Thursday, June 28, 2012

RBtL Goes on Vacation!

I am off on an Alaskan and Californian adventure for about the next two weeks, so there will be silence on the Reading Between the Lines front.

First stop...Anchorage, Alaska

Hang tight, though, and mark your calendars--we'll be back from vacation on July 12th!

Guest Blogger, LG: Dear, Nora -- A Tribute to Author Nora Ephron

My husband heard from Michael D. that it's my fault you're here. I'm thrilled to hear it. And wish you all the very best ....

Nora Ephron

Nora Ephron is one of the reasons I moved to New York City in 2006. She wrote pragmatically yet dreamily about the city I’d fantasized over, and made movies that might as well have been love songs to that hot, crowded island. Nora, to me, was the quintessential New York City girl. Successful. Strong. Independent. Beautiful. Talented. Smart. Everything I wanted to be.

Dear Nora, it is all your fault that I moved to New York City.

I dreamed about being a writer my entire life. More to the point, I dreamed about being a writer in New York City. In my adolescent brain, there was no writer more New York than Nora Ephron: a feminine voice to my masculine reality, a woman who respected women and didn’t mock them, who created silly yet realistic female characters who were flawed in stereotypical girlish ways but strong and independent in ways I’d never observed in my sheltered Alaskan youth. Those were New York City girls.

Dear Nora, it is all your fault that I moved to New York City.

I didn’t move to New York City to find love. I moved to New York City to find adventure and stories. I moved to New York City to be the kind of strong, independent, and feminine woman who pounded the pavement in sensible flats by day and strutted in heels at night. I would write. I would work in my dream job(s). I would live on my own. I would be a Nora Ephron character, and I was sure I’d find love—or multiple loves—along the way. While I never reached the level of financial success (Sally Albright), I never fought against The Man (Karen Silkwood), or gained the notoriety (most recently the fictional versions of Julie Powell and Julia Child) that Nora’s characters did, there were days when I felt so amazing that I might as well have.

Oh Nora, it is all your fault that I moved to New York City.

One of Nora Ephron’s first jobs was in the mailroom at “Newsweek.” Even though she was the daughter of two prominent screenwriters, she worked. Sometime toward the end of my senior year of college, I made the firm decision not to return to Alaska for any amount of post-collegiate time, bound and determined to move straight to New York City. I’ve asked my mother why she let me go, and she replied, “Because I knew you were going to do it no matter what I said. And I supported you in that.”

Nevertheless, after having applied for what felt like 10,000 jobs in two months’ time without so much as a “thank you for applying but we went with someone else” email, I felt dejected and put out and started to question my decision to move to the city. If I didn’t find a job, I would blow through my savings in no time (and I did). Growling in frustration, I found myself one night reading one of Nora’s essays. In it, she described her job at “Newsweek.” A light bulb went off in my head. Hadn’t I just seen a mailroom job posted on the Weinstein Company’s website? Yes, I had. Nora Ephron, successful writer and filmmaker, strong, smart, independent woman, had worked in a mailroom.

Dammit, I thought to myself, I will work at Starbucks or the shoe department at Macy’s or some other crappy retail job if I have to. I was going to move to New York City. And nothing was going to stop me.

Luckily, I never had to work in retail—food, clothing, or otherwise. Even though I’d jokingly dressed up as a Starbucks barista at a theme party where we all had to dress up like our future selves, I’d gotten a call for an interview in one of my dream industries: book publishing. And then I got the job. It wasn’t glamorous but it everything I’d wanted…for the first month, anyway.

In the spring of 2008, still in publishing albeit in a different role altogether, I was working with an incredible (and some would say incredibly difficult) author (though I would disagree) who happened to be close friends with Nora’s husband, Goodfellas writer Nick Pileggi. The author asked me how and why I had made my way from Alaska to New York City. I told him the truth: I’d wanted to live there since I was eight years old. Then I told him what kicked me in the butt and made me do it: Nora Ephron.

