Sunday, January 31, 2010

Two Links On Books And Reading

Here are two links on books and reading sent in by PGS contributor Alexander Osias. The first is An Inconvenient Truth; an excerpt:

As a writer, I owe much to reading books.

In fact, writing, for me, was a result of an accident. As a youngster, I was obsessed with art and sports. My first ever published work was for the Ateneo Grade School publication, The Eaglet, and it is something that I didn’t even pen. My best friend added my name to the credits and so my name got printed. I do have a copy of it.

In fourth year high school, I crammed one time for an essay and when I got it back it had been marked it red ink with an “F.” There was a note attached to it that said, “See the Prefect of Discipline.” Puzzled, I asked her why and she told me that there was no way that someone my age could write something like that and I must have plagiarized it. I told her that I only wrote it some 10 minutes before class and that if she verified the veracity of what I wrote she would find out that nothing was factual. I had completely fabricated everything. She changed my grade to an “A+” and I never let her forget that.

That was when I had inkling that I could write some.

Nowadays, because of writing I get a ton of assignments and opportunities and one of the most frequently asked questions of me is, “where did I learn to write like that?”

Before I answer that, let me just say that all the opportunities and accolades that have come my way are flattering. And I must say that there are many more others out there who are better than I am and who I look up to. Nevertheless, I am most grateful.
Back to the question -- the answer to that is the sum of several factors. The first of which is advertising that completely changed my verbose and highbrow style to something more with a hook that reels the reader in. The second is because of a myriad of experiences that I am able to communicate and translate to my topics. And the last one is simply because of reading.

And reading has a lot to do with my skill. My father thought that I read too many comic books as a kid and that I needed to expand my horizons. So he forced me to read the newspaper and he would give me pop quizzes at home to check if I was I was in tune with the day’s reports.

I must admit that I hated it and my dad plummeted in the Father of the Year polls. When I didn’t understand something I read, his reply was, “look it up in the dictionary or encyclopedia.” That was his way of teaching me to be resourceful. It was something I didn’t understand then but today, I thank him for that because it has really helped in my mania for research and detail.
Nowadays, resourcefulness is wikipedia and googling things and cutting and pasting them with re-writes here and there. One Ateneo professor told me that their way of checking if reports were plagiarized was to paste it and google it.

Ah, the price of progress.

I also read Reader’s Digest and took the Word Power tests with all the seriousness of a school exam. After a while, my parents didn’t need to prod, threaten, or bribe me to read.

The first ever books that I purchased were using the money that was given to me after my graduation from grade school. In the blissful summer between elementary and secondary school, I purchased JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy (the 60th anniversary of their publication). They collectively cost PhP 75 then and that was quite a princely sum. But it was money well spent and it did much to expand my horizons. Tolkien’s masterpiece was my gateway to new world. Soon, I began buying books as much as I did vinyl records since music was a huge passion.

From comic books to newspapers to hardbound novels to advertising and design collections, reading has become a staple of my life. I devoured books and I saw it change my way of thinking, the way I wrote, and my thought process.

Today reading is still an indelible part of my life. I read everything from biographies to sports to science fiction to design to fiction and non-fiction. When I learned about the influences and inspirations of certain writers, I checked them out and that took me into different genres further widening my tastes and knowledge.

The second is A Dangerous Book. An excerpt:

History is said to be written by the victors of conflicts.

It’s mostly true.

We’ve seen Korea, China, the Philippines, and other Asian countries protest the striking out of Japan’s wartime atrocities in schoolbooks in the Land of the Rising Sun; a blatant attempt at revisionist history that doesn’t sit well with many.

The world may have come a long way from World War II and we like to think that we are more civilized in this homogenously global village, but something’s can never be forgotten.

Such is the power of books because they can be perceived as the gospel truth.

There’s another book, not written incredibly by the victorious Americans who claimed Philippines in their war against Spain.
At the time that the Philippine Islands were ceded by Spain to the United States, American historians James A. Robertson and Emma H. Blair produced a massive tome on the history of the country – The Philippine Islands 1493-1898 -- that served as a propaganda tool in drumming up support for the war against the Spanish crown.

As America took over the country and filled key positions in the nation’s infrastructure, there was an overhaul in systems and methodologies. One of which was the use of English as the medium of instruction. As the American Jesuits took over the Ateneo, Fr. Thomas A. Becker S.J. translated Fr. Jose Burniol’s The History of the Philippines that emphasized Spain’s role in the country’s history.

Fr. Jose S. Arcilla S.J. who is the caretaker of the Jesuit Archives, related how Fr. Francis Byrne S.J., the first American Ateneo rector, informed his superiors at the New York-Maryland Province that the American administrators of the University of the Philippines sought to correct entries in Fr. Burniol’s book that were inaccurate and the product of misinformation. The book was reviewed but only in the presence of Fr. Byrne who disapproved the change of any of the texts that were markedly different from what would later appear in the works of Gregorio Zaide and Teodoro Agoncillo.

And almost the entire country was educated on the basis of those two historians’ work that in the opinion of Fr. Arcilla, does not tell the whole story. Fr. Burniol was a Spanish Jesuit who taught history at the Ateneo in 1908 to be exact (that was the year the University of the Philippines was founded) and fills in gaps in our history. The works of Zaide and Agoncillo took on greater importance as nationalism swept the country right before World War II and after the American’s granted the Philippines independence.

Fr. Arcilla, however underscores that when writing about history, it is always important not just to look at one book of “facts” but everything else including the culture of the times. “Lots of things have to be taken into context when writing history because it can be dangerous. There’s the sin of omission.”

Free And Legal Australian Speculative Fiction

Saw this link, Hugo Nomination Reading From Twelfth Planet Press, over at Girlie Jones. An excerpt:

Until March 13, Twelfth Planet Press is offering free electronic copies of Horn by Peter M Ball and "Siren Beat" by Tansy Rayner Roberts and short stories from Deborah Biancotti's A Book of Endings to help you catch up on your Australian specfic reading.

Horn by Peter M Ball was shortlisted for two Aurealis Awards in 2009 and is eligible in the Best Novella Category of the Hugos. Peter M Ball is also eligible for the John W Campbell Award. With his 4 shortlistings overall for this year's Aurealis Awards and his win for the Best Science Fiction Short Story in 2009, Ball is a writer to look out for in the future.

Click here to read the details on how to download the files.

J.D. Salinger, 1919-2010

Reclusive writer J.D. Salinger, died recently. He was 91. His book, "The Catcher In The Rye", which has impressed many, many, many young readers, is his most famous novel. Its popularity was also the reason he shied away from the world and became a hermit. He's famous for having said, "There is a marvelous peace in not publishing. I like to write. I love to write. But I write just for myself and my own pleasure." You can't be any truer to what you want to write than if you're your own audience.

Which begs the question: If he's been writing for himself all these years, where are those texts? Thus, this news article, What's In Salinger's Safe? It speculates that a stack of unpublished manuscripts by Salinger lies in a safe in his house. If so, I'm sure many of his readers would like to get their hands on them. So would a lot of publishers; I can imagine the dollar signs in their eyes. It all depends now on Salinger's estate, on whether they will release the manuscripts or not, if they exist at all.

Join A Writing For Healing Workshop

From my email inbox, sent in by Elbert Or:

Dear friends,

We'd like to invite you a workshop we organized, Writing for Healing, to be held in Fully Booked High Street this February 20, 4:30 - 7:30pm.

