s lap, at home by the tree, or out and about pondering Kung Pao chicken, all of us at SMITH Mag hope you have a happy one full of friends, family, and funny faces.

Santa getting some fish, and leg, is not via Magnum, but from Flickr user Kuby!.

Better Know a Teen Girl: Read RED

Thursday, December 20th, 2007

RED_girls.jpgIn the last couple of weeks, I’ve been lucky to catch two readings of RED: The Next Generation of American Writers–Teenage Girls–On What Fires Up Their Lives Today, which is a remarkable collection of essays. At the first reading, my friend David—and author of two books himself—turned to me and said: “This is the best reading I’ve ever been to.” When I caught a second reading this past Tuesday at the Lower East Side Girls Club in Manhattan, RED editor Amy Goldwasser revealed that seed of the book was planted at that very spot, in a sense for what she called “selfish” reasons. Goldwasser realized that she much preferred lending a hand to the LESGC girls on their college essays by night to the paid work she was doing by day in NYC’s magazine jungle. “As opposed to professional adult writers,” she told me later, describing the process of editing 58 girls for the final incarnation of the book, “they really had no interest in pleasing me–which made for the very best, purest kind of editing. I never rewrote a word, I just got to ask a lot of questions then eagerly await (and cut-and-paste) their answers. These girls don’t follow conventions. Their writing is a lot more pure, honest, real.” I read personal essays each and every day, yet what I heard and what I’ve read have been nothing short of a revelation. That’s why at the second RED reading, I made sure I had plenty of SMITH cards to give to these young writers—writers who I suspect we’ll be hearing from a lot more in the coming years. And that’s why I hope you’ll read these three essays which we’re honored to publish here (and you can click through to three more on Salon), and then buy a copy of RED.

Countdown: 1-2-3-4-5-SIX.

Monday, December 17th, 2007

testcolbert_1.jpgBooks are strange and beautiful beasts. How is it that a prison memoir, a dog memoir, and a book of six-word memoirs are all considered “memoirs”? Yet they are, even if they are completely different animals. And books move at such strange speeds. The time from conception of SMITH’s six-word memoir book to completion of the first and quite-close-to-final draft was just a few months. The time from that draft to publishing date is close to a year. In between, you mess with covers and have meetings about marketing and bite your nails and turn into a walking, talking hype machine (which, let’s face it, makes you somewhat insufferable to your nearest and dearest).

The fuzzy math of marketing dictates that we don’t want to push the book too early before its release, so my co-editor Rachel Fershleiser and I have been positively restrained (for us). However, a few daily newspapers who received advance copies of NOT QUITE WHAT I WAS PLANNING: Six-Word Memoirs By Writers Famous and Obscure decided to cover the book early—so here we go. Atlanta-Journal Constitution scribe Phil Kloer wrote that he “fell in love with this book” and offered his copy of it to a reader who sent in his or her own six-word memoir. Within days, six-word memoirs in response to his column broke the paper’s record for comments.

6WORDMEM_yellow_blue.JPGLast week, Toronto’s largest daily, The National Post, wrote a feature on the making of the book (with this image above of one of the book’s memoirists). Writer Ben Kaplan zeros in on the heart and soul of why we made this book, and why the six-word memoir has captured imaginations across America. And when you make a book, even a seemingly “small” book like this, it means a lot when people get it.

And we hope you pre-order your copy of NOT QUITE WHAT I WAS PLANNING: Six-Word Memoirs By Writers Famous and Obscure today and get it on February 5, 2008.

The Story of Shooting War

Thursday, December 13th, 2007


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Does giving away your content free—online or elsewhere—discourage readers or listeners or any sort of content consumer from plunking down their hard-earned dough for the work later? It’s an ongoing conversation we have with publishers whose works we want to excerpt on Memoirville: If you give us 2,000 words from a book rather than the 600 words, will that make readers more or less excited to buy the book later? Invoking, among other examples, The Wilco Effect, I always argue that it’s in everyone’s best interest to give as much away as you can.

