Story to Film

I’ve neglected to note that student films (through Prof. Frederick Lewis, Ohio University Media Arts & Studies) have been made from two of my stories.  Working with these students was a pleasure.

From “The Best of Betty”:


From “Julie in the Funhouse”:

Leaving San Diego (eventually)

From Monday’s Union-Tribune, May 26, 2014:

San Diego: Loving and (Eventually) Leaving It


Criminally Underrated

According to Entertainment Weekly, I’m the author of a criminally underrated book.,,20796510_20796506,00.html#30119691

I’m happy to see that the title of another c.i. book in the list is the name of my old African Grey.  Catherwood lives!



Literary Death March (to July 9, 2013 and beyond)

This is not self-promotion (since these secluded pages hardly function as publicity), but rather a real-time, step-by-step account of the typical run-up to a new book’s pub date (and for a while thereafter).  When it’s your first book, this process is almost nauseatingly exciting.  By your fourth, it’s not.  Some dread remains; almost zero excitement.  The book will come and go.  Anyway…

First usually come reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist, and Library Journal.  Kirkus doesn’t publish theirs until a couple of weeks ahead of the pub date, and they don’t generally like me all that much anyway.  [Called it!  See below.]

Here’s PW, starred, on May 6:

Willett’s hilarious follow-up to The Writing Class pulls no punches when it comes to current literary trends. Amy Gallup was once heralded as a fresh voice in fiction, but with her novels now long out of print, she’s content with a quiet, anonymous life of leading workshops, keeping lists of great-sounding titles for stories she’ll never write, and maintaining her sporadically updated blog. One afternoon, however, while working in her garden, Amy trips and cold-cocks herself on a birdbath. Still reeling from the head injury hours later, she gives a loopy interview to a reporter working on a series of local author profiles. The result goes viral, and suddenly Amy is a hot commodity on the literary pundit trail. She couldn’t care less about being relevant or famous, which lends a refreshingly brutal honesty to her commentary on the radio, television, and lecture circuit. But her newfound notoriety also pushes Amy out of her comfort zone, forcing her to confront years of neuroses and an unexamined postwriting life. Willett uses her charmingly filterless heroine as a mouthpiece to slam a parade of thinly veiled literati and media personalities with riotous accuracy, but she balances the snark with moments of poignancy. (July)

May 7:

Here’s the Kirkus:
Amy Gallup, 60, hasn’t published a book in 20 years, and she’s settled into a
quiet life with her beloved basset hound, Alphonse. None too excited about a
newspaper interview she’s agreed to give, she trips, knocking herself out on the
birdbath just hours before she’s scheduled to play the role of has-been local

Oddly, she regains consciousness to see the reporter’s car pulling out of her
driveway. In the emergency room later, she has the distinct pleasure of reading
her own interview–an interview she evidently gave without the assistance of a
conscious, rational mind. Amy’s cryptic, concussion-addled interview rejuvenates
her career. Suddenly, her agent–chain-smoking, aggressive but kindly Maxine–is
calling again, arranging appearances and pushing for new material. Her former
writing students are back, too. After all, their crazed, knife-wielding former
classmate (from Willett’s The Writing Class, 2008) is now safely behind bars.
The collection of friends and opponents surrounding Amy are flat characters
bedazzled with quirks, but that doesn’t quite make them quirky. Grudgingly, Amy
goes on tour, battling wits with shrill, book-phobic radio hosts,
twitter-bewitched moderators, new authors drunk on blogs and old authors drunk
on scotch. Along the way, she confronts the demons of her past, including her
buried grief for her late, gay husband, as well as her ambivalence about
success. The skewering of the business of selling books–despite some hilarious
scenes and Amy’s dry humor–gets repetitive as Amy tirelessly defends real
writing and debunks virtual book launches. Amy is endearing, yet it is difficult
to remain curious about a heroine whose only interest is writing.

Willett’s skill in crafting zany scenes and Amy’s acerbic wit are not enough to
keep this novel afloat.
May 9

Apparently AFD is on the July 2013 Indie Next List, which is a good thing, although I don’t know what it means. The whole Bookseller concept is opaque to me. It’s nice news, though.


June 18

Booklist Review, Issue: July 1, 2013

Amy Falls Down.

Willett, Jincy (Author)

Jul 2013. 336 p. St. Martin’s/Thomas Dunne, hardcover, $24.99. (9781250028273). St. Martin’s/Thomas

Dunne, e-book, $11.99. (9781250028280).

