Dear Microsoft: You are bumming me out

So poor Zooey, my trusty laptop, died on Sunday. She was awesome. A sleek black HP tablet that made presentations a breeze, and doing on-screen writing super simple. After her, I couldn’t go back to a non-tablet device, so I had been waiting for the Next Big Thing.  My husband, a techie, was “reading the tea leaves” and knew that something new was coming out. He thought that Microsoft’s usual partners would be making Windows 8 devices, and he had been telling me for months to wait it out. Then on Monday, Ballmer had his big moment, announcing Surface. I thought, “Yay! A perfect Zooey replacement!” until there was no further information about the availability of the machines, the price point, nothing.

So, geniuses. You announce a great new machine. And then what, you expect consumers to just sit around and wait 4 months until you get your ducks in a row? I mean, you have me by the short and curlies. I want a Surface machine (with a touch keypad in pink, please). But I also need something now. Which means, I’m going to be buying from someone else. And isn’t Apple coming out with an iPad3 soon? Ever heard the phrase “strike while the iron is hot?”

You guys may be the dumbest bunch of smart guys on the planet.


This week in writing… Shakespeare edition

To commemorate The Bard, I thought I’d do this post in iambic pentameter. And then I remembered who I was… and who I wasn’t.

First things first. You know that  Pottermore is up and running, right? Good.

Next up, we recently celebrated the Bard’s birthday #448, and still looking good! Mark Ravenhill wrote a new sonnet to commemorate the great playwright. There’s also a meme circulating the interwebs of all the words that we use today because Shakespeare made them popular. Haven’t seen it? Here you go.

Also, big news, the world of Children’s Literature has “exploded.” (Um. I think we already  knew that.)

On the SCBWI blog, Malcolm Gladwell (of Blink and The Tipping Point) talks about the future of publishing and why editors are “king.” Over at Horn  Book, Stephen Roxburgh also takes a look at the future of publishing in this very, very, VERY lengthy article. (The upshot: authors and illustrators are OK but publishers are screwed.)

Speaking of publishers, Forbes discusses Amazon and Apple’s effect on  publishing, and how big publishers who are now shunning Amazon are probably going to come crawling back. Yowza.

The Hunger Games is doing for North Carolina, what Twilight did for Forks, W.A. Readers are flocking to the destinations of their favorite books. And speaking of Hunger Games, last weekend it got knocked off the top spot for movie-goers, replaced by Think Like A Man.

At the LA festival of books, some YA authors talk about inspiration, and some interesting hate mail.

For newbies, a list and definitions of basic publishing terms from Jane Friedman. You may need to know those if you’re going to query Capstone’s new trade publishing division for young readers.

As for our future writers… is there any hope to develop good writing when a computer robo-reads kids essays? I’ll tell you right now that I’ve been teaching my older kid that there are two ways to write: the right way, and the way that will get you points on a test.

That news may make you grumpy as a parent, but know who’s really grumpy? These 10 writers, courtesy of Flavorwire. #1 Franzen. #2 Sendak. Awesome. What do they have to be so grumpy about? Sheesh! (On the list is my fellow Trinidadian, V.S. Naipaul, who seriously, seriously needs a kick in the ass. He should move back to T’dad. You can’t be grumpy on a tropical island.)

And, you’re going to want to see this documentary: Library of the Early Mind. Here’s the trailer. Enjoy!

[Shakespeare image via Wikipedia]

This week in writing… poetry & letters edition

It’s National Poetry Month! Spring is in the air, and everyone’s inspired. I wish I could put a poem here, but I suck at that, so let’s just dig in…

Jane Yolen has tips on writing poetry over at Katie Davis’ blog.

On April 21st, the Postal Service will honor 20th century poets with their own stamps!

The 2012 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award winner and honoree has been announced.

Maybe you’re just looking for the best prose out there… Bank Street has you covered with the best books of 2012 from infant to YA.

Over in the UK, the Roald Dahl museum has now opened up an exhibit that includes his writing hut. Man, I want one of those!

Have you seen this letter from Kurt Vonnegut to the head of a school board who ordered his books to be burned in the school furnace?

In news of nicer letters, there’s this book of letters C.S. Lewis wrote to children.

There are a couple of new ventures to report. The people behind One Story have now launched a new magazine, One Teen Story for older readers. They are now accepting short stories for their first year of publication. Also, author Marissa Moss is launching her own publishing company, Creston Books.

