Thursday, April 24, 2014

“It’s what we are being ‘trained’ to do.”

From: Reel Movie Nation 

“[…] Specific advice differs from one person to another, but most agree that good Literary Citizenship entails buying from local bookstores, attending readings, subscribing to literary magazines, interviewing writers, reviewing books, reading a friend’s manuscript, blurbing books, and so on.
     I agree with the value in all of these activities. Yes, by all means, if you want to build a literary career, you’ve got to form professional networks in your field. You’ve also got to support the small presses, bookstores, literary magazines and libraries in which you hope to see your own work showcased. This is so obvious that it’s surprising it has to be mentioned at all. But it does have to be mentioned, and those who write the blogs and manifestoes of advice are good to do so.
     What I think is missing from this narrative about Literary Citizenship, however, is an origin story. Why do writers need to do these things? In what context are these activities so necessary?
     To understand the rise of the Literary Citizen, perhaps first we need to look at the meltdown of our economy.
     […] ‘In times of recession, marketing budgets are…the first to be cut.’ [Jenny Darroch, Huffington Post]. Who, then, must make up for this shortfall? Certainly it’s not the owners and CEO’s of publishing companies who lend a hand to writers in times of duress (in spite of the fact that their profits are derived precisely from those writers). No, it’s writers who are expected to look after themselves and one another.
     Wildfire Marketing lays it out quite clearly. Company founder Rob Eagar informs publishers that there is a way to ‘maximize budgets in tough times.’ Namely, ‘You can train your authors to handle more of the marketing efforts. Writers who become skilled at promoting books can produce thousands of dollars in extra profits for the publisher.’”
— Becky Tuch, Salon
Read more…

Monday, April 21, 2014

snob lit

Read about this book here...

“’Genre fiction’ is a nasty phrase – when did genre turn into an adjective? But I object to the term for a different reason. It's weasel wording, in that it conflates lit fic with literature. It was clever marketing by publishers to set certain contemporary fiction apart and declare it Literature – and therefore Important, Art and somehow better than other writing.
     The term sneaks back into the past in a strangely anachronistic way, so that, for example, Jane Austen's works are described as literary fiction. This is nonsense. Can anyone think for a moment that were she writing today she'd be published as lit fic? No, and not because she'd end up under romance or chick lit, but because she writes comedy, and lit fic, with a few rare exceptions, does not include comedy within its remit.
     Austen never for a moment imagined she was writing Literature. Posterity decided that – not her, not John Murray, not even her contemporary readership. She wrote fiction, to entertain and to make money.”
— Elizabeth Edmondson [She is the author of 30 novels], The Guardian
Read more…

Buy all of Elizabeth Edmondson's books here...

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Finish: Glossy? Or Matte?

From: Beautiful Book Covers

“I’ve basically hated the endings of the last few novels I’ve read, and I am cranky about it. Like being stuck in bumper to bumper traffic cranky. Like not having eaten in five hours cranky. Like being stuck in traffic WHILE also being hungry cranky. I don’t know what your maximum capacity for crankerdom is, but I’m just about hitting the ceiling on mine.
     Let me clarify my stance on endings. I don’t need them to be happy. I’m actually not the number one fan of happy endings, because with the kinds of complicated stories I tend to gravitate towards, a truly happy ending, more often than not, feels oversimplified and tacked on. I don’t want all the strings hanging loose at the end, but I equally don’t want all those strings tied up into neat and pretty birthday package bows. […]
     For me, a satisfying ending is when a dramatic question has been thoroughly explored throughout the course of a story (Can Anna Karenina find happiness with Count Vronsky? Can Peter Pan convince the Darling children to stay with him in Neverland? Can Hamlet avenge his father’s death?) and an answer that makes sense has been reached. Often the answer to the dramatic question in question is NO, because it was always SUPPOSED to be NO. It’s not the ending that feels GOOD, but it is the ending that feels RIGHT.
     If Anna ran off with Vronsky with no consequences, if the Darling children stayed in Neverland forever, if Hamlet was just like 'Fuck this Elsinore noise, I’m getting out of this crazy castle and maybe also Denmark,' yes, those characters might be happier but we the readers wouldn’t.”
— Kit Steinkeller, BOOKRIOT
Read more…

novel nosh

“Dinah Fried began Fictitious Dishes as a series of five photographs when she was a student at Rhode Island School of Design. Now it’s a book that serves up a delectable assortment of photographic interpretations of culinary moments from contemporary and classic literature.
     Showcasing famous meals including the madcap tea party from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the watery gruel from Oliver Twist, the lavish chicken breakfast from To Kill a Mockingbird, the stomach-turning avocado-and-crabmeat salad from The Bell Jar, and the seductive cupcakes from The Corrections, this unique volume pairs each place setting with the text from the book that inspired its creation.
     Interesting food facts and entertaining anecdotes about the authors, their work, and their culinary predilections complete this charming book, which is sure to whet the appetites of lovers of great literature and delicious dishes.”
Read more…