Days later, he’d apparently gotten word to Nick and Nora and told them my story. The words at the top of this post are from an email Nora sent to me personally--it was one of the best days of my life. One of my idols had written to me! Though short and sweet (and yet very Nora), it kept my feet on the ground for longer than I’d expected, and pushed me to get out of the publishing job and into TV, where I was so sure I belonged.

Things have so drastically changed since then. I had my heart shattered. I discovered my dream jobs weren’t actually my dreams. I realized that New York City had become the tired old heels that needed to be retired from my life and passed down to the next bright-eyed girl to hit its streets. So, I left.

If it hadn’t been for the work of Nora Ephron and her strong female characters, would I have taken that step and gone straight to New York City? I have no idea. Probably. But having that female idol and reading her words meant the world to me.

Dear Nora, I will miss your work dearly. I’m devastated that I’ll never see your next film, never read your next essay. But I will always have what you have done, what has inspired me, what has helped keep me going.

Dear Nora, it is all your fault that I believe in myself. And I thank you.

In memory of Nora Ephron, 1941-2012.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Self-published Proposal Does the Trick

I am a sucker for cheesy and adorable marriage proposal stories. I'm not sure if I would want that for myself, but it's certainly sweet to hear about. And last week, GalleyCat told us about an uber-cute proposal I'd never heard of before--in a book:

Books have always served as a great tool to woo lovers and express affection. Nowadays, some authors are using books to propose.

Author and artist Philip D. Luing self-published his marriage proposal for his boyfriend. He explained his motivation for Bliss: A Marriage Proposal for Charles Stephen Hughes: “My hope is that by making a public declaration of what I believe a marriage would mean to us as a couple I will accomplish two ends.  First and foremost, of course, I hope and trust that Charles Stephen will find me and my vision for our life together worthy of a marriage commitment. At the same time, I hope that others who read these words will understand that commitment to be worthy of the word marriage.”

Luing is not alone. Back in February, we wrote about how Travis Hines self-published a book asking for his girlfriend’s hand in marriage. We’ve also reported on a romantic bookstore marriage proposal and library marriage proposal.

See the original post HERE

Kind of, well, AWESOME.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Book-loving Camper's Paradise

The countdown to my vacation continues--just a few more days and I'll be in a plane on my way to Alaska! As you know from previous postings, I have the outdoors and camping on the brain, as a result. So it was kind of perfect when I saw this post from Abe Books on "Campire Reading: Vintage Camping & Hiking":

During the Industrial Revolution, people flocked from the countryside to the cities to seek work and wealth. As urban areas expanded, city folk began to hanker for the countryside their fathers and grandfathers had left behind, and camping as a form of leisure was born.

But it wasn’t as simple as that. At the end of the 19th century, public transport was limited, camping equipment was rudimentary and not everyone was convinced that camping was actually fun.

The leisure aspect was to really evolve much later. Several key figures and some social movements believed camping was more than sitting around a fire and roasting marshmallows.  It was encouraged as a healthy pastime that would build character and well-being. Socialists, naturists, militarists, pagans and the Nazis have all valued camping, hiking, woodcraft and the outdoor lifestyle at one time or another.

Camping books poured out from publishers – how to camp, where to camp, what to take, what to cook.  Cycling and car camping evolved followed by caravanning. In the 1950s, the Americans began sending their kids to summer camps while the British created holiday camps. By the 1970s, campers were looking to push themselves to the limit by hiking to the world’s most remote places.

Fiction writers embraced the subject too. Camping plays an important role in Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat, Enid Blyton’s Famous Five were often pitching a tent before discovering smugglers, and many juvenile books were published in the first three decades of the 20th century where camping was the key theme.

Robert Baden-Powell, who founded the Scouting movement, saw camping as a method of toughening up young men for when their country needed them in military uniform.  Henry Ford saw cars and camping going hand-in-hand, and staged high-profile camping trips to show how automobiles could ferry Americans in and out of the wilderness.

