Sunday, February 28, 2010

Publishing Revolution: Historical Fiction Evolves In Digital Age

From The Huffington Post, this article by Robin Maxwell, Publishing Revolution: Historical Fiction Evolves In Digital Age. An excerpt:

It recently occurred to me that, as an author who's been writing since 1997 (The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn), I'm living through the most mind-boggling upheaval in the publishing industry since Gutenberg's printing press. I've gone from the ponderous national "on the ground" book tour to a virtual book tour; from newspaper features to a Facebook fan page; from an author photo in a press kit to an author video on YouTube; from print advertising to an iPhone app. My titles are not just in print in 14 languages, but are audio books and e-books. Most gratifyingly, I've seen the end of isolation from and competition with other authors, to the new, delightful "one hand washes the other" school of cooperation.

Click here to read the whole article.

2009 Nebula Awards Finalists

From SF Signal, The 2009 Nebula Awards Finalists. Some of them are linked to the full texts of the stories. In addition, here are The Nebula Awards Winners by year.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

News On The Philippine Graphic Literary Section

I had heard some weeks ago that The Philippine Graphic's literary section was closing, but here's the public announcement from an editor of the publication, Alma Anonas-Carpio, clarifying matters:
Many rumors have flown throughout the local literary circles that the Philippines Graphic Literary Editor, Marra PL Lanot no longer holds that position with the magazine and that the publication's literary section has been discontinued.

The first part, about Marra no longer being Graphic's literary editor, is true. The magazine's managing editor, Joel Pablo Salud and I, the Graphic's associate editor, were informed by management about the discontinuation of Marra's tenure as literary editor after the decision was implemented.

We were also told to fill the gap Marra's absence would leave and, so it came to be that Mr. Salud wound up in charge of reading and selecting the short fiction pieces that would see print each week and I was given charge over the poetry submissions. We do this additional work without additional pay because we believe strongly in keeping Graphic's literary section alive. The Graphic would simply not be the magazine we love without its short stories and poetry.

The Graphic's literary section lives on, albeit without Marra's guiding hand. The magazine still publishes poetry and short fiction in English every week and those who want to see if their pieces make the cut may email us at litgraphic(at)gmail(dot)com.

Let us put these rumors to rest, once and for all, and spread the word that the Philippines Graphic will continue to publish short fiction and poetry, as is the tradition the magazine has set for Philippine Letters. We will welcome authors young and old, experienced and new. We look forward to reading and publishing the works that pass the meticulous standards set by Marra and by Nick Joaquin.

Let the words continue to flow. Send them to us.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Still On Writing Rules

A PGS reader sent in links still related to the writing rules blogged about here and here. These links are 10 Rules For Writing Fiction from This Machine Kills Purists, via the rules from the m john harrison blog. The #1 rule for writing fiction? "In 99.9% of cases, don't."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Baguio Travel Writing Workshop

From my email inbox:

with Kristine Fonacier

Lecture : March 23, 2010, 6:00p.m. to 9:00p.m.
Tour : March 26, 27, and 28, 2010
Workshop : March 30, 2010, 6:00p.m. to 9:00p.m.

Take a trip to the north! See Baguio in a different light. The Baguio Travel Writing Workshop will provide basic instructions on travel writing and some tips on improving your writing style while enjoying the food, art, and natural landscape of this City of Pines.

Only a limited number of slots are available. Registration fee is P 9,000.00 inclusive of transportation, accommodation, meals, materials, and certificate. Deadline of reservation is March 22, 2010. A 5 percent discount will be given to those who will pay in full or before March 17, 2010.

For more details, please call 892-18-01 loc. 27, send an SMS to 0917-5612413, email or visit Contact person : Joy de Asis

Filipinas Heritage Library
Makati Avenue, Ayala Triangle, Makati City

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Rules About Rules About Writing (Or Why Mush Will Never Triumph)

A PGS blog reader shared this link via email, Rules About Rules About Writing (Or Why Mush Will Never Triumph), from The New Yorker. It answers the rules for writing fiction shared by many authors which I blogged about here.

Ten Rules For Writing Fiction

(Of course, I say "Sorry...", then not three hours later blog again with this entry. I couldn't help it, but really, a lot of things need attending to right now, so I'll make this post and retreat again, for a while. Be back when I can).

From The Guardian, Ten Rules For Writing Fiction (part 1, part 2), with authors like Michael Moorcock, Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, Roddy Doyle, Joyce Carol Oates, and others sharing advice on the craft.


...for the lack of recent posts. Lots of stuff need attention right now. Will get back up to speed as soon as possible. Thanks!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Update: The 3rd Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards

I blogged here about The 3rd Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards and how Neil Gaiman is coming to Manila this March for it. Well, sponsor Fully Booked has put up the short lists for Prose, Short Film, and Graphic Novel for all of us to read or watch, and to vote for our favourites in their People's Choice Awards.

