• February 8, 2018

    Jesmyn Ward

    Jesmyn Ward has signed a two book deal at Simon & Schuster. The first book is a still-untitled novel that “centers on an enslaved woman sent south from the Carolinas to New Orleans, site of the country’s largest slave market,” which will be published by Scribner. Ward will also write a young adult novel about “a black Southern female protagonist who possesses special powers,” which will be published by Caitlyn Dlouhy Books. Publication dates for the titles have not been announced.

    Edna O’Brien has won the PEN/Nabokov lifetime achievement award. The prize will be given to O’Brien at a ceremony later this month.

    At the New York Times, assistant managing editor Monica Drake discusses her twenty years at the paper, her new role, and how it feels to be the first black woman on the paper’s print masthead.

    The Light We Lost author Jill Santopolo is adapting her debut novel for film. The project will be produced by Southpaw Entertainment.

    Is “writing what you know” the best strategy? Literary Hub looks to thirty-one writers for the answer.

    As publishers give up on Facebook’s Instant Articles, the feature is being put to use by fake news sites to add legitimacy to their articles and allow them to load faster, BuzzFeed News reports.

    Former editors of DNAinfo Chicago are starting a local news website, Block Club Chicago. The site is expected to go live in April, and will rely on reader subscriptions.  Former DNAinfo deputy editor and social media director Jen Sabella, now director of strategy for Block Club Chicago, explained why, despite the notion that local news is dead, the site will be successful. “People want it, and we proved that with DNAinfo. What we didn’t do was give readers a chance to support us,” she said. “I’m so excited to try this again, and maybe I’m totally bonkers, but I think if you listen to your audience and provide reliable news that is relevant to their lives (and that you can’t find 1,000 other places), people will support it.”

    Tonight at McNally Jackson, Lisa Halliday discusses her new novel, Asymmetry.

  • February 7, 2018

    Megan Greenwell

    Megan Greenwell has been hired as the editor in chief of Deadspin, Gizmodo Media Group’s sports website. Greenwell, the first woman to take on the role, is replacing Tim Marchman, who now leads the company’s Special Projects desk.  

    Tyra Banks and her mother Carolyn London are writing a book together that will “get raw, real and cray-in-a-good-way.” Perfect is Boring will be published in April.

    International Business Times senior writer David Sirota has resigned from the company after the firing of top IBT and Newsweek staff.

    Tronc is likely selling the Los Angeles Times.  

    Tavis McGinn talks to The Verge about the six months he spent monitoring Mark Zuckerberg’s approval rating.

    At the Paris Review, Marissa Grunes reflects on Primitive Technology, “a Walden for the YouTube age.” The online series follows John Plant, an Australian man “who builds huts, weapons, and tools using only naturally occurring materials” and “wears only navy blue shorts, rarely looks at the camera, and never speaks.”

    An American Marriage author Tayari Jones tells the New York Times’s “By the Book” column about her ideal mystery book. “I like my dead body in Chapter 1, and then spending the rest of the novel figuring it out,” she said. “Motives should be love, money or revenge. Spare me the sick stuff.”

    Tonight, Wesley Morris and Zadie Smith discuss her new essay collection, Feel Free, at St. Ann’s church in Brooklyn.

  • February 6, 2018

    Newsweek editor in chief Bob Roe, executive editor Ken Li, reporters Celeste Katz and Josh Saul, and International Business Times editor Josh O’Keefe were all fired yesterday, the Daily Beast reports. Anonymous employees noted that four of the fired staff had recently written about the company’s legal troubles. In response, Newsweek senior writer Matthew Cooper has resigned. “This coup d’grace comes at the end of a string of scandals and missteps during your tenure,” Cooper wrote in a letter addressed to CEO Dev Pragad. “Leaving aside the police raid and harassment scandal—a dependent clause I never thought I would write—it’s the installation of editors, not Li and Roe, who recklessly sought clicks at the expense of accuracy, retweets over fairness, that leaves me most despondent not only for Newsweek but for other publications that don’t heed the lessons of this publication’s fall.”

    Emily Chang

    The Atlantic is removing the comments section from their website. Starting this Friday, thoughts from readers will be collected and published in the Letters section.

