Old timey book reviews

Filed under: News — marcia at 9:01 pm on Sunday, January 27, 2008

“The Atlantic Monthly” has posted some of its book reviews from as far back as the 1800s online. While I wish they had given us access to more than just a smattering of them (as well as access to ones where they were unimpressed by a work that time has elevated to a classic), it is interesting to read contemporary reviews of works of books such as “The Scarlet Letter.”

Publishing resource: Duotrope’s Digest

Filed under: News — marcia at 4:17 pm on Sunday, January 13, 2008

I haven’t had a chance to fully check it out for myself, but this looks like a cool place to find ideas for where to submit your writing: Duotrope’s Digest, “a database of over 2050 current markets for short fiction, poetry, and novels/collections.”

Check it out and tell me what you think. I’ll do the same …


Do used-book sales hurt writers?

Filed under: News — marcia at 10:08 pm on Sunday, January 6, 2008

Novelists Inc. (a nonprofit representing novelists) is pushing for legislation to require used-book sellers to pay a percentage of sales to publishers and authors for any book re-sold within two years of its original publishing date. You can read some discussion about it here.

To me, a law like that sounds like it would lead to more books being thrown away and pulped. Used books are a great way to keep people reading, which helps the industry as a whole.
I can understand that used-book sales don’t count toward an author’s sales numbers and that it must be maddening to see a “Buy This Used for $4″ link on Amazon right alongside the full-price new version of your book. It’s important that people buy your book. But isn’t it important that people read it? (And maybe buy your next book in hardcover because they just can’t wait)

Use These Words At Your Own Peril

Filed under: News — Robin at 2:21 am on Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Each year Lake Superior State University releases a list of words and phrases that should be banished. Some are terms that are overused in the media or popular culture. Others are words that have been mutated from their original meaning to represent something else. Regardless, this compilation is necessary, even if non-binding.

Among the words on this year’s list are surge, organic, and webinar. Thank God on that last one. Webinar a horrible word that embarrasses me when heard or read.

Also on the list were a pair of writer-related words. One I can rationalize. The other is unjustified. The first is author/authored. The list does not condemn the word in its proper use but rather using it as a verb. I have employed it as a verb, and I’ll probably do so again, because I enjoy words that can be used as both a noun and verb, especially in the same sentence (example: “I am going to go fish for fish.”). That said, even my heavy Oxford dictionary fails to list author as a verb, and hence I understand this inclusion to the list. I object to the damning of wordsmith. I’ve always been fond of this term and see no reason for its eradication. After all, writers manipulate languages the way a standard smith manipulates metal. Wordsmith is a sane marriage of shorter words and deserves a spot in the common vernacular.

I love the pliability of the English language. Contorting words and phrases to suit my intentions is a delight I derive from writing. Considering this, perhaps I should be offended that a body exists with the design of removing terms that wordsmiths have worked diligently to generate. On the other hand, webinar simply has to go, and I’m happy that an authority of any stripe has ordered an excommunication.

~ Robin

When is a big word too big?

Filed under: News — marcia at 6:39 pm on Monday, December 17, 2007

I prize clarity in writing above linguistic cartwheels. But am I straying away from the “big words” (or more accurately, obscure words) out of fear in a way that is slowly homogenizing my writing? Am I ignoring something that could enhance my writing?

In a book otherwise devoted to simple, straightforward writing, the style manual The Complete Plain Words, Sir Ernest Gowers takes a moment to remind us that ostentatiously avoiding long words can be as annoying to readers as over-using them. Winston Churchill, writes Gowers, promoted the virtue of the short and simple phrase; yet it was Churchill, in his account of the second world war, who talked about “flocculent” thinking, instead of “woolly” thinking, “and so conveys to his readers just that extra ounce of contempt that we feel ‘flocculent’ to contain, perhaps because the combination of ‘f’ and ‘l’ so often expresses an invertebrate state, as in ‘flop’, ‘flap’, ‘flaccid’, ‘flimsy’, ‘flabby’ and ‘filleted.’” – From the Guardian

Do people go to a dictionary when they don’t know a word in a piece of writing, or do they just go away period?  Is there a balance between unknown words and the plain language of the everyday? How much is too much?

I guess the bigger question would be … do I even know those wild and crazy words in the first place?


For your consideration

Filed under: News — marcia at 11:43 pm on Tuesday, November 20, 2007

On his blog, this editor is sharing a pitch he received. From said pitch:

“As Ginger unearths her ancestry, she discovers what it means to be a witch and the fine line her kind walk between good and evil.” (from My Soccer Mom’s Séance)

I hope to high heaven to never appear on such a site. In honor of that hope, I make no comment, but simply direct you to the site to read about it yourself.

