Monthly Archives: August 2016

A Cry for Help

31 August 2016

From Trey Veazey, a first-year elementary school librarian in Baton Rouge, Louisiana:

Anyone who knows me knows that To Kill a Mockingbird is my favorite book (as well as my favorite film). That masterwork has become such an integral part of my life. If I could be any fictional character, it would be Atticus Finch. I share a birthday with Harper Lee. I once played Boo Radley in a community theatre production. In fact, I have the Radley tree tattooed on my arm. If my son Henry was to be a girl, we had planned to name him (her?) Scout. I’m even listening to Elmer Bernstein’s film score as I write this.

All of this meandering is to reinforce the power of books & reading in my life, & this is only in reference to one book. There have actually been countless ones that have left their imprint on me, & like others similar to me, many of those impressions were made during my childhood.

. . . .

 This is how I show my students that I love them — by putting books in their hands, by noticing what they are about, & finding books that tell them, “I know. I know. I know how it is. I know who you are, & even though we may never speak of it, read this book, & know that I understand you.”

. . . .

We were at school for 2 days, & then, the rains came. You might’ve heard. 

In the spirit of school, I have to tattle on myself to say that I broke the rules. After the water receded, I sneaked inside the building to check on the status of my library. I knew that there was damage. I knew that it was likely that over 500 of my own personal books — years of classroom library building & Scholastic points — would be ruined, unusable, destroyed. I was expectant that the box of books that I had begun gathering for my next Milk + Bookies drive would never be unpacked. In my mind, I knew all of this. In my heart, I was unprepared for the visual confirmation.

As I tried not to fall down in what was surely sewage water, I began to take note of the titles that made themselves known to me amid the destruction. The books were telling me something.

Unspeakable things have happened, yet you must move forward.

The sadness is heavy, but joy lies within your own strength.

A challenge is only the beginning. (Also, you’re not dead.)

Molly Lou Melon was very specific. Stand tall, man. Stand tall.

Others have persevered through far worse than this. 

. . . .

When I returned to the library over a week later, there were no more lessons to be learned. Reality had set in.

The books were gone. I would have no chance to save titles on higher shelves such as my signed edition of Dear Hank Williams from when Kimberly Willis Holt visited my school or a brand new copy of Counting Thyme that I bought for the library after tearing through it on the beach this past summer or all of the graphic novels I’d spent the last year collecting because my students couldn’t get enough of El Deafo, The Dumbest Idea Ever!, Roller Girl, & Sunny Side Up. I don’t want to talk about the ones that I haven’t even gotten to read yet like The Seventh Wish or Jack & Louisa: Act 2. I tried to tell myself that they were “only books,” but anyone who has ever loved a book knows that there is no such thing as “only books.”

So, why am I writing my first blog post in over 10 years? Why am I reminiscing about every wonderful book that comes to mind? Why am I tearing up as the strings in Elmer Bernstein’s orchestra swell to perfection, conjuring up a young Mary Badham complaining to Gregory Peck about school? The answer is simple. I need help.

We are relocating. We’ve been ushered over to a building that was built in 1937. That means my new school is the same age as And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street. It also means that, in my first year as a librarian, I have a library without any books.

Access to books is the key to educational success. Our library doesn’t have books. Our classrooms don’t have books. Many of the homes of our students don’t have books. Like the tears that rolled down our faces both in silent & violent measures, they became a part of the flood before being swept away as we looked toward rebuilding & recovery.

How does one recover without books? I know not the answer to this, & so, I plead to you. Help us. There are kids in Baton Rouge, Louisiana that are hungry for knowledge & desperate to know that good remains in the world.

If you are an author/illustrator/publisher & would love to have your books in the hands of readers, please consider sending us those books. 

If you are someone with a generous spirit that doesn’t happen to write children’s books, we are in need of new or like-new books, both fiction & nonfiction, that would appeal to readers in PreKindergarten through Grade 5. If you are someone who would prefer to help in a pecuniary fashion, be assured that your funds, directed through the proper channels, will help to revitalize the library with magazine subscriptions, music, films, & chocolate. All others, feel free to send good thoughts. After this emotional & literal depletion, we are in dire need of good thoughts.

