A to Z Challenge! On AWARDS

Today is the start of the A to Z Challenge! It's my first time, so I hope I can pace myself. I'm #1157 in the lineup-yow! I'll talk about something fun today-AWARDS! You know you love them. So you want to concentrate on your writing, and honing your story so it sings and has razor-edge tension. And you're not supposed to concentrate on perks like getting reviews and readers and peer recognition. But an award doesn't hurt, does it? I'll never forget in my junior year of high school, getting the creative writing award and standing up on that stage, my knobby knees knocking; and later, getting my first NYPL Best Book for Teens award for Refugees, which carried me through difficult writing times and revision h*ll.
So, yeah, concentrate on crafting three-dimensional characters and a strong story, but don't forget to award yourself a pat on the back, or throw a party to celebrate that first finished draft.

Speaking of awards, I'm going to do some award-giving right now!
I'm feeling extra generous today, so... drum roll please.... the TWO winners of my free 25-page YA sci-fi manuscript evaluation are Margo Rowder and Debbie Davies!
Can't wait to read your pieces! (Send 'em as doc or docx attachments)

Freaky Hybrid Award
Now for my 2nd round of awards! The Freaky Hybrid Awards go to... (Told you I was feeling generous) Three creative thinkers from my last Fireseed Tour stop at Wistful Nebulae where we played Hybrid Mashups:
1. Allan Douglas for his genetically engineered trees that when planted in a pattern grow into a building that would be self-repairing!
2. SUZE for her new kind of "YEAR OF" mashup, with the year of the Bioengineering, Year of Self-Reproducing Automata, and Year of Neural Implant Connectivity
3. Misha Gericke for a chocolate and veggie hybrid that allows one to get the vitamins while indulging a chocolate fix!
What's been your most meaningful award so far? Most prized achievement? Gift to yourself for reaching a challenging goal? Favorite award you've given out to another person? A to Zers and everyone else, let's hear yours!

Winner announced - Ubud Writers & Readers Festival 2012 Poster Competition


The theme of the UWRF 2012 is Bumi Manusia: This Earth of Mankind, taken from the title of one of the great Indonesian writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer's epic works.

The theme proved an inspirational stimulus to artists spread across Indonesia while entries were also received from Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Canada. A record number of 46 beautifully conceived and detailed submissions were recorded and the interpretations of the theme were diverse and moving.
Said Janet de Neefe "Making decisions of this kind always involves passionate debate and energetic argument. I was aided in this process by Cuban illustrator and beloved guest of the UWRF 2011 program, Edel Rodriguez and our own Executive Producer, Jane Fuller. Happily, the decision was unanimous and I am overjoyed to announce that the winner of the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival 2012 Poster Design Competition is Torro (ruang imagi). We thank all the brilliant artists and designers who opened their hearts and their imaginations to embrace our theme. We fell in love with every page turned, with every vision shared, but ultimately there was one that took or breath away."
If the name ruang imagi seems familiar, it may well be because he was the winner of the 2011 competition and the lyrical and compelling graphic created for that event will remain as the hero image in 2012. Now it will be joined by a figure of surpassing   beauty and grace, combining intricate traditional motifs with an intensity of colour and at the centre, the book, the symbol of storytelling that lies at the heart of Pramoedya's iconic work.

Torro is a 27 year old illustrator/graphic designer from Bantul , Jogjakarta. He studied Visual Communication in Institut Seni Indonesia, Jogjakarta. He and his wife are on the way to make their dream into reality, making an art foundation for children in his hometown. His haunting submission captures the gaze of the viewer. Torro describes his artwork as Nyai Ontosoroh's face, a character from Pramoedya Ananta Toer's book, This Earth of Mankind. The winning design may be viewed via the UWRF's Facebook and Twitter accounts and the posters will dominate Ubud's streetscape from August 2012
The winning design may be viewed via the UWRF's Facebook and Twitter accounts and the posters will dominate Ubud's streetscape from August 2012.


'Mommy porn’ – I don’t buy that

The latest erotic publishing sensation in the US is Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James, which features bondage and masochism.
The prospect of harnessing, and igniting, female sexual desire has long prompted feverish responses – and many disappointed business ventures, says Jojo Moyes, above - 'Mommy porn’ – I don’t buy that
The prospect of harnessing, and igniting, female sexual desire has long prompted feverish responses – and many disappointed business ventures, says Jojo Moyes, above Photo: Martin Pope
A famous Seventies advertisement for hairspray features a man watching admiringly as a woman with swinging hair and an enigmatic smile walks past. It bore the tag line: ''Is she or isn’t she?”
If the hype is to be believed, we may soon be wondering the same about the enigmatically smiling female readers of Fifty Shades of Grey, an erotic novel by E L James that is, apparently, resurrecting dormant sexual desires in American women.
Grey has topped the New York Times bestseller list and the planned trilogy has garnered the English-born author a seven-figure publishing contract. The film rights went for a reputed $5 million last week, ahead of publication here next month. Not bad for something that started as a piece of fan-fiction published free online.