I am happy for four PGS contributors--Elyss Punsalan, Dean Alfar, Dominique Cimafranca, and Michael Co--who have made the short list for prose. I've been trying to, but I can't hide it anymore now that the list is out. I have to admit that I also made the short list with my story, "Cherry Clubbing". Well, if you like my story enough, please vote for it, but do read all the stories in the short list and make your honest choice. :D

Congratulations to all who have made the different short lists, and see you at the Rockwell Tent on March 17, 2010!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Pig Wants Love Again This Year Of The Tiger

I just got off the phone with PGS contributor Vin Simbulan. I called him up to scold him for spending so much time playing Facebook games instead of reading and writing. The guy now foregoes sleep to play Farmville, Pet Society, etc. In fact, I'm tempted to call out a few other writer-friends about the same thing. I've written privately to one, who simply emailed back, "Che!". And Vin? He just laughed at me, the dork.

And since we're just freshly into the Year of the Tiger, Vin, who is a pig (that is, was born in the year of the pig, but I leave it to you if you want to read it any other way) asked me for his Chinese horoscope, as if I was some geomancer, which I'm not. Two years ago I had this conversation with him about his prospects, and his horoscope said he had to carry a Jade Pixiu around with him for good luck, and that if he did so, he was guaranteed true love. Well, he bought a Jade Pixiu not long after we spoke, and here we are two years later, and he still doesn't have a regular shagging partner, so that shows you what a load of hoo-hah he went through just to get laid.

In any case, one site says that this will be an average year for the pig, that there may be some unexpected wealth opportunities, but he must not be emotional or he will get hurt in relationship issues. Another site says that the pig must be prudent with spending due to financial pressures, and must be wary of being too trusting; it is also an opportune time to show interest in spirituality.

Spirituality? Vin, I recommend bikram yoga. It might help you physically also.

I don't know about you, but I sometimes have the feeling that they mix and match sentences for the forecasts of the different animals every year, but it seems like Vin buys all of it. He's really after true love. If anyone out there would like to set him up with another horny lonely soul, the pig is compatible with the rabbit and the ram, but is incompatible with the snake and the monkey.

Vin, stop with the Facebook games already! You'll have a better chance at finding true love if you step away from the games!

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Real Cold Case...From The 16th Century

Can you imagine unraveling a murder-mystery hundreds and hundreds of years old? Some sleuths in Italy are trying to do just that. An excerpt from the article:

The investigation in Carini -- a small town near Palermo -- centers on the castle where Baroness Laura Lanza was killed in 1563 with her lover Ludovico Vernagallo when they were caught in bed together.

"Justice wasn't done back then," said Gaetano La Fata, Mayor of Carini, who has decided to reopen the case and exhume the remains of the lovers.

"We hope that DNA tests and criminal profiling will help us discover the motive behind the crime and establish whether there was more than one assassin," he told Reuters.

The Baroness's father Cesare confessed to the honor killing in a letter to the king, which is currently archived in the Chiesa Madre church in Carini.

"Legend has it, however, that Cesare Lanza did not act alone, but was helped by his son-in-law, Don Vincenzo La Grua," said the Mayor.

Rumours passed down through generations of Sicilians have it that the husband was motivated by plans to marry again. La Grua may also have feared his rival, Vernagallo, would attempt to claim financial rights for fathering children with his wife.

In reopening the 'cold case', La Fata has asked the local police to work together with the ICAA (International Crime Analysis Association) headed by Marco Strano, psychologist and criminologist for the Italian State Police.

"The idea for the investigation began as a joke," Strano told Reuters. "I visited Carini in June and when I met La Fata I teased him for not having resolved the murder yet, so he challenged me to solve it."

Really interesting investigative stuff. Click here to read the whole article.

Monster Crab

Remember the true-to-life creature I blogged about here? It was an alien squid. Now, be prepared for a monster crab. The news article excerpt:

With its enormous legs and lethal claws, this monster of the deep is already the biggest crab ever seen in Britain.

But astonishingly, the arthropod - which measures a staggering 10ft from claw to claw - is still growing, and could live until it is 100.

Nicknamed 'Crabzilla' after the fictional giant monster, the Japanese Spider Crab has a body the size of a basketball and its legs can straddle a car. They will eventually measure a massive 15ft.

Click here to see a photo of the crab.

The 2010 Salanga Prize For Children's Poetry

PGS contributor Raymond Falgui has won the 2010 Salanga Prize for Children's Poetry, according to this blog entry by School Librarian In Action. Congratulations!

Demons Of The New Year: Horror From The Philippines

PGS contributor Joseph Nacino and co-editor Karl de Mesa have announced Estranghero Press's Table Of Contents for their online anthology, Demons Of The New Year: Horror From The Philippines. Congratulations to all the contributors, especially to PGS contributor Dominique Cimafranca, whose story "People's Champ" (English version) is in the list.

Filipino Scares

PGS contributor and guest-editor Yvette Tan blogs about tumblr site Filipino Scares. The blurb:

this is my blog of stories, all set in the wonderfully scary setting of the philippines.

occasionally, i will also post photos, videos, and links of other scary things set in the philippines that isn't written by me.