In this sequel to the events that ended Willett’s The Writing Class (2008), erstwhile novelist turned online writing instructor Amy Gallup stumbles in her backyard just minutes before being interviewed for a where-are-the-has-beens-of-yesteryear article. It can only be assumed that her skull’s brief contact with a concrete birdbath is what >transformed Amy from an irascible wag to an insouciant wit. Whatever the cause, suddenly Amy is hot again. After the article goes viral, her former agent resurfaces, booking her on NPR and scoring profiles in mainstream media, and she’s the A-list guest for literary panels discussing such egregious topics as “Whither Publishing?” Best yet, Amy’s creative muse also reappears, and short stories spew forth as if out of the ether. It’s a heady ride for the one-time recluse, showing her that, hey, maybe success isn’t so bad after all. For anyone who has ever wondered what it’s like to be an author, Willett’s thinly veiled heroine provides a saucily irreverent look at the writing life.

– Carol Haggas

Library Journal

Since Willett’s fey, popular novels include a winner of the National Book Award, it is perhaps no surprise that the protagonist of her latest book is a writer. Withdrawn, cranky Amy Gallup hasn’t written much lately, but when she clonks her head on a birdbath after tripping in her own backyard, then follows through with a scheduled interview that ends up portraying her wandering thoughts as sheer genius, Amy is suddenly a media hit. And she starts to write. With a reading group guide and lots of publicity.

June 25

I am a Top Ten Beach Read.  Or at least “Jincy Willet” is.

July 5

The NYT.

July 9

Pub date. Amy is an “Apple best book of the month.” I don’t know what that means.

July 11

Reading at Warwick’s in La Jolla.

July 11

Megan Labrise’s Kirkus Interview

July 12


July 21

Review in the Dallas News.  They hate it, although apparently one chapter pleases them.  I think I know which one.

Also brief review in the Ft. Worth Star Telegram:

July 23

Translation rights inquiry from Norway.  (I love translations.)

Also, AFD featured in This Week’s Top Picks on BookBrowse (  Not sure  whether this helps sales.

July 24

At about 16:10, Nancy Pearl on AFD (on NPR).  This is actually kind of thrilling.  A librarian likes my stuff!  (The highest praise imaginable. In another life, I’d be a librarian.)

July 26

Kind word from David Sedaris on FB.

July 30

Who would I like to play my characters in a movie? Never going to happen.

October 20

Review in the ProJo.

We could say that Jincy Willett’s new novel is “hilarious,” that her wit is “wicked, savage, ferocious,” that her theme is “compelling,” had she not beaten us to the punch by skewering book reviewers using those very words.

The fact is that Jincy Willett is hilarious, witty and compelling, and whether you are a writing biz insider or just an average reader who believes that authors should entertain us once in a while, “Amy Falls Down” succeeds on every level. Her characters and her story ring all-too true, her satire of the literary life is dead on, and she artfully follows all the writing advice her novelist-heroine churns out.

Amy Gallup hasn’t written a word in years. Instead she makes a modest living as an online writing teacher; her previous face-to-face class disintegrated after a student shot up the place. An admitted misanthrope (her blog is titled “GO AWAY”), she has a working knowledge of the Twitter-Facebook universe but not much faith in its usefulness.

Amy would continue on her grumpy path, were it not for a literal misstep one New Year’s Day. She takes a flying half-gainer in the backyard while chasing her Basset hound, Alphonse, and strikes her head on a birdbath. The resulting concussion leads to a blackout, during which she gives a cryptic interview to a local newspaper reporter that soon goes viral.

Soon her long-lost agent, Maxine, is calling, and Amy is being booked on talk shows, conferences, even NPR. And lo and behold, Amy is writing again, and she has no hope of keeping the world at arm’s length much longer.

Amy doles out writing advice with plenty of vinegar. She tells a writing conference audience: “this is the last place you should be. Nothing’s going to rub off on you.” During an NPR interview, she declares, “most writers just aren’t that interesting.” Bemoaning the book glut, she proposes a moratorium on publishing for a decade or so, just to let everyone catch up.

“For the first time in a hundred years, readers would have time to read all the books they’d been meaning to get to, and the tens of thousands more that they never even heard of,” Amy tells a radio interviewer.

Moratorium or no, put “Amy Falls Down” on the top of your list.

November 4, 2013

Interview with NPR Radio Pet Lady

November 20, 2013

At an ALA webinar, the fabulous Nancy Pearl recommends my book for holiday gift-buying.