The novel follows the sexually charged relationship between a student, Anastasia Steele, and a “dashing but damaged” young entrepreneur, Christian Grey and centres on their BDSM (bondage domination, submission and masochism) activities. It is bracingly euphemism-free – few “tidal waves” or “manhoods” here. Chat rooms are alive with discussions about what is being described as ''mommy porn’’ or “the pornography that it is acceptable to be seen reading”. The feminist website Jezebel notes that its astonishing 16,000 reader reviews on Goodreads are split between those who see it as “a flawless rendering of the internal, psychological struggles of a novice submissive in a BDSM relationship” and those who dismiss it as “poorly written” and “utterly ridiculous.” It is certainly unintentionally funny. Will I ever read a less erotic sentence than: “My medulla oblongata has neglected to fire any synapses to make me breathe”?
The prospect of harnessing, and igniting, female sexual desire has long prompted feverish responses – and many disappointed business ventures (Playgirl or The Erotic Review anyone? Female Viagra?). But as the growth in popularity of the e-reader allows women to read literary porn in secret – Mills & Boon is now publishing more risque novels digitally than in print – the idea of a nation of women secretly being turned on to some light bondage is more fun than discussions about quantitative easing. The truth is, however, that Grey is far from radical. So when publishing executives state with breathless certainty that this is “the future of female erotica”, this particular female replies, just as breathlessly, oh really?
Read the full story at The Telegraph.
Book One of the trilogy is being released by Random House NZ 5 April.
The Bookman has almost finished book three and will be commenting in the next few days.

Ernest Hemingway shows soft side in newly public letters at the Kennedy presidential library

Art Daily News

A portion of an Aug. 6, 1953, letter handwritten by Ernest Hemingway to his Italian friend Gianfranco Ivancich. AP Photo/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

By: Bridget Murphy, Associated Press

BOSTON (AP).- Ernest Hemingway shows a tenderness that wasn't part of his usual macho persona in a dozen unpublished letters that became publicly available Wednesday in a collection of the author's papers at the Kennedy presidential library. In a letter to his friend Gianfranco Ivancich written in Cuba and dated February 1953, Hemingway wrote of euthanizing his cat "Uncle Willie" after it was hit by a car. "Certainly missed you. Miss Uncle Willie. Have had to shoot people but never anyone I knew and loved for eleven years," the author wrote. "Nor anyone that purred with two broken legs." The letters span from 1953 to 1960, a year before the prize-winning writer's suicide. Whether typed or written in his curly script, some of the dispatches ... More

This black and white photo from the mid-1900's, released by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston on Wednesday, March 28, 2012, shows Ernest Hemingway, second from right, and Gianfranco Ivancich, right, dining with an unidentified woman, left, wife Mary Hemingway, second from left, and Juan "Sinsky" Dunabeitia, center at Hemingway's villa Finca Vigia in San Francisco de Paula, Cuba. The museum made public on Wednesday a dozen previously unpublished letters Hemingway wrote to Ivancich. Experts say the letters demonstrate tenderness in Hemingway’s character that wasn’t necessarily part of his public persona. (AP Photo/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. 

SKIING THE EDGE with Jules Older

In December, Jules Older published SKIING THE EDGE, an ebook of powerful ski and snowboard stories by 20 outstanding ski writers in Canada, Great Britain and the USA.

Now, he's determined to publish SKIING THE EDGE, Volume 2. But he can't do it without funding.

Jules finally found a potential funding source called Kickstarter. It's a highly regarded, effective, trusted Digital Age micro-philanthropy. It's one of the original and most successful crowdfunders. 

Projects accepted by Kickstarter have a goal and a deadline. The goal is how much money the project aims to raise. The deadline is the date-certain by which it must be raised — otherwise, all pledged funds return to the pledgers. There are delightful, tangible rewards for contributing as well as feel-good ones.
And SKIING THE EDGE, Volume 2 has been accepted by Kickstarter.

The very first pledge came from New Zealand… from a Kiwi psychiatrist who took Jules' course at Otago Medical School, lo these many years ago. 

The Kickstarter goal is a modest $11,000. The deadline is Sunday April 29, 11:19am PDT.

Here's the link:


And here's the link to an article on Jules and the project from the sports editor of the San Francisco Chronicle:

Jules says, "Have a look at the sites, and if you're so moved, please pledge. Then, please tell your friends, followers, anyone you know who might be interested to follow your lead. Kickstarter and websites like it may a whole new way to get arts projects funded." 


'Hunger Games' Set to Crush 'Titans'

Viewers still have an appetite for The Hunger Games in its second weekend, as it's set to devour the debuts of Wrath of the Titans and Mirror Mirror.
 The Hunger Games likely pulled in more than $20 million on Friday alone, while Wrath grossed $11 million and Mirror Mirror made less than $7 million.
That means The Hunger Games is headed for another massive weekend, putting its 10-day domestic debut at more than $250 million.
March 31, 2012 

Piper Steps Down From Bethlehem Anabaptist Church, Minneapolis, MN

Sorry, John, ya' ain't important...at all.  The Word and Sacraments are very serious rather than enthusiasms.  Your disappearance won't mean alot for the studious, thinking, reading and thoughtful Bible readers, Confessionalists, and Prayer Book students.  Bye John.  We suspect you'll be active on the Baptyerian front, like Lig Duncan's good old boy network at ACE.  Or, with the front

Untangling family roots - Sebastian Barry

By Stephen Jewell - NZ Herald - Saturday Mar 31, 2012
Dublin-born Sebastian Barry, who is visiting Auckland in May for the Writers & Readers Festival, says the subtle connections between his works were arrived at purely by chance. Photo / Supplied
Dublin-born Sebastian Barry, who is visiting Auckland in May for the Writers & Readers Festival, says the subtle connections between his works were arrived at purely by chance. 