The Taboan Writers Conference

Village Idiot Savant has been reporting on the Taboan Writers Conference down south. You can read about it and see photos on his blog entries: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

Call for Submission of Manuscripts to the 49th Silliman University National Writers Workshop

As seen on The Spy In The Sandwich: Call For Submission of Manuscripts to the 49th Silliman University National Writers Workshop.

The Silliman University National Writers Workshop is now accepting applications for the 49th National Writers Workshop to be held 3-21 May 2010 in Dumaguete City.

This Writers Workshop is offering fifteen fellowships to promising young writers who would like a chance to hone their craft and refine their style. Fellows will be provided housing, a modest stipend, and a subsidy to partially defray costs of their transportation.

Click here for more details.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Officially Philippines 2010 Writing Contest

Officially Philippines is sponsoring a writing contest this 2010. The grand prize is P15,000 and one Sony PSP. There are three other categories with P5,000 cash prizes each.

The best ambassadors for Philippine tourism are those who have seen, lived and experienced it themselves. We invite you to share your photos and/or put pen to paper for our " Photo and Writing Contest".

The power of the visual arts and of the written word has often been used to promote nationalism and national fervor. Through this contest, let us change the way the world sees us and show them who we really are - a country of rich ecological treasures, colorful history, and happy people.

Help us tell the rest of the world about the beauty and excitement of the Philippines. Your entry may just be the reason someone decides to come visit and see our country.

Click here for the full rules and regulations.

They also have a photo contest, in case there are any photographers out there who are reading this entry. :)

Basic Creative Writing Workshop

From my email inbox:

Basic Creative Writing: A Beginner's Course With Conchitina Cruz
Learn the basic skills and techniques in writing creatively with this writing course for beginners. Let Palanca awardee and creative writing professor Conchitina Cruz guide you in tapping your intuition as well as your senses for inspiration, and developing the skills and techniques in creative writing.

February 24, March 3, 10, 18, and 23, 2010
6:00pm to 9:00pm
Workshop Fee is P5,500
Deadline for reservation is February 22, 2010

For more details, please call 892-18-01 local 27, send an SMS to 0917-5612413,
Email deasis(dot)ms(at) or visit

Contact person: Joy de Asis

Filipinas Heritage Library
Makati Avenue, Ayala Triangle, Makati City

Moon Milk Review

I would like to plug Rae Bryant's new ezine, Moon Milk Review.

Moon Milk Review takes its title from Italo Calvino’s short story, “The Distance of the Moon.” Our aesthetic veers toward the same ”otherlands” or “slipstream” in literary style, including an appreciation for magical realist, experimental, metarealist and realist works with an interesting spin.

Currently, MMR runs monthly issues of free fiction and a multi-media gallery with artwork and music. We are planning an annual anthology that will feature new fiction and a few pieces chosen from that year’s monthlies as well as artwork. More information soon to come.

When you want a quick, on the slip, culture fix, stop by Moon Milk Review, where you can always find free fiction, artwork and music, all in one place.

Rae Bryant
Editor in Chief

Click here to check it out!

The 3rd Philippine Graphic/ Fiction (Updated)

The 3rd Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards will be held at 7 p.m. on March 17, 2010, at The Rockwell Tent, Power Plant Mall, in Makati. Details from bestselling author Neil Gaiman and sponsor Fully Booked here and here.

I know of at least one PGS contributor who made it to the short list, which makes me very happy. :D (That writer would like to not be known, for now).

If there are any more with connections to PGS who made the short list out there, let me know! :D

Update: I now know of 3 PGS contributors who have made the short list!

恭喜发财! 新年快乐!


Cong xi fa cai!

Happy Lunar New Year!

Happy Year of the Tiger!

A Candy Box Of History's Sappiest Literary Lovers

Thanks to the Twitter of Songs In The City, this appropriate Valentine's link, A Candy Box Of History's Sappiest Literary Lovers, via the blog A Journey Round My Skull. An excerpt:

Familiar figures among upper echelon literary lovelorn include Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway, Robert Louis Stevenson and Fannie Osbourne, Gerard de Nerval and Jenny Colon, to name but a few. Their stories have all the poignancy, drama, humor and pathos of popular romance. Cupid's unpredictability is never to be denied and there can be little doubt that the mischievous cherub was wearing his blindfold too tight when he shot the darts that created these legendary couples.

Click here to read about how love took some literary figures.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cellphone Novels

Hey, hey, HEY! Here's a novel idea: Cellphone Books.

Apologies to Tolstoy, but one of the biggest novelists these days is a 15-year-old in Japan who wrote a book from her cellphone using her thumbs. Really.

The new type of storytelling is called "keitai"--cellphone novels. Aimed squarely at those who can't be parted from their mobiles, teens--mostly young women readers and writers--have turned the cellphone story into the must-read phone book.