In the face of sadness, grief, even tragedy, words offer comfort and strength. By reading other people's words, we are given the comfort of knowing we are not alone. By writing with our own words, we are given the chance of molding our experiences for the sake of others.

The writing for healing workshop led by Palanca Award-winning poet Lawrence ypil will help participants discover the power of words to give shape to loss and meaning to tragedy. Through guided reflections, writing exercises, and journaling tips , the workshop will show the different ways creative expression through writing can help to heal not just ourselves, but also the people around us.

Limited slots only, so reserve yours at the Customer Service area of Fully Booked Bonifacio High Street.

Fee is Php1000/pax, inclusive of materials. For inquiries and reservations, email brainfoodph(at)gmail(dot)com.

Publishers Embrace iPad, And A Rebuttal

So, Apple has launched their iPad (the most recent blog entries I made about it are here and here, before the launch), and now we have this article, Publishers Embrace iPad, from Reuters. An excerpt:

Book publishers predicted on Wednesday that Apple's iPad would boost interest in online reading. But observers doubted the novel tablet computer would immediately revolutionize electronic publishing like the iPod changed music listening.

At the unveiling of the new device, Apple's CEO Steve Jobs demonstrated a new digital bookstore and application, iBooks, in an effort to reinvent the way books are read and entice readers to easily shop for and read books online.

Major publishers including Pearson's (PSON.L) Penguin, News Corp's (NWSA.O) HarperCollins, Lagardere's (LAGA.PA) Hachette Book Group and CBS Corp.'s (CBS.N) Simon & Schuster MacMillan, who will offer their books through the new reader, did not discuss the terms of the deal with Apple, but said they hoped it would bring e-readers more into the mainstream.

According to statistics released by the International Digital Publishing Forum, wholesale revenue from e-book sales in the United States almost tripled in the third quarter of 2009 to $46.5 million from $13.9 million in the same period in 2008.

The iPad, which starts at $499, is a half-inch thick tablet computer with a 9.7 inch (25 cm) touchscreen. It will compete with other e-readers like Amazon's (AMZN.O) Kindle, which currently sells for $259 and Barnes and Noble's Nook device.

"We love it, it's a state of the art device that Apple always does well and now they have added books to their repertoire," said Adam Rothberg, a spokesman for Simon & Schuster. "From a publishing perspective, this is a great thing."

And sent in by a PGS blog reader, this link, I Want To Be The Rain On Your Game-Changing Gadget. An excerpt:

So guess what’s not pictured above in the image of the brand new iPad and its crucial apps? IBooks, the “magical bullet” that’s going to “save” the publishing industry . . .

OK, so I’ll admit upfront that I was more than a bit skeptical about the iPad/Tablet/Slate before the lackluster (at least by liveblogging standards) Apple presentation this morning. I figured this would be one crazy-ass device that would allow you to do basically anything and everything you wanted anytime and everywhere you wanted. You could talk on the phone while surfing for new music. You could play video games while reading Moby-Dick. You could text while e-mailing. Crazy. Shit.

If you’ve been even somewhere near awake over the past few months, you’ve most likely been inundated with the hype and holler about how Apple’s “mystery” “magical” device is going to change the world. And most importantly to everyone I hang with: Fix the Publishing Industry.

See, e-books are a tricky thing. I’ve written in the past about the promise and problems of e-books. (In summary: you can reach virtually everyone solving some significant printing and distribution problems, but damn, is that new way going to be co-opted, and pricing models are essentially screwed due to our supply-demand dynamics and the lure of $9.99.) But that’s not really what I want to talk about here. What I’m more concerned with re: the iPad is the all-in hope that the big publishers have that Apple and its overgrown iPhone will change the world and allow them to continue publishing in the way they’ve always been publishing with a model that’s decades out of date.

There are two elements driving the hope the big presses (Hachette, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Macmillan, and Penguin) have in Apple: better terms than and the coolness factor.

Multi-Lingual Comic

The Grin Without A Cat sent in this interesting link about a comic that is presented in digital form, and in many languages. Interesting, because one can then share a story to a wider variety of people who can choose which language they want to read the story in. Further signs of technology helping creators find a larger audience that traditional paper printing may not be able to do as quickly.

The Creation Of Lola: A Ghost Story

I blogged about Elbert Or's Lola: A Ghost Story recently, and now, care of Jonas Diego, who provided the link, we have here a blog entry of how the comic was created. Click here to see how the story made it from pencils to inks to grayscale.

Writing For Americans Vs. Writing For "Foreigners"

An interesting blog post here (sent in by The Grin Without A Cat) about the writing approach for two cultures, as seen on The World SF News blog: Writing For Americans Vs. Writing For "Foreigners". It's an interesting look at the perspectives of readers, whether they're from the USA or not. An excerpt:

Having spent my childhood in both the U.S. and Israel, I am a man who belongs to both cultures and yet remains an outsider in both. I am an author of – and for – two cultures. When writing a story or a book, I consciously write stories that would easily fit the two different audiences I know. This allows for an interesting perspective, which I hope to explore here: Writing for Americans vs. Writing for Israelis (or, on a wider scale, ‘foreign countries’).

Ria Lu, Talecraft Creator Interview

I had the pleasure of addressing a group of Ateneo high school students last Saturday, alongside PGS contributors Paolo Chikiamco, Yvette Tan, and comics illustrator and PGS layout editor Elbert Or. Also a speaker was Zsa Zsa Zaturnah creator Carlo Vergara, whom I had the good fortune of meeting for the first time. Paolo took videos and will probably upload them soon and write about the event, so I'll link up as soon as he does (he plugged the event here). This event was organized by the creative, talented, and charming Ria Lu, creator of Talecraft.

I blogged about Ria's latest brainstorm, Project 20:10, recently, and she talks about her rhyme and reason behind it here in this interview (Part 1, Part 2) over at The Philippine Online Chronicles. An excerpt:

How did this project come about? Who else is involved in this?

We have to admit, many Filipinos have this prejudice against locally made work. I love to read. I would pick up any foreign fantasy book, even if I didn't know the writer, and just try it out. But for the longest time, I wouldn't do that with a local book. And let's face it. I'm not the only one like that. Most of the time, the only reason you'd pick up a book by a local author is if it's a book required by school, or it's a short story anthology you want to be published in. A few years back, though, I picked up a copy of the Digest of Philippine Genre Stories. A friend of mine was published in it. And, to be polite, I read it. To my surprise, the stories there were good! After that, I got myself other issues of PGS. I started trying other publications and other authors, and now, I even have favorite local comic book authors.

There are great local stories out there. But by default, we just shut them out. Project 20:10 was made to counter that default.

Currently, it's just Talecraft involved with the project. But several creators and groups already expressed interest in being part of the project. We don't want this to remain just a Talecraft project. It would be great if more people, more organizations are involved in this project. Our creative industries could use all the help it can get.

The site mentions a "paradox", that "the main problem for our lack of good local content creators is a lack of support. And the main reason why there is no support is the lack of good content creators." How did you arrive at this conclusion?

When I said lack, I meant "not enough," not "there isn't any." There are jewels in the Filipiniana section. Sorry, I shall construct my sentences less ambiguously next time. :) But try this. Go to a book store. What is the ratio of local books to foreign books?

