Friday, March 30, 2012

Fiction Factory

From: James Patterson Booklist

“'Let’s shoot the breeze for a bit,' says James Patterson, exuding a relaxed attitude on a recent morning at his Palm Beach home despite the fact that he has 13 books coming out this year. He had 11 last year. To date, the 65-year-old author has published 95 books—his most recent, Guilty Wives, hit shelves this week—and according to Nielsen ranks as the country’s top-selling author.
     Those numbers have added up to big business: Mr. Patterson earns more than $80 million a year, according to people familiar with his publishing empire.
     More than a handful of those recent titles are aimed at young adults, as Mr. Patterson continues to expand his publishing empire beyond the thriller and detective genres. He’s also shopping projects to Hollywood and has a new movie inspired by his Alex Cross series that will hit theaters later this year.
     Mr. Patterson works seven days a week out of a two-room office suite at his Palm Beach oceanfront home. White bookshelves line the first room, where he does the bulk of his writing, all in pencil on white legal pads. There’s no computer; just a telephone, fax machine, an iPad, and a bag of bubble gum. The second room looks like a traditional bedroom, but the bed is covered by books, loose-leaf papers, and manuscripts.
     When it comes to writing, he has a well-practiced system: he writes a detailed outline and then hires someone—often a former colleague from his advertising days—to write the ensuing scenes, usually in 30 to 40 page chunks. He will review those pages every few weeks, sometimes providing notes on them and other times re-writing them entirely."
— Lauren A. E. Schuke, The Wall Street Journal

Get all of James Patterson's books here...

Thursday, March 29, 2012

"You cannot plow a field by turning it over in your mind." — Author Unknown

Maunuscript by J.G. Ballard (from: A Piece of Monologue)

"There are some writers who wouldn’t dream of entering a writing competition. They consider such things beneath their dignity. I’ve even come across someone who refused to take part in competitions because 'someone has to lose.' My response to this would be 'someone has to win, and it might be you. But if you don’t enter, you certainly won’t win.'
     My own feeling is that writing for a competition is helpful for these reasons:
• You have to write to a word limit.
• You have a deadline to meet.
• You often have to write on a given topic.
• Even if your work is not among the winning entries you have a finished story article or poem that you can adapt for another market
     [...] I should come clean and say I haven’t won lots of writing competitions. I seem to get to the runner-up stage quite often, but don’t make the big time. Of course prizes in writing competitions are not always in the form of cash. You might win a holiday, a place on a writing course in some exotic location or as I did many years ago you might win a lavatory seat!"
— Mary Hodges, Daily Writing Tips

For information about our writing contest go here...

Staging Success

"I can still vividly remember reading, back in 2001, the New York Times Magazine write-up on the release of The Corrections. It began:
     'Some days, Jonathan Franzen wrote in the dark. He did so in a spartan studio on 125th Street in East Harlem, behind soundproof walls and a window of double-paned glass. The blinds were drawn. The lights were off. And Franzen, hunched over his keyboard in a scavenged swivel chair held together with duct tape, wore earplugs, earmuffs and a blindfold. ''You can always find the 'home' keys on your computer,'' he says in an embarrassed whisper, explaining how he managed to type under such constraints. “They have little raised bumps.”'
     What could drive a man to such madness? Later in the piece, I learned:
     '"I'm very concerned with providing a maximally enthralling experience,'' Franzen says of his work. ''Another 20 years of boring literary novels, and the thing's dead.'''
     Even then, this struck me as a wonderful piece of theater. Imagine persuading the Times that you’ve personally saved the novel—blindfolded!
     [...] Franzen took to the pages of Harper’s, opining on the talent in the room, the condition of the novel, the condition of his novel. Nor did he court success through public gestures alone; his private life, too, he shaped ergonomically to the purpose. The very furniture of that tiny Harlem studio—the drawn blinds, the duct-taped chair—set the stage for his coup. Ears plugged, eyes covered, he willed himself to become the figure he’d dreamed of being, a figure he feared might go extinct: the celebrated novelist."
— Austin Allen, big think

"This is, of course, a sales-driven industry, and in these internetty days there’s more competition and more ways to compete than ever. It’s not enough for the author to have written a book and for that book to be, however you define it, good – the author must also be visible online, actively selling and promoting their product to the best of their abilities.
     Whether or not this is the author’s job may no longer be a question. A web presence of some kind is almost always required for a new author, and web activity can only help. I just happened to be enough of a dork to already own a blog in some deplorable corner of the internet.
     The issue I’m starting to have my doubts about is the author’s visibility. I know it’s probably pie-in-the-sky idealism talking here, but I do think most types of art suffer the more the audience knows about the creator. Not only does familiarity lead to contempt, but (especially in literature) the anonymity of the creator’s voice lends it authority and impact. It becomes steadily harder to take someone’s work seriously the more you know about them.
     [...] It’s sort of a Catch-22 situation. For new authors, it’s so necessary to make sales that we are perfectly willing to create blogs and facebook groups and twitter hashtags for our work, and in many ways that can help considerably. But it’s also perfectly possible that the more we expose ourselves and lunge forward for our audience’s attention, the more we detract from the actual reading experience."
— Robert Jackson Bennett

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"Little Tail"

