Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Film Adaptation on Deck for Laini Taylor

While the "Snow White & the Huntsman" director, Rupert Sanders, has been shrouded in bad press the past several months after his affair with actress Kristin Stewart, the producer of the fairy-tale flick, Joe Roth, has been busy prepping some news of his own.

Roth--who also produced "Alice in Wonderland," "While You Were Sleeping," and "Mona Lisa Smile"--just announced that he's optioned the film rights to The Daughter and Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor.

GalleyCat tells us a little more:
Universal Pictures has acquired the film rights to Laini Taylor‘s young adult novel and National Book Award finalist, Daughter of Smoke & Bone.

Oz: The Great and Powerful executive producer Palak Patel will serve as an executive producer. Snow White & the Huntsman producer Joe Roth has signed on as a producer.

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers released this book in 2011. Days of Blood & Starlight, the sequel, came out in November 2012. Taylor plans to conclude her series with a not-yet-titled third book.

See the original post HERE

I read Daughter not too long ago and thought it was entertaining. I had a few issues with it that made me not "love" it,  but I certainly enjoyed it. I do think this one is going to translate very well to the big screen though!

Very excited to see  how they cast this one too...

Monday, December 17, 2012

Monday Morning Pet Preview

So, it's Monday again. And while the office is filled with holiday cheer--gift-giving, cookies, and the like--I needed a little something extra to start off a week that promises to be a long one.

Lucky for me, Flavorwire recently posted  some awesome photos of famous authors with their pet--just the thing I needed:

A dog may be man’s best friend, but some men make better friends than others. To us, it’s always seemed as though pets attach themselves to artists (and vice versa, of course) in greater numbers than to regular folks — or at least that almost every artist we know needs a furry friend to talk to. Maybe it’s the pull of a constant, silent listener to bounce ideas against, maybe it’s because of the boundless soul of the writer, maybe it’s a coincidence. Either way, we think pictures of famous authors and their pets are pretty adorable, so we’ve collected a few of them here. See some of our favorite writers with their dogs and cats (and peacocks, guess who) after the jump, and if we missed your favorite literary pair of man and beast, add them in the comments.

Virginia Woolf and her dog Pinka.

“This you’ll call sentimental — perhaps — but then a dog somehow represents — no I can’t think of the word — the private side of life — the play side.”

 Photo by Gisele Freund, via.

John Steinbeck and Charley.

“I’ve seen a look in dogs’ eyes, a quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt, and I am convinced that basically dogs think humans are nuts.”

Image via.

Ernest Hemingway with one of his many cats.

“A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.”

Edith Wharton with double pups.

“My little dog — a heartbeat at my feet.”

Image via.

Mark Twain and shoulder kitty.

“Some people scorn a cat and think it not an essential; but the Clemens tribe are not of these.”

Image via.

See the original and complete post HERE

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Meet the Morgan Library: Don't Mind if I Do!

I've lived in New York City for about seven years now, and for all seven of them I have been saying, "Man, I really want to visit the Morgan Library."

This weekend, though, I finally went. (Why it took me so long to actually put that want into action, I will never know.) Armed with three of my fellow booklovers, we powered through every public exhibit in about two hours.

The main attractions: the Beatrix Potter special exhibit, "The Picture Letters," and the standard Pierpont Morgan's 1906 Library.

My reaction to said main attractions: *jaw dropping*

The Beatrix Potter exhibit was incredible--with letters, sketches, photographs, original merchandise, and more, the famed Peter Rabbit author's career comes to life before your very eyes. The delicacy of her lines, the graceful loops of her script--it was all just beautiful. I would have loved to get some pictures of some of my favorite pieces to share with you all but photography wasn't allowed.

Not only were the pieces themselves stunning, but it was a very educational trip, as well. My knowledge of Beatrix Potter herself, I'll admit, had previously been limited to what I "learned" in the 2006 Renee Zellweger film Miss Potter, so the exhibit was enlightening. Potter's personality shines through every piece on display--her solitary nature, her love of children, her subtle sense of humor, her passion for her work and perfectionism (she was one of the first "self-pubbed" authors, in fact).

And then...and then there was Morgan's actual Library and his little "reading room." The Library is filled with floors and floors of deliciously old-smelling, leather-bound books, rare manuscripts, ceiling murals, sculpture, and more.

Charles Dickens's original MS for A Christmas Carol, for example, was even on display just as we entered the room (with a placard noting that he delivered the MS to his publisher in early December and it was published by Christmas...I got a good chuckle at that one!).
I don't quite know what to say about it all as I was dazed as I walked around in awe.

The reading room was a different story. Dimly lit, tall-ceilinged, and covered in crimson and velvet, the lush room was gorgeous. I wouldn't want to read there myself--I need more comfort and less pomp and circumstance--but it was stunning in its decor. I was particularly impressed with the fireplace--so large I could step in it and throw some dust, shouting "Diagon Alley!" just for fun--and the two-floor book safe (yes, a BOOK SAFE).


Remind me to go back to the Morgan for more book love sooner rather than later, okay, friends?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Gone Google Gave a Giggle

It's Tuesday, and it feels like it should be Friday. Anyone with me?

Personally, I spent the morning running around my apartment in my bathrobe, knee-high boots on for protection and a broom in hand, while Cupcake played "catch and release" with an icky mouse. We spent an hour trying to get it to a point where I could dispose of the little sucker but by the time all the furniture was moved away from the walls of my bedroom, my "cat" had let him get away. I am a little afraid of what I'm going to come home to later.

Now, finally in the office with coffee in my belly, I can breathe. Or I could until my friend sent along this link:

And I cannot stop laughing.

It's probably a little extra funny since my day has been off to such a rough start, but it is pretty darn awesome.

What is it you ask?

