Thursday, October 28, 2010

T-Swift for Literacy

Those of you who know me in real life are likely aware of my love of Taylor Swift. And this morning, Publishers Marketplace is feeding into my obsession (if seeing her perform in Rockefeller Plaza earlier this week wasn't enough!) with an article from The Charlotte Observer that makes me love T-Swift even more:

Studying hard can bring sweet rewards, like screaming "We love you!" to Taylor Swift from seats that match the color of Clifford the Big Red Dog.

The Grammy Award-winning superstar stopped by the headquarters of Scholastic Inc. on Wednesday and chatted and performed at the publisher's downstairs auditorium, where about 200 grade-schoolers and middle-schoolers, most of them girls, had received a break from class to see Swift talk about reading and writing. The children had been selected by their schools because of improvement in their reading scores.

"I think that smart kids are the coolest kids," Swift, wearing a dark-blue cotton dress with red and white flowers and two-tone high heel shoes, said to much delight as she was interviewed on stage by "America's Got Talent" host Nick Cannon.

The 20-year-old singer-songwriter, who has been busy promoting her new CD, "Speak Now," shared songwriting tips (imagine you're writing a letter, she advised), childhood reading memories and repeated plugs for books as a path to a better life.

"(Without books) You can let little things pass you by, little details," she said. "Like, say you're driving down the road and there's just this really beautiful autumn tree and it has these gorgeous orange leaves. You might just let that pass you by if you have never read books that describe how beautiful they are, from somebody else's perspective."

Swift did more than talk. She sang a few lines from one of her favorite songs, Faith Hill's "This Kiss," and was joined by her band at the end to perform her new single, "Mine."

The children made their own music, spontaneously singing along when Swift's "You Belong With Me" was played on the house sound system before she arrived.

Swift, a native of Wyomissing, Pa., whose first record came out when she was 16, said she had always been a reader and was encouraged by her parents and teachers. She started writing poetry in second grade and by fourth grade had enough courage to enter a poem, "Monster in My Closet," in a national poetry contest. (She didn't win, she says, but she did place.) Studying "Romeo and Juliet" in ninth grade helped inspire her Top 10 single "Love Story."

She also said she loved "Sesame Street" books growing up and was inspired by the stories of Dr. Seuss because of their rhymes.

"A lot of people who gravitate toward music are really, really sort of drawn to poetry because the words all have a rhythm and it comes together just right," she said. "I love poetry, because if you get it right, if you put the right rhymes at the right ends of the sentences, you can almost make words bounce off a page."

Responding to student questions, Swift said she enjoyed authors who had a "a very conversational style to their writing" and was drawn most to books that dramatized history, perhaps about a "girl during the Revolutionary War." She said reading made her a better songwriter because it helps you with "understanding metaphors" and "how to paint a picture with a song."

Asked how to encourage children who don't like to read, she suggested not taking on too much, perhaps starting with a short story or even a newspaper.

"It doesn't have to be a big, thick, long book," she said. "You don't have to pick up something that looks scary."

On stage, Swift cited Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" as a favorite. Interviewed briefly at a post-show reception, Swift said she loved the novel, set in the South in the 1950s, because of how it was narrated from a child's point of view.

"The main character didn't exactly know what was going on, but the reader does," she said. "It's all portrayed in an interesting way, all the huge issues in the book, like civil right, come from a children's perspective. It's an interesting way to tell a story."

Swift is part of a new Scholastic promotional campaign, "You are What You Read," for which authors, celebrities and public figures from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to "Percy Jackson" novelist Rick Riordan choose favorite books. Swift's picks include E.B. White's "Charlotte's Web" and Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir on divorce and recovery, "Eat, Pray, Love," not a surprising choice for a songwriter known for her romantic laments and explorations.

Swift said during the reception that she was enjoying Gilbert's most recent book, "Committed," in which the author marries the Brazilian man she met in "Eat, Pray, Love."

"Listening to her talk at seminars, especially one that I YouTubed, where she was talking about trying to create her followup project, it made me cry," Swift said. "It was so inspirational."

See the entire article HERE

The "You are What You Read" campaign was initially launched as a social networking site and is part of a larger global literacy program "Read Every Day. Lead a Better Life."

