Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Millions : Paucity of Art in the Age of Big Data: A Dispatch from San Francisco

The Millions : Paucity of Art in the Age of Big Data: A Dispatch from San Francisco

This is a very interesting essay on the need for more digital tech in novels, the novel as a social data driven artifact, and the question of the big novel in modern times. Important to think about for anyone who cares about fiction and where it's going in this modern age.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

POC and Where Things Stand...


Roxane Gay
There's a lot to note here in this rather short post by Roxane Gay. POCs are people of color. The graph she offers says it all, although it isn't a "scientfic" study. That said, I respect Roxane Gay immensely and think she's a very good analyst of real life in the book world, and a straight shooter to boot.

Here's the main take away: nearly 90% of the books reviewed in the NYTimes are written by so-called Caucasians.

What I find interesting is not that this may be evidence of how few books are published by POCs; rather, what's interesting is what these numbers say about books the NYTimes feels are important. As Ms. Gay writes in her Rumpus piece: "...if you are a writer of color, not only do you face a steeper climb getting your book published, you face an even more arduous journey if you want that book to receive critical attention."

I personally don't really care how many books are published by people of color. There are plenty of

Friday, June 14, 2013

Thank You, Apple, for Going to Court Over E-Books | Talking Writing

Go to the online magazine, Talking Writing, to see my latest essay (co-written with TW Editor-in-Chief Martha Nichols). It's not just a re-hash of the pricing fixing case going on in NYC. We offer important insights for writers and readers everywhere about what this decision can mean for the future of books in America...

Thank You, Apple, for Going to Court Over E-Books | Talking Writing

Lead-in excerpt:

"E-book “price-fixing” has a scurrilous ring, as if a bunch of shadowy hoods in business suits have been deciding the fates of humble readers. But in April 2012, that’s exactly what the U.S. Department of Justice accused five of the six big publishers and Apple of doing with e-book prices.

To date, all the publishers—Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Penguin, Macmillan, and Simon & Schuster—have settled with the DOJ. (The “Big Six” of corporate publishing are now down to five; Random House is merging with Penguin.)

But when the publishers started settling last year, some with undue haste, an important opportunity was lost. We need a public discussion of the economics..." 

Go here for the full piece.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Vanessa Veselka and the Female Road Narrative

Vanessa Veselka (Click on her name)

Read the excellent essay called GREEN SCREEN: THE LACK OF FEMALE ROAD NARRATIVES AND WHY IT MATTERS by Vanessa Veselka. It's quite thought-provoking. See my comments at the end of the essay along with others. There's a lot of food for thought here for anyone concerned about women's issues, our broader culture, and the frontiers of fiction that await those who have the desire to expand our national narrative.

An excerpt of my comments:

"In the end, we are all lost souls on the road to nowhere. You can't write about that unless you are willing to embrace that. At least that's how I see everything from The Hobbit to Cormac McCarthy's The Road -- Huck, Ulysses, Ishmael, Ahab, Leopold Bloom, Japhy Ryder, Holden Caulfield on the run, etc. etc."


Thursday, June 06, 2013

Screwpulp .:. Free Books

Screwpulp .:. Free Books

While the corporate houses mess around about pricing, there are entrepreneurs doing quite innovative things with ebook and indie distribution. You can get dozens of books for FREE or practically nothing, all just in exchange for a little help promoting through your social networking system. This site should be #1 on every "How to Show Some Love to Your Neighborhood Writer" list. Check it out.

Get Your eBook Single Included in Thin Reads' Database - BookBaby Blog

Get Your eBook Single Included in Thin Reads' Database - BookBaby Blog

There's no doubt this is an interesting resource for writers, but I hope readers are paying attention to this opportunity too. Long reads are worth the effort and investment.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Watching Colin Kaepernick Will Be Special

Kaepernick with his parents.
It's a small thing to most people, but for those of us mixed-race adopted folks, tonight will be special. Colin Kaepernick is playing in the Super Bowl. 

I've written about what it feels like to grow up mixed-race and to be adopted. You'll find lots of posts here at The Formality of Occurrence. There is a sense of being completely alone in the world and wanting recognition that lies under even the deepest love and support from your family.

Tonight, Colin represents all of us. When he's older and he has his own kids, he'll think back to what he did tonight and understand that little tiny thing that was in his mind trying to be acknowledged. You feel oddly disconnected to the world when you stand on a stage. But you also know quite well how to connect and express your love of life because that's what gets those of us who are adopted and hard-to-define through life. It's also what makes us special. Everyone's special, of course, but that's our special.