Irish author's books have teased out his ancestors' 'intricate web of secrets'.

Talking to Sebastian Barry is like digging up the roots of his family tree. I only have to ask the Dublin-born author about his most recent book, last year's On Canaan's Side, and he branches off on a tangent about his grandparents or his youthful road trip across America.
But, from his 1995 play The Steward of Christendom to his 2008 Costa Award-winning novel The Secret Scripture, most of his stories have been thinly veiled biographies of those closest to him.
"It shows how terribly one-minded I've been, always writing about the same people," says the 56-year-old. "In a way, they all tie in together because they're about the two sides of my family that didn't unite, as it were, until my parents married, so they kind of swim around in that great pool of relatedness.
"There are still some unwritten books, which will hopefully remain so when the two strands join together, but in that sense they'll all turn out to be related at some point in the future."
Scheduled to visit Auckland in May for the Writers & Readers Festival, Barry was last in New Zealand in 1996 when The Steward of Christendom was staged in Wellington at the International Festival of Arts. "I was enchanted by the place ... I suppose it was that usual thing of it being so far away but so familiar."
Full story at New Zealand Herald

Adrienne Rich, Beyond the Anger

By DAVID ORR -Published New York Times: March 30, 2012 

American poets rarely become public figures, and those who do — Allen Ginsberg, Robert Frost — usually pay a price for it. Sometimes that price is measured in a temporary decline in their literary reputation (other poets find fame hard to forgive), but more often it’s a simple matter of becoming papered over with expectations. The more the public looks at a poet, the harder she becomes to see.
Right - Stuart Ramson/Associated Press - Adrienne Rich in 2006.

So it would be good to remember that while Adrienne Rich, who died on Tuesday at 82, was indeed an inspiring cultural force, she was at bottom a writer of poems. And the defiant political stands for which she became famous are entirely consistent with that identity and its long American heritage. (John Greenleaf Whittier was inveighing against slavery in his poems at considerable personal risk right before the Civil War.) But for Ms. Rich, as for any real poet, the question is always: How do we read her work not as social history, but as poetry?   

Full story at The New York Times     

WSC 21: The "Only Redeemer" of "God's Elect"

From our beloved Catechism with words to remember and digest.

A prudent post at: http://www.thisday.pcahistory.org/?p=263

One can sum up the Reformed faith by listing five “only’s” — only Scripture, only Christ, only grace, only faith, and only to the glory of God. We look today at the second “only” in “Only Christ.” The apostle Paul would remind us in 1 Timothy 2:5 that “there is

TBN Bimbo, Paula White: ER2, TD Jakes, & Baptacostals

Ken Silva of
Apprising Ministries offers his assessment of ER2, TD Jakes, and Benny Hinn’s
girl-friend, Paul White.  We offer our comments in red.



Consultations on Canterbury: 39 Articles and Westminster Confession?

We have our own questions.  (1) Use of the 1662 BCP. (2)  39 Articles.  (3) Westminster Confession of Faith. (4) Hermeneutics. (5) If not the 39 Articles, old 1662 BCP, and Westminster Confession, why not?  What's the problem, Rowan, or the successor? (6)  If the English Church can't answer these questions, why not?  Where's the theological inquiry on these things?  Must we draw our own

Storylines awards to writers announced

Two national writing awards, one for unpublished authors, was announced by the Storylines Children's Literature Charitable Trust at its annual Margaret Mahy Day today, Saturday 31 March 2012.

Rachel Stedman, from Dunedin, has won the Storylines Tessa Duder Award the manuscript of a young adult novel by a previously unpublished author.
Rachel is a trained physiotherapist with two sons. Her work has appeared in e-zines and in the School Journal, but her first young adult novel will be published by HarperCollins Publishers in 2013.
The Storylines Tessa Duder Award honours not only the writing of Tessa Duder, but her tireless work behind the scenes, supporting New Zealand children for children and, especially, young adults.
The inaugural winner of the Storylines Tessa Duder Award, Hugh Brown, will also be attending the Storylines Margaret Mahy Dad, where his first novel, Reach, will be launched by the award sponsor, HarperCollins Publishers.
The Storylines Joy Cowley Award for a picture book text is open to any writer, published or not, has this year been won by an unpublished author.
Isaac Drought, a Taranaki intermediate school teacher, spent six years in Indonesia and has long dreamt of becoming a children's author. Isaac's award-winning picture book will be launched at the Storylines Festival in August 2013.
The Storylines Joy Cowley Award is sponsored by Scholastic New Zealand. The award is named in honour of one of New Zealand's most passionate advocates for children's literacy, Joy Cowley - as a writer, reader, parent and influential voice. Previous winners have included Lucy Davey and New Zealand Post Children's Book Award winner, Kyle Mewburn.

Iris's Ukulele by Kathy Taylor, will also be launched at the Storylines Margaret Mahy Day, as the 2011 winner of the Storylines Tom Fitzgibbon Award. This award honours the memory of the late Tom Fitzgibbon, academic and supporter of children's literature.

