Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Writers' Tip #6: Don't Be Boring

Hannah Moskowitz is just a regular 19-year-old girl--but she's also a published YA author, and a Publishers Weekly starred review one to boot.

Her first novel, Break, hit shelves last August from Simon Pulse, and was called "viscerally real" (PW) and "unique [and] emotional" (Library Journal).

Hard at work on her second book, Invincible Summer--due out next spring---Hannah is laying low for the most part in the publishing world. But despite not having a current book to promote, I stumbled upon her blog via literary agent extraordinaire, Janet Reid, and must admit, I was quite impressed (and entertained).

Not only did she write Break when she herself was a junior in high school, but her level of maturity and grasp of publishing professionalism is astounding. In fact, this past weekend, Hannah blogged about what it means to be a writer, what is expected of you, and how (and how not) to act:

This post has nothing to do with writing and absolutely everything to do with being a writer.

The stereotype of a writer--the middle-aged man pounding feverishly at a typewriter, cigarette in his mouth, sending hard-copy manuscripts to his agent and protesting the change of every word--has yet to catch up with the reality of what being a writer entails today.

We are not locked in our attics alone. We are not even the romantic writers of the '20s, drinking coffee and discussing literature. We are a legion of overworked, underwashed normals, pounding away at our laptops and shooing the kids to the next room.

And more importantly, we are not alone.

If you are reading this blog, you have obviously already met at least one other writer (hello there.) Chances are, I'm not the only one. Agent, editor, and writer blogs, facebook, forums like Verla Kay and Absolute Write, and God, above all Twitter, mean that, at the very least, most writers are at least a friend of a friend of yours. The term 'networking' is so appropriate here, because, in actuality, we--writers, publishing professionals, book bloggers--are a net. A web of interconnected people.

Which is why the act of being a professional writer has come to mean much more than it used to. Fifty years ago, all most writers had to do was avoid getting arrested and not respond to bad reviews.

You have a much bigger job to undertake. And it's stressful, and it's scary, but it can also be one of the most rewarding parts of this job. Somedays, my writing is absolutely shitty, and the house is a mess, and I'm crying because I can't find my socks, but I have 239 blog followers, Goddamn it, and I said something funny on Twitter today, so at least this day isn't totally for the birds.

You may think that I am the worst possible person ever to talk about how to be a professional. I'm loud and I'm obnoxious and I say fuck like it's a part of my name.


But I'm hoping all that will make me easier to listen to, because when people think 'professional,' they a lot of the time think boring, sanitized, safe. And that's not who you have to be. I'm living fucking proof over here. And I knew from the start that I was taking a big risk, but I hoped that people would find me interesting and remember me.

It's worked pretty well so far. And that, kittens, is the real reason you want to get out there and put on your professional face. So that people will remember you.

Read Hannah's entire post HERE

Hannah goes on to offer some professional guidelines to her fellow writers:

1. Get on Twitter
2. Read About Books
3. Remember Names
4. Don't Alienate
5. Don't Talk About Yourself All the Time
6. Don't Be Boring
7. Remember That You Are a Human Connecting with Other Humans

So, take a look, my dear authors, and bear in mind Hannah's seven insights as you create your writerly identity. She's spot on, you know, in my professional opinion.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Macmillan's Secret "Unghosted" Acquisition

Today, a new Hollywood memoirist came out of the woodwork--actor Rob Lowe.

Henry Holt, an imprint of Macmillan, will be publishing the tome, said to be written by Lowe himself sans ghostwriter:

Macmillan is just now announcing an acquisition it made in the fall of 2009, when Steve Rubin, president and publisher of Henry Holt, bought Rob Lowe's memoir, Stories I Only Tell My Friends. The publisher said the manuscript came in as a "confidential submission" because Lowe is writing the book himself and all parties wanted to keep the work under wraps until the first chapters had come together. The title is now slated for May 2011, with Holt's Gillian Blake editing.

In the book, Lowe details his career as well as his personal life, including his experiences as a father and his battle to get sober. In chronicling his 40-year career, Lowe offers a glimpses from his days as a child actor in Ohio, his stint in Malibu in the 1970s, through his time as a teen idol in the 1980s. Holt took world rights from Jennifer Rudolph Walsh at William Morris Endeavor.

See the PW announcement HERE

When I first saw this deal, I was kind of stoked, I'm not going to lie--I was also kind of ADD.

As a big-time "Brothers & Sisters" fan, it first reminded me that I have a couple more episodes to watch before I'm done the most recent season.