"Pencil, from the Latin penicillus, meaning 'little tail.' Little tail?
     Not everyone writes even occasionally with the old-fashioned yellow pencil with pink eraser top anymore. This astonishing fact came to my attention through a more newfangled way to communicate, the Facebook post. But the lowly pencil remains my writerly tool of choice. I use #2 lead, no doubt a holdover from my formative bubble-tests years. The lead isn't really lead, either, but rather graphite mixed with clay; I'm okay with that.
     I'm not exactly monogamous in my writing tool relationships. I write my novels (and everything else I write for publication, for that matter) primarily at a keyboard. When I journal I often use a pen, blue or black ink, I don't much care. But there is nothing like the freedom of a pencil as I'm taking the muck that is a first draft and trying to make something of it. Not quite right the first time? Erase and try again!"
— Meg Waite Clayton, Huffington Post

"Around 1560, an Italian couple named Simonio and Lyndiana Bernacotti made what are likely the first blueprints for the modern, wood-encased carpentry pencil. Their version was a flat, oval, more compact type of pencil. Their concept involved the hollowing out of a stick of juniper wood. Shortly thereafter, a superior technique was discovered: two wooden halves were carved, a graphite stick inserted, and the halves then glued together—essentially the same method in use to this day.[...]
     Vladimir Nabokov rewrote everything he had ever published, usually several times, by pencil. John Steinbeck was an obsessive pencil user and is said to have used as many as 60 a day. His novel East of Eden took more than 300 pencils to write."


"My novel The English Monster was published on 1 March. A week later, a Google alert dropped into my inbox with a link to a forum post on a site called Mobilism, on which a character called 'Fe2' was offering a reward to anyone prepared to produce a free ebook version of The English Monster for him to use.
     Most books these days are pirated in some form or another, and having worked on the web before I was a novelist I was anticipating that with a fair degree of sang-froid. But this was the first piratical move on my book, and it was also an oddity – more an incitement to piracy than piracy itself.
     This, I discovered, is how Mobilism works. The site is essentially an enormous discussion board. It started, as far as I can make out, as a place where people made 'mobile' versions of games and other stuff and offered them to each other. It now offers mobile (read: pirated) versions of movies and music as well as games. And books. Lots and lots of books.
     However, I need to be careful about my terminology, because Mobilism is very, very careful about its own. It states, often, that it does NOT host any files of pirated material on its own servers; it only links to them. It also provides a kind of currency mechanism for people to reward each other for producing pirated material; you earn things called 'WRZ$' by posting on the site, and you earn a great deal more by producing versions of content and making them available for other users."
— Lloyd Shepherd, The Guardian

You can get this book—legally—here...

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Squatters Write

"Once secreted away in the crannies of liberal arts colleges and assigned to the dull torture of reading undergraduate manuscripts, writers today are just as likely to be taking up residence in bookstores and libraries, prisons and scientific research stations, cruise ships, safaris and almost any semi-public enterprise that happens to include an extra chair in the corner.
     Some seek a new version of the traditional sanctum where they can devote themselves wholly to their work – without paying rent. 'I was honoured and thrilled to have a space with a door that closed,' says Manitoba children’s and young adult writer Anita Daher, author of Spider Song and the first-ever writer-in-residence at Winnipeg’s Aqua Books. 'It was a room of my own when I didn’t have one, and there’s nothing nicer for a writer than being surrounded by books.'

     Others, like Cape Breton-born Jean McNeil, pursue novel residencies in search of experience. 'I’ve been writer in residence in the Antarctic, in the Falkland Islands, Svalbard in the Norwegian Arctic, and on a ship’s expedition to the west coast of Greenland,' McNeil said this week by phone from the banks of South Africa’s Selati River, where she is undergoing training as a safari guide – 'my own kind of bespoke writer in residence.'”
— John Barber, The Globe and Mail

Buy books by these peripatetic authors here...

Monday, March 26, 2012

Three-time Winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award Shortlisted for 2012

"China Miéville joins SF heavy-hitters Charles Stross, Greg Bear and Sheri S. Tepper on the shortlist for the 2012 Arthur C. Clarke award, putting him in line to win the prize an unprecedented fourth time.
     Miéville – who won the prize in 2001 with Perdido Street Station, in 2005 with Iron Council and in 2010 with The City & the City – is nominated for Embassytown, a deep-space exploration of language, truth and identity which was shortlisted for the British science fiction awards earlier this year.
     His 2002 novel The Scar was also nominated for the prize, which is awarded to the best science fiction novel first published in the UK in the previous calendar year.
     According to the chair of the judges, Andrew M. Butler, there's no reason why the prize shouldn't be awarded to Miéville again."
— Richard Lea, The Guardian

From: Vasanth Seshadri writes

Arthur C. Clarke
1917 - 2008

"In 2007, Clarke completed 90 orbits around the sun. He was now in a wheelchair, but his mind continued to reach the farthest outposts of the universe. He marked his 90th birthday by speaking to his followers through a Youtube video. He expressed three birthday wishes: For ET to call, for mankind to quit his addiction to oil, and for lasting peace in Sri Lanka. He could not resist making more predictions. He declared this the beginning of the golden age of space travel. He predicted that thousands of space tourists will travel to the moon and beyond within the next 30 years."
Vasanth Seshadri writes

Buy books by China Miéville and Arthur C. Clarke here...

