Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Senses, Updike, and the Printed Word

When John Updike died on Tuesday at the age of 76, many paid tribute. One news clip was of particular interest to me – Updike expounding on his love of the printed word and books. He wasn’t talking about digitized books on the Internet or e-books, but the smell, feel, sight, and satisfaction of reading an honest-to-God bound book.

Updike gave a speech in 2006 at the Book Expo of America lamenting where books are headed with Google’s aim to digitalize books for a “universal library”. I don’t necessarily agree with Updike but he brings valid points to the table on the vast changes in the publishing industry. How will this affect writers? Books themselves? Will traditional “bound” books become obsolete?

Reader’s habits – from how books are bought to how books are enjoyed – are part of this seismic change. Rather than creating the ability to access books on a universal scale, are we instead creating the “haves” in those who can first of all, read, and second, possess computer technology to do so, versus the “have nots” who have neither the luxury of literacy or technology?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

At Last

When President and Mrs. Obama danced to “At Last” as sung by BeyoncĂ© at the Neighborhood Inaugural Ball, the significance of this gorgeous song at a historic moment was lost on no one. In the novel, Tim and Kay dance to Etta James singing “At Last” at Paul and Pamela’s wedding. Observing her blissfully happy brother, Kay notes, “I hear this song, and I think ‘at last’ is right. We are so lucky, Tim. I really didn’t think he’d after recover.” Kay refers to her family’s joy at Paul finally moving beyond his grief and embarking on a new life.

‘At Last’ is favored by my husband and me as our special song as well. We share the song as it was originally intended – two people finding each other and building a wonderful life together. Since we were slightly older than most couples when marrying, ‘at last’ summed our feelings perfectly. One very memorable song beautifully sung, with so many meanings.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Writing Opportunities at -27 Below

This morning we awoke to 27.9 or almost 28 degrees below zero. No including wind chill, just a straight across the board nearly 28 degrees below. The novel talks about weather in Minnesota, particularly winter and the lung-searing cold that makes a warm to zero feel balmy. Absolutely true. Tomorrow’s temperature should rise to a positively toasty 18 degrees above.

Such weather has its advantages. There’s an old Minnesota joke that such bitter cold “helps keep the riff raff out”. That most likely depends on your definition of “riff raff”. For writers and readers however, this weather offers an ideal opportunity to indulge your passions. Herewith some ideas:

Map out your next book or article
Get some serious writing done on your latest project
Engage in Internet research for said project
Enter a writing contest
Revise your cover letter
Research literary agents and/or magazine editors
Curl up and read a good book
Catch up on all that miscellaneous reading of favorite magazines
School’s been closed the past two days – get the kids away from the TV and into books

Take heart - the arctic cold snap will end eventually, and the white quiet of winter will give way to the symphony of spring. Accomplishing some writing or reading tasks when it’s nearly impossible to be outdoors will mean less guilt and frustration when warmer days at last reappear.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Author Stores Launch at Amazon

Amazon has launched Author Stores, a tool that should help promote authors and their books on the Amazon site. The Author Stores are single pages that list all the books from a particular author, as well as other features. The Author Stores launched before the beginning of the year with 2,500 pages; the goal is to have a page for every author who has books available on Amazon.

See how the feature works by searching for popular bestselling authors including Stephen King, J.K. Rowling and James Patterson. Customers access the stores through the normal search box—when a shopper searches for an author who has a store, a link appears at the top of the search results next to Amazon’s Author Store logo. As an example, I’ve used J.K. Rowlings to access her page.

Apple uses a similar feature for popular artists at its iTunes stores. Amazon’s long-time goal is to have an Author Store for every author whose books are available through Amazon.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Justice for the Family

When Doreen Quinn Giuliano’s son, John Giuca, was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for Brooklyn’s 2003 “grid kid” slaying, she was absolutely sure he’d been wrongly convicted. To prove it she went under cover as “Dee” befriending one of the jurors, Jason Allo. Allo bragged publicly about serving as a juror on the high-profile case, while confiding to “Dee” he never should have been on the jury.

The story, Mother Justice by Christopher Ketcham in the January 2009 Vanity Fair details Giuliano seeking out Allo as Dee then documenting on tape his admission, one she recorded more than once. It was a desperate move, but one that may have succeeded. The tale deftly illustrates how far someone will go to protect, and in this case prove the innocence of, loved ones a central theme to Shades of Darkness, Shades of Grace. Anyone can be pushed to undertake acts they most likely would never consider, even more so when family is involved. Mother Justice, indeed.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

2009 Resolutions/Gratitude Journal

A new lens on Squidoo has a great idea to help you keep New Year’s Resolutions for 2009 – put them in writing. There’s information on journals to buy, journals to destruct (getting rid of all that creative frustration), journals for kids, books on types of journaling, and other ideas.

My favorite idea is to keep a New Year’s Gratitude Journal. So each day or every week, instead of focusing on the negative and what’s going wrong; put that energy into writing down what you’re grateful for or what went right, even when you have to look hard for the positive aspects.

The Pierson’s in Shades of Darkness, Shades of Grace first and foremost grateful for family, even when the odds are stacked against them. In the larger scheme of things, they are certainly grateful for a successful business and financial security.

In my own life, I’m grateful for family as well, even when they drive me crazy. There is also my gratitude for the time (such a gift!) to write and time to promote those endeavors.

Writing down New Year’s Resolutions are akin to telling everyone you’ve ever known that this year you’re losing 10 pounds, quitting smoking, being nicer, working harder – whatever. Going public by writing out those resolutions or telling people has a better chance of succeeding simply because you’ve shared that commitment and there’s follow-up involved, making backing out or giving up more difficult. Keeping track of all that you have to be grateful for forces you to find the good among the mundane and not-so-good, again in a very public way.