Monday, November 30, 2009

City Chicken, Country Chicken

Did you know that it's legal to keep chickens in the city of Lincoln? There are certain limitations regarding permits and numbers, but you could actually have a little flock of hens in the capital city.

The reason I mention this is because I recently happened upon The Urban Homestead, a book about living self-sufficiently in a city by doing things like growing your own food.

I've always wanted to live in the country with animals and fresh vegetables from the garden, but I also like living in close proximity to things like bookstores and coffee shops. Could urban homesteading be the perfect compromise? Plus, with concerns about the economy and environment at an all-time high, the idea of self-sufficiency is an intriguing one. At the same time, I have my doubts that anyone with a full time job could really manage gardening and converting to solar power in their free time.

What do you think? Is urban homesteading the city life of the future? Or is it just environmentalist hipsterism? Do you know anyone with urban chickens?

Edit: For those who are curious, here are Lincoln's chicken laws.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

UNL Adds Online Comic Database

Last Spring, UNL librarian Richard Graham finished an online database of more than 180 comics (and growing). The collection includes standard comic books, as well as related source material about comics.

I think it's wonderful that UNL is creating this resource. Comics are a pretty important part of American culture, and they have been throughout history, so they're definitely worth some scholarly investigation. I wonder when UNL will add a course in comic books to the Schedule of Classes!

Link to the Daily Nebraskan story

Monday, November 23, 2009

Interview with Cormac McCarthy

The Wall Street Journal has a pretty interesting interview with Cormac McCarthy. He talks about the new film version of The Road, fatherhood, his writing process, upcoming work, and all kinds of other things.

An excerpt:

WSJ: Do you feel like you're trying to address the same big questions in all your work, but just in different ways?

CM: Creative work is often driven by pain. It may be that if you don't have something in the back of your head driving you nuts, you may not do anything. It's not a good arrangement. If I were God, I wouldn't have done it that way. Things I've written about are no longer of any interest to me, but they were certainly of interest before I wrote about them. So there's something about writing about it that flattens them. You've used them up. I tell people I've never read one of my books, and that's true. They think I'm pulling their leg.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Lincoln is the Second-Strangest City

Guess what! Lincoln has been named the second-strangest city in the country, losing out only to New York. Apparently, they analyzed a bunch of "Strange News" stories from the AP, and controlled for population. Lincoln ended up with the second-most number of "strange" news stories.

I'm torn between embarrassment and pride.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Gar's Tips on Sucks-Less Writing

For whatever reason, I've been on a writing advice kick lately. Sometimes you just need some wise words to bolster you up, right? One of my favorite new finds is Gar's Tips on Sucks-Less Writing.

An excerpt:

* Writers Write!
Mike Gunderloy, editor of the zine review guide Factsheet Five, used to say that, even if you aren't a writer to begin with, after cranking out a million words or so, you're a writer! Gunderloy himself was a prime example. He wasn't much of one when he started F5, his "zine of zines," but he sure as hell was by the time he called it quits many millions of words later. By then, he had truly mastered the art of short-form, concise and spunky media criticism.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Vonnegut on Writing

Kurt Vonnegut is, I think, one of everyone's favorite writers. In addition to his wonderful fiction, he wrote some really nice essays, a few of which discuss the art of writing. Really, who better to take advice from? For your reading pleasure:

How to Write with Style
Eight Rules for Writing a Short Story (from his book Bagombo Snuff Box)


Friday, November 13, 2009

Writer's Block? A tool for you!

So, you're sitting down at your desk, blank pages in front of you and pen poised to begin writing your submission for Plains Song Review XII. You want to write something amazing, but, alas! You have writer's block! How on earth will you think of something to write before the January deadline?

It's okay! We're here to help! Write or Die is a neat little Internet gadget that forces you to write. From the website:
Write or Die is a web application that encourages writing by punishing the tendency to avoid writing. Start typing in the box. As long as you keep typing, you're fine, but once you stop typing, you have a grace period of a certain number of seconds and then there are consequences.
In my experience, the best way to beat writer's block is just to write something, anything on the page. It doesn't have to be good, it just has to be something to get you going and kickstart your creativity. So this little application could be quite helpful for desperate situations!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

PSR to Begin Accepting Graphic Literature Submissions!