Dahl in his Writing Hut

Just as the DOJ, Apple and the big 6 start making decisions about their suit, Amazon cuts ebook prices. This will further separate them from the pack, and put them firmly ahead of their competition. I wonder what Barnes & Noble’s response will be, if any. (Oh wait. They’ve updated their Simple Touch with a GlowLight. OK, that’s a handy feature, but is that enough?) Meanwhile, in the Department of Justice suit, three are settling while three more are standing up to fight, saying that there was no collusion on their part to set the prices of ebooks. And on the other end of the spectrum, the ebook version of J.K. Rowling’s new adult novel will be priced at about $20. What the muggle?

With all the fur and feathers flying, some publishers are trying to squeeze out Amazon by not signing contracts with them. (How do we feel about this, authors?)

If you think that ebook pricing doesn’t affect you because you’re only a reader, you’re mistaken.  A consumer advocate group has calculated that the pricing fix will actually cost each of us about $200 more this year. I know what you’re thinking. You’re just going to get your ebooks from the library. Well hold that thought. Libraries and publishers are still fighting. In fact a group of 25 libraries in Connecticut recently voted to boycott Random House.

Bah humbug, you say? Who cares about ereaders and ebooks you say? Well, it seems that people who use electronic devices to read, read more than those who only read on print. I bet the divide will keep growing.

[Roald Dahl image from BBC:]

This week in writing… politics edition

The ultimate literature/politics mashup: Animal Farm

I happen to love it when politics and literature meet, but sometimes, it’s a bit too much, and the mash-up is painful, like this week when racist Hunger Games movie-goers let their nastiness all hang out on Twitter. It’s a sad, sad world we live in where that can still happen in 2012.

There are a few overviews of the Bologna Book fair, including this one from Publishing Perspectives which seems to say that YA is becoming a hard sell. Big surprise, the field is flooded! And then there’s this one from Publisher’s Weekly where they’re looking for the next big thing. (Right here, folks. I’m right here.)

Harry Potter was released as an ebook this week, and demand for it crashed the Kindle website. Nook users (Hi! Me!) were fine. Which tells you something about Kindle vs. Nook. But there’s something else there of note: the Kindle and Nook sites weren’t actually selling the books, they were referring them to J.K. Rowling’s site, Pottermore, which is a huge game-changer in the ebook sales landscape because it’s pulling sales from Amazon and B&N (because, let’s face it, she can!) and cutting them down a peg. In this Shatzkin Files post, the implications for other publishing houses is discussed.

A lot of library politicking news this week too… an Ohio county gives OverDrive a $10M loan when the libraries there have been facing cutbacks. They plan on building a global headquarters with two basketball courts…. while the library gets… that’s right. Nothing.

How libraries are still relevant in a digital age (you don’t need to convince me, I’m there at least twice a week).

And author John Green takes on the library/publishing houses issue with this post on how libraries and ebook piracy are NOT THE SAME.

School Library Journal has a list of the best reads of 2012 for kids.

If you’re a children’s illustrator, editor Harold Underdown is running a competition of sorts on his Facebook page. You create a banner for his timeline, and if he chooses it, he’ll put it up for a week along with an article about you on his page. A great way to get some exposure.

Finally, this week we lost a great poet, Adrienne Rich. Diving into The Wreck still haunts me. I don’t even have appropriate words to send off such a literary great, so instead, here’s the poet in her own words.

Thank you, racists

So Suzanne Collins fooled you into caring about black people. What a bitch! I mean, you only cared about Rue and Thresh’s death because you thought they were white, albeit dark-skinned white, but certainly NOT BLACK!!! (Even though their descriptions are pretty explicit in the book.) The horror! It’s as if black people had, I don’t know, feelings. Or MATTERED. As for those Hollywood assholes casting Lenny Kravitz as Cinna! How dare they? He certainly wasn’t described as black in the book! He’s one of the best characters so of course he shouldn’t be black. Black characters can only be the bad guys, or have crappy roles.

It’s the reason it’s perfectly  acceptable for kids like Trayvon Martin to be shot dead in the street with a bag of skittles. He couldn’t possibly be doing anything good. Just look at his skin. AND he was wearing a hoodie! Did you know that he was  suspended from school once and that he was giving the man who shot him attitude? It’s a wonder he wasn’t killed sooner. Right?

Thanks racists, for reminding the rest of us that hatred is alive and well, not just in a set-in-their-ways older population who grew up surrounded by separation, but also in a young, tech-savvy generation who are supposed to be more connected to a wider, and more inclusive world.

It’s good to know what you think.


Racist Hunger Games Fans Are Very Disappointed

Witnesses in Trayvon Martin Death Heard Cries Before Shot

Reflecting on the Trayvon Martin Tragedy (letters to the editor)

What Everyone Needs to Know About the Smear Campaign Against Trayvon Martin


Last week in writing… late edition

So I got knocked out by a stomach bug last week, and the weekly roundup is late. You’ll forgive me though, won’t you? Let’s get to it.