I am spurred to write this because I just saw Colin interviewed on the pre-game show. That very real and true sense of being lucky and being blessed by ones adoption is the greatest and most cherished feeling all of us like him can feel. His success in life comes from great parenting and great older siblings. Love is an amazing thing. 

Congratulations for getting this far, Bro. Hope you make it all the way...





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Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Super Powers and Magic? The League of New Indie Writers

Super Woman
Super Woman (Photo credit: anitasarkeesian)
I'm amazed at how many unbelievably talented writers there are in this world toiling away in every nook and cranny imaginable. Peeps in my raggedy-ass tribe of indie authors and bloggers live and work in India, Africa, Canada, South America, Great Britain, Australia, etc. as well as the U.S.

There are thousands of astounding writers so easily discoverable all over the Internet now. It's like there used to be this small group of successful Super Men and Super Women or maybe it was a special guild of wizards, witches, warlocks, and magicians, I don't know. They were special and easy to spot. Their books congregated in stores that we shopped at. They wore lots of black, more often than not they had dark circles under their eyes, drank coffee when the sun was up and wine or whiskey when it was down...and smoked in secret. 

But now we discover there's so many more of them. SO MANY. Imagine a comic book world where there's a superman on every block and superwoman in every coffee house and diner. Or what about a world where you go to the train station or the airport and every sixth person is a language wizard buzzing around in a lotus position on their laptop? That's where we are now. The question is, what exactly are these writers using their superpowers or their magic for?

I try to read stuff by all of these people as I move through the Internet because you only learn how to be a better writer by reading other writers. That's actually a hazard in the book world. It's hard to turn off the "writer as student" frame of mind when checking out stories and blog posts. I do my best. I know other writers are the same way. 

Last week I read a post by an indie author I respect immensely who advocated for less blogging and more focus on story writing. I share that sentiment to a certain extent, however, I watch the world on TV, listen to the radio, and walk around my neighborhood every day. There's a lot wrong with how things are being done. Take for instance last week's bizarre scene in our country's capital with the House Speaker scuttling a bill to provide support to New York and New Jersey, so utterly decimated by Super Storm Sandy...or the slayings of innocent children and teachers in Newtown, Connecticut.

Good writing is a gift, in my opinion. Most people just don't got it for whatever reason. But some do. In fact, that's what is going on here with this whole League of New Indie Writers. All the unnoticed and misfit scribes in the world are now stepping out and kicking up their heels offering the world everything from Fifty Shades of Grey to Siren Suicides and The Homeless Killer. Some are finding astounding success with their novels and short stories. Others are still building their new careers. Many of us may never make much with our words, but we keep on keeping on because it's who we are. 

In so many cases, though, these new great writers stick steadfast to fiction and social networking about fiction and book sales. Many of their blog posts and freelance articles are about the writing life or bullet lists for marketing success as an Indie. Some absolutely fabulous writers can be found in the book review quadrant of the Internet. So many talented writers blog about marketing and social networking and sales it's truly a wonder more of us aren't successful yet. 

What I'd like to see is more writers using their superpowers and their magic on social issues and stuff in the real world that's close to their hearts. It doesn't have to be political. You can write on your personal pain about watching friends go through a divorce, or the insanity of trying to pay for college when you have three kids, or how angry it makes you that women in other parts of the world are treated as second class citizens. 

Look at some of the traditionally published writers you love. Most of them publish personal essays and do the occasional op-ed on issues that are important to them. Sometimes they get into pissing matches too, and that's always fun to watch at places like The New York Review of Books or Huffington or Salon.

My point here is just to suggest that all these good writers should push the envelope with their talents. If you have a platform website already, what the hell? You don't need to be in The Atlantic or New Yorker to put your words out there. Use your powers not just to sell yourself, but send some of those superpower incantations you wield out into the world with strong and vivid messaging. Provoke the hell out of readers. Use your art to push the boundaries of social discourse every once in a while. Surprise yourself. Surprise your friends and colleagues. Give the world more vision and possibility.

George Saunders
George Saunders (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
We read last weekend in the New York Times Magazine, a wonderful essay by Joel Lovell called "George Saunders Has Written the Best Book You'll Read This Year." The last line of the essay quotes the end of a magazine article Saunders wrote for GQ: "Don't be afraid to be confused. Try to remain permanently confused. Anything is possible. Stay open, forever, so open it hurts, and then open up some more, until the day you die, world without end, amen."

That's the secret to your superpowers and magic. And that's why it seems to me there's a lot of work for us all to do still. ...world without end...

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