It has taken me over a week to muster the determination to conjure up this post, & while it’s possibly — ok, almost certainly — of an absurd length, it is my heart on display. It is a written manifestation of what I feel every time I walk into my public library — that there is a place for me, that there are others who care, & that the world is a naturally good place. I know all of these things to be true because of books (& family & movies & music & honey buns).

. . . .

 Trey Veazey
Glen Oaks Park Elementary School
2401 72nd Avenue
Baton Rouge, LA 70807
This is the address of our temporary location (formerly known as Banks Elementary). We are not guaranteed to receive any books sent to our home site on Lanier Drive. 

Link to the rest at Trey Veazey and thanks to Dave for the tip.

For visitors to The Passive Voice from outside the United States, an extremely powerful storm caused catastrophic flooding that inundated about 100,000 houses plus businesses, schools, etc., in Louisiana, a state located on the Gulf of Mexico in the southern United States.

Louisiana is not a wealthy state. Out of the fifty states, Louisiana ranks 44 in median household income.

Here are some photos of school and library damage in the Baton Rouge area:

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Additional photos of Louisiana flood damage are here and a description of the flooding is here.

Kill Your Darlings, and Some Trees

31 August 2016

From PubCrawl:

So you’ve written the first draft of your novel! Now what?

Most writers will tell you to put it in a drawer for a week or month, to spend some time apart from it before you return to the manuscript with fresh eyes for the first round of revision. That’s great advice, but I’m going to take it one step further and say you should literally put the manuscript in a drawer. For that you need a physical copy of it, which means I’m telling you to print the darned thing out. That’s right. All of it. On paper.

What? But that’s so wasteful! Those poor trees.

There are always studies that suggest reading on paper is different from reading on a screen. Makes sense to me. I think many of us have become accustomed to skimming websites and social media updates and blog posts (I bet some of you are doing it right now!), which means our brains are now trained to not look at text too closely on screens. There’s also something less permanent about something we see on the screen versus a hard copy before us, and so I think we treat words on the screen less critically. Science tells us that creative writing is a left brain activity, while critical thinking and editing is a right brain thing. It seems that it might be helpful to distinguish those activities more — such as by only writing your novel on your computer but editing it on paper. At least, this helps me. I’m the guy who prints everything I’m line editing or revising at work, from e-mails to manuals. Maybe that’s wasteful, but I consider it part of the cost of business, like my salary; my job is to catch and fix mistakes, and I notice more on paper than I do staring at a screen, especially subtle changes in font size and spacing.

. . . .

If I’m editing on screen, I’m mostly tinkering, the same as I would do while drafting — deleting a word here, moving a sentence there, adding a description. But once I have it on paper, with pen in hand, I can look at the bigger picture. I have no problem putting slashes through entire pages or chapters, rewriting and commenting in the margins, often with helpful notes like “Make this better.”

Link to the rest at PubCrawl

A word

31 August 2016

A word after a word after a word is power.

Margaret Atwood

PRH’s Markus Dohle on the Power of Print

31 August 2016

From Shelf Awareness:

“Also gratifying is the strength and stability of our physical book sales. You will recall that we never bought in to the gloom and doom about the future of print. Instead we said that print would always be important, even as digital became more so. We made significant improvements in both, and the care we’ve taken with our physical supply chains, operations, and distribution centers is especially paying off now as consumer demand for physical remains robust.”
–Markus Dohle, CEO of Penguin Random House

. . . .

Sales at PRH in the first half of 2016 fell 10.7% to €1.5 billion, or about $1.67 billion, largely because of “an expected decline in e-book sales in the U.S. and U.K. due in part to new retail sales terms.”

Link to the rest at Shelf Awareness

Low Post Day

31 August 2016

PG apologizes for getting behind on TPV posts today.

Late yesterday, his principal computer had a big crash and wouldn’t reboot or boot or show any other meaningful signs of life. PG can handle many of the problems that cause computers to misbehave, but this problem had him stumped last night and this morning.

So PG spent much of the morning locating a computer whisperer and consulting with him. With the exercise of his computer superpowers, the expert had everything fixed very quickly, but, like PG, was not certain about exactly what caused the problems in the first place.

Thus, PG will do some posts, but the total may be lower than his typical daily output.

As a Boy, I Was Obsessed With the Baby-Sitters Club Books. I Have No Regrets.