According to a story in the L.A. Times, the way it works is writers keep to a cell-screen-friendly 1000-character limit per page and upload from their phones to publishing websites, then get instant feedback on plot twists and helpful fixes on typos. With a million cellphone books and 6 million users, fans are giving the craze a ringing endorsement.


Sunday, February 07, 2010

Two Ongoing Local Writing Contests (Well, Okay, Three)

Two ongoing writing contests by The Philippine Star, first, The Star Lifestyle Journalism Contest 2010:

Our theme: My Icon, My Hero

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Star Lifestyle Section, the leader in lifestyle journalism, announces the second edition of its Lifestyle Journalism Contest, which was launched in 2006. Our contest partners are HSBC, Samsung,Stores Specialists, Inc., Debenhams and Marks & Spencer, all distinguished leaders and innovators in the lifestyle scene.

What is the contest theme? “My Icon, My Hero.” Your icon or hero may be a distinguished achiever or an unknown, unsung hero. He or she may be young or old, rich or poor. But he or she must be Filipino.

What are we looking for? Creativity, wit, style and substance. We will choose 10 winners who will be part of our roster of contributing writers.

What do you win? A total of P204,900 worth of prizes for each of the 10 winners. That’s a P50,000 writing contract from The Philippine Star, P50,000 in cash from HSBC, P50,000 in gift certificates from Specialists, Inc., Debenhams and Marks & Spencer, and a 37-inch LCD TV set from Samsung worth P54,900. HOW TO JOIN:

1. Write your article on your icon or hero in approximately 1,200 words. We accept only original, unpublished works. You may submit as many entries as you wish. But you may win only once.

2. Enclose your passport-size photo, a short biodata, with your address and contact number.

3.E-mail these to philstar_ lifestyleawards(at)yahoo(dot)com. Or send a CD with printout to The Philippine Star Lifestyle Journalism Awards 2010, The Philippine Star, Roberto Oca St. corner Railroad St., Port Area, Manila.

4. Submit your entries between February 7 and April 30, 2010. The 10 winners will be announced in June and will receive their prizes in a venue to be announced later. The winning entries will be published in The Philippine Star.

and second, My Favorite Book 2010 Contest:

MANILA, Philippines - National Book Store, The Philippine STAR and Globe are now receiving entries for 2009’s essay writing contest in the Sunday Lifestyle section.

My Favorite Book contest invites readers to write about their favorite book/s or author/s and why they have touched their lives. Books can be fiction or nonfiction. Make us laugh, make us cry, or just touch us, as your favorite books have touched you.

Submit a printout of your unpublished essay, typed, double-spaced and not more than five pages long (1,100 words) and a CD containing the word file. Write your name, age, address, contact numbers and two paragraphs of background information. Also include a print of a passport-sized photo or in jpeg format (not inserted in a document file). Mark your CD and picture as we get many entries. Writers who do not comply with these rules will not have their entries considered.

Weekly prize is P5,000 worth of gift certificates from National Book Store. The grand prizes are P50,000 for the first prize, P30,000 for second prize and P20,000 for third prize (all prizes will be distributed in 50-percent cash and 50-percent gift certificates). Five honorable mention winners will receive P10,000 each — P5,000 worth of GCs from NBS, plus P5,000 cash from The Philippine STAR. Globe will also be giving away Globe Handyphones to the eight grand-prize winners.

Anyone can join except employees of NBS, STAR and Globe and their advertising and PR agencies.

The contest runs until Dec. 26, 2010.

You can send your entries online to myfavoritebook2009(at)yahoo(dot)com; unpublished entries sent last year to myfavoritebook2008(at)yahoo(dot)com and mailed to the STAR offices may still be considered. For snail mail, send to: If My Life Were a Book Contest, Lifestyle Section, The Philippine STAR, 13th corner Railroad Sts., Port Area, Manila.

Weekly winners may claim their prizes by calling up National Book Store marketing services department at 631-8079 or 631-8061 to 66 loc. 172.

I apologize for not blogging of this second contest sooner. It seems that it's been ongoing for some years now, and I can't believe I didn't post about it sooner. In these tough economic times, the chance to win cash--and for us book lovers, gift certificates for books--is certainly not worth passing up, don't you think?

I'm glad though that I did blog about this third contest, also sponsored by The Philippine Star, Share Your Story:

Who may submit a story for publication?

All Filipinos age 18 and above residing here or abroad and foreign nationals age 18 and above currently living in the Philippines are eligible to submit a story for publication to Exceptions are employees of The STAR Group of Publication and Moneygram and all their relatives up to the second degree of consanguinity and affinity.

What type of stories may be sent?

Stories submitted for publication must be 500-1,000 words, in essay format. It must be an insightful take on an authentic experience of:

a) Flilipino who is living abroad or who has lived abroad in the past.

b) A Filipino with a relative or close friends abroad

c) Foreign national currently living in the Philippines.

The essay must be original, not previously published in print or online, typed in a letter-sized bond paper with one-inch margins on all sides, using Verdana font, 12 points.

How should the stories be sent?