Sites like this are helpful (and let’s face it, entertaining), but they also freak me the heck out. Discuss.


We don’t want to publish your book, but we’ll take a cut if you publish it yourself

Filed under: News — marcia at 12:20 pm on Sunday, September 23, 2007

If you pitch Chronicle Books and it rejects you, be on the lookout for them to pitch you back a self-publishing service. If a writer referred by Chronicle uses the self-publishing service Blurb, Chronicle gets a piece of the action. [UPDATE: Chronicle Books says the information in the article I read to get this information is inaccurate. See comment from Chronicle in this post's comments.]

I don’t think this is unethical, assuming proper disclosure, and I would hope most writers would know better than to assume one rejection means that they have to pay to get their book published. However, I find it very distasteful and rather insulting. Tacky, tacky on you, Chronicle! (Read more about it here)
I am very happy self-publishing is possible and think many people get a lot out of having control over the publishing process. There is a great community of people who share their work this way. But then there are people who believe that they will make back all the money they spent self-publishing once some big shot agent or publisher sees their book. I think that is a terrible misunderstanding of the potential and purpose of self-publishing.
Self-publishing is not the YouTube of the book world. It costs money — in many cases, a lot of money because most people can’t really do it themselves; they need to pay a service. And distribution is a nightmare. I’ve seen people with stacks of self-published books on a foldout table at a local book fair, shouting at people to buy their writing like it was some kind of multi-purpose, infomercial kitchen gadget.

Getting the book on paper isn’t the hardest part. Getting people to read it — and pay to do so — is.


The writing field favors women? Oh really …

Filed under: News — marcia at 4:59 pm on Thursday, September 13, 2007

All of the winners of the New Writing Ventures awards this year were women. The chair of the judging committee had this odd comment:

“I think it’s harder for a fledgling male writer to establish themselves, because market forces are swayed towards women,” he suggested. “But in this case women produced the best writing, so perhaps men just need to wake up.” – via Guardian Unlimited

Is it really harder for a male writer to establish himself? I am sincerely asking. That sounds completely counterintuitive to me. But it could be true. Writing could be one of those fields dominated by women in numbers but with the power players at the top being men. Or, I could be talking out of my bottom.

At any rate, boo hoo, men. I don’t think years of sexism toward women makes any sexism toward men appropriate or fair. However, so damn what if all the winners are women? Is that significant somehow beyond it being unusual? Good writing is good writing, and if the judge is to be believed, the best writers won. The End.

Critique coming up …

Filed under: News — marcia at 11:54 am on Friday, September 7, 2007

Bonus: If you’re all up in social networking, there’s a network for book lovers called Goodreads.

Word Pirates: Our next meeting on Sept. 20 is part two of the essay critique. Since Joy will be on the open road traveling, the meeting will be at Laura’s house. The deadline for e-mailing your essay to the group is Sept. 16.

In our meeting last night, we talked about what we’re looking for in this second editing phase. Ideally, we will all submit these to a contest. Each of us is looking for something a little different, and we should all mention that in our e-mail to the group. However, generally speaking, it will be deeper and more focused on “Does this really work? Is this going to get the attention of a judge? What would it take to make this jump to the top of the pile?”

Do you know of a good essay to inspire us in this final phase of editing? Send it along!

We also played Jabberjot, a game in which you come up with brief stories based on visual prompts. We have to remember next time we play this to change the rules to make it less complicated! Fun game, though.

The MTV Poet Laureate

Filed under: News — marcia at 9:09 pm on Monday, August 27, 2007

MtvU – the MTV channel for college campuses – chose John Ashbery as its poet laureate. At first, it sounded like a well-meaning attempt that would accomplish little. However, I was less cynical after reading about the contest associated with the new appointment. A contest with a real prize!

In another first, mtvU will help sponsor a poetry contest for college students. The winner, chosen by the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa, will have a book published next year by HarperCollins as part of the National Poetry Series. – via the New York Times

I am glad that I haven’t heard too many snotty reactions to this. Remember when people pooped their diapers about Oprah’s book club? Like suddenly a book isn’t a real piece of literature anymore because people are actually reading it. Of course, I only say that because I am too naive to comprehend Oprah’s nefarious plan to control what America reads.

Introducing new audiences to art is a good thing. (Now if the way you introduce it is to chop it to bits and mess with it until it’s unrecognizable and bland, that’s another story …)


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