Lisa K. Friedman, Author

LKF's essays appear in the New York Times and The Huffington Post, among other publications. She is the author of the books Cruise to Retribution, and Nothing to Lose.

Lisa keeps her diplomas over her washing machine, Hershey's chocolate in her nightstand and eats ice cream out of the container with a fork. She is never without a copy of Strunk and White's Elements of Style because "you never know when you’re going to need to conjugate."

My Reading List, Leap Day Edition. {Minimalist Fiction}

I love to read, and I love to write. I am always making lists of my favorite books, what’s on my mind - in print, online, articles, what have you. This week I wanted to put together a reading list of some of my favorites. Below are the books (this week is focused on minimalist fiction). 

The Big Girls, Susanna Moore. (She also wrote the Cut). This takes place in a woman’s prison, and there is not ONE superfluous word in the whole novel. Like a puzzle…every piece is required.

Damage, by Josephine Hart, is another great one. Hart recently passed away, but her legacy lives on. The movie did not do this book justice - it’s emotionally raw, and you can barely breathe while reading the first person narration of an unimaginably hideous event.

Why Did I Ever by Mary Robinson is the best example of minimalist writing. It’s an unusual, unexpected reading experience. Gotta love that.

These are just a few of the examples of minimalist fiction that I love. What are your favorites? Let me know!

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Up in the Air.

On an interminable flight home this week I had a middle seat with a broken cushion. The cabin was over heated and they ran out of bottled water. Only one toilet functioned in the economy section (in retrospect, the two were likely related). A stubborn head-wind turned a five hour flight into a six-plus hour flight. The only thing that kept me alive was knowing there were two congressmen on board. We can only hope they suffered up there in first class.

Self-Publishing 101.

My first book was a resource book for people like me (at the time), home for the first time with a baby and seeking intellectual stimulation and social contacts. I began to research – my favorite thing – and after a time I had over a hundred sources for parents in the DC area. One of the many gov resources I tapped expressed enthusiasm for the list of sources and asked if they could publish it. If they could publish it, I thought, I could publish it too. And so I did. 

The best part of self publishing is the learning process. You are in solely in charge of the project, from editing to cover art to typsets. Every detail must be considered, weighed, compared. Self publishing is the same as learning to swim: you have to get thoroughly wet before you can perfect the butterfly stroke. 

While the process is a grand learning experience, the process of self publishing is truly daunting. It is a full time endeavor, requiring more hours than you think possible. Talk to other self published authors. Study. Read. There are so many resources offered by and about self published authors. Dan Poynter comes immediately to mind. Self published authors have learned the art of sharing, co-mingling, cooperation. Ask one of us for help and counsel.  

They Call Me 299-359.

Every work of art is an expression of intimate feelings of the artist.” Tolstoy wrote that. If you want to know what that means, read the collection titled They Call Me 299-359  produced by the Free Minds Book Club. It is written and edited by incarcerated boys, ages 16 and 17, who describe their battered lives in poems of painful clarity and heartbreaking honesty. When I read the poems I remember what writing is supposed to do: to transmit raw emotion from the writer directly and without adornment to the reader. These pieces make me want to be a better writer. 

One of my favorite pictures.

One of my favorite pictures.

True Writer Joy.

In teaching creative writing to the youngest group at Writopia Labs, I witnessed true writer joy: A nine year old writer produced an exceptionally satisfying description, and suddenly he jumped up out of his chair, clapped his hands in a great apelike display and ran around with his arms overhead like Rocky winning a fight.

I know exactly how he felt!

There is nothing quite so satisfying than finding the exact right word or phrase. Unless, of course, you get up out of your chair and celebrate the exquisiteness of that moment. I wonder why I don’t do that?

Learn more about the Writopia Lab.

Every summer Lin returned to Goose Village to divorce his wife Shuyu.

- Ha Jin

—It’s Favorite Quote Wednesday! What’s yours?

Congrats to the Scholastic Winners!

Today the winners of the Scholastic awards are announced. I will have the great honor of calling some of the winning writers tonight to offer a personal ‘congratulations.’  For me this is chance to celebrate writers and writing. What will I tell them? Celebrate your work! Frame the poem or story or essay, and hang it prominently on a wall for everyone to see. 

The art of writing lives!  In a time of abbreviations and texting, it was such a pleasure to read luxuriously crafted sentences and phrases in all the Scholastic submissions. Not only did the kids tackle startlingly complex and sophisticated topics, they styled their work with real finesse. If I could, I’d call each writer and thank them. 

Most of us write into the wind. We finish stories that are never read, that only our mothers see, that we store under our desks or in lost files. Only a few will continue to produce new work, poems unread, stories stored away.  These hearty writers are like front-line soldiers, marching forward regardless of the terrain. I love this image, of soldiering on.  And what a treat to see how many determined writers there are!