This week in writing: it’s all going to h-e-double hockey sticks edition

800px-Two-ElephantsSo let’s just start with the elephant in the room. Hachette started to accuse Amazon of shenanigans, delaying deliver of its books to readers. Then Publisher’s Weekly wondered if the agency model could survive, or whether publishers will have to go back to individual negotiations. Mike Shatzkin weighed in with his always-thoughtful commentary, reminding us that both Amazon and B&N are publishers’ largest distributors, and Amazon itself has not been making that much from the deal. Then Amazon doubled down, straight up refusing orders for even J.K. Rowling’s upcoming book and some book pages have disappeared entirely. At least one author, Nina Laden, is up in arms, lashing out at Amazon on her Facebook page, and from the looks of my own Facebook page, there is mutiny afoot by others in the writing community. And over at Salon, Laura Miller wonders why can’t publishers quit Amazon too? How will it all play out? Stay tuned.

The 500lb gorilla in the room across from the elephant is Rush Limbaugh’s nomination by the Children’s Choice Award as author of the year. To say people went ballistic is to put it mildly. There was this takedown in Kirkus, with descriptions like “God-awful. I mean really, breathtakingly, laughably terrible,” which is quite different from a review in Booklist before all the kerfuffle was stirred up. (Though the review does begin: “There are a lot of things wrong with Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims.”) The main dustup was over the fact that Limbuagh bought several thousand of his own books to drive up sales, which he then gave away, and one of the criteria that the CCA used to nominate authors, were book sales. Limbaugh then went on to encourage his followers to vote for him even though only kids are supposed to vote. There were a few reasoned responses around the web including Emma Dryden with her own thoughts on whether there is true value for the reader in book awards. Which then reminded me of this Chad Prevost post about how prestige might be getting in our way. Needless to say, I’m pretty sure the award will be taking a long hard look at their rules for next year.

Meanwhile, in other non-Earth-shattering news:

Rainbow Rowell answers some hostile questions (hey did you know her upcoming novel is adult fiction?)

The media thinks John Green is the savior of children’s publishing, and this librarian and this children’s book author and university professor smacks them down for so, so much wrong in their coverage, not the least of which is billing another straight white male as kid lit Jesus.

Andrea Davis Pinkney delivers an address at University of Minnesota Children’s Literature Research Collections, in which she quotes Frederick Douglas, sings snippets of Wade in the Water and We Shall Overcome, and performs as different characters in her life and in black history, and imagines a world where May Hill Arbuthnot (for whom the lecture is named) and Zora Neale Hurston may have been friends, or Emmet Till and Travon Martin may have attended college together. She ends in a blue hoodie. Chilling. Brilliant. I hear there’s going to be a recording soon. I hope so.


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!

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…golden edition

So many “golden” moments this week from Rowling’s new book, to great librarian comments, and least of all, an Oscar roundup. Enjoy!

The biggest news this week (at least for the grownups who love Harry Potter) is that J.K. Rowling is set to release an adult title soon. No word on the title, or the genre, only that it’s not aimed at kids. For this venture, she switched publishers. Sorry Bloomsbury!

Because you can’t go a week without talking about Amazon (remember the ’80’s when you couldn’t go a day without mentioning Madonna?) here’s the requisite Amazon post. Stephen Colbert and guest Ann Parnassus discuss the merits of a brick and mortar bookstore, and bash Jeff Bezos in the process. If you look through the comments, a librarian named Arlene has some choice things to say. I know Arlene. She’s a librarian in my neck of the woods, and she’s super smart.

Speaking of smart librarians… I’ve mentioned before that they’re sick and tired of publishers denying them the rights to ebooks. Well, things took a bit of a turn this week. While last year they were up in arms over HarperCollins restricting how many times they could lend an ebook, now that others aren’t letting them have access to any, Harper is looking like a rose. Only, is it wise to cave? One annoyed librarian (not Arlene) takes issue there.

In more weird library news, is the story of Andy Warhol’s shooter and how she defaced a copy of her own  book at the New York Public Library. We’ve all wanted to go back and edit things that we’ve published, but this took it a tad far.

As if there wasn’t enough to pay attention to in publishing, there now may be a new genre. No, it’s not the long-awaited new title for non-fiction. It’s called chick non-fiction, and it was coined by someone trying to insult the new book on the Obamas (and it’s writer), but we girls think we really like it! So ha!

