Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ten recommended books for writers... Eleven if you count mine...

Thanks to the researchers at Online College Courses for these suggestions, extracted from their post: 
"50 Books That Will Make You a Better Writer."

Notable Writers (41 thru 50 on their list)
  1. On Writing by Stephen King: The wildly popular horror master writes his autobiography with heavy emphasis on how literature and his struggles with substance abuse came to shape his career and personhood — for good and for ill.
  2. Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury: Ray Bradbury’s excellent essay series hemorrhages joy over the writerly arts, and he sincerely hoped they would come to inspire later generations to pick up their pens and express themselves.
  3. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou: Although I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings involves former Poet Laureate Maya Angelou’s memoirs rather than a reflection of her illustrious literary career, it does serve as an intimate, first-person glimpse at one way a writer’s soul might form.
  4. The Believer Book of Writers Talking to Writers edited by Vendela Vida: Everything readers want to know about this book can be found right there in the title. The Believer Book of Writers Talking to Writers comes packed with candid literary discussions by the illustrious likes of Haruki Murakami, Marjane Satrapi, Zadie Smith, Jonathan Lethem, Tom Stoppard, Paul Auster, Dave Eggers and plenty more.
  5. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway: Writers in search of a little inspiration might want to follow some (but certainly not all) of Hemingway’s actions. Surrounding himself with a new environment, new experiences and some of the most creative people in the world at the time (Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, James Joyce, F. Scott Fitzgerald and a whole host of others) opened himself to ideas that came to impact his legendary oeuvre.
  6. The Writing Life by Annie Dillard: Anyone dismissing writing as an easy art would do well to pick up The Tinker at Pilgrim Creek author’s memoir. Here, she openly discusses the agony and the ecstasy of literary inspiration and perspiration.
  7. Aspects of the Novel by E.M. Forster: Despite being published in 1972, this series of Cambridge University lectures by celebrated English author E.M. Forster drops some incredibly timeless, even fresh, advice bombs.
  8. The Art of the Novel by Milan Kundera: The Art of the Novel serves as both a work of literary criticism and analysis and a self-reflective career memoir.
  9. On Becoming a Novelist by John Gardner: Writing and other creative pursuits offer up solace for anxieties big and small, an overwhelming, evocative and bittersweet sensation John Gardner relates with deep thought and emotion.
  10. The King’s English by Kingsley Amis: Fans of rollicking semantics debates will enjoy this fun read by a British author who finds himself enchanted by American English.
Oh yes, and my book, which did not make this distinguished list:
Release Your Writing: Book Publishing, Your Way

    Thursday, May 19, 2011

    IndieReader now promoting self-published bestsellers.

    Use it as a way to size up the competition, and look up some of the authors to see how they have been marketing to reach best-seller status. Also note, although we always say non-fiction sells best when self-published, the top seller is fiction:

    "Writer John Locke claims the #1 spot on this week’s list with his novel Saving Vegas. Here’s more from the site: “Three of the books on the List were written by the same author, John Locke.  Locke’s book, Saving Rachel, was the first Indie book in history to hit #1 on Amazon/Kindle. In total, he has sold more than 875,000 downloads since January.”

    Helen Gallagher

    Saturday, May 14, 2011

    Who do you write like?

    Thanks to Brenda at Off-Campus Writers Workshop for suggesting this site. You paste in a couple paragraphs of your writing and the software compares your writing to a famous author. It's fun - give it a try at I Write Like.

    See link at right, which you can also paste into your blog.

    Have fun with this!

    Tuesday, May 10, 2011

    Guest post: Penny Colman on organizing her new non-fiction release

    Penny Colman is author of the new book released today, May 20, 2011, published by Henry Holt and Co.

    Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: A Friendship That Changed the World

    I asked Penny to share her thoughts with Release Your Writing blog readers on how she managed to structure this complex story. Penny's response...