Read more about China Miéville here...

Censors and Sensibilities

"Intrigued by rumours of a censor's library, literary historian Nicole Moore went searching for the old customs archive of banned books. In 2005, she tracked down the collection seven storeys underground in a huge repository in western Sydney.
     Thousands of banned books, all neatly covered and catalogued, filled 793 boxes. As Moore shows, such secret collections have accumulated in many parts of the world, often carefully tended by censor-librarians. Private Case, Public Scandal, the book that revealed the contents of the British Library's secret collection, was itself banned in Australia in 1966. Not surprisingly, the 20th century's largest and most notorious repository of forbidden literature was in the Soviet Union, with more than 1 million items.
     Having uncovered this long-buried Australian archive, Moore set about the daunting task of charting its history. She was aided by Peter Coleman's pioneering work, Obscenity, Blasphemy and Sedition, first published 50 years ago. The Censor's Library is a much more substantial work, analysing in forensic detail the major controversies and teasing out the narrative of how such restrictions, and the ensuing protests, shaped Australia's cultural, intellectual and literary landscape."
— Craig Munro, The Sydney Morning Herald

"Some of the most controversial books in history are now regarded as classics. The Bible and works by Shakespeare are among those that have been banned over the past two thousand years. Here is a selective timeline of book bannings, burnings, and other censorship activities.

259–210 B.C.: The Chinese emperor Shih Huang Ti is said to have buried alive 460 Confucian scholars to control the writing of history in his time. In 212 B.C., he burned all the books in his kingdom, retaining only a single copy of each for the Royal Library—and those were destroyed before his death. With all previous historical records destroyed, he thought history could be said to begin with him.

A.D. 8: The Roman poet Ovid was banished from Rome for writing Ars Amatoria (The Art of Love). He died in exile in Greece eight years later. All Ovid’s works were burned by Savonarola in Florence in 1497, and an English translation of Ars Amatoria was banned by U.S. Customs in 1928.

35: The Roman emperor Caligula opposed the reading of The Odyssey by Homer, written more than 300 years before. He thought the epic poem was dangerous because it expressed Greek ideas of freedom.

640: According to legend, the caliph Omar burned all 200,000 volumes in the library at Alexandria in Egypt. In doing so, he said: 'If these writings of the Greeks agree with the Book of God they are useless and need not be preserved; if they disagree, they are pernicious and ought to be destroyed.' In burning the books, the caliph provided six months’ fuel to warm the city’s baths"
Freedom to Read

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Junk Food Books

Rated at a fifth grade reading level
by the University of Arkansas

"[U.S.] High school students today are reading books intended for children with reading levels far below those appropriate for teens, according to a recent report.
     A compilation of the top 40 books teens in grades 9-12 are reading in school shows that the average reading level of that list is 5.3 -- barely above the fifth grade.
     'A fifth-grade reading level is obviously not high enough for college-level reading. Nor is it high enough for high school-level reading, either, or for informed citizenship,' writes Sandra Stotsky, professor of education reform at the University of Arkansas."
Huffington Post

"Our nation's (U.S.A.] graduating high school class of 2011 had a 32 percent proficiency rate in math and a 31 percent proficiency rate in reading [...]
     When it comes to reading, American students performed reasonably well compared to most European countries, and only 10 countries outperform us by a statistically significant amount. In Korea, 47 percent of students are proficient in reading. Other countries that outrank the U. S. include Finland (46 percent), Singapore and New Zealand (42 percent), Japan and Canada (41 percent), Australia (38 percent), and Belgium (37 percent)."
School Library Journal

Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Team of Wild Horses Working 'Round the Clock for the Elora Writers' Festival

Source image: Tommy Edwards (1955) from: Collectors Weekly

Elvis Presley takes over the reins from Bill Haley as "Intergalactic Trans-dimensional Spokesperson" for the Elora Writers' Festival. This brief ceremony was part of the opening reception of the Timeless Legends Convention held annually at the Elysian Fields Bar & Grill (Stardate: 6127.6).

Friday, March 23, 2012

"Liking money like I like it, is nothing less than mysticism. Money is a glory." — Salvador Dali

Photo by Martha Holmes (from: Bob's Blog)

Salvador Dali and his wife Gala on the cover of a recent copy of LIFE magazine. It looks like he'll be spending some of his glorious money on tickets to the Elora Writers' Festival (Sunday, May 27, 2012).

Buy your tickets here...