I'm thrilled that so many celebrities are getting involved in this fantastic cause. They have an amazing--if at times unfair--amount of pull and influence, particularly when it comes to kids and young adults, and I love to see that power being used to encourage people to read.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Author-Editor Relationship: Jane-Austen-style

I came into the office this morning to a find hilarious--and thoughtful--article sent to me from one of my awesome authors. The article, written surprisingly by Jill Lawless of the Associated Press, focuses on how even the most reknowned authors need a helping editorial hand to polish a manuscript.

Lawless's example author-editor pair? Jane Austen and William Gifford.

She's renowned for her precise, exquisite prose, but new research shows Jane Austen was a poor speller and erratic grammarian who got a big helping hand from her editor.

Oxford University English professor Kathryn Sutherland studied 1,100 handwritten pages of unpublished work from the author of incisive social comedies such as Pride and Prejudice. She said Saturday that they contradicted the claim by Austen's brother Henry that "everything came finished from her pen."

"In reading the manuscripts, it quickly becomes clear that this delicate precision is missing," Sutherland said.

She said the papers show "blots, crossings out, messiness," and a writer who "broke most of the rules for writing good English."

"In particular, the high degree of polished punctuation and epigrammatic style we see in Emma and Persuasion is simply not there," Sutherland said.

Sutherland said letters from Austen's publisher reveal that editor William Gifford was heavily involved in making sense of Austen's sensibility, honing the style of her late novels Emma and Persuasion.

Gifford did not edit earlier books such as Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, whose inconsistencies have sometimes been blamed on bad printing.

"In fact, the style in these novels is much closer to Austen's manuscript hand," Sutherland said.

Sutherland said the revelations shouldn't damage the reputation of Austen, who was little known when she died in 1817 at the age of 41 but has since become one of Britain's most beloved authors.

Sutherland said the documents reveal an experimental writer who was "even better at writing dialogue and conversation than the edited style of her published novels suggest."

"The manuscript evidence offers a different face for Jane Austen, one smoothed out in the famous printed novels," she said.

Austen's handwritten manuscripts will go online Monday at*, the result of a three-year project to digitize the author's unpublished work.

See the article on Yahoo! News HERE

I've always believed that editing is a team effort--that author and editor need to work hand-in-hand to bring out the best of a story. One person is emotional connected to the material and the other is more objective, though enamored with the author's talents and abilities. That dichotomy is imperative, in my opinion.

Lawless's article also feeds into my love of manuscripts and the controversial topic of authorial intent. I had no idea that Austen's unpublished works would be going online (today!) and I'm excited to take a peek.

Friday, October 22, 2010

What's That Smell--Bacon or a Book?

For the first time in months, I have a moment to breathe in the office. Granted, I have about ten things on my to-do list, but it's 4:15 on a Friday afternoon and I've been working my butt off all day. So, I'm giving myself ten minutes to surf the net.

And what did I happen on but something hilarious over at Richard Curtis's blog, E-Reads. I laughed-out-loud in my cubicle for about three minutes (that's very long in my world these days!).

Allow me to present you with one of Richard's oldies-but-goodies, "The Best of E-Reads: Aerosol Makes Your Nook Smell Like Crunchy Bacon":

From time to time we bring back some of the more popular articles and blogs posted on E-Reads. This one is from November 2009.
A while back we wrote up a book lover who said she was reluctant to buy a Kindle “unless Amazon comes out with a special ‘book scented’ Kindle.” (See If They Can Make the Kindle Smell Like a Book, Maybe She’ll Buy One). It was all kind of a joke, but an enterprising manufacturer took it seriously enough to produce a line of aromatics simulating book scents. The aromas include New Book Smell and Classic Musty. The product is trademarked as Smell of Books™ and here’s how their website describes it:

Does your Kindle leave you feeling like there’s something missing from your reading experience?

Have you been avoiding e-books because they just don’t smell right?

If you’ve been hesitant to jump on the e-book bandwagon, you’re not alone. Book lovers everywhere have resisted digital books because they still don’t compare to the experience of reading a good old fashioned paper book.