Over at Publisher’s Weekly, there’s some conflicting data over whether teens are embracing ebooks. Let me tell you this. I have a tween (is a 9 year old a tween yet?) and she loves my Nook. I also have a 5 year old, who really loves the interactive books on my Nook. So if teens aren’t embracing ebooks yet, the kids coming up behind them are, so in a couple of years… Moral of that story: create content for them. That’s all I’m saying.

And speaking of creating content… the inevitable question of self-publishing. Should you do it? Well, if there’s a smart way to do it, this article will help you figure it out. And here’s a link to the author’s book.

If you haven’t already, head over to my Facebook page where there are some hysterical opening lines to the story of this cat:

Don’t forget that this is the last day to win a Nook from your Fairy Godauthor. Click on the link in the upper right hand to enter.

Are you going to watch the Oscars this weekend? I am. I had no idea that eleven of the nominated movies are book adaptations. Go books! And if you’re feeling as unprepared as I am, let the Film Fatales help you figure it all out before you sit back with your popcorn to ridicule the outfits… I mean… see who wins.

And because I always feel the need to leave you with a video, here’s OK G0 and their musical drive. Genius!

Chapter zero

Am I the last person to find out about the Harry Potter prequel? Good lord, people! Why didn’t you tell me? That’s so uncool. Oh, you didn’t know either. Well… OK then. Download it for free here.

The Mashup

It’s Monday! Time for publishing news…

For us social media folks, Livia Blackburne says that blogging is a waste of time. (Frankly, sometimes I wonder myself if I’m just spinning my wheels here). Agree or disagree?

If you tend to disagree, Jane Friedman has some ideas on how to build diversity into your online presence. This was one of those rare posts that actually had new information on this oft-written-about topic. Thank goodness for fresh ideas!

And while you’re on the big bad InterWeb, be careful about how you behave. This social media thing can wreak havoc on your career. That’s from fellow WordPress blog, Whispered Writings.

Back in the writing world, there’s the very awesome Terrible Minds who wants writers to be M…rf…ing Rock Stars. Hell yeah! I’m all for it. Sadly, I’m too polite. Do you want to try? I’ll be your groupie.

There are a bunch of essential Ted talks, and some other clips about why failure isn’t fatal and how it can be rather helpful, in fact. Each of these clips and interviews are extremely instructional, and the last one is J.K. Rowling’s now famous commencement speech. Which is worth the 20 minutes every time. If you don’t click through to anything else this week, this is the one to check out.

If you’re stuck coming up with a book title, or you think what you’ve come up with is immensely stupid, fear not. The folks over at Huffington Post have rounded up the 15 most ridiculous book titles for you. And they really, really are. I think you’re safe.

If you’re try to create a book trailer and want to see what a good one looks like, look no further. I have seen some crappy ones recently, so thank goodness for this lady. Whew. If you’re looking for one that’s for kids, then here you go. Of course, you’d need some animation  skills if you were planning to do something like this on your own.

Neil Gaiman gives you the best and simplest writing advice around. We all probably know all of these, but it’s nice to hear from a master, isn’t it?

And what should a non-fiction query letter look like? This.

If you’re still in the revision process, this kid lit revisions class might be for you. I’ve worked with these folks before, and I love them.

For you indie  writers, there’s an award  for you! Finally! Let’s please separate the wheat from the chaff. I’m really excited about this one.

And once you’re ready to upload your masterpiece, think twice about that 99c price point, will you? Though now that you’re offering that ebook, you can also offer to sign it for your fans who buy it on the Kindle.

And finally, after that ebook love, here’s another article about what ereaders can’t download. I guess the whole real book v. ebook thing isn’t going to go away after all.

Before you  run off, here’s a little fun for ya for the week… and yes, I did see Cowboys vs. Aliens this weekend, and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Happy  Monday everyone! Have a great week.


Monday Mashup!!!

As some of us rabid fans await the final installment of the Harry Potter movies, this mysterious website popped up. What is Pottermore?

Turns out the internet is an excellent teaching tool as it was first envisioned! Agents report that due to the wealth of publishing information out there, query letters have been getting better and better. But are the manuscripts getting better too?