I rest my case. In Japan, the ratio of Japanese books to foreign books is six floors to one section. It's pretty much like that in many parts of Asia and Europe.

Try this one, too: How many local authors don't have day jobs?

When you ask readers why they don't read a lot of local books, they'll tell you there's not a lot of good (local) stories to read anyway, Or, there's not enough variety. Or, they're not well-researched. Actually, there are a lot of good books out there, but people just normally jump to the conclusion that there aren't. And this discourages a lot of local writers: Why continue writing, when nobody's going to read anyway? Why continue making comics if you're constantly rejected anyway? If a creator could just give a bigger portion of his time to write, do research, and experiment on his style and stories, a mediocre writer can be a good writer, and a very good writer can be a great one. But they can't. They have to work because the books they've written so far can't pay for them. Why? Because very few people are reading them! And why won't they read? Go back to the beginning of this paragraph.

Let's break down the paradox statement a bit. You mention a "lack of good local content creators" and I'm sure there are those who would object to that (Komiks fans especially). What did you mean by that?

Like I said, when I said lack, I meant "not enough," not "there isn't any." There are great local stories out there. I'm a fan of several local comic books. But there isn't enough [content] to properly sustain the industries. For books and comic books, most content creators have to have other jobs, or do outsource work, because they cannot survive on their books alone. For animation, studios survive on grants and outsource work. For games, companies survive on outsource. While outsourcing is not really bad, the ideal is for content creators to be able to opt to do it or not. The market must be strong enough to allow content creators that option. But since creating local content for locals is not our bread and butter, we focus on what brings us money. It's not a bad thing. We all need to survive. But creating local content for locals takes a back seat. We produce less of it. Or we produce it with lower quality to be able to squeeze it into our busy schedules. And some even abandon it altogether.

Click here and here for Parts 1 and 2 respectively of the interview.

Various Interesting Links Sent In Over The Last Week Or So

Sorry for not having blogged regularly for some time, but to be frank, there have been two reasons: work, and the just concluded Australian Open (Roger Federer just won his 4th title down under). Admittedly, knowing how I am such a tennis freak, it's more of the latter than the former. I can now transform from deranged and very loud and obnoxious fan, to being just a little bit more normal now (but only just). Until Roland Garros, that is.

Here's a compilation of links sent in by a PGS reader who wishes to remain anonymous. This PGS reader always sends in interesting stuff he finds over the web, which I in turn wish to share with others. My thanks to this reader. To everyone else: if you find anything interesting you want to share, or want to plug something literary in nature, please feel free to drop me an email and I'll do my best to post it here on the PGS blog. I can't guarantee that I always will post your links, since I'll act as something of a filter (like, I rarely post anything not related to books, writing, reading, or storytelling in some form), but it's an easy filter, if you know what this blog is about.

To the links!

Behold The Man II - where a blogger is thinking about writing a book where he speculates about what would happen if someone from today travels back in time to shoot Jesus Christ after the resurrection but before the ascension. Read the comments. Not just logical possibilities are discussed, but even some theological dogma.

Avatar And Disability
- A blog post about seeing the Avatar movie from the point-of-view of the disability of one of its main characters, and how it plays on his motivation. Interesting insight on the depths of character, one that I don't think many have considered before.

Mindless Piffle? Hardly. TV Makes Sense Of The World - Reading advocates have historically decried TV and film as "the enemy" of literacy (I've never been that drastically rabid, but then again, I admit that, outside of sports shows, I don't watch that much TV). Here's an article that provides the opposite viewpoint, pointing out how the stories told in some of today's favorite shows actually have something to show and say.

Kafka's Last Living Friend Remembers - We have some insight into writer Franz Kafka's character through the eyes of one of his friends, a 106-year-old Holocaust survivor.

Confessions Of A Book Pirate
- The most interesting link for me, given all the changes technology is wreaking on the way we read. It's an interview--and a look into the mind--of a voracious reader who participates in online piracy.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Bibliophile Stalker Has His Say About The iSlate/iTablet/iPad/Unicorn many rumoured names.

The Bibliophile Stalker has his say on the coming Apple gadget that could/might/perhaps jumpstart e-reading the way their iPod did for listening to music. An excerpt:

I want to focus on a question that some people might have overlooked: why are a lot of people excited about the iTablet/iSlate/Unicorn?

If you think about it, the answer is simple: because Amazon has done a lackluster job when it comes to the eBook industry. To readers, it could be the delivery method (i.e. the screen, the device, the format, etc.). To publishers, it might be how Amazon acts as the self-appointed police (to address the latter's concern, Amazon even recently made an announcement that it'll increase its royalty option--although that honestly benefits self-published authors more than major publishers).

Don't get me wrong. As far as its retail branch is concerned, Amazon is more than competent. That's why other online retailers, bookstores or otherwise, are having problems simply keeping up with Amazon. The only online retailer that seems unfazed by Amazon is Apple's iTunes Store.

But when it comes to eBooks, Amazon for the past few years has monopolized the market. It's not fair to say that they don't have competitors (they do, especially as other companies attempted to release their own eReaders), but let's face it, when you think of eBooks, they're the elephant in the room. And to their credit, they achieved that status because they did something right: integrating shopping for eBooks (and taking into account that they are a major source of books online, electronic or otherwise) with manufacturing the device itself.

However, whatever praise I have for them stops there.

Apple's Disruption Of The Ebook Market Has Nothing To Do With The Tablet

There seems to be a shift in the publisher/distributor/consumer chain in how we get our reading content, and Apple may be behind it. An excerpt from the article:

If the reporting by Publishers Lunch today is accurate (and I’ve never known it not to be), publishers may have used the entry of Apple into the ebook arena as an opportunity to change the entire paradigm of ebook distribution for major books. And while the great excitement about Apple and ebooks has been based on hopes that the new Apple Tablet that the world expects to be announced next week will add a lot of new ebook consumers, the change in the sales protocols will probably have a much more profound impact on the ebook market than the device. Or at least that’s how it looks from here.

What Michael Cader reports in Lunch is that publishers have worked out agreement with Apple to switch from a “wholesale” model to an “agency” model for ebook sales. The wholesale model imitates the physical world: the publisher “sells” the “book” to an intermediary (could be a retailer like Amazon or BN or a wholesaler like Ingram) based on the publisher’s established retail price and a discount schedule. Then the purchaser will re-sell that ebook at whatever price they like. When publishers offered discounts that were the same as the physical world discounts, they partially subsidized retailers who wanted to offer much lower ebook prices to consumers.

The “agency” model is based on the idea that the publisher is selling to the consumer and, therefore, setting the price, and any “agent”, which would usually be a retailer but wouldn’t have to be, that creates that sale would get a “commission” from the publisher for doing so. Since Apple’s normal “take” at the App Store is 30% and discounts from publishers have normally been 50% off the established retail price, publishers can claw back margin even if they don’t get Apple to concede anything from the 30%.

So making this change, if it works, accomplishes three things for big publishers. The obvious two are that they gain a greater degree of control over ebook pricing than they ever had over print book pricing and they get to rewrite the supply chain splits of the consumer dollar.

But the third advantage for the big guys is the most devilish of all: they may gain a permanent edge over smaller players on ebook margins. That is one that, truth be known, was already playing out as Amazon used its leverage to reduce the share smaller publishers got from Kindle sales. But this could institutionalize it.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

New Word Definitions

Here's an email sent in by PGS reader and Philippine Speculative Fiction V contributor Joseph Montecillo:


Here's the Washington Post's Mensa Invitational which once again
asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding,
subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.