But all of that is changing thanks to Smell of Books™, a revolutionary new aerosol e-book enhancer.

Now you can finally enjoy reading e-books without giving up the smell you love so much. With Smell of Books™ you can have the best of both worlds, the convenience of an e-book and the smell of your favorite paper book. Smell of Books™ is compatible with a wide range of e-reading devices and e-book formats and is 100% DRM-compatible.

Whether you read your e-books on a Kindle or an iPhone using Stanza, Smell of Books™ will bring back that real book smell you miss so much.

Among the five smells offered is “Crunchy Bacon”. This is a welcome novelty for noses jaded by such natural book fragrances as grass, leather, printer’s ink, and decaying paper. Hopefully, the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France will invest heavily in shpritzing their collections with Crunchy Bacon. Some other but lesser known aromas associated with books are baked lamb shank, General Cho’s Chicken, and asparagus vinaigrette.

On a more scientific note, Henry Fountain of the New York Times reports on research to quantify old-book odors to help librarians preserve books more effectively. Fountain describes how conservators “analyzed the volatiles produced by 72 samples of old paper of different types and in varying condition from the 19th and 20th centuries, using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. They found that some compounds were reliable markers for paper with certain characteristics — high concentrations of lignin or rosin, for example, which make paper degrade relatively quickly.”

Read the full article HERE

While this post obvious takles the topic in a humorous and silly way, there's certainly something to what's being discussed. What book-lover doesn't get a rush from that somewhat-musty old-book smell?

A favorite pastime of mine (I say pastime because I haven't had any time in the present or even recent past to do this!) is wandering around rare book stores. Not only do I love to look at the brittle pages, the cover stains, etc. but the smell of a book carries with it so much history. Experiencing even a little piece of that history is thrilling to me, even if it is just in a scent.

I have a small, but lovely, collection of rare books myself and sometimes it makes me feel better after a bad day just to look at them, to think about their pasts--who touched them before me, who read them, if the book was a gift to its original owner, what part of the country it was read in, etc. etc.

One of my personal favorites is a Robert Frost greeting card (not the one at this link but for some nice history!)--it's one of merely a couple hundred copies printed by Joe Blumenthal, Frost's dear friend and printer. Normally, it wouldn't be all that exciting--it's just a greeting card. But this one was unique--inside the little card-book was a folded note from Blumenthal himself to the card's recipient, letting him know that Robert Frost dropped off his manuscript that day.

I don't know about you, but I think that's pretty damn cool.

And it smells too.

Not bad, just chock full of history.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Check out my awesome new Pocket After Dark widget!



I heart it. And you should too! :-p

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Duff Debuts "Elixir"

I will admit to my dork-dom. I saw Hilary Duff in concert on her first tour. Yes, yes I did. I have a strange fondness for her--I don't know why. It doesn't hurt that she's now married to my ex-Sen Mike Comrie...

SO, all that to explain why I feel the need to share this little bit of news: Hilary's debut novel, Elixir, hit shelves today!

Clea Raymond has felt the glare of the spotlight her entire life. The daughter of a renowned surgeon and a prominent Washington DC politician, she has grown to be a talented photojournalist who takes refuge in a career that allows her to travel to the most exotic parts of the world. But after Clea's father disappears while on a humanitarian mission, Clea's photos begin to feature eerie, shadowy images of a strange and beautiful man—a man she has never seen before. When fate brings Clea and this man together, she is stunned by the immediate and powerful connection she feels with him. As they grow closer, they are drawn deep into the mystery behind her father's disappearance, and they discover the centuries old truth behind their intense bond. Torn by a dangerous love triangle and haunted by a powerful secret that holds their fates, together they race against time to unravel their pasts in order to save their lives—and their futures.

Yes, I will be picking up a copy. No, I will not let your laughter stop me.

The Untold Dangers of Web-based Docu-sharing

It seems that Scribd--the popular document-sharing website--is pulling a fast one on its users...or a fast few rather. This might all be old news to some of you, but for me, it's brand spankin' new and pretty darn shocking.

As a Scribd user myself, I couldn't believe it when I heard from an author I work with--the fabulous Jill Myles--that the site lays claim to material posted on the site, even if the material is copyrighted.

