Saturday, March 31, 2012

Untangling family roots - Sebastian Barry

By Stephen Jewell - NZ Herald - Saturday Mar 31, 2012
Dublin-born Sebastian Barry, who is visiting Auckland in May for the Writers & Readers Festival, says the subtle connections between his works were arrived at purely by chance. Photo / Supplied
Dublin-born Sebastian Barry, who is visiting Auckland in May for the Writers & Readers Festival, says the subtle connections between his works were arrived at purely by chance. 

Irish author's books have teased out his ancestors' 'intricate web of secrets'.

Talking to Sebastian Barry is like digging up the roots of his family tree. I only have to ask the Dublin-born author about his most recent book, last year's On Canaan's Side, and he branches off on a tangent about his grandparents or his youthful road trip across America.
But, from his 1995 play The Steward of Christendom to his 2008 Costa Award-winning novel The Secret Scripture, most of his stories have been thinly veiled biographies of those closest to him.
"It shows how terribly one-minded I've been, always writing about the same people," says the 56-year-old. "In a way, they all tie in together because they're about the two sides of my family that didn't unite, as it were, until my parents married, so they kind of swim around in that great pool of relatedness.
"There are still some unwritten books, which will hopefully remain so when the two strands join together, but in that sense they'll all turn out to be related at some point in the future."
Scheduled to visit Auckland in May for the Writers & Readers Festival, Barry was last in New Zealand in 1996 when The Steward of Christendom was staged in Wellington at the International Festival of Arts. "I was enchanted by the place ... I suppose it was that usual thing of it being so far away but so familiar."
Full story at New Zealand Herald

Adrienne Rich, Beyond the Anger

By DAVID ORR -Published New York Times: March 30, 2012 

American poets rarely become public figures, and those who do — Allen Ginsberg, Robert Frost — usually pay a price for it. Sometimes that price is measured in a temporary decline in their literary reputation (other poets find fame hard to forgive), but more often it’s a simple matter of becoming papered over with expectations. The more the public looks at a poet, the harder she becomes to see.
Right - Stuart Ramson/Associated Press - Adrienne Rich in 2006.

So it would be good to remember that while Adrienne Rich, who died on Tuesday at 82, was indeed an inspiring cultural force, she was at bottom a writer of poems. And the defiant political stands for which she became famous are entirely consistent with that identity and its long American heritage. (John Greenleaf Whittier was inveighing against slavery in his poems at considerable personal risk right before the Civil War.) But for Ms. Rich, as for any real poet, the question is always: How do we read her work not as social history, but as poetry?   

Full story at The New York Times     

Storylines awards to writers announced

Two national writing awards, one for unpublished authors, was announced by the Storylines Children's Literature Charitable Trust at its annual Margaret Mahy Day today, Saturday 31 March 2012.

Rachel Stedman, from Dunedin, has won the Storylines Tessa Duder Award the manuscript of a young adult novel by a previously unpublished author.
Rachel is a trained physiotherapist with two sons. Her work has appeared in e-zines and in the School Journal, but her first young adult novel will be published by HarperCollins Publishers in 2013.
The Storylines Tessa Duder Award honours not only the writing of Tessa Duder, but her tireless work behind the scenes, supporting New Zealand children for children and, especially, young adults.
The inaugural winner of the Storylines Tessa Duder Award, Hugh Brown, will also be attending the Storylines Margaret Mahy Dad, where his first novel, Reach, will be launched by the award sponsor, HarperCollins Publishers.
The Storylines Joy Cowley Award for a picture book text is open to any writer, published or not, has this year been won by an unpublished author.
Isaac Drought, a Taranaki intermediate school teacher, spent six years in Indonesia and has long dreamt of becoming a children's author. Isaac's award-winning picture book will be launched at the Storylines Festival in August 2013.
The Storylines Joy Cowley Award is sponsored by Scholastic New Zealand. The award is named in honour of one of New Zealand's most passionate advocates for children's literacy, Joy Cowley - as a writer, reader, parent and influential voice. Previous winners have included Lucy Davey and New Zealand Post Children's Book Award winner, Kyle Mewburn.

Iris's Ukulele by Kathy Taylor, will also be launched at the Storylines Margaret Mahy Day, as the 2011 winner of the Storylines Tom Fitzgibbon Award. This award honours the memory of the late Tom Fitzgibbon, academic and supporter of children's literature.

Pint-sized fiction at its best: Kevin Barry’s ‘Beer Trip to Llandudno’ wins the Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award 2012

 Kevin Barry. Photograph: Murdo Macleod

A story about a group of middle-aged men and their passion for authentic beer awarded the world’s most valuable short story prize. The Irish author Kevin Barry will be presented with a cheque for £30,000 by novelist and prize judge Joanna Trollope at a ceremony this evening at the Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival for his bittersweet tale of camaraderie amongst a group of ale aficionados. 

Melvyn Bragg, also on the judging panel, said that the story ‘takes a disregarded and often scorned stratum of male pals and finds wit, pathos and great energy there.’