When SMITH Mag first serialized Shooting War in 2006, Anthony Lappé and Dan Goldman had every intention of turning the material into a book at a later date. At the same time, we believed the 11 chapters we posted were substantial—not the entire book, but quite a bit of it. Then what happened? A community of rabid readers found Shooting War, contributed thoughtful and intense comments and at times even shaped the story as it unfolded, told everyone they knew about it, and could not wait for a hardcover Shooting War book to glisten on their coffee tables. If we had just popped a few chapters on the site with a big ugly note announcing, “Want more? Then buy our book, Pally,” I strongly doubt we would have attracted the passionate community of readers, bloggers, and indeed future book buyers that we did, and did so organically. Once the publishing world got interested in Shooting War, the authors added much more new material—more than 100 pages—than even they first imagined they would in book form. Everybody wins.

With that preamble, I direct you to a huge piece from The New York Times’ Motoko Rich, Crossover Dreams: Turning Free Web Work Into Real Book Sales. In it, Rich discusses different web-to-print models, including how SMITH brought Shooting War to its first group of passionate readers, and now Grand Central Publishing is bringing the story to your bookshelf. I’ve watched Lappé and Goldman pour their lives into their creation for the past 18 months. When I first clicked on the link to the story and saw one of my all-time favorite panels from Shooting War on the Times’ site, my heart skipped a beat. When I walked down to my local bodega and handed a guy a buck and a quarter for the pulpy version of the Newspaper of Record, it skipped two more.

Believe the hype.

A Daddy Chronicle

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

Our friends at TrueMomConfessions have bungee-jumped into the world of video. First up is a tale from Christopher Noxon, author of Rejuvenile: Kickball, Cartoons, Cupcakes, and the Reinvention of the American Grown-up. Warning this includes adult-themed content, including a man dressed up as a Gorilla.

Moby, Rushkoff, and a Million Comic Geniuses Walk Into a Bar….

Friday, December 7th, 2007

395595654_6683016fb3_m.jpgSMITH comics editor Jeff Newelt wants to extend a special invitation to our readers to attend the first of many world-wide parties/fundraisers for the Comic Books Legal Defense Fund, a colorful outfit dedicated to the preservation of First Amendment rights for the comics world. The NYC event goes down this Monday, December 10 at The Village Pourhouse and is co-hosted by Newelt, A.D.’s Josh Neufeld, Shooting War’s Dan Goldman, author and SMITH blogger Douglas Rushkoff, and comics guru and man-about-town, Dean Haspiel. Paul Pope (that’s hit Batman comic, above) and CBLDF.jpgMoby will also be in the house for what is expected to be a massive, mind-blowing melding of some of the most amazing talents in the graphic and other arts world. Monday’s fete kicks off CBLDF’s national tour, with parties in Los Angeles, CA, Berkeley, CA, and Vienna, VA. For more on the parties and the CBLDF hit www.cbldf.org, or click the invite on the left.

Paul Pope’s Batman cover from Flickr user renguerra.

“One day you’re a hero, the next day you’re gone.”

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007

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If you didn’t have a little moment when you heard that Evel Knievel died, then you’re not: 1) Between the ages of 25-80; 2) Someone who ever dreamed of being a daredevil; 3) A good American. OK, that last item’s a little much, but still: Evel Knievel was an American original, and, let’s face it, had a totally cool name.

A long, thoughtful obit in The New York Times explains:

As he told the story, he acquired the name Evel as a boy. Arrested for stealing hubcaps, he was taken to jail, where the police were holding a man named Knofel, whom they called “Awful Knofel.”

They decided to call Robert “Evil Knievel.” The name stuck, and some years later, Mr. Knievel legally took the name Evel, changing the “i” to “e” because, he said, he thought it looked better.

For life lessons from the man himself, read Evel’s What I’ve Learned column in Esquire. The “What I’ve Learned” column itself is one of the best single pages in all of magazines, in which an icon is interviewed and then his words are stripped down to their bare essence. (My wife recently asked me why I carry around a tattered “What I’ve Learned” from Dick Van Dyke in my inside coat pocket; I told her I had my reasons). I had planned on writing a six-word memoir for the man who made an impression on me as a young, mildly daredevilling boy, but when I found these words from his Esquire column I realized no six could serve him as well as these 10 from the man himself: “One day you’re a hero, the next day you’re gone.”

Evel Knievel photo from Flickr user teadrinker

 
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