Narrators, Rejection, Classics, YA, Author Bios,

Weekly musings on writers and writing, from Conked

BY RAND LEEB-DU TOIT – 16 APRIL 2021

Update from Rand

After a short hiatus and pivot, Conked is back! You will notice that we have doubled down on writing and writers. We hope you enjoy the content and feel free to comment on any of the pieces that have been conked.

Queen’s Gambit is a moving Netflix series about a young girl who masters chess by visualising a chessboard in the air and playing on it. I spent a year in hospital and did a lot of air-writing. This is why this edition’s Afterthought resonated with me so much. The first piece we’ve conked is about Donald Barthelme who explored an area I am very much interested in: the invisible narrator. For reference read Rachel Cusk’s novel, Outline, a great example of this type of writing.

Stay positive, keep writing: this is a great mantra for us all and that is why the second conk is so important. It deals with literary rejection. Enough said! We then have a case being made for why we should read the classics. The only way we can keep these incredible works alive is by reading them. Next up, we discuss what lessons can be learned from Young Adult writers about hooking and engaging readers. The sooner the better is the case this piece makes.

Finally, we have a fun piece on author bios. Come on, admit it: yours is as long as mine!


The Donald Barthelme Story Nobody Talks About But Everyone Should Read

Emily Temple | Literary Hub | 09 April 2021

In a story, there are several different options for the narrator: to be invisible and relate what happens; the first-person narrator who exists in the story; and those who "occupy a middle space."  An in the middle or extradiegetic narrator may meddle or intrude. They are outside the story and can create meaning. Using Donald Barthelme's Rebecca as an example, writer and LitHub editor Emily Temple explains lines where the narrator and character meld, where the narrator pulls back to create distance or becomes judgemental and preachy. The story of Hilda and Rebecca has "lured the narrator down from their snooty overlook and integrated them into their love story." (1,937 words)


On Dealing with Literary Rejection: The Importance of Letting Go and Moving On

Jessica Bacal | Literary Hub | 09 April 2021

When a writer starts submitting their writing for publication, rejection may follow. Some people are new to rejection and it may "lead to cruel self-talk," - you are not good enough, your work is not good enough. Writer Jessica Bacal spent a year researching the topic for her book The Rejection That Changed My Life, through interviewing over 25 women about their worst rejections and learnt many approaches for how to move on. These involved understanding the difference between personal rejection and that of their work, having a long-range view and remembering "that building a career takes patience", being kind to themselves and keeping their creativity flowing, (1,975 words)


Why Read The Classics?

Abdelfattah Kilito | The Baffler | 05 April 2021

Moroccan born Abdelfattah Kilito is an author of several books on Arabic literature, some translated into English, and a scholar and critic. This translated essay from his latest book - “This is Why We Read Classic Literature…” is the author's view "of learning the written Arabic language and its literature in primary school."  He considers why we don’t read the ancient classics although we know there may be benefits to doing so. Additionally, how do we actually define them, especially in the Arab world and what are the works that are essential works to read especially for an author wanting to develop their own texts of good quality. (2,803 words)


Hook the Reader and Hold Them: Why More Writers Should Study the Lessons of YA

 Donna Freitas | Literary Hub | 08 April 2021

Donna Freitas discusses writing for young adults and how to engage readers in a story swiftly and decisively using great first lines, first-person voices, short chapters, clever chapter titles and more. While this is often couched in terms of the attention span of young people, Freitas believes it is about the art of storytelling and how a writer crafts "an invitation for a reader to enter a story." With YA writing there are many opportunities to use this art form and experiment with different styles and genres, writing series or trilogies. YA is differentiated by the pace, and of course the age of the protagonist. As Freitas says, "Good storytelling has the power to change the world." Agreed! (1,549 words)


Bio-Waste: How Important Are Author Bios Anyway?

Jason Guriel | Literary Hub | 12 April 2021

An author biography is necessary, but there are many different approaches outlined in this article by writer Jason Guriel. They can be very, very long - like journalist Seth Abramson has written, listing every achievement, affiliation, degree and job he has ever held. Others are "minor texts", and point out just a few publications or awards and where the author lives. As Guriel states, a bio may be mythmaking, an act of creation, and try to lend credibility to the author. Some give weight to a spouse or children or even family pets or perhaps be quite opaque. "Bios make, but also break. And betray." (1,355 words)


Afterthought:

“How beautiful they all are, the things I never wrote!”
Abdelfattah Kilito

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Rand Leeb-du Toit, Conkerer

Editorial comments and conk suggestions to the Conkerer: rand@exoscalr.com

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