Then the pop-culture-hungry teenager in me was like "Oooh, I wonder if he'll talk about his alleged 2008 "nanny-scandal"!?!?

Only after that inner-squeal did my brain settled down a little and reveal to me the true topic of this post: ghostwriters.

We all know what a ghostwriter is (and if you don't, click here--I won't tell.) But what we don't know--unless we're privy to the inner-workings of a big trade publishing house--is whether or not celebrity authors can really write or if someone else is doing it for them.
The cynic in me is always skeptical when a celeb, like Mr. Lowe here, claims that he/she will be writing every down him/herself. Yes, it's stereotypical and unfair, but I think the majority of the population also questions the truth of such statements.

On a practical level, with all these celebs do, when do they even find the time to write? I can't imagine they can actually juggle that much work/social butterfly-ing/political agenda-ing/etc. and have time left over to write a book. Then on a more embarassing level, I wonder if they're even capable of writing something clear, concise, and engaging enough to sell for any reason other than who they are? We know they can recite some lines in a reasonable numberof takes, but can they really write such clever lines?
I know for a fact that some authors are very hands-on with their approach to writing, whether it be as a memoir a la Born Standing Up by Steve Martin--or fiction like L.A. Candy by Lauren Conrad. But more often than not, celebs get a little help from their friends the ghostwriters.

But perhaps more important than whether or not they have a ghostwriter is wheter or not it even matters. It's a celeb's name that sells a book, not the quality, accuracy, or truthfulness or the content.

Heck, sometimes, a celeb just needs to carry a book and it becomes an instant bestseller.
What do YOU think about ghostwriting for the rich and famous?

Do you have a favorite celeb memoir/novel to recommend?
(If not, Ben Kenber of sure does! Check it out HERE)

Monday, June 28, 2010

You Go, Grandma!

Some sweet news from GalleyCat over the weekend--an 82-year-old British woman just signed a three-book deal with UK Publisher Honno Press, proving it's never too late to make your authorial dreams come true:

If the 20 Under 40 list has you spooked, never fear--82-year-old novelist Myrrha Stanford-Smith has landed a book deal for a trilogy about the relationship between the great writers William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe. After working her whole life as an actor and acting teacher, Stanford-Smith wrote her first novel late in life.

Here's the grandmother's reaction, from BBC News: "'I had to put the phone down and ring them back as I was so taken aback by the whole thing,' she said. 'I'd been waiting for the manuscript to be sent back really, rejected. It was such a wonderful surprise.'"

The Wales-based writer sent her first novel The Great Lie to Honno Press--unexpectedly landing a three-book deal. Her publisher generated a fair amount of press over the deal. The publisher of Welsh women authors recently posted this note: "we have been overwhelmed with manuscripts and are currently not accepting any more until October 1st, 2010."

See the article HERE

Friday, June 25, 2010

Reality TV Tackles a New Brand of Creativity

BravoTV has been in the forefront of reality tv for years with shows like Top Chef, The Real Housewives, America's Next Top Model, Project Runway, and many more.
In fact, just this month--June 9th to be exact--Bravo premiered another inventive series, Work of Art: The Next Great Artist, airing on Wednesdays at 10/9c:
Work of Art: The Next Great Artist will bring together fourteen aspiring artists to compete for a solo show at the prestigious Brooklyn Museum and a generous cash prize.


In each episode, contestants are faced with the challenge of creating unique pieces in a variety of mediums such as painting, sculpture, photography, collage and industrial design. The weekly assignments are exciting, original and will challenge the artists' to push the limits of their technical skills and creative boundaries. Completed works of art will be appraised by our panel of top art world figures alongside a new celebrated guest judge every week. Through a gallery showing at the end of each challenge, these industry select dictate which artists have successfully mastered the subject matter and creation of their piece, as well as whose concept leaves the greatest impact.

Learn more about the series HERE

Why am I telling you all this, you ask? Well, because this week's episode challenged each contestant to create cover art for a classic novel. The winner was awarded by having their cover featured on a Penguin Classic.

I gotta say, some of these covers are pretty damn cool. Others, however, I don't get AT ALL.

For example:

COOL: Bram Stoker's Dracula by contestant Mark

HUH?: Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice by contestant Judith

Take a look at the slideshow of the artists' work HERE, and let us know which one's YOUR favorite!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Writer Who Couldn't Read

The other day I was lying in bed unable to sleep. When this happens (which is often), I usually grab my BlackBerry and scroll through my twitter feed, just to kill time and make my eyes tired.
But I found something that particular evening that caught my attention--a news story (by Robert Krulwich) from NPR about an author who couldn't read.