Via traditional mail or courier service

The typewritten copy must be submitted in three copies, accompanied by:

1. A soft copy in word format (in a diskette or CD)

2. An accomplished entry form.

3. A photocopy of the valid ID and addressed to:


Online Editor

2nd Floor – Internet Department

The Philippine STAR Building

13th corner Railroad St. Port Area, Manila

Via email:

The story must be sent as an attachment in word format to: philstareditorial(at)gmail(dot)com, accompanied by:

1. A scanned signed copy of the entry form (Download here)

2. A scanned photocopy of a valid ID (Click here for complete list of valid IDs)

All story contributions with incomplete requirements will not be entertained.

Criteria for Publication

1. An essay submitted for publication will be read by designated Editors who will decide if it is worthy of publication based on the following criteria:

a) Good grasp of the English language. The essay must be written in standard American English. Any piecewith serious grammatical, spelling and punctuation errors will be automatically disqualified for publication.

b) Content and substance. The essay must be an insightful take on an authentic Filipino experience (or for the foreign division, an experience living in the Philippines and among Filipinos).

c) Writing style, composition and organization

How many stories will be published? will publish a maximum of 3 new essays in the website every week from December 1, 2009 to December 31, 2010. reserves the right to publish only stories that it deems worthy of publication.

How would you know if your contribution is received and chosen for publication? canonly confirm receipt of contributions submitted via email but no follow-ups will be entertained via phone or email. Contributorsmust monitor the Philstar website if their stories are published.

If your story is chosen for publication, you will be notified by staff on the day of the publication of the essay.

Contributors fee and other prizes

1. Each published essay will receive P2,000 as contributors fee, which will be sent to the author through Moneygram. The email notification to be sent to the author will contain all the information needed on how to collect the fee. (Click here for more information)

2. The contributor’s fee will be sent by to the writers through Moneygram at the end of each month.

3. At the end of the year, the three best stories in each category will be chosen by a board of judges formed by Winners in each category will receive P15,000 for the first prize, P10,000 for second prize, and P5,000 for third prize.

5. All authors whose stories were published in from Dec. 1, 2009 to Dec. 31, 2010 (plus one guest) will be invited to attend the awarding ceremony at a venue still to be decided by

6. reserves the right not to award a prize in a category where the entries do not meet the standards of the board of judges.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Writing Online -- An Advanced Course

From my email inbox:

Writing Online -- An Advanced Course. By Luis Joaquin Katigbak.
February 15
, 2010 - 6:00pm to 9:00pm

February 23
, 2010 - 6:00pm to 9:00pm

After covering the basics of writing for the web, Palanca Award winner Luis Katigbak guides workshop participants in applying their skills in producing actual web pages and getting their message across target readers.

Palanca Award winner Luis Joaquin M. Katigbak is Editor-at-Large for UNO Magazine and a Contributing Editor for Imagine Magazine. He writes a weekly column, "Luis Listens," for the Manila Bulletin. His two books, The King of Nothing to do, a collection of essays, and Happy Endings, a collection of short stories, were both nominated for National Book Awards by the Manila Critics Circle. Mr. Katigbak has worked as a Senior Web Editor at Smart Communications and as the Editor-in-Chief of, an online music magazine.

Workshop fee is P2,000.00 inclusive of handouts, materials, snacks, and certificate. A down payment of P1,000 is required to reserve a slot. The deadline for reservations is February 12, 2010.

For inquiries, please call Joy de Asis at 892-1801, send an SMS to 0917-561-2413, or email, or visit

Friday, February 05, 2010

Philippine Speculative Fiction V Update

On word from the publisher, Kestrel DDM, Philippine Speculative Fiction V will be launched on April 24, 2010, 3 p.m. at the UView Theatre of Fully Booked at Bonifacio Global City. Keep the date clear for this event, folks!

Innsmouth Free Press Multiethnic Issue TOC

Innsmouth Free Press's Multiethnic Issue is due out in June later this year, and PGS contributor Raymond G. Falgui is in the TOC with his story "The Hunger Houses". Congratulations!

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Project 20:10 -- Paolo Chikiamco On Character Creation

PGS contributor Paolo Chikiamco of Rocket Kapre has uploaded the videos of the talk he gave at the event that I blogged about here, which was organized by Talecraft creator Ria Lu. If the video is shaky, you can blame me; I was the one holding the vidcam, and I guess my arms got tired near the end. ;-P I'll link up once Paolo uploads the rest of the videos.

I like typewriters. I really like 'em. If you think about it, a well made manual typewriter is a wonder of engineering. So, I'm having a great time looking at the ones for sale over at They sell the machines not just by brand, period, or category, but even by author. However, since most of them sell in the hundreds of dollars, and the shipping would probably also cost an arm and a leg, I'm only reading the menu and not ordering.