The winners are:
1. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject
financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.
2. Ignoranus: A person who's both stupid and an asshole.
3. Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until
you realize it was your money to start with.
4. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.
5. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people which stops
bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately,
shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.
6. Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.
7. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.
8. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it. 9. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
10. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)
11. Karmageddon: It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right?
And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's, like, a serious bummer.
12. Decafalon (n.): The gruelling event of getting through the day consuming
only things that are good for you.
13. Glibido: All talk and no action.
14. Dopeler Effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter
when they come at you rapidly.
15. Arachnoleptic Fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've
accidentally walked through a spider web.
16. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into
your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.
17. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you're eating.

The Washington Post has also published the winning submissions to its yearly contest,
in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for common words.
And the winners are:

1. Coffee, n. The person upon whom one coughs.
2. Flabbergasted, adj. Appalled by discovering how much weight one has gained.
3. Abdicate, v. To give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
4. Esplanade, v. To attempt an explanation while drunk.
5. Willy-nilly, adj. Impotent.
6. Negligent, adj. Absent mindedly answering the door when wearing only a nightgown .
7. Lymph, v. To walk with a lisp.
8. Gargoyle, n. Olive-flavored mouthwash.
9. Flatulence, n. Emergency vehicle that picks up someone who has
been run over by a steamroller.
10.Balderdash, n. A rapidly receding hairline.
11. Testicle, n. A humorous question on an exam.
12. Rectitude, n. The formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.
13. Pokemon, n. A Rastafarian proctologist.
14. Oyster, n. A person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.
15. Frisbeetarianism, n. The belief that, after death, the soul flies up
onto the roof and gets stuck there.
16. Circumvent, n. An opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.

Dave Eggers On Critics And Selling Out

Saw this link of a Dave Eggers interview care of Abo Sa Dila's Facebook account, wherein he talks about, among other things, his reaction to critics, selling out, creating, labelling and classifying, and the negativity brought on by dismissal. An excerpt:

You actually asked me the question: "Are you taking any steps to keep shit real?" I want you always to look back on this time as being a time when those words came out of your mouth.

Now, there was a time when such a question - albeit probably without the colloquial spin - would have originated from my own brain. Since I was thirteen, sitting in my orange-carpeted bedroom in ostensibly cutting-edge Lake Forest, Illinois, subscribing to the Village Voice and reading the earliest issues of Spin, I thought I had my ear to the railroad tracks of avant garde America. (Laurie Anderson, for example, had grown up only miles away!) I was always monitoring, with the most sensitive and well-calibrated apparatus, the degree of selloutitude exemplified by any given artist - musical, visual, theatrical, whatever. I was vigilant and merciless and knew it was my job to be so.

I bought R.E.M.'s first EP, Chronic Town, when it came out and thought I had found God. I loved Murmur, Reckoning, but then watched, with greater and greater dismay, as this obscure little band's audience grew, grew beyond obsessed people like myself, grew to encompass casual fans, people who had heard a song on the radio and picked up Green and listened for the hits. Old people liked them, and stupid people, and my moron neighbor who had sex with truck drivers. I wanted these phony R.E.M.-lovers dead.

But it was the band's fault, too. They played on Letterman. They switched record labels. Even their album covers seemed progressively more commercial. And when everyone I knew began liking them, I stopped.

But was it a sellout? Probably. By some standards, yes. Can a good band play their hit song? Should we hate them for this? Probably, probably. First 90210, now they go playing the song every stupid night. Everyone knows that 90210 is not cutting edge, and that a cutting edge alternarock band should not appear on such a show. That rule is clearly stated in the obligatory engrained computer-chip sellout manual that we were all given when we hit adolescence.

But this sellout manual serves only the lazy and small. Those who bestow sellouthood upon their former heroes are driven to do so by, first and foremost, the unshakable need to reduce. The average one of us - a taker-in of various and constant media, is absolutely overwhelmed - as he or she should be - with the sheer volume of artistic output in every conceivable medium given to the world every day - it is simply too much to begin to process or comprehend - and so we are forced to try to sort, to reduce. We designate, we label, we diminish, we create hierarchies and categories.

Through largely received wisdom, we rule out Tom Waits's new album because it's the same old same old, and we save $15. U2 has lost it, Radiohead is too popular. Country music is bad, Puff Daddy is bad, the last Wallace book was bad because that one reviewer said so. We decide that TV is bad unless it's the Sopranos. We liked Rick Moody and Jonathan Lethem and Jeffrey Eugenides until they allowed their books to become movies. And on and on. The point is that we do this and to a certain extent we must do this. We must create categories, and to an extent, hierarchies.

But you know what is easiest of all? When we dismiss.

Oh how gloriously comforting, to be able to write someone off.

The only thing worse than this sort of activity is when people, students and teachers alike, run around college campuses calling each other racists and anti-Semites. It's born of boredom, lassitude. Too cowardly to address problems of substance where such problems actually are, we claw at those close to us. We point to our neighbor, in the khakis and sweater, and cry foul. It's ridiculous. We find enemies among our peers because we know them better, and their proximity and familiarity means we don't have to get off the couch to dismantle them.

I like new things, projects, plans, getting people together and doing something, trying something, even when it's corny or stupid. I am not good at saying no. And I do not get along with people who say no. When you die, and it really could be this afternoon, under the same bus wheels I'll stick my head if need be, you will not be happy about having said no. You will be kicking your ass about all the no's you've said. No to that opportunity, or no to that trip to Nova Scotia or no to that night out, or no to that project or no to that person who wants to be naked with you but you worry about what your friends will say.

No is for wimps. No is for pussies. No is to live small and embittered, cherishing the opportunities you missed because they might have sent the wrong message.

There is a point in one's life when one cares about selling out and not selling out. One worries whether or not wearing a certain shirt means that they are behind the curve or ahead of it, or that having certain music in one's collection means that they are impressive, or unimpressive.

Thankfully, for some, this all passes. I am here to tell you that I have, a few years ago, found my way out of that thicket of comparison and relentless suspicion and judgment. And it is a nice feeling. Because, in the end, no one will ever give a shit who has kept shit 'real' except the two or three people, sitting in their apartments, bitter and self-devouring, who take it upon themselves to wonder about such things. The keeping real of shit matters to some people, but it does not matter to me. It's fashion, and I don't like fashion, because fashion does not matter.

What matters is that you do good work. What matters is that you produce things that are true and will stand. What matters is that the Flaming Lips's new album is ravishing and I've listened to it a thousand times already, sometimes for days on end, and it enriches me and makes me want to save people. What matters is that it will stand forever, long after any narrow-hearted curmudgeons have forgotten their appearance on goddamn 90210. What matters is not the perception, nor the fashion, not who's up and who's down, but what someone has done and if they meant it. What matters is that you want to see and make and do, on as grand a scale as you want, regardless of what the tiny voices of tiny people say. Do not be critics, you people, I beg you. I was a critic and I wish I could take it all back because it came from a smelly and ignorant place in me, and spoke with a voice that was all rage and envy. Do not dismiss a book until you have written one, and do not dismiss a movie until you have made one, and do not dismiss a person until you have met them. It is a fuckload of work to be open-minded and generous and understanding and forgiving and accepting, but Christ, that is what matters. What matters is saying yes.

I say yes, and Wayne Coyne says yes, and if that makes us the enemy, then good, good, good. We are evil people because we want to live and do things. We are on the wrong side because we should be home, calculating which move would be the least damaging to our downtown reputations. But I say yes because I am curious. I want to see things. I say yes when my high school friend tells me to come out because he's hanging with Puffy. A real story, that. I say yes when Hollywood says they'll give me enough money to publish a hundred different books, or send twenty kids through college. Saying no is so fucking boring.

And if anyone wants to hurt me for that, or dismiss me for that, for saying yes, I say Oh do it, do it you motherfuckers, finally, finally, finally.

Click here to read the interview.

The Philippine Star's Share Your Story Contest (Sponsored By Moneygram International)

The Philippine Star is hosting a contest called Share Your Story, and sponsored by Moneygram International. It's open to all Filipinos age 18 and above residing here or abroad and foreign nationals age 18 and above currently living in the Philippines. Each published entry will receive a P2,000 contributor's fee. More details here.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Apple Sees New Money In Old Media

Less than a week from today, Apple will launch a new gadget (rumoured to be called an iSlate) that they hope will do for books and magazines what their iPod did for music. From The Wall Street Journal, Apple Sees New Money In Old Media--Steve Jobs's Tablet Device Looks To Repackage TV, Magazines, Just As iPod Changed Music Sales. An excerpt:

With the new tablet device that is debuting next week, Apple Inc. Chief Executive Steve Jobs is betting he can reshape businesses like textbooks, newspapers and television much the way his iPod revamped the music industry—and expand Apple's influence and revenue as a content middleman.

In developing the device, Apple focused on the role the gadget could play in homes and in classrooms, say people familiar with the situation. The company envisions that the tablet can be shared by multiple family members to read news and check email in homes, these people say.

For classrooms, Apple has been exploring electronic-textbook technology. Apple also has been looking at how content from newspapers and magazines can be presented differently on the tablet, according to the people familiar with the situation. Other people briefed on the device say the tablet will come with a virtual keyboard.

Apple has recently been in discussions with book, magazine and newspaper publishers about how they can work together. The company has talked with New York Times Co., Condé Nast Publications Inc. and HarperCollins Publishers and its owner News Corp., which also owns The Wall Street Journal, over content for the tablet, say people familiar with the talks.

New York Times Chairman Arthur Sulzberger declined to comment in an interview Wednesday on its involvement in the new device except to say, "stay tuned."

Dead Poets And Lonely Writers

Again, from a PGS blog reader, first: Dead Poets Society, by way of Melvillehouse Publishing:

“Don’t get me wrong,” says Patrick Gillespie. “I love poetry. But as far as the public is concerned, poetry died with the modernists.”

In a thoughtful essay on PoemShape, Gillespie says

… though there remain a number of minor masters and one hit wonders, few passing pedestrians could name a poet from the last 50 to 60 years – let alone the same poet, let alone the title of a poem, let alone a first line. Even though I’ve never watched a single game of ice hockey from beginning to end, I know who Wayne Gretzky is. And even though I’ve never watched more than two holes of golf, I know that Tiger Woods is not just a gifted philanderer, but a great golfer.

So what happened? Gillespie cites a New Yorker article by Dana Goodyear about Poetry magazine founder Harriet Monroe, who, says Goodyear, “wanted to protect poets from the demands of popular taste.” But the rise of sheltering institutions, says Gillespie, meant poets were working ” without consequence. And when any human being, let alone poets, can act without consequence, the dogs of mediocrity, narcissism and hedonism will be let loose. … It’s my own opinion that Monroe’s attitude is toxic and anathema to great art and poisonous to art in general. It’s a shame and the results are indisputable. When poets left their audience, their audience left them.”

Not that there isn’t a solution, according to Gillespie:

The best thing that could happen to poetry is to drive it out of the universities with burning pitch forks. Starve the lavish grants. Strangle them all in a barrel of water. Cast them out. The current culture, in which poetry is written for and supported by poets has created a kind of state-sanctioned poetry that resists innovation. When and if poetry is ever made to answer to the broader public, then we may begin to see some great poetry again – the greatness that is the collaboration between audience and artist.

Rather provocative, eh?

And now, from dead poets to lonely writers, via Maud Newton:

A friend who just finished writing a(n excellent) book in a short period of time says you have to ignore your brain when it tells you it’s done for the day. You may think you can’t keep going, but if you push on, what comes out will be even better. The next day, do the same. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Also, no socializing. Apart from whatever job pays the bills, do nothing but sleep, eat, procrastinate, and write.

See also Peter Straub’s Twitter bio: “my profession obliges me to enjoy solitary confinement.”

If you're a poet or a writer, is this you? :D

Statement Of Intent By Georges Perec

Sent in again by a PGS blog reader, from Words Without Borders, Statement Of Intent By Georges Perec. In essence, it's a excerpt from a book by the author explaining his attempts at writing. An excerpt:

When I attempt to state what I have tried to do as a writer since I began, what occurs to me first of all is that I have never written two books of the same kind, or ever wanted to reuse a formula, or a system, or an approach already developed in some earlier work.

This systematic versatility has baffled more than one critic seeking to put his finger on the “characteristics” of my writing, and in all probability it has also disheartened some of my readers. It has earned me the reputation of being some sort of computer or machine for producing texts. As I see it, I should rather compare myself to a farmer with many fields: in one field he grows beets, in another wheat, in a third alfalfa, and so on. In like manner, the books I have written belong to four different fields, four different modes of questioning, which, in the last analysis, perhaps address the same problem, but approach it from different perspectives, each of which corresponds, for me, to a specific kind of literary work.

Two Links To Notes From The Geek Show

Here are two related links sent in by a PGS blog reader which lead to the blog entries of Notes From The Geek Show...rantings, ravings, and ramblings of a strange fiction writer and carnival freak. The first:

Notes Toward A Theory Of Narrative Modality, where the entry seems to be a play on verbs, and;

Modality And Hamlet, where the blogger continues to expound on modal auxiliary verbs.

Technical and theoretical stuff on grammar (particualarly on certain verbs) and their relation to narrative, but if you're a grammar nazi in need of exploring possible new rules, then feel free to plunge right in.

Win a Free Boracay Vacation Package by WOW Philippines Travel Agency

I'd like to go back. Who wouldn't? :)

Win a Free Boracay Vacation Package by WOW Philippines Travel Agency

WOW Philippines Travel Agency, Inc. is celebrating it's 5th year in business during July of 2010, and we would like you to have a chance to celebrate with us, so we have decided to give-away a FREE Boracay Package complete with 5 Star accommodations at the luxurious Le Soleil de Boracay Hotel on Boracay Island. The lucky winner will win the following Boracay vacation package.

Vacation Package Inclusions:
- 5 Days / 4 Nights Luxury 5 Star Accommodations at the Le Soleil de Boracay Hotel
- Flights to Boracay from Manila to Caticlan Airport on Philippine Airlines
- Island Transfers - Door-to-Door from Manila to the resort and back to Manila
- Three (3) Meals each day, Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
- Boracay Activities - Horseback Riding, Island Hopping, Glass Bottom Boat
- PLUS - 5,000 peso Spending Cash

Read More Information:

Q&A With Writer Fr. Uwem Akpan, S.J.

Writer and Jesuit Uwem Akpan, whom I first blogged about here, has a Q&A over on An excerpt:

Erin J. Shea: You're a Jesuit priest. Tell us what drew you to the Jesuit order, the largest male religious order in the Catholic church?

Uwem Akpan: The spirituality, the world view…striving to see God in everything, the openness toward people. I had never seen priests like that.

ES: Can you tell us what part your faith played in the creation of your book?

UA: In many ways, this was a painful book to write. In many ways, it was also an enjoyable thing to do. Either way, I needed balance to get through with it. And so my prayers before the Blessed Sacrament were, "Lord, do not allow this mad pain or crazy joy to destroy me." I'm only a storyteller. The children caught in these situations have humor, are hopeful and resilient and humane.

Second, it took me eight years to write the book; I began when I was preparing for the priesthood and had to pace myself carefully, writing nights, being a seminarian in the day. I believe my faith gave me the freedom to enter into the complex process of writing this book. Since I didn't know whether I would succeed—and I can't put my faith aside—my faith was important. I was basically telling God: "I will give my right hand to develop this talent you have given me. Whether I succeed or not is your call."

You know, sometimes writing can be like what Joseph Conrad says in Youth : "You fight, work, sweat, almost kill yourself, sometimes do kill yourself trying to accomplish something—you can't. Not from any fault of yours." If I failed, I didn't want to be bitter and cranky, you know. I like what the three men thrown into fire by Nebuchadnezzar in the Book of Daniel for worshiping the true God say to him: "If our God wants, he will save us from the burning flame. And if he does not, we will still worship him."

ES: Is there anything in particular in Jesuit spirituality that helped you in your fiction?

UA: That's a very good question. Jesuit spirituality has helped me in concrete terms, fertilizing my imagination. There's what we call the contemplation of place in our spirituality.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Management Of Intellectual Property In The Book Publishing Industry

From the Facebook profile of the NBDB's Andrea Pasion-Flores:

WIPO, IPO, the NBDB and FILCOLS will hold a workshop on Jan 28-29 called The Management of Intellectual Property in the Book Publishing Industry: Reading the Fine Print. We have a few seats for authors who can't afford this important workshop. Call Jun Briola at 920-9853 if you are an author, are willing to register FILCOLS and NBDB, and promise to echo to members of your author's organization in your REGION!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Latest Newbery And Caldecott Award Winners

Here is an article reporting on this year's winners of the Newbery and Caldecott Awards. An excerpt:

Rebecca Stead's "When You Reach Me" and Jerry Pinkney's "The Lion and the Mouse," two highly praised books for young people that draw upon famous stories, have received the top prizes in children's literature.

Stead's intricate, time-traveling narrative set in 1970s Manhattan, which was inspired in part by Madeleine L'Engle's "A Wrinkle in Time," won the John Newbery Medal for best children's book. The Randolph Caldecott prize for picture books was given to Pinkney's wordless telling of the classic Aesop fable.

The awards were announced Monday in Boston at the American Library Association's annual midwinter meeting.

The Newbery and Caldecott, both founded decades ago, bring prestige and the hope of higher sales to children's authors. Previous winners such as "A Wrinkle in Time" and Louis Sachar's "Holes" have become standards, but more recent picks have been criticized by librarians as being too difficult ("Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices From a Medieval Village," by Laura Amy Schlitz) or for having inappropriate content (Susan Patron's "The Higher Power of Lucky").

This year's winners were considered leading contenders.

Mystery Visitor To Poe's Grave Is A No-Show

A mystery visitor who has been visiting Edgar Allan Poe's grave yearly for a long time now, did not visit this year. An excerpt:

It is what Edgar Allan Poe might have called "a mystery all insoluble": Every year for the past six decades, a shadowy visitor would leave roses and a half-empty bottle of cognac on Poe's grave on the anniversary of the writer's birth. This year, no one showed.

Did the mysterious "Poe toaster" meet his own mortal end? Did some kind of ghastly misfortune befall him? Will he be heard from nevermore?

"I'm confused, befuddled," said Jeff Jerome, curator of the Poe House and Museum. "I don't know what's going on."

Dividing Science From The Fiction

Science and Fiction. Trying to get the science right when writing a future/forward looking story. Sometimes, the science is wrong--Jules Verne didn't know about the bends when he wrote 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea--but that didn't stop the story from seeing into the future and maybe influencing some scientists and engineers to invent the submarine. Here's an article from Apex Book Company, Dividing Science From The Fiction. An excerpt:

Has anyone else noticed that with the passing of each year, the well of sci-fi tropes becomes a little less sci-fi and a bit more…well, sci?

With a new year ahead of us—a brand new year full of potential and promises—our planet has a nice white canvass to paint a picture on. While 2009 wasn’t a largely significant year for scientific breakthroughs that will change the world in the long run, it does show the potential that the future has. And for those of you that favor sci-fi fiction, you may be beat to the punch on a lot of your ideas by reality. Just thinking of all of those extrasolar planets that have been discovered makes Carl Sagan’s Contact and sci-fi staples like Star Trek a little more believable. A very little, but still…

A quick glimpse at history shows us how man’s ideas have been proven as ignorant and then one-upped by scientific fact (or, in some unfortunate cases, simple logic).

15 Ways Science Will Kill Us All!

Time for another apocalypse entry! 15 Ways Science Will Kill Us All! The Singularity! Cyborg animals! Dark Matter! Robots! And more! It's the end of the world! I'm using too many exclamation points!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Cover Girl Mismatch Part 2

Remember last year's Cover Girl Mismatch? Well, it's happened again, and what makes it so surprising is that the publisher that committed this new mismatch is the same one that did it before. An excerpt from the blog entry of Into The Wardrobe:

...Bloomsbury USA has made the same mistake with the YA novel Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore. Magic Under Glass has a dark-skinned female protagonist.

Why, Bloomsbury? Why? Whitewashing covers is RACIST. Thinking that books with people of color on the cover won't sell is RACIST. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Shame on you, Bloomsbury. I won't be buying any of your books until you stop whitewashing your book covers.

The 100 Greatest Science Fiction Or Fantasy Novels Of All Time

Warning: this link to The 100 Greatest Science Fiction Or Fantasy Novels Of All Time is a very long one, with a lot of book cover images. See how many you've missed from these two genres, then go find them and read them!

New Poe Portrait Presented

The face of writer Edgar Allan Poe that we know of is the black-and-white one with a moustache, dark sunken eyes, and a pale face. Now, there's a new, more colorful one that shows a younger Poe; he seems to be almost smiling. It will be made public for the first time soon. Check it out here.