Andy Underhile: "T" of TULIP, Does it Matter Much?

Andy Underhile, a friend and fellow Churchman, a brother-elect in
Christ’s Majesty, a justified sinner, a wicked man but justified, a Calvinist, but better, he is a man with
biblical insight and has begun a series on TULIP. 

He develops the first point, “T” in his first post. See: http://andycontramundum.blogspot.com/2012/03/defining-t-in-tulip.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&

Pint-sized fiction at its best: Kevin Barry’s ‘Beer Trip to Llandudno’ wins the Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award 2012

 Kevin Barry. Photograph: Murdo Macleod

A story about a group of middle-aged men and their passion for authentic beer awarded the world’s most valuable short story prize. The Irish author Kevin Barry will be presented with a cheque for £30,000 by novelist and prize judge Joanna Trollope at a ceremony this evening at the Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival for his bittersweet tale of camaraderie amongst a group of ale aficionados. 

Melvyn Bragg, also on the judging panel, said that the story ‘takes a disregarded and often scorned stratum of male pals and finds wit, pathos and great energy there.’

Kevin Barry saw off competition from a shortlist that included compatriot and Room author Emma Donoghue, who is also currently longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction 2012 with The Sealed Letter. She and fellow shortlisted authors Jean Kwok, Tom Lee, Robert Minhinnick and Linda Oatman High each received £1000. Kevin Barry joins a winners circle of American Anthony Doerr who won the Award last year with his story ‘The Deep’ and New Zealander C K Stead who won the inaugural Award in 2010 with ‘Last Season’s Man’.

Hanif Kureishi, prize judge:
‘Our winning story performs a deft bit of alchemy, taking a very ordinary group of amateur ale connoisseurs and transforming them and their not instantly appealing tastes into something sweet, funny and unexpectedly moving. Barry follows the camaraderie and unique bond of these men on their train journey from Liverpool to Llandudno with a sensitivity that never transgresses into sentimentality.

It’s a beautifully constructed piece of writing that says something fresh about how men find comfort, support and humour in each other’s company. This is an astonishing story that is both daringly original and full of heart.’

The 2012 judges were: stage and screen actor Ian Hart; novelist Joanna Trollope; the playwright, screenwriter, novelist, short story writer and director Hanif Kureishi; novelist, screenwriter and broadcaster Melvyn Bragg; and Andrew Holgate, Literary Editor of The Sunday Times. Lord Matthew Evans, Chairman of EFG Private Bank, is the non-voting Chair of Judges.

Kevin Barry was longlisted for The Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award in 2011. His first short story collection, There Are Little Kingdoms (Stinging Fly Press), was published in 2007 and was awarded the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature. His first novel, City Of Bohane, was published in 2011 and was shortlisted for both the Costa First Novel Award and the Hughes and Hughes Irish Novel of the Year. Kevin’s stories have appeared in The New Yorker, the Granta Book of the Irish Short Story, and Best European Fiction 2011 among others and his plays have been produced in Ireland and the US. He lives in County Sligo, Ireland. His second short story collection, Dark Lies the Island (Jonathan Cape), which contains ‘Beer Trip to Llandudno’, will be published in April.

The five shortlisted writers this year each received £1,000 – double the 2011 prize money – as well as having their work published online and in a Waterstones anthology which is available to purchase for £2.99 in store and through waterstones.com 

Woody Allen Pursuing Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett

US film director Woody Allen (R) stands near US actor Jesse Eisenberg (L) and Canadian actress Ellen Page on the set of 'Bop Decameron', the cult filmmaker's latest production, at Campo de' Fiori square in central Rome, on July 28, 2011. The film's crew has been spotted everywhere from the Spanish Steps to the Colosseum to Rome's main shopping avenue, Via del Corso, and paparazzi have been kept busy chasing stars Alec Baldwin and Penelope Cruz. AFP PHOTO / TIZIANA FABI (Photo credit should read TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)Who does Woody Allen want to go abroad with for his next movie, which may be filmed in Copenhagen? Deadline reports that the 76-year-old Oscar winner is zeroing in on Bradley Cooper and Cate Blanchett for the film, though nothing is official yet and the title and plot line are typically under wraps; consider perusing Allen's back catalogue of stand-up comedy albums for clues, however. Good luck with your casting ambitions, Woody! Who wouldn't want to have a terrific time in Europe with Bradley Cooper and CaBla? (Finally, we got to use "CaBla"!)

9-Year-Old Author Throws Cupcake Book Party

By Jason Boog on Galley Cat, March 30, 2012

Nine-year-old author and cupcake blogger Carrie Berk just co-wrote Peace, Love and Cupcakes with her mom, Life & Style Weekly editor-in-chief Sheryl Berk.
To celebrate the release of the novel (published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky imprint), Berk (pictured) hosted a book party at Dylan’s Candy Bar in New York City. Author and cupcake blogger Rachel Kramer Bussel covered the event at Cupcakes Take the Cake.
Check it out: “[The book] is about a group of little girls who form a cupcake club at their school, start a cupcake business, fight bullies and have fun baking, decorating and learning about each other … [the candy store] was set up with a chocolate fountain where you could get Peeps, marshmallows, Rice Krispie treats, pretzels, strawberries or bananas dipped in it, a cupcaketini cocktail, which had Frangelico, Bailey’s and Kahlua (adults only, obviously) and adorable custom mini cupcakes courtesy of Georgetown Cupcake, which managed to replicate the book cover exactly, with glitter!”