31 August 2016

From Slate:

“The first time I ever saw a Baby-Sitters Club book, I was 7 years old, browsing the spinning racks at the public library near my house. It was Baby-Sitters Club No. 2: Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls. On the bright pink cover, a preteen girl in a funky, oversized sweater clutches a baby in one arm while she cradles a telephone under her chin. Claudia looks slightly haunted, but also—to my young eye at the time—competent, collected, and hopelessly cool. I wondered exactly how sinister this phone call was. I wanted to know more.

The book called to me on a primal level. I took it home, read it twice in one day (it was short), and then a third time the next. I pored over the checklist of books in the series, trying to decide which ones sounded most fascinating. (BSC No. 8: Boy-Crazy Stacey especially piqued my interest.) On my next trip to the library, I walked out bearing an armful of the slim, pastel paperbacks.

I felt like I had just hit the jackpot. My mom looked a little concerned. Even in my progressive community in suburban Maryland, the world of babysitting was considered an eccentric and perhaps worrisome interest for a little boy. This was not something that I understood. I just thought the books looked fun and exciting, with their poppy, late-1980s color palette and painted covers depicting exciting tableaus of babysitting in action. And, of course, there was something incredibly alluring to me about teenage girls, whom I had already learned from TV sitcoms were the most glamorous and exciting creatures on Earth. I couldn’t wait to be a teenager myself and hopefully start my own Baby-Sitters Club.

I almost always carried a Baby-Sitters Club book with me wherever I went, and proudly read them on the school bus, under my desk during class, and in the school cafeteria. Somehow, by age 7, I was still oblivious to the strict gender cues that other kids my age already responded to on a gut level, and I was blissfully ignorant—at least for awhile—that the books were, in no uncertain terms, For Girls.

When other boys would ask me why I was reading those, I was confused by the question. Really, I was put off that everyone didn’t find the books as enchanting as I did and wasn’t sure why discussions about the exploits of Kristy, Claudia, Stacey, and Mary Anne (“America’s Favorite Girls!” as the covers billed them) were such a conversational dead-end with my male peers. Weren’t boys supposed to like girls, I wondered?

My obsession did, however, make me a hit with friends’ older sisters, whom I’d take aside during play dates and birthday parties for rollicking, barb-filled debates over who was the best baby-sitter (definitely Claudia or Stacey, depending on whether you preferred Claudia’s boho-hip fabulousness or Stacey’s sleek, urban sophistication) or which BSC members should be kicked to the curb. (No one liked homely, bookish Mallory.) Some of these big sisters were already old enough to be embarking on their own babysitting careers, and I loved picking their brains for insider tips and behind-the-scenes dirt about the profession, while my friends ran around playing capture the flag outside.

Eventually, I started to catch on. When I went in search of more Baby-Sitters Club books, librarians began urging me to expand my horizons, often trying to interest me in the books of Matt Christopher, which had names such as The Lucky Baseball Bat and The Boy Who Only Hit Homers. My parents, who had mostly humored my interest without too much judgment, started to set some limits. When I tried to rent the classic Adventures in Babysitting from the video store, my father gave me a fed-up look and told me I had already reached my monthly limit on babysitting-related media.

I kept reading the books, but I had learned to be self-conscious about it. On my monthly pilgrimages to the bookstore to pick up the latest installment in the series, I found myself sneaking them to the register, concealed in a larger pile. At school, I became openly scornful of girls who read the Baby-Sitters Club, just to make sure everyone knew that I had moved beyond all that.

Eventually, I just outgrew them. As I approached middle school, my fascination with teenage girls diminished just as my friends became more interested in them. I knew plenty of girls, and if I wanted to talk to one I could just call her on the phone. Anyway, part of what I had enjoyed about the Baby-Sitters Club as a small child was their comforting sense of repetition, not to mention the fact that they were often almost conflict-free. (There’s one book that revolves around Dawn organizing a sleepover party.) But as I got older, I wanted a little more friction in my reading material. I discovered the X-Men and realized that the lives of superheroes were much more suspenseful than the lives of babysitters. I moved on.”

Link to the rest at Slate and thanks to Dave for the tip.