Well, Google has created a place where companies can get a sense of all the great Apps Google has to offer once a company has "gone Google." The demo at the link above provides an example of how the collaboration process works in Google Docs in particular. Google has built the demo so that the user can write and collaborate with six famous dead authors--Charles Dickens, Edgar Allen Poe, Emily Dickinson, William Shakespeare, Fredrich Nietzsche, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

While there is a bit of repetitiveness that can occur as you use it, some of the changes these authors make to your document are quite hilarious.

My personal favorite: When Edgar Allen Poe popped in and wrote "I wish I could write as mysteriously as a cat."

'Nuff said.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Spreading the Love

This week, the Big 6 have sure been busy. While Random House employees cheered as they received UNHEARD OF year-end bonuses for our industry, some folks over at Hachette Book Group made this moving video to honor the It Gets Better LGBT campaign.

This made me smile at the end of a long work week:

The 'It Gets Better' Project was founded in September 2010 by columnist and author Dan Savage and his husband Terry Miller, "to show young LGBT people the levels of happiness, potential, and positivity their lives will reach." Since then, more than 50,000 user-submitted videos have been made by individuals and companies, to share their heartfelt messages of experience, hope and tolerance.

Among the latest of these is the Hachette Book Group, one of the biggest publishing companies in the world.
Their video is posted above.

Excuse me, I think there's some dust in my eyes. *sniff*

See the original post HERE

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Cat is Out of the Bag

So, since it's now public knowledge via press release, I thought I'd share some news with you, dear reader.

My life has turned a teensy bit upside-down this say the least.

I've made the official decision to leave my current day job at Penguin to go out on my own full-time. I'll be launching a new company in the new year for my own editorial services (though continuing to freelance until then, of course--just not under an incorporated business yet!). When I'm ready to announce the actual company specifically, you'll be the first to know! ;)

I've also accepted a consulting gig as a senior editor and editorial director of two adult single-title romance imprints at Entangled Publishing:

Entangled Publishing continues to attract top-tier publishing veterans to its highly qualified editorial team.  The newest addition, Danielle Poiesz, comes to Entangled after a storied career with Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, and Penguin.

Danielle Poiesz comes on board as the editorial director of the new digital-first romance imprint, Entangled Edge, as well as taking over the helm of the successful print romance imprint, Entangled Select, unifying Entangled’s single-title adult romance division. “I’ve always believed that the romance genre reaches out to all kinds of hearts,” says Danielle. “I’m thrilled to be joining Entangled at a time where the adult market is so open and enthusiastic about romance—in any format. There are so many stories out there to be told and no better time to tell them.”

Danielle’s publishing experience runs the gamut: sales and editorial, to business development, digital/online, and self-publishing, to strategic innovations and tech. Now, as an Entangled editorial director and senior editor—and a continued freelance editorial specialist and blogger—Danielle brings a wealth of expertise to her new position with Entangled and is even more poised to help fill the world with eye-opening, meaningful, and, of course, entertaining literature.

“I know Danielle Poiesz is the perfect fit to grow and mold our adult imprints,” says Executive Editorial Director Stacy Cantor Abrams, echoing the entire team’s sentiments. “We all heartily welcome her to the Entangled family!”

Stacy Cantor Abrams, former Editorial Director of Entangled Select, has followed her passion for the young adult genre from Walker/Bloomsbury to her new position at Entangled as Executive Editorial Director over the company’s acclaimed Entangled TEEN print imprint as well as the newly announced digital-first young adult imprint, Entangled digiTEEN.

Entangled Publishing’s incredible growth and success stems from its utilization of a bold new business model to bridge the gap between traditional and indie publishing. Giving their authors the best of both worlds, Entangled offers quality editing, commercially appealing cover art, and an unequalled marketing department coupled with some of the highest author royalties in the industry. Entangled Edge and Entangled digiTEEN are positioned to capitalize on the fast-paced and growing success of e-books as well as round out Entangled’s complement of imprints for every romance reader.

See the original press release HERE

For the next month, I will be juggling all three roles--keep those balls in the air, Danielle!--and then in early January will be entirely self-employed, freelancing for individual clients and publishers, as well as Entangled.

As you can see, it's a very big, crazy day!


I went in a bit of a circle, but I've found my way back to my true love: editorial. Very excited!

It's all about the books, after all.

And the love. Don't forget the love.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Making It Up With a Publishing Round Up

I've been a little out of the loop lately, dear readers--my apologies. With vacation and the Thanksgiving holiday (and an intense work week playing catch up!), I have been a bit preoccupied and lax about posting. I am truly sorry--I know how much you must miss me. ;)

But boy, oh, boy, are there things going on in this crazy publishing biz!

Allow me to share with you some of my personal "favorite" highlights in a quick round-up:

Best of 2012 Lists Posted
That's right. It's that time of year again. The New York Times, Kirkus, and Slate have all posted their big lists of most notable/best books of 2012. As per usual, I only have ever even heard of a few of them, and I  haven't read any of them. Sometimes I wonder where they come up with most of these things...or maybe I am just not as "in the know" as I should be.

Facebook Launching New Social Reading Site
Yup. Another Goodreads-style website is on its way. I received notification from the folks over at Facebook about Riffle, which Forbes magazine describes as "a new kind of Pintrest", and have been invited as an early member (I also can pass along invites to others, if anyone is interested). I've signed up and am awaiting my login information--a review will be forthcoming!

HOBBIT Film Producers Being Sued
The J.R.R. Tolkien estate isn't letting HOBBIT producers off easy for what they claim is a breach of merchandising contracts. The estate wants $80 million to make up for it. As the Hollywood Reporter tells us, "The crux of the suit is the estate's contention that a decades-old rights agreement entitles the studio to create only "tangible" merchandise based on the books, not an "online slot machine" or other digital exploitations that the estate calls highly offensive."

High Fidelity Author Writing Script for Wild Adaptation
Reese Witherspoon's production company, Pacific Standard, is set to adapt Wild, Cheryl Strayed's memoir about her solo 1100-mile trek through California and Oregon to Washington State. Bestselling author Nick Hornby has signed on to write the screenplay. I, myself, hadn't heard of the memoir before, and quite frankly, I'm not seeing the film adaptation potential here. Seems to me like the makings of a slowly paced, somewhat boring flick, but I guess we'll see what the talented Horby comes up with.