Thursday, March 22, 2012


From: Introligatornia

The necessity of fact-checking nonfiction has been discussed and disputed off and on in the publishing world over the past 40 years, usually in the wake of discoveries of inaccuracies or outright deceptions. Clifford Irving, named 'Con Man of the Year' by Time Magazine in 1972, sold a fake biography of the reclusive Howard Hughes and spent more than a year in prison for fraud. Six years before the flurry of discussion that has greeted The Lifespan of a Fact, there was the great debate — and much finger-pointing — following revelations that James Frey, author of the best-selling memoir A Million Little Pieces, had exaggerated or simply made up information about his traumatic life. In 2008, Margaret B. Jones’s lauded memoir, Love and Consequences, the saga of her biracial gangbanging girlhood in the 1980s in South Central Los Angeles was revealed as pure fiction and 'Margaret B. Jones' to be a pseudonym for a white middle-class woman from Sherman Oaks, Margaret Seltzer. The book was trashed by Riverhead, its publisher. [...]
     [John] D’Agata is an associate professor at the University of Iowa, teaching creative nonfiction writing, and is the author or editor of four books, so he should know better — and I’m sure he does. So what is he up to? This is the intriguing question. What’s his game? You could say, as some have, that he is lazy, unwilling to follow through with the heavy and often tedious background work to get it right. You could say he doesn’t care about his responsibility as a writer to tell a story and enlighten his readership, or even the people about whom he is writing. You could say — and I would agree if you did — that D’Agata is not only untrustworthy but downright arrogant.
     For example: When [Jim] Fingal proves that there are 31 strip clubs in Las Vegas and not 34 as D’Agata claimed, D’Agata says: 'The rhythm of "34" was better in the sentence than the rhythm of "31," so I changed it.' And when he swaps the name of a bar from 'Boston Saloon' to 'Bucket of Blood,' it’s okay, because '"Bucket of Blood" is more interesting.'”
— Lee Gutkind, Los Angeles Review of Books

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Painting With a Battered Remington

"William Trevor was born in County Cork in 1928 and has lived in England since the 1950s. He gave up sculpture when he turned 30, became a copywriter, and wrote his first two novels and several stories largely on company time. These stories, composed 'on a battered Remington typewriter in an office corridor in London' and set in England, were 'driven by curiosity about the unfamiliar.' [...]
     A conversation between a Protestant and Catholic priest is the subject of his most recent great story, Of the Cloth (2000), which, although completely grounded in concrete reality, hovers at fable's borders in a way similar to John Cheever's The Swimmer. It is a reminder that if Trevor's range of subjects has narrowed it has done so, as he described recently, in the manner of painters who 'paint the same subject many times … in search of another angle, another viewpoint …' In 1989, he made another comparison with painting when he was asked to define the short story:
     'I think it is the art of the glimpse. If the novel is like an intricate Renaissance painting, the short story is an impressionist painting. It should be an explosion of truth. Its strength lies in what it leaves out just as much as what it puts in, if not more. It is concerned with the total exclusion of meaninglessness. Life, on the other hand, is meaningless most of the time. The novel imitates life, where the short story is bony, and cannot wander. It is essential art.'"
— Chris Power, The Guardian

Buy all of William Trevor's books here... 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Writing Advice From a Master Storyteller

Our Competition deadline is rushing towards you: Friday, April 27 — every day that goes by eats up more and more of what time you have left.

Get all of Kurt Vonnegut's books here...

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Rudy Valentino and his wife—and their cat, Gertrude (Gertrude Stein) Stein—on their way (via ocean liner from the Great Beyond) to the 2012 Elora Writers' Festival.
     They plan to get some advice from Festival author/reader Erin Bow—we can only speculate how... Twitter? A tea leaf reading? A medium?—on using the Large Hadron Collider at CERN (Erin Bow used to work there) to conjure up a vortex of universe-bending "god particles" to bring them safely ashore on this side of things; so that none of this year's Festival will be missed... not one word of it.

Biting the Hand

From: Coverbrowser

"Late last week, the [United States] Justice Department warned Apple and five of the nation’s largest publishers that it was planning to sue them for price fixing. At issue is the agency model, a method of wholesaling e-books in which the publisher sets the retail price and the retailer takes a 30 percent cut. Most print and many e-books are sold under the traditional wholesale model, in which publishers sell books at a discounted price, and the retailer can resell them for whatever price it likes.
     The unnamed player in this drama is Amazon, which had been selling e-books at a loss until two years ago, when the iPad came along and publishers used the emergence of the new device to pressure the online megaretailer into adopting the agency model, too. If Amazon wanted to sell e-books from the Big Six (as the six largest book publishers are called), it could no longer sell those titles for $9.99.
     Publishers actually make less money with the agency model, so why have they insisted on it? The change was designed to limit the growing dominance of Amazon over American book retailing. On Monday, Scott Turow — the bestselling author of “Presumed Innocent” and other legal thrillers, and the president of the Authors Guild — posted a letter to members on the Guild’s web site. In it, he pronounced the Justice Department’s actions bad news for authors, 'grim news for everyone who cherishes a rich literary culture,' and (contrary to first impression) ominous for book consumers. I called him up to find out more."
— Laura Miller, Salon

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Ten Plagues — Caffeine-free

“'I know this is cheesy ...' [Jeffrey] Goldberg started, but before he could finish, the president interrupted him. 'What, you have a book?' Mr. Obama asked. Turns out, Mr. Goldberg did, but 'it’s not just any book,' he replied.
     Mr. Goldberg reached into his briefcase and handed the president an advance copy of the New American Haggadah, a new translation of the Passover liturgy that was edited by Jonathan Safran Foer and contains commentary by Mr. Goldberg and other contemporary writers.

     The idea was to draw readers into the story and invite them to linger, since 'the Haggadah must be the most skimmed book of all,' Mr. Foer said. After a pause, he added, 'maybe Stephen Hawking’s Brief History of Time beats it.'

