What’s weird here is that I started my own list of good short books this very morning, as inspiration for a writing project. Here’s what I came up with (there’s a slight overlap):

All My Friends Are Going to be Strangers, Larry McMurtry

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Moviegoer, Walker Percy

Play It As It Lays, Joan Didion

The Crying of Lot 49, Thomas Pynchon

Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf

Speedboat, Renata Adler

Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson


Lots of goodies in this BuzzFeed Books ”19 Short Novels for the Shortest Month of the Year" list, including Housekeeping and All the Living.

God bless you my dear Keats, don’t despair, collect incidents, study characters, read Shakespeare and trust in Providence.

Benjamin Haydon, found here

A fresh interview with Marilynne Robinson by one of her Iowa students, Thessaly LaForce. I read a few life-changing books in the undergraduate English program at SMU, and Housekeeping was one of them. Reread it this summer and it blew me away all over again. 

Here’s my latest piece, just published in Houston’s new city magazine, Houstonia. I like the name. I like the magazine. I love the city. It’s a profile of a classic Houston character, the formerly anonymous editor of Swamplot.com. Go read. 

Sunday: Writer Rejected


‘My whole life has been one of rejection,’ America’s most successful cartoonist says. ‘Women. Dogs. Comic strips.’ A moment of silence while this curious information sinks in.


‘I’ve been reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short stories lately,’ he goes on. ‘I like them because everyone gets rejected. Ever read ‘The Rich Boy?’ He frequently puts his head in his hand and cries.’

Charles M. Schulz in a 1996 interview with The Washington Post.

Don’t Go Out to Lunch

I needed to hear a lot of these, especially the lunch one. 

Deborah Moggach’s rules for writing.

1. Don’t go out to lunch.

2. Don’t go online until lunch.

3. Don’t start writing your novel until you know your characters very, very well. What they’d do if they saw somebody shoplifting. What they were like at school. What shoes they wear. Spend days – weeks, months – being them until they thicken up and start to breathe. VS Pritchett said, “There’s no such thing as plot, only characters.” Once you know them well they’ll lead you into their stories. If you start too soon you won’t have a clue what they’re going to do and all is chaos.

4. However hopeless and inadequate you feel, leave that self behind. Psych yourself up until you’re confident that the world will be interested in what happens to your characters. Confidence is key.

5. Don’t “write”. “Writing” is about showing off, or imitating other writers. “Writing” mistakes solemnity for seriousness. Just write. Have courage, be truthful, be true to your characters.

More here.