Livestock and Book Reviews

John Carter uses livestock judging as a metaphor to talk about reviewing books. This is Indiana, folks.

John E.K. Carter

Want to know my opinion on book reviews? Of course you do. That’s why you’re here.

After reading all the links on the topic over at Literary Citizenship, I realized that a lot of people have a lot different opinions on what makes a good book review.


I think there’s a common one: explanation.

It seems like everyone agrees that a good book review shouldn’t say just how the reviewer feels, but why they feel that way. In one article, Charles Baxter calls this unexplained kind of reviewing “Owl Criticism,” saying,

…quite a few book reviews are worthless. They are made up of what I call Owl Criticism. With Owl Criticism, you have statements like, ‘This book has an owl in it, and I don’t like owls.’

Because I am who I am, and I have trouble NOT linking a topic to agriculture, let me provide a…

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Let’s Talk About Book Reviews

My students are realizing that being “friends” with writers on FB and Twitter does effect how free they feel to be honest in their book reviews. It was great to see them begin to grapple with this conundrum this week.

A great example of how blogging/ “covering”/reviewing the readings you attend is one way to be a literary citizen.

Dakota R. Garilli

Last night, I had the privilege of hearing Aubrey Hirsch read from her debut story collection “Why We Never Talk About Sugar.”  The book is the second title published by Braddock Avenue Books, a small press here in Pittsburgh.  You should definitely check them out by clicking on their names!

The event was held at East End Book Exchange—a charming, cozy, unique used book store on Liberty Avenue in Bloomfield.  This is not a bookstore for the faint of literary-heart.  From the great art on the walls to the amazing stock of new and classic titles, EEBX will keep your adrenaline pumping as long as you’re within its walls.  (It’s a good thing they balance this out with mood lighting and a calming ambience, or I would’ve gone HAM and bought everything.)

After an introduction by Jeffrey Condran, one of BAB’s publishers, Hirsch made sure to wish everyone…

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Ball State In-Print Festival of First Books VIII

Madison Jones says you’d better come to the In Print Festival of First Books. And tells you why.

Call Me Marv

The 8th annual In-Print Festival of First Books will be held on the 19th and 20th of this month at Ball State University. This year’s featured authors include the poet Marcus Wicker, the dark humorist Eugene Cross, and the vocational nonfictionist Elena Passarello.


Now some nonmembers of the literary world might think that these sorts of nights are not for them and are only for writers and publishers and the alike but this is very far from the truth. The Ball State In-Print Festival is actually an event for anyone and everyone of any creed who is interested in getting a glimpse into the process of publishing a first book. Remember you don’t have to have a degree in creative writing to get published and this festival is place where you can find out where step one is.

Night 1 on the 19th will include Passarello…

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Social Media, Wendell Berry, and Writing

John Carter confronts the question every writer I know is asking: how can I create an maintain a professional online presence without getting addicted and distracted by social media?

John E.K. Carter

I came across a blog post at yesterday highlighting something I’ve been struggling with lately, and felt was worth sharing. The post is by Megan Kimble, and in it, she explains her conflict with a cell phone salesmen trying to convince her to upgrade to a smart phone. This anecdote broadens into a discussion of Wendell Berry and his own mixed views of technology.

Kimble highlights a quote by Berry about where one draws the line with regards to technology use, saying, “It is plain to me that the line ought to be drawn without fail wherever it can be drawn easily. And it ought to be easy to refuse to buy what one does not need.”

Enter my own problems.

I love social media. Love it.

I love the feeling of being connected, being recognized, and being able to recognize others. Seriously, I can’t emphasize how wonderful…

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Mo Smith shares the advice from Steal Like an Artist that resonated with her the most.

Medley of Mo

I recently read Austin Kleon’s Steal Like An Artist for my Literary Citizenship class and found it very useful. I ordered the book through Amazon, when it arrived I flipped through it, noticing the non-traditional format. I thought this won’t take long to get through, so I waited until the last minute to read it. This was a mistake. Although it’s a quick read, there were some “thinker” moments. When I sat down with it, I had to reach for my sticky tabs immediately, and then a highlighter. Eventually I gave up on marking the quotes that struck a chord because I would have had to mark almost all of it.


There’s some great advice to be found in these pages. Of the many things that resonated with me, the following few were at the top of the list, so, in no particular order…

Memorable Moments:

“School is…

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Austin Hayden discovers Scott McClanahan. That’s definitely something worth writing about.