There are many books dedicated to camping from the past 120 years. Significant writers include Baden Powell, Ernest Seton Thompson, who founded the League of Woodcraft Indians, George W. Sears (known as Nessmuk and the author of Woodcraft), and Thomas Hiram Holding who wrote The Camper's Handbook and founded the Camping and Caravanning Club.

See the original post HERE

Some of the featured titles in the post, for your title-reading and viewing pleasure (they can be HILARIOUS):

Pretty amusing, I must admit!

I need to start making myself a list of books of my own to take with me on vacation, potentially to be read while camping.

Any and all recommendations are welcome!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Friday Fun: Author Interview Hilarity

For a little Friday morning laugh, please enjoy Steve Carrell and Jon Stewart's spoof on the author interview, brought to my attention by this morning's Shelf Awareness:  

The Daily Show with Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Steve Carell
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Comic actor Steve Carell (The Office) appeared on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart this week as a stunningly prolific and wide-ranging author, promoting his new book The Last Pharaoh: Egypt's Transition from the Mubarak Era.

Apparently Carell is a fast writer ("I like to write a lot of books."); his recent titles include 50 Shades of Yams: The Erotic Adventures of Produce Pete; Steve Carell by Steve Jobs: How I Imagine Steve Jobs Would Have Written a Biography of Me; and Hot Enough for You? A Book I Literally Wrote Today.

Carell scolded Stewart for not reading his works prior to the interview: "I thought you were the type of person who did their homework before the show."

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Reverse Psych Saves Michigan Library

Over the past several years, we've watched the sad decline of the American library. Budgets are being cut left and right, doors are closing, the clientele is dropping. So much so that the Huffington Post gives "Libraries in Crisis" its own sub-sect on their Books section. This is where I found out that some libraries, like the one in Gilpin, Colorado, are even offering free coffee and other such perks to pull in residents ("Library Budget Cuts Threaten Communities Across the Country").

It's sad, really. I remember so much of my childhood being spent in libraries, combing the stacks or reading in a corner, carrying out a pile of books bigger than me on a weekly basis as soon as summer vacation began. What's even sadder though, is that so many people just don't care. They have no interest in keeping libraries alive and will go so far as to picket against a less than 1% increase in taxes to save their local library. Like some residents of Troy, Michigan, for example.

But the library lovers in Troy, thankfully, wouldn't take "NO" for an answer. They crafted an immense "Book Burning Party" campaign to use some reverse psychology on their fellow Trojans, if you will.

This video by Leo Burnett, along with his shockingly thorough video synopsis, tells us the story:

The city of Troy, Michigan was facing a budget shortfall, and was considering closing the Troy Public Library for lack of funds. Even though the necessary revenues could be raised through a miniscule tax increase, powerful anti-tax groups in the area were organized against it. A vote was scheduled amongst the city's residents, to shut the library or accept the tax increase, and Leo Burnett Detroit decided to support the library by creating a reverse psychology campaign. Yard signs began appearing that read: "Vote to Close Troy Library on August 2nd - Book Burning Party on August 5th." No one wants to be a part of a town that burns books, and the outraged citizens of Troy pushed back against the "idiotic book burners" and ultimately supported the tax increase, thus ensuring the library's survival.

Find the original video and synopsis HERE 

I've got to say...this is genius. If only more people were willing to take such strides to keep more libraries going strong!

Go, Leo!

P.S. A special thanks to my friend Josh for sending this topic my way via!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Book Review: "Can I Get An Amen" by Sarah Healy

Sidenote: This cover is pretty awesome.
With blurbs like "A fabulous debut!" from Emily Giffin, "An absolute treat!" from Janet Evanovich, "Touching, funny, and full of heart" from Lisa Scottoline, I was stoked when I received a review copy of Sarah Healy's debut novel, Can I Get An Amen? (June 5, 2012) from the good people at NAL. A story about a woman whose life is crumbling before her very eyes--infertility, divorce, being laid off, and more--and how she picks up the pieces and finds the strength to go on? Yes, please! Not a very original concept, I'll admit, but I'm a sucker for empowering fiction like that.