    The National Magazine Award is discontinuing its Magazine of the Year and Multimedia awards.

    Rachel Kushner talks to the New Yorker about prison, crime, and her upcoming book, The Mars Room.

    Emily Chang tells TechCrunch that the impetus for her new book Brotopia came from an interview with venture capitalist Mike Moritz, who told her that his firm wouldn’t “lower our standards” by bringing on a female partner. “For the next few months, everyone wanted to talk with me about what he’d said,” she remembered. “There were these visceral debates about why women are so underrepresented in tech — with some saying it’s pop culture, or a pipeline problem, or that women don’t want these jobs. And the more people I talked with, the more I realized that there were a lot of false myths that have combined with economic and cultural forces to bring us to this point.”

  • February 5, 2018

    Margaret Atwood

    Margaret Atwood

    Margaret Atwood explains why, even as Hulu plans a second season of A Handmaid’s Tale, she’s not making money off of the rights to her 1985 novel.

    “I think if you’re trying to figure out how to weave together 250 people’s different memories, and arrange them, there’s no better model than Errol Morris’s filmography.” Isaac Butler and Dan Kois discuss influences they looked to while writing The World Only Spins Forward, their new book about the history of Tony Kushner’s play Angels in America.

    In her new controversial Harper’s article, Katie Roiphe, the author of In Praise of Messy Lives and other books, takes on the Shitty Men in Media list and Lorin Stein’s resignation from the Paris Review amid allegations of sexual misconduct. According to Roiphe, responses to the essay remind her of the “thought police” in George Orwell’s 1984. On CBS Sunday Morning, Roiphe noted: “Before the magazine article had even been published, thousands of people took to Twitter, furious at me for rumors about what might be in the piece. Total strangers called me ‘a garbage person,’ ‘a ghoul,’ ‘human scum.’”

    Citing “unforeseen circumstances,” Rose McGowan has canceled the remainder of her book tour for her new memoir, Brave.

    Thirty publishers have signed a letter requesting that the organizers of the Man Booker Prize reverse a 2014 decision which opened the award up to American authors. Since the rule change, two American authors have won the prize: Paul Beatty and George Saunders. According to the letter: “The rule change, which presumably had the intention of making the prize more global, has in fact made it less so, by allowing the dominance of Anglo-American writers at the expense of others; and risks turning the prize, which was once a brilliant mechanism for bringing the world’s English-language writers to the attention of the world’s biggest English-language market, into one that is no longer serving the readers in that market. . . . [It] will therefore be increasingly ignored.”

    Conventional essays “feel inauthentic because they want control,” White Girls author Hilton Als says in a profile in the Guardian. “I think you have to let the mess come in.”

  • February 2, 2018

    The Freedom of the Press Foundation has partnered with Archive-It to collect the work of Gawker and LA Weekly, as well as other news outlets and websites that may be threatened by purchase “by a hostile party.”

    Former Time executive editor Siobhan O’Connor is joining Medium as the company’s vice president of editorial. At the Columbia Journalism Review, Howard R. Gold looks at the history of the magazine and explains how it became “a victim of its own prosperity, which fostered a culture that discouraged risk-taking and punished failure.”

    Joseph Cassara. Photo: Amanda Kallis

    The Millions talks to Joseph Cassara about 1980s New York, the erasure of queer history, and his new book, The House of Impossible Beauties. “I always feel sad when I realize how much of queer history is lost because it hasn’t been documented properly. Or it’s been purposefully erased,” he said. “My modus operandi when writing is to try and resurrect queer stories and turn them into narratives that people can experience in a linear fashion.”

    Amy Chua tells the New York Times’s “By the Book” section that if her daughters don’t write her biography, she’d choose Elif Batuman. “She’s the daughter of Turkish immigrants—and studied violin at the Manhattan School of Music—so I think she’d relate,” she said. “Also, she seems like a generous spirit, and I could definitely use that!”

    At the Los Angeles Times, Agatha French goes to Mystic Journey Bookstore to ask one of the store’s twenty psychics about the future of the book industry. French was specifically interested in “what types of books, if any, people would seek out in the future.” The psychic telepathically called upon an unnamed writer for his opinion. “Respect for the spoken word is getting lost,” he said. “This level of knowledge, books and communication in the way that we’ve known it will only have value to a certain group of people.”

