Archives for category: Books

Continuing my log of quotes/treasures from the second section of Scratch: II THE DAILY GRIND.


“The Best Work in Literature” Manjula Martin

I had a bundle of life experience to write from, a bifurcated class identity, and a resume full of holes bigger than the ones in my unfinished manuscripts.”


“Against ‘Vs.’” Leslie Jamison

“What if we stopped thinking of money as the dirty secret of creative pursuit and instead recognized money as one of its constituent threads? Whether we like it or not, money’s presence in art doesn’t depend on whether we consider its presence. It’s always already there.”


“Love for Sale” Harmony Holiday

“Rather than death and taxes, death to black taxes. En masse. In the name of the legacy of Amiri [Baraka]. In the name of black radical writers who do not want to fund the systems their words seek to dismantle.”


“Sad Birth Lady” Meaghan O’Connell

“This trouble happened throughout the proposal process, moments when I wondered if I was making a huge career mistake. How to parse self-sabotage from self-preservation, fear from knowing better?

I came back to this fact: the book was something I would have loved to read.”


“Ghost Stories” Sari Botton

“Exactly how much do I make writing other people’s stories? For most books, I receive a flat rate—anywhere from $10,000 to $40,000 in my case, plus or minus a percentage of the author’s royalties. Sometimes I get a percentage of the author’s advance—twenty-five to forty percent in my experience, plus or minus a percentage of the author’s royalties—but I am told the top ghostwriters get fifty. In the best cases I have gotten forty, with twenty-five percent of the author’s royalties. Here and there, I charge by the hour, $50 to $90, for what I call ‘editorial hand-holding’ for clients who can sort of write, but need a lot of guidance and editing work.

For me, ghostwriting is a job—one I wouldn’t do if I didn’t need the money.”


“…the guild economy is the dream…” Susie Cagle in Scratch

“Economies 101” Susie Cagle

The sad secret of this economy is that no one knows what anything is or should be worth.”


“Security” Roxane Gay

Manjula: “What were those [first book] deals like?”

Roxane: “For the novel [An Untamed State], I got a $12,500 advance. And for Bad Feminist, I got $15,000.”


“Monetization” Choire Sicha

“Writers whose work is published online should and must understand how websites work in general, as well as how the websites on which they are published work in the specific, so as to not be idiots. This particular pursuit of non-idiocy is sometimes referred to in journalism as ‘following the money,’ also know as ‘understanding the basic economic structure of the industry from which one earns a living, or hopes to.’”


“The Jump” Sarah Smarsh

On quitting her job to write THE book: “Of all my troubles, I’d most underestimated the psychological trauma of relinquishing a professional title that commands respect and proffers identity in society that values productivity above all else—a trauma likely exacerbated by my having been born, by class and gender, to little respect. As a woman who had worked nearly every day since adolescence for some employer, I’d never had so much time on my hands. I felt lost, crushed by the weight of open space and infinite possibility I’d supposedly longed for.”


Next up: The final log III SOMEDAY. 

For the June issue of Curve magazine, I connected with Ariel Levy to discuss “too much” women and her memoir, The Rules Do Not Apply. The interview and book review are in the Pride issue and on newsstands now.



During our interview, I asked Ariel why she published this memoir about losing the life she was authoring for herself, which included being a reporter, wife, and mother. She did not spare herself. Ariel went well beyond the writer’s call to sit down with the page and open a vein.

Yet writing is one thing, publishing another.

“These extraordinarily intense things happen to the human female animal around the reproductive system,” she responded. “If you’re female, you will have some kind of drama around menstruation or pregnancy or birth or menopause.”

Ariel continued; noting that as a feminist, she believed:

“The whole world of human reproduction in the human female animal—that affects half the human population—is not something that is a subject for literature much. So I felt strongly that this was a legitimate subject to write about and that it was worthwhile.”

Through Ariel’s willingness to put her life on the page, to lay her mind and body bare, we can become better acquainted with our own thoughts, discover shared experiences, and challenge our perceptions as we keep evolving, generation after generation.

This is the revolutionary Mother Nature of memoir.

The Brooklyn Rail, March 2017

In the March issue of The Brooklyn Rail, I review Garrard Conley’s memoir, Boy Erased, about surviving “gay conversion” therapy.

Practices claiming to convert sexual orientation or gender identity and to cure the mental illnesses or developmental disorders that purportedly cause same-sex attraction have been banned in five states and the District of Columbia. Medical, psychological, and therapeutic institutions, across the board, condemn these practices, declaring their offerings fraudulent and abusive.

Advocates for religious liberties counter that conversion therapy is a form of speech and thereby protected under the Constitution’s First Amendment. In addition to conversion practices being deeply rooted in Christian religious expression, involving group fellowship and personal testimony, “ex-gay” therapy is also modeled after a twelve-step program and similarly includes interventions, talk therapy, and mutual support. Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve-step programs are legal.

Why is conversion therapy different?

Conley offers his first-person account of this closeted world. In Boy Erased, Conley reveals the practices of Love in Action, the fundamentalist Christian organization, led by John Smid, where “the sins of homosexuality” are equated with addictions, such as alcoholism and gambling, and evangelist leaders preach the God-ordained steps to curing “sexual addictions.”

For further insight, Conley provided his handbook outlining The Twelve Steps — Tools for Personal Change to The Rail for review. To read my full review that interweaves these steps with Conley’s experience, please pick up a copy of The Rail or see On “Gay Conversion” Therapy.

Alternatively, bear witness to the twelve steps and evaluate their therapeutic value for yourself.

The Twelve Steps — Tools for Personal Change

  1. We admitted we were powerless over homosexuality and compulsive sexual behavior — that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that Jesus Christ could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of Jesus Christ.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to our Heavenly Father, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have our Heavenly Father remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our relationship with Jesus Christ, praying only for the knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry it out.
  12. Having had the spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we carry this message to others, and practice these principles in all our affairs.
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