The Unkind Publishing Industry

31 August 2016

From News24:

It is time we really examined the publishing industry. As a writer, I wouldn’t be engaging in any justice if didn’t raise these matters which directly impact on me and with the hope that, they relate to other writers and the hope that, am afforded a platform to raise them.

Of course, like in any other scenario in the contemporary capitalist driven society, profit prevails. It is a priority in the business. However, we need to re-examine the ideology in the arts of the pen and paper. We need not be that greedy at the expense of sabotaging the arts of the pen.

To do this, we need to engage with facts, comfortable nor not so comfortable.  Certain characteristics remain dominant in this publishing industry.  The first one is, it seems, to be very white centred. It is very difficult for a black person to penetrate into. The promoted content seems to be centred on the idea of targeting and accommodating the white market. Particularly affecting the ‘unknown’ or ‘upcoming’ as they say writers.  This is an extremely unfair perimeter of operation simply because everyone was ‘unknown’ before they became ‘known’.

The second characteristic is rooted in the fact that, fiction writing is not promoted in the South African publishing industry by the dominant publishing houses! They even state so in their mandates! Why is this so? It becomes even more difficult when you ‘unknown’. The only platform that is afforded in the promotion of fiction writing, is for the already ‘known’.

. . . .

The third characteristic lies in the contract clauses which limit the writer. This unjust idea that, the publisher has prerogative to alter and edit the work of an artist! Why is this so? Writing is an art, so why shrink the freedom of expression for the writer? It’s like telling a painter, ‘no we prefer the shape of the nose to be like this’! Imagine if the Mona Lisa with Long neck was told, ‘no, the neck is too long’! We would have been deprived of such beautiful art.

It is not fair that the artists of the pen and paper get dictated to.  If the publishing house holds certain views which are against the presented views by the artist, then they are at liberty to scribble their own book because in essence, by altering and editing the views, they are robbing the writer of their original concept.  The work is really no longer there but is diluted with the publisher’s ideologies and this is not fair from any angle one may look at.

Link to the rest at News24 and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Authors, Can You Afford to Produce an Audiobook?

30 August 2016

From Digital Book World:

One of the first questions that indie authors and small- to mid-size publishers ask me about audiobook production is, “How much does it cost?”

My answer is always, “It depends.”

Producing an audiobook is like building a house: your choices dictate your final cost. Each recording is custom-made rather than mass-produced. When people contact me about narrating and producing their audiobook for them, I always want to educate them about the time and skills necessary for a polished production. However, most people want me to simply cut to the chase and give them a firm number.

Before I can even give a ballpark estimate on a custom quote, though, I point out, “You can have the finished audiobook fast, good, or cheap. Pick any two.”

Since no dollar figure can apply to all circumstances, the more useful questions for authors might be:

1. How much do I need to pay up front?
2. What are the long-term costs?
3. If I pay up front, how long will it take to recoup my investment?

While other production sites and models are available, I’ll use Audible’s Audiobook Creation Exchange for this discussion, since it’s practically the only way for an author to produce an audiobook with a professional narrator and have no up-front costs. ACX also is a completely free service to both authors and narrators. Finally, in my research, I have not found a company that will pay a higher royalty rate than the 40 percent offered by Audible.

. . . .

The general rule of thumb is that at least 6.2 hours of time are required to produce that one finished hour. The 6.2 hours covers the recording, editing, proofing and mastering needed to create the retail-ready product.

An audiobook that runs 10 hours, therefore, generally would require at least 62 hours to complete—and possibly many more, depending on its complexity.

Given the number of people involved and the studio rental costs, you’ll often see traditional production quotes of $5,000 or more, depending on the length of the book.

On ACX, the narrator is also the producer who is responsible for all phases of production. Most narrators on ACX have created a home recording studio and do not charge a separate fee for its use. The narrator may do her own editing, proofing and mastering, or hire someone to do those tasks.

. . . .

If you want to pay nothing up front, you could post your book on ACX under a royalty share (RS) contract. Many authors think of this type of production as “free,” but it’s really a deferred payment in which the costs of production are repaid to the narrator over time through the royalties paid by Audible. Choosing this option means:

  • You must choose exclusive distribution with Audible, which includes Amazon and iTunes in its reach. You won’t be able to sell your audiobook on any other website—including your own—you won’t be able to sell it on CD, and it won’t be available to libraries.
  • You will split the royalties paid by Audible 50-50 with the narrator for the seven-year distribution period. Under the current terms, each of you would earn 20 percent of the royalties paid in that timeframe.