I must also admit though, I was a little worried when I cracked the spine and read the acknowledgments, as I always do. Being in the publishing industry, I noticed one name in particular--a relative of the author's who I know is a high-powered editor at a major publishing house. And who just so happens to edit authors like Janet Evanovich, Emily Giffin, and some other of Healy's blurbers. Seeing that--and knowing sometimes how this business works in that regard--I was instantly disappointed. What I'd been hoping would be a fabulous read suddenly became shifty in my mind's eye and I questioned the accuracy of the quotes when regarding the actual book. But as I read--and enjoyed--the novel, I thought to myself, "What a wonderful coincidence," and left it at that.

Anyway, jumping back to my little analysis here, not only am I slightly masochistic in the sense that I love reading about people whose lives are just as messy or more so than my own, my personal crisis of faith (mainly that I don't know what mine is or if I even have one) drew me to the novel easily. I'd hoped that perhaps it might help me figure out my own beliefs in some subtle sort of way. Books have a tendency to have that power with me. I found, however, that Healy's novel is much less about religion and faith than one might think. At least it was for me. There is, of course, a strong thread about Christianity in Ellen's mother's devoutness and essentially obsession with being "born again" and religion itself is frequent discussed/enacted through the concept of church, but Ellen's own faith and belief system were almost entirely disregarded. Yes, she recognizes that no one ever asked her what she actually believes--she's just always been the religion she grew up with, like so many people. But recognizing that fact and exploring your actual feelings on the matter are two entirely different things. I would've liked to see her open up more in that sense, to make some stride in trying to address her own crisis of faith.

I admit, though, I related to Ellen in a number of ways and Healy's writing is funny and quick-paced, the exception being the first few chapters, which read much like a memoir instead of a novel. I had a difficult time engaging with the story at first as a result, but I'm glad I powered through. Though predictable in almost every single plot point (granted, I am pretty darn good at guessing what's going to happen next in a novel), I still enjoyed the read greatly. It was by no means the highest quality book I've ever read, but it was interesting and touches upon a number of different themes that a reader can understand.

Despite its lacking in the aforementioned areas, I found the most impressive aspect of Can I Get An Amen? to be the characters. At times smelling of caricatures, the people within the pages were well-rounded and complex, even in their simplicity. They were charming, really. I could see them in my mind, interacting and yelling and laughing and all of the things. They were very real to me, which is one of the hardest things to do--to make your characters jump off the page so much that the reader actually cares about them. A+ there, Sarah Healy!

The Last Word: An engaging and entertaining beach read. Just don't expect your mind to be blown.

Friday, June 15, 2012

A Friday Daydream

Fridays in publishing are short, usually quiet days. So, sometimes, my mind wanders to daydreaming. Today's topic? My upcoming trip to Alaska in two weeks and all the glorious outdoors that I will get to explore with my friend. There will be fishing, hiking, rafting, and more.

The only thing that would make it better?

 If we had THIS TENT:

GalleyCat did a little feature on it the other day, and if it weren't so darn expensive, I might be purchasing one:

How much would you pay for a tent that looks like a book? Shelf Awareness spotted this amazing literary camping accessory created by designer Jack Maxwell.

The Fully Booked tent costs $765.96, but it will send a clear message everywhere you camp: I love to read. The dimensions are 11’8″ x  5’7″ x  4’7″, enough room for two bookworms to sleep.

Here’s more from the site: “Are you a big fan of books? We mean, are you a really big fan of books. Because this is, well, it’s an enormous book. It looks like a giant has dropped his favourite best seller. Plus, it also lets you meet up with other book fans on the campsite. You can even hold book groups in your tent and discuss whether Twilight is better than Harry Potter.”

See the original post HERE

Thursday, June 14, 2012

It's a Baby Kind of Day

At about 5 am this morning, I learned that across the country, my sister-in-law had finally given birth after 36 hours of labor and a c-section. Being an aunt for the first time I was, of course, thrilled. But what was my first real thought? That baby boy better be reading for a marathon reading session when I come to visit in a few weeks.