Kevin Barry saw off competition from a shortlist that included compatriot and Room author Emma Donoghue, who is also currently longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction 2012 with The Sealed Letter. She and fellow shortlisted authors Jean Kwok, Tom Lee, Robert Minhinnick and Linda Oatman High each received £1000. Kevin Barry joins a winners circle of American Anthony Doerr who won the Award last year with his story ‘The Deep’ and New Zealander C K Stead who won the inaugural Award in 2010 with ‘Last Season’s Man’.

Hanif Kureishi, prize judge:
‘Our winning story performs a deft bit of alchemy, taking a very ordinary group of amateur ale connoisseurs and transforming them and their not instantly appealing tastes into something sweet, funny and unexpectedly moving. Barry follows the camaraderie and unique bond of these men on their train journey from Liverpool to Llandudno with a sensitivity that never transgresses into sentimentality.

It’s a beautifully constructed piece of writing that says something fresh about how men find comfort, support and humour in each other’s company. This is an astonishing story that is both daringly original and full of heart.’

The 2012 judges were: stage and screen actor Ian Hart; novelist Joanna Trollope; the playwright, screenwriter, novelist, short story writer and director Hanif Kureishi; novelist, screenwriter and broadcaster Melvyn Bragg; and Andrew Holgate, Literary Editor of The Sunday Times. Lord Matthew Evans, Chairman of EFG Private Bank, is the non-voting Chair of Judges.

Kevin Barry was longlisted for The Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award in 2011. His first short story collection, There Are Little Kingdoms (Stinging Fly Press), was published in 2007 and was awarded the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature. His first novel, City Of Bohane, was published in 2011 and was shortlisted for both the Costa First Novel Award and the Hughes and Hughes Irish Novel of the Year. Kevin’s stories have appeared in The New Yorker, the Granta Book of the Irish Short Story, and Best European Fiction 2011 among others and his plays have been produced in Ireland and the US. He lives in County Sligo, Ireland. His second short story collection, Dark Lies the Island (Jonathan Cape), which contains ‘Beer Trip to Llandudno’, will be published in April.

The five shortlisted writers this year each received £1,000 – double the 2011 prize money – as well as having their work published online and in a Waterstones anthology which is available to purchase for £2.99 in store and through 

9-Year-Old Author Throws Cupcake Book Party

By Jason Boog on Galley Cat, March 30, 2012

Nine-year-old author and cupcake blogger Carrie Berk just co-wrote Peace, Love and Cupcakes with her mom, Life & Style Weekly editor-in-chief Sheryl Berk.
To celebrate the release of the novel (published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky imprint), Berk (pictured) hosted a book party at Dylan’s Candy Bar in New York City. Author and cupcake blogger Rachel Kramer Bussel covered the event at Cupcakes Take the Cake.
Check it out: “[The book] is about a group of little girls who form a cupcake club at their school, start a cupcake business, fight bullies and have fun baking, decorating and learning about each other … [the candy store] was set up with a chocolate fountain where you could get Peeps, marshmallows, Rice Krispie treats, pretzels, strawberries or bananas dipped in it, a cupcaketini cocktail, which had Frangelico, Bailey’s and Kahlua (adults only, obviously) and adorable custom mini cupcakes courtesy of Georgetown Cupcake, which managed to replicate the book cover exactly, with glitter!”

Woody Allen Pursuing Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett

US film director Woody Allen (R) stands near US actor Jesse Eisenberg (L) and Canadian actress Ellen Page on the set of 'Bop Decameron', the cult filmmaker's latest production, at Campo de' Fiori square in central Rome, on July 28, 2011. The film's crew has been spotted everywhere from the Spanish Steps to the Colosseum to Rome's main shopping avenue, Via del Corso, and paparazzi have been kept busy chasing stars Alec Baldwin and Penelope Cruz. AFP PHOTO / TIZIANA FABI (Photo credit should read TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)Who does Woody Allen want to go abroad with for his next movie, which may be filmed in Copenhagen? Deadline reports that the 76-year-old Oscar winner is zeroing in on Bradley Cooper and Cate Blanchett for the film, though nothing is official yet and the title and plot line are typically under wraps; consider perusing Allen's back catalogue of stand-up comedy albums for clues, however. Good luck with your casting ambitions, Woody! Who wouldn't want to have a terrific time in Europe with Bradley Cooper and CaBla? (Finally, we got to use "CaBla"!)

CONTEST: Write the Worst Sentence in 25 Words

By Jason Boog on Galley Cat, March 30, 2012
Think you can write the world’s worst opening sentence in 25 words or less? You should enter the free Lyyttle Lytton contest.
Readers can submit their own writing or nominate someone else at this link. You must enter your terrible sentence before April 15th.
The contest was inspired by the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, a famous challenge to write the worst opening to a novel. Many of these winning entries are quite long, so the Lyyttle Lytton contest limits entries to 25-words or less. Writer Judy Dean won the 2011 Lyttle Lytton contest with this smoldering sentence: “The red hot sun rose in the cold blue sky.”

