Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Is PublishAmerica for Real?
PublishAmerica defines itself by what it is not. It is not, states co-founder Larry Clopper, a vanity publisher. Because the company offers editing and marketing services and does not charge writers a fee, it considers itself a traditional publisher with, shall we say, democratic view. However, their books are rarely found in bookstores and sales are made through publish-on-demand technology. The Author's Guild, among others, says the company is not a real publisher and is doing writers a disservice. One writer who used PublishAmerica said her manuscript received no editing and only minimal marketing support. She said she had to sell copies of her book herself. She has started a petition, signed by 100 of the company's current and former authors demanding "honest disclosure about the services" PublishAmerica provides.
Andrea Levy Wins Whitbread Prize
For the first time, a British writer has won two prestigious awards for the same novel. Andrea Levy's Small Island won the Orange Prize for fiction, worth £ 30,000, and last night won the Whitbred Prize, worth another £ 30,000. Small Island tells the story of two couples building lives in postwar England: one, Jamaican immigrants (like Levy's parents) one native English.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Do MacArthur Grants Misfire for Authors?
Crain's Chicago Business magazine analyzes the effectiveness of the prestigious MacArthur Grants for writers. Called "genius grants," the $500,000 prizes are awarded yearly to authors as well as scientists, architects, artists, and those in other fields with no strings attached. Crain's contends that MacArthur's board tends to recognize writers far past their peak, who have already written their best work and have received numerous other awards. The goal of the grants, writes Mark Scheffler, should be to recognize up and coming writers and help them reach their peak. The average age writers who have received the MacArthur is 48.
Dylan's Memoir is Finalist for National Book Critics' Circle Award
Bob Dylan's Chronicles, Vol. 1, a hit with readers and critics, is a finalist for the biography award of the National Book Critics' Circle. The winners will be announced March 18.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Lord of the Rings Director to film The Lovely Bones
The film director Peter Jackson, who won an Oscar for the final film in his Lord of the Rings trilogy has purchased the rights to The Lovely Bones, reports The BBC. The 2002 international bestseller by Alice Sebold is narrated by a girl who has been raped and murdered. The film is scheduled for release in 2007 and Jackson says he will produce it independently. "You have an experience when you read the book that is unlike any other. I don't want the tone or the mood to be different or lost in the film," said Jackson.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Writer Petitions to Have Hollywood Street Named After F. Scott Fitzgerald
The image of jazz-age writer F. Scott Fitzgerald that endures is very much entwined with New York City, where he wrote and published his first book and enjoyed his first success. The image of he and his wife Zelda jumping into the fountain in front of the Plaza Hotel during a night of partying is, after all, based on fact. But Fitzgerald spent the last, quieter (post-Zelda) part of his life living and working in Hollywood working on screenplays and stories and on his last unfinished novel, The Last Tycoon. To honor Fitzgerald and his years in Hollywood, Rodger Jacobs is petitioning the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce to name a street after him on the 65th anniversary of his death. Read the petition here.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

From Abuse and Addiction to Writing and Celebrity
J.T. LeRoy was born to a 14-year-old drug addicted prostitute who worked truck stops. He was so beautiful and delicate that he resembled a girl, which is how he started turning tricks as a child alongside his mother. Heroin addiction soon followed, but somehow LeRoy took a detour from the highway to self-destruction. Clean and sober at 24, LeRoy is now a literary celebrity with a bright future. With his third book, Harold's End about to hit the shelves, he is named by celebreties as their favorite writer, and "has been embraced by established writers including Tobias Wolff, Michael Chabon and Mary Gaitskill, and by a cadre of celebrities with, as it happens, their own troubled pasts: Courtney Love, Winona Rider, Tatum O'Neal and Billy Corgan," reports the Eugene Register-Guard. LeRoy, whose fiction is based on his childhood experiences, is in no danger of becoming a flavor of the month. "The thing about attention is it's like drinking. One drink is too many, and a million isn't enough,'' he says. Meanwhile, the film adaptation of LeRoy's second book, The Heart is Deceitful Above all Things, starring Peter Fonda, Wynona Ryder and Marilyn Manson, is making the rounds at various international film festivals, reports