     After thumbing through the sleek hardcover book, Mr. Obama looked up and asked wryly, 'Does this mean that we can’t use the Maxwell House Haggadah anymore?'
     Mr. Goldberg was impressed. 'Way to deploy the inside-Jewish joke,' he later said. Since the 1930s, Maxwell House has printed more than 50 millions copies of its pamphlet-style version of the Haggadah. It has been the go-to choice at the Obamas’ White House Seders, though Mr. Goldberg hoped the president would consider using their version this time around.
In the end, the White House decided to stick with the Maxwell House next month. But the book’s advance buzz is an unlikely triumph for a version of a ritualistic text that was spearheaded by two lauded experimental novelists from Brooklyn, Mr. Foer and Nathan Englander.
     'The Haggadah is the user’s manual for the most widely celebrated Jewish holiday, Passover,' Mr. Foer said on The Colbert Report last Tuesday. 'It’s one of the oldest continually told stories, and one of the most well-known across cultures.'
— Alex Williams, The New York Times

Start... Now

"This tiny manuscript represents [Charlotte Bronté's] first burst of creativity
and provides a rare and intimate insight into one of history's great literary
minds." (from: ABC News)

"The Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award is an opportunity for any young poet aged 11-17 to accelerate their writing career. Since it began 15 years ago the Award has kick-started the career of some of today’s most exciting new voices, including this year’s judge Helen Mort, a highly successful poet whose next collection is to be published by Chatto & Windus.
     With entries from over 7,200 young people last year across from the UK and worldwide, it is the largest competition of its kind and its importance is widely attested.
     Each year 100 winners (85 Commendations and 15 Overall Winners) are selected by a team of high profile judges, and receive their awards at an annual prize-giving event on National Poetry Day. Thanks to funding from the Foyle Foundation the competition remains completely free to enter and we are able to offer a wide range of prizes, opportunities and resources to young people and schools across the UK.
     Overall Winners from the 15 to 17 age category attend a week-long intensive residential Arvon course where they develop their creative writing skills alongside fellow poets. Winners aged 11-14 group benefit from poetry residencies at their school followed by distance mentoring. [...]
     The competition closes at midnight on the 31st July 2012."
The Poetry Society

Monday, March 12, 2012


Back in the eighties—for one night, at least—I was part of a trivia team formed to compete in a Toronto pub. It was just before Trivial Pursuits broke out big time. Modris was our heavy artillery; he was recruited for his nimble wit and his ability to dredge up both the recondite and mundane with equal alacrity. He was a "genuine intellectual" even then, but we told the barkeep he was a bus driver.
     This was way before the internet... we didn't need Google; we had Modris.
     Here he is talking about his house of books:

— Michael Hale

"When books are at the centre of your life, there can be no special place assigned for reading, just as there can be no special place for breathing. You read everywhere and wherever, all the time – and feel alive for it. I grew up in a house full of books; the dining room was in fact the library, other rooms mere annexes for storage.
     My house, too, is now full of books; we sometimes wonder how much longer our aging Edwardian construct will be able to bear the weight of Gutenberg’s legacy and Diderot’s folly. If disaster befalls us one day, it won’t be because of tornadoes churning north from Dorothy’s Kansas, or local gas leaks itching for a visiting spark; it will be because Wilfrid Laurier’s two-by-eights couldn’t in the end withstand the pressures of time and particularly tome."
— Modris Eksteins, The Globe and Mail
Get all of Modris Eksteins' books here...

Friday, March 9, 2012

A Farewell to Spines

From: Delaney Restorations

"I’ve been giving away my babies. No, not my actual children – that would contravene various recycling regulations and their grandparents would never forgive me. Instead, I’ve spent the past six months giving away hundreds of books that I’ve hauled, at the cost of many simoleons and slipped discs, around two continents.[...]
     There’s a low stone wall outside our house, and one day we left a stack on it. Nothing too heart-wrenching: one was a spare copy of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas; another was a book about Prairie populism. I was sure that would sit there forever, because we live in London, where most people couldn’t name the current Canadian Prime Minister, let alone Preston Manning. I sat watching from the window like a parent on the first day of kindergarten, ready to spring into action if anyone hurt my babies. People walked by, stopped, browsed, read the jacket copy. And here’s the crazy part: They took everything."
— Elizabeth Renzetti, The Globe and Mail

Thursday, March 8, 2012

"all things arise from a swerve"

