I am a fan of New Journalism. In Cold Blood is one of my favorite books, one that I’ve reread many times. I’m a huge fan, too, of Joan Didion. Her prose is exquisite in just about everything she wrote. And I have devoured the works of later writers such as Ted Conover, who wrote Newjack, and Alec Kotlowitz, who wrote There Are No Children Here, among others who have been called New Journalists.
It was a term often attributed to Tom Wolfe about his own work, among others, from the 1960s and 1970s, but New Journalism dates back at least to the nineteenth century. And some of the great writers of nonfiction of the earlier decades of the twentieth century in particular are my heroes. People such as Ernest Hemingway, working as a journalist during the Spanish Civil War, as well as his nonfiction books Death in the Afternoon and A Movable Feast, and Joseph Mitchell, who wrote Up in the Old Hotel, and other works, often for the New Yorker. Both of those great writers, and I’m sure others, laid the groundwork for Wolfe and the later twentieth century nonfiction writers by creating works that packed the kind of rhetorical and emotional punch that readers were used to expecting in fiction, but had not looked for in war stories and stories about the eccentricities of mid-century New Yorker City dwellers.
So, I love new journalism, and I remember enjoying Wolfe’s The Right Stuff up until the moment when he completely lost me. I remember it well. That moment came when he told me what Ham, the first American astronaut who orbited the earth in a Mercury capsule in January of 1961, felt and thought about the trip. I bought the accounts Wolfe offered of Chuck Yeager, ace pilot, and the men who, unlike Yeager, were chosen as astronauts for the Mercury missions.
But I knew for a fact that Wolfe had not interviewed Ham, because Ham was a chimpanzee.
And with that one choice, to invent the thoughts and feelings of a chimp, Wolfe lost me. He went in the blink of a chimp’s eye from The Right Stuff to wrong, wrong, wrong.
It can happen to any writer, and obviously by alienating me as a reader, Wolfe did no damage to his career. But there are many ways for writers to put a foot wrong, particularly now that there are so many choices to make, not only about what they write but also about their career paths and the skills necessary to accomplish their goals.
Which is why award-winning and bestselling author Kristine Kathryn Rusch has curated a StoryBundle for writers called The Write Stuff. And talk about packing a punch, this bundle of ten books and lectures on the stuff that writers absolutely need in 2023 delivers a heck of a wallop.
As Kris puts it:
These days, anyone can write and publish a book. The rise of electronic books has made publishing easy and quick. However, not everyone can have a writing career.
Writing careers take patience and a willingness to learn. Writers must learn the basics of craft, which they’ve always needed to know. But now, writers also need to learn how to run a small business. They must also understand that at times, they’ll have to try a few other things to keep their writing business afloat.
Through it all, they must maintain their enthusiasm and avoid pitfalls that have prevented promising writers from having actual careers.
It’s that time of year when writers need a boost. Look no further than The Write Stuff for a firm push to get you going on your first novel, some wisdom about creating characters, advice on how to be productive, and getting down to brass tacks, Dean Wesley Smith has a workshop on “How to Make More than Coffee Money” from your writing. Kris herself has a new book in the bundle on How Writers Fail: Analysis and Solutions.
There is lots for everyone at every stage of a writing career. Avoid the pitfalls (such as channeling chimp emotions), absorb the wisdom, and then get writing!
Juneteenth is the newest federal holiday, having been declared by President Biden in 2021, and it celebrates the end of slavery in the US. It marks the day, June 19, 1865, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect, and just over two months after Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, when the people of Texas learned that they were all free under the laws of the United States of America.
Major General Granger of the Union Army made the announcement upon his arrival in Galveston, Texas, to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation.
Here is the text of his order, now in the National Archives:
Galveston Texas June 19th 1865
The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.
The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.
By order of Major General Granger
F.W. EmeryMajor A.A. Genl
We leave it to you to divine the meaning behind the advice to the “freedmen” to remain quietly in place and keep working as hired labor. As we all know, this wasn’t the end of the story by a long shot.
It was, however, arguably the beginning of a new chapter in American history, and one that is well deserving of celebration.
The Smithsonian has a wealth of interesting archival materials and interviews about the holiday, which is well worth visiting. And here is a link to information about celebrations across the country. Galveston, for example, will host an annual reading of the Emancipation Proclamation.
WMG publishes a newsletter every week dedicated to holidays of various kinds, called Every Day’s a Holiday, in which we give away fiction and discounted workshops to subscribers. Today’s Juneteenth newsletter offers a short story, “Well-Chosen Words” by award-winning author Kristine Kathryn Rusch.
Legend has it that Abraham Lincoln scrawled the Gettysburg Address on the back of an envelope as he traveled to the battlefield to dedicate a cemetery. But the legend belies Lincoln’s struggle to carefully choose the right words. Words that must soothe a fractured nation, inspire change and chart the course for the nation’s future. Because his speech in Gettysburg will change history, but not necessarily in the way he hopes.