    I’ve had the feeling before upon signing a book contract, but with this book—Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: A Friendship That Changed the World—it was particularly intense.  What feeling, you ask?  Panic in concert with the words echoing in my brain:  “And what have I gotten myself into this time!?” 

    Sure, I had tackled big topics before, including a history of burial, the true story of Thanksgiving, a collective biography of eight historic women with widely varying amounts of source material, and the story of Rosie the Riveter. But this book was to be a joint biography that spanned more than ninety years through the lens of a legendary friendship between two very different women that lasted fifty-one years and was at the center of a momentous social movement that is typically trivialized.

    In May 1851 when they met, Elizabeth was thirty-five years old and Susan was thirty-one years old.  

    Of course, I could have started the book at that point, but I was curious about the differences and similarities in how they grew up.  That curiosity certainly ratcheted up my writerly anxieties about how to structure the telling of these separate stories. I spent weeks working through this decision. 

    1. I taped long sheets of paper on a wall and made parallel timelines from their births to their first meeting.  
    2. I used Post-it Notes so that I could easily add or remove items, as I tried to discern a structure.  
    3. Then, one day, I saw it--four time periods that encompassed significant events in both their lives: 1815-1832; 1833-1839; 1840-1847; 1848-1850.  Eureka! 

    With that insight I was able to organize their early years into eight alternating chapters that focused on one and then the other. Here are the title and subtitle of the first two chapters in Part I: 

    “Ah, You Should Have Been a Boy!”
     ELIZABETH CADY: 1815-1832
    "An Affectionate Family” SUSAN B. ANTHONY: 1820-1832

    Part II covers the years from their meeting through the Civil War. The story of what Elizabeth called the “dark hour of woman’s struggle” appears in Part III. Their final years, in which they go from ridicule to reverence, ostracism to embrace, are examined in Part IV. 

    With my structure in place, I set off to write a book that brought Elizabeth and Susan to life for me, and, of course, I hope for everyone who reads Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: A Friendship That Changed the World.


    Thursday, May 5, 2011

    Al Gore's newest ebook

    After delightful presentations to Off-Campus Writer's Workshop and several area libraries in the past month, I'm delighted to direct your attention to David Pogue's column in the New York Times on Al Gore's gorgeous ebook, "Our Choice."

    Here is Pogue's blog post:

    Pogue writes:
    It’s laid out like a book, with 400 photos, illustrations and charts. It works best on the iPad, of course, but the miniature versions on the iPhone/Touch work surprisingly well, too. In both cases, you can zoom out to see scrolling page miniatures at the bottom of the screen for easy jumping around.

    In both apps, the real magic is all the visual elements. You can expand every photo and graphic to fill the whole screen; they look spectacular. At this point, you can interact with them. You can tap the corner of any photo, for example, to see where on the planet it was taken. You can press your finger on a bar of a chart to “explode” it into smaller bars, showing the component data underlying the primary bar. (For example, one bar chart shows the six gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect. Hold your finger on a bar to see it split into smaller bars, showing where those gases come from: transportation, buildings and so on.)

    Some of the illustrations become narrated animations. Some turn out to be movies (there’s a total of an hour of video), most narrated by Mr. Gore."

    This is likely the future of books!


    Tuesday, May 3, 2011

    What came before the internet, ebooks, and tablet computers?

    While ebooks have been around for a long time, it's only the launch of the iPhone and iPad plus ebook readers like Kindle, Nook and Sony that have created the market that now spends about $90 million per month on ebooks. ( "For the first two months of 2011, e-book sales were up 169.4%, to $164.1 million, equalling the sales of trade paperbacks for the two-month period; trade paperback sales were down 22.5% for the two months at the 19 reporting publishers." [source].

    But what came before? Today's guest post from Online Colleges takes us back to the original 'technologies' used in the act of reading: From the stylus to moveable type - enjoy this compendium of literature's long history. Who could predict it would end up in a multi-billion dollar digitial industry?

    Read full story here:

    Guest Post by Online Colleges