Monthly Archives: March 2018

No Tears

31 March 2018

No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.

Robert Frost

Writing Like a Mother

31 March 2018
Comments Off on Writing Like a Mother

From Brevity:

Sometime after having a baby, and making a fateful decision to ditch grad school to pursue a writing career, I had this notion that writing while mothering would be easy. I imagined working from home would be orderly, convenient and efficient. It was simple. I would write in the quiet moments before our hectic morning routine got underway, during the baby’s naptime and after everyone had gone to sleep at night.

I had to learn the truth the hard way.

That some days the muse doesn’t come, or if it does – I may not be prepared. That writing requires mental and emotional labor I am not always equipped to manage. That great writing rarely happens when you are sleep deprived. That writing while mothering is draining.

. . . .

I am convinced that attending a writer’s residency does not have to disrupt our entire life, or permanently scar our children. Writer-in-residence programs now offer short stays and even virtual options for those who need it. Weekend writing seminars and workshops are an alternative for those who cannot commit to a full residency.

In November of 2016, I attended a weekend writing seminar in St. Petersburg, FL. It was the first time I travelled away from home alone to write. Their dad held down the fort and our kids had a blast while I was gone. At times, it felt as if I missed them more than they missed me. Most importantly, attending the seminar allowed me to bond with my peers and learn skills that took my writing in a new direction.

Link to the rest at Brevity and thanks to Gina for the tip.

Budgeting For Best Sellers At Dollar Tree

31 March 2018

From BookRiot:

I make a habit of checking out the book selection at every store I shop; in fact, I always have. I remember sitting on the shiny floor reading Sweet Valley High in front of the single book rack of Meijer as my mom shopped for groceries, and just yesterday I spent a great deal of time loading my cart full of novels at Dollar Tree—the store I probably least expected to offer a wide variety of bestsellers.

On my most recent haul from the bargain store, I was thrilled to see Zadie Smith’s name gloss the spine of a hardback, and at first glance, I thought I had found the single gem, but there were others.

. . . .

And, at a dollar a piece, taking a chance on an unknown (to you) author is an easy choice. –and maybe one of the best you can make.

Dollar Tree, as it turns out, can be a gold mine for buying highly acclaimed novels by authors at a huge discount. In fact, after a visit to Barnes and Noble, I spotted multiple copies of my Dollar Tree finds on the shelves at the original retail price. The question, then, is how. How can Dollar Tree sell a thirty dollar novel for one buck?

I reached out to Dollar Tree and discovered that the majority of novels they sell are called “remainders,” the books in stock at the publisher’s warehouse that have not been requested for resale at typical bookstores, like Barnes and Noble, because of a lack of sales, a new edition reprint, or simply because of overstock. Dollar Tree purchases these texts at wholesale and lucky consumers are able to purchase hardcovers at a major discount.

Link to the rest at BookRiot

And an indie author selling an ebook for 99 cents makes far more in royalties than a traditionally-published author does from the sale of a book at Dollar Tree.

Miley Cyrus Sued For Copyright Infringement

31 March 2018

From the American University Intellectual Property Brief:

Miley Cyrus is being sued for her lyrics in her hit song “We Can’t Stop.” Lyrics are protected under copyright law if they are deemed to be creative and original material. Looking at past case law, the phrase in Cyrus’ song “we run things, they no run we,” may be original and therefore protected.

On March 13th in New York Federal Court, Michael May, the reggae singer who goes by Flourgon, filed suit against Miley Cyrus for copyright infringement of lyrics to a song he wrote in 1988. That song, “We Run Things,” features a phrase that May claims to have created and may be familiar to many pop-listeners, which goes: “we run things, they no run we.” A similar phrase can be found in Cyrus’ hit 2013 song “We Can’t Stop,” which goes “we run things, they don’t run we.” May claims that Cyrus stole this phrase and that the theme of her song would be “hallow in sound and impact” without it.

. . . .

Looking to past lyric copyright cases, Cyrus may have a solid argument for winning this case.  Just this past January, Taylor Swift faced a lawsuit in which R&B girl group 3LW sued Swift for using similar lyrics in her song “Shake it Off.” The 3LW song states,  “players, they gonna play, and haters, they gonna hate,” whereas the Taylor Swift song states, “cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play and the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.”  US District Court Judge Michael Fitzgerald dismissed the case stating that the lyrics weren’t creative enough and stated that there was evidence that such a phrase was common when the 3LW wrote their song “Playas Gon’ Play” in 2001.