A funny first thought, I know, but what can I say? That's how it was with my 7-year-old sister, Brooke, when she was born. I read to her on her first day of life. We dove right into Harry Potter, and over the rest of that summer, we finished the book. I would hold her, rock in the chair, and read. As she fell asleep in my arms, I'd stop reading aloud and just look at her perfect little face, fingers, and toes. And then she'd wake up, totally pissed off that I stopped reading to her. Only when I started again did she calm down. It didn't occur to me to try to wean her off of it because I was overjoyed that she loved books without even knowing what they were. To this day, I'm still the one who reads her books before bed when I visit (same with my 6-year-old sister, Gillian), and she even gave me a bit of a lecture recently about how I need to start writing again.

All this said, I couldn't believe it when I read this headline on The Guardian's website today: Two-thirds of parents 'never read to their babies.'

Now, let me just say, what?! I mean, WHAT?! I'm in shock that a statistic like that could actually be accurate, but here's what the article had to say:

Nearly two-thirds of parents never read to their babies and are therefore missing out on a crucial window for their children's language development, according to new research. 
The survey, carried out on more than 500 parents of babies by ICM and the Fatherhood Institute on behalf of the charity Booktrust, found that 64% of parents were not reading with their babies at seven months, and that 57% did not own a single book until they received their pack of free titles from Booktrust's Bookstart programme. Three-quarters of parents said they began sharing books with their babies as soon as they received their free Bookstart books.
Bookstart's chief executive Viv Bird called the findings "worrying", as "the enjoyable routine of sharing books, stories, songs and rhymes with babies is vital in building pre-literacy skills as well as providing important 'cuddle' time". Leaving reading with children until later in their lives means they are "missing out on a crucial window for language development," said Booktrust, which is now working with health professionals to explore ways of reaching families at an even earlier age.
Booktrust gives free books to almost 3 million children a year in the UK, with 30m titles given away by Bookstart since 1992 to promote the benefits of reading aloud to young children. The government-funded charity is fighting for its survival, having weathered a 50% cut last year and a 20% cut in 2012. It is now "urgently" seeking to sustain its grant of £6m a year, with its current Department for Education funding contract running only until the end of March 2013. "For every £1 the state invests, Bookstart turns a total £25 of value to society," the charity said. "Without ongoing funding from government, [we] face the possibility of having to reduce or cut key services and children missing out on the joys of sharing books."
Former children's laureate Michael Rosen threw his support behind the Bookstart programme, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this week with National Bookstart Week. "We now know that if we share books with children right from the time they are babies, we are helping them enormously to understand the world," he said. "It's all about looking, listening and talking. Bookstart offers the perfect way in: free books in your hand with all sorts of great suggestions about keeping up the habit of sharing books with our children. It's a great scheme."

See the original post HERE

Granted these numbers seem to be specifically dealing with the UK, it's astounding that after all the research about reading and a child's development, so many parents still don't take the time to read aloud to their children. I don't think I even know a parent who doesn't read to his or her kids. And thank god for that because I might have to punch them in the face.  Hopefully Bookstart here will start changing these statistics so I don't have to beat up everyone under the sun.

Just read to your kids, folks. It not only expands their mind, but it encourages imagination and creativity, and can even create a different kind of bond between you and your child. I know I don't have any kids, so I probably shouldn't talk, but I do have sisters, and without my reading to them the way I have their whole lives, I am certain we wouldn't have the same amazing relationship we do now.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Celebrity Hunger Games Hilarity

This article and video on The Huffington Post about "Meet the Lost Tributes of 'The Hunger Games' Tributes" cracks me up like whoa. The video was originally created by MTV After Hours and is just what I needed for a little pick-me-up!

Sure, we've all spent hours daydreaming about what it would be like to be part of the cast of "The Hunger Games," but have you ever wondered what the movie would have been like had your favorite famous actors played the tributes -- instead of unknowns?

