Genres & Forms
Short Story Collections & Novellas
I’m well-suited to helping you edit and arrange a short story collection that boasts (or will boast) a unifying theme or aesthetic that makes your book more than an undiscerning or arbitrary assemblage of yarns. I’m a firm believer that although writers might liberally experiment with voice, point-of-view, minimalism, maximalism, etc. within a single collection, it’s still possible and often important to retain a sense of thematic cohesion (I think of Danilo Kis’ A Tomb for Boris Davidovich or David Foster Wallace’s Brief Interviews with Hideous Men as “successful” examples of this approach). The risk of the “formal playground” approach to a story collection is that it sometimes registers as just that – the literary equivalent of a middle-school chemistry lab in which elements, by turns, are successfully and unsuccessfully combined while some blonde-haired dude is, through his own negligence, getting his arm burnt on the iron ring stand above a Bunsen burner; that may or may not have been me.
Occasionally, a writer will reach out because they have two or three pieces within a collection that require serious re-working (maybe the remaining eight have been vetted, published and edited to satisfaction). In other cases, they might be seeking a more objective read of a much-beloved, lustrously polished story (edited with Fitzgeraldian fury) that they aim to publish in some “white whale” magazine; in either case, I can help.
Although “literary fiction” is my preferred sub-genre, I’m not a stickler when it comes to working with writers who create in different or multiple modes. Tasteful experimental or genre fiction (slipstream, fabulist, magical realism, science fiction, “historical” fiction, high-concept mystery, or crime fiction – shout-outs to Simenon and Balzac) is fair game as long as the author aspires to create a fresh, intelligent, and compelling “take” on the form. In general, I love when literary “rigor” is brought to bear on genre fiction. I often think of Bernard Malamud’s God’s Grace as a fitting case study. A grossly oversimplified history of Malamud here follows: a more or less straight-laced realist fiction writer closes his career with a dystopian, apocalyptic novel set on a tropical island. Different non-human mammals vie for control of an emerging island society. Semi-hallucinogenic (but audible) conversations with the sun unfold while the protagonist sits on an idling nuclear submarine. In the wrong hands, this could be unbearable, heavy-handed allegory; in Malamud’s, a treat.
Memoirs, Autobiographies, and Essay Collections
As with novels, my preferred “mode” of memoir writing is literary in nature. Usually this means I aim for a healthy balance of mimetic dramatic scenes and insightful exposition that avoids self-help platitudes or proselytizing. There are, however, some recent popular memoirs that manage to bridge the gap between the conventions of a linear, narrative memoir and practical, lifestyle-oriented “teachings.” Of course, if you’re seeking help in revising some essays infused with cultural criticism or you’re pursuing a treatise/slab of philosophical writing that borders on aphoristic outpourings a la Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil, I am glad to partake. I will meet you halfway. Fear is the mind killer. Et cetera.
If you’re pursuing a project that doesn’t fit within these parameters (because it’s unconventional, or simply a different type of text), please don’t hesitate to contact me to inquire about my availability. Off-the-cuff examples include collections of narrative verse poetry, tomes of brooding children’s literature (as close to Edward Gorey as possible, let’s hope), and doctoral dissertations in literature. This is not an exhaustive list. Inquire away.