Written by a Sidewise Award winner for Best Alternate History, “Well-Chosen Words” first appeared in an anthology called Alternate Gettysburgs.
“Kristine Kathryn Rusch looks at the anxiety Lincoln had in selecting the ‘Well-Chosen Words’ he would speak at the dedication of the cemetery at Gettysburg, while his host, David Wills, fretted about the success of the event itself. The story is well written, with both characters coming to life…”
—Steven H. Silver, SF Site
We thought we’d offer the story to readers of this blog, too, in honor of Juneteenth. Just click here to download your free ebook.
And don’t forget to check out our many bestsellers and award-winners by Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch at wmgbooks.com!
We’ve started a new blog/newsletter called Every Day’s a Holiday on Substack, and we’ve had some fun with funky holidays, some of them quite whimsical, but who’s counting, right? We’ve celebrated Everything You Think is Wrong Day, and National Get Over It Day, among others. And later this week we’ll be celebrating National Tell a Story Day, of course!
But today is an actual National Holiday as declared by Congress, and it highlights one of my favorite facts of nature. Today is National DNA Day, celebrated on April 25 every year since 2003, to commemorate the day in 1953 when Nature magazine first published the findings of Francis Crick and James Watson describing the structure of DNA.
Mind you, there were numerous other scientists who contributed to the discovery, including Raymond Gosling and Rosalind Franklin, Linus Pauling and Robert Corey. But as with many scientific discoveries, popular history tends to boil down the process until we have a name or two associated with really big strides in our attempts to understand and describe the world around us.
But here’s the thing about DNA that I love: it is composed of the same four nucleobases—cytosines, guanine, adenine, and thymine—in every single living thing. Everything. Every organism, whether plant, microbe, or animal, has them, and every living thing uses those four nucleobases to replicate and eventually determine the structure and function of every part of the approximately 13 million species on our planet.
What an amazing and beautiful and efficient world we live in!
I spent most of my formal education in the humanities, learning about arts and letters, performing arts and media. Which is my excuse for why, when I finally got around to finishing a BA in my late twenties, I had to take some science classes, one of which was molecular biology, and I did not know this fact of nature. I’ll never forget how astounded I was the day our professor told us that DNA’s building blocks, its four nucleobases plus the sugar and phosphate molecules to which they are attached, were in every living thing.
I was gobsmacked.
You mean plants don’t have plant building blocks and fish don’t have fish building blocks?
Nope. All the same stuff.
It gets better. Not only are all living things constructed using the same nucleobases, even the famous double helixes those bases form (as described by Crick and Watson) are remarkably similar from one organism to the next.
In 2003, after the Human Genome Project had finished mapping the miles of human genes, which contain the DNA and RNA genetic material, they announced that all human beings share 99.9% of their genetic material, only a tiny proportion is different from one person to the next; and humans and chimpanzees share 96% of their genetic material, humans and bananas have 60% similarity in genetic material, and even 60% of the genetic material of fruit flies is the same as humans.
Which explains The Fly, among other things.
But I digress.
DNA belongs to all of us, or we belong to it, from the soaring eagle to the slug, and everything in between. We are the same.
When you get down to basics, we are vastly more similar than we are different, and here’s the best part: it seems to me that treating the small differences from one person to another as welcome variety, as nature’s way to entertain us, keep us on our toes, rather than as something to fear or deplore is unquestionably the way to go.
That meager .1 percent variation can account for some very entertaining novelties; I mean from Picasso to Banksy, from Shakespeare to Chinua Achebe to Ursula Le Guin, from Louis Armstrong to Hildegard of Bingen to Sting—there’s an awful lot to enjoy.
Today, the old Beach Boys song keeps playing itself in my head, the one about having fun in a T-bird.
I have no intention of deconstructing the lyrics, (even though my eyebrows go up when “she” got her daddy’s car and the girls all hate her, and the guys try to chase her but they can’t catch her) because who cares? The tune itself, but also the rebel-girl quality of the lyrics, perfectly capture the carefree summers of my T-birdless youth. I spent those long empty July days not cruising California beaches, but riding my bike around the small Indiana town I grew up in, and out into the countryside thick with cornfields, smelling the clover and watching for fireflies in the gloaming. And yes it was fun and free and happy, even though I was no Indy-500 driver.
But the song came into my head today as I was making a video for WMG’s current Kickstarter campaign promoting editor and writer Dean Wesley Smith’s Pulphouse Fiction Magazine subscription drive. Why? Because I was having fun! The video is silly and fun and hopefully captures some of the Pulphouse spirit.
Watch the video, or just hop on over to the Kickstarter page and check out all the terrific bonus books and workshops you get when you subscribe to the magazine.
Get your subscription so you can still have fun, fun, fun, even if your dad takes your T-bird away.
Gwyneth Gibby is associate publisher of WMG Publishing. She is an award-winning writer, a filmmaker, and former Hoosier.