  • February 1, 2018

    The National Book Awards is adding a new prize for translated books. Beginning this year, the new category “will honor a work of fiction or nonfiction that has been translated into English and published in the U.S.” National Book Foundation director Lisa Lucas talked to the New York Times about the decision. “This is an opportunity for us to influence how visible books in translation are,” she explained. “The less we know about the rest of the world, the worse off we are.”

    Barbara Kingsolver. Photo: Annie Griffiths

    Barbara Kingsolver is working on a new novel. Taking place in both 2016 and 1871, Unsheltered “explores the foundations we build, crossing time and place to give us all a little more hope in those around us, and a little more faith in ourselves.” The book will be published next October by Faber in the UK and Harper in the US.

    Simon & Schuster imprint Gallery Books is publishing a memoir by Catherine Oxenberg about “losing her daughter” to the Nxivm leadership organization. Captive: A Mother’s Crusade to Save Her Daughter From a Terrifying Cult will be published next fall.

    BuzzFeed has announced the 2018 class of Emerging Writer Fellows.

    Television rights for Gabe Hudson’s Gork, the Teenage Dragon have been bought by the Gotham Group.

    On The Awl’s last day, founder Alex Balk offers a list of story ideas that never made it on the site. “Subway Astrology” was set to offer “personal and professional” guidance based on readers’ most-used subway stations, while “The Nihilist Advice Corner” would have answered each letter “with the same wisdom: ‘It doesn’t matter. We’re all going to die anyway. Nothing you do will make a difference in the long run.’”

  • January 31, 2018

    Willie Nelson is being inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters. Nelson is the first songwriter to be honored by the group, and joins screenwriter Richard Linklater, novelist Bret Anthony Johnston, and playwright Kirk Lynn among others to be inducted this year. “He’s Willie,” the institute explained in a statement. “Do we need to say anything else?”

    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

    Late author Helen Dunmore has won the Costa prize for her final book, Inside the Wave.

    Atria publisher and president Judith Curr is leaving the company after nineteen years. Curr founded Atria books and later took over the expanded Atria Publishing Group.

    Kwame Alexander is starting his own imprint. Versify will be part of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, with its first titles to be published in spring 2019.

    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has written a Facebook post in reaction to an interview question from a French journalist, who asked if there were book stores in Nigeria. “Bookshops are in decline all over the world. And that is worth discussing and mourning and hopefully changing. But the question, ‘Are there bookshops in Nigeria?’ was not about that,” she wrote. “It was about giving legitimacy to a deliberate, entitled, tiresome, sweeping, base ignorance about Africa. And I do not have the patience for that.”

    Vanity Fair reports that Mike Cernovich, “the right-wing lifestyle guru and self-proclaimed journalist,” has bid $500,000 on Gawker.com. Maya Kosoff and Tina Nguyen write that although the offer may represent Cernovich’s desire “to navigate away from the fringes of the Internet . . . in a bid for more mainstream respectability,” his motivation to buy Gawker is more likely related to his “historic feud with the site, which dates back to at least 2014, when he challenged then-Gawker writer Sam Biddle to a boxing match over his coverage of Gamergate.”

  • January 30, 2018

    The New York Times has hired Amal El-Mohtar as the Book Review’s science fiction and fantasy columnist. El-Mohtar is replacing N. K. Jemisin, who has been writing the Otherworldly column for the last two years.

    Danez Smith. Photo: Hieu Minh Nguyen

    The Observer reports on editorial shake-ups at two Tronc papers. Former New York Daily News editor in chief Jim Rich will return to the same role at the paper, while the Daily News’s current interim editor Jim Kirk has been hired as the editor in chief of the Los Angeles Times. Current LA Times editor Lewis D’Vorkin will be the chief content officer of Tronc.

    Poet Danez Smith talks to The Guardian about gender, faith, and failure. “All art-making is about failure. We never get it right,” he said. “But poems are not poems if they make people feel dead. I want people to feel alive—even if it is alive with grief. I want people to feel their blood moving by the time I’m done.”

