Posted by: oneyearbook | June 12, 2009

End of the week links

You’ll note, dear readers, that a lot of my posts lately have been discussions of writing/reading bits from across the wide web, rather than delvings into my own process. For this, I apologize; the writing is at a strange stage, when little can be said. I expect to have some announcements of import on that front by early next week.

So instead for today it’s a round-up of lit links from the web and my take on them:

At Jezebel, they talk about Susan Orlean’s Tweets about the difficulties for women in the literary non-fiction world. First, she says that there is a difference in the way they focus (multi-tasking versus a man’s singlemindedness); and second, she points out that “1. Society expects women to do it all. 2. We (I) feel guilty neglecting home stuff. Men I know are more ok with that.”

Yes. I do think there is something in this, although I think any woman with the drive to move into the literary non-fiction lifestyle (specifically the type that requires a lot of travel – we’re not talking about memoir, here) could do so. But there are more questions asked about a woman who chooses a lifestyle that makes family, friends, and stability hard; men, however, can be more easily slotted into the ‘bachelor’ category and assumed to be happy focussing on their career.When I read non-fiction, it tends to be split into one of two types: adventurous travel writing, where I like people like Tim Moore, William Dalrymple, Taras Grescoe, and Robert Macfarlane; and more meditative, personal-essay style works: Annie Dillard, Anne Fadiman. It seems somewhat telling – but perhaps that’s just my personal reading habits.

Related: here’s Susan Orlean in conversation, partially about the relationship between Adaptation, the movie, and The Orchid Thief, her book, plus about other writerly things.

Publishers Weekly has a tip list for how an author can stay on good terms with the local bookstore, here. I would like to add a few tips – for staying on the good side of your community newspaper. Your community newspaper, in all likelihood, would love to write about you and your book. However, they will be more likely to do so if you approach them correctly and appear to know what you are talking about. First, read said paper. Do they regularly run reviews of books, locally-written or otherwise? No? We didn’t do reviews at the Review (despite the name!). In that case sending a book for review is not the right approach. Instead your tactic would be to approach – by email is usually easiest – the editor with a brief pitch about your book and yourself and why you yourself and the writing of the book would make an interesting article. Perhaps the book includes some sort of local content and your long years of living in the area were useful for research. Perhaps you’ve just retired and have taken the opportunity to write a book; and so on. Authors make good arts profiles. Suggest the idea to them, give a clear run-down of your contact info, announce that you can drop-off a copy of your book for their perusal at their convenience, and then leave it alone. Follow up in a week if there’s been no reply. Once the interview has happened, don’t call every day asking when it’s going to be in. Your book is big news to you, but unless there’s some sort of time crunch involved (you’re doing a reading in town at the end of the week, say), it’s likely you’ll be bumped around a bit. Don’t fret. Once it gets in there it’ll be good for you. We ran an interview with a first-time local author of a non-fiction book and the book soon was on the bestseller’s list at the local bookstore.

The Global Language Monitor has declared that there are now a million words in the English language (there’s been some public disgust that the annoying ‘Web 2.0’ was deemed to be the millionth). Actually, they admit that there are probably far more than that – there’s at least 600,000 types of fungus, each with names of their own, to account for – but they claim that this particular target is simply meant to represent the diversity of the language. Mandarin Chinese, the next most diverse tongue, has about half a mil; French, 100,000. Anyways, good news for writers and anyone else who works with language. Yes, there’s a challenge in using a smaller vocabulary to express things – obviously the French have made their small stock of words go to good lengths in their literature; and is it the Bible which supposedly only uses a grand total of 800 words? – but we, as writers, can still make the choice to limit ourselves, if we wish. But we don’t have to. We can splash in the shallow end of the pool, or swim out and explore the deep end of the language. Spicy variety, and all that.

And, last, a short one, and not really literary: writers at Pschology Today blog about their strange relationships with money. I liked this just for the one from Dan Goldstein, who says that in order to make himself write, he said he’d give away $5 every time he didn’t hit his page target for a day. He didn’t want to give it to charity – too easy to feel good about that – so he decided he’d put it in an envelope and leave it in a subway station. And it worked. That’s good. I like weird motivational tactics. I always want to give them a try. Too bad Victoria doesn’t have a subway system.


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