E.L. James Given High Publishing Honor
Every year, Publishers Weekly names a "publishing person of the year." Past winners have been the likes of Penguin CEO David Shanks, Barnes and Noble chairman Len Riggio, and Google settlement "architect" Richard Sarnoff. But this year? This year's winner comes as a shocker to myself and other members of the industry: Fifty Shades of Grey author E.L. James. Bad choices, PW, bad choices.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

New Adult Fiction On the Rise

New Adult Fiction.

These three words have been consistently tossed around the publishing industry for over a month now, but even I, someone deeply entrenched in the industry, is unclear exactly what it means. Until now, I had never even heard of the term, despite it first being coined in 2009. It seems that what is now "New Adult Fiction" is very similar to what I've always deemed "YA Crossover," with some differences.

To give us a better look at exactly what this "new" genre is though, GalleyCat has posted a cheat-sheet article, complete with free book samples:

Our Self-Published Bestseller List has been packed with books labeled as “new adult fiction,” a relatively new literary genre. To help GalleyCat readers, we’ve created a quick primer on new adult fiction, complete with free samples of books by leading adult fiction writers. 
The label was first used in 2009 when St. Martin’s Press hosted a contest looking for stories that could be marketed to both YA readers and adult readers. The contest described for new adult fiction as books “with protagonists who are slightly older than YA and can appeal to an adult audience.” 
Last week, new adult fiction author Cora Carmack landed a three-book deal, bringing the term into New York Times headline
To get a definition beyond that simple description, founder Georgia McBride interviewed JJ, an editorial assistant who worked on the St. Martin’s writing contest. 
Here’s an excerpt:
there is a gap in the current adult market–the literary fiction market–for fiction about twentysomethings. You never stop growing up, I think, but little in the market seems to address the coming-of-age that also happens in your 20s. This is the time of life when you are an actual, legal adult, but just because you’re able to vote (in the US, anyway) that doesn’t mean you know HOW to be one. This is the first time when you are building a life that is your OWN, away from your parents and the family that raised you. It’s a strange and scary place to be. Just as YA is fiction about discovering who you are as a person, I think NA is fiction about building your own life. (Very generalised, of course.) I hope that the creation of this category will allow the adult market to develop and expand in similar ways the children’s market did. 
Free Samples of New Adult Fiction Authors Who Landed Book Deals 
Losing It by Cora Carmack 
Because of Low by Abbi Glines 
Slammed by Colleen Hoover 
Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire 
Easy by Tammara Webber 
 Read the original post HERE

Friday, November 9, 2012

Posthumous Publishing for Bradbury

Publishers Weekly spread the news today that two short pieces written by the classic science fiction writer Ray Bradbury will soon be available for public consumption.

As a huge Fahrenheit 451 fan, I'll admit to being pretty stoked about even just a few new pages from the literary icon.

Here's the scoop from the Associated Press (via

NEW YORK -- Ray Bradbury was in failing health during his final years, but he could still reminisce about his love for books or finish a brief and mysterious Christmas story.

Two pieces released this fall were written late in life by the science fiction/fantasy master, who died in June at age 91. He contributed “The Book and the Butterfly,” an introduction to this year’s edition of “The Best American Nonrequired Reading.” And he conceived a stark encounter between a young boy and a man he believes is Santa Claus in “Dear Santa,” which appears in the holiday issue of Strand Magazine, based in Birmingham, Mich.

The publication of each work was made possible, in part, by deep admiration for the author. Strand managing editor Andrew Gulli, who befriended Bradbury in 2009, has featured several Bradbury works and had an informal agreement with him for “Dear Santa.”

“I never heard anything back or received a contract for a couple of months,” Gulli wrote in a recent email, adding that final word did not arrive until the day of Bradbury’s death. “I was picking up my mail and opened up an envelope to find Ray’s signature on the contract.”

Dave Eggers, who edits the “Nonrequired” series, once contributed a story to a Bradbury tribute anthology and knows a close associate of Bradbury’s, the author and journalist Sam Weller. Based in San Francisco, Eggers helps a student committee compile the anthology and allows the students to choose a writer for the introduction.

“In the past they (the introducers) have ranged from Beck to Guillermo Del Toro to Judy Blume,” Eggers, a National Book Award finalist for his novel “A Hologram for the King,” wrote in an email Thursday.

“Last year the kids voted to ask Ray Bradbury, and because I knew Sam, and because I grew up a few towns from Bradbury’s native Waukegan, Ill., I thought we might have a shot. When Sam let us know he agreed, the students and I were flabbergasted. His intro was wonderful of course – so full of undiminished joy. He passed on a few weeks after sending it to us.”

“The Book and the Butterfly” is a three-page tribute to reading and how it nurtured Bradbury’s extraordinary imagination. He describes visiting his local library in Waukegan at age 7 and startling the librarian by borrowing 10 books a week. On “magnificent autumn nights,” he would hurry home and read about everything from Egypt to physiology.

“The books I brought home from the library caused me to think about the origins of life and the universe,” writes the author of “The Martian Chronicles,” “Fahrenheit 451″ and other classics. “How did it start? Where does it end? I recall Midwestern summer nights, standing on my grandparents’ hushed lawn, and looking up at the sky at the confetti field of stars. There were millions of suns out there, and millions of planets rotating around those suns. And I knew there was life out there, in the great vastness. We are just too far apart, separated by too great a distance to reach one another.”

His mind was a rocket ship, but “Dear Santa” is a written in a clipped, chilly style, as if Dashiell Hammett had been commissioned to write a sketch for The Radio City Christmas Spectacular. No names are given, except for Santa. The location is not identified. The mood is dreamlike and much of the action takes place through dialogue.

