Archive for January, 2010

In Submission

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

I’m not going to go on about this too long or give too many details, but for the first time I am experiencing that unique pre-authorial state known as “being in sub,” meaning that my book proposal is “in submission” with editors. Yes, editors are reading my deathless prose, and I am near death. 

Not really! Haha! Not at all! I’m just fine, thankyouverymuch. These Things Take A While. 

Well, actually, they do. There are many reasons why being “in sub” can drag on, and I’ve only been in sub for a short time (longer than a day, less than a week, seems like a decade…). I have miles to go before I sleep — or get that kind of happy telephone call that agents love to make. (Lalalalalal, can’t even hear you when you mention the alternative!)

I’m making a concerted effort to sit on my hands and not call my long-suffering agent, who in the few months we’ve been working together has no doubt experienced her first very premature gray hairs. Fortunately, I have a few supportive author and publishing pals who have proffered virtual hot-water bottles, and one of them was this wonderful blog entry from YA author Kiersten White. It answered a few questions for me but mainly made me feel less nervous and alone.

Maybe it will do the same for you if you, like me, are fortunate enough to be in this position. It’s anxiety-producing, but isn’t this the kind of anxiety we writers have always wanted?

Style Versus Substance: DBW and BEA

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

This morning I woke up thinking about not being at Digital Book World, or DBW. (However, one of my contacts told me that the coffee ran out by 10 a.m. The horror! The horror!) I have too much going on this week (read: am behind on deadlines) to have gone to Manhattan for the debut event, and so many people whose thinking about books and our industry are there whom I adore and revere. In other words, I woke up sulking.

But as I started thinking about what is going on at DBW, I also started thinking about why it’s being held. After all, we do already have a little publishing-industry event held annually called Book Expo America. Do we need another book event? How will these two conferences be differentiated (and I haven’t even mentioned Tools of Change…)?

I knew I was onto something when I opened Twitter and found novelist and publishing pundit M.J. Rose wondering why there aren’t more authors at DBW (NB: there are only two on panels this year). Will DBW wind up as the “delivery” conference and BEA as the “content” conference? UPDATE: M.J. has blogged about this issue, too, with a focus on authors and publishers working as partners.

I’d like to hear from everyone else. Is that desirable? My take is that in a time of more and more overlap and more and more need for “Authors as App” (also an M.J. idea as a panel for next year’s DBW — Mike, Guy, I’m volunteering now to moderate that panel!), it isn’t even possible. But (as usual) I could be wrong. 

Tell me what you think — and those of you on the ground at DBW, please share the skinny on what everyone is saying about author presence/lack thereof this year.

Querying Our QWERTY Reliance

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

Blogger’s Note: I haven’t seen any blog posts or articles about this, so I hope that at least a few of you will send me links. I know I am not the only person thinking about this.

For most of last year, I used a BlackBerry Pearl with a text-messaging keyboard. Basically that meant I could type with just one thumb, if I learned the somewhat obscure protocol behind pressing the buttons once for one letter, twice for another, sometimes with words popping up automatically…it was too much for my aging brain. Now I use a BlackBerry Tour and it feels as comfy and familiar as the Smith-Corona I brought to college.

Oh yes, my class was probably one of the very last to matriculate with electric typewriters rather than PCs. I do not miss typewriters one bit, unlike the many Famous Authors who claim that only the soothing rhythm of the keys could propel their great works forward…Yawn. Typewriters made it tough to revise, tough to make your own work better before you even turned it in to a professor, let alone beastly to rewrite if those were the orders of the day from said professor. By the time I started my first post-graduate job, I was working on a word processor and thought it made a great deal of sense. 

In other words, I’m not much of a one for looking backwards when it comes to communication devices. I don’t hold up a Luddite banner proudly, and while I often write in pen and ink, agreeing that it allows me to compose differently, I would never, ever give up the ability to type on a screen.

What I do think we should consider giving up, however, is the QWERTY keyboard. I won’t bore you with a recitativo of its history, since you can insta-Google that; I will say that it was invented because of a need to prevent the typebars in mechanical typewriters from clashing and crossing. 

The one thing that makes sense about the QWERTY keyboard is its width. If human beings are going to type with two hands, then a keyboard needs to be comfortable for the average handspan (the QWERTY keyboard is famously friendly to the lefthanded English speaker; you can type nearly twice as many words with just the left hand as with the right).

I keep wondering what kinds of ideas, prose, and poetry might be unleashed if we had a different system for typing up text, one that was just as useful for different languages and alphabets (different keyboards for all? Or just one?). 

Are there new alternatives to the QWERTY keyboard?

Caveat Lector: Mind of the Caveman

Monday, January 11th, 2010

NB: From time to time, I’ll write about issues that affect us as readers under this new category, “Caveat Lector.” 