Friday, April 18, 2014

end papers


“April 17, 2014 – Last week, the Authors Guild (AG) filed an appeal to the US Court of Appeals in their ongoing fight against Google’s book-scanning project. This week, eight amicus briefs were filed with the court declaring the original ruling unacceptable. The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) participated in two of those briefs. Longtime TWUC members Margaret Atwood, Lawrence Hill and Yann Martel joined a brief prepared on behalf of 17 of the world's most beloved authors. Other signatories include J. M. Coetzee, Peter Carey, Malcolm Gladwell, and Ursula Le Guin. As a founding member of the International Authors Forum (IAF), TWUC itself is represented in the IAF's amicus brief. “TWUC is extremely grateful to Margaret, Larry, and Yann for showing leadership and agreeing to sign the individual author brief,” said TWUC Chair, Dorris Heffron. “It’s so important for the courts to see the world’s authors are against Google on this.” The New York Second Circuit court previously ruled Google’s unpermitted, uncompensated copying of millions of complete, in-copyright works to be a "fair use." The AG’s appeal and the author briefs argue such a finding is without precedent and plainly ridiculous.”
The Writers’ Union of Canada
Read more…

“The most arresting moment in 'Google and the World Brain' Ben Lewis' thoughtful new documentary about the search giant's effort to scan all the world's books, takes place not in Mountain View or a courtroom but rather a monastery high above Catalonia in Spain. The film's globetrotting crew is interviewing Father Damiá Roure, who runs the library at the Benedictine abbey of Montserrat, about what happened when Google came to digitize the library's collection. Roure speaks happily of the Googlers' visit, explaining that their efforts allowed the monks to bring their collection -- which dates to the library's founding in the 11th century -- to the wider world.
     As he finishes speaking, a filmmaker just out of the frame asks about what else Google might do with the information found in those books. What if, she asks, Google wanted to sell the information they had scanned in those books? Should the monks get a cut of the sale?”
— Casey Newton, cnet

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

"a trustworthy storyteller"

“2014's Pulitzer Prize for Fiction has been awarded to Donna Tartt, for her latest novel The Goldfinch.
     Tartt's sprawling epic triumphed over the two other nominees, The Son by Philip Meyer and The Woman Who Lost Her Soul by Bob Shacochis.
     Tartt's novel tells the story of Theodore Decker, an orphaned Manhattanite who winds up in possession of a renowned painting, Carel Fabritius's "The Goldfinch." Tartt's coming of age story follows Theo to Las Vegas, New York City's Lower East Side, and Amsterdam, where the events of his life are intermixed with his burgeoning theories on art and love.”
— Maddie Crum, Huffington Post
Read more…

“One of the greatest of Tartt's many gifts is her ability to assure readers that they're in the hands of a trustworthy storyteller. Her novels always feature surprising, in some cases preposterous, narrative elements, but she makes us believe them. She'll wrong-foot us, but she won't cheat us. Characters will certainly go off the rails, but the plot won't. This is an amazing achievement.”
— Geoff Nicholson, Los Angeles Times (October 17, 2013)
Read more…

See an earlier post that mentions The Goldfinch here...

And buy all of Donna Tartt's books here...

And now a word from our contest judges…

We asked five of our contest judges “What do you look for in a story?” and this is what they said:

Kira Vermond
(Guelph author of Owlkids titles The Secret Life of Money, Growing up Inside and Out and the upcoming Why We Live Where We Live.) Find Kira here:

"I'm always on the lookout for a story that makes me feel something -- happiness, sadness or even worry -- when I read it. I want to get to know the characters so when they take me on a journey, I'll go along to find out what's going to happen to them."

Lisa Dalrymple
(Fergus author of Skink on the Brink, Bubbly Troubly Polar Bear and If It’s No Trouble, A Polar Bear). Find Lisa here:

"So much of a good story comes down to the development of character. This may be a character I love; it may be a character I hate; it may be a character I want to read more about just because I need to know what makes him/her tick. Then I like to see how this character copes with a certain event or circumstance that occurs. I want to NEED to know what happens next to this character I’ve grown to care about. If you can do those two things in a setting that feels tangible and alive to me, then you’ll have me hooked!"