. . . .

In the Cyrus case, when researching the phrase “We run things, things no run we,” it appears to be a common Jamaican saying. However, it seems that this saying came from May’s song.

Link to the rest at the American University Intellectual Property Brief

Can history help?

31 March 2018

From The London Review of Books:

We are, all of us, saturated with information on change. There is 24-hour news. Twitter, Facebook and other online platforms transmit the latest occurrences across the globe. Those of us old-fashioned enough still to want newspapers can scan their online versions at any time. Yet this blizzard of material easily produces a sense of overload, even powerlessness, a feeling that we are simultaneously being told too much, yet can grasp too little. One vital respect in which history can help is by encouraging us to look away from the blitz of ever shifting news stories, and to consider instead what has proved genuinely significant in the past. Once we do this, we are immediately reminded that most really game-changing transformations have happened slowly. Minute by minute change is a media illusion.

To be sure, there have been a few genuinely world-altering events that seem to have happened in an instant. The men who dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 were deploying technology that had taken decades to develop. Nonetheless, in carrying out that act, these US airmen did effect an almost immediate transformation in the nature of warfare and in attitudes towards it. Many momentous changes, however, have taken centuries to work through. Consider the terrible outbreak of plague in the 14th century known as the Black Death. Europe suffered disproportionately, losing perhaps 50 per cent of its total population. One result of this, however, was that the living standards and wages of many of those who survived seem to have improved. This, it has been suggested, led in time to a marked increase in Europeans’ food consumption and demand for consumer goods. And this rise in demand may well in turn have contributed to the increasing number of European trading voyages across the world’s oceans in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. Even traumatic shifts in human history can have mixed and sometimes useful consequences.

. . . .

Populists, a widespread breed at present, often like to represent particular territories and sets of people in terms of an unchanging and finite set of characteristics, either out of boosterism, or as a means to marginalise and condemn. Thus, Sarah Palin, one-time Republican governor of Alaska, used to refer to her supporters as ‘real Americans’, as though such unadulterated beings existed, and as though her opponents were somehow not ‘real’. By the same token, the leading populist party in Finland used to call itself the True Finns, as though other Finns were not part of an essential Finnish nation.

What are the triggers of dramatic episodes of change? Savage outbreaks of disease can be a trigger; so can significant alterations in climate, like the so-called Little Ice Age that began in the 17th century. Some leaps forward in technology, such as the invention of printing in China, have precipitated long-drawn-out, transcontinental changes; so have economic crises, and major shifts in the nature of belief and ideology, such as the Reformation. But perhaps the most recurring and paradoxical trigger of change in human society has been war.

. . . .

Unsurprisingly, the countries that were invaded or defeated tended to be the ones that underwent the most fundamental changes. Germany, Japan and France all gained new constitutions after 1945. By contrast, neither the UK, which was seemingly a victor power, nor the US, which was certainly a victor power, changed its political system in the wake of the Second World War. Instead, in both countries, victory served for a while to burnish and strengthen the existing political order.

Over the centuries both the United Kingdom and the United States have indeed been almost too successful in their recourse to war, and this has had mixed repercussions for their political systems and democracy. In the United States, success against the British in the Revolutionary War led to the drafting of the American constitution of 1787, a brief but remarkable document.

. . . .

This conspicuous success rate on the battlefield helped to cement the political system established in 1787, which has been subject to only a limited number of amendments. The US now possesses the oldest written constitution still in operation in the world, which is an achievement to be sure, but also by now a source of some difficulties. The 1787 constitution said nothing about the operation of political parties. This lacuna was manageable so long as the main US parties were similar in outlook and prepared to abide by certain ‘gentlemanly’ conventions. Today, these conditions no longer apply, and gridlock has ensued. Similarly, the second amendment, passed in 1791, allowing US citizens access to arms, was manageable when most firearms were muskets that took minutes to load. Obviously, this is no longer the case. So while it may be tempting to attribute current political dysfunction in the US to particular personalities, some of the root causes are long-term, structural and connected to America’s experience of war. Military success has helped to foster constitutional stasis and complacency.

