The Weird Week in Writing: 20 writers under 40 and 10 writers over 80, a summer Must-Not Read list, and more Mark Twain

Freaky Friday—the latest from the weird and wonderful world of
writing this week (followed, as always, by a prompt):

Just Lick It! How to Order Everything You Love to Eat but Never Gain Weight!
: In the midst of Summer Reading List season, one writer breaks down her Summer Must-Not Reads.

Poultry Promotion: Writer Sloane Crosley goes awesomely fowl and taps an artist to help promote her new book by bringing passages to life—with chickens.

By now you might have heard about The New Yorker’s list of 20 Writers under 40: But what about 10 writers over 80?

Time to go back to TV? Turns out the Internet is rotting our brains. The author of a new book on the subject explains why (and its intriguing impact on reading books and

Depending on how you look at it, we’re all just pawns in Clemens’ marketing game: As the HuffPo details, the elusive, time-capsuled manuscript that we envision for Mark Twain’s upcoming posthumous memoir isn’t completely the case. (But I’ll still buy it.)

Shepard of the Strange:
In an interview/excerpt, filmmaker/writer John Waters (who has a new memoir out) riffs on Johnny Mathis, not fitting in, and even traditional burial.

* * *


free to take the following prompt home or post your
response (500
words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments section below.
By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our
occasional around-the-office swag drawings (next one: we’ll draw today, and announce Monday!).
If you’re having trouble with the
captcha code sticking, e-mail it to me at, with “Promptly” in the subject line, and I’ll
make sure it gets up.

You’re about to enter the restaurant when you happen to glance up at a nearby building—and see it happening through the window.

For all of your non-strange regular writing needs (even though our latest
issue technically features this sentence: “For amusement, a vicious
gunslinger repeatedly shoots at the feet of the town drunk and tells him
to dance, only to awaken his own true self and embark on a second
career as a vicious choreographer”) check out the latest issue of WD
, which features the

Top 101 Websites for Writers, a feature package on mastering genres, and an interview with Bird by Bird scribe
Anne Lamott.


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4 thoughts on “The Weird Week in Writing: 20 writers under 40 and 10 writers over 80, a summer Must-Not Read list, and more Mark Twain

  1. Mark James

    Zac, I’d tell you which weird I liked best, but I was reading, then this link started blinking, and I clicked it and settled down to read for thirty seconds, but this other link clicked, so I went there to read about chicken footprints on the moon, but I was only a paragraph in when this other link started flashing and . . . well. . . I think the internet might be rotting my brain . . . Good one!

    Mandy . . always great to see your pieces

    Martha. . . Ooops, you did it again.

    If this makes less sense than usual, that’s because it’s a continuation of Wednesday’ prompt. . . .

    “Look, there she is.”

    Raphael looked down at the tenth story window. “Sipping tea. That’s not a sin or a crime; not in this century.”

    “But you heard him,” Michael said. “He’ll make an army if we get her to start the books again.”

    “We can’t interfere in mortal affairs,” Raphael said.

    “Lucifer gets away with it all the time.”

    “He lures into the open what’s already in the mortal heart,” Raphael said.

    “So let’s do some luring.”

    “When we do that, it’s calling inspiring.” A strange look came over Raphael’s face. “If I help you inspire her, will you help me with work that’s to be done?”

    “Anything but lying down with those lions.” Michael’s wings fluttered, stirring the clouds like rich cream. “They make my wings shiver.”

    “Very well,” Raphael said. “Come.”

    Michael followed his brother’s thoughts and found himself in a library the size of the old Roman Empire. “Where are we?”

    “Hall of Unborn Bestsellers.” Raphael floated to a shelf that went on for miles and miles. “We’ll pick one.”

    By nightfall, Michael had pulled miles and miles of manuscripts. “There’s nothing in them. Just paper.”

    “Of course,” Raphael said. “That’s how all books start.”


    The lunch crowd in The Olde Fish Shoppe was full of people whose faces told the sad stories of paper pushing escapees who longed to go anywhere except back to a grey cube behind glass windows. The woman the archangels had seen sipping tea went to Olde Fish Shoppe for fish and chips because they wrapped their orders in newspapers from a hundred years ago.

    She took her lunch across the street on a park bench, completely unaware of the angels in the tree above her.

    “Wait,” Raphael said. “Not yet. When she unwraps it.”

    Michael clutched a bound manuscript from the Hall in his right hand, holding it the way he held his sword, out, in front of him.

    “Now,” Raphael said.

    The manuscript floated through the branches of the tree, dwindling, until it brushed against the woman’s head, lighter than a feather from an angel’s wing.

    She’d just been unwrapping her lunch, when a story headline struck her, “Train Disabled, Passengers Stranded”. She pulled a pen from her pocket, and scribbled madly over the newspaper, the story coming to her as if by magic.

    “Well begun,” Raphael said, “well done.”

    “When’s the book coming out?”

    “Not for at least a year of mortal time,” Raphael said.

    “I have to help you for a year?” Michael looked horrified.

    “Except when you’re at war brother, then I will help you.”


    Michael went around to the 134th statue in Chartres, breathing softly on it. “What am I doing again?”

