Saturday, June 04, 2005

C. Michael Curtis, Senior Editor of the Atlantic Monthly to host a Wilderness House Lunch

Littleton MA - Wilderness House Literary Retreat continues its tradition by presenting

?Lunch with C. Michael Curtis?

A casual chat over lunch with author and renowned editor C. Michael Curtis. Wilderness House is an exceptional location in which to talk about reading, writing and life over lunch. Bring your favorite stories to read or just come, listen and feast.

C. Michael Curtis edits virtually all Atlantic fiction, the Letters to the Editor, and other pieces. He also screens book-length first serial submissions and most unsolicited stories, which number some 12,000 manuscripts annually. Under his direction The Atlantic Monthly's fiction is nominated for a National Magazine Award virtually every year; in 1988 The Atlantic won this prestigious prize. Year after year short stories from the magazine are chosen for inclusion in the important annual prize collections. Curtis himself was the editor of American Stories: Fiction From The Atlantic Monthly, which was published in 1990. A second volume came out the following year, and 1992 saw the publication of Contemporary New England Stories. A companion volume, Contemporary West Coast Stories, was published in the fall of 1993. A fifth collection, entitled God: Stories, was published in December, 1998, by Houghton Mifflin, and a companion anthology, Faith: Stories, was published in 2003, also by Houghton Mifflin. His own essays, articles, reviews, and poems have been published in The Atlantic, The New Republic, National Review, and Sport, among other periodicals. Curtis is also renowned for his teaching: he has taught creative writing, ethics, grammar, and other subjects for more than thirty years at Harvard, MIT, Cornell, Tufts, Boston University, Bennington, and elsewhere.

Curtis earned a B.A. in English from Cornell in 1956. He came to The Atlantic in 1963 after four years of study toward a Ph.D. in government, also at Cornell. Previously he had worked as a reporter for The Ithaca Journal, and as an editorial assistant at Newsweek. While he was a graduate student, The Atlantic Monthly published three of his poems and employed him briefly as a summer reader.

Curtis lives in Littleton, Massachusetts, with his wife, Elizabeth Cox, a novelist and teacher of creative writing at Duke, Bennington, Michigan, MIT, Boston University, Tufts, and elsewhere.

June 26th from 11 A.M. till 2 P.M.
$25 per person, limited to 20 participants.

The event will take place in Wilderness House, 32 Foster Street, Littleton MA

2 Comments:

At 11:30 AM, Blogger Doug said...

The Wilderness House Literary Retreat Hosts Atlantic fiction editor C. Michael Curtis.

On a sweltering early summer morning Somerville poet Linda Haviland Conte and I were ferried by golf cart up a long and winding forested hill to the ?Wilderness House Literary Retreat,? in Littleton, Mass, to spend the day with C. Michael Curtis, the fiction editor of ?The Atlantic? magazine. ?The Atlantic? is moving from its long-time home in Boston to Washington, D.C. It will now be publishing its fiction and poetry in one large annual issue; rather than individual issues. C. Michael Curtis, who will edit this annual, gave the group in attendance a sneak preview of the issue and an illuminating discussion of his life in the rarefied environs of the literary world.

Curtis was peppered with many questions from an inquisitive audience. He was asked about his relationship with late poetry editor of ?The Atlantic,? Peter Davison. Curtis met Davison in 1961 at Cornell University when Curtis was a student. It seems that Davison was in town for an Anne Sexton reading. Curtis managed to arrange a dinner meeting with Davison. He showed Davison a few of his poems, and the poetry editor took them back to Boston. Favorably impressed, Davison offered Curtis an intern or as it was called then a ?summer reader,? position. This lead to Curtis? long affair with The Atlantic. He left Cornell just shy of his PhD, and never went back. Curtis remained friends with Davison over the years in spite of breaking Davison?s rib in a touch football game one Cambridge afternoon.

In his long career at the magazine Curtis has edited the works of many notable authors. On one rare occasion he had to tell John Updike that one of his pieces ?didn?t work.? Fortunately Updike was in agreement. A young John Sayles, (the noted indie filmmaker), was very offended by some minor changes Curtis made in his manuscript. It seems that Sayles had substituted dashes for quotations. Curtis naturally changed them back to standard
quotes. Sayles took strong exception; telling Curtis that he does everything for a reason. Sayles was ready to withdraw his work. Curtis left the dashes in.