Founder Adam Cadre explained why Dean won last year:
First, you’ve got the eyeroll that comes from the ham-handed contrast between ‘red hot’ and ‘cold blue’ — and then a second later you realize that ‘red hot’ actually means a temperature of about 1000 kelvin, and is therefore hilariously inadequate as a descriptor of the sun, a gigantic nuclear furnace with a core temperature of roughly ten million kelvin. Intentionally writing a sentence that seems unintentionally bad is hard; writing one that suggests an author going for hyperbole and accidentally winding up with woeful understatement is masterful.

Hitler’s Parents’ Grave Removed

Rudi Brandstaetter / AP Photo
Hitler’s Parents’ Grave Removed

See ya, skinheads. A neo-Nazi pilgrimage site is no more after officials in Austria said on Friday that a tombstone marking the grave of Hitler’s parents has been removed. The lease on the grave is reportedly up, as renting graves in increments of ten years is a common practice in Austria. A descendant of Hitler’s father’s first wife requested the removal, saying she’d had enough of it “being used for manifestations for sympathy” for the fascist leader and mass murderer. Neo-Nazi groups were reported to come to the grave to mark the site with flowers and Nazi paraphernalia.

March 30, 2012 

Former Goldman Sachs Executive Greg Smith Inks $1.5M Book Deal

By Dianna Dilworth on March 30, 2012  - Galley Cat

Greg Smith, the former Goldman Sachs executive director who quit his job earlier this month in a scathing New York Times op-ed, has reportedly landed a $1.5 million book deal with Hachette’s Grand Central imprint.
Apparently the book inspired a bidding war. Sarah Weinman and The Awl have raised another important question: Will the book earn back its advance? The news comes only days after news broke that literary agent Paul Fedorko was shopping the book.
The New York Post has more: “By Monday, with the price tag flirting with the $1 million mark, it was down to two bidders, Penguin and Hachette Book Group. Hachette’s Grand Central Publishing finally nailed the deal with a $1.5 million advance yesterday.”
In the op-ed, Smith blasted the company’s current management, who he claims has ruined the culture at the financial powerhouse. Here is more from his post: “To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money.”

On the Rules of Literary Fiction for Men and Women

The Second Shelf - By MEG WOLITZER - New York Times - Published: March 30, 2012

If “The Marriage Plot,” by Jeffrey Eugenides, had been written by a woman yet still had the same title and wedding ring on its cover, would it have received a great deal of serious literary attention? Or would this novel (which I loved) have been relegated to “Women’s Fiction,” that close-quartered lower shelf where books emphasizing relationships and the interior lives of women are often relegated? Certainly “The Marriage Plot,” Eugenides’s first novel since his Pulitzer Prize-winning “Middlesex,” was poised to receive tremendous literary interest regardless of subject matter, but the presence of a female protagonist, the gracefulness, the sometimes nostalgic tone and the relationship-heavy nature of the book only highlight the fact that many first-rate books by women and about women’s lives never find a way to escape “Women’s Fiction” and make the leap onto the upper shelf where certain books, most of them written by men (and, yes, some women — more about them later), are prominently displayed and admired.

Illustrations by Kelly Blair
This is a tricky subject. Bringing up the women’s question — I mean the women’s fiction question — is not unlike mentioning the national debt at a dinner party. Some people will get annoyed and insist it’s been talked about too much and inaccurately, and some will think it really matters. When I refer to so-called women’s fiction, I’m not applying the term the way it’s sometimes used: to describe a certain type of fast-reading novel, which sets its sights almost exclusively on women readers and might well find a big, ready-made audience. I’m referring to literature that happens to be written by women. But some people, especially some men, see most fiction by women as one soft, undifferentiated mass that has little to do with them.
Recently at a social gathering, when a guest found out I was a writer, he asked, “Would I have heard of you?” I dutifully told him my name — no recognition, fine, I’m not that famous — and then, at his request, I described my novels. “You know, contemporary, I guess,” I said. “Sometimes they’re about marriage. Families. Sex. Desire. Parents and children.” After a few uncomfortable moments he called his wife over, announcing that she, who “reads that kind of book,” was the one I ought to talk to. When I look back on that encounter, I see a lost opportunity. When someone asks, “Would I have heard of you?” many female novelists would be tempted to answer, “In a more just world.”
The truth is, women who write literary fiction frequently find themselves in an unjust world, even as young single women are outearning men in major American cities and higher education in the United States is skewing female. As VIDA, a women’s literary organization, showed in February in its second annual statistical roundup, women get shockingly short shrift as reviewers and reviewees in most prestigious publications. Of all the authors reviewed in the publications it tracked, nearly three-fourths were men. No wonder that when we talk about today’s leading novelists — the ones who generate heat and conversation and are read by both men and women — we are talking mostly about men.

When Should Writers Work for Free?

By Jason Boog on Galley Cat, March 30, 2012 

When should writers work for free? It is one of the most difficult questions facing writers in the 21st Century as unpaid outlets multiply online.
In an interview at The Paris Review, we found a historic moment when famous authors wrote for free in a completely unknown publication. When the legendary editor Robert Silvers launched The New York Review of Books in 1962, he went straight to the most talented writers in the country and asked them to work for free.