    Raphael breathed on the statues closest to him. “Leaving inspiration to fight on with courage and faith for those mortals who come here to pray.”

    “What are you leaving?”

    Warm breath washed over Michael. He made a face. Raphael smiled. “Hope that peace may be found, faith that healing will be found, and courage when there is neither to be found.”

    “All right,” Michael said, “but when he raises that army, you’re coming with me.”

    “I wouldn’t miss it for all the world.”

  2. Martha W

    Zac, LOVED this prompt. Great post.


    "Jack, hold up." Blu squinted at the second floor of the apartment complex next to her favorite coney island.

    "What?" Lord have mercy, when she looked all confused like that he wanted to wrap her up tight and protect her.

    "C’mere." Her voice cracked.

    He stopped next to her elbow. "I’m here. What?"

    Blu reached blindly for his arm. "Is that-" She wiped the heel of her hand across her eyes. "Is that Ben?"

    "Where are you lookin’, darlin’?" He didn’t like the desperation in her eyes. "Show me."

    She pointed to the window where a slender, blond girl had wrapped her arms around a man in front of her. "There."

    Blu watched Jack, he knew she was looking for him to tell her the truth. His eyes narrowed for a split second. "I can’t tell."

    Happy laughter drifted from the open window. The blond stepped back and afforded a view of the man. Dark hair, tan skin. Wearing the same cream shirt Blu bought Ben for his birthday two weeks ago.

    Jack heard her whimper as she watched the man sink to his knees, one hand holding the woman’s fingers for a kiss as the other lifted a small box.
    Her boyfriend had just proposed to another woman.

    A hard sob racked her body, her knees buckled.

    Jack scooped her up, with one look over his shoulder to the two friends they were meeting for lunch. A quick shake of his head and they climbed in their car to leave.

    He carried her back to his truck, settled her onto the bench seat. "Shush. Blu, darlin’." Jack smoothed the hair from her face and wiped away the tears. "He ain’t worth you cryin’ over."

    "How-" She hiccuped. "How could he say he loved me?"

    The haze that edged his vision nearly overcame his good judgment, sending him back to his cowboy roots. In the not too distant past, he’d have kicked the crap out of that city boy for hurtin’ his Blu.

    But as it was, all the coward did was clear the way for him. Finally.
    "Darlin’, he didn’t love you."

    If looks could kill, he’d have been dead in his boots. "Screw you," she said.

    "Not like you deserve to be loved anyway." His gaze flicked over her shoulder to the couple leaving the complex. One day soon, him and Ben would have a talk. He met her eyes again.

    Her bottom lip quivered and he cursed under his breath. "You deserve a man who’ll drive you all over town just so he won’t have to miss you. A man who’ll tell you everyday how beautiful you are."

    She stared at him, tears gone, blue eyes searching his. "Like you."

    "Like me."

    Blu twisted as Ben’s car drove by, returned his wave.

    Jack gripped her chin, brought her back to him. "Blu."

    The smile that graced her lips told it all. "I love you too, Jack."

  3. Mandy Hartley

    Glancing down at her phone she realized it was only 7:30, but it felt like midnight. Here in the elevator, with the office becoming more distant with each floor she passed, she could finally take a deep breath. How long had it been? Could a person survive meeting after meeting without breathing? The growl of her stomach let her know that it was quite possible, as here she was after all; evidently both alive and hungry .

    The deli on the floor of her building was usually unappealing, but tonight she didn’t need appealing. She needed a comfortable chair, a glass of wine and something warm that included both bread and cheese. Grabbing a menu from the basket by the door, she settled herself into a small booth in the corner and leaned her head back into the cushion. After a few deep breaths, she felt calmer than she had felt since checking her email more than eleven hours earlier. She was going to survive this, she had to. She needed this job and competition made you stronger, right? Isn’t that what her Father had always said? One thing she was sure of was that her Father would have had a LOT to say about her bosses’ latest brilliant idea.

    Tucking her legs warmly beneath her, she could imagine the scene. “Are you kidding me? That bastard wants you to audition for your own job? Alotta nerve on that one. Stella, you hearin’ this? These advertising geniuses have decided to make the kids fight it out among themselves because none of them got the balls to let one of em go. You gotta cut somebody because business is slow, you cut the weakest one and wash your hands. You don’t make it a game. Sick bastards. You’re better than that Gina. They don’t deserve you.” Thinking about her parents made her laugh, and that brought her back to herself.

    By the time the waiter arrived with her Chianti and pasta, she had convinced herself that she would be fine. She had spent the afternoon crafting the perfect pitch and she felt confident that her idea was good enough to keep her around. The idea of competing with her colleagues to avoid layoff was just plain weird and stood as further proof that reality television was having an alarmingly pervasive impact on American culture, but she was good and she knew it. She would make the cut.

    Pushing through the door and out into the windy night, the flicker of the deli sign caught her eye and she looked back just long enough to catch it. A flash of light coming from her window. She was sure she had turned the light off when she left. Moving closer to the curb, she could see the outline of someone’s head cast in the light of her computer. Someone was in her office, after hours, working on her computer!

    It was Tim. The weak link. It had to be Tim. He was scheduled to make his pitch just before she made hers and now he was in her office, stealing her ideas, and if he got away with it, her job.