Heather Wright
(Kitchener author of Writing Fiction: A Hands-On Guide for Teens.) Find Heather here:

"What do I look for in a story? A strong opening that introduces the main character and gets the action of the story going right away. I like characters that would make good friends, which means they're not whiny, or mean, and they don't spend hours wandering around just thinking and feeling sorry for themselves. I like characters who change and grow: if they aren't strong, they learn to be; if they aren't brave, they learn to be; if they're not patient, or kind or understanding; they learn to be."

Lisa McLean
(Guelph communications professional and short-short story author.) Find Lisa here:

"For me, a successful short story has a clear plot in which characters do something. And at the end of the doing, I want to know how they’ve been transformed. They might see something differently or hold their head higher (or lower)."

Sharon Blomfield
(Waterloo writer and photographer.) Find Sharon here:

"I know it will be a good story when the first sentence promises me something interesting. When an author gets that part right, the rest of the story always delivers."

Buy all the books mentioned in this post here...

Monday, April 14, 2014

past irony


“Percy Shelley famously wrote that 'poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.' For Shelley, great art had the potential to make a new world through the depth of its vision and the properties of its creation. Today, Shelley would be laughed out of the room. Lazy cynicism has replaced thoughtful conviction as the mark of an educated worldview. Indeed, cynicism saturates popular culture, and it has afflicted contemporary art by way of postmodernism and irony. Perhaps no recent figure dealt with this problem more explicitly than David Foster Wallace. One of his central artistic projects remains a vital question for artists today: How does art progress from irony and cynicism to something sincere and redeeming? […]
     Skeptics reject sincerity because they worry blind belief can lead to such evils as the Ku Klux Klan and Nazism. They think strong conviction implies vulnerability to emotional rhetoric and lack of critical awareness.”
— Matt Ashby and Brendan Carroll, Salon
Read more…

Friday, April 11, 2014

"She Gave it Away Free All Over Town"

From: LadyLillith333

I love fake book covers... here's a real doozy.
     So get reading before the spring weather, along with all that flowing sap and things sprouting out of the ground, takes your mind off the page completely.

"… upended genre conventions”

“A brilliant eccentric is found dead. The police dismiss it as a suicide, but the man’s lover is convinced it was murder and will stop at nothing to discover the truth. Can our scrappy protagonist trust anyone, even her own family? Is a stolen painting the key to unlocking the plot’s multiplying mysteries? Is Trotsky’s variant of Marxism incompatible with the exceptionalism of the individual championed by Aleister Crowley? Up until that last question we had a comfortably familiar crime fiction narrative ready for bed, but then along comes Nick Mamatas to kick over the cradle.
     Our narrator is Dawn, a punk rocker in her late teens. Her idle voyeurism into the lives of her Long Island neighbors leads her to Bernstein, a mystic living in a shack. Bernstein is ostensibly the victim here, but given the particulars of her situation it’s Dawn who we feel for. Bernstein’s dead on page one, whereas Dawn is saddled with a demented grandmother, menaced by a basehead father and a girl who looks strangely like her, and surrounded by a tightening net of too-interested strangers. […]
     Love is the Law is not the first time Mamatas has upended genre conventions with his instantly recognizable style, but it may be his most accomplished effort yet. Not because it’s less ambitious than his previous novels (it isn’t), or because it’s more straightforward (though it is). No, what makes Love is the Law such an exemplary achievement is that here at last Mamatas has struck a nigh-perfect balance amongst all the disparate elements he draws together. In the past, the jarring clash of this narrative flourish with that contemplative aside was all part of the rough-and-tumble charm, but here the pieces all slide smoothly into place…no mean feat, considering how ambiguous it is in places.”
— Jesse Burlington, Los Angeles Review of Books
Read more…

Get all of Nick Mamatas' books here...