“Oddly enough the older Ray got, the less patience he had for adjectives and the more skeletal his style was, which for an editor is a dream,” Gulli wrote in his email. “Often times authors will slip into phases especially when they start getting on in years where they will pad a very simple story with a lot of things that should be edited out of the manuscript.”

The story begins with a boy standing in the back of a long and slow-moving line to meet Santa. A tall stranger stops the boy and asks his age.

“Twelve,” the boy says. The stranger warns he may well be older when he finally gets to Santa. As the boy approaches the front, he whispers his age to Santa, who insists the boy is lying and sends him away, complaining the boy is too heavy to sit on him, as if the boy himself might be turning into Santa.

Outside, the boy spots a tall, blue-cheeked man and they walk together. The boy is convinced the man is Santa, the man gives nothing away. The boy says he will write him during the next holiday season, and insists he knows where to address the letter. As they part, the boy has a final question.

“My dear Santa, sir, please tell me, do you believe in you?”

“Maybe right now I’m beginning to believe,” the man says. “I think I owe you thanks.”

See the original post HERE

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Flashback for Obama's Future

I haven't been providing much public chatter regarding the U.S. Presidential election this year, but now that it's over and done with, I figured it was time to do something election related on the blog. I will admit, too, that I am personally very happy over the announcement that Barack Obama will be serving another four years as our top dawg. (Yes, I just wrote "dawg." No, I don't know why.)

In the spirit of yesterday's "power of reading" blog post as well, I thought it appropriate to share with you all a flashback to a 2009 New York Times article by Michiko Kakutani outlining Obama's reading  habits (Thanks for the idea, GalleyCat!). Specifically, the article focuses on what books have inspired our 44th president. The New York Times article first appeared in print on January 19, 2009:
In college, as he was getting involved in protests against the apartheid government in South Africa, Barack Obama noticed, he has written, “that people had begun to listen to my opinions.” Words, the young Mr. Obama realized, had the power “to transform”: “with the right words everything could change -— South Africa, the lives of ghetto kids just a few miles away, my own tenuous place in the world.”

 Much has been made of Mr. Obama’s eloquence — his ability to use words in his speeches to persuade and uplift and inspire. But his appreciation of the magic of language and his ardent love of reading have not only endowed him with a rare ability to communicate his ideas to millions of Americans while contextualizing complex ideas about race and religion, they have also shaped his sense of who he is and his apprehension of the world.

Mr. Obama’s first book, “Dreams From My Father” (which surely stands as the most evocative, lyrical and candid autobiography written by a future president), suggests that throughout his life he has turned to books as a way of acquiring insights and information from others — as a means of breaking out of the bubble of self-hood and, more recently, the bubble of power and fame. He recalls that he read James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright and W. E. B. Du Bois when he was an adolescent in an effort to come to terms with his racial identity and that later, during an ascetic phase in college, he immersed himself in the works of thinkers like Nietzsche and St. Augustine in a spiritual-intellectual search to figure out what he truly believed.

As a boy growing up in Indonesia, Mr. Obama learned about the American civil rights movement through books his mother gave him. Later, after a stint as a fledgling community organizer in Chicago, he found inspiration in “Parting the Waters,” the first installment of Taylor Branch’s multivolume biography of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

More recently, books have supplied Mr. Obama with some concrete ideas about governance: it’s been widely reported that “Team of Rivals,” Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book about Abraham Lincoln’s decision to include former opponents in his cabinet, informed Mr. Obama’s decision to name his chief Democratic rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton, as Secretary of State. In other cases, books about F. D. R.’s first hundred days in office and Steve Coll’s “Ghost Wars,“ about Afghanistan and the C.I.A., have provided useful background material on some of the myriad challenges Mr. Obama will face upon taking office.

Mr. Obama tends to take a magpie approach to reading — ruminating upon writers’ ideas and picking and choosing those that flesh out his vision of the world or open promising new avenues of inquiry.

His predecessor, George W. Bush, in contrast, tended to race through books in competitions with Karl Rove (who recently boasted that he beat the president by reading 110 books to Mr. Bush’s 95 in 2006), or passionately embrace an author’s thesis as an idée fixe. Mr. Bush and many of his aides favored prescriptive books — Natan Sharansky’s “Case for Democracy,” which pressed the case for promoting democracy around the world, say, or Eliot A. Cohen’s “Supreme Command,” which argued that political strategy should drive military strategy. Mr. Obama, on the other hand, has tended to look to non-ideological histories and philosophical works that address complex problems without any easy solutions, like Reinhold Niebuhr’s writings, which emphasize the ambivalent nature of human beings and the dangers of willful innocence and infallibility.

What’s more, Mr. Obama’s love of fiction and poetry — Shakespeare’s plays, Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick” and Marilynne Robinson‘s “Gilead” are mentioned on his Facebook page, along with the Bible, Lincoln’s collected writings and Emerson’s “Self Reliance“ — has not only given him a heightened awareness of language. It has also imbued him with a tragic sense of history and a sense of the ambiguities of the human condition quite unlike the Manichean view of the world so often invoked by Mr. Bush.

Mr. Obama has said that he wrote “very bad poetry” in college and his biographer David Mendell suggests that he once “harbored some thoughts of writing fiction as an avocation.” For that matter, “Dreams From My Father” evinces an instinctive storytelling talent (which would later serve the author well on the campaign trail) and that odd combination of empathy and detachment gifted novelists possess. In that memoir, Mr. Obama seamlessly managed to convey points of view different from his own (a harbinger, perhaps, of his promises to bridge partisan divides and his ability to channel voters’ hopes and dreams) while conjuring the many places he lived during his peripatetic childhood. He is at once the solitary outsider who learns to stop pressing his nose to the glass and the coolly omniscient observer providing us with a choral view of his past.

As Baldwin once observed, language is both “a political instrument, means, and proof of power,” and “the most vivid and crucial key to identity: it reveals the private identity, and connects one with, or divorces one from, the larger, public, or communal identity.”

