iamom: (Default)
The following text, which I'm copying in its entirety, was snipped from this entry in Godin's blog:
Advice for authors
By Seth Godin

It happened again. There I was, meeting with someone who I thought had nothing to do with books or publishing, and it turns out his new book just came out.

With more than 75,000 books published every year (not counting ebooks or blogs), the odds are actually pretty good that you've either written a book, are writing a book or want to write one.

Hence this short list:

1. Lower your expectations. The happiest authors are the ones that don't expect much.
2. The best time to start promoting your book is three years before it comes out. Three years to build a reputation, build a permission asset, build a blog, build a following, build credibility and build the connections you'll need later.
3. Pay for an eidtor editor. Not just to fix the typos, but to actually make your ramblings into something that people will choose to read. I found someone I like working with at the EFA. One of the things traditional publishers used to do is provide really insightful, even brilliant editors (people like Fred Hills and Megan Casey), but alas, that doesn't happen very often. And hiring your own editor means you'll value the process more.
4. Understand that a non-fiction book is a souvenir, just a vessel for the ideas themselves. You don't want the ideas to get stuck in the book... you want them to spread. Which means that you shouldn't hoard the idea! The more you give away, the better you will do.
5. Don't try to sell your book to everyone. First, consider this: " 58% of the US adult population never reads another book after high school." Then, consider the fact that among people even willing to buy a book, yours is just a tiny little needle in a very big haystack. Far better to obsess about a little subset of the market--that subset that you have permission to talk with, that subset where you have credibility, and most important, that subset where people just can't live without your book.
6. Resist with all your might the temptation to hire a publicist to get you on Oprah. First, you won't get on Oprah (if you do, drop me a note and I'll mention you as the exception). Second, it's expensive. You're way better off spending the time and money to do #5 instead, going after the little micromarkets. There are some very talented publicists out there (thanks, Allison), but in general, see #1.
7. Think really hard before you spend a year trying to please one person in New York to get your book published by a 'real' publisher. You give up a lot of time. You give up a lot of the upside. You give up control over what your book reads like and feels like and how it's promoted. Of course, a contract from Knopf and a seat on Jon Stewart's couch are great things, but so is being the Queen of England. That doesn't mean it's going to happen to you. Far more likely is that you discover how to efficiently publish (either electronically or using POD or a small run press) a brilliant book that spreads like wildfire among a select group of people.
8. Your cover matters. Way more than you think. If it didn't, you wouldn't need a book... you could just email people the text.
9. If you have a 'real' publisher (#7), it's worth investing in a few things to help them do a better job for you. Like pre-editing the book before you submit it. Like putting the right to work on the cover with them in the contract. And most of all, getting the ability to buy hundreds of books at cost that you can use as samples and promotional pieces.
10. In case you skipped it, please check #2 again. That's the most important one, by far.
11. Blurbs are overrated, imho.
12. Blog mentions, on the other hand, matter a lot.
13. If you've got the patience, bookstore signings and talking to book clubs by phone are the two lowest-paid but most guaranteed to work methods you have for promoting a really really good book. If you do it 200 times a year, it will pay.
14. Consider the free PDF alternative. Some have gotten millions of downloads. No hassles, no time wasted, no trying to make a living on it. All the joy, in other words, without debating whether you should quit your day job (you shouldn't!)
15. If you want to reach people who don't normally buy books, show up in places where people who don't usually buy books are. Media places, virtual places and real places too.
16. Most books that sell by the truckload sell by the caseload. In other words, sell to organizations that buy on behalf of their members/employees.
17. Publishing a book is not the same as printing a book. Publishing is about marketing and sales and distribution and risk. If you don't want to be in that business, don't! Printing a book is trivially easy. Don't let anyone tell you it's not. You'll find plenty of printers who can match the look and feel of the bestselling book of your choice for just a few dollars a copy. That's not the hard part.
18. Bookstores, in general, are run by absolutely terrific people. Bookstores, in general, are really lousy businesses. They are often where books go to die. While some readers will discover your book in a store, it's way more likely they will discover the book before they get to the store, and the store is just there hoping to have the right book for the right person at the time she wants it. If the match isn't made, no sale.
19. Writing a book is a tremendous experience. It pays off intellectually. It clarifies your thinking. It builds credibility. It is a living engine of marketing and idea spreading, working every day to deliver your message with authority. You should write one.