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

where there's muck, there's money

From: The New Yorker

“The Marquis de Sade’s novel The 120 Days of Sodom — whose depravity earned it the label 'the Gospel of Evil' — has returned to France after a three-decade legal battle just in time for the 200th anniversary of the revolutionary politician’s death. A private collector recently bought the well-preserved scroll — considered a national treasure despite its deeply perverse and pornographic content — for €7 million, making it one of the most expensive manuscripts in France.
     Sade called it 'the most impure tale that has ever been told since our world began' and considered it his masterpiece.[…]
     When the Bastille was stormed in the 1789 Revolution, Sade wrote that he had 'wept tears of blood' over its loss. In fact, the parchment was later recovered from a crack in the cell wall, sold several times, and finally published by a German doctor in 1904.
     In 1929 the husband of Marie-Laure de Noailles, a direct descendant of Sade’s, bought the manuscript, passing it down to her daughter Nathalie. She then entrusted it to a friend who turned out to be a thief, smuggling it into Switzerland in 1982 where he sold it to Gérard Nordmann, a Swiss collector of erotica, for about £30,000.”
— Henry Samuel, The Telegraph
Read more…

Monday, April 7, 2014


“[...] On August 28, the Army [Leonard Cohen's entourage and band] drove up to the Henderson Hospital, just south of London; 'it was all talking therapy,' a former nurse at the hospital told Cohen biographer Sylvie Simmons, 'no medication, no "zombies.”' Cohen was led up to the institution’s imposing and narrow tower, where his impromptu performance would take place.
     'Oh boy,' he told Johnston as they made their way in, 'I hope they like "So Long, Marianne.”' Most of those in attendance were young, and many were Leonard Cohen fans. The band quickly set up, and Cohen took his place at the front of the makeshift stage, underneath one of the 'tall, narrow windows that gave the room the feel of a chapel.' He looked at the audience. 'There was a fellow I spoke to last night,' he said, 'a doctor. I told him I was coming out here. He said, "They are a tough bunch of young nuts.”' There was some applause, and Cohen started playing 'Bird on the Wire.' But then he stopped. 'I feel like talking,' he said. 'Someone warned me downstairs that all you do here is talk. That’s psychotic, it’s contagious.'
     During 80 minutes, he played only 11 songs. The rest of the time, he told the audience about his relationship with Marianne and how it had dissipated, about how 'You Know Who I Am' was written after taking 300 acid trips and 'One of Us Cannot Be Wrong' was composed while coming down from amphetamine, about the Chelsea Hotel and life in New York and making love and sharing lovers and feeling inconsolably sad. Each time he finished a song or a speech, the audience applauded rapturously.
     And then it was time to leave. 'I really wanted to say that this is the audience that we’ve been looking for,' Cohen said as the Army was packing up to go. 'I’ve never felt so good playing before people.'
— Adapted from A Broken Hallelujah: Rock n Roll, Redemption and the Life of Leonard Cohen by Liel Leibovitz
via Salon

Get this book here...

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Accolades all round...

A heartfelt round of applause goes out to former Elora Writers’ Festival committee member and dedicated writer Kelly Waterhouse! She won the "Humour Columnist of the Year" award.
     And congratulations to her co-worker at our local weekly newspaper The Wellington Advertiser, Chris Daponte, for placing third in the category of “Best Editorial.”
     Both were recognized last evening for their outstanding work in journalism at the "OCNA Awards" Gala.

 “OCNA [Ontario Community Newspaper Association] is proud to recognize the outstanding quality of work produced each week by our member newspapers and showcase it to readers and advertisers.
     The first, second and third place winners were announced during the Better Newspaper Awards Gala on Friday, April 4 at the Hilton Garden Inn. […]

Humour Columnist of the Year
1st: Fergus Wellington Advertiser - Kelly Waterhouse
2nd: Manotick Messenger - Jeff Morris
3rd: Markham Economist & Sun - Bernie O'Neill

Best Editorial (Circ. 10,000+)
1st: Sudbury Northern Life
2nd: Peterborough This Week
3rd: Fergus Wellington Advertiser"
Read more…

“At a time when mainstream news media are hemorrhaging and doomsayers are predicting the death of journalism, take heart: the [US] First Amendment is alive and well in small towns across [North] America.
     In Emus Loose in Egnar, award-winning journalist Judy Muller takes the reader on a grassroots tour of rural American newspapers, from an Indian reservation in Montana to the Alaska tundra to Martha’s Vineyard, and discovers that many weeklies are not just surviving, but thriving.
     In these small towns, stories can range from club news to Klan news, from broken treaties to broken hearts, from banned books to escaped emus; they document the births, deaths, crimes, sports, and local shenanigans that might seem to matter only to those who live there.
     And yet, as this book shows us, these 'little' stories create a mosaic of American life that tells us a great deal about who we are—what moves us, angers us, amuses us.”
University of Nebraska Press

