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… 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.

Links:

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

 

Book 24: GAMES OF THE STRONG

Recently a writer friend (Pavarti K Tyler) loaned me her copy of Glenda Adams’ GAMES OF THE STRONG. It’s a 1989 novel about a young woman named Neila who lives in a future dystopia where a central city government called the Complex has control over surrounding lands. The Complex government applies fear, force, and a steady stream of propaganda to keep everyone in line. Neila has been hired to write propaganda pieces for the government, but she is a resister who wants to bring down the Complex and see freedom returned to people’s lives, but it is extremely difficult to know who to trust as there are spies everywhere, and resistance could mean death, or arrest and imprisonment on an island where life is worse than execution.

Pavarti said that this book is like an early draft of THE HUNGER GAMES, though the games in GAMES OF THE STRONG are really mental rather than physical. Neila faces constant emotional and psychological pressure trying to figure out who is a resister, who is not, and how to manage her own resistance efforts in the midst of all of it. Neila is often wrong in her assessment of people’s agendas and her errors push her further and further to the brink of despair. In Adams’ writing, her struggle is deeply felt and the penultimate lines hit you like a ton of bricks.

This is one of those novels that stays with you long after you’ve finished reading it, a testament to excellent endings, and probably why Pavarti remembers it over 20 years after it was first published. The book is now out of print, but if you can find a copy of it, you won’t be disappointed.

Books 20 & 21: CATCHING FIRE & MOCKINGJAY

I finished THE HUNGER GAMES trilogy this weekend, partly because the books were due back to the library on Monday and partly because I really couldn’t put them down. Suzanne Collins created a world that I couldn’t possibly have conceived of. And future dystopia isn’t new in literature, the world that she evoked with Panem and it’s brutal laws was something both shocking in its unfamiliarity yet still within the realm of reason. Why? Because as uncomfortable as that world is, dystopia seems always on the horizon when we look at current events in both politics and the environment.

At a recent @LitChat, people compared THE HUNGER GAMES series to Orson Scott Card’s ENDER’S GAME. The consensus was that they present a similarly violent future, but that GAMES was far more violent in its execution. Yes, the main character kills off several people. But the games are meant to be a violent reality show where children kill other children. I’m not sure what people were expecting to happen. One of the people who commented said that he wouldn’t allow his 12 year old to read that particular series, and I take exception to that. A kid can read any book they want to attempt in my house, only if I think it may be age-inappropriate, I will read it along with them and make sure that some elements are discussed. For example, my very sensitive 8 year old may not be ready for CHARLOTTE’S WEB, but if she wanted to read it, I’d read it with her, and we’d discuss what happens to Charlotte at the end.

But violence and what may be deemed inappropriate aside, what I most enjoyed about the series was the incredible writing. Thank the sweet heavens for good writing. It has really been lacking in my reading material of late. Collins has pulled off the impossible feat of making good writing into best-selling material. Sadly, I find most best-sellers so lacking in their prose, that I’m often pissed I wasted my time. What’s that Flannery O’Connor quote? “There’s many a bestseller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.” Which isn’t to say that Collins managed to sustain the level  of writing throughout the series. THE HUNGER GAMES starts out with a bang, and is impossible to put down. CATCHING FIRE was less riveting, though the frustration level for the reader at watching a further injustice probably is the thing that glues us to the page. But by the time we get to MOCKINGJAY, the plot has dropped so far below the original, that the book’s easy to put  down. The ending was particularly disappointing in light of the promise of Book 1’s opening. One of my friends described it as ending with a whimper. Main character, Katniss, so full of fire in the first two books, has petered out at the end, and merely drifts toward her happy ending.

Still, an excellent read, and I recommend it. The movie is also coming out, and the motion poster they’ve designed for the book is beyond awesome.

Book 18: THE HUNGER GAMES

Suzanne Collins doesn’t need my endorsement. THE HUNGER GAMES series is an international bestseller and the movie will be out soon. But having just finished the book last night I have to tell you how much I loved it. It’s not just that it wasn’t a book that I could have possibly conceived of, that for me, it was as original as it was well-written, or even that I was thoroughly entertained. It was that her success is so well deserved, that it made me glad to have read it.

After reading several pieces of fiction that I wouldn’t want to throw out in the trash lest my garbage man find it and scoff at me, it’s so wonderful to come across a piece of literature that is excellent, and also mainstream. A rare feat that makes me feel good to be a writer and an avid reader.

I’m off to read the second in the series right now.

Fit to be read

When you’re an author, competing with thousands of other authors and books released every year, it’s hard to get traction. I know that all too well. So recently, I’ve agreed to help out some fellow authors by reviewing their books. And that sounds pretty great, right? The authors send me nice fresh books in the mail, I read them, and post a review when I’m done. Sounds great, until I start reading.

Now, I don’t mean to say that the books I’ve agreed to review have all been terrible. Where I get into trouble is that despite their relative good-ness, I’m still dissatisfied because a) they’re not in a genre I particularly like, or b) they’re written in a style that I don’t particularly like, or c) yes, they’re bad.

As a reviewer, it’s impossible to know at the start of a book if you’re going to like it or not, which makes me really feel for all of those poor folk who read through the slush pile for a living. I mean, damn. Although, they don’t feel obligated to finish those manuscripts do they? Hmm, maybe I don’t feel so badly for them after all. But as I say… you never know what you’re going to get. And what I’ve been getting of late, has been hit or miss. So this week, I’m taking time off reviewing other people’s books, and reading a sure thing: THE HUNGER GAMES. I have the entire series on my desk waiting. At least this week, I know I’ll be satisfied.