iamom: (iam)
This strong article on professionalism in the writing business appeared in the Storytellers Unplugged group blog. It encourages writers to spend more time writing, to honour their commitments, and to meet deadlines. Advice I could use myself, for myself.
iamom: (newk)
1.) Basic Requirements for Masters Degree in English
a) Graduate Seminars
    -- must complete 6 half-year seminars (3 in Fall + 2 in Winter + Thesis Prospectus Class in Winter)
    -- at least 1 half-semester seminar must be related to chosen thesis area and at least 1 half-semester seminary must be unrelated to chosen thesis area
    -- 1 half-semester or full-semester seminar may be taken outside the Department of English (per approval of Graduate Ctee.)

b) Second Language Requirement
    -- MA students must be proficient in at least one other language (French is accepted)

c) Research Workshops

d) Thesis
    -- roughly 25,000 words (100 pages) in length, a 500-word prospectus for which is due Feb 15th, with the final copy being due in August
2.) List of Graduate Faculty (a selected list reflecting my areas of interest follows)
-- Carrie Dawson: Cdn & contemp. fiction, ecocriticism
-- Leonard Diepeveen: contemp. Am. lit., poetics, lit. and visual art
-- Ivana Djordjevic: theory & history of fiction, textual and editorial theory
-- David Evans: 19th/20th-c. lit., philosophy & lit., ecocriticism, pragmatism, Faulkner
-- Jason Haslam: 19th/20th-c. Am. lit., prison lit., science fiction, critical race/gender studies, Am. film
-- Dean Irvine: 19th/20th-c. Cdn. lit., modernism, cultural materialism, textual criticism, editing and editorial theory
-- Christina Luckyj: renaiss. drama, women's writing, feminism and performance criticism
-- David McNeil: novel, satire, interdisciplinary studies and popular culture
-- Ken Paradis: 20th-c. Am. culture, cultural theory
3.) 2006-2007 Graduate Seminars (a partial list focused on my interests is below)
-- John Thelwall and Romantic Print Culture on the Web (Judith Thompson)
-- Race, Religion, Gender and Nation in 19th Century Literature (Marjorie Stone)
-- Critical Theory: The Ethical Turn (Alice Brittan)
-- Traveling East (Teresa Heffernan)
-- The Postmodern Moment (Ken Paradis)
-- Editing Canadian Modernism (Dean Irvine)
-- Globalization and Contemporary Canadian Literature (Carrie Dawson)
-- Aesthetic Scandals of the 20th Century (Len Diepeveen)
-- Literary Labours (Dean Irvine)
4.) Admissions Requirements and Financial Aid Opportunities
-- application form, fee, undergrad transcripts, 2 letters of recommendation, 500-word statement of intent, writing samples upon request
-- equivalent of a BA with Honours in English from Dal (Honours must have been taken if offered at the undergrad level) (a qualifying year for non-English majors is theoretically possible but rarely put in practice other than in the format of a 2-year MA which includes a qualifying year, and this is generally only offered to overseas students)
-- All grad students are entitled to some form of financial aid, and all Canadian applicants are also encouraged to apply for SSHRC grants


Department Contacts:
Graduate Program Coordinator: Trevor Ross, 494-6912, tross@dal.ca
Graduate Program Enquiries: Mary Beth MacIsaac, 494-6924, gradengl@dal.ca
iamom: (newk)
There's lots of good reading about this stuff right now on Google News. Frey is also appearing on Larry King tonight, and he will undoubtedly be asked about these allegations re his book.

The online writers groups and blogs I've checked out today are freaking out about this, as could be expected, although reactions are split between those who are grievously offended that he has reached such a level of success by passing the work off as non-fiction when it's actually not, and those who think the story stands on its own regardless of the underlying facts.

I'm on the fence between both of those views. As an aspiring fiction writer myself, I want to call foul for what appears to me to be a massive queue-jump to fame and success by writing a horrific [fictional] story which he passed off as true. Even if parts of the story are indeed true (and Christ, who knows which parts are?), I seriously doubt that the work would have garnered as much attention as it has (certainly not from Oprah, for chrissakes, whose last number of book picks have been dyed-in-the-wool classics by Faulkner, Garcia-Marquez, Tolstoy, and the like). Undeniably, the mass popular appeal for this book has been based, until a few days ago, on the premise that this shocking tale actually happened to him.