For this week’s Publisher’s Note, I turn you over to WMG Associate Publisher Gwyneth Gibby, who has prepared a comprehensive Year in Review for a very challenging year.
May your holidays be safe and merry and filled with as much joy as you can eke out of this weirdest of years.
Writing a review of a year like 2020 was—challenging. But the image that kept coming back to me was the immigrant ships that came to this country more than a hundred years ago, in the early part of the 20th century. My grandparents were on one of those ships in 1912, sailing from Liverpool after their short wedding ceremony in a village chapel in Wales. They traveled steerage, which was notoriously cramped, foul smelling, rife with disease, and generally nauseating.
And yet, it got them to the New World. So I began to think of our passage through the year 2020 as a similar journey from a familiar world into an unknown future, on a vessel that was sometimes cramped and foul smelling, and at times rife with disease. But with some good sense and some good luck and whole lot of grace, we now look forward to reaching port and a new life.
In the meantime, like the immigrants on those steamships who told each other stories, sang songs of the old country, and danced in spite of the tough conditions, we at WMG have not been idle!
I counted thirty titles that WMG published in 2020; there were novels, short story collections, anthologies, bundles, and on top of all that, our second annual WMG Holiday Spectacular Calendar of Stories, thirty-seven original holiday stories, is going strong as we speak.
We also ran six successful Kickstarter campaigns and held several workshop and lecture sales to help writers keep learning and writing during the pandemic lockdowns. And we started a newsletter called Grab a Book and Chill to keep writers and readers alike up to date on all of the resources WMG has to offer to get through this year and come out of it with something creative.
Let’s take a look back at the books WMG published this year, despite the pandemic:
Big news in Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s award-winning Diving Series! After The Renegat, 2019’s magnum opus, Kris came back this year with not one novel but two. Squishy’s Teams came out in November, and to the delight of her fans, Boss returns in a major new novel, Thieves, this coming February.
On top of Boss’s return, Thieves has some big surprises and that will knock the socks off of fans in particular. And you can preorder it now!
Dean Wesley Smith’s Cold Poker Gang are up to their usual tricks in a new novel Ring Gamethat published in April. And true to the year’s cat theme, two of the Gang’s retired Las Vegas detectives rescue a family of cats and uncover a creepy and diabolical series of cold cases—with the help of cats. Next up in the series is Bottom Pair—which will be out next year!
Speaking of cats, our new series The Year of the Cat has lovers of the four-footed beasts purring and asking for more. The project started as a Kickstarter Make 100 Challenge and has blossomed into a feline favorite starring a wide variety of cats. There are books featuring cats of a different color and of disdainful looks as well as cats of perfect taste, heroic hearts, strange lands and more.
More Make 100! We published one hundred of Dean’s short stories in three volumes, each of which contains more than 400 pages of Dean’s signature science fiction, fantasy, and uncategorizable original fiction. All three—The First Thirty-Three, The Second Thirty-Three and The Final Thirty-Four—are available in ebook and paperback.
We released two new volumes of Fiction River. Doorways to Enchantment, edited by Dayle A. Dermatis, tapped into the longing we sometimes feel to find a passageway from the real world to an imaginary one. Does that ring a bell for anyone? The stories in the second volume, Stolen, edited by Leah R. Cutter, take on all aspects of theft, from the urge to steal a magical moment to the fear of being robbed. Sounds familiar?
To inspire authors to keep learning and developing their careers even in these trying times, we bundled the seventeen most popular WMG Writer’s Guides together and created five books on writing and publishing. The bundles are on the topics of Business, Productivity, Craft, the Industry, and Marketing. They not only offer tons of information, expertise and advice, but each one is a terrific bargain!
There are thirty-seven stories the WMG Holiday Spectacular Calendar of Stories this year, which subscribers get in their inboxes every day. Sweet, mysterious, fantastical, the stories are a delight this year. We published the three anthologies from the 2019 Spectacular this fall, Joyous Christmas, Bloody Christmas, and Winter Holidays. Also available is the compilation of all stories with their introductions from the 2019 calendar in The Holiday Spectacular #1.
Whew! That’s our list for 2020. Tons of great fiction, lots of terrific nonfiction, lots of cats.
Which reminds me, our two chief feline staff members at WMG Promotion Central, Cheeps and Gavin, have stepped up to the plate and kicked into high gear, giving their jobs a thousand percent effort…OK, not really. But they do occasionally take a break from the serious business of napping and wander into Promotion Central. You can follow their—well not their antics exactly because that would be too energetic, so let’s just say their snacktivities on Facebook.
You know what? The year 2020 may have felt like steerage, but if anything, it has been a journey not into the heart of darkness, but out of the dark and into the light.
Gwyneth Gibby is associate publisher of WMG Publishing. She is an award-winning writer, former Hollywood director, and an expert in narrative storytelling.