Check it out:
Our thought was to think of the best writers in the world to review the books of the season—even people who hadn’t written book reviews for years or ever. Many of them we knew—Norman Mailer, [William] Styron, W. H. Auden, Edmund Wilson. We said, “Look, we have three weeks, we can’t pay a penny, will you do it?” And they all did.

Categorising books by age doesn't tell the full story

Don't be fooled, Joel Stein: categorising books by age doesn't tell the full story

Publishers might try to draw age boundaries when it comes to reading, but critics should beware such arbitrary distinctions
Literary chocolate … Sparkly vampires are just the ticket at the end of a long, hard day

Dividing the world of books into neat categories – children's, young adult, adult – is a relatively recent phenomenon, more of a marketing tool for publishers than a clear distinction for literary criticism. But is there any sense in drawing boundaries when it comes to reading?
The question arises because Joel Stein, a writer for Time magazine, has been having great fun poking the hornets' nest that is the internet, informing us all – grandly, bossily and, I suspect, somewhat satirically – that adults should read adult books.
In a short, sniffy piece for the New York Times, Stein says: "The only thing more embarrassing than catching a guy on the plane looking at pornography on his computer is seeing a guy on the plane reading The Hunger Games. Or a Twilight book. Or Harry Potter."
His argument, basically, is that it's all right for grownups to watch children's films or play video games, but when we're reading, we should be learning.
"I have no idea what The Hunger Games is like. Maybe there are complicated shades of good and evil in each character. Maybe there are Pynchonesque turns of phrase. Maybe it delves into issues of identity, self-justification and anomie that would make David Foster Wallace proud," he writes. "I don't know because it's a book for kids. I'll read The Hunger Games when I finish the previous 3,000 years of fiction written for adults."
Obviously, people are outraged – see the 200-odd comments on Stein's piece, and the miles of Twitter blather ("Does he also believe that women shouldn't wear pants and only Japanese people should eat sushi?"). Obviously, Stein has a book out shortly (he writes on Twitter: "I am the self promoting whore whose book, Man Made: A Stupid Quest for Masculinity, comes out May 15"). But there are wider issues at stake here than a storm on Twitter.
Take the term "young adult", which I rather loathe. It seems unfair to deny authors like Diana Wynne Jones, with Fire and Hemlock, or Alan Garner, with The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, to those in the "old adult" category. (Garner, by the way, has always denied writing for children but says they understand his work better than adults.)
In my view, there's some truly amazing "young adult" writing out there that adults would be childish to overlook. There's also some dreadful tripe. But, while holding my hand up as someone who has read Twilight and Harry Potter, and is avidly reading The Hunger Games right now, there's tripe to be found among adult literature too.
And anyway, sometimes we need the bad stuff. Sometimes, Joel Stein, books aren't for learning, because sometimes – for me, at least – they need to be the mental equivalent of a bar of Cadbury's chocolate. Sometimes, I'm just too knackered to tackle "the previous 3,000 years of fiction written for adults", I'm not in the mood for "Pynchonesque turns of phrase", and sparkly vampires or murderous (but beautiful) teenagers are just the ticket. We were all young adults once, after all

Do Childish People Write Better Children’s Books?

The soothing anthem Goodnight Moon was written by someone so restless.

For all the years that I had been reading Goodnight Moon to some child or another, I had been picturing its author as a plump, maternal presence, someone like the quiet old lady in the rocking chair whispering, “Hush,” and so I was surprised to see, in a bored, casual dip into Google, the blonde, green-eyed, movie-starish vixen, and attendant accounts of her lesbian lover, her many male lovers, her failure to settle down, and tragic early death.
Margaret Wise Brown, or “Brownie” as her friends called her, did not harbor sentimental notions and was not overly devoted to bunnies and chubby toddlers. In a Life profile the reporter expressed surprise that the tender creator of so many rabbit-themed books would enjoy hunting and shooting rabbits, and Margaret replied: “Well, I don’t especially like children, either. At least not as a group. I won’t let anybody get away with anything just because he is little.”
One of Margaret Wise Brown’s offhand descriptions of childhood makes me think that she is nearer to childhood than the rest of us, inside it in a way that most of us can’t quite imagine or get to: She talks about the “painful shy animal dignity with which a child stretches to conform to a strange, adult social politeness.” Could there be a better, more intimate expression of that awkward childhood relation to the adult world?
Full piece at Slate.

What book publishers should learn from Harry Potter

After months of anticipation, the e-book versions of author J.K. Rowling’s phenomenally successful Harry Potter series are now available through Rowling’s Pottermore online unit, and as my PaidContent colleague Laura Owen has noted in her post on the launch, Rowling has chosen to do a number of interesting things with her e-books, including releasing them without digital-rights management restrictions. Obviously, the success of the Potter series has given Rowling the ability to effectively dictate terms to just about anyone, even a powerhouse like Amazon, but there are still lessons that other book publishers should take from what she is doing.
One of the encouraging things about the Pottermore launch is that the books will be available on virtually every platform simultaneously, including the Sony Reader, the Nook from Barnes & Noble, the Kindle and Google’s e-book service (which is part of Google Play). And in keeping with Pottermore’s status as a standalone digital bookstore in its own right, users will be able to buy the books from the Rowling site and then send them to whichever platform they wish. As Laura points out, even Amazon has bowed to the power of the series and done what would previously have seemed unthinkable: it sends users who come to the titles on Amazon to Pottermore to finish the transaction.
Full story at Gigacom.