I also don't buy his defense that AMLPis simply his best recollection of events from his drug-addled mind. If that's the case, and if he knew ahead of time that certain key facts weren't necessarily true (and let's be honest, he could have undergone the very same fact-checking exercise that The Smoking Gun did to figure out exactly what did and didn't happen in Ohio, Michigan, and elsewhere), then he should have made that clear through the means of a disclaimer (incidentally, there's apparently a disclaimer like that at the beginning of My Friend Leonard, the sequel to AMLP). In other words, I think that he should have just called it a work of fiction. One based on true life events, to be sure, and no less compelling a story as a result, but a work of fiction nevertheless.

Having said all of that, I still think the book is a great read and I think that Frey is a very good writer. However, his credibility may be ruined if this scandal reaches its possibly logical conclusion. I'm quite interested to see what Random House and Oprah end up doing in the next few weeks. Random House's early reaction is quite telling, though: they're offering a refund to anyone who purchased the book directly from them. (Correction: The Random House refund story was later refuted by the publisher as false.)
iamom: (portrait)
A Million Little Pieces (amazon.ca | amazon.com) was selected for Oprah's Book Club last fall, notable in that respect for being the first contemporary work selected by her for quite some time. AMLP is author and screenwriter James Frey's account of how he became rehabilitated from a heavy addiction to alcohol, cocaine, crack, and other drugs, and I just finished reading it a few weeks ago. (Frey's IMDB entry is here.)

By all accounts, it's a gripping, suspenseful, touching, and moving story. It's also written in an unusual but effective style: it is without standard punctuation, it uses unorthodox capitalization to emphasize certain words, and certain phrases and sentences are repeated several times in a given paragraph or page for even further emphasis.

Parts of the story border on the horrific. Detailed accounts of his detox, which include descriptions of oft-daily vomiting and shitting of blood, vomiting up parts of his stomach (?), undergoing a double root canal without anaesthetic, and tearing off one of his toenails as a form of self-punishment, are all heart-stopping. Pivotal aspects of the book also include his criminal offences, which are purportedly numerous, and at a critical point in his rehab he must face felony charges from a confrontation with police in Ohio which are expected to lead to his serving upwards of 8 years in a federal prison.

And this is where Frey's story becomes dicey. Especially if you consult the editors of the famous tell-all website, The Smoking Gun. Because even though several parts of the story don't ring true (for example, the book opens with him on an airplane, covered with vomit and blood, with a broken nose, a hole in his cheek, and blood all over his face -- one wonders which airline in the US would ever accept a passenger like that on board, let alone unaccompanied), Frey has insisted several times (including on his appearance on Oprah) that everything in the book is factually correct. Not so, according to TSG.

The Smoking Gun first suspected factual errors in Frey's book when they tried to obtain the mug shots from Frey's escapades to post on their website (this is one of the site's most popular draws -- celebrity mugshots from folks as varied as Bill Gates, Michael Jackson, and Tom Delay). They had trouble locating those mugshots though, and that led them to do some fact-checking on Frey's criminal claims in his book.

The results of their research are exhaustively outlined in this 6-page article on TSG, and essentially they break down most of the claims in the book. James Frey himself has refused to address the claims personally (aside from having his lawyers send a cease-and-desist letter to TSG, but he has posted bits of TSG's allegations on his own blog, albeit without comment.

If the TSG research is correct, I think that James Frey has some explaining to do. And it's not that I don't find his story to be any less compelling or worth reading, it's just that, if the main facts of his story are untrue, then the rest of his story can be reasonably called deeply into question as well. And that, of course, makes it essentially a work of fiction. A good work of fiction, but a work of fiction nevertheless. Although, according to this post on GalleyCat, it was a work of fiction which was rejected by 17 publishers when Frey submitted it as a work of fiction before revamping it as a memoir for its current incarnation.

I'm very curious to see how this turns out. But even before all this, the book has started a hell of a buzz, I know that. And spent several weeks on the bestseller lists, too.
iamom: (portrait)
I'm quite enjoying the use of Google's personalized home page to display my most commonly used bookmarks, snippets from the first 6-7 messages in my Inbox, 3-4 of my favourite news and other syndicated feeds, plus the live results from two of my current favourite Google News searches (examples 1 and 2), although I'm brimming over with suggestions for additions and improvements. If I have time, I'll see if I can find a quick yet effective (i.e. impactful) way to send these suggestions to the developers at Google Labs who are the ones responsible for these new add-ons.

