Books in General

What future for writers in Scotland after the independence referendum?

2 September 2014

From TeleRead:

One of the highlight debates of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, “Writing the Future: Being a Writer After the Referendum,” hinged on the question of what the actual results of the independence referendum vote – whether Yes or No – might be for writers in Scotland. The panel brought together writers, publishers, and cultural policy professionals, from both sides of the Yes/No divide.

. . . .

And the participants brought a level of engagement and passion to match the occasion, although by no means working from a simplistic Yes-is-good-for-Scottish-writers premise. All the same, “one thing that always struck me was the amount of respect shown to writers in Ireland … respect built into the way Ireland works,” said journalist and commentator Lesley Riddoch, mentioning, among other things, “the tax concessions, which make it much easier to be a writer or any kind of artist or creative person in Ireland.”

“There’s something else that comes from being an independent country. You get to a stage where you know your native culture and know its worth .. your own culture is your main selling point internationally,” she continued. “In Scotland there’s a two-tier set of values. There’s an official culture… There are two realities in Scotland all the time. There’s the mainstream British culture, which has occupied most of the space… and then there’s Scottish culture, sitting on the margins, in the corners, actually thriving, like a plant that adapts well to being stuck in funny wee corners … Scottish writing has thrived because it’s had to. lt’s been the carrier of different visions of what Scotland has been, could be, might become.”

. . . .

From the No perspective, publisher Hugh Andrew, Managing Director of Birlinn Limited, complained about the “stupendous disinterest” demonstrated so far by the current Scottish government in cultural issues. However, he also linked Scotland’s cultural and literary problems to structural issues in publishing. “There are five gigantic corporations who control 90+ percent of the market,” he noted. “I am the last substantial Scottish-based Scottish-owned publisher in existence.”

Link to the rest at TeleRead

The Joys and Sorrows of Teaching Literature

31 August 2014

From BookRiot:

Like many who become English majors in college and train to become teachers, I started out on the road to professor-dom simply because I LOVED READING SO SO VERY VERY MUCH. I read at the dinner table, I read during family get-togethers, I read in the car, I read under the covers with a flashlight when I was supposed to be sleeping. Reading was and is my addiction.

From middle school until college, I devoted myself to reading as many “classic” authors as I could: Dickens, Austen, Fielding, Flaubert, Dostoyevsky, Twain, Wharton, Ellison, Melville, etc.

. . . .

And my mom enabled me. During the summer before college, we were throwing around ideas for my future profession, and I declared that I would be a Writer of Novels. We decided that I couldn’t really count on that for a stable income (since I wasn’t exactly churning out the prose like a prodigy or anything). I came up with a brilliant solution: I would become a Professaaahhhh of Literachaaaah to support my real passion for writing. Perfect. Great plan. What could go wrong.

. . . .

Because I went to a small college, I never had any TAs (teaching assistants), so when I became one myself during grad school…well…shock, fear, disappointment, panic: you get the picture.

. . . .

Of course, we had received some TA training, and I had sat in on other TA sections, but still. It was me versus them, and I finally had my opportunity to unleash my love of words and ideas on students whose minds were supposed to be open. To say my first couple semesters of teaching were a bit rocky would be an understatement. And by “rocky,” I mean uninspired, dull, frustrating, and anxiety-inducing, streaked here and there with interesting after-class discussions and a few interested kids.

It wasn’t the literature’s fault, or the students’ fault. It was up to me to make these kids see the beauty of Henry James’s sentences, or the twisted brilliance of Gilman’s famous story. But all I wanted to do was rant (as I used to to my family and friends) about my love of such-and-such a character, or my admiration of this or that writer. Gushing, though, didn’t move my students. And only then did I understand that reading a book and teaching it are not necessarily connected. The teacher must make connections. She must reach her students…somehow. Even if they are of different generations and have wildly different interests and outlooks on life.

. . . .

So it took a while, but I learned from my colleagues and from experience something that everyone eventually learns: that just because you love to read, doesn’t mean teaching literature is simply an extension of it. If you’re meant to be a teacher, that’s what you’ll do. But no one makes it easy for you. You don’t just live in a world of ideas and words- you have to deal with all of the administrative stuff that goes with it. You have to perform, entertain, excite, and grade grade grade and hold office hours and also read all those books you assigned.

I will always love the idea of teaching, and I’d like to teach again at some point in the future. But thankfully I was introduced to other literary spheres: publishing, blogging, reviewing. Working at a press, writing for Book Riot, and starting my own bookish blog have shown me that there’s a whole other world out there where you can express your love for this author or that book and other people will feel the same way.