The author earns royalties from all editions of her work, but the RS narrator only gets paid when the audiobook sells. Therefore, the RS narrator is taking ALL of the risk for low or no sales of the audiobook.

She also has to consider her up-front costs: she must pay her editor and proofer at the time service is rendered. Since a narrator could easily stay in the red for quite a long time on an RS project, most experienced narrators are reluctant or may even refuse to consider an RS contract.

Alternately, you could decide to pay the production costs up front by hiring a narrator on a PFH contract, which is a buy-out option that lets the author retain all royalties. This choice is especially attractive when your ebook routinely sells 1,000 or more copies a month.

Experienced narrators charge between $200 and $400 per finished hour. For instance, at $200 PFH, a narrator would send a $2,000 invoice for complete production of a 10-hour audiobook.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

The ideal view

30 August 2016

The ideal view for daily writing, hour for hour, is the blank brick wall of a cold-storage warehouse. Failing this, a stretch of sky will do, cloudless if possible.

Edna Ferber

Indie Crossword Puzzlers Are Shaking Up A Very Square World

30 August 2016

From FiveThirtyEight:

The BuzzFeed crossword, which launched in October, promised a millennial upheaval to the musty crossword genre: an internet-native, slang-fluent, pop-culture-obsessed puzzle aimed at young solvers. There was hope, given BuzzFeed’s large amounts of traffic, that it would serve as a meaningful competitor to the starchy, hegemonic New York Times crossword. “BuzzFeed Is Revolutionizing the Crossword Puzzle,” an Observer headline declared last year.

It didn’t. Yet while BuzzFeed’s puzzle revolution fizzled, a devoted band of ragtag agitators remains devoted to the cause. A vibrant ecosystem of independent crosswords — “indies” — exists on the internet, its component puzzles multiplying and evolving, finding their niche and trying to find ways to survive. And some of them can outrate the gold standard over at the Times.

“I think of the indie world like we’re all craft beer brewers,” Brendan Emmett Quigley, a professional puzzle constructor, told me. The Times is a Budweiser lager; the indies are small-batch saisons and IPAs.

“My favorite thing about indie puzzles is the timeliness,” Neville Fogarty, an avid indie solver who helped found the Indie 500 crossword tournament, told me. Indie puzzles don’t have to wait months in a publication queue, as they would at the Times. They also aren’t subject to the stylistic constraints of a large media institution. Topics and themes, however recent, modern, niche or profane, are fair game. Nor are they subject to the physical constraints of a major newspaper. With few exceptions, all daily Times puzzles use 15-by-15 grids with rotational symmetry, a convention indies can and do break.

. . . .

“Papers were dying, papers were dropping their crosswords.” And so some crossword designers decided to go it alone. A risky proposition, but one that came with aesthetic upside. These sylvan constructors could rewrite the stylebook. “Crosswords were staid, you know? As much as I enjoyed them, there was always this feeling that the voice of the Times was not my generational voice. It was like, what if you made a crossword about rap, or something? That felt really radical at the time.”

Criticism of the Times puzzle seems to have expanded of late, beyond the stylistic and into the political. It’s not just that the Times puzzle is staid, or geared toward olds. It’s been accused of tone deafness on issues of race and gender.

. . . .

But that the indies are well-received doesn’t make them well-compensated. They’re wrestling with the same confusion about sustainable business models as all the other media upstarts.

The New York Times has it relatively easy, with nearly 200,000 digital crossword subscribers, good for over $2 million in revenue in the first quarter of 2016, according to a company press release. When you figure in the hardcopy subscriptions and newsstand purchases due to the puzzle, plus the countless book collections, the Times crossword puzzle is almost certainly worth well north of $10 million a year. (The Times wouldn’t comment beyond what was disclosed in the press release.) Little of that money goes to the constructors: At its rate of $300 for a daily puzzle and $1,000 for a Sunday, I estimate that a little less than $150,000 a year is paid to the crossword constructors themselves.

Link to the rest at FiveThirtyEight and thanks to Dave for the tip.

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