(On a related note, Google's blog search engine returns several results from my LJ community [livejournal.com profile] nonduality for its blog search on nonduality. Trippiness abounds. This is a reminder to me that I should be more active in that community, too.)

Anyway, a recent crime fiction news search (see example 1 above) yielded an interesting article and interview about UK poet David Harsent's recent Forward prize win for his collection of war poems called Legion. What I found most interesting was that this poet also writes crime fiction under the pseudonym Stella Mooney. From the interview:
excerpt starts here )

All poets have to have day jobs. I used to be a bookseller and then a publisher, a lot of people teach and we all have to try and make a living as nobody can make a living just from poetry. For example, Robin Robertson is a publisher, the poetry editor of Cape, and Don Patterson is the poetry editor of Picador. I didn't want to teach or go on being a publisher because it was too demanding of my time. So I decided to try to make my living by my pen and I quite like thrillers.

excerpt continues here )
Now, it's fairly common to read about crime fiction writers (and many other kinds of fiction writers, for that matter) who haven't been successful enough to quit their day jobs yet. (And as author James Lincoln Warren points out, practically nobody except Edward D. Hoch actually makes a living at short crime fiction.) But it's another thing entirely to hear about a poet who has a day job as a crime fiction novelist. Lucky bastard.

(In personal writing news, my short murder story is still progressing quite well, although I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a bit concerned at its growing length. It's currently sitting at over 10,000 words and the murder itself is probably 1,000 words away. My approach right now is to keep writing until the whole story is down, and then I'll start an aggressive editing process to cut out the dead wood and tighten the language overall. I'm still hoping to have a good working draft completed by the end of November, with crits (from writing friends, from this LJ and from OWW-SFF) plus subsequent revisions completed by year-end. Then I'll start peddling it to prospective publishers, and as yet I have no idea what to expect from that process...)
iamom: (zoe light)
This excellent article on controlling the pace in storytelling includes at the end this richly illustrative book excerpt about the effect of varying sentence length in your writing:
This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It's like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety.

Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length.

And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals -- sounds that say listen to this, it is important.

So write with a combination of short, medium, and long sentences.

Create a sound that pleases the reader's ear.

Don't just write words. Write music.

-- Gary Provost
iamom: (steady)
Via today's issue of the Nondual Highlights, the following excerpt comes from the notes of American poet and translator Coleman Barks (website | full article text) during a State-sponsored trip to Afghanistan. Barks was surprised by how warmly he was received and by the interest generated by his translations of Rumi's poetry. Apparently Afghans are highly enamoured with poetry in general and they found were fascinated that a translation of Rumi's poetry into English could be so popular in the West.
This discovery, of course, is part of a blindness I have, that we have in this country, and in the West in general, to things Islamic. It is a long-standing and pervasive condition. Wherever possible I confessed our ignorance, my personal variety, and our general American species. And yet, it must be stressed, there I was, and for a reason. Their Afghan poet has been the most-read poet in the United States during the last ten years! My translations alone have sold over half a million copies. These facts astonished audiences, who inevitably asked why. No one knows, I said, but it feels like to me that a presence comes through the poetry, even in my American versions, the sense of an enlightened, compassionate, hilarious, very clear and sane, and deeply kind, human being. We have been lonely, I told them, in the United States, for what the Sufis call a true human being. In Rumi and his friend Shams Tabriz we have found two of them.
iamom: (portrait)
I recently stumbled across a website devoted to the practice of writing journalism which features an excellent series of articles called 50 Writing Tools, authored by someone named Roy Peter Clark. Writing Tool #8, called Seek Original Images, discusses the use of clichés and "first-level creativity." That's a great phrase, and this excerpt from the article containing some George Orwell illustrates the point perfectly:
"Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print," writes George Orwell. He argues that using cliches is a substitute for thinking, a form of automatic writing: "Prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated hen-house." Orwell's last phrase is a fresh image, a model of  originality.
After reading this article, I remembered reading an essay years ago by Orwell about the state of English writing, so I googled him and found it right away. It's called Politics and the English Language, and it's worth reading if you're interested in this sort of thing. Written in 1946, the essay still rings completely true today. And after reading through my latest draft of my short story with a more critical eye, I discovered at least a half-dozen worn-out phrases that were completely lacking in originality. So revise them I shall!
iamom: (horn)
I've made some palpable progress with my crime story this week, but nothing I'm ready to share with anyone yet. As I worked on it today, I visualized the crafting of a sort of moulded vessel with my words. As the story takes shape, I find myself thinking of it as a living being, growing flesh. Slowly it's expanding into a piece of art in itself, waiting for someone to read and appreciate it.

