Stefanie Brook Trout

Author Page with Resources for Writers

New Year, New Hope

Each year, I set new reading and writing goals. Most years, I fail to meet them. Last year, I did something radical and set abstract goals: read more, write more, polish/submit more, and hustle more.

This went against everything I’d been taught about goal-setting. Goals should be SMART—that is, specific, measurable, achievable, rigorous, and time-bound.

It’s impossible to judge whether or not I met my 2015 goals, which was kind of the point.

Overall, I think I did read and write more. The abstract nature of the goals gave me the freedom to read and write what and when I wanted. If I felt like starting a 700-page book, I did, regardless of what impact it might have on my tally of annual number of books read. (Enter House of Leaves.)

That’s my real problem with the Goodreads goal: literary journals and magazines don’t count, reading one book (like one I’m editing) multiple times doesn’t count, nothing read online counts, reading a friend’s unpublished work—or rereading my own work for that matter—doesn’t count. The incentive created by the Goodreads goal doesn’t match my own reading objectives. (I went into this more last year, if you’re interested.)

I’d rather read 35 books I really want to read plus all of the above texts than read 50 books chosen simply because I could get through them all in a single calendar year.

But at the same time, I did find myself frequently counting my Goodreads tally even if I wasn’t aiming toward a specific goal. (For the record, I read eight more Goodreads-countable books in 2015 than in 2014 when I had a goal.) I do plan on setting a Goodreads goal this year, but I’ll make it far smaller than I have before so I don’t feel limited by book length or non-countability.

Writing is different, however. I simply can’t abide bean counting when it comes to writing. Many of my writer friends love word count goals, but it takes all the pleasure out of writing for me. Rather than set numerical goals for my writing, I’m going to focus on what I’d like to produce and set deadlines for accomplishing those objectives.

Meanwhile, I’m pretty sure I polished/submitted less. I “hustled” less in the way I meant it—maintaining an active web presence—but perhaps more in other ways: speaking at conferences, giving readings, and other important networking that goes beyond a Tweet here and a blog post there.

I like to share my goals publicly because it holds me more accountable for meeting them, or at least sincerely working toward them. So without further ado, here they are:

Read at least 36 Goodreads-countable books, plus as many non-countable texts as I want.

Follow me on Goodreads at goodreads.com/stefbt.

Write something new and/or edit something old daily. Set deadlines for each project, and prioritize meeting them.

Submit pieces that are ready at least once each week. Create a new submission schedule, and actually use it this time.

Develop new content for this website, especially resources for fellow writers.

Post on blog at least once each week, and share content on Twitter at least once per day.

Follow me on Twitter @brooktrouting.

Attend at least a dozen events that support my writing life, whether conferences, readings, or field research opportunities.


 

I think that’s enough to keep me busy for the next 366 days. (That’s right—we get an extra day. 2016 is going to be awesome.)

Happy New Year, and good luck achieving your own goals!

Great Reads 2015

Last year, I called out the top five books I read in 2014. This year, I am compiling another top books list for 2015, but I’ve thrown in a little twist by selecting a top book in several categories.

Again, the idea is to list the top books that I read in 2015. None of them were actually published in 2015.

vonneBest Short Story Collection

Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut

As I mentioned in my Goodreads review, I often claim to prefer novels to short stories, but Vonnegut is a master of both. Look no further if you’d like to see just how large a story can be communicated in just a few words.

jcoBest Novel

Black Water by Joyce Carol Oates

I wrote a six-paragraph review of this one for Goodreads, so I’m just going to share a tiny piece of it here: “It’s blow-your-mind good.”

Find the rest of the review here.

zooBest Essay Collection

Zoologies: On Animals and the Human Spirit
by Alison Hawthorne Deming

Each chapter of this book is an essay exploring a different connection between humans and non-human animals with great insight and expertly precise language, and though there is lamentation, there is also hope.

Read the rest of my review here.

feastBest Memoir

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
(The Restored Edition edited by Seán Hemingway)

Here’s another one that I waxed poetic about in my Goodreads review. Here’s a link if you’re interested in my ramblings.

soulMost Innovative

Soul External: Rediscovering the Great Blue Heron
by Steve Semken

Placing the soul externally is not difficult. Just figure out how and where.