Take a peek at the Terms of Service--as highlighted by Mike Cane over at Mike Cane's iPad Test--which I'll admit that I, like many people, didn't look at before participating:

As Mike goes on to explain in his post just what that means:

So, Scribd signs an agreement that, for example, lets Amazon also distribute all of the Scribd content to owners of the abominable Kindle. This would be a sub-license. But you hate Amazon, you hate the Kindle, so you pull your stuff off Scribd in protest.

Too late, sucker. Amazon has been granted the right to still use your stuff.

Hmmm. Not to say that this would likely ever happen to me or my work, but I suppose most people would think that way. But for some users, these things actually do happen. And that's not all that happens...

Evil Reads points out one distrubring instance from Paperback Writer earlier this year:

I thought I had figured out every conceivable way to squeeze money out of
authors...until I saw this post yesterday from Paperback Writer:

[As of July 27th] has begun charging people to download my free e-books hosted on their site. They are using an archive subscription scam to make their money (this also neatly avoids them having to pay me any royalties on the profits they make.)
Evidently all the money they've been raking in from the Google ads they've posted on my e-book pages hasn't been enough for them.... I was not made aware of this new policy by Scribd at all; a reader kindly brought it to my attention. If you have free stories or documents hosted on this site, chances are they're doing the same to you.

Yikes! And you thought that Evil Wylie was evil! Charging readers to access free e-books and other documents WITHOUT NOTIFYING THE AUTHORS?! I wish I had thought of this (scam) legitimate business venture first.

Their "archive" (scheme) process works like this: after an unspecified "period of time," all free, publicly-viewable documents posted to are retired to an archive. To download those documents, readers who visit must cough up either $5 for a 24-hour downloading period or $9 for a monthly subscription. Simply viewing archived documents does not require payment. offers an option to return the document to the free "current" section AFTER it has been archived. In an absolutely brilliant move, however, their terms of service don't actually state when documents will be authors have no easy way to determine when their work will be archived (and thus available for un-archiving).

Read the rest of the article on Evil Reads HERE

Scribd isn't the only site with these types of clauses in their Terms of Service though. Competitors like Doctoc, Issuu, and even GoogleDocs all have similar stipulations. WePapers, to me, looks like the most user-friendly option, but still has its caveats as well.

And don't even get me started on the fact that all these sites maintain the right to modify your content without your consent. For me, the appeal of these sites was that I could post my work via pdf for someone to read without the capability of copying, pasting, or modifying. But it seems that doesn't even matter at this point. There are bigger fish to fry.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Guest Blogger, Dan Cabrera: Don’t Be Spooked by Scary Book News

Halloween is just around the corner, and if that doesn’t raise the hairs on the back of your neck then maybe the constant stream of terrifying news about the publishing industry will chill you to the bone. Just look around. You can’t miss stories bemoaning the sad state of book affairs. Borders appears on the verge of annihilation, Barnes & Noble is in constant turmoil, and eBooks aren’t even safe! It’s enough to give you the heebie-jeebies.

While publishing insiders have been forecasting doom and gloom for some time (and to be fair, everyone—not just the book industry—has been in dire straits recently), there is always some good news to be had. Sure, maybe the news isn’t as sweet as a candy apple, but it’s good news nonetheless. Borders is opening temporary stores for the holidays! Book sales are up overall from last year! And for even more hope, just check out this article that ran in USA Today this week.

The article lists five myths leading people to believe that traditional books, especially big publishing houses, are in their death throes. Most of the fallacies focus on the surging popularity of eBooks and their supposed inevitable dominance over print books. Even self e-publishing is “threatening” to take down print. However, USA Today's Myth No. 1 explains why this isn’t at all true:

Myth No. 1. Publishers are merely printers. That would be news to companies like ours, which don't even operate their own printing presses. Publishers today are in the content business. We develop it; we design it; and we deliver it however our readers want it.

Ah, yes. Content is king. Publishers and editors not only make the books, they make sure those books are worth reading, that they illuminate, educate, entertain. One of the novelties of eBooks means that now anyone can be an author. In fact, Barnes & Noble just introduced a new program that allows anyone with an Internet connection to upload their latest masterpiece, as the Amazon Kindle store currently does. But just because you can write a book doesn’t mean you should.