For Mr. Obama, whose improbable life story many voters regard as the embodiment of the American Dream, identity and the relationship between the personal and the public remain crucial issues. Indeed, “Dreams From My Father,” written before he entered politics, was both a searching bildungsroman and an autobiographical quest to understand his roots — a quest in which he cast himself as both a Telemachus in search of his father and an Odysseus in search of a home.

Like “Dreams From My Father,” many of the novels Mr. Obama reportedly admires deal with the question of identity: Toni Morrison’s “Song of Solomon” concerns a man’s efforts to discover his origins and come to terms with his roots; Doris Lessing’s “Golden Notebook” recounts a woman’s struggles to articulate her own sense of self; and Ellison’s “Invisible Man” grapples with the difficulty of self-definition in a race-conscious America and the possibility of transcendence. The poems of Elizabeth Alexander, whom Mr. Obama chose as his inaugural poet, probe the intersection between the private and the political, time present and time past, while the verse of Derek Walcott (a copy of whose collected poems was recently glimpsed in Mr. Obama’s hands) explores what it means to be a “divided child,” caught on the margins of different cultures, dislocated and rootless perhaps, but free to invent a new self.

This notion of self-creation is a deeply American one — a founding principle of this country, and a trope addressed by such classic works as “The Great Gatsby” — and it seems to exert a strong hold on Mr. Obama’s imagination.

In a 2005 essay in Time magazine, he wrote of the humble beginnings that he and Lincoln shared, adding that the 16th president reminded him of “a larger, fundamental element of American life — the enduring belief that we can constantly remake ourselves to fit our larger dreams.”

Though some critics have taken Mr. Obama to task for self-consciously italicizing parallels between himself and Lincoln, there are in fact a host of uncanny correspondences between these two former Illinois state legislators who had short stints in Congress under their belts before coming to national prominence with speeches showcasing their eloquence: two cool, self-contained men, who managed to stay calm and graceful under pressure; two stoics embracing the virtues of moderation and balance; two relatively new politicians who were initially criticized for their lack of experience and for questioning an invasion of a country that, in Lincoln’s words, was “in no way molesting, or menacing the U.S.”

As Fred Kaplan’s illuminating new biography (“Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer”) makes clear, Lincoln, like Mr. Obama, was a lifelong lover of books, indelibly shaped by his reading — most notably, in his case, the Bible and Shakespeare — which honed his poetic sense of language and his philosophical view of the world. Both men employ a densely allusive prose, richly embedded with the fruit of their reading, and both use language as a tool by which to explore and define themselves. Eventually in Lincoln’s case, Mr. Kaplan notes, “the tool, the toolmaker, and the tool user became inseparably one. He became what his language made him.”

The incandescent power of Lincoln’s language, its resonance and rhythmic cadences, as well as his ability to shift gears between the magisterial and the down-to-earth, has been a model for Mr. Obama — who has said he frequently rereads Lincoln for inspiration — and so, too, have been the uses to which Lincoln put his superior language skills: to goad Americans to complete the unfinished work of the founders, and to galvanize a nation reeling from hard times with a new vision of reconciliation and hope.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: January 26, 2009

An article last Monday about literary influences on Barack Obama misstated the time frame during which he found inspiration in “Parting the Waters,” the first installment of Taylor Branch’s multivolume biography of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It was after Mr. Obama worked as a community organizer in Chicago, not during that period.

 See the original post HERE

 GalleyCat also took the liberty today to share a list of free eBooks for five of Obama's favorite inspirational tomes:
 5 Free eBooks That Inspired Barack Obama
1. Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson (contained in this volume of essays)
2. Complete Project Gutenberg Abraham Lincoln Writings by Abraham Lincoln
3. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
4. The Complete Works by William Shakespeare
5. The Bible, Old and New Testaments, King James Version

Congratulations, Mr. President. Happy to have you aboard for another four years!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Healing Power of Reading

I've always been a firm believer in the power of books to change lives. Or rather, the power of books to inspire us to change our lives, to be something more or different or do something brave. Ever since I was a little girl, reading brought me comfort, made me feel less alone in the crazy world around me, helped me relate to others and learn how to open up and grow.

That belief has been carried around with me my entire life, though I hadn't seen any solid evidence of its truth. But  maybe some real data is possible, now that I've learned about The Reader Organisation, a decade-old British Charity that uses reading to help mental health patients overcome and overpower their issues:

The Huffington Post UK filled me in:

It is, as one member of the Reader Organisation puts it to me, like watching a dozen tiny miracles.

Sat around a kitchen table in a mental health ward in central London, five patients are munching biscuits and taking turns to read out loud from Great Expectations.

We pause after the scene where Pip meets Miss Havisham sat alone in her cobwebbed bedroom.

Lucy, a London woman in her 30s who looks far older after years battling alcoholism, speaks first.

“It’s like me when I was drinking, that is” she tells the group with a nervous chuckle.

“I couldn’t let go of who I was. Couldn’t move on.”

We pick up the story again until Pip is humiliated by Estella, runs away and kicks a wall in frustration.

Ryan, a Scotsman with big, bunched shoulders says in an intense, slow voice that he felt exactly the same way as Pip that morning talking to his doctor.

“You can feel patronized at every stage in life, especially when you’ve got a mental illness,” he says.

“Doctors, people in shops, your children’s school teachers...” he flares up momentarily, getting angry as he tells the anecdote, then relaxes so we can carry on the story.

Up until this point Jan, a softly-spoken woman in her late 50s who has suffered for years with manic depression has remained politely quiet.

But at the group’s request she takes a turn to read in a beautiful, expressive voice everyone compliments afterwards. She ends with a smile and begins happily nattering about how much she loves Dickens, before catching herself.

“I can’t believe I just started a conversation!” she says, blushing.

For ten years, the Reader Organisation has been helping some of the most vulnerable people in society feel better by carefully harnessing the power of reading.