    Mira T. Lee and Celeste Ng discuss writing and jealousy.“I always told myself that once I’d written the book I wanted to write, anything else would be gravy,” said Lee. “But suddenly I find myself plagued by feelings of insecurity and inadequacy, everything from ‘will my sales meet my publisher’s expectations?’ to ‘why didn’t that reader like my book?’”“Literally every single writer I have ever met has confessed to feeling insecure,”Ng agreed. “I’m 97 percent sure even Alice Munro and Toni Morrison are secretly annoyed when there’s a best-of list they’re not on.”

    At the Washington Post, T.A. Frank argues that conservative political magazines like Commentary and the National Review “have become oddly vital once more.” “While Sean Hannity and Breitbart News carry water for Trump, and many liberal publications dodge introspection in favor of anti-Trump primal screams . . . conservative magazines are working to bring a plausible intellectual order to this new reality—and figure out what comes next,” he writes.

  • January 29, 2018

    Mohsin Hamid

    Mohsin Hamid

    Mohsin Hamid, the author of the novels The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Exit West, writes about the disturbing trends of “purity” and nationalism in Pakistan, England, and beyond. “In these pure times, you believe more impurity is desperately needed. Only impurity can save us now,” he writes. “But, fortunately, there are reasons for hope. Our species was built on impurity, and impurity will probably come to our rescue once again, if we let it.”

    Shomari Wills talks about the genesis of his book Black Fortunes, a study of African-American millionaires, and about the surprises he encountered while researching and writing it.

    “The cat brought in a snake and left it under my bed…” In her second column for the Guardian, Elena Ferrante considers how she has learned to confront her fears. Her own success in overcoming fear has not been based in courage, per se, so much as “egotism.” “We fearful-belligerents place at the top of all our fears the fear of losing self-respect,” she writes. “We value ourselves very highly, and in order not to have to face our own humiliation, we are capable of anything.”

    Salman Rushdie reveals his big literary influences—Kafka, Pynchon—and confesses that he’s never been able to finish Middlemarch.

    “Every time Mark E. Smith spat on the ground, another 10 bands rose up, and he hated every one of them.” Rob Sheffield, the author of David Bowie and Dreaming the Beatles, offers an inspired tribute to the acerbic frontman of the legendary postpunk band The Fall.

    We’re excited about the upcoming talk, on February 5 at the New School, between the poet-critic-novelists Wayne Koestenbaum (My 1980s and Other Essays) and Douglas Martin (Acker).

  • January 26, 2018

    Naima Coster. Photo: Jonathan Jiménez Pérez

    Slate editor in chief Julia Turner explains the decision to close the DoubleX vertical just as the #MeToo movement took off. “Ever since I’ve taken over as editor, it’s felt very strange for me to be the first female editor in chief of Slate, and one of the few female editors in chief of general interest magazines, and have women’s pages still. Like reproductive rights—that goes in the women’s section. News about campus sexual assault policy—that goes in the women’s section,” she said. “Those stories are part of why we want to do this. Those stories are news. . . . Putting all that stuff under a purple logo didn’t feel modern or right anymore in terms of the centrality of those questions to the news.”

    At the Paris Review, Naima Coster talks about Brooklyn, gentrification, and family life in her new book, Halsey Street. “As I wrote this book, I was interested in the impulse that people have to hide whatever they think might cost them the love and esteem of others,” she said. “In life, real intimacy happens when we’re ready to share the mess of our inner lives with one another, and I think that’s also one of the ways that intimacy happens in fiction.”

    Naomi Fry has been hired by the New Yorker as a staff write and copy editor for the website. Fry is a freelance writer and copy chief of T: The New York Times Style Magazine.

    ESPN is considering selling FiveThirtyEight.

    Matthew Hays explores how HuffPost’s recently-ended “practice of taking lots of written work for free” changed the online publishing world. “After The Huffington Post’s unpaid-content model became famous in media circles, I began to hear a familiar conversation. As media outlets began to pay less or ask for less words to cut costs, the bartering would ultimately end in an editor saying, ‘Well, at least we pay something. Look at The Huffington Post—they pay nothing,’” Hays recalls. “I wish I could monetize the number of times I heard these words from a commissioning editor. To put a spin on an old cliche, if I could I’d be very rich—maybe as rich as Arianna Huffington.”