This week in writing… list edition

I have a lot to be thankful for this year: a new job, my husband’s new job after a particularly untimely layoff, some momentum in my writing career, two very happy kids, and best of all, my health, which I’m particularly grateful for after last year. I probably should also be thankful for the zombie apocalypse since it produced some good writing from me. Another couple of posts from that will follow the roundup. So let’s get to it.

Rupert Murdoch, owner of News Corp, the parent company of HarperCollins.

You probably already know that Penguin and Random House merged to form the super mega Penguin Random House. But you probably had not heard that now Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins are in talks to merge. What does this mean for authors? Probably fewer contracts. What does this mean for publishing? Hopefully, the smaller houses will pick up the slack. I suspect that all of this positioning is as a result of the Amazon factor. With the store producing and selling electronic books, and with a platform for authors to upload and sell globally even if they don’t go through Amazon’s publishing house, traditional publishers are unsure how to deal with the millions of Kindles with their convenient “buy” button. They probably figure pooling resources will give them a better chance of holding their own in an uncertain market. But as individual indie authors have shown, smaller and nimbler also works very well. A longer analysis is here.

As we wind down the year, here’s a list of PWs best books of 2012. (Is no one published in December?) And in children’s books, Kirkus has a list of the best children’s books of 2012. Have you read any of these Parent’s Choice Award books? There are lots of good ones on here. The best illustrated picture books according to the New York Times are listed here.

Pictures and reports from this year’s National Book Awards! Congratulations to the winners.

Books and education go hand in hand. And with the current push toward using the Common Core State Standards, writers of literature for children have an opportunity to promote themselves by looking at where their books align with Common Core. This post by Jill Corcoran tells everything you need to know to do that.

So, lots to think about. And with that, I’ll leave you to your thanksgiving prep work. Have a great holiday everyone. But before you go, enjoy a couple more posts from the zombie apocalypse.

Day 7, zombie apocalypse: Strange sounds
The night is so still, that the children have learned to pick out the sounds of specific foraging animals, prowling zombies, and the occasional faraway siren. Last night there was an additional sound: the carbon monoxide monitor going off. Seems the generator that may be saving our lives may also be killing us silently. Oh dear. We quickly opened the doors

and windows and bundled the sleeping children as best we could, but the freezing temps outside made the drool freeze on their faces.
Sidebar: the icicle drool was so captivating, I thought it would make a precious Christmas card, if people were still doing such things; if postal trucks weren’t largely abandoned all over the place and the zombies hadn’t taken over post offices for their base of operations. Oh well. Just in case we don’t make it to Christmas, let me extend my holiday greetings right now. Huh, would you look at that. Looks like those Mayans might have been right about 2012 after all.
If anyone’s out there: send punch a creme.
Day 7, zombie apocalypse (evening): Good news!
The big kid has lost another tooth! This adds one more link to the baby-tooth necklaces the children both wear, which seems to be a zombie-deterrent. Whether it’s that the zombies don’t care for the sound of jangling baby teeth or they’re deathly afraid of the tooth fairy is hard to tell. But now she can go out and hunt at night without fearing a frontal attack. From the back is another matter. But these days, we take what we can get.
If anyone’s out there: send a shiny new coin to put under her racoon-fur pillow.

This week in writing… is it fall yet? edition

I don’t know about you guys but, the weather in New Jersey is being weird. I’m in shorts one day and freezing my tail off the next. A girl’s going to get a cold. Can I break out my boots already? Geez. Good news though, pumpkin spice lattes taste good no matter how cold or warm it is outside. On to the news…

The National Book Foundation has announced the finalists! Woo hoo! I have not read any of them. Better get on that. Meanwhile has anyone read Mo Yan? He’s the new Nobel Laureate for Literature. Anyone? Anyone?

Last week was banned books week, and the National Coalition Against Censorship has wisely tapped Ellen Hopkins and Phyllis Reynolds Naylor for fighting closed-minded idiots. I mean people who want to ban books, or authors from speaking.

Now to the business of publishing: What were the big buzzwords at Frankfurt? BIC, GAMA, and Haka? Um… yeah. You’re going to have to check the definitions of those. Also at Frankfurt, the declaration that children’s publishing will pioneer new forms of reading. (No surprises there.) While you ponder that, ponder the new author/publisher relationship and how it has changed drastically in the last decade, according to Jane Friedman. More proof that nobody really knows what to do here, but that authors, as a group, have a lot of clout. Speaking of no one knows what the H is going on… can someone explain why the authors are pissed about Penguin trying to recover advances for books that weren’t written?

For those authors with plenty of clout but don’t know what to do with it, the Highlights Foundation is offering a course on the Business of Book Publishing. It might be $595 well spent, but I don’t have it. Take notes, will ya?

Advice! From writers! Like Sherman Alexie and Margaret Atwood with top ten lists. Also if you need help with that query letter, Lisa Bullard and Laura Purdie Salas have you covered. Not up to that yet? Still world-building? There’s a post for that too.

If you’re an illustrator, you might need some help putting together a portfolio. Makes me want to put one together for my writing. But how do I do that?

Already published your first book? Here are the five stages of…grief? Yes. Oh yes. I know all about it.

And finally, some argue that certain books are better in print than on eReaders. Agreed. Especially when they have illustrations like this:

Okay, that’s all I’ve got. Have a great weekend, everyone!

[Image from The Odyssey by Gillian Cross.]


This week in writing… headache edition

Who has aspirin?

This has been an emotional week for me. Lots of things going on. So let’s not focus on me. Let’s focus on poor, needy J.K. Rowling and how bad her adult book is. Review from The Telegraph and the New York Times. If she’s upset, she can weep into her piles of money, more of which she will get from this book and it’s 1 million pre-orders. A friend was kind and said that maybe she just needed to get that out of her system, in the way that female child performers often feel the need to go topless before they can settle into a grownup career. Let’s hope.

Earlier this week there was some discussion over the merits of Strunk & White (see the comments section). There’s the “they’re idiots who don’t follow their own rules” camp. And there’s the “they’re geniuses who flout their own rules in a masterful show of skill” camp. Who’s right? It might be easier to decide on the President. You’d better figure it out soon because one writer says that good grammar makes you smarter. Ooookaaay.


If you’re a children’s book illustrator, a) I adore you, and b) here are the guidelines for the Tomie dePaola Illustration award.

As if authors don’t have enough to worry about in regard to finding a readership, there’s now the fractured book-finding behavior of readers. Because there are so many ways to get access to books now, there are many, many more ways that authors have to consider to market to their customers. Lord. Remember when you could just write and then send the thing off in brown paper and twine? Yeah. Me either.

What could help books be discovered more easily? I know! Pop-up bookstores. Yes, seriously.

Oh, and know what else? Releasing books in two versions: for adults, and for kids, at the same time. (Actually, I kind of like that.)

One of the things fracturing bookbuyers are ereaders, and this week, B&N came out with new Nooks in HD, proving Amazon doesn’t corner the market on jack. This means, of course, there will be constant one-upmanship between the two booksellers, and anyone else out there with an ereader. But are they going to survive with the new tablets coming out…

You know, like the Surface machines! I’ve been waiting since the beginning of the summer when my beloved Zooey bit it. But in the meantime, HP has come out with the Envy x2, and I gotta tell you, I think I like it better. When do they all come out? Not fast enough for me.

I know I haven’t done “this week in writing” for a while, but I hear (mostly from Deborah Batterman) that you writer types like fast and dirty publishing news. So I’m going to try to keep it up. Cheers dudes!

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.