This is the future of nature writing at the intersection of fantasy, myth lore, natural history, personal essay, philosophy, and even theology. It’s pastiche with several quotations celebrating the authors that have influenced Steve the most—from Edward Abbey to Robert Wolf—as well as full-color illustrations and typography by Andrew Driscoll and poetic text formatting that often had me wondering: what is this book I’m reading? Beautiful is what it is. It’s the kind of book that you won’t ever see as a mass market paperback. It’s far too precious for that. It’s a gift to all those who can’t live without wildness.

fracBest Book-That’s-Not-Out-Yet
(or Best Multi-Genre Collection)

Fracture: Essays, Poems, and Stories on Fracking in America
by Taylor Brorby and Stefanie Brook Trout, editors

I know it’s probably gauche to include my own book on my annual “Tops” list two years in a row. If you’d read Fracture, you’d know why it deserves to make this list, but you haven’t because it’s not out yet! Don’t take my word for it. Ask those who have gotten a sneak peak at the collection, like Mary Evelyn Tucker who says, “This stunning collection of essays, poems, and fiction is gripping and illuminating. […] Indeed, no where else has such a gifted group of writers been assembled for a clarion call to awakening for our future generations.” Preorder your copy here.

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I faced a few dilemmas in coming up with this list.

The first, though these really aren’t in any particular order, is that I really wanted a “Best Graphic Novel” or “Best Sequential Art” category, but I really couldn’t decide. I’ve dabbled in four different series this year, and Neil Gaiman easily wins with the Sandman, but which volume? Number 5, A Game of You? Or #6, Fables and Reflections? I’m really not that concerned about it, but I wanted to acknowledge that I did, in fact, read enough comic books to warrant a subcategory here, but my indecision won out again.

On the other hand, I didn’t read enough poetry collections in 2015 to really have a “Best Book of Poetry” category. This year, my poetry mostly came in small doses: in anthologies, literary journals, and online. So with that in mind and looking toward the future, one of my 2016 goals is to read more poetry, starting with the two books on my to-read shelf. Then I’ll have to go out and actually buy more poetry, which I should be doing anyway.

Likewise, I really didn’t read much Murakami in 2015. How tragic! There’s another 2016 goal: must read more Murakami.

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So what were the best books you read in 2015?

Five Points Review

5ptsMy work as a reviewer for the Review Review continues with a review of Five Points: A Journal of Literature and Art.

Read “Lit Mag is Place of Convergence for Genres, Styles, Artists and Writers” here.

In Memory of Doug Tompkins

Sadly, Douglas R. Tompkins passed away yesterday after a kayaking accident in Chile. Most of the news headlines nutshell his bio as “North Face Founder” or “Founder of North Face and Esprit” because that’s what made him a billionaire, but he left the business world decades ago after his ecological concerns led him away from the consumerism of the fashion industry and into conservation.

I never had the opportunity to meet Doug, but he generously endorsed an advance copy of Fracture, and his own nutshelling of his bio made no mention of North Face or Esprit. Instead, he cited his environmental work as founder of Tompkins Conservation and the Foundation for Deep Ecology. So yes, let’s remember his success as an entrepreneur, but let’s also remember that he walked away from all of that to become a hero of the modern conservation movement.

I guess this post is my way of honoring Doug’s memory and the example he set for leaders of the twenty-first century. Our world is better because of him. Thank you, Doug, and thanks to all those who continue his work.

Gratitude

Fracture opened for submissions a little over one year ago, and this Thanksgiving, I wanted to take the opportunity to express my gratitude toward those who have helped support the project.

I have to start with Taylor Brorby, my co-editor, since this book simply would not exist without him. The concept was his idea, and I am so grateful that he invited me to join him in taking this book from concept to reality.

Of course, Steve Semken of Ice Cube Press was the one who said yes when we pitched the idea, and Taylor and I are both so thankful to Steve for believing in us and in Fracture. The publishing world needs more people like Steve, and I’m honored to continue working with him.

Without all of our contributors, Taylor and I would have a pretty slim volume, and I am grateful for each of them as well as everyone else who submitted their work to Fracture. Thanks also to Samantha Futhey, a brilliant poet, wonderful person, and Ice Cube Press intern for her help with final copyedits.

Many thanks to Pam Houston for agreeing to write an introduction to the book and to everyone who gave us their endorsements (which can be found here on the Ice Cube Press website).

We are indebted to Bruce J. Miller of Miller Book Trade Marketing, who is the Ice Cube Press sales rep, for his support of the project. And thanks also to our distributors, all the book sellers, and the professors who are teaching Fracture in their college classes. Without them, Fracture would be a tree falling in the forest without anyone around to hear it.