Hitler’s Parents’ Grave Removed

Rudi Brandstaetter / AP Photo
Hitler’s Parents’ Grave Removed

See ya, skinheads. A neo-Nazi pilgrimage site is no more after officials in Austria said on Friday that a tombstone marking the grave of Hitler’s parents has been removed. The lease on the grave is reportedly up, as renting graves in increments of ten years is a common practice in Austria. A descendant of Hitler’s father’s first wife requested the removal, saying she’d had enough of it “being used for manifestations for sympathy” for the fascist leader and mass murderer. Neo-Nazi groups were reported to come to the grave to mark the site with flowers and Nazi paraphernalia.

CONTEST: Write the Worst Sentence in 25 Words

By Jason Boog on Galley Cat, March 30, 2012
Think you can write the world’s worst opening sentence in 25 words or less? You should enter the free Lyyttle Lytton contest.
Readers can submit their own writing or nominate someone else at this link. You must enter your terrible sentence before April 15th.
The contest was inspired by the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, a famous challenge to write the worst opening to a novel. Many of these winning entries are quite long, so the Lyyttle Lytton contest limits entries to 25-words or less. Writer Judy Dean won the 2011 Lyttle Lytton contest with this smoldering sentence: “The red hot sun rose in the cold blue sky.”

Founder Adam Cadre explained why Dean won last year:
First, you’ve got the eyeroll that comes from the ham-handed contrast between ‘red hot’ and ‘cold blue’ — and then a second later you realize that ‘red hot’ actually means a temperature of about 1000 kelvin, and is therefore hilariously inadequate as a descriptor of the sun, a gigantic nuclear furnace with a core temperature of roughly ten million kelvin. Intentionally writing a sentence that seems unintentionally bad is hard; writing one that suggests an author going for hyperbole and accidentally winding up with woeful understatement is masterful.

Former Goldman Sachs Executive Greg Smith Inks $1.5M Book Deal

By Dianna Dilworth on March 30, 2012  - Galley Cat

Greg Smith, the former Goldman Sachs executive director who quit his job earlier this month in a scathing New York Times op-ed, has reportedly landed a $1.5 million book deal with Hachette’s Grand Central imprint.
Apparently the book inspired a bidding war. Sarah Weinman and The Awl have raised another important question: Will the book earn back its advance? The news comes only days after news broke that literary agent Paul Fedorko was shopping the book.
The New York Post has more: “By Monday, with the price tag flirting with the $1 million mark, it was down to two bidders, Penguin and Hachette Book Group. Hachette’s Grand Central Publishing finally nailed the deal with a $1.5 million advance yesterday.”
In the op-ed, Smith blasted the company’s current management, who he claims has ruined the culture at the financial powerhouse. Here is more from his post: “To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money.”

SCOTUS Justices: Obamacare Vote 30 Mar 2012

Justice Kennedy
Potential swing voter
on Obamacare


Justice Kenney describes the "Conference Room" where Justices present their arguments.  On 30 Mar 2012, a vote was held on Obamacare, or, the Affordable Health Care Act. 

On Friday, March 30, the justices of the Supreme Court went to conference on the cases for which they heard

Congregational Psalm-singing: Sternhold & Hopkins

We long for the day when the Psalms will be sung by congregations again.  This Psalter had substantial support and was widely sung in the Anglican Churches of Elizabeth the First's time.  If I were not retired and was back in pastoral work, I'd be introducing this.  It would take 20-30 years of practice to instill this, generationally.  Why would any Pastor or--as they are called--"worship

On the Rules of Literary Fiction for Men and Women

The Second Shelf - By MEG WOLITZER - New York Times - Published: March 30, 2012

If “The Marriage Plot,” by Jeffrey Eugenides, had been written by a woman yet still had the same title and wedding ring on its cover, would it have received a great deal of serious literary attention? Or would this novel (which I loved) have been relegated to “Women’s Fiction,” that close-quartered lower shelf where books emphasizing relationships and the interior lives of women are often relegated? Certainly “The Marriage Plot,” Eugenides’s first novel since his Pulitzer Prize-winning “Middlesex,” was poised to receive tremendous literary interest regardless of subject matter, but the presence of a female protagonist, the gracefulness, the sometimes nostalgic tone and the relationship-heavy nature of the book only highlight the fact that many first-rate books by women and about women’s lives never find a way to escape “Women’s Fiction” and make the leap onto the upper shelf where certain books, most of them written by men (and, yes, some women — more about them later), are prominently displayed and admired.