In schools, care homes, psychiatric wards and local libraries across the UK, sessions held by one of over 40 trained facilitators provide a haven for troubled kids, elderly people battling dementia and people with a range of mental illness, from depression and schizophrenia to drug addiction.

The format of the sessions is very simple. Taking it in turns to read, the facilitator and the group work through a novel or short story, pausing at key moments to share their thoughts about the story and how it makes them feel. Then they end with a poem.

There is no attempt to ‘analyse’ the texts in any academic sense, just to empathize with the characters and debate the plotlines. But then there is no ‘dumbing down’ either – the reading list is resolutely classic, from Shakespeare to Steinbeck to Wordsworth and the Romantics.

The therapeutic benefits are two-fold. First as Jane Davis, the charity's founder and a former literature tutor, puts it: “there is something about reading aloud, something rhythmical, comforting, childlike and secure that either directly or indirectly addresses that inner weather we all experience. That’s why people love it.”

The second, particularly for people suffering from mental health problems like those I meet in London, is the opportunity to share how they are feeling with others through a form of displacement.

The characters in Great Expectations or Shakespeare or any of the texts the Reader Organisation use function as vessels - or as Dr Kathryn Naylor, an Associate Specialist in Forensic Psychiatry at Ashworth Hospital puts it: “a way of expressing emotions without having to say what’s really upsetting you.”

Naylor treats men who are mentally disordered offenders, and has been using The Reader Organisation as a supplementary exercise with her patients (“it’s not therapy it’s therapeutic” she explains) for many years.

The results, she says, can be amazing.

“We had a man with us in his early 40s with paranoid schizophrenia, who was very suspicious of other people’s motives. He found it very hard to talk to people and had bad social anxiety.

“He started coming to the reading group and just sitting in the corner and listening. This happened for about 3 months, when eventually one day at the end of a session he suddenly said: ‘can I read the next page?’.

“We saw that as an incredible breakthrough, being able to read in front of other people. That was accompanied by him engaging in cognitive behavourial therapy, looking at some of the underlying reasons for his paranoia and mental illness.

“The group brought about real progress for him. He has since left the hospital. Prior to the group he felt he couldn’t even leave the ward.”

The Reader Organisation wasn’t founded with the aim of helping people’s mental health. Instead, it was born out of Jane’s belief that the great works of literature should be accessible to all, no matter their background.

“Books did something for me that helped me have a different kind of life to the one I was heading for,” she explains.

“I had been a 12-year-old run away. Someone who at a young age had been using drugs and drinking a lot. I was disturbed teenager who had a shoddy education, so when I got my degree and even my PHD I still very strongly had a sense of myself as not being properly educated.

To end up as a university lecturer, she says, felt amazing.

“But I couldn’t help thinking that out there in the wide world was someone like me in a bus shelter who needed to find the same things I’d found.”

After 15 years teaching the canon to bored undergraduates mainly from comfortable middle class homes at the University of Liverpool, Jane finally found an opportunity to try out her theory. In 2002, she was given a £500 budget to set up a reading scheme under the university’s new objective of ‘widening participation’. It would prove to be not just a turning point in her life, but go on to change many others.

“It was a one off, 5 week summer project. The idea was take some books I thought was great out of the university and out into places you wouldn’t expect to find a lot of readers. I recruited a lot of the people in that first group through friends who worked in community work. They weren’t very literate, so I just read to them.

“It was fantastic. It was like meeting up with people from my childhood - the ones I used to meet in the pub where I worked - but instead of serving up beer and vodka I was serving up Shakespeare. People loved it and realised that this was what I wanted to do. I did one more year at the university and kept the group up in my own time. Then I handed my notice in.”

The first few years were a struggle as Jane tried to find funding for a project that didn’t give anyone qualifications or get them into work. But it was as she gathered feedback from participants that Jane realised the true potential of her inclusive, accessible approach to sharing literature – not to educate, but to heal.

“We were frantically trying to gather evidence so that at the end of our year we could justify the project continuing. So we began asking the people attending the group: ‘what’s it done for you?’

“The responses were astonishing. People would say: ‘I’ve got MS, and when I come here for two hours a week I seem to get into such a state of relaxation I become unaware of my symptoms’, or ‘I have chronic pain but I forget about it here because I’m so immersed in the reading.’

“We knew that a number of the people attending had serious mental or physical health issues, but these were powerful and surprising moments. As well as giving people the confidence to read Shakespeare, we were making them feel better too.

These early responses would send Davis’ project on a whole new trajectory, and change her entire outlook on what the Reader Organisation could achieve.

“I’d never thought of it in those terms before. But if one in four of us have mental health issues, it must really be more like two in one, because they’ll be a lot of people out there like me who have had mental health problems but didn’t bother going to see a doctor about it.

“Now I don’t think of ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ as two separate states, I think they’re on a continuum. I realised that what was true for me as young adult - that I love reading because it makes me feel great – could be true for anyone with a little help.”

If this all sounds rather anecdotal, there is a weight of academic evidence to support The Reader Organisation’s claims too.

A study carried out by the University of Liverpool in 2011 looked at the long term affects of participating in Get Into Reading, The Reader Organisation’s flagship program, on older people living with dementia.

They found that regular attendance was effective at improving the memory and concentration of patients, and had a positive long term impact on reducing symptoms such as delusion, anxiety and irritability. It concluded: “the Get Into Reading model should be extended to all care homes.”

Today, the Reader Organisation has just celebrated its tenth anniversary. It now runs 100 weekly reading group in its original home of Wirral alone, and has teams set up in ten different boroughs of London and areas of South Wales, Belfast, Durham and Glasgow – as well as sister projects in Denmark and Australia.

Speaking to anyone involved, from the nurses and volunteers who facilitate the groups to the readers themselves, what comes through is the overwhelming potential everyone feels the scheme has.

“There are a lot of areas of life where what we do could work,” Jane tells me when I ask about the future.