Thanks to our partners at 350.org and Orion, to everyone who has pre-ordered a copy of Fracture, and to everyone else who eagerly awaits its release. Thanks to all of my friends, family, and colleagues that have supported me thought this project.

To the environmental writers and activists who came before us, to those who will come after us, to all who have the courage to speak: thank you.

Ten November

The SS Edmund Fitzgerald sank forty years ago today. Here’s a poem about it.

This Week in Poetry

by Stefanie Brook Trout

“Remember, remember, the 10th of November”-Adam de Pencier, National Post

There is no James Cameron blockbuster, no
Jack and Rose, no never-let-go scene to cement this ship-
wreck into our collective Hollywood consciousness.

What commemorates Big Fitz: an elegy crooned
to a melody Lightfoot cribbed from old Irish folk
songs, a stage play reprised each fall at the local
high school, watercolor likenesses on canvas,
reprints on postcards, throw pillows, etc.

I once saw my sister act in the play. “Saw” is a stretch—
I remember more the map-drawing book that held my
attention during the show: I admired the variety of compass
rose designs, steadied my hands so my contour lines didn’t run
together, asked my mom, in a stage whisper, if we had any tea
bags at home so I could give my map a quasi-authentic stain—
but so is “act” since my…

View original post 65 more words

Updates Forthcoming

Thank you to those of you who follow this crazy little thing called my author website, and a big welcome to those of you who are visiting for the first time. I’ve been curating online resources for readers and writers, so you may experience some minor changes to the website as I make room for these new pages over the next few months.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but that isn’t because things are quiet over here in my pond. Defending my thesis, finishing my MFA, moving back to Michigan, and the Great Job Search of 2015 have kept me busy. At the same time, I have had plenty of writerly developments, and you can expect me to backdate some posts about those here soon.

web-page-fracture-coverAnd you’ll definitely get plenty of updates (as both new and backdated posts) about Fracture soon too. If you don’t know yet, Fracture: Essays, Poems, and Stories on Fracking in America is a new Ice Cube Press anthology that I am editing with Taylor Brorby, a colleague of mine from Iowa State University who was recently named the Reviews Editor for Orion Magazine. With an introduction by Pam Houston, Fracture features work from dozens of contributors and will be the first literary collection to focus on hydraulic fracturing. I’ll put that contributor list up here with a link to their websites before December end.

What are people saying about Fracture? Let’s have a little preview, shall we?

Symphonic in form, euphoric in heart, this volume brings together a great, sometimes-desperate chorus that ought to be heard world-over, wherever there is oil and gas-rich shale below, and living things above. The politics and economics of fossil fuels has never been a pretty thing, but the ingenious barbarity of fracking against a vulnerable and increasingly debauched planet may be the ugliest of all extractive methods. From memory to musings, in facts and fictions, in reason and rhyme, these assembled pieces offer acutely aware and knowledgeable perspectives on a disastrously flawed practice. Listen before it’s too late.

Lynn StegnerBecause a Fire Was in My Head

Fracture officially releases February 14, 2016, but you can read more advance reviews and preorder copies now on the Ice Cube Press website.

Fracture Galleys

Galley BoxThe Fracture galleys are in!

My co-editor Taylor Brorby, our publisher Steve Semken, and I are hard at work proofing these advanced copies, and we can’t wait to share this powerful book with you. But we’ll have to wait because we want it to be perfect for you. Ice Cube Press will release Fracture on February 14, 2016.

In the meantime, follow us on Facebook and Twitter @fractureanth.

And while you’re at it, here are some more great pages to follow for Fracture updates:

And, of course, you can find me Tweeting (or sometimes not Tweeting) @brooktrouting.

Fracture Contributor List

Taylor Brorby and I received so many wonderful submissions to Fracture: Essays, Poems, and Stories on Fracking in America and are very thankful to everyone who sent us their work! We are pleased to release our list of talented contributors:

Plus, the anthology will include work by the editors, Taylor Brorby and yours truly, and an introduction by Pam Houston.

Learn more on the Ice Cube Press website.

Follow us on Facebook for the latest news.

I prefer to get fat on honey

How cool is this? A visual artist created this collage etagami featuring a quotation from “Letters After Achilles,” my essay in Prairie Gold.

fatonhoneyLARGE

Here’s a post about it on the artist’s website.