Three Links On Reading

Here are three links on the skill and activity of "Reading", you know, that "thing" I've been pushing for all these years now. :D

How Should Fiction Be Read?, sent in by a PGS blog reader, on the different ways one can read a piece. An excerpt:

This problem will strike many people as familiar. We fall into a novel on the subway, enjoy a magazine short story in the bath, or tear through 60 pages before falling asleep in one of Borders' very comfortable chairs—all without ever wondering whether we're reading properly. The moment reading takes on a social component, though, matters of taste and judgment claim the spotlight. How to formulate a thought about a book? Which thoughts to formulate? Discussing a text with an English professor steeped in the New Criticism requires one reading method. Evaluating a mystery novel or joining in Oprah's Book Club calls for different approaches entirely. But novels aren't written for interpretive subcultures, and when we encounter fiction (and other people who read it) in the wild, it's often unclear which way to parse and evaluate it, what kinds of things to focus on. Are some systems best for assessing the craft?

Writers Who Don't Read, a blog entry I saw via Artistmonk, which is a bit on the tough side, saying that writers who don't read are really just egoists. An excerpt:

The writer who does not read is full of himself. He doesn't care about literature at all, he cares about himself first and foremost. It's an ego trip, nothing else. You've never heard of a musician who doesn't truly love music, and no real writer doesn't love literature, and reading. Whether you listen to music, or make your own, your love of it is sensibly the same. Not so for writers who do not read. Why? Because "literature" is only worthwhile to them insofar as they wrote it. That is why I say it is mostly an ego trip. It is little more than mental masturbation.

And lastly, Who Stole Our Reading Time?, a piece that rallies us to find time to read in today's wired world. An excerpt:

Almost everyone I speak to claims that they "love books but just can't find the time to read". Well, they probably could – they're just choosing to spend it differently.

This has dire consequences for our collective intellect. So besieged are we by the entertainment industry that we are being stimulated only in certain directions. The sound of fizz is everywhere. Sustained concentration on the printed word, whether in-depth argument or fictional narrative, creates a particular cerebral event which visual-dependent media cannot. The assault upon this has meant the very theft of our thinking space.

Obviously media such as the internet offer enormous benefits to (you wouldn't be reading this otherwise), but they also glide easily into the surface world of sleek illusions and infinite chatter which surrounds us. And have you seen Avatar? Have you seen what they can do now? Call me melodramatic, but I am beginning to feel like the protagonist in some SF dystopia myself, having his own thoughts erased, and liking it.

Culture changed quickly and permanently in the last decade. That pregnant, mental pause of reading has come under threat like never before. "Writing is a form of personal freedom," said Don DeLillo in a letter to Jonathan Franzen, who had appealed to him about this very issue long before the arrival of the internet. "It frees us from the mass identity we see in the making all around us. In the end, writers will write not to be outlaw heroes of some underculture, but mainly to save themselves, to survive as individuals." Exactly the same statement, I think, describes the condition of serious readers.

Village Idiot Savant On Online Literature

Village Idiot Savant is giving a presentation on Online Literature next week at the Taboan Writers Conference. Click here to see his slideshow.

John Scalzi Calls For Author Support

Author John Scalzi blogs about how the Amazon vs Macmillan issue has affected many authors as collateral damage, and calls on readers to support them. An excerpt:

I said it snarkily yesterday but I’ll tell it to you in earnest today: Amazon was moving against Macmillan when it pulled those books, but in doing so it also moved against Macmillan’s authors. Amazon thought it was sniping at a corporation, but in fact it unloaded a shotgun into a crowd of writers. It wasn’t smart, and although I know the world isn’t built to accommodate this particular concept, neither was it fair. There’s a lot of collateral damage here.

One response to this from fans of these affected writers is to boycott Amazon. But you know what, I think that’s putting the focus where it shouldn’t be. This crux of this matter is a negotiation between two corporate entities, and that’s something a boycott just isn’t going to matter to, or solve in any meaningful way. And in the case of the authors involved, it’s not going to help them make sales.

So rather than focus on what should happen to Amazon or Macmillan, here’s an idea, and here’s my point: let’s us focus on the writers, who are getting kinda screwed here. None of this is their fault, it has nothing to do with them, and they don’t deserve to lose sales and their livelihood while this thing goes down. If you want to make a statement here, don’t make it against a corporation, who isn’t listening anyway. Make it for someone, and someone who will appreciate the support.

Support the authors affected. Buy their books.

My thanks to A Peek Inside My Mind for pointing out the link.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

In Remembrance Of J.D. Salinger

Here's an article from The New Yorker about J.D. Salinger, written in remembrance of him by one of his longest and closest friends. An excerpt:

A single straight fact is that Salinger was one of a kind. His writing was his and his alone, and his way of life was only what he chose to follow. He never gave an inch to anything that came to him with what he called a “smell.” The older and crankier he got, the more convinced he was that in the end all writers get pretty much what’s coming to them: the destructive praise and flattery, the killing attention and appreciation. The trouble with all of us, he believed, is that when we were young we never knew anybody who could or would tell us any of the penalties of making it in the world on the usual terms: “I don’t mean just the pretty obvious penalties, I mean the ones that are just about unnoticeable and that do really lasting damage, the kind the world doesn’t even think of as damage.” He talked about how easily writers could become vain, complaining that they got puffed up by the same “authorities” who approved putting monosodium glutamate in baby food.