“The army for example. Veterans. people with post-traumatic stress – why not?”

Give it another ten years, and perhaps we’ll no longer see reading as simply as a source of pleasure or a route to education but a way to tackle diseases of both the body and mind.
See the original post HERE

Not gonna lie--I kind of love it and wish I could get involved in helping!

And by "kind of," I mean "absolutely."

Monday, November 5, 2012

Monday Afternoon Amusement...Starring Hitler

Just as I was starting to lose complete focus today, my boss shared this little gem with me regarding the Penguin Random House merger announced last week.

It is a bit insensitive, so if you are easily offended, pass this one by.

I, however, found it hilarious.


Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Simple Little Weekly Recap

This week there have been a plethora of shockers, some small, some large. Halloween. Hurricanes. Historically unheard-of publishing mergers. It's like we're living in a movie. But we're not. And in some ways, this week has just been business as usual (if your home or office has power, which mine didn't).

As always, authors jump to different houses, just like Emily Giffin did when it was confirmed she'd be leaving long-time home St. Martin's Press for Random House's Ballantine Books imprint.

In typical November fashion, NaNoWriMo is off to a whirlwind start, authors lending tips left and right to newbie writers.

Another high-octane thriller novel is adapted to film, like the newly announced Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson, slated to star Nicole Kidman and Mark Strong.

One more Indie bookstore prepares to close its doors, this time in Rainy Day Books in Tillamook, Oregon.

Even classically bestselling authors shout their thoughts on the current state of publishing from the rooftops, as Kurt Vonnegut recently did regarding author advances.

I've gotta say, in this ever-changing industry, and this ever-changing world, I'm okay once and while with just the simple, pretty run-of-the-mill headlines. We've all had enough to deal with in the past week.

Here's hoping to calmer days to come so we can pick up all the pieces of the craziness it the wake of the past seven days.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Truth About Ghost Stories

I have always hated being scared. Whether it was in the form of a horror movie or a haunted house, it has never been my thing. Even hearing scary stories around a campfire gave my child-self the heebie-jeebies. However, for some reason, I could handle reading ghost stories--sometimes.

As a seven-year-old girl in the very early '90s, I was actually allowed to roam free in the neighborhood. My friend Abigail lived just up the street and after school, we would walk home to her house, slip under the cover of the big pine tree in her front yard, and sit in the relative darkness with a flashlight and a copy of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Or sometimes even More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. (How brave!) We'd take turns reading aloud, doing voices and scaring the heck out of one another. I can almost smell the pine and feel the breeze as it creepily swept through the branches just thinking about it.

Then my family moved, and I didn't have Abigail to read with anymore. Instead, I began to reach out to good old R.L. Stine for some light terror. To this day, I don't know why exactly I read so many of those books--I didn't actually like being afraid. I would have nightmares. I wouldn't be able to sleep without a light on. I would jump every time someone entered a room. (And still sometimes do. Just ask my colleagues what happens when they surprise me by showing up at my desk!) But for some reason, there were a couple years where I couldn't get enough. And I would read the Fear Street series, no less! The ones that felt more real--the ones that could, technically, actually happen. The Goosebumps books could never get me hooked.  I think I read Dead End about ten times one year.

Now, in my late 20s, I am actually more afraid of scary things than I was as a child. I have only ever read one Stephen King book, for example, and that was his YA fantasy novel Eyes of the Dragon, which isn't, in fact, scary at all. I have never seen Psycho, or Scream, or even The Shining. I am terrified of being terrified. I can, however, read suspense novels and murder  novels--again, I am somehow drawn to the more realistic creepy things. Edgar Allen Poe I could always handle too; I read The Tell-Tale Heart in seventh grade and adored it.

I wonder what happened, how and when that brand of bravery I had as a child escaped me. Part of me wants try to get that back, to pick up a book that is maybe a teeny bit scary and see what happens, maybe download some of those free Poe eBooks to get back into the swing of it....

But then someone walks up behind me and I fall out of my chair.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Hobbit is Almost Here! Kinda, Sorta...

Attention all movie lovers and fantasy fans: we have less than two months to go until J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, joins its Lord of the Rings successors on the silver screen!!!

I've always preferred the prequel to the trilogy, myself so I am particularly stoked for the film adaptation. I'm re-reading the novel in preparation, even, given how awesome the trailer looks:

I am, of course, not the only one anxious for the movie's release. Deirdre Donahue over at posted a fun piece last week on the topic, 10 Reasons We Still love J.R.R. Tolkein's "The Hobbit":

America can be divided into two groups nowadays. Forget donkey vs. elephant. For untold millions, Dec. 14 marks a day of pop culture rapture. In breathless anticipation, devotees are counting down the hours and scanning the Web for signs. No, we're not talking about the Dec. 21 Mayan prophecy. We're talking about the opening of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Peter Jackson's film adaptation (Part 1) of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic novel.

One of most popular and beloved trilogies in film history, Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies – based on the three Tolkien titles that came after The Hobbit - have inspired a quasi-religious fervor in fans.

But perhaps you don't keep a cardboard Legolas in your bedroom. Maybe you read The Hobbit as a child and recall a little dude with furry feet and some fat dwarves.

To help you navigate the coming Middle-earth mania, here are 10 reasons we're still hooked on The Hobbit as it celebrates its 75th anniversary. Written by an Oxford professor for his children, it was published on Sept. 21, 1937, with a first printing of 1,500 copies. An immediate success, it has gone on to sell 100 million copies worldwide -- and burrow deep into the hearts of countless generations.

1. Action a-go-go. Dragons, trolls, danger, a child-sized sword call "Sting" -- The Hobbit is stuffed with precisely the kind of literary red meat that turns kids into book carnivores. (Just ask C.S. "Chronicles of Narnia" Lewis or J.K. "Harry Potter" Rowling.)

