These Two Lanes Will Take Us Anywhere: Alice Munro and Bruce Springsteen

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Monday, August 17th, 2015 | 1,488 views

Having just published my first book, I am often asked about my influences. I have a great list to rattle off: Lorrie Moore, Jo Ann Beard, Laurie Colwin, Justin Torres, Amy Hempel, Junot Diaz. I could go on. But, if I had only two pedestals to erect, I know who they’d be for: Alice Munro and Bruce Springsteen.

Although I am from New Jersey, my love of the Ontario writer Alice Munro long predates my discovery of Freehold’s own Bruce Springsteen. Given my feelings toward my home state during the period I was first learning about music—like many people, my middle and high school years—it follows that I would have dismissed Springsteen as resoundingly not for me. Munro, on the other hand, I came to early. She was the first author I ever learned about who eschewed novels, publishing only story collections. Some consider Lives of Girls and Women or The Beggar Maid to be novels, but in those books, each story works separately, while still coming together to comprise a whole. Munro’s protagonists are primarily, if not always, girls or women. They are not always, or even often, beautiful. She not only allows tragedy to befall her characters, but she allows them to commit horrible acts. In other words, she lets them be real. I aspire to her bravery in this regard; I still find it hard to reveal the ugliness in my characters. Even more aspirational than her plot or her characters, though, are her sentences.

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Breaking Up With My Book

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Monday, June 1st, 2015 | 2,772 views

In the vernacular of writers on social media, a book is “born”—conferred with legitimacy and a life separate from its creator—on the day that it is published. The metaphors of gestation, labor, birth come easily, and everyone seems to agree that the big day arrives not after the first sentence has been written, or the last, but on the day a book becomes widely available to the public. What then of the manuscripts that never make it into print? What do we call a book that’s never been born?

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Solitude and the Proximity to Infinite Things

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Thursday, August 14th, 2014 | 2,004 views

One of the worst things in the world is when I decide that it is now— this instant— a perfect time to sing. The song is “Cuckoo.” The song is warm, short and sweet. Heated honey roasted peanut butter in a warm bowl. It is solitary. As it plays, nostalgia boils inside my body, caves […]

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In Defense of Rejection

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Monday, August 11th, 2014 | 3,438 views

Rejection has always been a part of being a writer, of being an artist. There is something heroic in the idea of the writer who persists in the face of crushing rejection, and it’s perhaps why famous writers seem to love talking about the rejection they suffered before finally breaking through.

In his book On Writing, Stephen King describes using a railroad spike to pin his numerous rejection letters to the wall. Sylvia Plath’s surprisingly optimistic take on rejection letters was that they “show me I try,” while Isaac Asimov said that they “are lacerations of the soul…but there is no way around them.” Writers bond over rejection like soldiers in trenches. In “The Eleventh Draft,” an essay published in a collection of the same name, novelist and short story writer Chris Offutt describes his goal as an MFA student at the University of Iowa of accumulating a hundred rejection letters in a year. Rejection, because it was inevitable, became a badge of honor.

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False Binary, False Victories: Drafting and Revising as Partner Process

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Monday, July 21st, 2014 | 1,934 views

Writing about writing process is hard to do without making some broad generalizations riddled with exceptions, so let’s get the first out of the way now: there are two types of writers, those who love to draft, and those who love to revise.

It’s clear which camp has claimed me. I’m messy by nature, born with a high tolerance for stacks of teetering books on the floor, scraps of fabric and sequins piled in the corner, overstuffed bulletin boards with layers upon layers of postcards, photographs, ticket stubs. Not quite a hoarder, but hoard-ish—and the same goes for my drafts.

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The Internet: Not Just for Porn

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Tuesday, July 1st, 2014 | 1,634 views

Melissa Adamo attempts to navigate the internet

My relationship with technology could be a romantic comedy—with blogs starring as that guy right under my nose, the guy who’s so perfect for me in his imperfection, so stellar with his boyish charm and manly good looks. Like any good romcom, let’s start with images of my past as the opening credits roll, so you can understand all future plot points:

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A Case for Comedy

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Monday, April 21st, 2014 | 2,479 views

An art form that correlates well with poetry is standup comedy. Such connections are not often made in classrooms or seen on TV classrooms. In my courses, I reference movies or shows in order to connect the more “popular” examples to assigned short stories. Such comparisons are obvious and in no way novel since all of these forms use character and plot. When teaching poetry, many instructors typically compare poetic verse to song lyrics, and I do this, too. Who can’t think of at least one example of the English teacher rapping Shakespeare? (I do not do this). Although this comparison works on many levels, music still, well, uses music: a creation of melodies through instruments, whereas poetry only relies on its words to create tone, cadence, and rhythm—no other sounds accompany it. Thus, the art of standup translates more easily to poetry.

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Contradictions in the American Dream from a First-Generation American Writer

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Monday, April 7th, 2014 | 1,930 views

My grandfather, Luigino Adamo, sold most of what he had in the summer of 1957 to buy four one way tickets for a boat to America. He landed with only the Italian language and a fifth grade education. Born in the southern Italian farming town of San Mango D’Aquino, Calabria, his first destination was a relative’s farm in Pennsylvania. After working with them for three months without seeing financial results, Luigino took his family to Brooklyn and set about finding work. As an uneducated laborer, his options revolved around factory work, plumber assistantships, and gardener positions. He worked, saved, and looked toward his future. By 1958, he acquired a part-time, seasonal job in a cemetery that would eventually turn into a full-time gravedigger position and then a heavy equipment operator.

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