Link to the rest at The London Review of Books

Amazon Opens First Bookstore In Texas

31 March 2018

From Forbes:

This month marked a big step for Amazon’s bookstore venture with the opening of the company’s first location in Texas. The store, in Austin, is Amazon’s fifteenth location of Amazon Books.

Austin is a natural fit for an Amazon-branded bookstore–it houses so many offices for other major tech corporations that it’s been dubbed “the next Silicon Valley”–and is lobbying the company for the privilege to house the second Amazon headquarters.

Link to the rest at Forbes

You can now get a PhD in creativity

30 March 2018

From Quartz:

Universities don’t like change. But as the breakneck pace of technology speeds up the modern economy, these ancient institutions are starting to break the rules.

To adapt to the needs of future workers, some colleges are moving their courses online; others are doubling down on artificial intelligence. The latest school to offer a nontraditional approach to higher education is the University of the Arts, a visual and performing arts school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which has just set up a new PhD program not in an specific discipline—but in the overarching idea of creativity.

Under the new creativity PhD, which debuted last month, students will participate in cross-disciplinary workshops and produce unique, independent dissertations, advised by professionals brought in from outside the university. The PhD begins with an immersive two-week “creative bootcamp,” meant to throw the students—who ideally will be mid-career professionals already successful in one industry—out of their comfort zone entirely.

. . . .

The whole venture resembles a Silicon Valley startup accelerator more than a degree program—which is partly the intent. As the school’s president David Yager explains it to Quartz: “I think about it as re-engineering. If we’re successful, some of these people will be driving and focusing on industries we’re not even talking about right now. They’ll have tools to think differently.”

Jonathan Fineberg, the director of the PhD program and a 40-year veteran of academia, says he has never felt comfortable with the way most degree programs force students to master all the literature that came before them in order to start on their own work. “It takes some people 10 years to break free of the hierarchies they’ve been taught,” he says. “We want somebody without the skills on the agenda to figure it out in a non-methodical way.”

Link to the rest at Quartz

Amazon Severs Ties With Top Lobbying Firms in Washington

30 March 2018

From Bloomberg:

Amazon.com Inc. cut ties with Washington’s biggest lobbying firm and brought on new advisers following passage of the tax overhaul bill last year and in the face of new challenges in the age of President Donald Trump.

The shakeup occurred last Friday, a week before Trump briefly sent Amazon’s stock tumbling with a Twitter attack on the world’s largest online retailer. Trump charged that Amazon doesn’t pay enough in state and local sales taxes, hurts retailers and gets an unfair edge on the back of the U.S. Postal Service.

Amazon ended its relationship with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, the law firm that attracts more lobbying revenue than any other K Street operation, and Squire Patton Boggs, last Friday.

. . . .

For years, Amazon has been working to steer its image from that of a cut-throat internet giant wreaking havoc on Main Street to that of a job-creation machine that invests billions in new warehouses and offices, hires people by the thousands and helps small businesses grow by letting them sell products on its popular web store.

In recent months, however, the company has faced a shifting landscape in Washington. Trump has aimed repeated Twitter barbs at Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post, which has been critical of his administration. Attacks by the president have coincided with calls for scrutiny by outside groups that say Amazon has gotten too big and should be investigated for anti-competitive practices.

. . . .

Driven by the need to tackle regulatory and legislative hurdles to its ever-expanding business lines, Amazon has increased its lobbying spending more than 400 percent in the last five years, shelling out nearly $13 million in 2017, according to the disclosures. It lobbied more government agencies than any other tech company, the records show, making its presence felt from Congress and the White House to NASA as it outspent all of its peers except for Google.

Link to the rest at Bloomberg

PG wonders if Bezos considered the potential business cost to Amazon arising from his ownership of The Washington Post before he bought the newspaper.

Owning the Post hasn’t shielded Amazon from political attacks from the Left over issues such as the company’s hostility toward labor unions for its warehouse workforce. Now the company is taking hits from a Republican president who is apparently sensitive to repeated attacks from the newspaper.