It's a sad, but interesting article about Canadian author, Howard Engel, who one morning woke up unable to read and struggled to regain his literacy via finger tracings and tongue clicks. (You'll see.)

Luckily, in my half-asleep state I thought to e-mail the Tweet to myself to post here on RBtL:

In January of 2002," writes the neuroscientist Oliver Sacks, "I received a letter from Howard Engel, a Canadian novelist describing a strange problem." Engel's problem was so strange, I decided to create a short video to let you see his story. Our narrator and animator is San Francisco artist Lev Yilmaz.

On July 31, 2001, Engel woke up, dressed, made breakfast, and then went to the front door to get his newspaper. "I wasn't aware," he says in our NPR interview, "that it was any different from any other morning."

But it was. When he looked at the front page — it was the Toronto Globe and Mail, an English-language journal — the print on the page was unlike anything he had seen before. It looked vaguely "Serbo-Croatian or Korean," or some language he didn't know. Wondering if this was some kind of joke, he went to his bookshelf, pulled out a book he knew was in English, and it too was in the same gibberish.

Engel had suffered a stroke. It had damaged the part of his brain we use when we read, so he couldn't make sense of letters or words. He was suffering from what the French neuroscientist Stanislas Dehaene calls "word blindness." His eyes worked. He could see shapes on a page, but they made no sense to him. And because Engel writes detective stories for a living (he authored the Benny Cooperman mystery series, tales of a mild-mannered Toronto private eye), this was an extra-terrible blow. "I thought, well I'm done as a writer. I'm finished."

In his letter to Oliver Sacks, Engel describes his stunning solution, or rather, his painfully executed semirecovery, which you can see in Lev's video.

Briefly put, Engel discovered that if he traced the printed gibberish on a page with his hand, if he simulated the movements that a writer makes as he writes, he could gradually get back the meaning of the words.

Try writing "cat" 20 times, and then on the 21st try, write "cat" in the air with your finger. You know as you write in the air that the motions you make equal "cat." This is called "motor memory." This specific set of strokes triggers the idea of "cat" in your brain.

Engel couldn't see words with his eyes. His visual cortex was broken. But he could "see" when he used the motor part of his brain, first by tracing letters on a page, then by "writing" those same letters in the air, and then, strangely, when he shifted to copying letters with his tongue on the roof of his mouth. Tongue-copying was the fastest.

Over the years, says Sacks, Engel has learned to read with his tongue, flicking the shape of the letters on his front teeth. Engel has reached the point where he can almost keep up with the subtitles in a foreign film. He says he can get about half the words before they flash off.

Read the entire article, see the illustrations/video, and hear the NPR Broadcast HERE

Yay! New Deal for Me!

From Publishers Marketplace this week. Woo!
Starr Ambrose's SILVER SPARKS, in which a major tabloid scandal hits a small Colorado resort town, reviving the "bad girl" reputation of a hometown beauty and pushing a visiting celebrity to dangerous lengths to keep his image clean, to Abby Zidle at Pocket, with Danielle Poiesz editing, in a two-book deal, for publication in December 2011, by Kevan Lyon at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency (World).

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Boise Elder Makes Mayo-Book Sandwich? Huh?

So, the insanity here continues, so again, I apologize for my absence (this is why I need more guest bloggers!). It's not only insane in my little Danielle-bubble, though. An Idaho woman is also bringing on the crazy--with condiments.

The Associated Press announced late last night that an elderly woman--Joy Cassidy, according to The Weekly Vice)--in Boise has been going on a spree of condiment-related crimes. Her most recent hit? Pouring mayonaisse in a book drop at a local library:

Police said a 74-year-old woman arrested after pouring mayonnaise in the Ada County library's book drop box is a person of interest in a yearlong spree of condiment-related crimes of the same sort. The woman was arrested Sunday at the library, moments after police said she pulled through the outside drive-through and dumped an open jar of mayonnaise in the box designated for reading materials.

The woman was released from the county jail and faces a misdemeanor charge of malicious injury to property. Police did not disclose a motive.

Boise police said the woman is under investigation for at least 10 similar cases of vandalism since May 2009. Library employees have reported finding books in the drop box covered in corn syrup and ketchup.

See the post from the AP HERE

Also check out a hysterical and detailed account of the crime from The Weekly Vice HERE

Those of you who know me personally are fully aware of my hatred of condiments. That said, if I were a librarian and found the book drop full of any such substance, I would likely be scarred for life. This I know.