He loved children with no holds barred, but never with the sentimental fakery of admiring their “purity.” After watching his son, Matthew, playing one day, he said, “If your child likes—loves—you, the very love he bears you tears your heart out about once a day or once every other day.” He said, “I started writing and making up characters in the first place because nothing or not much away from the typewriter was reaching my heart at all.”
Over the years, Salinger told me about working “long and crazy hours” at his writing and trying to stay away from everything that was written about him. He didn’t care about reviews, he said, but “the side effects” bothered him. “There are no writers anymore,” he said once. “Only book-selling louts and big mouths.”
He was original even in the way he found his pleasures. He told me that one day he went out and bought an iron, and had his housekeeper iron his shirts. “How it cheered me up,” he said. After he bought a Maytag washer and dryer, he was tickled that the salesman quoted Ruskin to him—something about where quality counts, price doesn’t. He was sure that the line wasn’t part of the man’s spiel. “God, how I still love private readers,” he wrote. “It’s what we all used to be.”

I blogged here about how much I liked Bill Watterson after reading his interview, and I find similar feelings about Salinger after reading this piece. There are differences in that Watterson seems more accommodating, more approachable and easier to open up than Salinger, who for all intents presents himself as a cantankerous and rude person (and discourtesy is something I often find hard to stomach). Both though knew who they were (or at least, chose who they became because it fit them), and because of that, stayed or went as they pleased and on their own terms. I think what I like most about them is that both men, at least in terms of their craft, and perhaps also with a bit more of their personalities, have no masks. They don't let their creations, or the comments about them--positive or negative--affect them; they approach themselves and their craft with their feet firmly planted on the ground (I like though that Watterson seems to have approached this with a greater sense of humour than Salinger). What did Rudyard Kipling say in "If", about treating the impostors success and failure the same? I think Watterson and Salinger also treated praise and criticism the same. Pretension is not in them, or the desire for attention; neither the bitterness from whatever ugly things were said about their work, nor the smug conceit and self-importance that can come from effusive praise. Perhaps it is this honesty that has shone through in their creativity, and what their readers have sensed and come to love, or at the very least, respect.

Innsmouth Free Press Contest: Horrific Romance Classifieds

Kind of short notice (sorry for blogging about it only now), but there's a contest over at Innsmouth Free Press: Horrific Romance Classifieds. Deadline is on Feb. 5, 2010. One entry per person, maximum length of 100 words only. Good luck to those who are joining!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Bill Watterson Speaks

Well, sort of. He emails.

The reclusive Calvin And Hobbes creator agrees to an interview over email with a reporter (here's an interview with the reporter himself to shed light on how he scored the connection with Mr. Watterson). The interview:

With almost 15 years of separation and reflection, what do you think it was about "Calvin and Hobbes" that went beyond just capturing readers' attention, but their hearts as well?

The only part I understand is what went into the creation of the strip. What readers take away from it is up to them. Once the strip is published, readers bring their own experiences to it, and the work takes on a life of its own. Everyone responds differently to different parts.

I just tried to write honestly, and I tried to make this little world fun to look at, so people would take the time to read it. That was the full extent of my concern. You mix a bunch of ingredients, and once in a great while, chemistry happens. I can't explain why the strip caught on the way it did, and I don't think I could ever duplicate it. A lot of things have to go right all at once.

What are your thoughts about the legacy of your strip?

Well, it's not a subject that keeps me up at night. Readers will always decide if the work is meaningful and relevant to them, and I can live with whatever conclusion they come to. Again, my part in all this largely ended as the ink dried.

Readers became friends with your characters, so understandably, they grieved -- and are still grieving -- when the strip ended. What would you like to tell them?

This isn't as hard to understand as people try to make it. By the end of 10 years, I'd said pretty much everything I had come there to say.

It's always better to leave the party early. If I had rolled along with the strip's popularity and repeated myself for another five, 10 or 20 years, the people now "grieving" for "Calvin and Hobbes" would be wishing me dead and cursing newspapers for running tedious, ancient strips like mine instead of acquiring fresher, livelier talent. And I'd be agreeing with them.

I think some of the reason "Calvin and Hobbes" still finds an audience today is because I chose not to run the wheels off it.

I've never regretted stopping when I did.

Because your work touched so many people, fans feel a connection to you, like they know you. They want more of your work, more Calvin, another strip, anything. It really is a sort of rock star/fan relationship. Because of your aversion to attention, how do you deal with that even today? And how do you deal with knowing that it's going to follow you for the rest of your days?

Ah, the life of a newspaper cartoonist -- how I miss the groupies, drugs and trashed hotel rooms!

But since my "rock star" days, the public attention has faded a lot. In Pop Culture Time, the 1990s were eons ago. There are occasional flare-ups of weirdness, but mostly I just go about my quiet life and do my best to ignore the rest. I'm proud of the strip, enormously grateful for its success, and truly flattered that people still read it, but I wrote "Calvin and Hobbes" in my 30s, and I'm many miles from there.