After a hearty lunch with retreat participants, Curtis talked about what he looks for in a manuscript. Since ?The Atlantic? gets up to 12,000 submissions a year, quick decisions must be made. Curtis said there are a few things that will undermine a writer?s chances. Misspelled words, bad grammar, adjectives in front of every noun, putting words in caps, overuse of the ellipsis, and the use of the present tense. Curtis feels that the use of the present often makes the work seem affected. Curtis said that in the cover letter that accompanies the manuscript the writer should never explain his story. This is a sure mark of an amateur. A good writer will realize the reader will discover this on his own. Oddly enough Curtis has received manuscripts that included a number of rejection slips from top shelf magazines. This, he said, is a poor advertisement for a writer?s work. Curtis also made it clear that he is not impressed by trendy writing. But he always likes to see well-constructed and coherent sentences. He also looks for an authentic voice and authentic dialogue in the work he reviews.

Curtis believes that an editor can make enormous improvements to a book. Curtis works on the grammar, syntax, and transitions in a story so it will flow. However, he is careful not to edit out the ?voice? of the writer. He feels that it is possible we may never know the true voice of authors like Thomas Wolfe, who was heavily edited by Maxwell Perkins.

For the aspiring writer, Curtis is strongly in favor of MFA writing programs. He said: ?A lot of the stuff we publish comes from writers in MFA programs. Writers in MFA programs are the ones who are going to stay with it.?

As Linda and I left the retreat, we were met by a group of wild turkeys that had roamed on to the grounds. Perhaps they heard about this literary talk. After all, I?ve heard it said more than once that ?Literature is for the birds.?

Doug Holder

 
At 11:30 AM, Blogger Doug said...

The Wilderness House Literary Retreat Hosts Atlantic fiction editor C. Michael Curtis.

On a sweltering early summer morning Somerville poet Linda Haviland Conte and I were ferried by golf cart up a long and winding forested hill to the ?Wilderness House Literary Retreat,? in Littleton, Mass, to spend the day with C. Michael Curtis, the fiction editor of ?The Atlantic? magazine. ?The Atlantic? is moving from its long-time home in Boston to Washington, D.C. It will now be publishing its fiction and poetry in one large annual issue; rather than individual issues. C. Michael Curtis, who will edit this annual, gave the group in attendance a sneak preview of the issue and an illuminating discussion of his life in the rarefied environs of the literary world.

Curtis was peppered with many questions from an inquisitive audience. He was asked about his relationship with late poetry editor of ?The Atlantic,? Peter Davison. Curtis met Davison in 1961 at Cornell University when Curtis was a student. It seems that Davison was in town for an Anne Sexton reading. Curtis managed to arrange a dinner meeting with Davison. He showed Davison a few of his poems, and the poetry editor took them back to Boston. Favorably impressed, Davison offered Curtis an intern or as it was called then a ?summer reader,? position. This lead to Curtis? long affair with The Atlantic. He left Cornell just shy of his PhD, and never went back. Curtis remained friends with Davison over the years in spite of breaking Davison?s rib in a touch football game one Cambridge afternoon.

In his long career at the magazine Curtis has edited the works of many notable authors. On one rare occasion he had to tell John Updike that one of his pieces ?didn?t work.? Fortunately Updike was in agreement. A young John Sayles, (the noted indie filmmaker), was very offended by some minor changes Curtis made in his manuscript. It seems that Sayles had substituted dashes for quotations. Curtis naturally changed them back to standard
quotes. Sayles took strong exception; telling Curtis that he does everything for a reason. Sayles was ready to withdraw his work. Curtis left the dashes in.

After a hearty lunch with retreat participants, Curtis talked about what he looks for in a manuscript. Since ?The Atlantic? gets up to 12,000 submissions a year, quick decisions must be made. Curtis said there are a few things that will undermine a writer?s chances. Misspelled words, bad grammar, adjectives in front of every noun, putting words in caps, overuse of the ellipsis, and the use of the present tense. Curtis feels that the use of the present often makes the work seem affected. Curtis said that in the cover letter that accompanies the manuscript the writer should never explain his story. This is a sure mark of an amateur. A good writer will realize the reader will discover this on his own. Oddly enough Curtis has received manuscripts that included a number of rejection slips from top shelf magazines. This, he said, is a poor advertisement for a writer?s work. Curtis also made it clear that he is not impressed by trendy writing. But he always likes to see well-constructed and coherent sentences. He also looks for an authentic voice and authentic dialogue in the work he reviews.

Curtis believes that an editor can make enormous improvements to a book. Curtis works on the grammar, syntax, and transitions in a story so it will flow. However, he is careful not to edit out the ?voice? of the writer. He feels that it is possible we may never know the true voice of authors like Thomas Wolfe, who was heavily edited by Maxwell Perkins.

For the aspiring writer, Curtis is strongly in favor of MFA writing programs. He said: ?A lot of the stuff we publish comes from writers in MFA programs. Writers in MFA programs are the ones who are going to stay with it.?

As Linda and I left the retreat, we were met by a group of wild turkeys that had roamed on to the grounds. Perhaps they heard about this literary talk. After all, I?ve heard it said more than once that ?Literature is for the birds.?

Doug Holder

 

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