Cooking with Poo wins Diagram Prize for oddest title

A prize for the oddest book title of the year has been awarded to Cooking With Poo. Thankfully, the term refers to the Thai nickname of its author, Saiyuud Diwong, rather than to his ingredients. The word translates as "crab".
Second place went to Mr Andoh's Pennine Diary: Memoirs of a Japanese Chicken Sexer in 1935 Hebden Bridge. Third was The Great Singapore Penis Panic and the Future of American Mass Hysteria.

The Diagram Prize is an annual award run by The Bookseller and decided by a public vote on the magazine's website.
Horace Bent, the prize's custodian, said: "It appears that this year's prize will go down in history as a blue year."

Hachette’s UK Group CEO Reflects on State of the Industry

 “Prospects Are Exceptional”

Richard Curtis - DBW

March 2012
From time to time I write a letter to all authors published by the Hachette UK group of companies which, of course, includes your own publisher. My purpose is to give you our perspective on what is going on in general in the world of publishing and bookselling and in particular at Hachette: how we are adapting to change, planning ahead and – most importantly – doing everything we can to be the very best publishers for your work. It is now a little over a year since I last wrote. My last letter concentrated on our own – and the industry’s – digital transformation. An enormous amount has happened since then on that front; so, in that regard, this letter too is much concerned with digital matters.
As the letter has a very wide circulation, I hope you will forgive its fairly general nature. As ever, I am very happy to answer specific questions, for example about the content of the letter, about our publishing of your own work or arising from the very fast-changing media world in which we now all live.
The UK consumer book market in general
Our reading habits continue to change. Research from YouGov showed that 1.3 million ebook readers were sold in the UK over Christmas 2011 alone. All told, there are perhaps 3.5 million ebook readers in circulation in the UK, and as many as 7 million tablets. Internationally, over 20 million tablets were sold in just the last quarter of 2011 alone. The variety and quality of tablets and ereaders, and the wide variety of ebooks available, is good news for readers. Wherever we are, we can buy books in an instant, and sales of Hachette UK-published ebooks continue to grow at an extraordinary rate, from 1% of our relevant sales in 2009 to 12% in 2011. That number is running at over 20% so far in 2012 and, for fiction, at over 30%. At present most readers are simply swapping the purchase of a print book for an ebook and I am afraid the market for printed books is shrinking. Last month, in Britain, sales of printed books were down by 13% year-on-year, and in 2011 the total consumer market for printed books in the UK was down by 7.8% – the third successive year of decline. Even after we factor in sales of ebooks, the totals for the UK and most of our other markets were still slightly down so ebook sales didn’t wholly account for the drop in sales of printed books, although that equation has possibly stabilised this year. Readers now expect to get a lot of information and entertainment for nothing and, for example, free reference material, satellite navigation and free online resources have severely reduced the sales of printed dictionaries, maps and guide books. The continuing move online, whether for ebooks, printed books or free reference material, is having a marked effect on our traditional markets and particularly on those booksellers who have no significant digital offering.
A sea change can be unsettling, particularly when it happens so fast but, on your behalf, we are very well placed to capitalise on all the opportunities this new world brings us. The Hachette group continues to be very successful; we have a clear strategy and we employ experts in every field, ensuring that we have the vision, the investment and the expertise to deal on equal terms with the biggest players in our markets. In short, you can be confident that your own publisher within the group is fully supported with all the resources they need to publish you in the very best way they can devise with you in all formats, now and in the future.
The full letter here.

Guggenheim announces out-of-print John Chamberlain exhibition catalogue now a free e-book

Art Daily News

Ultima Thule, 1967. Galvanized steel, 64 × 44 × 36 inches (162.5 × 111.8 × 91.4 cm). Private collection © 2011 John Chamberlain / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Courtesy Galerie Karsten Greve.

NEW YORK, NY.- For a limited time, selections from the 1971 exhibition catalogue John Chamberlain: A Retrospective Exhibition are free to download through the Guggenheim Store. Available in EPUB format for reading on iPhones and iPads, the title was originally published on the occasion of John Chamberlain's first museum retrospective, held at the Guggenheim more than forty years ago, and reveals early insight into the artist's work, process, and inspiration. The introductory essay, written by former Guggenheim curator Diane Waldman, surveys the artist's diverse influences and examines his explorations in material, highlighting his ability to hew a sense of order and beauty out of the apparent chaos of crushed automobiles and discarded steel. In the accompanying interview, artist Donald Judd and former Art in America editor Elizabeth C. Baker join Waldman and Chamberlain in a free-ranging conversation about ... More

