Um … about that American Libraries article we wrote

A disappointing report on the influence of corporations in intellectual discourse.

Stewart Varner

As a professional rule, I try to keep things positive. I like to be a cheerleader for all the great people out there and avoid boosting the signal on a bunch of negativity.

However, situations compel me to devote this one post to something totally crappy.

TL;DR: Patricia Hswe and I wrote an article for American Libraries and the editors added some quotes from a vendor talking about their products without telling us. We asked them to fix it and they said no.

Because American Libraries refused to clarify what happened, we decided to clarify it ourselves. What follows is our second (and hopefully happier) attempt at collaborative writing. This little blog does not have quite the reach of that big glossy magazine so please feel free to share as widely as you want. As always, let me know if you have any questions!  ||  @stewartvarner


If you are a member of…

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Gratitude is Bullshit

I agree that we often try to wash away unpleasantness, which keeps us from feeling our full range of emotions and moving through them so we can be not just grateful, but better (whether that means healing of wounds or a more just world).

What Monkeys Think

There is a disturbing trend among liberals to talk about gratitude. Everyone’s encouraged to have gratitude for the abundance in their lives. Everyone’s supposed to be grateful for all their blessings. On the surface, it’s a lovely sentiment. People should be mindful of the fact that they live privileged lives, and use that awareness to inform their interactions with people who are less privileged.

But it never goes that deep. It stops at “be grateful because you have it good.” The new Gratitude encourages insularity – think hard about what you have so that you aren’t thinking about people who don’t have anything. Gratitude is selfish. Being grateful for what you have invites the desire for more – more stuff (more friends, money, recognition) equals more gratitude, right?

This year has been full of horror: while the world was outraged at 12 people killed in attacks on Paris, thousands have died in Nigeria…

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The Scent of Death

The Citron Review

Patrick O’Neil

I’m in a dark, trash-filled alley between tall brick buildings. Two men stand in shadows. I can’t see their faces. I hand one of them money and he gives me a balloon of dope. I look up, there’s a light coming from an open window. I hear music, someone is crying. I’m happy I’m going to get high. I’m in a room stuck facedown between the bed and the wall. I hear someone coming. I want to yell, but I can’t. I’m having trouble breathing. I try to move. Behind me a door creaks open. I can’t turn around. I know they’re standing there. I scream…

Gasping for air I sit up in bed and check to see if I still have the dope in my hand. The room is quiet, the lights are off, the TV is on with the sound turned down. With an annoyed look…

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Women Who Host: Ashley Perez on Hosting a WWS Submission Party

Women Who Submit

AP WWS Submission Party

By Ashley Perez

What a blast it was to host a WWS party at my home on July 11, 2015. I had only been to one WWS meeting before and due to a constant conflicting schedule, I knew the only way I would get to another one would be to host it. I have also had little chance to have people over to my new digs so it served a dual purpose.

The main things I took out of hosting are the two primary words out of this group: WOMEN and SUBMITTING. It felt really good to be among a group of women who are amazingly smart, talented, and funny. It was an amazing atmosphere of solidarity and encouragement.

The second part is submitting. I was working on a huge grant application so I did not submit any stories but a friend of mine who came to the meeting, who…

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Dancing Girl’s Buffy Release

This is a pretty amazing video I wish I made myself.


I’d like for this post to count as two – it’s Day 5 of Lent and I’m a bit behind on posts. But, no! I’ll just have to double up tomorrow. Which is fine. I totally can. Do it.

On Saturday 2/21/15 Book Show, a newly opened book store in Highland Park, CA served as the venue for Lisa Cheby‘s chapbook, “Love Lessons from Buffy the Vampire Slayer” published through Dancing Girl Press.  It was an Antioch University extravaganza – Seth Fischer handled MC duties, readers Ashley Perez and Tisha Reichle dropped some pretty fantastic prose, and the lady of the hour, Lisa, read from a labor of love that was 5-ish years in the making.

I’m digging readings lately.  For me, they don’t (yet?) have that air of “networking” the way other arts communities/scenes do. It really is just as simple as going to support friends and colleagues…

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The Truth of the Matter Is

The truth of the matter is fleeting.  The truth is I don’t know.  And this why I normally avoid writing that purports to know, like essays and stories.

I just finished an essay I have been working on for about a year. (In writing time, that is not so long.)

Now it is done and undone.

With creative non-fiction it feels as though as soon as it is done it is false.  That slice of moment of the self that was writing it is gone.

This is true for poetry, but somehow poetry seems okay with being an artifact of the moment, like peeling off a layer of skin, maybe from your thumb where you can spare some thickness of skin, and placing it in a collage of other items, framing it for viewing (no glass as the reader needs to be able to touch and smell the objects) and that is all it intends to be … a slice of a moment to remind us to see those slices.

An essay, however, asserts itself, with all those complete sentences and direct tellings and the bravado of saying, “I know something, so listen.”

A poem says, “I don’t know, so try to figure it out with me.”

See, that is already false.  I can already think of one argument of how that is not true: 1. Writing this essay was necessary to work out my own obstacle, as if I needed to be given permission to be freer and more joyful.   Another is:  2.the wonderfully lyrical essays of Jacqui Morton, who is able to transcend form and invite us in to share her figuring out living (she does a damn good job of it).

So, I wrote this essay, which may or may not hold true, but it holds something that is important to me, so tonight, I am going to send it out into the world because maybe it holds something that someone needs to hear.

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50 Excellent Novels by Female Writers Under 50 That Everyone Should Read

My new to-read list:


It’s pretty much been settled that everyone should read more books by women. But when looking for recommendations, it’s often all Woolf, Morrison, Lessing, Austen, Brontë. Of course, these are essential authors for a reason, and you should definitely read all of their books. That said, there’s something to catching a writer at the beginning of her career and following her for years that is supremely satisfying — not to mention the fact that young female writers need readers rather more than Jane Austen does. So in an effort to get you in on the ground floor (or at least, like, the third floor), after the jump you’ll find a compendium of 50 novels written by 50 female novelists under 50 that are worth your time. But these aren’t the only 50 books that fit this description! Read through and add on as you will in the comments.

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