Link to the rest at BookRiot

Why don’t authors compete?

29 August 2014

From Seth Godin:

There’s an apocryphal story of a guy who went for his final interview for a senior post at Coca-Cola. At dinner, he ordered a Pepsi. He didn’t get the job.

And most packaged goods companies would kill to be the only product on the shelf, to own the category in a given store.

Yet, not only do authors get along, they spend time and energy blurbing each other’s books. Authors don’t try to eliminate others from the shelf, in fact, they seek out the most crowded shelves they can find to place their books. They eagerly pay to read what everyone else is writing…

Can you imagine Tim Cook at Apple giving a generous, positive blurb to an Android phone?

And yet authors do it all the time.

It’s one of the things I’ve always liked best about being a professional writer. The universal recognition that there’s plenty of room for more authors, and that more reading is better than less reading, even if what’s getting read isn’t ours.

It’s not a zero-sum game. It’s an infinite game, one where we each seek to help ideas spread and lives change.

Link to the rest at Seth’s Blog and thanks to Jessica for the tip.

The Times’ newsroom set to ring with the sounds of typewriters once more

28 August 2014

From The Independent:

Almost as if the digital revolution never happened, the newsroom of The Times once again resounds to the clatter of the old-fashioned typewriter.

Nearly three decades after Rupert Murdoch’s UK newspaper publisher revolutionised the industry by moving to Wapping and ending the “hot metal” era, his flagship title has reintroduced the distinctive sound of old Fleet Street.

To the surprise of Times journalists, a tall speaker on a stand has been erected in the newsroom to pump out typewriter sounds, to increase energy levels and help reporters to hit deadlines. The audio begins with the gentle patter of a single typewriter and slowly builds to a crescendo, with the keys of ranks of machines hammering down as the paper’s print edition is due to go to press.

. . . .

Whether journalists on The Times feel a similar sense of nostalgia is unclear. George Brock, a former Times journalist, and professor of journalism at City University, London, said the sound was unlikely to rekindle memories among current staff.

“Typewriters disappeared from newsrooms in the late 1980s. There will be very few people there who remember the noise of massed bands of typewriters in the newsroom,” he said. “They will have to find out whether a crescendo of noise will make reporters work better or faster.”

. . . .

The introduction of the typewriter speaker was “a playful idea”, said Lucia Adams, deputy head of digital for The Times and Sunday Times.

Link to the rest at The Independent and thanks to Chris for the tip.

Mace’s Lane Middle School Teacher on Administrative Leave

27 August 2014

From WBOC16:

He’s a man with many names, and the books he has written have raised the concerns of the Dorchester County Board of Education and the Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office.

Early last week the school board was alerted that one of its eighth grade language arts teachers at Mace’s Lane Middle School had several aliases. Police said that under those names, he wrote two fictional books about the largest school shooting in the country’s history set in the future. Now, Patrick McLaw is placed on leave.

Dr. K.S. Voltaer is better known by some in Dorchester County as Patrick McLaw, or even Patrick Beale. Not only was he a teacher at Mace’s Lane Middle School in Cambridge, but according to Dorchester Sheriff James Phillips, McLaw is also the author of two books: “The Insurrectionist” and its sequel, “Lillith’s Heir.”

Those books are what caught the attention of police and school board officials in Dorchester County. “The Insurrectionist” is about two school shootings set in the future, the largest in the country’s history.

Phillips said McLaw was taken in for an emergency medical evaluation.

Link to the rest at WBOC16 and thanks to tipster Randall who says, “Apparently you can now be arrested and put on a 72 hr mental health evaluation for writing fiction.”

Here’s a link to The Insurrectionist.

Zimbabwe: Doris Lessing leaves books to Harare library

27 August 2014

From The BBC:

Celebrated author Doris Lessing has bequeathed her entire book collection to the city library in Harare.

. . . .

The winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, who died in November 2013, apparently left instructions that her library of over 3,000 books should be sent to the Zimbabwe capital.

. . . .

Lessing’s executors say that Book Aid International, a charity that Lessing supported, has been asked to help transport the donation. Throughout her life, Lessing fostered several programmes in Zimbabwe to aid literacy through libraries and studying.

. . . .

Lessing lived in Zimbabwe from 1924-1949, when it was known as Southern Rhodesia. She returned there in 1956, but was declared a “prohibited migrant” by the government for her anti-settler sentiments and left-wing political views.

