Reading and writing for writing readers and reading writers:

Poets & Writers is the bimonthly magazine of "a saintly little service organization for writers across the country," in E.L. Doctorow's words. It's a storehouse of information about grants, awards, fellowships, workshops, publications and other inside business (the work of Poets & Writers Inc.) as well as a serious magazine about the writing life. The November-December issue, marking P&W's 20th year, offers stories on international censorship (and jail) problems, the travails of riding the reading circuit, a loooong interview with "Oldest Living Confederate Widow's" Allan Gurganus, and advice on dealing with the friend who asks you to read her manuscript. Not to be confused with the popular 'zines that offer tips on suspenseful plotting, overcoming writer's block, and effective cover letters to publishing houses, Poets & Writers is available for $18 a year from 72 Spring St. New York, N.Y. 10012.

The Letter Exchange is a cross between a periodical and a post office box, equivalent to a personals classified section except that the idea is explicitly not to meet the mate or frolic of your dreams but to find the pen pal of your dreams. Letter Exchange members buy a few lines in the magazine to say such things as "7222. Stephen King fans. Let's discuss." and "4679. Is this all there is?" and "5651. Seeking: University professor to review subliminal/visual space-time dynamics of linear drawing and alphabetic writing as an historic cultural response to the Sun since the time of early man." Hundreds of these, in categories from religion to humor to the intriguing "ghost letters" section, in which correspondents volunteer to impersonate fictional or imaginary characters in their correspondence. Sounds like the outline of a Stephen King novel, or better. For information or a one-year subscription (three issues, $16) write the Letter Exchange, P.O. Box 6218, Albany, Calif. 94706.

Belles Lettres is a quarterly review of books by women. Now five years old, the magazine regularly features interviews with women writers (in recent issues, Marge Piercy, Marilynne Robinson, Maxine Hong Kingston, Alison Lurie), retrospectives of prominent ones and rediscoveries of forgotten ones, as well as special sections on cultural, ethnic or other genres -- in the fall issue, for instance, Jewish women's writing, and in the new winter number, Soviet women's writing. The "Southern Hemisphere" section regularly spotlights women's literature from the Third World. Although it's headquartered in suburban Washington, for a year's subscription, you send $20 ($40 for institutions) to Belles Lettres, 785 Verbenia Dr., Satellite Beach, Fla. 32937.

Stone Soup is a lovely little magazine of art and writing by children -- not just for children, but by children. Stories, poems, sketches, paintings -- egad, even book reviews. There's plenty of topicality (in the current issue, earthquake, crime and homelessness) along with eternal themes like friendship, fantasy and fate. You subscribe (five issues a year, $22) by joining the Children's Art Foundation, Box 83, Santa Cruz, Calif. 95063.

Brussels Pouts

American lawyers and lobbyists have been salivating over the tempting new opportunities for influence-mongering in Europe, particularly in Brussels, where the European Community's governing bodies do most of their business. According to a searing report in this week's Legal Times (Dec. 3), however, the ways of K Street and Capitol Hill are winning United States law, lobbying and PR firms few friends and little influence in polite society across the Atlantic.

"We don't like to be pressured," said Bruno Julien, spokesman for the European Commission, "Americans pressure people, and it's counterproductive. Americans are too direct and too brash."

Among the lessons of the last several years, as the U.S. legal and lobbying presence in Brussels has mushroomed, is that European parliamentarians and bureaucrats would rather deal with fellow Europeans, despite the centuries-old and persistent animosities that divide the continent. This supposed preference tends to be articulated by Europeans who happen to be offering those very services, but there's more to it than that.

Sheila Kaplan of Legal Times recounts several episodes of "excess and strategic miscalculation" that typify the European revolt against practices that are commonplace over here.

In one case, IBM helpfully provided a member of the European parliament with a draft of a bill as the corporation preferred the legislation written, Kaplan reports. "The member, unused to such largess, handed it around without checking the draft and was practically hooted out of the room when his colleagues saw that the draft was on IBM stationery." In another case, Monsanto flew a key parliamentarian on a tour of its U.S. facilities to favorably dispose him toward its interests; when news of the boondoggle got around, the parliamentarian turned against his corporate wooer.

Some Eurocrats, Kaplan says, have put out the word that "they are going to be too busy for lunch, dinner, or cafe' and croissant with any American lobbyist until sometime after 1992."


Charles de Gaulle is getting centennial treatment in France this year, and thus in France as well. The French government's lively English-language magazine offers an American correspondent's memoir of covering the hero of modern France (by Ronald Koven, formerly of The Washington Post) and a scholar's reflections on de Gaulle as historic figure (by Nicholas Wahl, of New York University). For a free subscription to France, write La Maison Francaise, 4101 Reservoir Rd. NW, Washington, D.C. 20007 ... Ten years ago this week Maura Clarke, Dorothy Kazel, Ita Ford and Jean Donovan were murdered on a roadside in El Salvador. The December Sojourners remembers the martyred Maryknoll sisters and lay worker, former U.S. ambassador Robert White's recollections of the tragedy, and the Ford family's continuing vigil for justice, even as the El Salvador struggle continues. (One year, $27: Sojourners, Box 29272, Washington, D.C. 20017.)