The Bologna Children’s Book Fair was on this week, and many people turned out for the international event. Keynote addresses were on the topic of digital books in the hands of kids, including discussions of apps vs. ebooks.

At Bologna, the first Ragazzi Digital Award was given out to e-Toiles Editions for Dans Mon Reve (In My Dreams). So many publishers competed for the award that it’s clear, ebooks and apps are only going to get bigger and better.

Over at Cynthia Leitich Smith’s blog, there are plenty of interviews from Bologna participants. Enjoy.

Speaking of kids… this has nothing to do with publishing, but everything to do with the way kids learn, so I thought I’d share… Why Bilinguals are Smarter.

If you’re writing for teens, you might be interested in this article about how they communicate. Do you know how to use a smartphone? Because your character probably does.

Maybe it’s not the kids you can’t quite peg. Maybe it’s that unusual color. Merriam Webster has you covered with the top ten unusual colors.

Do you habitually underline sentences in everything you read? Then you have something in common with Jhumpa Lahiri, who says that opening sentences are like handshakes, or embraces. So true!

I’ve been planning to read the book MWF Seeking BFF. But now that I know it started as a blog, I’m even more intrigued. Here’s a post on the author’s advice for building your own blog.

There are so many books being made into movies this year. The New York Public Library has a list of them all.

IBBY announces the winners of the 2012 Hans Christian Andersen Award. Sheesh! More books to read!

Who doesn’t like a good writing competition? Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers announces a writing competition in conjunction with their 2012 conference. You have until April 20 to enter. Sharpen that prose!

And finally, author Brian Yansky wonders, do we need talent?

This week in writing… deep breath edition

(I’m not feeling great this week guys, so this is a short one.)

Siva on a lotus stalk (via Wikimedia Commons)

The publishing world is still in turmoil, tectonic-plate upheaval, according to one author, and the rest of us are just trying to ride things out, holding on for dear lives. I think we all need to take a deep breath before we go on, because it’s getting nasty out there.

First up, is the news that the Department of Justice is going to sue 5 publishers and Apple over ebook price-fixing. There are many, many reports about what’s going on. Porter Anderson over at Jane Friedman’s blog has a summary of who said what, with links, and Nathan Bransford explains what it all means.

Kiana Davenport, who went from being a Big 6 author, to self-publishing, to Amazon’s new publishing arm. For her efforts, Davenport has been fired by her publisher, and called all kinds of names by former friends, including “slut.” Her graceful explanation of what transpired is here.

She isn’t the only author who is clamoring to find a foothold in the midst of all this craziness. With the field flooded, the trick now is for authors to reach readers who are bombarded with the availability of books. Goodreads’ CEO Otis Chandler discusses how books get a foothold in today’s market.

Now if you want to do the opposite of Ms. Davenport and move from self-pubbed to traditional, agent Sara Megibow has some advice for you.

With all the talk about ebook rights, and DRM management, and how much publishers should make, and how much libraries should pay, etc. etc., it seems that people have forgotten that piracy helped to build the New York publishing industry. Did you know that? I did not. Poor Charles Dickens!

Think social networking is a pain and you want to quit? Before you do, consider a recent finding that social networks boosted the creativity of these 3 notoriously reclusive artists. Of course, the optimal word here is “moderate” so maybe you do want to drop a few hundred twitter follows, just for your sanity.

This week in writing… birthday edition

Wednesday was World Read Aloud Day, organized and sponsored by the folks at Lit World. I heard about it a couple of weeks back, and volunteered to be a part of it, not just because I love books and reading aloud, but also because it fell on my birthday. Since I had a rough year last year, this seemed like a great, productive way to celebrate. You can find pictures of the event on Lit World’s Facebook page.

Editor Molly O’Neill and agent Michael Bourret discuss what’s good in Middle Grade fiction.

Several children’s book illustrators have been tapped to add art to the subway. It almost makes me want a job in the city again.

Author Catherine Stine has tips for newbie writers, and describes her own path to publication. (Hint: indie and traditional publishing doesn’t have to be an either or.)

A creator of ebooks says that ebooks are bad for your children. Think it’s a trick? Nope. But they make a case for the kind of ebooks that might be better for kids and the kind that might not be. (Guess which kind they make.)

Agree or not, children’s apps are the wave of the future. Here’s a rundown of the kids’ app market.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children also has an article this week about technology and your preschooler.

Maybe you’re new to Twitter, or you haven’t figured it out yet. This Mediabistro post has tons of tips on what to do and not to do as you build your social platform.

Over at Atticus books, they’re discussing whether Amazon is the end of literary culture. A librarian, a bookseller, and a writer weigh in.