Keillor to spend time in his new bookstore

Star Tribune -  March 30, 2012 

Photo: Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune

When Garrison Keillor opened Common Good Books in 2006 in the Blair Arcade on St. Paul's Cathedral Hill, "I just kind of opened it, and walked away," he said Thursday. "But this --" he looked around at the shiny tin ceiling, sunny windows and clean cream walls of the store's new location at 38 S. Snelling Av. "This is a place you could stay at for a long time. I don't know where I'll hang out -- I'll need a desk."
But he promised he'd be more of a presence in the new store. "I need to learn to work the cash register," he mused. "It can't be that hard, can it?"
Keillor took members of the media on a tour of the still-empty store on Thursday, which was also the last day of business for the Blair Arcade location. The "soft" opening of the Snelling Avenue location will be April 9, followed by a festive three-day grand opening in May.
On May 1, Keillor will host a poetry reading at Macalester's Weyerhaeuser Chapel with members of the public choosing poems to read aloud. On May 2, Keillor, Tim Russell and Sue Scott will do a dramatic reading from Keillor's new book, "Guy Noir and the Straight Skinny," in the empty space next door to the bookstore. And on May 3, Keillor will invite members of the public to tell stories at the bookstore. All events begin at 7 p.m.

Winnie-the-Pooh: From Acton to Hundred Acre Wood

On the unveiling of a new plaque to mark Winnie-the-Pooh’s birthplace, Anoosh Chakelian examines the unlikely story of the bear’s origins.

Rare Winnie the Pooh memorabilia
Rare Winnie the Pooh memorabilia Photo: Rii Schroer
A rags-to-riches story worthy of Alan Sugar was revealed earlier this month at the unveiling of a plaque to mark the place of Winnie-the-Pooh’s creation in a building tucked away in Acton, West London.
The Farnell factory, which manufactured Britain’s first teddy bears, was Pooh's unlikely birthplace. Since the factory has since been demolished the plaque has been placed on The Elms, a Georgian house owned by the Farnell family.
The bear was one of a batch produced in 1921 and sent from silk merchant John Kirby Farnell’s factory to Harrods, where Daphne Milne, Christopher Robin’s mother, bought him for her son’s first birthday present.
Pooh spent the rest of his days flitting between the Milnes’ London home and Cotchford Farm in Hartfield, an area in East Sussex that inspired AA Milne’s Enchanted Place, Hundred Acre Wood, the House at Pooh Corner, and Pooh’s other favourite haunts.
Shirley Harrison, who last year wrote a biography of the original toy, The Life and Times of the Real Winnie-the-Pooh, and has lived in Hartfield, has been campaigning for a plaque to be placed somewhere in Pooh’s suburban homeland for years.

The Expo Files - Stieg Larsson

by Stieg Larsson
This is a truly valuable piece in the jigsaw puzzle that was the life of the late author of The Millennium Trilogy. With a series of lacerating and carefully researched articles well represented in The Expo Files, Larsson was a particularly vocal and unflinching exponent of his views, and it was inevitable that he would soon put himself in the firing line for a series of death threats. This was to affect his mode of living for the rest of his short life. This collection is a fascinating adjunct to Larsson’s fictional universe – and a keen insight into the issues that motivated him. 

Launch of Barefoot World Atlas app


Last autumn Colman Getty publicised the opening of the first Barefoot Books lifestyle studio in Oxford, alongside the publication of a beautiful World Atlas written by Coast presenter Nick Crane and illustrated by David Dean. Following a BBC Breakfast appearance and glowing reviews, the atlas is already in its fourth edition; but there’s more to the story…
Read more

Friday, March 30, 2012

From Book to...Blog? Inspiration for the Aspiring Nonfiction Author

Publishing Perspectives

David Krall wanted to write a book about the Brooklyn Dodgers, but had no platform. Defying conventional publishing wisdom, he wrote it anyway. Here's how.

Conventional wisdom says that first you build a platform and then you write a book. But what if you want to do it the other way around? Is one way best?
The 2012 Sheikh Zayed's Book Awards, worth AED 750,000 each, were handed out to the seven winners earlier this week; UNESCO won AED 1m for sustaining culture.  Read more »

The Creative Hub: Write on the Waterfront

The Creative Hub provides a variety of writing courses, taught by some of New Zealand's leading writers and teachers of writing. Located on Auckland's beautiful Princes Wharf, we offer a stunning location in which to have fun and learn new skills. We aspire to the highest standards of excellence, and offer a supportive environment for you to explore your creativity. 

New courses for 2012:
Introduction to Creative Writing, starts 30 April, 6pm to 8pm, 8 weeks

This course is intended to introduce you to some of the basic skills and techniques that can make writing so enjoyable. You might already keep a journal, or have written some poetry or short stories, but would like to find out about some of the tools professional writers use to make their work publishable. If so, then this is the course for you. Tutored by John Cranna.

Children's & Young Adult Fiction Writing Course, starts 26 April, 6pm to 8pm, 8 weeks
Writing for children is all about writing in a simple, fresh, vivid style. You will use techniques to feed your imagination, increase your creative powers and help you find original ideas for stories. Participants will be able to choose which topics they would most like to cover in-depth during the course. Taught by Janice Marriott, this course will offer insights, knowledge and opportunities for those who are absolute beginners to the pleasures of writing fiction, and also to those who have already written some stories, poems or even novels for children but have not managed to achieve publication.

Easter Fiction School Course, starts 7 April, 10am to 4pm, 3 days
Immerse yourself in this stimulating 3-day course of fiction writing, a repeat of our highly successful Summer Fiction School. You will learn how to transform your life stories into fiction, and hear about fiction techniques such as choosing the right point of view, when to use 'show not tell', writing great dialogue, and the magic of narrative voice. What is the Hero's Journey? How do you write engaging scenes? And what is the best way to end a story? We offer a fun and supportive group environment in which you can explore your writing ideas and create new stories. You may have written some stories or be writing a novel, or you might simply want to learn how to start. This is an inspiring introduction into the world of writing fiction, tutored by Creative Hub Director John Cranna.

Visit our website for more information or email us at

The Arts on Sunday 1 April 2012 - Radio New Zealand National

Curator and artist Susan Wilson who's become an authority on the works of British painter Lucian Freud.
 Christchurch Art Gallery update: With earthquake damage worse than first, gallery staff are thinking laterally, and this weekend sees the beginning of the Rolling Maul Exhibition. 
Director Jenny Harper (left) gives us an update.
 At The Movies: Young Dev Patel acquits himself well against seven of Britain's top actors in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
 The life and times of Auckland visual arts critic, T J McNamara, who's been reviewing for The Herald for 46 years.
 Devised theatre has a long-standing tradition in Europe and in layman's terms it's a way of telling stories in the theatre without the confines of working with an established script. Sonia Sly meets with Christian Penny, director of Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School; Tom McCrory, senior movement tutor (Toi Whakaari )and cofounder of Pacific Island theatre Company The Conch; and Bert Van Dijk, author of Devised Theatre: a practical guide to the devising process, to discuss the importance of devising, the problems of creation, and the need for surprise and accessibility within the theatre.
The Laugh Track: Scott Blanks previews some of the Comedy Festival's headliners.

Operatunity: The country's busiest touring company has helped many aspiring young singers to find an audience and a singing career and it's celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Pic above - Operatunity's Geoffrey Hughes, Susan Boland and John Cameron.
Penguin Book Reviewer's Club: We find out about a pilot programme a publisher is trialling in Auckland, trying to encourage young people to review the books they read.
Visiting North American poet Rachel Blau Du Plessis who's on the verge of completing an epic poem she's been writing since 1986.
Listener's Pick: A movie adapted for the big screen by a playwright who adapted it from an LP Hartley novel - The Go-Between.
Henry the Sixth as a Balkan war trilogy: A short item from the BBC about the most controversial entry into the Shakespeare Festival Globe to Globe.
The Sunday Drama: Wrecks by Damien Wilkins - An Italian immigrant family's beliefs take a beating when their boat is wrecked in a storm.

For more information and images visit the Arts on Sunday web page:

Saturday Morning with Kim Hill: 31 March 2012

8:15 Daniel Hamermesh: beauty pays
8:30 Damon Salesa: Pacific solutions
9:05 Greg McGee: love and money
9:45 Art with Mary Kisler: Vincent van Gogh
10:05 Lucinda Williams: songs and relationships
11:05 Sally Kabak: grandparent caregivers
11:40 Margo Lanagan: selkies

8:15 Daniel Hamermesh
Daniel S. Hamermesh is a Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Texas at Austin. He is a Fellow of the Econometric Society, a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and was President of the Society of Labor Economists in 2000-01. He  is the author of numerous articles and books, most recently Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful (Princeton University Press, ISBN 978-0-6911-4046-9 ).
8:30 Damon Salesa
Professor Toeolesulusulu Damon Salesa graduated from the University of Oxford with a Doctor of Philosophy in modern history, the first Rhodes Scholar of Pacific descent He has spent the last ten years at the University of Michigan, and returned to New Zealand as Associate Professor at the University of Auckland's Centre for Pacific Studies. Professor Salesa is a keynote speaker at the Growing Pacific Solutions for Our Families conference in early April, focusing on mental health, addiction and disability issues for Pacific peoples.
9:05 Greg McGee
Auckland writer Greg McGee is best known for his plays, particularly Foreskin's Lament, and has also scripted film and television drama. His book Love and Money (Penguin, ISBN 978-0-14-356740-0) is his third novel, but the first under his own name. Greg will be a guest at the 2012 Auckland Writers and Readers Festival (9-13 May).
9:45 Art with Mary Kisler
Mary Kisler is the Senior Curator, Mackelvie Collection, International Art, at the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki. She will discuss the life and work of Vincent van Gogh, including two paintings in the Degas to Dali exhibition, which features masters from the National Galleries of Scotland, currently exhibiting at the Auckland Art Gallery (to 10 June). Images under discussion are available for view in the Art on Saturday Morning gallery on our web page.
10:05 Lucinda Williams
Lucinda Williams is a Grammy Award-winning singer songwriter who has been mixing rock, blues, folk and country music in her music since her debut recording in 1979 through to last year's album, Blessed. She visits New Zealand next month for concerts in Auckland (Town Hall, 10 April) and Wellington (St James, 11 April).
11:05 Sally Kabak
Sally Kabak and her husband are caregivers to their granddaughter. Based on her experience, Sally has written a book, Grandchildren: Our Hopes and Dreams - A Modern and Practical Guide to Raising Grandchildren (Xlibris, ISBN 978-1-4653-9866-6).
11:40 Margo Lanagan
Margo Lanagan is an Australian writer of short stories and young adult fiction. Her latest book, Sea Hearts (Allen & Unwin, ISBN 978-1-7423-7505-2), has the legend of the selkie as its background (and has been retitled The Brides of Rollrock Island outside of Australia and New Zealand).
Saturday Morning repeats
 On Saturday 31 March 2012 during Great Encounters between 6:06pm and 7:00pm on Radio New Zealand National, you can hear a repeat broadcast of Kim Hill's interview from 24 March with Irish writer Roddy Doyle.
Preview: Saturday 7 April
Kim's guests will include Greg O'Brien, Joyce Alberts, and Sonny Tilders.