"Books. They have an almost alarming corporeality. Stephen Greenblatt, esteemed Harvard professor and founder of New Historicism, tells us that between the eras of papyrus and paper, books were often made of the pumice-smoothed skins of sheep, goats, deer, or, most luxuriously, of an aborted calf.
     The act of writing required rulers, awls, fine pens, and weights to keep the surfaces flat. Ink was a mix of soot, water, and tree gum; it was revised with knives, razors, brushes, rags, and page-restoring mixtures of milk, cheese, and lime. Squirming black creatures called bookworms liked to eat these pages, along with wool blankets and cream cheese. In the silence of monastery libraries, even the books’ contents were indicated by bodily gestures. Monks copying pagan books requested them by scratching their ears like dogs with fleas, or, if the book were particularly offensive, shoving two fingers in their mouths, as if gagging. In Greenblatt’s The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, these objects, offensive or sacred, are the primary players. [...]
     The book’s central character is a six-volume, two-millennia-old poem, Lucretius’s On the Nature of Things, that imagines a world made of crashing, combining atoms, denies life after death, prescribes the pursuit of pleasure as the rational goal of individuals and societies, and suggests that all things arise from a swerve — a slight and random deviation from course. [...]
     On the Nature of Things was, and is, brilliant. Lucretius, who intended the poetry to be the coat of sugar on the medicine of his philosophy, writes with astonishing grace about a world made of atoms, the ordinariness of humans, and the delusion of religion. Despite being a fundamentally atheistic text — Lucretius only allows a god or gods who couldn’t care less for people and our lonely prayers and sins — the text imagines the world as a poem to Venus. Lucretius imagines all those couplings and decouplings of atoms, as endlessly and wonderfully erotic. [...]"
— Swati Pandey, Los Angeles Review of Books

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Diagnosing Literature

"Plucky, ailing Tiny Tim is one of the most enduring characters to come out of Charles Dickens' 1843 novella A Christmas Carol. But Dickens never explains why Tiny Tim wears leg braces and uses a crutch, nor does he make clear what will kill the young boy if the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge doesn't change his ways. [...]
     Tiny Tim's life in cramped, polluted London would have set him up for both rickets and tuberculosis, [Dr. Russell] Chesney said. At the time, 60 percent of children of working-class London families had rickets, brought on by poor nutrition and lack of sunlight. (London's coal-choked skies blocked the sun's ultraviolet light that helps the body synthesize vitamin D.)
     At the same time, half of working-class kids had signs of tuberculosis, Chesney reported Monday (March 5) in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. Tiny Tim's rickets could have been reversed — and his tuberculosis improved — by sunshine, a better diet and cod liver oil, a supplement rich in vitamin D, Chesney said."
Huffington Post

"It's tough to pin down the exact personality traits of Sherlock Holmes, since his story has been recycled in so many incarnations. He's the most-portrayed fictional character in the world, running the gamut from Basil Rathbone playing a jolly English gentleman who fights Nazis to Robert Downey Jr.'s Victorian Rain Man/MMA fighter. But there are some key characteristics in the original Arthur Conan Doyle version that tend to crop up again and again, and they all indicate a severe case of Asperger's. [...]
     The first thing to keep in mind is that the character isn't just portrayed as being really smart -- he is obsessed with certain subjects and totally excludes all others. In one of the Holmes stories, A Study in Scarlet, he doesn't know that the Earth revolves around the sun (because, he says, the information doesn't have any effect on his everyday life). These uneven obsessions with random topics -- in Holmes' case, things like tobacco ashes and regional soil consistency -- are not signs of an enthusiast; they are symptoms of a disorder. Or, as the Yale Child Study Center puts it, Asperger's sufferers show '...a narrow range of capacities for memorizing lists or trivial information, calendar calculation, visual-spatial skills such as drawing, or musical skills involving a perfect pitch or playing a piece of music after hearing it only once.'"
— Chris Radomile, Amanda Miller,

"It was not until the 1970s and 1980s, in two essays, that any attempt was made to account for Holden [Caulfield, the 16-year-old protagonist of author J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye] in primarily psychological terms. E. H. Miller wrote in 1982 that 'most critics have tended to accept Holden's evaluation of the world as phony, when in fact his attitudes are symptomatic of a serious psychological problem.' Miller, 'instead of treating the novel as a commentary by an innocent young man rebelling against an insensitive world or as a study of a youth's moral growth,' tries to show that Holden's 'rebelliousness is his only means of dealing with his inability to come to terms with the death of his brother.'
     In contrast, the other psychoanalytic critic, James Bryan—who theorizes that Holden is ruled by a suppressed incest wish directed toward his ten-year-old sister, Phoebe—does not conclude that Holden's insights are undermined by his having psychological difficulties. The psychological approach, then, though it insists on a fairly serious diagnosis of Holden, does not definitively establish the grounds either for dismissal or endorsement of his social critique. What it does establish is that Holden's observations and his mental state are manifestly related to one another. [...]"
— Peter Shaw, Literature Resources Center

Monday, March 5, 2012

epulp fiction

"Jim 'Lucky' Peters was in Jamaica getting a colonoscopy from a Rastafarian proctologist, when his cell phone started buzzing"
— first words of Vegas Moon by John Locke

"Kentucky novelist John Locke is the first self-published author to sell more than a million digital books on His 'Donovan Creed' series, about a former CIA assassin, has captivated an audience largely comprised of women over age 45, who eagerly shell out 99 cents per book. Call him a best-selling late bloomer: Locke, 61, published his first novel three years ago. [...]
     Locke is an author that readers either adore or detest, judging by the comments on, which range from: 'sassy, irreverent and totally captivating!' to 'preposterous, juvenile, appallingly bad.' Locke shrugs it off: 'You have to polarize people to develop serious fans,' he said. '(My books) are not for everybody; but the people who love one book read all the books.' As for those critics: 'I sold insurance door to door for a living. What are you going to say to me that hurts my feelings?'
     By Locke's unofficial count, 70 percent of his readers are women, and three-quarters are 45 or older. Why? 'Donovan Creed is enormously flawed,' he said. 'I think the reason women like this character is because they feel with the right influence he's utterly salvageable—like the big dog you find at the pound. He tears up your house and your yard and just when you're about to take him back, he saves your life.'
— Laura Rowley, Huffington Post
Read more..