Today, we have some very exciting news at PSR! Beginning this issue, we will be reviewing submissions of graphic literature!

It all started when Van Jensen (whose graphic novel was featured on PSR Book Club) asked if we'd ever considered publishing comics in Plains Song Review. Well, we hadn't, but it certainly seemed like an interesting idea! After thinking about it and talking about it for awhile, we decided to give it a try.

I know what you're thinking. Graphic literature? Isn't that just a fancy-pants name for comics? Yes indeed! But comics have gotten pretty literary and high-brow in recent years. For instance, last year in an English class, we read the graphic novel MAUS, a memoir of the Holocaust that won a Pulitzer. Other notable comics include Persepolis and Skyscrapers of the Midwest. Literary magazines are starting to take comics more seriously too. Virginia Quarterly Review regularly publishes them, and McSweeney's devoted an entire issue just to comics!

I really think comics could be a good fit at PSR. They're such a uniquely American art form, which makes sense for a publication like ours. Furthermore, graphic novels are uniquely well-equipped to explore "place," as they are able to both depict place both through words and through images.

Of course, PSR's publishing standards will remain the same as ever. We will only accept submissions that explore the Great Plains, and we will only accept submissions that we feel are high quality. If we don't get any good comic submissions this year, we simply won't publish any comics. That said, I'm hoping that we get some really good stuff to show you when Issue XII comes out.

Graphic Literature Submission Guidelines can be found at

Monday, November 9, 2009

New Photography Exhibit

The Center for Great Plains Studies just opened its new exhibits:

Searching for the Real Nebraska: A Photo Essay on the Great Recession. The exhibit features photographers Bruce Thorson, Patrick Breen, Kyle Bruggeman, and Clay Lomneth, and it runs from November 6th to December 13th. People of the Plains is a series of black and white photographs by John Evasco. These are some gorgeous photographs, so I highly recommend going to see them.

Check them out at CGPS 1155 Q Street, Lincoln, NE 68588-0214. The gallery is free and open to the public. Check the website for hours.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Save The Words!

Oxford English Dictionary has a new campaign to save old, unused words from completely dropping out of our language! Save the Words allows users to sign up to "adopt" words to keep them from being lost. You pick a word from their many options, and commit to use it as often as you can in normal conversation. It sounds kind of silly, but a lot of these words are wonderfully specific and meaningful and absolutely deserve to be reinvigorated!

I've adopted "helctic," which means "acting to drag or draw out." Isn't that a terribly useful word? This is also a good site for poets who are looking for the perfect ancient adjective to add flavor to their lines.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

How to Write Badly Well

Want to know how to write a wonderful piece of fiction? Don't take advice from Joel Stickley! Stickley is a writer and the author of the blog How to Write Badly Well. It lists some really cringe-worthy ways one can ruin a piece of writing.

An excerpt, from the post "Present your research in the form of dialogue:"
‘My god,’ said Geoff, ‘so it’s true. We hold in our very hands the original draft of the hitherto unknown third treaty of the 1648 Peace of Westphalia signed by the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand III himself.’
‘Yes,’ confirmed Sally. ‘Who would have thought when we set off this morning for this remote Swiss village that we would end the day in possession of the very document which marked the birth of modern European statehood?'
‘Certainly not me!’ laughed Geoff.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Gregory Euclide's Landscape Art

There's a neat exhibit going on at the David B. Smith Gallery in Denver, CO right now. The artist is Gregory Euclide, and he does art that explores our relationship with the landscape. The press release says:
Euclide explores the difficulty of escaping the cultural lens from which we view nature. Images from traditional landscape paintings, wildlife documentaries and travel guides construct our cultural expectations and define how we view land. Euclide’s work explores the conflicts between these images of idealized, picturesque views and the desire to truly experience nature as it is.
Not near Denver? The website has a photo gallery where you can see the art!