November/December 2013

The Brown Alumni Monthly gets around to mentioning AFD (

Amy Falls Down by Jincy Willett ’78, ’81 AM (Thomas Dunne/St. Martin’s).
Fame, it seems, can arrive when you least expect it. Amy Gallup (The Writing Class) is an unlikely heroine, a weary writing instructor who hasn’t written a book in three decades. But Amy slips in the yard and bangs her head on the birdbath. A concussion ensues, followed by a loopy, unremembered interview with a reporter, which leads to a burst of Internet notoriety and a fresh chance at literary glory. A hilarious and hopeful novel.

November 23, 2013

Nifty aside from the redoubtable M.J. Andersen in the Providence Journal

November 24, 2013

Metazen review.

December 4, 2013

Made NPR’s Best Books of 2013

Furious Fiction web interview posted

February 19, 2014

AFD is a finalist in the Audie (audiobooks and spoken word) competition held by the Audio Publishers Association:




Late-Breaking Sausage Attack Stories from Southeastern New England

Holbrook man used sausage links as weapon


A Holbrook man was charged after police said he attacked and robbed a Brockton man using stolen sausage links and a wrench at West Street and Forest Avenue Sunday morning.

The victim told police he was riding his bike about 8 a.m. Sunday when Michael A. Baker, whom he does not know, came up to him “and started swinging sausage links at him,” Lt. David Dickinson said Sunday.

“He said he was trying to hit him with that. The victim had no idea why,” Dickinson said.

Baker then threw stolen meat, bread and cheese he was carrying into a nearby barrel “and began smashing the victim with a wrench,” Dickinson said.

The victim suffered multiple lacerations in the attack, and was taken by ambulance to a local hospital, Dickinson said. His condition was not known on Sunday.

The victim told police Baker stole a silver chain, ring and silver bike from him.

A jogger found the victim yelling for help and saw Baker take off with the victim’s bike, Dickinson said.

Officers later found Baker heading east on Neubert Street on a bike, and arrested him.

“The officer could see a wrench in his left pocket. The officer noticed red stains appearing to be blood on (Baker’s) clothing and hands,” Dickinson said.

Officers charged Baker, 22, of 176 Longmeadow Drive, Apt. 204, Holbrook, with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, a wrench; armed robbery; disturbing the peace; disorderly conduct; and receiving stolen property under $250.

Officers later reported a break and entry into a sausage stand at the Brockton Fairgrounds.

“They saw the same cuts of meat and cheese and bread in the fairgrounds sausage stand. It had been pried open,” Dickinson said.

Baker was scheduled to be arraigned in Brockton District Court today.

The BCI unit of the Plymouth County Sheriff’s Department also responded to take photographs.

Read more:

When Did People Start Saying “Bored of”?

…instead of “bored with” and “bored by”? Isn’t this just wrong?

“The Best of Betty”

…is being produced as a short film, by the Ohio UniversitySchool of Media Arts and Studies:

More later.


(This appeared in the Lifted Brow’s No. 6 issue, an Atlas of the World.   Writers were invited to choose their own sites, real or imaginary, and describe them in words, sounds, or images.   Too bad it’s sold out! It’s fabulous.)

There are at least as many Hells as there are Providences. Hell is an unincorporated collection of souls near Ann Arbor, Michigan. There was once a Hell in Southern California whose founder was the sole member of its Chamber of Commerce, but which has since been paved over by a succession of federal highways. Hell is a city in Poland, a village in Norway, and a family of limestone formations in the Grand Caymans. There’s a Hell in Holland and a Hell’s Gate in the Netherlands Antilles. Hellville is in Madagascar, Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan, and somewhere there must be a Hellburg. All of these Hells are real, but none is true. When we tell somebody to go to Hell, we’re not directing him toward Ann Arbor.

The Valley of Hinnom, a ravine southwest of Jerusalem now flourishing greenly, is all that remains of the Old Testament Hell of Gehenna. Once the home of Ahaz and other barbarous, child-sacrificing idolaters, it soon became an object lesson–the Sodom of Jeremiah’s day–and a rubbish and sewage dump whose fires burned continually. Gehenna, then, was a real Hell, but again not the true one, only a smelly, smoking symbol.

And this is the problem with Hell: from the very beginning its geographic reality has been undercut by poets and prophets, because, like the rainbow and the unicorn and the Leaning Phallus of Albitragh, it begs to be symbolically used. Hell is the ultimate mixed metaphor, a slippery slope paved with good intentions and navigated by hand basket as every scrap of hope is jettisoned by the bucketful. Hell is war and other people and eternal solitude, or commuting five-days-a-week on the I-15 between Escondido and San Diego. Everyone has an “idea” of hell. If you troll the internet, you’ll find that hell is a three-month school holiday, a blind date, your idea of heaven, being force-fed the works of Henry James, the legalisation of all-night drinking in the UK, one night at the Hotel California, and five minutes with Arlene Massover. This is ridiculous, because, again, when we consign enemies, lovers, strangers, and inanimate objects to Hell, we’re not talking about ideas. We are wishing them into a real and seriously unpleasant place.