"Three of the books on the List were written by the same author, John Locke. Locke’s book, Saving Rachel, was the first Indie book in history to hit #1 on Amazon/Kindle. In total, he has sold more than 875,000 downloads since January. March book sales of 369,115 on Kindle alone means that approximately every 7 seconds, 24 hours a day, a John Locke book was downloaded somewhere in the world. Locke expects to pass the one million sales mark for Kindle by the end of May, something only three other authors in history have achieved: Stieg Larsson, James Patterson, and Nora Roberts."

Sunday, March 4, 2012


Wallace Stevens (circa 1931) from:

"Hartford [Connecticut] is the place where the poet Wallace Stevens spent a substantial portion of his life, and he composed many of his verses — bizarrely exquisite blossoms unlike anything else in the canon of American literature — while migrating back and forth on foot between his comfortable house on Westerly Terrace and his office at an insurance company. [...]
     This particular perambulation, though, is, like Hartford itself, quite modest. There are no tour guides; in keeping with the private enterprise of creating poetry, you’re on your own. Along the walk there are pale slabs of Connecticut granite engraved with verses from one of Wallace Stevens’s most indelible poems, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.”
     That’s about it.
     Nevertheless, I found the walk to be deeply moving. After all, how often do we get to explore the cranial machinery of a literary titan by slipping into the groove of his daily commute?
     Stevens never learned to drive. Even though many of his neighbors had no idea what he was up to, he would amble along Asylum Avenue methodically measuring the pace of his steps and murmuring phrases to himself — phrases that would become some of the most haunting lines in the English language."
— Jeff Gordinier, The New York Times

"After a year, brain scans showed that among the walkers, the hippocampus had increased in volume by about 2 percent on average; in the others, it had declined by about 1.4 percent. Since such a decline is normal in older adults, 'a 2 percent increase is fairly significant,' said the lead author, Kirk Erickson, a psychologist at the University of Pittsburgh. Both groups also improved on a test of spatial memory, but the walkers improved more."
— Paula Span, The New York Times

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Sounds Fabulous... Announcing the Lineup of Authors for This Year's Elora Writers' Festival

“There’s something about being read to that goes much deeper than—just reading the words off the page,” she said. “Does that make any sense?” I nodded, because it did make sense. I was chatting with one of our audience members and I took her words to heart—our audience is a very thoughtful crowd. She had tapped into something that is fundamental to the success of Writers’ Festivals everywhere—and especially the Elora Writers’ Festival.
     Being read to, say, on a warm, late spring afternoon by some of the most entertaining writers in the country, then plied with wine and appetizers and gentle jazz; then joining the authors in a relaxing yet stimulating few hours of dining and more drinking—a sumptuous meal provided by Frabert’s of Fergus—all of it garnished with rollicking conversation… it must have something going for it.
     The Elora Writers’ Festival has been celebrating fine Canadian writing in this way since 1994. In the past eighteen years the festival has presented authors (novelists, poets, biographers, journalists, screenwriters and playwrights) such as Alison Pick, Thomas King, Nino Ricci, Di Brandt, Andrew Pyper, Johanne Skibsrud, Linwood Barclay, Louise Penny, Paul Quarrington, Bonnie Burnard, Leon Rooke, Susan Coyne and Linden MacIntyre. Award winners and losers, veterans and novices—all of them with wonderful stories to tell.
     The Elora Writers’ Festival’s 19th season will again feature six outstanding Canadian authors reading from their works. The Festival will return once more to the Aboyne Hall of the Wellington County Museum, on Sunday, May 27, 2011, 1 - 4 p.m. with dinner to follow. Tickets for the Readings are: $15 in advance, $17.50 at the door, and $70 for the Readings and Dinner with the authors. All tickets are available from Roxanne’s Reflections Book and Card Shop, Fergus (519-843-4391).
     The exciting 2012 Festival lineup includes a 2011 TD Canadian Children's Literature Award winner, a Crime Writers of Canada’s Arthur Ellis Award winner (two years in a row), two CBC Literary Contest winners, an acclaimed scriptwriter turned novelist and a historian who has turned our Canadian past into the stuff of bestsellers.

ERIN BOW was born in Des Moines and raised in Omaha. She began her professional life as a particle physicist, working briefly at the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN), before trading science in for writing. She began as a poet and has published two volumes of poetry and a memoir. Ghost Maps is a biography in verse about a man who survived the Battle of the Bulge. Seal up the Thunder is a collection stories drawn from untold Bible stories. Her poetry won a CBC Literary Award.
     Erin has a lifelong love of fantasy and science fiction novels, and now writes them for young adults: her debut novel Plain Kate was shortlisted for The Canadian Library Association book of the year, the Sunburst Award for literature of the fantastic, and the Rocky Mountain Book award. It won one of Canada’s top prizes, the 2011 TD Canadian Children's Literary Award. She lives in Kitchener, Ontario with her husband, novelist James Bow, and their two children.
"Erin Bow is a published poet [...] and it comes through in her prose, which on occasion is nearly elegaic."
— Ariel Kroon, Blog404
Read more about Erin Bow here...

