Richard Ford and Clarity of Thought
“Clarity of language historically, thinking of Orwell, meant clarity of thought, that you've actually uttered something and thought about it afterwards.” That's the start of Bob Hoover's interview with novelist Richard Ford.

Taking Your Creativity for Granted?
Don't, says Edward Albee in his Los Angeles Times essay “Humans: The Artsy Animals.” The subhead states, “Our creativity distinguishes us from other species, but we can't take it for granted.”

Librarians As Guardians of Freedom
Unfortunately too many of us think of librarians as boring individuals protecting the sanctity of the Dewey decimal system, which few libraries use any longer. In Connecticut, they became the champions of freedom—being the first individuals to legally challenge the reach of the USA Patriot Act. These four librarians refused to reveal their patrons' book borrowing habits, as requested by federal authorities. They challenged the law when no other organization—with more the means—found the nerve to do the same. They speak out in a New York Times article by Alison Leigh Cowan.

Literary Light Burns Bright
“I'm poor, but when my lights go out, my soul still soars.” Those are the words of Felton Williamson of Brooklyn as noted by Peter Applebome in his essay “World Apart, but Bound in Softcover.” Williamson's word are just a dozen of the thousands in a new book of writing by adolescents from Brooklyn and Westchester. It's entitled On My Mind: Student Writings from Somers and Brooklyn, New York, published by the Rotary Club of Somers and Billy Collins, former U.S. Poet laureate. And in case you think you have it tough as a writer, read the story of Jessica Atkinson as written by Michael Winerip.

Understanding the Other Side
I contend that writers write about what cannot be viscerally understood, such as the hatred that Muslim believes have for the United States. John Updike tells why he tackled just that topic in his latest novel.

Atwood at Hay
“It was a dark and stormy week. Local legend had it that it had been raining for 40 days and 40 nights, and on the Friday morning when I arrived with my spouse, Graeme Gibson, it hadn't stopped.” That's Margaret Atwood's take on the start of the Hay Festival in the Guardian.

Inside the administration building, employees like Patrice kept meticulous inventory of the comings and goings of every particle of matter related to the process at the Fernald plant run by National Lead of Ohio. What the process was exactly, Patrice didn't know. She couldn't wrap her mind around the idea of salt turning to liquid, then metal, with all the steps of heating, firing, pouring, lathing and cutting. The plant was processing uranium for the government –that's as much as she'd keep in her head about it. Just as well, because you couldn't talk about it on the outside. Security gave a speech outlining the company’s expectations that you hush about work once you stepped beyond Fernald gates. Each night papers were locked in a safe, so what was in the office you left at the office, what was in the plant you left at the plant. Patrice had no one to talk to but her mother, so for her secrecy was not a problem….Click to read more.

Paying for Top Spots
Publishers are paying bookstores in Britain more than $80,000 a week to ensure their books have a shot at the bestseller lists. For the fee, the retailers display the books in prominent areas. Michael Horsnell explains more in his
London Times essay. It's the just the Brits. American booksellers discovered the PathMart-WalMart model years ago. So the next time you walk into a mega-bookstore don't presume if you see it first that it represents anything more than someone willing to spend money for the display.

The Demise of the Independent Bookstore
In an excerpt from Reluctant Capitalists, Laura Miller analyzes the decline of the independent bookstore and the rise of the mega-stores that now dominate the retail publishing market. Good material, easy read. You could expand your understanding of the market by reading Paul Collins' “Chain Reaction” from the Village Voice. Meanwhile the bookstore versus cyberspace is becoming the next debate.

So Why Do You Want to Write for 21st Century America? Is There a Reader for You?
Probably not according to Joseph Bednarik's report “Law of Diminishing Readership.” Here's the tip of the iceberg:

So Many Books: Reading and Publishing in an Age of Abundance (Paul Dry Books, 2003), by Mexican poet and business consultant Gabriel Zaid, and Reading at Risk, the sobering report published by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in 2004, articulate the challenges faced by the swelling legions of creative writers longing to find a readership. Consider the following statements extrapolated from Zaid's book and the NEA report:

1. Production of creative writing far exceeds consumer demand.

2. Accredited MFA programs in creative writing continue to proliferate, while the practice of literary reading is in steady decline.

3. Many publishers require underwriting to produce and distribute literary titles because sales do not support production costs.