A place with a sulfurous atmosphere the temperature of roiling lava which bottoms out in a lake frozen solid with blood and guilt, but no, it isn’t Chicago, because the freezing wind comes not from Ontario but from the flapping wings of Lucifer, and because the music in Hell is appalling–unbearable for every single human listener, which is quite a feat. Out-of-tune trombones are featured, ditto cat-scratch violas, but that’s only the half of it. Hell is outside of time, atemporal, which means arrhythmic, so you can’t dance, even in agony, and the percussion instruments are cheesy: cowbells, cymbals, and tambourines. Though also kettledrums, according to Randy Newman, who should know. Instead of songs, there are screams, shrieks, yowls, the calls of predatory birds, and incessant cretinous laughter, the latter once actually recorded in 1923 by Karl Valentin and Liesl Karlstadt.

The architecture of hell is intricate. In Buddhist and Taoist mythology Hell, or Diyu, involves ten courts and at least eighteen levels, where specific punishments (freezing in ice, dismemberment by chariot, being devoured by maggots) are assigned to sins. Dante’s Inferno is a funnel of nine descending, teeming circles, the deepest of which famously houses traitors (Judas and Brutus), and not child killers and Hitler. We know about the architecture through the dreams of poets and theologians and a California real-estate agent who once spent twenty-three minutes in a ten-by-fifteen-foot cell being lacerated by demons before getting airlifted back to his house.

Just as everyone claims to know where the anus of the world is located, usually because they grew up there, so everybody has at one time or another identified Hell On Earth. But Hell is not aboveground. Hell is not a battlefield, a prison, a classroom, or a bureaucratic process. Who goes to Hell, and why, and for how long, and what goes on there, these are all matters of conjecture, but Hell itself is a real place with a real location.

Hell is at a point latitude 41 degrees, 51 minutes, 42 seconds North, longitude 71 degrees, 27 minutes, 31 seconds West, twenty-four miles beneath the chlorinated waters of the Salvatore Mancini Natatorium in North Providence, Rhode Island.

Guter Kummer! II

(They hated it.   It’s worth a listen, whether you want to sound-bathe or enjoy a Teutonic take-down.)

Coming Soon: Online Fiction Workshop from the Author of The Writing Class

I’m seriously thinking of starting up an online fiction workshop in January 2009.     Plans so far:

1.   Submissions will be fiction only–prose, not poetry.

2.   Submissions will include short stories, novel chapters, fragments of longer works.

3.   Right now, I’m not planning to screen for level of sophistication, experience, talent, etc.   Come one, come all.   This strategy has always worked quite well for me in in-person workshops.

4.   In the future, I may offer more real-time workshops, probably involving a chat room setup rather than one involving speech.   Writers are generally comfortable typing and reading; we’d just do this in a virtual room, during scheduled hours.

5.   When  a virtual  workshop gets underway, students will read and critique one another’s work, which is what happens in actual workshops.   I’ll moderate, and will, of course, be critiquing extensively also.

6.   Before I get a workshop going, though, I’ll deal with submissions personally, through emails; and even after I set up virtual workshops, I’ll continue offering this personal service, for writers who aren’t interested in workshops.

7. I’ll probably use PayPal, since this is apparently the easiest way to set up payment of fees.   I’ll charge so much per document, with a page limit, of course (probably 20 or so double-spaced per doc).  

8.   For workshops, I’ll probably charge per Workshop (where the writer commits to, say, a six-week period, and can submit a maximum of, say, 10 documents during that period) instead of per document.

9.   I have no idea right now what the charge will be, but it will be reasonable, given that we’re all now officially broke.  

10. Perhaps later this month I’ll ask for a guinea pig or two or three: a couple of souls willing to submit work (original, of course).   Drawbacks: You’ll be helping me  iron out the kinks in the system;  I won’t know what I’m doing, re the workshop software, etc., and I need to practice.    Advantages:  When it comes to  critiquing fiction, I do  know what I’m doing, and for  these guinea pigs, I’ll be doing it for  free.   Offer ends when the Workshop business gets underway.

11.   Any suggestions welcome.   Has anyone actually taken an online workshop?    Do my ideas seem sound?   Let me know.


ATTENTION: GUINEA PIG WORKSHOP IS NOW FULL (12/27/2008).   We should get underway in a week or so. If everything works out, I plan to begin offering for-pay workshops (both group and individual) in late January or early February 2009.