From News

Letting Go of the First Page

I have a new piece of flash fiction appearing in the March issue of the Tahoma Literary Review. I also wrote a blog post for these fine folks about the importance of letting go of the first page. Read an excerpt below, and read the entire article here.
The blank page of a new story can be terrifying. Even if an idea is fresh and vivid in my mind, I still find myself looking at that first empty page warily as someone stepping out onto a frozen pond, wondering if I can build a structure that will hold me up, marveling that I ever have in the past. Eventually, I begin — with tricks and prompts, or just by edging out into that space, testing the waters with either keyboard or pen. The first page of a story is delicate. It’s the page that gets you into the conflict, that helps you discover a character, that allows a writer to discover what she’s writing about. And for all those reasons, it’s often what must go.
I see it again and again in my students’ work, and I see it in my own; somehow it takes a page to sink into the rhythm of writing, and to get used to speaking with that particular voice. So often my students write of their characters getting up and brushing their teeth; they write about the weather; they write about getting coffee. It’s only on the second page or so that someone knocks on the door, and the story really begins.
I’m guilty of this too. In the first pages of my drafts, characters go wandering through the woods or feel the need to explain who their parents and siblings and uncles and aunts are. They have to tell me about their jobs and what clothes they’re wearing. That’s all good and fine, but
when it’s time to look back at a story and revise, I’m stunned by how often cutting the entire first page dramatically improves a piece. Just try it! The drama of your story will emerge, sharp and vital, right out there at the front of the charge.
This might be one of the most important edits you make in terms of publishing your story as well. As an editor of a small lit mag myself, I know how a strong first page can catch my attention — and how a weak first page can make even lovely writing that follows a hard slog. I’ll read past a weak beginning, but now the story is living on borrowed time; I’m looking for reasons to reject. With a vivid first page, I’m far more eager to read on.

Continue reading at the Tahoma Literary Review

Now Offering Manuscript Consulting

I’m excited to report that I’m now offering professional manuscript consulting. I’ve been helping writers with their manuscripts in many different ways as a college instructor and instructor at adult writing workshops for years, and now I offer such services in a private capacity. It’s a way for me to do something I really enjoy as part of my job — helping writers shepherd their manuscripts toward success.

Since 2003, I’ve been offering tips, secrets, and techniques for improving your writing; now for a much more personal guiding hand on your story, you can hire me.

I offer in-depth manuscript critiques, line-by-line story editing, and private writing coaching. You can visit my new editorial site to learn about the many ways I help writers, from query letter assistance to proofreading and more. Contact me today about preparing your manuscript for success.

The Two Cities Review Podcast

tcpodcastlogoReaders, I must share with you an exciting new project that I’ve been working on along with my co-editor at Two Cities Review. We couldn’t be more excited about our newest venture, the Two Cities Review Podcast.

From the beginning of our little magazine’s inception, we always knew we wanted to create a magazine that captured the complexity of modern urban life. That meant seeking out stories about bridging the gaps between dreams and reality, between geography and localness, between technology and human connection. We always wanted our magazine to be a media-rich publication, a digital experience that actually took advantage of its digital format. So a podcast was pretty much inevitable. The podcast as a form is experiencing a golden age these days; we’re surrounded by a great richness of story, delivered in a way that lets you listen at all hours of the day. And Two Cities Review, we knew, should be participating in that great urban flow of anytime, anywhere story.

Our podcast will be a mixture of us and you. That is, you’ll hear from us each episode, talking about what it takes to create the issue; you’ll get insights from us into our editorial process, what makes us accept or reject a story, and why we do or don’t love a piece. We’ll answer your questions about being editors and writers and what we’re looking for. But the podcast will also be a dialogue with our magazine. We’ll share our authors, reading their poems and stories, and we’ll interview authors too, getting their special insight into the process of creating their wonderful work. We will be cheerleaders, enthusiasts, and discriminators. We will try to give you a little window into what it’s like to be a gatekeeper in the literary world, but we’ll also let your words sing.

We plan to have a new episode appear on the website and iTunes (coming soon) every two weeks. It will give you a whole new dimension of the current issue, and a whole new dimension of understanding into the editorial process.

Listen to the podcast

Issue 7 of Two Cities Review is Here!

Cities_Issue_7_webI’m excited to report that the issue my co-editor and I have been working very hard on, our special Fall Contest issue, is now available to be read online at Twocitiesreview.com. Take a sneak peek at the letter from the editors here:

IN THE FIRST YEAR AND A HALF SINCE WE BECAME A MAGAZINE, we have published poems, stories, essays and artwork by over 100 different authors, featured written and audio versions of creative work on our blog and run our very first prose contest. Having lived in several different cities, we realize that every city has its ups and downs. Whether it is the weather or the public transit or just the people you spent time with there, each city has its own unique blend of wonderful and gritty, inspiring and burdensome.

For our first contest, we sought stories and essays that examined the underside of cities. We received submissions about shootings and natural disasters, inmates and family members, growing up and growing old. We are excited to share the winners and runners-up from our contest in this special “Cities Gone Wrong” edition of Two Cities Review. We have included some poetry and art that we received during the same submission period that also fit the theme.

