Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Wheels on the Blog Go Round and Round--Until They Fall Off!

Mon Dieu! Here I was thinking I was Superman and could manage it all.

How wrong I was!

My family from England has come to stay for two weeks, and then our family is going away for a week into the wilderness. I thought I could blog my truncated summer schedule, but I can't even do that. To compound matters, I can barely read anyone else's blog, let alone comment.

So, after much wailing and gnashing of teeth, I've decided to dim the lights for three weeks. After all, what little time I have has to be devoted to my work-in-progress, right?

I'll be back at the beginning of August, refreshed and reinvigorated.

See you all then.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The HuffPost's Bogus British Book List: No Shakespeare, Austen, Tolkien, Rowling?!

So, the Huffington Post decided to trumpet its UK launch with a list of British writers beloved by Americans. Here's what they wrote:

America has an enduring love affair with British literature--we may have won the War of Independence but we are forever indebted to our island ancestors for the books that get us excited. So here you are England, America's love note to your authors.
Now here's the surprise: Jane Austen didn't make the list, and neither did Shakespeare. Our best guess is that both are too large to be considered British and they belong to the world. You'll be surprised to see who got mentioned most frequently.

Dang, was I surprised! Here's the list:

1.   Graham Greene
2.   Madeleine Wickham (a.k.a. Sophie Kinsella)
3.   Chris Ewan
4.   Evelyn Waugh
5.   David Mitchell
6.   Douglas Adams
7.   George Gissing
8.   Zadie Smith
9.   John Donne
10. Charles Dickens
11. William Golding
12. Neil Gaiman
13. Nick Hornby
14. John Fowles
15. Jasper Fforde
16. Ian Fleming

I know such lists are usually rubbish, but this one in particular seems like it was dreamed up by a trio of tequila, Google, and the sozzled denizens of a frat house. And perhaps Sophie Kinsella and Chris Ewan's Twitter accounts. Plus the mighty George Gissing fan club.

George Gissing, reveling on making the HuffPost list

Think of all the writers Sophie K. and Chris Ewan (the only one of the bunch I hadn't heard of) beat out:

J.K. Rowling, Tolkien, Shakespeare, Austen, Le Carre, Thomas Hardy, George Orwell, P.D. James... Actually the list is almost endless.

Since the HuffPost voters made such a hash of things, let's have the wise and witty readers of The Year of Writing Dangerously weigh in. Who are your favorite British writers?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I ♥ Craft Books

As you've gathered by now, I'm a sucker for "craft" books. In fact, during the party celebrating my becoming a U.S. citizen three years ago, my wife did a "How well do you know him?" quiz. One of the questions was about how many books on writing were on my shelves. The answer was something like 70. (One wag then retorted, "doesn't seem to be doing him much good, does it?") Good thing I have a sense of humor!

The other day, the list-serve for the SCBWI-Oregon writers was abuzz after a writer asked for Craft Book recommendations. Here is the complete list the writers came up with. (Bold means I've read them.)

Steering the Craft by Ursula LeGuin
Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg (audiobook especially recommended)
Zen and the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
The Muses Among Us, by Kim Stafford
The Art of Fiction, by John Gardner
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott
On Writing by Stephen King
Story by Robert McKee
On Writing Well by William Zinsser
The Writer's Book of Hope by Ralph Keyes
Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose
The Artist's Way, Julia Cameron (excellent when you're in the doldrums)
Writing the Breakout Novel, Donald Maass
Writing the Life Poetic, Sage Cohen
The Courage to Write and The Writers Book of Hope, by Ralph Keyes (excellent for uplifting discouraged writers)
Take Joy by Jane Yolen
Save the Cat by Blake Snyder (A screenwriting book)
From Where You Dream by Robert Olen Butler
Fiction First Aid by Randy Obstfeld
Description by Monica Wood
Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne & King (a hands-on craft book that teaches specific techniques)
Advanced Plotting, Chris Eboch (forthcoming)
The Scene Book: A Primer for the Fiction Writer, by Sandra Scofield
The Writer's Portable Mentor: A Guide to the Art, Craft and the Writing Life by Priscilla Long (If you do the exercises, it's a great writing class!)
Wild Mind: Living the Writer's Life, by Natalie Goldberg
The 28 Biggest Writing Blunders (And How to Avoid Them) by William Noble
Creative Nonfiction by Philip Gerard
The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E. B. White
Unless it Moves the Human Heart: The Art and Craft of Writing by Roger Rosenblatt. (inspiring and practical.)
A Passion for Narrative: A Guide for Writing Fiction by Jack Hodgins.

Of Particular Interest for Kidlit Writers:
Writing with Pictures by Uri Shulevitz.
Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul.
Manuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lyon
The Writer's Guide to Crafting Stories for Children by Nancy Lamb
Spilling Ink by Ellen Potter and Ann Mazer (for young writers)
Creating Characters Kids Will Love by Elaine Alphin
Second Sight: An Editor's Talks on Writing, Revising & Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults by Cheryl B. Klein

Would you recommend any other craft books not on this list?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Link to Middle Grade Mafioso and 4th of July Celebration

The Middle Grade Mafioso (a.k.a. my other blog) is having a quote fest about America, celebrating Independence Day and the freedom of speech that we have.


Friday, July 1, 2011

A Rant With Which I Happen To Agree

Spotted on Shelf Awareness:

"Some tough bookstore love from Gawker's Hamilton Nolan: "You think the owner of that book store doesn't know what you're doing? Oh, they know exactly what you're doing. You say you 'love' books? You say you enjoy perusing the soothing aisles of a book store, so lovingly curated by a book store owner who spends his or her life ensuring that the very latest and most interesting book selections are there, presented for you in the most interesting possible way? You like that a lot? Yeah. So you can go home and order that shit online.... Book stores do not exist just to show off book covers so you know what you want to order from Amazon! You ungrateful bastards!"

I do love a good rant. Of course, my language is more temperate, but I do agree with the sentiments.

I am, I admit, slightly weird. (Only slightly, you understand.) Although I am very progressive politically, I do have a side of me that would be quite at home wearing a monocle and having a scotch at my Gentlemen's Club. Call it my "Inner Old Buffer," if you will.

Had I lived in a different time I would no doubt have spent my days bemoaning the passing of steam engines. I do remember mourning the change from the pound note to the pound coin. I was suspicious of microwaves, doubtful of computers, and swore I would never blog. Now look at me. My wife claims that she needs only to sow a seed in my mind and wait... perhaps wait a while... for the eventual harvest.

I love books. The smell of their pages, the heft of them, and the fact that they colonize my house. I do not own an e-reader, and probably won't until they stop publishing printed books the way they've stopped producing video tapes. And one thing I will mourn, with all my soul, is the coming extinction of the book store.

Practically everyday I see the obituaries written, venerable book stores closing their doors. I will miss spending a quiet hour or two in their sanctuaries, leafing through volumes whose titles or covers take my fancy. (Unlike the anonymous browser being excoriated above, I do not troop off to order from Amazon--though I am not so pure as to never visit a library in search of something I think I might love.)

Do you love book stores? Do you have a favorite?