Friday, April 4, 2014

blessed be the soothsayer

Ivan Sutherland wearing his Virtual Reality device (1968)
From: yahoo

"[…] Digital books are still painfully ugly and weirdly irritating to interact with. They look like copies of paper, but they can't be designed or typeset in the same way as paper, and however splendid the cover images may look on a hi-res screen, they're still images rather than physical things. To my irritation, you still can't flick through an ebook properly; you can't riffle the pages, you can't look at more than one page at once. And the advantages of having a book in digital form (easy scrolling text, proper shareability, a global text search of your library, synchronisation with audiobooks, links to television adaptations, person-to-person sales) have been ignored in favour of a weak simulacrum of paper. Better, a lot of the time, to shove a paperback in your pocket. And for when you forget, well, there's still your phone.
     Until a digital book is a magical object which physically transforms from 50 Shades into the new James Smythe novel according to your whim; until you can walk through a digital library and open books at random; until the technology becomes as satisfying to the physical senses as the text is to the cognitive self, there's still a need for shiny, gorgeous, satisfying books. And when those things happen, if they do, we will have lost nothing in the transition.”
— Nick Harkaway, The Guardian
Read more…

rising from the grave

“Stop carving that gravestone. Brick-and-mortar bookstores aren’t dead, yet. On the contrary, independently owned bookstores are growing in number. According to the American Booksellers Association, since hitting a nadir in 2009, the number of indie bookstores in the U.S. has grown 19.3 percent, from 1,651 to 1,971. The current total is less than half the 1990s peak of around 4,000. But it still serves as a rebuke to the conventional wisdom that equates Amazon’s relentless rise with the inevitable death of the physical bookstore.
     What explains this renaissance? The collapse of Borders in 2011 is one big piece of the puzzle. (Removing a dominant carnivore from the savannah gives all the other animals a little more breathing room.) The end of the recession also contributed to a more nurturing economic environment.
     But there’s more to the story. There is increasing evidence that the same digital transformation that has so dramatically reshaped the publishing industry, and driven millions of consumers online, also paradoxically rewards locally rooted authenticity. Our digital tools are steering us toward brick-and-mortar stores that promise a more satisfactory consumer experience than either chain stores or online emporiums can provide.”
— Andrew Leonard, Salon
Read more…

Thursday, April 3, 2014

100 Years of America’s Best… Sellers

From: imgsave

“When Matthew Kahn, a creative writing student at California State University at Northridge, learned from one of his professors that the bestselling book of 1926 was The Private Life of Helen of Troy by John Erskine, he was struck. The class wasn’t reading it, but the book they were reading, The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, was published the same year. 'I thought that was interesting,' Kahn told me. 'When we think of the books of 1926, we think modernists. We don’t think about the books that most people were actually reading at that time.'
     So Kahn decided to read them, 100 years of No. 1 bestsellers, from 1913 to 2013, and post reviews on his blog, Kahn’s Corner. As of the time of this writing, he’s up to 1966 and Jacqueline Susann’s The Valley of the Dolls — decidedly not a hit with this reader. But Kahn has come across a few surprises and can offer an unusual perspective on what Americans have liked in a book since the First World War. I called him up to get his impressions. […]
     One thing about the massive shift in the 1960s is that it’s partly about a changing perspective on books. They’re more seen as a part of the entertainment industry. In the first half of this list, there are about 10 years where the bestseller was also a Pulitzer Prize winner. There were a few years where the bestseller was written by a Nobel Prize winner. With Allen Drury’s Advise and Consent, in 1960, that was the last time either of those things were true. It’s the last book on the list to win the Pulitzer Prize.”
— Laura Miller, Salon
Read more…

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Wake up! The EWF Short Story Contest deadline has been extended!

Source images: Wallpaper-Zoom and photos-of

If you’re just coming out of hibernation and are worried that the 2014 EWF Short Story Contest deadline is too tight – relax!
     Spring has been so long in coming, our internal calendars are fried... or maybe frozen. It still feels like winter and the thought of getting something written in time for the Short Story Contest deadline was probably way down on your list of things to do -- somewhere closer to getting the lawnmower out; or going outside without a hat and gloves...
     So here's your second chance!
     As long as your entry is in the mail by Thursday, April 17, you can still submit your story on the theme “Home” to our annual contest. The judges are ready, and our wonderful sponsors – the Elora Arts Council, the Community Resource Centre of North and Centre Wellington, and the Writer’s Life blog – are waiting to award prizes to the best short stories in the Adult, Teen and Youth categories.

Check out the Elora Writers’ Festival blog site for details.

Coming soon...

A word from our judges. Four of our contest judges share what they look for in a story.
Questions? Feel free to contact Contest Chair, Jean Mills at: