authoring a book


Images courtesy of Simon & Schuster

Several years ago, when Garrett Graff was working at Washingtonian magazine, a coworker brought him a lost ID badge that he’d found on the floor of a parking garage.

“It was a government ID for someone from the intelligence community, and he gave it to me since I write about that subject, and he’s like, "I figure you can get this back to this guy,’ ” Graff recalls.

There were driving directions on the back of the ID, so Graff looked it up on Google Maps, and it led him to West Virginia. “The road dead ends into the side of a mountain,” he says, “And you can see very clearly these big concrete bunker doors — this little guard shack, chain-link fence, and then this set of concrete bunker doors beyond.”

Graff had stumbled onto one of the government bunkers designed to protect U.S. leaders in the event of a nuclear, chemical or biological weapon attack — most of which were built at the outset of the atomic age and throughout the Cold War.

He spoke with Fresh Air’s Terry Gross about his new book, Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government’s Secret Plan to Save Itself – While the Rest of Us Die. Find their conversation here.

– Petra

Erich Maria Remarque (22 June 1898 – 25 September 1970) 

German novelist who created many works about the terror of war. His best known novel All Quiet on the Western Front (1928), about German soldiers in the First World War, was made into an Oscar-winning film. His book made him an enemy of the Nazis, who burned many of his works. (Wikipedia)

From our stacks: Cover from All Quiet on the Western Front. Erich Maria Remarque. Translated from the German by A. W. Wheen. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1929.


Sir Henry Rider Haggard (22 June 1856 – 14 May 1925)

Known as H. Rider Haggard, an English writer of adventure novels set in exotic locations, predominantly Africa, and a pioneer of the Lost World literary genre. His stories, situated at the lighter end of Victorian literature, continue to be popular and influential. (Wikipedia)

From our stacks: Title page detail and frontispiece “’Down they went before Inkosikaas, like corn before a sickle’ Charles Kerr” from The Works of H. Rider Haggard. She and Allan. New York: McKinlay, Stone & Mackenzie, 1921.

Beta-Reader sign up

Hey there everyone! Hope you’re having a wonderful week so far. 
I’m looking for anyone who’d be interested in beta reading my new fantasy novel, Paleona: Trinity of Orphans.  

If you’d like to read my novel before anyone else (for free!) just let me know and I’ll add you to my list of people who will receive the first 4 chapters of my novel after its done being edited. This is looking to be sometime in about August. If you sign up for my list and can’t read the first four chapters, no worries! 
However, if you do read the chapters and leave me feedback then I will send you the book in it’s entirety upon it’s launch as my way of saying thank you.

Thanks so much for your support. My friends, family, and followers mean the world to me. Thanks from the bottom of my heart and have a blessed night.

Mitch Elson - book bum

louisa may alcott, w. h. auden, jane austen, james baldwin, charlotte brontë, lord byron, truman capote, willa cather, emily dickinson, e. m. forster, langston hughes, christopher isherwood, henry james, federico garcía lorca, christopher marlowe, herman melville, edna st. vincent millay, wilfred owen, marcel proust, mary renault, arthur rimbaud, siegfried sassoon, william shakespeare, gertrude stein, alfred lord tennyson, henry david thoreau, walt whitman, oscar wilde, tennessee williams, virginia woolf

what do all these beloved classic authors have in common? that’s right. none of them were straight. not a one. every single author on this list experienced same-gender romantic attraction during their lives. literary tradition is a hundred times more queer than what your high school english class would ever let you know

Tips and Advice For Aspiring Writers, Authors, and Poets


  • Take inspiration from your surroundings.
  • Don’t ignore the ordinary. The mundane can turn into something amazing if you shift your perspective.

  • Save all of your ideas. Store them on post it notes in a shoe box under your bed if you please, but save them. 

Be Open-Minded

  • Experiment with all aspects of writing. It’s art, after all. 
  • Don’t get stuck in the planning process. That’s the most common spot writers crash and burn on the journey to writing something meaningful.

  • Be open to changing the story you’re writing, or ditching it altogether in search of something better.


  • Get real experience. Try freelance writing gigs if you’re into that sort of thing.
  • Collaborate with other writers. 

  • Learn from successful writers. Read other people’s work and nitpick it to find the do’s and don’ts.

Be Realistic

  • Don’t write to be famous or to earn money (unless writing is your job, but in that case, I assume, it isn’t your first time doing this).
  • Practice writing, even when you’re not in a write-y mood.

  • Remember that writing is hard work, and that sometimes, it’s going to be difficult as hell to sit down and force yourself to work, but that’s part of the gig.

Chill Out

  • Try to enjoy it. Writing is fun, even if it’s your job
  • Don’t be discouraged by writer’s block. It happens to everyone, and it goes away eventually. You just have to try to work through it.
  • Reach out for help and advice when you need it. There are lots of people out there who want to help you.

There are no actual jazz chickens in Eddie Izzard’s new Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death and Jazz Chickens. But there’s plenty of insight into what makes the beloved comedian tick – he credits coming out as transgender in 1985 for giving him the confidence to build his career.

Check out his conversation with NPR’s Kelly McEvers here.

– Petra


Ah! Ah!  You said death! I heard you!


Author Victor LaValle was inspired to re-work the story of Frankenstein’s monster to explore the fallout of modern police violence – the result is his six-issue comic series Destroyer, in which the last living member of the Frankenstein line in the modern day happens to be a woman named Josephine Baker, a brilliant African-American scientist overwrought with grief after her 12-year-old son is killed by a police officer.

Our pals at Code Switch talked to LaValle about Destroyer – check out that conversation here.

– Petra