Trip to AWP LA 2016, Part VII

Today’s the last day of my restoration posts for AWP LA ’16. I enjoyed going on this journey through my writing from two years ago; I hope you did, too!

Listing 💚 Backstories of Reviewers

How do you get into book reviewing?

  • Newman says, “You want to make it, you want to think about it; you want to think about it, then you want to make it;” in other words, writers—who are creating bodies of writing—also want to read bodies of writing, then think critically about the bodies of writing they’ve explored, (which is like any other artistic process,) so the book review, as academia, let’s the writer/reader immerse in that critical thinking step;
  • So as you fall in love with language, you fall in love with book reviewing;
  • You think about books in a public manner;
  • You put the work first, or as Newman describes it, “Let the work move before you,” producing several book reviews (i.e., a platform) of your own, maybe on a blog, maybe on and slash or, because when you honestly invest into the book reviewing art form, doing it for the sake of it, the form may, eventually, begin to take its unique shape, your unique form of book review writing;
  • You experiment—i.e., you explore outside of the “tired book review,” as McMurtrie coins it, which is 800 to 1200 words long; you instead, for example, use a book review as a launching board to talk about another subject you’re passionate about, (always, of course, returning to the discussion of the book, in tandem with the dance around your passion,) so that you write a book review that’s 2,500 words or more; or, as another example Miner suggests to the audience, “you could write a book review in the form of dialogue;”
  • You join the National Book Critics Circle;
  • You read Library Journal to find out about books about to be released; then you request copies of books to review them;
  • You send e-mails to book review editors, who are interested in finding you, (but I imagine, would rather find you after you’ve figured the form out—beaten it into a unique and professional credibility.)

When Lord started the panel, she reminded us that books are a huge investment of time; and that’s why we read book reviews far more than books, selectively determining how to spend an evening, a weekend, an airplane paperback.

For those of us who read book reviews frequently enough, we sometimes engage in thoughtful conversation based on equally thoughtful reviews, writing that’s educating us about mainstream literature when we have not yet (or, perhaps, will ever) find the time to read those books ourselves; case-in-point, the amount of people who read Twilight vs. the people who like to talk about Twilight.

So book reviews are narratives and stories in themselves, buoying us in our use of time, holding us through our conversations, our literary love—and so we must write reviews for the love of the review itself, for the love of writing itself;

We must write reviews the way a poet would write poetry, with respect for the form, love for the form, an honest-to-God desire that this is what we want to do with some of the time we spend on this planet.

I like thinking of book reviews this way. I like thinking of writing on this blog, this way. I like thinking of art, and maybe breathing, in colorful strokes of passion.

Listing 💞 Lovely Quotes from Panel

  • “Reviewing introduces you to fine writers who, for whatever reason, you otherwise would not know.” —Valerie Miner
  • “Cut the first three pages and rewrite the conclusion.” —Amy Hoffman
  • “When I finish a book, I feel as though I’ve lost a friend…and I have to find a new one, soon. But it has to be a good one.” —Valerie Miner
  • “How many book stores do you see with harpsichords planted down the middle?” —John McMurtrie, as part of a discussion on Los Angeles’ beauty
  • “Reviewing isn’t about selling books, or creating relationships…it’s not about establishing a canon. A canon is a weapon, no matter how you spell it. It’s about creating a discussion around a book…a collective community of writers and readers.” —Valerie Miner
  • “I hope the review is beautiful, I hope it contributes to a conversation, I hope it’s good to read, and I hope it doesn’t overshadow the book, because the review is about the book, not me.” —Valerie Miner
  • “Reviewing has taught my fiction; enriched my fiction.” —Valerie Miner
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