Clock machine from Museum of Life, France

But while the queries may be getting better, the wait for responses isn’t. This blogger goes over “publishing time” which he says doesn’t go at the same pace as normal time. Those of us who live in Trinidad understand this phenomena completely as “Trinidad time.” Maybe everyone in publishing is from Trinidad? Awesome. And while you’re doing all of that, here’s a new agency you can query. When you do get that call from an agent that you’ve been looking for, here’s what you should ask.

Ah, the dreaded revisions. But here’s a little relief in the form of a cartoon.

In ebook news, it turns out that picture ebooks also have a page count. Good to know.

Think insecurity is the realm of the newbie writer? Turns out that the published and contracted also go through bouts of self-doubt.

For those interested in my line of business, educational publishing, here’s an invaluable article on what it takes to work in that segment of publishing.

That’s it for the mashup. Have a great week, everyone!

[Harry Potter image from:]

Deathly Hallows part one

Now that I’m finished with my NaNoWriMo novel. (Yipeee! Yay! Hooray!) I can get back to all the literature I’ve been missing in the month of marathon typing. But first, we have to talk about HP7.1. You’ve all seen it right? It’s been out a WHOLE weekend. Sheesh. I know people who’ve seen it multiple times already.

I went with a buddy of mine who re-read the book prior to heading out to see it. She regretted this because there were a lot of thing that the movie format didn’t support, like the fact that Harry is charmed to look like someone else during the wedding scene. Or the tension about him touching the golden snitch because of its flesh memories. And the fact that they used the invisibility cloak pretty much all the time in the book, but it doesn’t get any play in the movie.

Fortunately, I hadn’t recently re-read the book, so I was more forgiving. I loved all of it. Nothing stood out as particularly more outstanding than any other part, but I did like how the tension was increased, and then cut with humor to give my poor brains a break. Harry and Ginny’s kiss followed by one of the twins with a toothbrush sticking out of his cursed ear. The dancing scene with Hermione. The scene where Ron destroys the horcrux, followed shortly by the hilarity of Hermione’s continued anger. It’s a good note if you’re a writer. It can’t be all tension and craziness.

On the ride back from the movie we talked about all the details that went into the creation of the entire series, and how they all get served up in the finale. It’s quite a juggling act for an author and I have to applaud Rowling. I don’t know how she managed to do it, but she deserves every penny she made from those books. It’s a lot to aspire to if you’re a YA writer (like me, but I try not to compare myself, or I’ll go totally nuts).

Anyway, you have the floor. Did the movie live up to your expectations?

Fiction vs. Nonfiction

Are fiction writers better than non-fiction writers? You think about your literary superstars, and you really think about Dan Brown and J.K. Rowling and James Patterson (whether you like them or not), and not so much Malcolm Gladwell, Peter Laufer or Kitty Kelley (whether you like them or not). There’s a perception of romanticism associated with writing a novel, that it has to be gold spun out of air, relying solely on the innovation of the writer. For this, I blame Hemingway. It’s mysterious. It’s artistic. It’s hella cool. But the work of a non-fiction writer appears much less romantic. The reader knows that it involves hours of research in a library, poring over countless books and articles, interviewing people on the phone, in person or (my favorite) over email. It might involve direct scientific research and observation. What’s romantic about that? Well, nothing really, except that it’s gold spun out of straw.

For both fiction and non-fiction you have to sit at a desk and work, word after exhausting/exhilarating word until you come to the end.

While in non-fiction you’re drawing from a set of facts that you lay out engagingly on the page, in fiction you use facts to enhance the world and characters you’re trying to make everyone believe in.

And as for artistry, it takes a great deal of writing skill and artistic ability to take the elements of a real event/phenomena/person’s life and make it riveting.

As an adult, I find myself reading much more non-fiction for pleasure than fiction. Maybe I just like to be informed. Maybe I find the real world more fascinating than the fiction world. Maybe I get enough fiction from politics and t.v. news. I’ve even started following the work of certain non-fiction writers, because I like their topics and they way they tell them.

So, being a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, knowing that they draw on similar skills, and that they’re both pretty difficult to do well, and being a reader of both fiction and non-fiction and enjoying them equally, I have to say that writing a book is writing a book, and whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, it’s still pretty damn cool.