What we are seeing today is actually the second renaissance of indie bookselling, not the first

30 March 2018

From veteran publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin:

Publishing and digital change consultant Bill Rosenblatt — always worth paying attention to — pointed his contacts last week to a podcast from NPR celebrating the current renaissance of independent bookstores. The history reported as part of what was really the celebration of very recent events is useful to ponder, even if it was sometimes a bit confused about the timing of mall stores and superstores and their impact on indies. But its memory wasn’t long enough to recall a critical development that is essential to understanding book retailing over the past half-century and what makes it possible to be a successful  retailer of books today. And it elides the fact that indie bookstores have risen before, several decades ago.

The story the NPR report didn’t tell contains the kernal of a totally underappreciated fact of the book business. The first serious harnessing of the power of modern computing to improve the book supply ecosystem was by Ingram in the early 1970s. Ingram’s innovations over the past two decades, in what could be called the Amazon era, are critical elements of the modern book business infrastructure. Lightning’s print-on-demand capability and “third party fulfillment”, by which Ingram can turn any entity with a web address into an Internet bookseller, are the industry’s counterbalance to Amazon’s growth.

. . . .

The central challenge of book retailing has always been to use the store’s limited shelf space and inventory investment dollars to have the best possible selection of books in the store. Before Ingram’s seminal innovation, publishers and retailers had a many-to-many supply chain with hundreds of publishers selling to thousands of stores. Wholesaling — stocking a warehouse that could provide books from many publishers — faced the same challenge. Wholesalers in those days were predominantly “local” — many of them had added a few trade books to their magazine and mass-market paperback selections.

. . . .

The trade books were worth more to the wholesaler, unit for unit. When a title took off, the wholesaler could order a big shipment from the publisher and it got orders for the book quickly from local accounts. That’s where the money in book wholesaling was in those days, pumping the bestsellers, not “backing up” a store’s need for an additional copy here or there across the range of possible titles.

The fact that wholesalers stocked very few titles didn’t stop stores from trying to order what they needed from them. The net result was unsatisfactory for everybody. Wholesalers couldn’t fill most of the orders they got. Stores found resupply of anything except bestsellers from the local wholesaler to be time-consuming and inefficient. And the net result was that it was very hard to for most stores to match inventory to demand.

And that was a big part of the reason that independent bookstores had trouble competing with the mall store chains as they built out. They couldn’t compete with a better or more responsive selection of books because the supply chain inefficiencies, which included the fact that there were hardly any in-store stock tracking mechanisms in those days before personal computers, made that an insuperable challenge.

And then Ingram changed everything.

. . . .

One day Hoffman entertained a former Bell & Howell colleague who showed him their new microfiche reader technology. The microfiche enabled the delivery of data on a piece of film that could be read by a projecting reader. Enormous amounts of data could be put delivered quickly and inexpensively by microfiche, if only the recipient had the “reader” machine to look at it. Hoffman and his team quickly grasped the potential benefits if a store placed its orders to Ingram with advance knowledge of what was in stock and what was not.

They hit on a formula. If the stores would pay the “rental” cost of having the reader (about $10 a month), then Ingram would deliver its complete inventory record to the stores weekly, including both the titles being stocked and the Ingram inventory as of when the microfiche was cut. The benefit to the store was that there was a high likelihood that their order would be filled (except for some titles whose stock had been depleted during the week.) That made Ingram their wholesaler of choice.

And to Ingram, the benefits were even greater than the increased volume of business. They no longer were processing reams of orders they couldn’t fill.

. . . .

It was this innovation by Ingram that actually spawned the first big uptick in the number of large and successful independent bookstores.

. . . .

For the next twenty years, until the mid-1990s, successful book retailing increasingly depended on delivering “selection”: larger and larger title counts in the stores. Big selections were the signal to the consumer that they would find what they wanted. With increasingly sophisticated communication with Ingram and B&T, stores could get most high-demand books in a day or two if they weren’t in stock. The mall stores and smaller independents suffered because their smaller selections were less of a magnet to the book shopper.

Then Amazon changed everything again, becoming the first store that carried every book and would tell you exactly how long it would take for you to get it. Of course, they did that leaning primarily on Ingram’s inventory and reliable service to deliver.

Link to the rest at The Shatzkin Files

Creativity

30 March 2018
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Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.

Steve Jobs

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