It’s Friday. The weekend beckons. Here are a few things I’ve been reading lately that are good enough to bookmark, highlight, and revisit – in a comfy chair, perhaps, with coffee close at hand:

Interview with Cheryl Strayed (The Great Discontent)

I’ve had this interview on a tab in my browser for several days. I keep going back to it, re-reading a line here or there. It’s long – you’ll want to carve out a chunk of time for it – but full of goodness. Here’s one:

“What I’ve really learned in my 43 years is that the body does not lie; the body actually tells you what’s right and wrong. If you get a sinking feeling in your stomach or a heavy heart about something, you shouldn’t do it; and if you get a lifting, light feeling in your body, you should.”

I know this to be true, even though I don’t always follow it.

How I Got A Big Advance from a Big Publisher and Self-Published Anyway by Penelope Trunk

A riveting take on one writer’s experience in navigating the publishing world. I snorted when I read this:

“It takes a print publisher about a year to publish a book, after it is written. It’s unclear what the publishers are doing during this time.”

Her “new rules for book publishing” are worth a close read, and while her path isn’t for everyone, it demonstrates that in 2012, there are PATHS. Plural. The fact that authors can self-publish alone, or self-publish with a team, or run a Kickstarter campaign, or publish with an indie press, or go the traditional route – there are more options than ever before. And THAT is all kinds of exciting.

Traveling Southwards, by Andrew O’Hagan (London Review of Books)

Every time I see a reference to Shades of Grey, or one of its spawn, I die a little bit inside. But there is one thing that DOES intrigue me about it, and that is that MILLIONS of people are reading it. Who are they? What are their lives like that this book titillates them so? Andrew O’Hagan doesn’t answer my questions, exactly, but he offers an interesting take on the phenomenon.

“Each era gets the erotic writing it craves, or deserves, if that doesn’t sound too much like I’m asking you to spank me into an ecstasy of submission.”

Letter From the Pulitzer Prize Fiction Jury: What Really Happened This Year by Michael Cunningham (The New Yorker)

This might be better classified as reading about reading, but I’ve been dying to know what happened with the Pulitzer Prize debacle. After all, isn’t it their job to award a prize? It turns out that the answer is a complicated one, but the real reason to read this piece is the tantalizing bits about the literary proclivities of the three judges:

Maureen was drawn to writers who told a gripping and forceful story… Susan was a tough-minded romantic. She wanted to fall in love with a book… I was the language crank, the one who swooned over sentences. I could forgive much in a book if it was written with force and beauty, if its story was told in a voice unlike anything I’d heard before, if the writer was finding new and mesmerizing ways to employ the same words that have been available to all American writers for hundreds of years.

Some of his observations terrified me. Like this one:

I lobbied to eliminate another because its language was sometimes strong and sometimes indifferent…I insisted that although there were plenty of good lines, there were simply too many slack, utilitarian ones.

He does offer some in-depth speculation about why the prize wasn’t awarded, the sum of which is that they felt “meh” about their options. We may never know for sure. But enough of my highlights. Just read it.

Write Like a Motherfucker by Dear Sugar (The Rumpus)

Two Cheryl-Strayed-related pieces in one short list might not seem fair, but I read this last night before I fell asleep, and this stuck with me:

“The only way you’ll find out if you “have it in you” is to get to work and see if you do. The only way to override your “limitations, insecurities, jealousies, and ineptitude” is to produce. You have limitations. You are in some ways inept. This is true of every writer…”

Happy reading.