Tag Archives: writing

Self-Portrait of the Author in ‘the Rush of Life’: Gary Soto’s ‘What Poets Are Like’

For some reason—the imperative-sounding title, perhaps?—it’s easy to imagine a would-be poet leafing through What Poets Are Like: Up and Down With the Writing Life (Sasquatch Books; 236 pages), in expectation of a how-to guide. Such ventures will be somewhat disappointed, at least at first. Gary Soto’s collection of short, autobiographical essays are highly particular and personal, specific to Soto himself. And Soto’s wry, occasionally self-deprecating sense of humor means that, far from extolling the virtues of leading a writer’s life, many of the pieces contained in this collection point out its travails, its small indignities for anyone less of …Continue reading

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Serving and Defying the Tyranny of Motive

David Corbett, who lives in Vallejo, Calif., is a former private investigator and is the acclaimed author of four novels: The Devil’s Redhead, Done for a Dime (a New York Times Notable Books), Blood of Paradise (nominated for an Edgar), and Do They Know I’m Running? His most recent book is The Art of Character: Creating Memorable Characters for Fiction, Film, and TV (Penguin). At nearly 400 pages, The Art of Character, which publishes in late January, is a generous serving of Corbett’s knowledge on the craft of writing. Part reference book, part volume of essays, it’s insightful, entertaining, funny, …Continue reading

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The Mr. Smith Syndrome

Luis Alberto Urrea is the critically acclaimed and best-selling author of fourteen books, including his most recent, the novel Queen of America (Little, Brown.) He is the winner of numerous awards for his poetry, fiction and essays, as well as a professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Urrea grew up in San Diego, and that experience of being Mexican American and living close to the border has informed his writing. In his essay in ZYZZYVA’s Fall issue, “The Mr. Smith Syndrome,” Urrea brings to life a job he had as a teenager: frying up donuts for a sketchy boss (“Cigarette smoke. Body odor. Bad breath.”).

There’s a spirit of resolve in the piece, an understanding of what you need to overcome to find, perhaps, a state of grace in this life. The following is the essay in its entirety. (Warning: You may never eat another old-fashioned again.)

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