Great Jones Street, a smartphone app for short fiction.

I was pleased to be asked, a few weeks ago, to curate the crime/mystery short fiction section of a new app, Great Jones Street. Called by its founders “Spotify for short fiction”, Great Jones Street launched today for Apple products, and will be available for Google Android and other systems very soon.


Right now, the app is primarily seeking previously published short fiction to reprint—1.5 cents a word, with a minimum payment of $50—non-exclusively for a ten-year term. The idea is that the combination of previously published work and the opinion of curators is a sufficient guarantor of quality, but Great Jones will ultimately host original fiction and even serials. Given lengthening commute times, WiFi coming to the New York City subway system, the ubiquity of smartphones, and short attention spans, perhaps the short story will finally be able to make a comeback.


Download the app now and maybe you can be a part that comeback! I’ll update here when I find out how GJS will be handling submissions after the 500 or so initial seeded short stories are all live on the app.

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Clements Reading in New Haven

Folks, I will be reading this Thursday, September 15 at the Institute Library (847 Chapel St.) in New Haven at 7 pm. There is an open mic, so feel free to bring a poem (I’m not sure if the open mic is before or after my reading). Hope to see a few of you there.

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How Long Does it Take to Write a Book?

How Long Did it Take to Write Famous Novels?

This graph reveals a range of time from 2.5 days to decades.

It makes me recall some of my students in the past who have felt frustrated or anxious, convinced they’re falling behind or they’ll never succeed if they can’t turn a book out quickly.

Some stories need years to percolate and actualize. My unpublished novel, “Two Spoons of Bitter” (95,000 words) began in 1996 – as a hand-written diary I kept when I worked managing AIDS grants for services for People Living with AIDS who were also addicts. True to my journalism training, I was determined to honor the tragic stories of people I encountered who suffered discrimination and horrific disease as well as expose hypocrisy and a corrupt system. I turned it into a non-fiction piece entitled “Myths From the Underbelly.” In 1998, my desire to write the story more effectively motivated me to apply for a MA in Creative Non-fiction. I used my manuscript as my portfolio.

Later, during a subsequent MFA program in 2004, I became frustrated with the limitations of creative non-fiction for this particular story. I turned it into a short story called “It Works Like That.” But it was just non-fiction disguised as fiction. I couldn’t let go my devotion to journalistic truth based on facts. Still, my professor encouraged me to expand it into a novella.

By the time I graduated, I had to make a living teaching, so there the manuscript sat in a cardboard box for almost ten years. I worked on it intermittently but nothing significant evolved. I was too stuck on facts, the unresolved emotions of the story, and myself as the protagonist. I needed a new heroine! I almost gave up, convinced it would never be written and even if it did it would be too late for readers to even relate to.

In 2014, I finally had time to sit down and write. The story literally took over my life. It even grew a life of its own in fiction because I was finally able to let go enough to allow it to reveal its own truth. Not facts. Truth.

This year, 2016, I finally sent my manuscript to an agent. That adds up to 20 years. I’m on the path to publishing either formally or indie. Maybe by next year?

The graph reinforces and normalizes my own experience. No two writers or stories are the same. Have faith in that.


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Call for Submissions

Calls for Submissions – September 2016 through the end of the year from a variety of magazines and presses.

Literary Mama


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Writing Isn’t a Craft -V. Woolf

Why Writing Isn’t a Craft

In this rare, 1937 recording, Virgina Woolf explains in her own words why writing isn’t a craft.

“Craft,” ways Woolf, applies to “making useful objects out of solid matter,” and it also stands as a synonym for “cajolery, cunning, deceit.” In either usage, the word mischaracterizes the act of writing. “Words,” Woolf says, echoing her contemporary Oscar Wilde, “never make anything that is useful.”

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Writing Pittsburgh – CNF

Writing Pittsburgh

Deadline: October 15, 2016

Book Proposal

One of the books in the Writing Pittsburgh series will be a single-author book-length work of creative nonfiction with a significant connection to contemporary Pittsburgh. This book could be a work of immersion journalism, a memoir with a strong connection to the present, a collection of essays, a series of profiles, a travelogue … or something else! The only real limitations are that the work must be nonfiction, have a strong Pittsburgh element, and appeal to a broad national audience.

The selected author will receive editorial, publicity, and marketing support from In Fact Books; publication and national distribution of the book; and an advance against royalties of $7,500.

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Justin O’Donnell in Pub Weekly

Justin has a great article in the most prestigious publication of the publishing industry, Publisher’s Weekly. Go Justin!


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