Be wise. Be brave. Be tricky. (slithytove) wrote,
Be wise. Be brave. Be tricky.

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Reading slush with Jim Van Pelt

Via Leonid Korogodski on the OWW mailing list a few days ago ('m just catching up with ML reading...): Jim Van Pelt has an interesting interview on IROSF, the Internet Review of Science Fiction. Talks about fiction writing, and how he fits it into the rest of his married/kids/employed life.

Interestingly, he recommends reading slush, as he did for California Quarterly during grad school. Openings, for example:

Van Pelt says he found three "classic mistakes I saw in the first paragraph. If you can avoid doing these three things, your manuscript will be better than at least half of the slush pile."

The three things? "One, use an action verb. Two, be specific; name things. Don't say, 'She looked out the window.' Name her. Three, don't use a cliché. That was half the slush pile, so it was pretty easy."


"So many people thought that their story was going to be heart-breakingly original—50 of them in the same month, not talking with each other—and they've all come up with the same thing. We were mostly getting submissions from professors and grad students from other colleges, and I'll bet a quarter of the slush pile was a male protagonist, assistant professor, something like that, falling in love with a much younger coed."

Yeah, you're supposed to bleed on the page, but not like that. Write out your ineffable existential dread, your 'awful rowing towards God', your fear of the DOS prompt. No one cares about your fantasies about boinking the coed.

Even more interesting stuff in the forum addressing this interview.

I know that reading the slush taught me more about writing in a month than reading all the literary greats taught me in a lifetime... Reading slush was like a high-voltage slam into writer theory. It made me think harder about what writing is about in a short period of time than any thinking I'd done to that point.

Because I've read slush, I read the published stuff differently too. I can ask with some context, "Why was this published? What separated it from the rest of the slush?" That's a pretty good question to ask as a writer also.

BTW, IROSF is also free for the next 12 months if you sign up now.

meaning: road, town, area

市街 == shigai == town, city
花街 == kagai == red-light district

Outer radicals are 'go' (行), in its original meaning of 'crossroads'. Between them is a character only found in Chinese consisting of 'earth' (土) doubled, which originally signified the raised earthen paths between rice paddies. Henshall suggests as a mnemonic: 'Road-town is just crossroads of raised earth.'

Stroke order from Josh's Chinese Lookup Thingy (animated)
Info from Taka Kanji Database (Sourceforge is down right now)
Gahoh kanji movie

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