Wednesday, April 15, 2009

as promised: writers' websites, pt. I

Wednesday, April 15, 2009
i'll just get to it. (sadly, this is turning into a writers' website bitchfest rather than a list of awesome sites. it'll get there, really...)

Kao Kalia Yang: you Minnesota MFAers should recognize this lady. you might also remember that her agent or publisher or whoever commended her impressive website during the talk we went to during the recruitment weekend. i enjoyed her reading a lot, by the way, and should put her book, the latehomecomer, on my list. well, here it is! my impression: it's just a teeny, tiny bit overdone. (understatement for comic effect, anyone?) still, i like the feel and believe it's appropriate to the persona she's trying to sell (not that i don't think that's who she really is--but everyone needs a little polish to be saleable).

she's a new writer, so she doesn't have much in the way of credits. her bio is very internal and romantic, which i can appreciate, though it's a little more flowery (and less edited) than i prefer. i dislike that you have to click through to get excerpts and descriptions of things; it's a flaw of the very limited space the layout affords for content. however, maybe the layout was chosen to make very little content look more substantial than it is. maybe this is good advice for a new writer?

Steve Almond and Kelly Link both have a handful of books in print; they also seem to both design their websites around their latest release. interesting tactic, and of course completely useless for writers without novels or collections out. i'm not sure how i feel about this strategy, either; i have a feeling it's directed more at vendors, agents, publishers, reviewers, etc. then again, i guess it's a good reminder for existing fans that they have new work available. i don't know, but i'd like the website to represent, both in terms of visual effect and content, the writers themselves (if that makes sense) rather than simply their latest work. i want to get a sense of the source of the work rather than the product itself, which is easy enough to obtain at a bookstore. does anyone know what i'm talking about?

Amy Hempel apparently does not have her own website but does have a Wikipedia entry... and a MySpace page. wtf srsly?

does Julie Orringer really not have her own website? if she did, it would be linked on her Wikipedia page, wouldn't it? i thought maybe it was an SEO issue, but...

i saw Yiyun Li read from her new novel, The Vagrants, at the san francisco public library a few months ago. her website is super clean and straightforward. i guess her work speaks for itself; she's on her second book, first novel, now, and both seem to have gotten a lot of extremely good press. the site is well designed, and i don't think it lacks any information a reader might want. the header image is artistic but subtle and sophisticated; i think it reflects her well. i kind of hate those little tabby navigation things at the top, though.

...and Wells Tower doesn't have a website yet, either? am i crazy, or didn't i read that he is getting some crazy six-figure advance for a collection of short stories? maybe it (the website) is in the works.

i am embarrassingly poorly read, but i knew i recognized Po Bronson's name. turns out it's because he founded The Grotto, a writers' community in san francisco, and not because i've ever read anything of his. anyhow, his website is pretty damn confusing at first glance. what the hell? i didn't even know whether i was in the right place until i had clicked two links. boo. and the header "navigation" is way too colorful to look professional. double boo.

Alexi Zentner
is someone i heard of originally on the Poets and Writers Speakeasy forum and whose name subsequently came up as the winner of a Narrative contest. fancy. his website is probably a good example of a new writer's. writer's bio on the front page, a more personal history on the bio page, an excerpt from a published, prize-winning story. i question his choice of pictures, though. there are only a few (the dark, dramatic on on the front page, a cute family one on the bio page, and then the very very cute ones of his little girls on the contact page) and the latter seem to clash with the overall dark, gritty design of the website. confusing. o_0 i also wonder a little bit about who this website is for. agents, probably? someone should tell him his website seems to be having some architectural issues (as evidenced by the url of the link above).

DISCLAIMER: none of my reviews of these websites have any influence on what i think of these writers qua writers. i just think every good writer should have a good website that accurately reflects their talents and represents them well. it just doesn't happen often enough, apparently. is no one making a shit-ton of money on this market yet? (yeah, like writers have wads of cash lying around for web designers.)


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