Kid Goth: Neil Gaiman's Fantasies

Thanks again to the PGS blog reader who sent in this link, Kid Goth: Neil Gaiman's Fantasies, from The New Yorker. An excerpt:

Gaiman, who is forty-nine and English, with a pale face and a wild, corkscrewed mop of black-and-gray hair, is unusually prolific. In addition to horror, he writes fantasy, fairy tales, science fiction, and apocalyptic romps, in the form of novels, comics, picture books, short stories, poems, and screenplays. Now and then, he writes a song. Gaiman’s books are genre pieces that refuse to remain true to their genres, and his audience is broader than any purist’s: he defines his readership as “bipeds.” His mode is syncretic, with sources ranging from English folktales to glam rock and the Midrash, and enchantment is his major theme: life as we know it, only prone to visitations by Norse gods, trolls, Arthurian knights, and kindergarten-age zombies. “Neil’s writing is kind of fey in the best sense of the word,” the comic-book writer Alan Moore told me. “His best effects come out of people or characters or situations in the real world being starkly juxtaposed with this misty fantasy world.” The model for Gaiman’s eclecticism is G. K. Chesterton; his work, Gaiman says, “left me with an idea of London as this wonderful, mythical, magical place, which became the way I saw the world.” Chesterton’s career also serves as a warning. “He would have been a better writer if he’d written less,” Gaiman says. “There’s always that fear of writing too much if you’re a reasonably facile writer, and I’m a reasonably facile writer.”

Gaiman’s two most recent novels, “Anansi Boys” (2005) and “The Graveyard Book” (2008)—a retelling of Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book,” set in a graveyard—débuted at No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list in their respective categories, adult and children’s literature. Yet Gaiman remains somewhat marginal. The Times of London recently referred to him as “the most famous writer you’ve never heard of.” The New York Times waited to review “The Graveyard Book” for several months after its publication, by which time it had won the 2009 Newbery Medal, one of the highest honors in children’s fiction, and been on the best-seller list for eighteen weeks. “I have at this point a critic-proof career,” Gaiman said. “The fans already knew about the book.”

Monday, January 18, 2010

Bookstores Are Dead (If You Want Them To Be)

From io9: Bookstores Are Dead (If You Want Them To Be). Another sign of the change? An excerpt:

Are brick-and-mortar bookstores doomed? People have been predicting the downfall of physical bookstores for quite some time, but with many stores vanishing and shelf selections getting much worse, the warnings have gotten more dire lately. Borders is shuttering 182 of its smaller Waldenbooks outlets, while leaving 130 of them open. And Barnes & Noble is similarly closing down all but 50 of its B. Dalton stores. The move leaves the town of Laredo, TX as the nation's largest town without a bookstore.

Post A Story For Haiti

The people of Haiti are suffering because of an earthquake, much like many here in the Philippines suffered (and are still suffering) because of last year's storms. So, like Ruin And Resolve, an anthology of Pinoy speculative fiction and poetry for the benefit of flood victims, here's something from Crossed Genres, Post A Story For Haiti. Authors have posted their stories for free, and readers are then encouraged to donate to three funds for Haiti. Do consider donating, or if you're a writer, posting your story as a contribution.

More Writing Workshops

In addition to this one, here are two more workshops to be held at The Filipinas Heritage Library:

Basic Creative Writing, A Beginner's Course with Conchitina Cruz.

Travel Writing With A Walking Tour Of Binondo

For more details, please click here, visit The Filipinas Heritage Library website, or call Joy de Asis at 892-1801 loc. 27.

Against The "Impossible To Explain": The Postmodern Novel And Society

From The Quarterly Conversation: Against The "Impossible To Explain": The Postmodern Novel And Society. It's an article about challenging one's reading with stories that try something new. An excerpt:

Here’s the problem. You decide to try some reading outside the ordinary, a novel that doesn’t have the usual earmarks, and it proves interesting, satisfying, but you don’t entirely understand why, and when you look for help, an illuminating review or something, you can’t find any.

You’ve picked up Carole Maso’s Aureole, for instance. This edition is dated 2003, from City Lights Books—didn’t they do Howl? Indeed, the first riffle through the pages reveals a poet’s typography, lots of white space. Is that paragraphing? Still, you take a flyer, and the upshot is, pretty damn good. The book reads first like poetry, then like stories, then like a novel. The front matter lists no previous publications, and while between each titled story or chapter you find no obvious connections, hardly any names for instance, you do pick up recurring phrases, developing histories, consistent obsessions. Sexual obsessions primarily, and primarily lesbian, though the encounters have too strange an angle of view, and too many ellipses, to qualify as porn. The reading experience isn’t difficult, exactly, not with so much flesh and heat, but you swing from one startling phrase to another...

Gormenghast Sequel Due

Here's an article from The Guardian: Gormenghast Sequel Due, Completed By Mervyn Peake's Widow. An excerpt:

More than 40 years after its author Mervyn Peake died, the story of the lord of Gormenghast Titus Groan is set to continue following the discovery of a fourth book in the series completed by his wife.

Peake died in 1968, leaving behind him three Gormenghast novels and the start of a fourth, provisionally titled Titus Awakes. His wife, the writer and artist Maeve Gilmore, began writing the book in 1970 but her completed manuscript was only recently discovered by their granddaughter. Digging through boxes which had been in the attic, she found four exercise books in his mother's handwriting and realised what they were.

"It came as quite a revelation," said Sebastian Peake, Mervyn's son. "When I was reading it for the first time a few weeks ago, it gave me a real kick in the solar plexus ... It's highly poignant."

This brings up an interesting issue. How do you feel about other writers continuing the works of incapacitated authors? I bring up not only Mervyn Peake, but Douglas Adams (Eoin Colfer has taken up the cudgels), J.R.R. Tolkien (his son, Christopher), Robert Jordan (Brandon Sanderson), and Terry Pratchett (he hasn't passed away yet, but my thoughts to him because of his Alzheimer's, which means someone else may try to write stories based on his). Is this all right with you, granted that all legal obstacles are cleared?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

10 Habits Of Successful Authors

Common sense is called "common" because it is, right? So why is it so rare?

Um, enough of that, but here are ten habits from Wordplay that should be pretty common-sensical if you want to write:

1. Write everyday.
2. Complete stories.
3. Learn the rules.
4. Break the rules.
5. Create your own inspiration.
6. Don't slack on the hard stuff.
7. Follow your heart, not the market.
8. Develop a thick skin.
9. Set your stories free.
10. Love what you do.

Click here for the full blog entry and related links.

Tulaan Sa Tren

Tulaan Sa Tren (Poetry On The Train) is a project of the NBDB with the goal of invigorating ordinary Filipinos’ appreciation for Philippine poetry and rekindle their interest in reading the best poets and authors of our country. Read about it on this link provided by The Philippine Online Chronicles, which includes the poems and the list of authors.

Writing English As A Second Language

Saw this link via the Facebook page of Gilbert Tan: Writing English As A Second Language. An excerpt:

I can’t imagine how hard it must be to learn to write comfortably in a second—or third or fourth—language. I don’t think I could do it, and I admire your grace in taking on that difficult task. Much of the anxiety that I see in foreign students could be avoided if certain principles of writing good English—which nobody ever told them—were explained in advance. So I asked if I could talk to all of you during orientation week and tell you some of the things my students have found helpful.

So that’s why we’re here today.

I’ll start with a question: What is good writing?

It depends on what country you’re from.

As you start your journey here at Columbia this week, you may tell yourself that you’re doing “communications,” or “new media,” or “digital media” or some other fashionable new form. But ultimately you’re in the storytelling business. We all are. It’s the oldest of narrative forms, going back to the caveman and the crib, endlessly riveting. What happened? Then what happened? Please remember, in moments of despair, whatever journalistic assignment you’ve been given, all you have to do is tell a story, using the simple tools of the English language and never losing your own humanity.

Repeat after me:
Short is better than long.
Simple is good. (Louder)
Long Latin nouns are the enemy.
Anglo-Saxon active verbs are your best friend.
One thought per sentence.

