Saturday, June 15, 2013

Indie Spotlight: Corey Mesler

Ever sit around and wonder if you should become a writer? I can honestly say that I've never had much interest in writing - I'm a much better reader than I am a writer; I thank god for you writerly folk every single day - but I imagine there are tons of people out there who attempt to pick up the pen (or stab at the keyboard) to make their literary mark on the world.

For those of you who wish to start, but don't know how... or for those of you who are afraid to ask for advice for fear of being told "stop while you're ahead", author Corey Mesler has something he'd like to share with you.

I'm happy to present the following guest post - some cheeky words of wisdom from one who writes to one who wants to write...

How to be a Writer

Even with my small-pond modicum of success I am often asked for advice about writing. “I know nothing,” is usually my initial response. But sometimes people want the advice, no matter how dubious the source. So, I pin here a few thoughts about the writing life. 

First off, congratulations on your bravery for choosing one of the loneliest, most solitary of the arts. (Or perhaps you believe it has chosen you. Perhaps you will be one of the chuckleheads [and I use the word in a non-pejorative sense since I consider myself Prince of the Chuckleheads] who add the words “Poet” or “Author” to their name. Like this: Author Corey Mesler. Or Corey Mesler, Poet.) Either way, writing is not a collaborative art. (Unless you’re James Patterson, and then, foo on you for making novels a workshop product.) Though you must stand on the shoulders of the giants before you, you will write in your own garret. It will be done in silence, inside a bell jar, so to speak. Even if you have smart, writerly friends with whom you may share a piece while you’re working on it, even if you have great advice from other writers, the actual work will be done by yourself, alone. All alone. And, out in the workaday world, you may find few people who understand just what it is that you do while in your laboratory. Still, you must soldier on.

My first, best piece of advice is not very original: Read. Read everything and everybody. Read the greats. Read your peers. Let one book lead you to another book, link to link, like a pre-computer, foolscap webpage maze. Or, more currently put, like how one webpage links to another which links to another, and you follow because it’s easy, because you trust the good people who made webpages.  Read the writers who make you happy, who challenge you, who seem to talk specifically to your heart.

And my second piece of advice is equally unoriginal: write. Just keep writing. The crafting of a melodious sentence is difficult work, achieved after hours and days and weeks and years of practice. But, when it happens, there are few joys that compare. You can only learn to write by writing, by doing it, by placing word after word, until you partly understand how this amazing alchemy called language works. I say partly understand because, no matter how long you stay at it, you will never fully comprehend why sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Why is it that one day you feel like John Updike, like everything is flowing from you as naturally as Avon flowing by Stratford, and on another day, a day you began the same way you began the wonderful day of writing, the words seem stuck in you like some kind of constipated paste? Why is that? No one knows. In the end, writing, like most art, is a great mystery, done by magicians. Really, done by magicians.

So, just go read, and write. And luck to you all, brave astronauts! And, remember, when you get to be my age and you’ve published a few scrawny, nursling, introspective, wobbly, sincere or insincere volumes, some youth will come up to you and ask for your advice. They will ask how to become a writer and you can say to them: I know nothing. 

COREY MESLER has published in numerous journals and anthologies. He has published six novels, Talk: A Novel in Dialogue (2002), We Are Billion-Year-Old Carbon (2006), The Ballad of the Two Tom Mores (2010), Following Richard Brautigan (2010), and Gardner Remembers (2011), Frank Comma and the Time-Slip (2012), 2 full length poetry collections, Some Identity Problems (2008) and Before the Great Troubling (2011), and 3 books of short stories, Listen: 29 Short Conversations (2009), Notes toward the Story and Other Stories (2011) and I’ll Give You Something to Cry About (2011). He has also published a dozen chapbooks of both poetry and prose.

He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize numerous times, and two of his poems have been chosen for Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac. His fiction has received praise from John Grisham, Robert Olen Butler, Lee Smith, Frederick Barthelme, Greil Marcus, among others. With his wife, he runs Burke’s Book Store in Memphis TN, one of the country’s oldest (1875) and best independent bookstores. He can be found at

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