Not that any of you do this, but I read the New York Times Sunday Styles section first. I learn so much! I believe, for example, that the front-page bottom Gucci ad banner can predict that state of our fiscal mindset. When times are good and things are flush, that ad might display a whimsically oversized bag in some kind of luxury pelt or skin; when wallets are lighter and belts get tighter, then you see, for example, this week’s so-taupe-it’s-nearly-beige practical platform sandal.

This week I also learned that at least three (three’s a story!) young men and one woman in the metro NYC area are trying to live the “paleo lifestyle,” meaning they eat “large quantities of meat” and believe in “fasting between meals to approximate the lean times that his distant ancestors faced between hunts.” According to the article, they radiate rude good health and have “glowing skin.” The diet and exercise regime (based on something called “CrossFit”) can supposedly make extreme physical fitness possible. I won’t even go into the group’s arguments about nightshades…they seem to have forgotten that the “hunter-gatherer” didn’t have meat all the time, but often existed for long stretches on nuts and berries.

What interested me once I’d finished the piece was the fact that the paleo thing seems to be all about strength and physical health. As any 21st-century human knows, what we eat and how we exercise also affects our brains — and how we think and relate and solve problems has changed over the many centuries since the “paleo lifestyle” was common. We know that certain foods have certain effects on our organs (oysters! chocolate!) — do we know enough, yet, about which foods promote intellectual activity (Mom always said fish was “brain food”) to advocate heading back a way of gathering and consuming that was last used by people who hadn’t yet created the wheel, let alone the platform sandal?

It’s — how shall I put it? — food for thought.

Listification: “Mistress” Titles

Saturday, January 9th, 2010

Some book lists are about favorites. Some book lists are about the best. Other book lists collect important and/or significant works on a particular subject. Still others define books by date or relevance.

Here at Still Life with Book Maven’s “Listification,” we sometimes put together book lists just because we’ve thought of something that amuses us (just as we sometimes write about ourselves in the third person because it amuses us. But we’ll stop now).

Today on Twitter, @KatMeyer challenged me to start creating a list of books with the word “mistress” in their titles. Why? Probably because we’d been talking about whether or not the phrase “virtuous courtesan” was an oxymoron, or not (truly, even if it technically is, as one twerson mentioned, it’s a common trope in romance fiction). Kat started the ball rolling with @KatePullinger‘s Mistress of Nothing. I immediately added Ariana Franklin’s Mistress of the Art of Death series, as well as Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s The Mistress of Spices.

There are more! So here’s my challenge: Let’s build as comprehensive a list of books with “mistress” in the title as possible here. I’ll probably focus on literary and historical fiction in my picks, but genre fiction, nonfiction, memoir titles are all welcome. Once we’ve gotten a good solid list, Kat and I are going to try and round up a few of the authors for a live chat.

What’s The Twitter Virtuous Circle? (Patent Pending!)

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

As most anyone who happens to stumble over here probably knows, I’m pretty active on Twitter. A few weeks ago, a couple of my tweeps began talking about getting together early in the new year for lunch. Since I had already scheduled an early January appearance on NY1 Cable, I asked said tweeps if they’d be up for lunch on Thursday, January 7th.

The rest will shortly be history, as those tweeps told two friends, and they told two friends, and, well — this social-networking thing actually works! Tomorrow our 30-person group will gather; here’s what I told them all in an email today:

With so many individual pundits offering year-end predictions on what’s in store for publishing in 2010, a group of 30 Twitterati — all with a literary bent — have decided to gather this Thursday for lunch at Round Table Room at NYC’s Algonquin Hotel to bring our perspective to bear on the future of book publishing. 

Christening ourselves the “Virtuous Circle,” a group of authors, publishers, marketers, bloggers and booksellers will move our daily Twitter conversation to this famed real-life venue, where we plan to discuss the many forecasts about the future of our various crafts and roles in the publishing universe and propose unique predictions for the coming year.In addition, we plan on leveraging Twitter to put together this meeting of Literati Twitterati on a quarterly basis.  (Tweeting is fantastic, but there is no substitute for face-to-face over a long literary lunch.)

This is already slated to be a regular event. More news (and tweets!) will follow tomorrow. In the meantime, tell us what you think about this idea. We’re open to constructive criticism, but even moreso to great suggestions about how to use our powers to the Virtuous, not the Vicious. 

But I’m still claiming status as Dottie. (I know @JulieKlam is going to fight me for that…)

My Only New Year’s Resolution

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

It’s…to blog again!

I’ve been “gone” for a few months, and that was because I was busy getting this site built and migrating my blog from its Typepad location to where it is now. Of course, I’ve been posting interviews and reviews at The Book Studio — but it’s not the same, really. I’m looking forward to re-joining the wild, woolly blogosphere in my independent capacity. 

Watch this space — really! I’ve got a couple of interesting announcements to make this week.