What I don't know, however, is why on earth does this woman find it necessary to dump condiments in a book drop? Is it simply a case of dementia, or just a really intense hatred of the written word?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Make That THREE Deals in THREE Days!

Gallery Books just announced their deal with KISS guitarist Ace Frehley. The memoir, No Regrets, will be released next summer.

NEW YORK, June 8, 2010 – Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, announced today that it will publish legendary rocker and KISS guitarist Ace Frehley’s memoir NO REGRETS. The book, to be published under the VH1 Books imprint, is scheduled for publication in Summer 2011, according to the press release:

Ace Frehley is known worldwide as the legendary original lead guitarist for the seminal rock band KISS and respected as a solo artist who has influenced generations of guitar players. KISS is known for its wild make-up, spectacular costumes, and theatrical live shows (not to mention their music)! Frehley will delve into his life as a kid growing up in the Bronx, his ups-and-downs and influences which catapulted him into a life of sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll, and reveal what is was like to be one of the founding members of one of the most influential bands in the world.

Ace Frehley said “ I think Sinatra said it best…‘regrets I’ve had a few, but then
again, too few to mention.’”

Jennifer Bergstrom, Vice President, Editor-in-Chief of Gallery Books, said " NO REGRETS is sure to be the next must-read rock-and-roll memoir.”

Gallery Books’ Senior Editor Jeremie Ruby-Strauss negotiated the deal with Frank Weimann, President of The Literary Group International, which includes world rights.

Two Exciting Deals in Two Days

Just some super quick--and exciting--deal news for all my loyal readers *cough* who need to start commenteing *cough*:

Monday from the AP Wire via Demi Moore has just signed a contract with HarperCollins for her first tell-all memoir to hit shelves in 2012.

Demi Moore, an actress famous for showing all, will now tell all.

HarperCollins announced Monday that it had acquired a "candid" memoir by the raspy-voiced star. The book will cover her life and career and is tentatively scheduled for release in 2012.

The book doesn't have a title yet.

Moore had shopped the book around with several publishers.The 47-year-old Moore has acknowledged a troubled upbringing. HarperCollins says the narrative will be "framed by her complicated relationship with her mother, Virginia King."

Moore is known for her work in such films as "Ghost" and "Indecent
Proposal." She appeared nude on the cover of Vanity Fair while pregnant and
married to Bruce Willis. She has been married to Ashton Kutcher since 2005.

Yesterday from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers just snapped up the rights to the first 20th-Century-Fox authorized book for "Glee" (the hit new comedy series on Fox for those of you living in a hole =p).

After last night’s Glee finale, you probably thought some of the mania would die down for a bit? Not a chance. Shelf Life has learned that Little, Brown Books for Young Readers has struck a deal with Twentieth Century Fox to publish a line of official Glee-related books. (There are Glee books aplenty out there, but they are all unauthorized.) Little, Brown has multiple book projects in the works for its Glee program; the first to roll off the press will be an original novel called Glee: The Beginning. This prequel to the show, which includes a double-sided poster, will hit stores this August.

More from Bestselling Author Steig Larsson...Maybe

Steig Larsson--the late, famed author of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and its bestselling counterparts--apparently was rejected for publication by Jules Verne Magazine when he was 17 years old.

It's not surprising, as all authors--even bestselling ones like Larsson, J.K. Rowling, and J.D. Salinger--were rejected by someone early in their careers. What's interesting about Larsson's case, though, is how/why this information was uncovered--when they found the actual hardcopies of his early short stories.

The Associated Press reported on the discovery yesterday:

Two early science fiction stories by the late crime novelist Stieg Larsson have been uncovered in Stockholm, the Swedish National Library said Tuesday.

The best-selling author sent the short stories to the Swedish science fiction magazine Jules Verne when he was 17, hoping to have them published, but the magazine rejected them.

The library received the stories, titled "The Crystal Balls" and "The Flies," as part of a private donation of the magazine's archives in 2007, library spokesman Hakan Farje said.

Larsson never had time to enjoy the success of his Millennium trilogy of crime novels, which have sold more than 20 million copies worldwide. He died in 2004 of a heart attack at age 50, a year before the first novel in the series, "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," was published in his native Sweden.

In the letter to the Jules Verne magazine, Larsson described himself as "a 17-year old guy from Umea with dreams of becoming an author and journalist," Farje said. He called the science fiction stories his "first tentative efforts" at writing.

Farje said the author's heirs should decide whether to publish the stories.