Illustrations by Kelly Blair
This is a tricky subject. Bringing up the women’s question — I mean the women’s fiction question — is not unlike mentioning the national debt at a dinner party. Some people will get annoyed and insist it’s been talked about too much and inaccurately, and some will think it really matters. When I refer to so-called women’s fiction, I’m not applying the term the way it’s sometimes used: to describe a certain type of fast-reading novel, which sets its sights almost exclusively on women readers and might well find a big, ready-made audience. I’m referring to literature that happens to be written by women. But some people, especially some men, see most fiction by women as one soft, undifferentiated mass that has little to do with them.
Recently at a social gathering, when a guest found out I was a writer, he asked, “Would I have heard of you?” I dutifully told him my name — no recognition, fine, I’m not that famous — and then, at his request, I described my novels. “You know, contemporary, I guess,” I said. “Sometimes they’re about marriage. Families. Sex. Desire. Parents and children.” After a few uncomfortable moments he called his wife over, announcing that she, who “reads that kind of book,” was the one I ought to talk to. When I look back on that encounter, I see a lost opportunity. When someone asks, “Would I have heard of you?” many female novelists would be tempted to answer, “In a more just world.”
The truth is, women who write literary fiction frequently find themselves in an unjust world, even as young single women are outearning men in major American cities and higher education in the United States is skewing female. As VIDA, a women’s literary organization, showed in February in its second annual statistical roundup, women get shockingly short shrift as reviewers and reviewees in most prestigious publications. Of all the authors reviewed in the publications it tracked, nearly three-fourths were men. No wonder that when we talk about today’s leading novelists — the ones who generate heat and conversation and are read by both men and women — we are talking mostly about men.

When Should Writers Work for Free?

By Jason Boog on Galley Cat, March 30, 2012 

When should writers work for free? It is one of the most difficult questions facing writers in the 21st Century as unpaid outlets multiply online.
In an interview at The Paris Review, we found a historic moment when famous authors wrote for free in a completely unknown publication. When the legendary editor Robert Silvers launched The New York Review of Books in 1962, he went straight to the most talented writers in the country and asked them to work for free.

Check it out:
Our thought was to think of the best writers in the world to review the books of the season—even people who hadn’t written book reviews for years or ever. Many of them we knew—Norman Mailer, [William] Styron, W. H. Auden, Edmund Wilson. We said, “Look, we have three weeks, we can’t pay a penny, will you do it?” And they all did.

Categorising books by age doesn't tell the full story

Don't be fooled, Joel Stein: categorising books by age doesn't tell the full story

Publishers might try to draw age boundaries when it comes to reading, but critics should beware such arbitrary distinctions
Literary chocolate … Sparkly vampires are just the ticket at the end of a long, hard day

Dividing the world of books into neat categories – children's, young adult, adult – is a relatively recent phenomenon, more of a marketing tool for publishers than a clear distinction for literary criticism. But is there any sense in drawing boundaries when it comes to reading?
The question arises because Joel Stein, a writer for Time magazine, has been having great fun poking the hornets' nest that is the internet, informing us all – grandly, bossily and, I suspect, somewhat satirically – that adults should read adult books.
In a short, sniffy piece for the New York Times, Stein says: "The only thing more embarrassing than catching a guy on the plane looking at pornography on his computer is seeing a guy on the plane reading The Hunger Games. Or a Twilight book. Or Harry Potter."
His argument, basically, is that it's all right for grownups to watch children's films or play video games, but when we're reading, we should be learning.
"I have no idea what The Hunger Games is like. Maybe there are complicated shades of good and evil in each character. Maybe there are Pynchonesque turns of phrase. Maybe it delves into issues of identity, self-justification and anomie that would make David Foster Wallace proud," he writes. "I don't know because it's a book for kids. I'll read The Hunger Games when I finish the previous 3,000 years of fiction written for adults."
Obviously, people are outraged – see the 200-odd comments on Stein's piece, and the miles of Twitter blather ("Does he also believe that women shouldn't wear pants and only Japanese people should eat sushi?"). Obviously, Stein has a book out shortly (he writes on Twitter: "I am the self promoting whore whose book, Man Made: A Stupid Quest for Masculinity, comes out May 15"). But there are wider issues at stake here than a storm on Twitter.
Take the term "young adult", which I rather loathe. It seems unfair to deny authors like Diana Wynne Jones, with Fire and Hemlock, or Alan Garner, with The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, to those in the "old adult" category. (Garner, by the way, has always denied writing for children but says they understand his work better than adults.)
In my view, there's some truly amazing "young adult" writing out there that adults would be childish to overlook. There's also some dreadful tripe. But, while holding my hand up as someone who has read Twilight and Harry Potter, and is avidly reading The Hunger Games right now, there's tripe to be found among adult literature too.
And anyway, sometimes we need the bad stuff. Sometimes, Joel Stein, books aren't for learning, because sometimes – for me, at least – they need to be the mental equivalent of a bar of Cadbury's chocolate. Sometimes, I'm just too knackered to tackle "the previous 3,000 years of fiction written for adults", I'm not in the mood for "Pynchonesque turns of phrase", and sparkly vampires or murderous (but beautiful) teenagers are just the ticket. We were all young adults once, after all

Do Childish People Write Better Children’s Books?

The soothing anthem Goodnight Moon was written by someone so restless.