An artwork can stay frozen in time, but I stumble through the years like everyone else. I think the deeper fans understand that, and are willing to give me some room to go on with my life.

How soon after the U.S. Postal Service issues the Calvin stamp will you send a letter with one on the envelope?

Immediately. I'm going to get in my horse and buggy and snail-mail a check for my newspaper subscription.

How do you want people to remember that 6-year-old and his tiger?

I vote for "Calvin and Hobbes, Eighth Wonder of the World."

After reading the interview, I find myself liking Mr. Watterson very, very much. He seems down-to-earth, sensible, and quite happy having retreated back into his cave with his sense of humour very much intact.

And here's a related article, "Calvin And Hobbes Fans Still Pine 15 Years After Its Exit".

My thanks to the PGS blog reader who emailed me the link.

Books To Lure Teenagers Away From The Phone

The St. Louis Globe-Democrat gives its choices of four Books To Lure Teenagers Away From The Phone. And maybe from the computer and the video game console as well. These books are not just for teens, the article says, but are treats for adults as well.

The Current E-Readers Available In The Market

Check out this link for a slideshow with pictures, descriptions, and prices of the current E-Readers available in the market today, and even of some that are still to come. This ought to give you an interesting range of options if you're in the market for one. It may also help you decide whether you should get one now, or to wait a while.

In Amazon Vs. Macmillan, Amazon Is The Winner

I blogged about Amazon Vs. Macmillan here and here, but this particular link, In Amazon Vs. Macmillan, Amazon Is The Winner, caught my eye. An excerpt:

While I believe Amazon is sincere in its belief that $9.99 is a good price for books (especially for people who have spent $259 or more on a Kindle), Amazon is secretly pinching itself right now, because:

1. Amazon will now make money selling Macmillan e-books. Currently, Amazon eats a few dollars on most of the e-books it sells at $9.99. By capitulating to Macmillan (and any others that might jump on this bandwagon), Amazon will now make more money than before on each of these books, because they’ll get a whopping 30% of $14.99, or nearly $5 a book.

2. Publishers will ultimately be compelled to bring e-book prices down. If Macmillan is the only publisher to move to an agency model, its e-books will be at a disadvantage compared to other publishers in the Kindle store, which is a bad place to be when you’re trying to sell to the more than 5 million people who will own a Kindle by year-end 2010. But even if the other publishers move to the same model, they’ll suddenly realize that with great (pricing) power, comes great (pricing) responsibility, and some will start to lower prices, promotionally at first and then on a more lasting basis. Because there is always a publisher who is hungrier than the rest.

3. In that future, Amazon will make more money than it does now. At that point, even if prices come back down to $9.99, Amazon will be making $3.30 from each book sold. Amazon wins in the short run and the long run. And publishers will make less money than before on each book sold.

The Bibliophile Stalker has updated his links to this issue here.

J.K. Rowling's Commencement Address...

...again. I blogged about this in 2008, but seeing as it's nearly March, graduation season in the Philippines, it may be worth reading for those of you about to finish certain levels of schooling.

And for what it's worth, here's the commencement speech which Steve Jobs of Apple gave to the 2005 graduating batch of Stanford.

They make many similar points.


The stuff of adventure stories: An Invasion Of Giant Squid !

Holy Captain Nemo and The Nautilus, Batman!

I'm not scared, I'm excited! Instead of running away from them I want to run to see them!

E-Book Pricing Chaos

The Amazon Vs. Macmillan issue I blogged about yesterday is deeper and bigger than we can see. I don't think that just because we're here in Asia, relatively unaffected, we shouldn't pay attention to what's going on. Eventually, the tech involved will reach us; could be years from now, but it still will. I just hope for a quick and easy resolution to all this soon. Sometimes, being on the cusp of change doesn't come with pain.

Here's an article, E-Book Pricing Put Into Turmoil. It summarizes what has happened so far after Apple announced the launch of its iPad, and adds the perspective of when Google launches its own e-bookstore later in the year. It's an attempt to sort out the burgeoning digital age of reading, and to present how this has divided writers, readers, publishers, and sellers into many different points-of-view.

Yesterday, The Bibliophile Stalker compiled links written about the issue. Today, he shares his opinion on the matter in his blog entry, Amazon Capitulated My Ass. I agree with him that there's probably a lot of backroom talk that we are not privy to, and that this is a case of big corporations flexing their muscles against each other. Let's hope that after all this is done no extensive permanent damage is done, that there are no incidents of shooting oneself in the foot, and that everyone comes out winners, writers, readers, distributors, and gadget-makers.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Amazon Vs. Macmillan Publishing

The reading, writing, and publishing segment of the web is abuzz with the news that Amazon has pulled all Macmillan titles from its site because of a dispute over price. Here are two links about the matter: Amazon Pulls Macmillan Books Over E-Book Price Disagreement, and A Message From The Amazon Kindle Team.