Producer: Mark Cubey
Wellington engineer: Damon Taylor
Auckland engineer: Ian Gordon

More information follows on Saturday's guests, repeats of previous interviews, next week's programme, and this email list. As this is live radio, guests and times may change on the day.

Médecins Sans Frontières – Book Launch and Panel Discussion


Here in Wellington we are lucky to have Fabrice Weissman, Director of the Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders) Foundation in Paris, here to launch a book, of which he is one of the editors – ‘Humanitarian negotiations Revealed: The MSF Experience’.
After the launch there will be a panel discussion about the book’s content that promises to be fascinating. The book, through case studies, shows the practical reality of running an international humanitarian organisation in communities and states that often have a deep resistance to the core principles and goals of Médecins Sans Frontières. The studies reveal the compromises and negotiations that MSF has had to make, political deals they’ve had to strike, and the consequent evolution of MSF’s humanitarian goals and what compromise in the face of them means to those people they are trying to reach.
This is far from a work of PR for Médecins Sans Frontières, instead it is an honest and critical appraisal of decisions made and actions taken. Fabrice Weissman, so intimately involved in the field and as a Director of the organisation, will provide a stunning level of access into this realm of international aid and ‘humanitarian space’.
Plus, delicious refreshments will be available.

The event is being held on Monday April 2, 2012, from 5.30 – 7.00 pm at The Grand Hall, Old Parliament Building, 32 Molesworth St. Wellington. You will need to RSVP to (with ‘MSF’ in the subject line).

Guest Post — A Non-Believer’s Guide to the Uses of Alain de Botton

Just another Crikey site

 by Bethanie Blanchard - Crikey Weekender

Guest Post by Julian Novitz
Alain de Botton would like us to be happier. By ‘us’ I mean people like him, and me, and probably you as well (though I realise that’s a pretty big assumption to make in the second sentence of this review): readers who approach life with the gentle, possibly naïve hope that books, art, architecture and other nice things might somehow make it better. Alongside pleasure and enjoyment, it’s often tempting to assume that great literature, visiting art galleries, or engaging with profound thought and beauty will have some kind of lasting beneficial effect on us, though we’re often vague as to what that might be. De Botton’s novelty as a popular thinker is that he is constantly preoccupied with tackling this question. Rather than taking the value of these activities as preordained, he wants to understand and explain their utility. What is it about them that will improve our outlook and attitudes? How can they make us happy?
With this question in mind, de Botton has already demonstrated How Proust Can Change Your Life, offered us The Consolations of Philosophy, laid out The Architecture of Happiness, and delivered other works that examine the causes of unhappiness and offer ideas as to how they might be addressed. At his core, de Botton is a very good self-help writer, perhaps the best. He is witty, eloquent, erudite and occasionally moving. He aims not just to make literature and philosophy accessible to his audience, but to also demonstrate how they are useful, encouraging his readers to develop deeper insights into their own lives through engagements with art and architecture, writers and thinkers. However, while de Botton’s almost constant focus on practical utility is fundamentally well intentioned it is also limited, and this becomes problematically apparent in his latest book Religion for Atheists.
The subtitle of Religion for Atheists gives us a clear indication that de Botton is applying a very similar approach in his investigation of religion. The book is ‘a non-believer’s guide to the uses of religion’ and de Botton’s contention is that even if they dismiss the ‘supernatural’ components of religious belief as false, atheists can still benefit from engaging with certain carefully selected elements of religious thought and practice. Doing so will help them to build a stronger sense of community, manage their relationships, overcome negative feelings, and gain a healthier perspective on their lives. De Botton sets out to demonstrate, firstly, that atheist thought towards religion has been constricted by its tendency to focus on the veracity of religious beliefs or the destructive effects of dogma (an approach perhaps best exemplified in recent years by works like Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion and Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great) and, secondly, that elements of religious practice can be used as models for secular rituals, customs and institutions that may satisfy unfulfilled needs in the lives of atheists. De Botton largely succeeds with this first goal, but is generally less convincing when it comes to the second, to the detriment of the book as a whole.
Full piece at Crikey Weekender.