For all the years that I had been reading Goodnight Moon to some child or another, I had been picturing its author as a plump, maternal presence, someone like the quiet old lady in the rocking chair whispering, “Hush,” and so I was surprised to see, in a bored, casual dip into Google, the blonde, green-eyed, movie-starish vixen, and attendant accounts of her lesbian lover, her many male lovers, her failure to settle down, and tragic early death.
Margaret Wise Brown, or “Brownie” as her friends called her, did not harbor sentimental notions and was not overly devoted to bunnies and chubby toddlers. In a Life profile the reporter expressed surprise that the tender creator of so many rabbit-themed books would enjoy hunting and shooting rabbits, and Margaret replied: “Well, I don’t especially like children, either. At least not as a group. I won’t let anybody get away with anything just because he is little.”
One of Margaret Wise Brown’s offhand descriptions of childhood makes me think that she is nearer to childhood than the rest of us, inside it in a way that most of us can’t quite imagine or get to: She talks about the “painful shy animal dignity with which a child stretches to conform to a strange, adult social politeness.” Could there be a better, more intimate expression of that awkward childhood relation to the adult world?
Full piece at Slate.

What book publishers should learn from Harry Potter

After months of anticipation, the e-book versions of author J.K. Rowling’s phenomenally successful Harry Potter series are now available through Rowling’s Pottermore online unit, and as my PaidContent colleague Laura Owen has noted in her post on the launch, Rowling has chosen to do a number of interesting things with her e-books, including releasing them without digital-rights management restrictions. Obviously, the success of the Potter series has given Rowling the ability to effectively dictate terms to just about anyone, even a powerhouse like Amazon, but there are still lessons that other book publishers should take from what she is doing.
One of the encouraging things about the Pottermore launch is that the books will be available on virtually every platform simultaneously, including the Sony Reader, the Nook from Barnes & Noble, the Kindle and Google’s e-book service (which is part of Google Play). And in keeping with Pottermore’s status as a standalone digital bookstore in its own right, users will be able to buy the books from the Rowling site and then send them to whichever platform they wish. As Laura points out, even Amazon has bowed to the power of the series and done what would previously have seemed unthinkable: it sends users who come to the titles on Amazon to Pottermore to finish the transaction.
Full story at Gigacom.

Cooking with Poo wins Diagram Prize for oddest title

A prize for the oddest book title of the year has been awarded to Cooking With Poo. Thankfully, the term refers to the Thai nickname of its author, Saiyuud Diwong, rather than to his ingredients. The word translates as "crab".
Second place went to Mr Andoh's Pennine Diary: Memoirs of a Japanese Chicken Sexer in 1935 Hebden Bridge. Third was The Great Singapore Penis Panic and the Future of American Mass Hysteria.

The Diagram Prize is an annual award run by The Bookseller and decided by a public vote on the magazine's website.
Horace Bent, the prize's custodian, said: "It appears that this year's prize will go down in history as a blue year."

Hachette’s UK Group CEO Reflects on State of the Industry

 “Prospects Are Exceptional”

Richard Curtis - DBW

March 2012
From time to time I write a letter to all authors published by the Hachette UK group of companies which, of course, includes your own publisher. My purpose is to give you our perspective on what is going on in general in the world of publishing and bookselling and in particular at Hachette: how we are adapting to change, planning ahead and – most importantly – doing everything we can to be the very best publishers for your work. It is now a little over a year since I last wrote. My last letter concentrated on our own – and the industry’s – digital transformation. An enormous amount has happened since then on that front; so, in that regard, this letter too is much concerned with digital matters.
As the letter has a very wide circulation, I hope you will forgive its fairly general nature. As ever, I am very happy to answer specific questions, for example about the content of the letter, about our publishing of your own work or arising from the very fast-changing media world in which we now all live.
The UK consumer book market in general
Our reading habits continue to change. Research from YouGov showed that 1.3 million ebook readers were sold in the UK over Christmas 2011 alone. All told, there are perhaps 3.5 million ebook readers in circulation in the UK, and as many as 7 million tablets. Internationally, over 20 million tablets were sold in just the last quarter of 2011 alone. The variety and quality of tablets and ereaders, and the wide variety of ebooks available, is good news for readers. Wherever we are, we can buy books in an instant, and sales of Hachette UK-published ebooks continue to grow at an extraordinary rate, from 1% of our relevant sales in 2009 to 12% in 2011. That number is running at over 20% so far in 2012 and, for fiction, at over 30%. At present most readers are simply swapping the purchase of a print book for an ebook and I am afraid the market for printed books is shrinking. Last month, in Britain, sales of printed books were down by 13% year-on-year, and in 2011 the total consumer market for printed books in the UK was down by 7.8% – the third successive year of decline. Even after we factor in sales of ebooks, the totals for the UK and most of our other markets were still slightly down so ebook sales didn’t wholly account for the drop in sales of printed books, although that equation has possibly stabilised this year. Readers now expect to get a lot of information and entertainment for nothing and, for example, free reference material, satellite navigation and free online resources have severely reduced the sales of printed dictionaries, maps and guide books. The continuing move online, whether for ebooks, printed books or free reference material, is having a marked effect on our traditional markets and particularly on those booksellers who have no significant digital offering.
A sea change can be unsettling, particularly when it happens so fast but, on your behalf, we are very well placed to capitalise on all the opportunities this new world brings us. The Hachette group continues to be very successful; we have a clear strategy and we employ experts in every field, ensuring that we have the vision, the investment and the expertise to deal on equal terms with the biggest players in our markets. In short, you can be confident that your own publisher within the group is fully supported with all the resources they need to publish you in the very best way they can devise with you in all formats, now and in the future.
The full letter here.