In fact, The Hobbit got its start with a thumb's up from a kid: a rave review from 10-year-old Rayner Unwin. In 1936, Rayner's father -- a British book publisher -- asked his son to read the manuscript. (He was paid a shilling.)

Here's the plot: Bilbo Baggins is a respectable hobbit -- think a half-sized human with a penchant for pipes and colorful waistcoats -- who hits the road with 13 dwarves and a wizard named Gandalf. The goal: retrieving treasure stolen by a dragon called Smaug. Bilbo encounters goblins, Wargs and a host of other creatures, including Gollum and his precious ring. The Hobbit sets up the story line for Tolkien's more complex Lord of the Rings, which stars Frodo Baggins, Bilbo's nephew.

2. Home sweet hobbit-hole. Fans just don't read The Hobbit, they yearn to be hobbits, or at least live like them. No creatures in fiction are such cozy comfort seekers with their snug hobbit-hole homes and obsessively tended gardens. They are also the original foodies long before the term was even invented, insisting that "Second breakfast is the best breakfast." In his new book, The Wisdom of the Shire: A Short Guide to a Long and Happy Life (St. Martin's), author Noble Smith notes that "Tolkien crafted Middle-earth in his mind, but the Hobbits sprang from his heart." Smith urges hobbit-wannabes to embrace the original small-is-beautiful lifestyle -- grow your own food, walk everywhere. And sing. ​Even to love Tolkien-style! The British writer met his wife of 54 years when he was 16 and she was 19.

3. The original show-me, don't tell me moralist. Bookstores groan with tedious and usually unsold tomes aimed at children written by earnest adults eager to instill moral virtue: Cruelty is wrong, courage and hope are crucial, riches won't make you happy. Without a whiff of finger wagging, The Hobbit has effortlessly imparted those messages for 75 years. Just listen to the dwarf Thorin's dying words to Bilbo: "If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world."

4. Little folk, big themes. "It is not just a simple story," says Corey Olsen, AKA "The Tolkien Professor" and author of Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Growing numbers of academics and theologians agree. In addition to hilarious scenes involving bickering dwarves stuffed into barrels and scary encounters with dragons, The Hobbit also illuminates how the journey transforms Bilbo, making him more compassionate and generous. According to the new The Hobbit and Philosophy: For When You've Lost Your Dwarves, Your Wizard, and Your Way (Wiley) edited by William Irwin, Gregory Bassham and Eric Bronson, there are parallels with Plato's "The Allegory of the Cave" as well as the writings of St.Thomas Aquinas, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Chinese Taoists.

5. Gateway drug for geeks. Did Tolkien linger in obscurity until Peter Jackson's movies? Not exactly. The Oxford Beowulf expert was inspiring obsessive adoration back when Jackson was a New Zealand schoolboy. Hippies in the 1960s embraced Tolkien while in 1971 Led Zeppelin released the song Misty Mountain Hop (referring to the gloomy mountain range Bilbo and company must cross).
The Complete Tolkien Companion by J.E.A. Tyler (St. Martin's) offers a 712-page A-to-Z guide to Middle-earth minutiae. First published in 1976, it has, no doubt, been saddening countless parents ever since who wish their teenagers pored over their SAT study guides with the same demented fervor. For many readers, Tolkien is the first author to introduce them to the joy of living in a magical alternative world (for which Tolkien, a self-taught artist, created the visuals). Once hooked on fantasy fiction, they devour writers like Robert "Wheel of Time" Jordan and George R.R. "Game of Thrones" Martin.

6. Friends with no benefits. Well, other than affection, companionship and plenty of belly laughs. For modern readers living in a sex-saturated society, The Hobbit is the asexual pause that refreshes. Friendship -- and only friendship -- is the name of the game in The Hobbit. Wizard with hobbit. Hobbit with dwarves. Even the bearish man Beorn and his beloved animal companions. Unmet sexual needs? Secret erotic tension? Not at this address! Friends were enormously important to the orphaned Tolkien. (His father died of rheumatic fever when Tolkien was 6 and his mother died of diabetes when he was 12.) Two of his closest school friends were killed in World War I. Later he became part of "The Inklings," a famed group of literary pals that included C.S. Lewis.

7. Rebel on a bike. If you don't believe the modern mantra of change is good, technology is great and we must all embrace the future or get left behind, you've got company with a certain nature-loving, progress-hating British contrarian. In 1944, Tolkien wrote to his son Christopher, "How I wish the 'infernal combustion' engine had never been invented!" The contrast between Bilbo's verdant Shire and the desolation of Smaug's mountain has hatched countless ecological warriors.

8. Ultimate mentor. Bilbo might be the hero, but the real love object in The Hobbit is the old man with the staff and pointy blue hat, Gandalf the wizard. It's not just his magical powers that make him a star, it's his humor, psychological insight. and, yes, occasional bouts of grumpiness. Like Merlin and Star Wars' Obi-Wan Kenobi, Gandalf is the wise sage we all wish stood at our side, guiding us through life.

9. "No Girls Allowed"? Not at this hobbit-hole. Seeing The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring had a major impact on Arwen Kester -- yes, Arwen as in LOTR (the character played by Liv Tyler). She went out and read all of Tolkien's books and later founded Middle-earth News, which tracks all things Tolkien. "Most of my staff are women," says the Raleigh, N.C., mother of two. "They love the lore." Kester, 31, doesn't need female characters to adore The Hobbit (although Jackson is adding some to the movie). "There's so much history! The language, the passion. It draws you in!"

10. The Anti-Arnie. A fussy 50-year-old bachelor who considers adventures to be "Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!" -- that's Bilbo Baggins, who lacks the usual alpha male DNA. Throughout The Hobbit, Bilbo is cold, hungry, terrified and painfully homesick. Yet by the end, Bilbo accesses his inner warrior and proves himself brave, loyal, wise and ingenious. Which is perhaps the novel's deepest appeal, since all of us - no matter what our age - secretly hope we too could be heroes, if called upon.

See the original post HERE