ROBERT HOUGH knew he wanted to become a writer back in high school. After graduating from Queen's University Hough worked briefly in advertising before becoming a journalist. He has written for such magazines as Toronto Life and Saturday Night. Hough's first novel,The Final Confession of Mabel Stark (2001), was originally intended to be merely a biography about a ribald 1920s lion tamer for Ringling Brothers Circus. Along with his subsequent novels, The Stowaway (2004) and The Culprits (2007), it has garnered accolades and awards from around the world. His most recent book Dr. Brinkley's Tower was published in February.
"Hough is a master storyteller, and he works here with a practised hand [...] "
— Steven Hayward, The Globe and Mail
"[...] this exuberant, freshly detailed story [The Stowaway] of globalized love and disorder is a bravura performance, one part literary ventriloquism and one part ripping narrative.”
— The Globe and Mail

KEN McGOOGAN is the author of four Canadian bestsellers about the search for the Northwest Passage, all of which have been published internationally. His awards include the Pierre Berton Award for History, the Writers’ Trust of Canada Drainie-Taylor Biography Prize and the Canadian Authors’ Association History Award.
     "How the Scots Invented Canada provides a pleasurable way to get to know many of the most colourful men and women in our history. [...] and your name doesn’t have to begin with Mc or Mac to savour this book."
— The Globe and Mail

KEITH ROSS LECKIE has worked in the film and television business as a dramatic scriptwriter for more than 30 years. His credits include CBC miniseries such as Everest!, Shattered City, Milgaard, The Arrow, and Lost in the Barrens. Coppermine (Penguin Books) is his second novel.
     "Part epic adventure, part romance, and part true-crime thriller, Coppermine is a character-driven story set in 1917 in the extremes of Canada's far north and the boom town of Edmonton."
Penguin Books
     "[...] his scriptwriting craft show[s] in sure pacing and brisk scenes ending with snap! crackle! pop! buttons."
— Andrew Pyper, The Globe and Mail

HOWARD SHRIER was born and raised in Montreal. His critically acclaimed first novel, Buffalo Jump (introducing PI Jonah Geller) won the Crime Writers of Canada’s Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel. The sequel, High Chicago, won the Arthur Ellis for Best Novel of 2009, making Howard the first author in the history of the awards to win both back to back. Both books have been optioned for television.

     "The third Jonah Geller novel [Boston Cream] is the best so far. Shrier has a great eye for location and a good ear for dialogue. Add those to solid characters and an intriguing plot and you have a winning combination for any mystery lover."
— Margaret Cannon, The Globe and Mail

CAROLYN SMART was born in England. She has lived in Ottawa, Winnipeg, Toronto, and for the last 25 years near Kingston. She is the author of five collections of poetry and a memoir. Her recent collection of poetry, Hooked - Seven Poems (Brick Books, 2009) has become a performance piece.
She is the founder of the RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers, and teaches Contemporary Canadian Poetry and Creative Writing at Queen's University.
     "[...] Hooked expresses the heart of darkness with an astonishing concision and acuity [... Smart] writes with a clarity and compassion that is powerfully
— Anne Michaels

The EWF Writing Contest
The ninth annual Elora Writers’ Festival Writing Competition welcomes entries in its prose and poetry categories. Enter a short story (1500 words maximum) or poem (75 lines maximum) by April 27, 2012.
The contest is divided into four age categories: Category 1 (20 and older); Category 2 (15-19); Category 3 (12-14); and Category 4 (11 and under).
     Cash prizes will be awarded for first, second and third place in each category. The winners will be announced on the Festival blogsite on Saturday, May 26 at noon, and prizes will be presented to any winners attending the Elora Writers’ Festival on Sunday, May 27, 2012. Attendance at the Elora Writers’ Festival is not required in order to win a prize.
     The deadline for submission is Friday, April 27, 2012, and adult (Category 1) submissions should include a $15 entry fee (cheques can be made out to the Elora Writers’ Festival).
     Contact Contest Chair Jean Mills at for more information.
     For links to the contest flyer and answers to Frequently Asked Questions go here...

     Come prepared... buy and read all the books mentioned in this article here... 

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Albatros Automatic Bookmark

Albatros bookmarks from Oscar Lhermitte on Vimeo.

Writers En Bloc

From: Parker Pens

"Since when did being a writer become a career choice, with appropriate degree courses and pecking orders? Does this state of affairs make any difference to what gets written? [...]
     One of the myths about creative writing courses is that students go there to learn how to write. Such learning, when and if it takes place, is a felicitous by-product that may or may not have to do with the teaching; the process of settling down to write for a year would very probably yield results even without teachers. No, the student goes to the course to show himself to teachers who as writers are well placed (he imagines!) to help him present himself to the publishers. Most creative writing courses now offer classes on approaching agents and publishers and promoting one’s work. In short, preparing for the job.
     At the same time the perceived need for an expensive year-long creative writing course on the part of thousands of would-be writers affords paid employment to those older writers who have trouble making ends meet but are nevertheless determined to keep at it."
— Tim Parks, The New York Review of Books