Thursday, January 13, 2005

UK Writers in Free-speech Furor
A proposed anti-crime bill in England which includes a sanction against "inciting religious hatred" has caused members of the English PEN, the writer's organization, to seek a meeting with the Home Secretary before the Bill goes up for discussion in the House, reports the UK Guardian. Two hundred writers, including Salman Rushdie, Monica Ali, Antonia Fraser, signed an open letter to Home Secretary Charles Clarke, arguing the new law would end freedom of expression, stating that "to gag criticism is to encourage abuse of power within religious communities." The controversy comes in the wake of recent violent demonstrations in Birmingham against the play Bezhti. After a riot by Sikh protesters the play was closed. Under the new law, the playwright could be prosecuted for "inciting religious hatred." In their letter to Mr. Clark, the writers state: "Here a violent mob, on the grounds that a play offended their religion, successfully prevented its performance, acted as censors, and threatened the life of its author...the new legislation encourages rather than combats intolerance. We do not need it. What we need is a signal from government that it wishes to defend true democracy and its many virtues, including those of dissent and the freedom of expression." Read full text.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Da Vinci Code Author Denies New Plagiarism claim
Dan Brown was in court in New York yesterday denying claims he plagerized material from yet another author in his blockbuster bestseller. Lewis Perdue claims that Dan Brown plagerized from two of his books -- The Da Vinci Legacy and Daughter of God. Brown is also fighting charges of plagerism from authors Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh who wrote Holy Blood, Holy Grail in the 1980's which put forth theories about Jesus, Mary Magdalene and the Priory of Scion that are incorporated in The Da Vinci Code. Brown in fact lists Baigent and Leigh as sources for his book and named one of the lead charachters Leigh Teabing, a combination and anagram of both authors' surnames. That suit is still pending.
Meanwhile in Scotland, Rosslyn Chapel, scene of the book's denoument and reputed resting place of the Holy Grail, is feeling "the Da Vinci effect" with a 56 percent increase in tourism. The chapel will open now only for hourly guided tours, a move to preserve the 600 year-old structure from damage to its delicate carvings. A 3 million pound renovation of the chapel is planned to start later this year, reports the UK Herald.
Book-of-the-Month Club Tries to Get With the Program
Beaten into irrelevance by the likes of Oprah, and the ubiquitous Borders and Barnes and Noble stores all over the country, The Book-of-the-Month-Club is seeking ways to serve customers more individually and cut costs. Step one: Get rid of the literary panel which cholse it's main selections every year. Step two: Give readers a choice of what kind of book will be sent to them every month. Step three: free shipping on orders over $25. But some things never change; new members still get five books for a buck with a promise to buy four more. The New York Times, reports.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Jon Stewart's America Banned in Mississippi
Just when you think this country can't get any more stupid, we've reached a new low: Jackson County Regional Library System has voted to ban America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inactionby Jon Stewart, the nation's bestselling book. Ostensibly, the reason is the nude photos with heads of the Supreme Court Justices pasted on them (yeah, right). The people of Jackson County are irate about the decision, but are powerless. The SunHerald reports.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

First-time Novelist at 57 is Teary-eyed
Chances are you've seen Ron McClarty. As a character actor, he was a cop on Spenser: For Hire, is a judge on Law and Order, and was a sex therapist on Sex and the City. He's done stage work and commercials. For decades, after a hard day emoting, McClarty would descend to his small basement office -- dubbed "the pit of despair" by his kids -- and write books. Ten of them. None of them were ever published, or even acknowledged by publishers. Then, McClarty, who also records books on tape, gave a copy of his latest manuscript The Memory Running, to his producer. She loved it and got it recorded. Then Stephen King gave it a rave in his column in Entertainment Weekly and the fun really started. $2 million later, the book has been published by Viking/Penguin and there's a possible movie deal in the works. "It's like a guy dying in the desert coming across the Ritz-Carlton," he says.
Whitbred Prize Winners Announced
London's prestigious Whitbred Prizes have been announced in five categories, reports Reuters: First Novel: Eve Green by Susan Fletcher; Best Novel: Small Island by Andrea Levy (also winner of the Orange Prize); Biography: My Heart is My Own: The Life of Mary, Queen of Scots by John Guy; Children's Book: Not the End of the World by Geraldine McCaughrean; Poetry: Corpus by Michael Symmons Roberts. Each winner receives £ 5,000 and is included in the competitition for Whitbred Book of the Year, to be announced on January 26.
Two Chicago Writers, Chinese take-out and Talk
Studs Terkel at 92 is an institution. His legendary interviewing prowess is still evident every week on his radio program. His books about all facets of American life, Hard Times, on the Depression (1970); Working (1974), on people and their jobs; The Good War (1984), on World War II, which won a Pulitzer Prize; Race(1992), on relations between blacks and whites in America, and Hope Dies Last (2003), on how people cope with difficult times have raised the oral history to an art form. Recovering from a fall, Terkel has by no means slowed down. The International Herald Tribune reports as he sits down with friend and fellow writer Alex Kotlowitz, a reporter and some take out to talk and reminisce.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

California Museum Exhibit Honors Wallace Stegner
During his long and prolific career Wallace Stegner won the Pulitzer Prize for Ficition and the National Book Award. As a writing professor at Stanford University his he taughtLarry McMurtry, Scott Turow and Edward Abbey. Consistently named one of the best writers of the American West, and mentioned as a writer who should have won the Nobel Prize, Stegner's legacy is little appreciated today. The Los Altos History Museum in California has debuted a new exhibit, Wallace Stegner: Throwing a Long Shadow, to honor the man and his work.
Writer Contemplates Quitting--Kind of.
The prolificMadison Smartt Bell is a native of Tennesee who landed in Baltimore via Princeton and New York City. For twenty years he has been a novelist and professor, for ten years his primary subject has been his Haitian Trilogy, historical novels revolving around the former slave Toussaint L'Ouverture and the rebellion he led in Haiti in 1801. The first book of the series was a finalist for the National Book Award. The last volume of the history, The Stone That the Builder Refused out in November, Bell, who has also written contemporary novels, says, "Actually, I might quit." Although no one is taking him seriously -- "Whenever I say this everybody laughs," Bell says he doesn't feel the desire to write anymore although he does have a few ideas floating around.