Larsson had originally planned to compose 10 books in the Millennium series and had written about half of a fourth book before he died. That work hasn't been published because of a legal battle over Larsson's estate between his brother and father and Larsson's longtime partner, Eva Gabrielsson.

Public access to material in the archive of the Swedish National Library is decided on a case-by-case basis, depending on the content. Farje said it was unclear if the public will get access to Larsson's work.

See the article HERE

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Ready, Set, Action!

The much-awaited film adaptation of Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen finally began filming on May 20 (I'm a little behind, I know). See my previous post on the subject for more details.

Locked down for the role of young Jacob is Robert Pattinson (elderly Jacob will be Hal Holbrook) and the character of Marlena will be played by Reese Witherspoon (though this casting has been in place for months). Sean Penn, who had been rumored to play August--Marlena's absuive husband and Jacob's sort-of boss--will not be involved, however. The role was instead filled by the Viennese Oscar-winner Christoph Waltz of "Inglorious Basterds" fame.

I will admit once more that I was skeptical about Robert Pattionson's ability to pull off this role, but after hearing about his admirable performance in "Remember Me" (it's in my Netflix queue) and seeing some on-set pictures of R-Patz, as Perez Hilton is wont to call him (pictures courtesy of, I'm starting to get quite excited to see him as Jacob.

Hopefully the flick will be as fun as the subjectmatter lends itself to. Guess we'll have to wait until 2011 to find out!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

New Yorker Announces This Year's "20 Under 40"

This week, the New Yorker announced its list of 20-authors-to-watch-under-40, something the magazine hasn't done in over a decade. The last time they published their "20 Under 40" though, it included international bestsellers like Jhumpa Lahiri and Junot Diaz, as well as authors like Michael Chabon and David Foster Wallace.

Naturally, the current list--recreated by The New York Times--is a little less recognizable...for now:

There are 10 women and 10 men, satirists and modernists, from Miami and Ethiopia and Peru and Chicago. And none of them were born before 1970.

The New Yorker has chosen its “20 Under 40” list of fiction writers worth watching, a group assembled by the magazine’s editors in a lengthy, secretive process that has provoked considerable anxiety among young literary types. The list will be published in the double fiction issue of The New Yorker that arrives on newsstands Monday. All of the writers were told two weeks ago that they had made the cut.

They are Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 32; Chris Adrian, 39; Daniel Alarcón, 33; David Bezmozgis, 37; Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, 38; Joshua Ferris, 35; Jonathan Safran Foer, 33; Nell Freudenberger, 35; Rivka Galchen, 34; Nicole Krauss, 35; Yiyun Li, 37; Dinaw Mengestu, 31; Philipp Meyer, 36; C. E. Morgan, 33; Téa Obreht, 24; Z Z Packer, 37; Karen Russell, 28; Salvatore Scibona, 35; Gary Shteyngart, 37; and Wells Tower, 37.


Beyond their age, the writers on the list have nothing in common, said David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker.

“If they had too much in common, it would be really boring,” he said in an interview. “This is not an aesthetic grouping. The group is a group of promise, enormous promise. There are people in there that are very conventional in their narrative approach, and there are people who have a big emphasis on voice. There are people who are in some way bringing you the news from another culture.”

It is no secret that publishing these kinds of lists can be tricky. Whatever the intention, they sometimes resemble a publicity stunt. The age cutoff, whether 25 or 35 or 40, can feel capricious. After a list is made public, there is the inevitable sniping that some writers on it were too famous to have been included and that others were unfairly excluded.


Bill Buford, a former fiction editor at The New Yorker who led the compilation of the list in 1999, said he had no regrets about who was chosen for it.

“By gathering up these writers and gathering them up with some authority and some panache, and saying, with all the stuff that’s out there, you’re saying, here are 20 you should pay attention to,” Mr. Buford said, “it’s a way of getting those authors to a bigger audience.”

Read the full article HERE

I've gotta say I agree with Mr. Buford. These lists aren't saying these are the only promising authors out there. Just like any list of its kind--10 summer movies to watch, top 10 beach reads, etc. etc.--it's clearly subjective and not all-inclusive.

I personally like these lists. It's a great way to discover new artists of all kinds and to give someone whose talent really moves you some recognition. That's all. It's not meant as a slight to those who didn't make the list, though I can, of course, understand that it may feel that way to the artist in question. But just as we all have to sometimes, you gotta just let it roll off your back and realize it's in no way a criticism. Besides, there is likely someone out there singing your praises as you cry in the corner.