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A Literary & Poetry Column
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Longevity Part of the Nobel Secret

I have seen so many of my writing friends come and go so when an article on the Noble Prize for Literature popped into my e-mail box this—one of the very last sentences in the report—stood out. It said:

“The literature prize is given out for an entire lifetime of writing rather than a single work.”

That came after a list of recent literary Nobel winners. The last American to win was Toni Morrison in 1993. So, I’m asking myself if it’s possible that American writers are behind the curve because we don’t stick with it. Because we expect instant success and/or fame and when we don’t get it with a first book our writing gets forgotten? Sort of a lack in our national character?

Or is it something just as insidious. That many writers with talent get discouraged because of our publishing industry’s tendency toward what I call book bigotry. That is judging (and accepting—or not) a book based on the press it is printed on. Before it’s even read, It’s that hierarchy some tend to assign to publishers and after that to print over e-books and on and on. In other words, we’re letting publishers filter (and censor!) our reading material!)

That I’d like to see an American win again—and soon—doesn’t keep me from being thrilled for Frenchman Patrick Modiano, whose novels explore topics like memory, identity and guilt. And I’ll read some of his work.

But that brings me to another issue. I’d like to see more women in that lineup! We still have so many things to talk about, things that affect the world and our children to come and therefore the world. Men can certainly address those issues, but their insights are likely to be very different.

It’s something to think about. Keep writing. Keep developing your craft. Push yourself beyond the genre that is comfortable for you. Keep learning more about your craft. Hope is one thing but we need some heft behind the hope. And readers, keep supporting new writers who exhibit promise.

Read more about Nobel’s great literature prize.

And here are a couple more books for your consideration.

Carolyn’s Noble List of Suggestions for 2015 Reading:
These are numbered for ease of reading but are in no particular order.


1. Detour Trail by Joy V. Smith: (Melange Books) ©2013: A story of how a community of disparate souls survive blizzards . . .and prejudice. ( Copy in desk file.

2. Here is an old book that make it clear how hard we must work and fight to make life better. It you read it, it’s worth a reread. I had many on my cruise around the cape of Africa interested in it again. It is The Covenant by James A. Michener, now available in the new and used feature at Amazon. And no, Michener was never lauded for it as he should have been. I annotated my copy as I reread it because there is so much to learn from it. ( Random House ©1980).


3. And a new one set in pre World War II Paris that explores gender prejudices and many others. It is Francine Prose’s new Lovers at the Chameleon Club.

It’s also a book that can be examined for technique.

A Tip for Writers:


My multi award-winning The Frugal Editor is now in its second edition—as an e-book (the print edition is coming a bit later.) It’s been reformatted, updated and expanded.

A Tip for Readers' Tip:

Do you want to begin the new year with a book that inspired me to write fiction and poetry? It is Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. No matter what you plan to do in 2015, this is bound to keep you on track for supporting the qualities that make us human.


2015 Past Columns

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