Publishing houses help filter through all of the noise to bring readers the best of the best. And yes, this may change in the future as self-publishing becomes more sophisticated. And sure, not all books released by publishing companies are exactly “high art.” But as the USA Today article points out, “At every stage of the editorial process, publishers partner with their authors as creative consultants, editors and designers.” After all, they’re professionals for a reason.

So fear not, faithful reader. We may not be out of the woods just yet, but that’s no reason to cower and let the ghouls and goblins run amok. We can do with a scare every now and then, especially when in the end of the day, we always get to go home and curl up with a piece of candy and a good book. Well, unless you’re diabetic.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Banned Books Week, Jeffe Kennedy Style

Banned books week has come and gone, my head definitely not in the pleasure reading or blogging game. But fellow blogger, writer, friend, and cupcake connoisseur Jeffe Kennedy wrote up a nice homage to the annual event over on her website, Love, Power & Fairytale Endings:
I waited until today to do my own tribute to Banned Books Week.

Seemed right to me, to let everyone have their say and make their plugs. Not that I don't care, but maybe because I care so much.

I'm a believer in reading. In asking questions. I believe there's nothing you can read or encounter that will taint or stain anyone beyond repair. We are elastic beings. More, we deserve the opportunity to decide for ourselves what ideas to keep and which to reject.

That's the foundation of Free Will.

I remember finding out that there were periods in human history when people were to read only the Bible and nothing else. To keep their thoughts pure. As if people aren't capable of culling the garbage for themselves. One man's garbage is another man's treasure.

You don't get to decide for me.

So, in honor of Banned Books Week, I'll take on the red-headed stepchild on the list of the
Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2009: Twilight.

Yeah, I know.
Twilight?? The megaseller everyone seems to love to hate? But yes. The series is Number Five on the list for: Sexually Explicit, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group.

I first learned about Twilight when my friend RoseMarie London sent me a note from an editor-friend in New York City. The friend said she'd spent the weekend under the spell of this new book and how could she be so in love with a completely chaste hero? Knowing I was interested in such things, RM sent me the email and said maybe I should read it.

I did. And fell in love, too.

It's easy to hurl stones at the massively successful. To find the cracks and pick fun at the giants. But I can vouch that, before it was THE THING, Twilight seduced me. Creating sexual tension where there is no actual sex is no mean feat. And if anyone thinks that being a teenager isn't just like that, well then... no one can help you.

More, I know a teenage brother and sister. The older sister is a bookworm, the younger brother a budding jock and social butterfly. They both stayed in all weekend to read the newest installment on the Twilight series. Only the boy asked his mother to lie to his friends that called and say he was doing chores.

He didn't want them to know what he was really doing.

Any book, or series of books, so compelling as to make a social teenager duck the peer pressure of his friends is a book that prevents more robots.

Fight the good fight. Buy a banned or challenged book.

Our children will thank you for what you gave them, not what you kept them from.

Check out the post--and her blog--HERE

A Match Made in the Bookstore

So, it's Saturday night and what am I doing? Sitting at home after a nice evening in with my friend Rebecca trying to catch up on my blogging. And what am I not doing? Dating.

But apparently, as Rebecca pointed out to me, I could date all book-like with a new online dating site--Alikewise.

Following the trend and the site model created by Goodreads, Alikewise is a dating service that matches people based on book taste. The website, created just this year by two gentlemen--both named Matt, coincidentally--claims the following mission:

Alikewise is about finding common ground based on what you like to read. Imagine a dinner party where you wander over to your host’s bookshelf, and strike up a chat with the person next to you. You loved The Black Swan? Me too.

Other sites say they know what makes people compatible. We’re skeptical of that promise – after all, many great romances would never have happened if they were determined by checkboxes and questionnaires.

We think it’s better to find an area of passionate interest, and let you take it from there. If you like discovering people as much as you like discovering books, let Alikewise give you something to talk about.

I don't really have all that much to say about this, now that I've actually started this post, but I am certainly curious as to what kinds of people it would stir up for my crazy eclectic taste in books! It seems they come up with everything these days!