Christ, that sounds flaky. Sounds like New-Age bullshit, really. But I actually do think of it that way. It's sort of what I think about all creative artistic endeavour, really: it's a sort of tactile expression of our connection with the divine, with our true nature. Some of the quilts that [livejournal.com profile] grammardog has been posting about lately also reflect this reality to me (like this one or these ones). As does [livejournal.com profile] wickenden's imagery of food and drink and [livejournal.com profile] vyoma's macro photography of the natural world, and [livejournal.com profile] aldoushuxley's observations about the economy. These are all transcendental art forms in themselves, and I appreciate them deeply.

Holy s---

Aug. 24th, 2005 06:12 pm
iamom: (steady)
Check this out -- one of my short stories (F.A.D.D.) is the 6th hit on a Technorati search for blog entries about "short crime fiction" today:

http://beta.technorati.com/search/%22short%20crime%20fiction%22

screenshot of search results


That's very trippy to me. I wonder if many other people have duplicated that search recently and read that story as a result of that listing.
iamom: (steady)
I'm working on the section two of my murder short story right now (story opening here). Had some fun with some pure creative this morning as I worked up some details about the fictional company that the protagonist works for. This section will begin with few paragraphs of this background before giving way to to the story narrative itself, which will begin with the protagonist working late at home one Sunday night.

When the narrative kicks in, it will be 8 weeks after this hard-ass boss Janet has arrived at the company. Janet has imposed some very strict productivity standards which have put everyone under great pressure to perform. On the other hand, morale is also flagging and a lot of people feel undervalued if not worthless for what they bring to the company. At one time, they felt like a team of highly-skilled partners working together to create sophisticated solutions to complex problems. Now felt like a line of factory workers that fabricated software applications by assembling code snippets prepared by various other teams whom they never work with directly. Janet's reforms were not taking hold at the root level, to be sure.

By the end of this week, the tempo will increase to a feverish pitch for the protagonist himself. He will have been served notice that if he doesn't do X, Y and Z he'll be fired. And things aren't going well at home at all. His infant son is afflicted with a mysterious illness that causes him to be disagreeable most of the time. The fallout from this illness has also exacerbated some serious problems he's been having with his wife. And finally, after succumbing to pressure from his doctor (who's also a close friend from college), he agrees to investigate the source of the very bad headaches he's been getting recently. This leads to him receiving some very bad news about his own health that same week.

Soon after this, he will find himself in a situation in which he can take his boss's life in the heat of the moment. I don't yet have a detailed picture of how that will happen, but I know that it will reveal itself as I complete the sections leading up to it. I expect that the stuff I just described will itself generate a few thousand words.

On a side note re length, I've found myself almost obsessively checking my cumulative story length to make sure it's not too long. I'm mindful of the fact that I can write a lot of quantity pretty quickly, so I want to be sure that I'm not including too much extraneous content. Working on a short story is good practice for that because there's simply not enough room to write too much about anything. Short crime stories have to be concise and fast-moving. That's how the suspense and tension is created.
iamom: (suntrees)
Jerry sent me the following quote after our lunch earlier this week, and I've been thinking about it off and on ever since. I spend a fair bit of time working on specific writing projects and also entering my reflections into this weblog, but it has been years since I've kept my own private, "unpublishable" journal for my own consumption. I have to admit that there are certain things that I would like to write about that are totally private, so I think I might try doing this sometimes.
I do think that keeping an honest, unpublishable journal is helpful. Include what you are thinking, what you are feeling, what you are responding to. Include what you are angry about that you heard on the news. don't talk about the news in terms of politics, but in terms of your own life. What does this mean to you? So these are my three recommendations: Read, keep an honest journal and write every day.

-- Madeleine L'Engle. 2002. "Words of Wisdom." The Writer. Jun, p. 27

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Dustin LindenSmith

January 2013

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