Link to the rest at BBC and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

Going to the Beach with a Public Intellectual

26 August 2014

From The Scholarly Kitchen:

With the last days of summer upon us, I am packing up the sunscreen and the dog for our annual family vacation at the beach. Traveling with us, of course, will be my familiar companions, the many public intellectuals who have, presumably as a matter of civic duty, graced us with their presence in the form of books.

. . . .

This year’s entourage is as rich as ever, richer perhaps, as we live in a platinum age for the intellectually curious. I am well into Barbara Tuchman’s Guns of August,  wondering how it is that I never read this before. Loaded on my Kindle and ready to fire is Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow, one of several books about the mind that have caught my attention. I just completed the mind-blowing The Future of the Mind by Dr. Michio Kaku,  which lives on the border of science fiction, but which nonetheless has colored my experience for the last two months.

. . . .

What’s curious about these books and the tiny subgenre they belong to (nonfiction books written by people who actually know something) is that they lie outside the reputation and career structure of the modern academic. No one gets promoted for publishing a book with HarperCollins or Penguin Random House. (A moment of silence, please, to contemplate how wonderful quality trade publishing is.) Lisa Randall took time off from her work at Harvard to write Knocking on Heaven’s Door–to my benefit–and Eric Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, both professors at MIT reshaped my thinking about the economy and social policy with their urgent The Second Machine Age. I imagine that their colleagues rib them about this. Why are you wasting your time? Does your ego require you to beg for the praise of idiots?

Link to the rest at The Scholarly Kitchen and thanks to Matthew for the tip.

PG noted the mention of a Kindle and wondered if it was inadvertent. Certainly no one from HarperCollins or Penguin Random House would have mentioned Kindle in a similar manner.


25 August 2014

From The Oxford English Dictionary Word of the Day

ragery, n.

. . . .

Wantonness, gaiety, sprightliness; an instance of this.

. . . .

a1643 W. Cartwright Ordinary (1651) ii. ii. 25 ‘Tis hard to find a Damosel unwenned [sic]; They being all Coltish and full of Ragery.

Link to the rest at The Oxford English Dictionary

Whatever happened to writing for love, not money?

23 August 2014

From The Telegraph:

The life of the starving writer has long haunted the imagination. William Hogarth’s The Distrest Poet shows a young man in a filthy garret getting his wife to fend off the milkmaid. Hogarth’s work was a satire, but in the Romantic era the same image turned into an aspiration. Suffering proved authenticity; rich writers had sacrificed their ideals at Mammon’s altar.

The argument between the practical and the romantic has become sharper for writers in recent years as book advances have dwindled and earning a living from sales become more difficult. The current brouhaha in the US between Amazon and the publisher Hachette is about whether writers are being done out of a living by one side or the other. You can’t go on a writer’s Facebook page or meet them for a drink without the discussion turning to what their publisher is doing – or not – to boost their sales, who the most ruthless agents are, or where to get the best-paid creative writing gigs.

I know they have to eat, but when did it all become about the money? The time when writers could live comfortably off their income was an anomaly of the Eighties and Nineties. These days, apart from a few big-money payouts for the next big thing, publishers are going back to being as cautious as they were before.

. . . .

Call me a romantic but it might actually benefit a writer not to rely on books as their main source of income. A talented friend of mine recently had an interview at a large literary agency. The first question they asked was: “How can we help you make a living from your writing?” The answer turned out to be to make her rewrite her novel to make it more commercially appealing. It seems bonkers that publishers will only look at a manuscript if the author has an agent; that means the first port of call is the moneymen who, being moneymen, will ask questions in their own interests. Alternatively, I have heard it suggested that, rather as the bankers were bailed out by the, state so authors should be given public subsidies – the perils of which should be obvious. This isn’t China.

Link to the rest at The Telegraph and thanks to SFR for the tip.

Self-Published Photobooks at Phoenix Art Museum

23 August 2014

From Broadway World:

The INFOCUS Juried Exhibition of Self-Published Photobooks will be at Phoenix Art Museum from August 23 to September 28, 2014. It explores the ways photographic artists are using newly available commercial technologies to self-publish photobooks. Entries were accepted until the end of July when a jury of seven industry professionals reviewed the 271 photobooks that came from 12 countries to select the 151 that will be on display to the public as part of the exhibition.

. . . .

Rebecca Senf, Ph.D., said, “This is the first time I’ve done a big juried exhibition and it was such an exciting process.” She added, “Reviewing the books with my colleagues was enjoyable and it was a pleasure to discover so many wonderful books. I cannot wait to share what we discovered with the Phoenix Art Museum audience.”

Link to the rest at Broadway World

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