On Jane Friedman’s blog, Seth Godin discusses the future of publishing…. again.

If your publishing dreams include working  for a major publishing house (or even a small one), read this article.

Think librarians are backing down about ebook pricing? They aren’t. Thank goodness! There was a bit of a lively debate about this on my Facebook page earlier this week between an editor and a librarian. Both with excellent points, coming from different sides of the issue. The editor’s point: the publishers need to cover costs and are trying to figure out how to deal with the electronic revolution, and the prices will likely change as they do. The librarian’s point: all libraries want to do is serve their patrons and give them the publisher’s books. Where do authors stand? This author thinks that publishers should give libraries a break. They’re getting beaten up enough as it is. Any other authors out there want to weigh in?

Are you making these grammar mistakes? I see a lot of these from some of my novice clients. This handy guide will help you avoid them.

And finally, last week, The Book People held a conference where they discussed if publishers are still necessary. Author Anthony Horowitz has the abbreviated notes here.

In honor of World Read Aloud Day, and because it’s a big favorite at my house, here’s a short clip of Lane Smith’s It’s a Book! Enjoy!

This week in writing… show me some love edition

Fuzzy love

Agent Rachelle Gardner asks if you know what business you’re in, with good points about businesses like Kodak failing because they didn’t  respond to changes in their industry. Take note, publishers.

If you’re interested in illustrating, here’s a look at what a real illustrator does for a living. And she doesn’t even have an agent yet! For more on how illustrations make it into books, Harold Underdown has a great excerpt from his Idiot’s Guide to Children’s Publishing.

Brian Selznick talks about how his Caldecott-winning book became Scorscese’s Hugo.

Maybe it’s not Scorscese you’re after. But do you know what it takes to launch a book? Tips from publicist Arielle Ford.

So you’re done with the book, but nobody knows about it. Where oh where do you promote? Here’s a list of websites to help you.

If you’re having trouble with your story ending, or you wonder what other authors have done that works, you don’t need to go searching through the library stacks. Literary consultant, Constance Fowland has made a list of picture books by their unique endings, like twist endings, or surprise endings. The list itself almost has no end…

Despite all the sturm und drang over Amazon, there are a lot of authors who want to use their publishing arm. Of course, whether or not that’s a good thing depends on what you want out of it. One of my online writer pals had to pull copies of her book from Nook and other sources because she’s an Amazon Kindle Select author. Because she chose to release the book as a serial, she has to send the next installments to her non-Kindle customers for free. So she’s losing money there. Another author, Derek Haines did a KDP Select Experiment, and everybody’s chiming in on whether it’s a good deal or not. So head on over and check it out for yourself.

Royal love

Shelf Awareness is showing some love to one of the greats in children’s book editing: Ursula Nordstrom. The brief reminder includes my favorite quote in all of publishing: “I had to get back to my desk to publish some more good books for bad children.” I wish I could have met her.

Also via Shelf Awareness: bookstore sales fell in December last year. Is that because of all the Borders closings? Probably.

The Atlantic Wire rounds out some publishing news here. Among them, the surprising news that Barnes & Noble has a new backer: Fidelity Investments. I’m sure lots of people love that news. And while it is good news for B&N, it’s still not enough to concern Amazon. Another interesting piece in there: how to rock a pseudonym.

Are you ready to show some books a little love? World Read Aloud Day is coming on March 7th (which also happens to be my birthday).
They’re getting ready for it at Books of Wonder in Manhattan, and you can find out more about the event here.

And the always fabulous SCBWI is showing midlist authors some love with a new grant. Man, I’d love to be nominated. Not hinting. Just saying.

UPDATE: I neglected to add last week’s event in celebration of the 50th anniversary of A Wrinkle In Time, one of the greatest YA books ever written, which very nearly did not get published. Talk about love. How much do people love Wrinkle and L’Engle? Loads.

And though I’m not a fan of Valentine’s Day (my husband’s a lucky guy), I could not resist the photos I pasted in this post. But the best valentine ever? The video below. It’s nominated for an Oscar in the best animated short category, and it’s spectacular. Enjoy!

Ode to Giants

I’m not a big football fan. (My friends are now choking with laughter.) OK. I hardly know anything about sports. But I couldn’t resist watching the superbowl last night with the kids, and trying to explain as well as I could what was going on. In the last seconds of the game, with the fate of both teams hinging on one catch, we were all riveted. We didn’t need to know all the technical stuff, or what happened before, or who was playing, or what the stats were. We were just waiting for the result of that last play. And when it came, we yelled with joy. And we’re not even fans!

Now, that’s entertainment.

Congrats, Giants.