Good luck to you all.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Amazon Takes Kindle Self Publishing Global

Let's say that you have just written a novel, or completed your own anthology of short stories or a collection of poems. The traditional route to publication is to send your manuscript either to a publisher or an agent and if you're lucky, you'll be accepted. If the publisher accepts you, you go through an editing process before your work gets printed. If the agent accepts you, he can act as the first reader/editor, and then he'll do his best to get your work to the most appropriate publisher.

In this age of self-publishing, the writer can go straight to a print-on-demand site, bypassing the agent and the publisher. In essence, the writer becomes his own agent and publisher. Many of these print-on-demand sites can, for a fee, accept your work, put it in their database, and have it printed on a per-order basis. Voila! Instant physical book. I'm sure too that many of these publishers provide self-publishing of your work as an e-book.

Now, imagine that you had the reach, popularity, and efficiency of an behind you to help with your self-publishing. That's right, Amazon's going into the self-publishing business, at least digitally, from the way I understand it. With their Kindle quite the seller, one can't underestimate the effects of this move on other print-on-demand sites, on traditional publishers, on agents, and on writers. An excerpt from the article:

Amazon is expanding its Kindle self-publishing platform to allow authors and (supposed) rights holders to upload and sell e-books worldwide in English, German, and French.

The online vendor's global rollout of its Digital Text Platform arrives on the coattails of Amazon extending the reach of the Kinde DX e-reader beyond North America earlier this month.

Amazon's self-publishing platform allows those with publishing rights for a book or publication to sell the content on Amazon's Kindle Store. It was previously limited to the English language and to authors and publishers based in the United States.

Rights holders set their own prices and receive 35 per cent of sales.

Click here to read the entire article.

Ruin And Resolve Charity Anthology Reviewed In Business World Weekender

From Rocket Kapre: Ruin And Resolve Charity Anthology Reviewed In Business World Weekender. An excerpt:

Business World writer Johanna Poblete, who previously featured and reviewed Usok, gives Ruin and Resolve the same treatment in the pages of this week’s Business World Weekender (it’s a Friday-Saturday edition, so it should still be available today. Minor spoiler warnings apply.). While she has details her favorite stories in the review, as well as those that didn’t quite work for her, she seemed pleased overall with the charity anthology.

Click here to read the entire entry.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Rebound Magazine Issue 3

Issue 3 of Rebound Magazine is now out! Go and get your copies at the bookstores, basketball fans! (Here are Issues 1 and 2; and here are the Facebook links).

First, The Bird Again; Then Writing, A Pint Of Guinness, James Joyce And His Piano

Before anything else, that bird is still here. Maybe it's making fun of me; maybe it's just a rude bird hurling invectives at me while I, in all my innocence, am enjoying its singing; or maybe, as PGS contributor Elyss Punsalan has suggested here, it's trying to tell me maybe I should buy me a lotto ticket.

Okay, now that that's out of the way.

The comments on this previous entry, "Help! Language Confusion!", have become quite informative after Waking Up The Dead started sharing his thoughts. Deck Shoes, the one whom I linked to in the post, has made a follow up entry, "Writing, A Pint Of Guinness, James Joyce And His Piano", on her blog. An excerpt:

The previous post generated a few interesting and informative comments. Shiwang discussed important points on Kenneth Yu’s blog, citing works of James Joyce and he-who-inspired-towel-celebrations Douglas Adams.

I really intended not to discuss Writing, hence writing in my “Confusion” post “On the other hand, British writing isn’t as easy as using -our or -ise,” knowing that marami pa akong bigas na kakainin (I say this in Filipino, because if I translate into English I will have to say “I still have to eat a lot of potatoes”) to be able to “write British.” Therefore I merely focused on this string of British words, as opposed to Writing in General, in my previous post.

But since we are already in the discussion of language, points of view, background, etc., and I’m pleased after having a pint of Guinness, I’d like to list a few writers who in my opinion are very good at this. Most of them I read when I was much younger, back when I still read voraciously, so I don’t know if my impression would change if I read them again.

Click here to read her entire entry.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Even More Typewriters

It was on this most recent visit to meet some students that I saw another typewriter, an old Underwood that looks to be about thirty-or-so years old (pic 1, above). Seeing as how I really like these contraptions, I just had to drag it out from the lower shelf it was resting on just so I could take a good look and snap a photo of it. I've shared photos of a Royal, Olympias, Brothers, and now, above, Underwoods. Sadly, this Underwood in pic 1 was in terrible condition, even worse than when my own two machines broke down. The ribbon had stuck and torn, there was rust and dust on the outside and in its innards, and I wasn't sure if inserted paper would catch and hold anymore, or even if the roller would turn. The typewriter had clearly been set aside and placed out of the way, but I didn't want to pry it open seeing as 1) I was already handling property not my own and without permission; and 2) I risked getting myself covered in filth if I did. Yup, it was that dirty. I just took my photo and placed it back on the shelf.

One of my regrets from last year was not taking the chance to buy an old, black Underwood, much older than the one in pic 1. This other one is probably circa 1930's or 1940's, making it at least 70 years old (see pic 2, above). It was being sold "as is" for about P3,500, which probably meant that it would've needed more than just "a little fixing". I balked at the last minute though since I wasn't sure about spare parts or how to go about getting it back into working order. Now, in hindsight, I regret not getting it and worrying about repairs later, though it is highly possible that if I had purchased it, I would now be kicking myself in the ass for doing so because the cost of refurbishment might be much too high! You've heard about buyer's remorse, right? Well, I've got a classic case of non-buyer's remorse, mixed with a generous helping of double-thinking myself!

Contrast the Underwoods and those other typewriters I've blogged about with yet one more, one belonging to another of my relatives. Behold! The Swintec 7040 Electronic--not electric, mind you--Typewriter (see pic 3, above). It types as softly as a computer keyboard (no clickety-clack from this machine), has a one-line LCD screen, and prints as quietly as an ink-jet printer. It even comes with its own built-in correction tape; you just press an "erase" button after positioning the marker on the error--and voila!--the error is gone, so cleanly and neatly it looks as if there had been nothing printed there before. Those of you who know how messy using correction fluid or correction tape manually is like, will know what I mean when I say that erasing errors with the Swintec 7040 is like having the softest, smoothest, gentlest hands of the most skillful artist apply the correction fluid for you. The thing even comes with its own dictionary, as well as so many other features. And it still costs more than US$700! One would think that with computers and ink-jet printers costing much less, this machine's price would also have gone down, or maybe the model would've been discontinued. But no! It's still here, hanging around. The funny thing is that my relatives now use one of those all-in-one scanner/printer/fax gizmos for their document needs, so their fully functioning and multi-featured Swintec 7040 just sits there on a side-table, unused. Probably much like any other typewriter nowadays.

But the Swintec 7040 leaves me feeling a bit cold. I mean, it's nice and all, and if I needed to whip up a document quick without booting up the computer, I'll bet I could do so with it. But I think I'd prefer using one of the manual ones. For all the Swintec's features, the feel of a manual typewriter is just something I'd choose over the smoothness of the "Electronic" typewriter (I'll just have to bear with manually applying correction fluid and tape). I wouldn't need to plug it in, either; and if I did have to plug something in, even my old Brother electric typewriter would serve me fine.