Enter "The Lost 'Hunger Games' Tributes Speak," a hilarious three-minute MTV video featuring actors like Max Greenfield, Chris Colfer, Chloe Moretz, Amber Rose, Vinny Guadagnino, and Questlove, who are "interviewed" as "lost" members of the cast that were cut from the film. Now, the "lost tributes" break their silence on the special survival skills they would have brought into the stadium.

Chloe Moretz explains that her character's specialty is looking great. "My favorite part is in the script when she makes a break for the cornucopia, and she goes straight for the hair products. Impractical? Yeah. But just because you're fighting for your life doesn't mean you shouldn't have great hair volume."

On the other hand, Max Greenfield's character, "Chutney McDougalbart" from District 43, has a special talent for creating elaborate balloon animals that would surely have served him well in the stadium. And Questlove, of course, would have brought some awesome beats to the final battle scene between Katniss, Peeta and Kato as house DJ of the cornucopia.

Need more awesome "Hunger Games" videos to tide you over until "Catching Fire"? Check out a brilliant Beanie Baby recreation in the video below -- or, if mini stuffed animals aren't your thing, don't miss this surprisingly realistic Lego version of the "Hunger Games" trailer.

See the original post HERE

 Please also note the "Beanie Baby Hunger Games" at the end of the article. *dies*

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Ray Bradbury Remembered Through Quotes

Ever since I heard the news of Ray Bradbury's death earlier this week, I've been trying to figure out what I want to say about him. As one of my favorite authors, everything I come up with feels wrong, not good enough. So instead of trying and failing to do him justice, I've decided to share with you a compilation of my favorite Bradbury quotes.

 "Looking back over a lifetime, you see that love was the answer to everything."

"Don't think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It's self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can't try to do things. You simply must do things."

"There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them."

"Living at risk is jumping off the cliff and building your wings on the way down."

"I just want someone to hear what I have to say. And maybe if I talk long enough, it'll make sense."

Rest in peace, Ray. The world will miss you.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

BEA Goes Live Online

Today marks the first official day of the Book Expo of America (or BEA as us industry folks call it) 2012. This year will be the first one I don't attend the convention at all. It's a strange feeling, knowing almost every one of my friends in the biz is going, but it's kind of nice to breathe for a minute and not be pushing through the crowds in the Javits Center. And besides, the #bea12 hashtags are exploding on Twitter so I'm sure I can keep up with most things that way.

If not, apparently there is now live footage being shown online at the BEA website. You can even check out their "streaming schedule" so you don't miss your favorite panels.

Kind of a handy little feature! :)

Friday, June 1, 2012

A Second--and Third--Chance at NaNoWriMo

November isn't always the best month for writing novels, despite it  being National Novel Writing Month. It's the holidays, the end of the year, etc. I know I certainly don't have enough free hours that time of year to commit to writing that much. But now there is something for everyone, even people like me! (And no, I don't mean the lazy ones.)

NaNoWriMo--the popular novel writing "competition"--is adding a June and August version of the challenge with the new Camp NaNoWriMo, according to GalleyCat:

Want to write a novel this summer? You should take the Camp NaNoWriMo challenge in June or August.

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) takes place every November, but the Office of Letters and Light (the nonprofit behind NaNoWriMo, Script Frenzy and the Young Writers Program) wanted to give writers an alternative time for the writing challenge.

Follow this link to sign up: “Why: The reasons are endless! To actively participate in one of our era’s most enchanting art forms! To write without having to obsess over quality. To be able to make obscure references to passages from our novels at parties. To be able to mock real novelists who dawdle on and on, taking far longer than 30 days to produce their work. When: You can sign up anytime to add your name to the roster. Writing begins 12:00:01 AM on June 1, and again on August 1. To be added to the official list of winners, you must reach the 50,000-word mark by 11:59:59 PM on the last day of the month. Once your novel has been verified by our web-based team of robotic word counters, the partying begins.”

See the original post HERE

While I'm not planning to officially sign up, I am considering trying to get myself to write at least a little bit every day this month in an attempt to get back into the habit and finally start finishing projects.

How about YOU? Are you going to partake in Camp NaNoWriMo?