Guggenheim announces out-of-print John Chamberlain exhibition catalogue now a free e-book

Art Daily News

Ultima Thule, 1967. Galvanized steel, 64 × 44 × 36 inches (162.5 × 111.8 × 91.4 cm). Private collection © 2011 John Chamberlain / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Courtesy Galerie Karsten Greve.

NEW YORK, NY.- For a limited time, selections from the 1971 exhibition catalogue John Chamberlain: A Retrospective Exhibition are free to download through the Guggenheim Store. Available in EPUB format for reading on iPhones and iPads, the title was originally published on the occasion of John Chamberlain's first museum retrospective, held at the Guggenheim more than forty years ago, and reveals early insight into the artist's work, process, and inspiration. The introductory essay, written by former Guggenheim curator Diane Waldman, surveys the artist's diverse influences and examines his explorations in material, highlighting his ability to hew a sense of order and beauty out of the apparent chaos of crushed automobiles and discarded steel. In the accompanying interview, artist Donald Judd and former Art in America editor Elizabeth C. Baker join Waldman and Chamberlain in a free-ranging conversation about ... More

Keillor to spend time in his new bookstore

Star Tribune -  March 30, 2012 

Photo: Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune

When Garrison Keillor opened Common Good Books in 2006 in the Blair Arcade on St. Paul's Cathedral Hill, "I just kind of opened it, and walked away," he said Thursday. "But this --" he looked around at the shiny tin ceiling, sunny windows and clean cream walls of the store's new location at 38 S. Snelling Av. "This is a place you could stay at for a long time. I don't know where I'll hang out -- I'll need a desk."
But he promised he'd be more of a presence in the new store. "I need to learn to work the cash register," he mused. "It can't be that hard, can it?"
Keillor took members of the media on a tour of the still-empty store on Thursday, which was also the last day of business for the Blair Arcade location. The "soft" opening of the Snelling Avenue location will be April 9, followed by a festive three-day grand opening in May.
On May 1, Keillor will host a poetry reading at Macalester's Weyerhaeuser Chapel with members of the public choosing poems to read aloud. On May 2, Keillor, Tim Russell and Sue Scott will do a dramatic reading from Keillor's new book, "Guy Noir and the Straight Skinny," in the empty space next door to the bookstore. And on May 3, Keillor will invite members of the public to tell stories at the bookstore. All events begin at 7 p.m.

Winnie-the-Pooh: From Acton to Hundred Acre Wood

On the unveiling of a new plaque to mark Winnie-the-Pooh’s birthplace, Anoosh Chakelian examines the unlikely story of the bear’s origins.

Rare Winnie the Pooh memorabilia
Rare Winnie the Pooh memorabilia Photo: Rii Schroer
A rags-to-riches story worthy of Alan Sugar was revealed earlier this month at the unveiling of a plaque to mark the place of Winnie-the-Pooh’s creation in a building tucked away in Acton, West London.
The Farnell factory, which manufactured Britain’s first teddy bears, was Pooh's unlikely birthplace. Since the factory has since been demolished the plaque has been placed on The Elms, a Georgian house owned by the Farnell family.
The bear was one of a batch produced in 1921 and sent from silk merchant John Kirby Farnell’s factory to Harrods, where Daphne Milne, Christopher Robin’s mother, bought him for her son’s first birthday present.
Pooh spent the rest of his days flitting between the Milnes’ London home and Cotchford Farm in Hartfield, an area in East Sussex that inspired AA Milne’s Enchanted Place, Hundred Acre Wood, the House at Pooh Corner, and Pooh’s other favourite haunts.
Shirley Harrison, who last year wrote a biography of the original toy, The Life and Times of the Real Winnie-the-Pooh, and has lived in Hartfield, has been campaigning for a plaque to be placed somewhere in Pooh’s suburban homeland for years.

The Expo Files - Stieg Larsson

by Stieg Larsson
This is a truly valuable piece in the jigsaw puzzle that was the life of the late author of The Millennium Trilogy. With a series of lacerating and carefully researched articles well represented in The Expo Files, Larsson was a particularly vocal and unflinching exponent of his views, and it was inevitable that he would soon put himself in the firing line for a series of death threats. This was to affect his mode of living for the rest of his short life. This collection is a fascinating adjunct to Larsson’s fictional universe – and a keen insight into the issues that motivated him. 

Launch of Barefoot World Atlas app


Last autumn Colman Getty publicised the opening of the first Barefoot Books lifestyle studio in Oxford, alongside the publication of a beautiful World Atlas written by Coast presenter Nick Crane and illustrated by David Dean. Following a BBC Breakfast appearance and glowing reviews, the atlas is already in its fourth edition; but there’s more to the story…
Read more

From Book to...Blog? Inspiration for the Aspiring Nonfiction Author

Publishing Perspectives

David Krall wanted to write a book about the Brooklyn Dodgers, but had no platform. Defying conventional publishing wisdom, he wrote it anyway. Here's how.

Conventional wisdom says that first you build a platform and then you write a book. But what if you want to do it the other way around? Is one way best?
The 2012 Sheikh Zayed's Book Awards, worth AED 750,000 each, were handed out to the seven winners earlier this week; UNESCO won AED 1m for sustaining culture.  Read more »