4. Publishers can, with relative ease, attract a thousand manuscript submissions—plus reading fees—by sponsoring book contests.

What's wrong with this picture? If you're running an MFA program, a book contest, or a writer's workshop, or selling other goods and services that support the writer's life—absolutely nothing. If you want your book published and read by an audience other than friends and family—everything.

But Jessica Winter in her Village Voice essay, “The Fine Print,” finds out that Johnny Temple, publisher of Akashic disagrees: "In big publishing, the line is that people don't read, and we're all competing for the same dwindling pool of readers," says Johnny Temple, publisher of Akashic. "That's not true. We're going out and finding new readers, and showing people that reading can be provocative and exciting." She also sees the rise of the independent non-profit press.

From Asperger's to?
Mark Haddon shot to fame with a novel about a boy with Asperger's. Now he's tackling sex and self-harm. He tells Hadley Freeman about his 'butterfly mind', as G2 begins a week of reports from the Hay Festival.”

New Issue of SNReview

May 28, 2006

SNReview (www.snreview.org) has posted its new Spring 2006 issue, featuring a record number of short stories and poems. In total, there are more than two dozen poems and more than 40,000 words of fiction and non-fiction.

The short stories are from the creative minds of Neal Dorenbosch, Malikah Goss, David Hoenigman, Alyssa Kagel, David Mohan, Dani Rado, Nickalus Rupert, Matthew Smith, Eugenia Tsutsumi, Donna D. Vitucci, Robert W. Witt, and Jay Wright. Michael O'Loughlin penned an excellent essay of freedom of thought.

The poems came from the imaginations of Johanna DeBiase, John Grey, Aryan Kaganof, Vanessa Kittle, A.P. Kruise, Rich Murphy, Ravi Shankar Rajan, and Lisa Zaran.

The writers come from around the globe, many of whom have affiliations with some great institutions, such as Goddard College, Brown University, George Mason University, George Washington University, Harvard University, Notre Dame University, Rutgers University, Sacred Heart University, University of Alaska, University of Eastern Kentucky, and University of West Florida.

SNReview (www.snreview.org) is also issuing a call for short stories, poems, and essays for its summer issue, which should appear on August 1. Short stories and essays should be less than 7000 words. Poets should send only three poems (less than 200 lines). The editors read only submissions sent by email. A writer or poet should copy and paste her/his work into the body of an email. Send it to editor@snreview.org. Put “Submission” in the subject line.

Enjoy reading.

Da Vinci Code Industry Larger than Imagined
A few days ago, I joked that the Da Vinci Code was becoming its own industry. I never realized how close to right I was. “If you, like more than 100 million readers around the world, enjoyed The Da Vinci Code, marketers are betting that you might like the 'Da Vinci' video game for PlayStation2 and Xbox, too. Or a 'Da Vinci Code' paint-by-number [dumb idea]. Or 'The Da Vinci Fitness Code,' a diet book based on the Fibonacci sequence.” That's the word from Julie Bosman in her article for the New York Times. She also notes there's even Da Vinci Code porn. (Does Mona Lisa do the dance of the seven veils? Or does Mary seduce you know who—full frontal nudity?) Estimates as to the size of this industry: $1 billion, excluding revenues that Sony is expecting from the movie. All goes to show that P.T. Barnum had it right. He just never took it to publishing.

As I Lay Crying
Go from Bosman's article to Rachel Donadio's. You'll end up crying in your beer. Dan Brown is raking in the money as are his publisher and his agent. And what do they want more of—Da Vinci Code sequels—not in the sense of a follow-up to the book (although that is there) but in the sense of another cash register regardless of its intellectual or literary or academic value of the which the Code has zero.

Let's presume you are aspiring to something literary—in other words not like Dan Brown, polar opposite, having something intelligent to offer. A snowball in Hell has better chances, according to Donadio's essay “Promotional Intelligence.” Here's what a budding novelist must do: 1. Convince an agent to represent him/her. 2. Get the agent to believe that he/she can make good money from his 15 percent commission. 3. With her agent, convince an editor that her career will take off with the book. 4. With her agent and editor, convince the sales and marketing departments to push the book. 5. Finally convince Sessalee Hensley, the literary fiction buyer for Barnes & Noble, to buy the book. 6. Cross fingers and hope and pray and rub a magic whatever.