There’s much to be excited about at Two Cities as our magazine and website continue to evolve. We want to take advantage of all the forms of art that an online issue allows, so you can expect more use of audio and a soon-to-be-announced serial project. We can’t wait to present new visions of the literary city in upcoming issues.

We hope to make our contest an annual event; thank you all for your support of our writers and our magazine.

Happy reading!
Blair Hurley & Olivia Tandon

Read the new issue here

Issue 7 of Two Cities Review is Here!

Cities_Issue_7_webI’m excited to report that the issue my co-editor and I have been working very hard on, our special Fall Contest issue, is now available to be read online at Twocitiesreview.com. Take a sneak peek at the letter from the editors here:

IN THE FIRST YEAR AND A HALF SINCE WE BECAME A MAGAZINE, we have published poems, stories, essays and artwork by over 100 different authors, featured written and audio versions of creative work on our blog and run our very first prose contest. Having lived in several different cities, we realize that every city has its ups and downs. Whether it is the weather or the public transit or just the people you spent time with there, each city has its own unique blend of wonderful and gritty, inspiring and burdensome.

For our first contest, we sought stories and essays that examined the underside of cities. We received submissions about shootings and natural disasters, inmates and family members, growing up and growing old. We are excited to share the winners and runners-up from our contest in this special “Cities Gone Wrong” edition of Two Cities Review. We have included some poetry and art that we received during the same submission period that also fit the theme.

There’s much to be excited about at Two Cities as our magazine and website continue to evolve. We want to take advantage of all the forms of art that an online issue allows, so you can expect more use of audio and a soon-to-be-announced serial project. We can’t wait to present new visions of the literary city in upcoming issues.

We hope to make our contest an annual event; thank you all for your support of our writers and our magazine.

Happy reading!
Blair Hurley & Olivia Tandon

Read the new issue here

New Story Available at Day One Lit Mag

Readers, I’m excited to announce that a short story of mine, “Grimalkins”, is now available for download in Amazon’s online literary magazine, Day One. The story can be read on any Kindle or any Kindle app for iPhone or Android.

I worked hard on this story, which is loosely inspired by my stay at an artists’ colony and the very interesting characters one meets there. Somehow the story ended up being about motherhood and the gulf that exists between young and older artists as well.

Please support this writer by buying an issue or subscribing — there are some really excellent poems and stories to be read in the issues. Here’s the link:

Amazon: Day One

New Stories Available Online

I’m so pleased to say a couple of new short fiction pieces by me have appeared online. The flash fiction piece “Bats” is available to read at Lumina, and another short piece, “Decide”, is up at a literature blog I love, The Toast. Have you checked these guys out yet? I’d love to have more readers, and I’m proud to be among some wonderful pieces of fiction there.

Both of these pieces were written very quickly this spring as I tried my hand at a bit of flash fiction. While fictional in plot, the emotions behind both of these were heartfelt, and the stories poured out of me with very little revision. Every now and then it happens that way, and it makes the months of tough slogging worth it.

Read Our One-Year Anniversary Issue of Two Cities

Hello readers! If you’re familiar with Writerly Life, you’re aware that I also work as co-editor of a fresh, sparkling, disturbing and delightful online literary magazine, Two Cities Review. I’m very proud to report that we’ve officially been in business for a year, and are launching our fifth issue, the special one-year anniversary issue, today.

Please do head on over to read our latest issue of Two Cities Review, admire the beautiful imagery, and spread the word among readers and writers alike. We’re really excited about this one and I hope you will be too.

Read more

New Prose Contest at Two Cities Review

Deadline: March 1, 2015

We’re excited to announce the inception of Two Cities’ very first contest! Beginning December 1, 2014, we will accept entries for a contest with a prize of $250 for each winner in the Fiction and Nonfiction categories.

The theme of our contest is CITIES GONE WRONG. We’re looking for your dystopian societies, your transportation nightmares, your Hurricane Sandy disasters, your emotional state when the city fell apart around you, or your stories of how a bad breakup changed the way you looked at the city forever. Show us the dark underbelly or the dangerous and liberating side of the city. Above all we love inventive, top-quality writing. You may interpret this theme in any way you wish, as long as the writing is vivid, the story is riveting, and the characters are unforgettable.

GUIDELINES: There is a $5 entry fee for each genre of submission. A prize of $250, and publication in our fall issue, will go to the winner of both the fiction and nonfiction categories. Submit previously unpublished work of up to 5,000 words. We reserve the right to cancel the contest and issue refunds of entry fees if there is insufficient enrollment. Submissions will also be considered for general publication in the magazine. The deadline for submissions is March 1, 2015.

Boston Launch Party!

At our second launch party in Boston, we rocked the Middlesex Lounge. We introduced the mission of Two Cities, held a raffle, heard contributor L. Michael Hager read from his work, and met some great new literary friends. Thanks to everyone who came out for the event, and thanks as well to our wonderful writers.

Here’s our reader, L. Michael Hager:

This means that issue 1 is officially launched! You can read it online at our Current Issue page, or you can buy a print copy online at the following link, at Lulu:

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Keep following us for more thoughts on the city literary life, and don’t forget to Submit your work for our summer issue of Two Cities Review!