Book editor speaks up from flyover territory…

March 26, 2011 § 11 Comments

Jane Hnderson writes for the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the only daily in this Gateway area of 5 million people – pathetic, huh? ( I mean it’s pathetic that we only have one daily paper, not that she’s the book editor!)

Say what you will about online this and that. The Post rules around here…for now. And the young local journalists, the up and comers, have little interest in starting a “paper” newspaper.

All that aside, Henderson has what I consider to be the closest thing to a the perfect job; she reviews books.  She’s been out and about, a bit, in the journalism world, but she roosts here in STL and does her book thing, occasionally showing up at a writers’ conference.  (Funny how those conferences are so often about the book and publishing and NOT about the writing necessary to even GET to the book part….)

Here are a few things Henderson has to say about the book world:

“When I started as book editor it was more like 60,000 books were being published a year; now literally there are probably over a million new titles published a year,” she told the Washington University The Figure in the Carpet , newsletter,February 2011. 
(hmmm….that sounds positive, for those book writers among us!)

“Self publishing and print-on-demand titles made up over 760,000 of the new titles of 2009, but more traditional presses have also been churning out more titles, with over 280,000 new titles per year among them.” (OK, OK, there are thousands of possibilities, you could say…)

Henderson keeps her readers current via her Book Blog yet interestingly finds the blog a bit…abstract, you could say.  She’s not sure what a blog should be. It wasn’t part of the curricula when she was in J School. (true confession: Haven’t yet read her blog. Actually didn’t know about it ’til recently.)

While she believes the Internet does books a service, overall, in getting “press,” it may not be reliable in her opinion. Not reliable because of the anonymity of book postings…which can allow such reviews to be misleading or worse, she thinks, blatant self-promotion.
(I don’t know much about that simply because I pretty much read only book and writing bloggers who I respect for their diligence and their opinions and the info they impart.)

Henderson feels a lot of the celebrity books are “junky” and I salute her for saying it outright. She refers to the many pop personalities, Snooki among them, who “write” books.  She goes on to say that a lot of books are nothing more than extended essay, articles or news stories and because of her hyped up reading to cover the many thousands of books out there, she sees a lot, she says that are “repackaged concepts, and poorly written and edited.”   Henderson can dish some tough love on the bookworld. (I am guilty of assuming a book is “junky” before even giving it a try, like Snooki’s or OJ’s or (forgive me) Barbara Bush’s.)



 Henderson shares some surprising (and good) book trends. There are more independent bookstores in STL now than when she started as book editor 15 years ago!  They add significantly to the city’s cultural life.  (makes my heart sing!)

And we have indie publishers right here in our own backyard, including Blank Slate Press.

(makes my heart sing louder!)  

 Honestly, I wish there was a bookworld talk show.


Book Night: some writing books I haven’t read…yet…

March 7, 2011 § 10 Comments

My library still doesn’t have coffee and I still NEED coffee when browsing books sometimes (often) so rather than heading to the local branch, we stole 40 minutes at B&N this afternoon.

And rather than being completely indulgent and reading writing-centric magazines, I decided to do a little “research” in the “writing” hard-cover section (also known as “reference”).

And saw these books and paged through them, just to see what was what….I read a few pages in each and made some very snap judgements in regard to each. While overall snap judgements are unkind, in the case of some books, I thought it might be ok and it is NOT directed at the authors, merely the books themselves.
They follow.


THE LITTLE RED WRITING BOOK. Cute title, a “twist” of an approach as many books are doing now, like THE ART OF WAR FOR WRITERS (a decent book if you need to get some silent support) and various others.

Rather to my surprise, however, beyond the creamy paper, the very nice font and fine layout, it is somewhat classic in its approach and topics covered – like, how to set up an essay and where the conclusion belongs; friends&faux amis, in terms of using “then” and “than”; clarity; emphasis on verbs rather than adjectives; and, etc. You get the drift.

It’s kind of a nouveau Strunk&White.  I hand this one to the newbies, the younger gen who might not like the look S&W, even the illustrated one. However, if “looking” for new/fresh/same stuff-different presentation, I’d still fall back on, then,  Grammar Girl, who is a big hit with me (definitely for the corporate team) but also because I like her podcasts.


THE PRODUCTIVE WRITER is another “nice little book.” Do you need it on your shelf? Well, first of all, it’s small, not tiny, but will be smaller than your other books. Which could make them fall over, you know, if you propped this one  in a shelf that wasn’t already jam-packed.   I’m just saying that if you like everything to align on the shelf, this one will throw it off.

So this one has tips and tools to help you write more, as the subtitle explains (kinda hard to read in the picture, though.)
But seriously, I have already forgotten what this one focused on… I mean, how it looked and what was in it. However, I didn’t get all excited and dance-y about it, nor put it on the “library” list in my notebook. And Amazon is not letting me take a look to refresh my memory. Ultimately, this one does not make the “yes” pile.


Houston, we have a winner here.  Not crazy about the paper in this one, BUT I like the book’s set up and author Jill Dearman goes long, offering some exercises, too, which are always good and always better than little examples – I LIKE it when they give us something to do, to practice.  And equal to that, I like when they come up with something I haven’t thought of or, didn’t look at it that way before. She answers to t hat.

This one focuses more on writing your story/book/novel, with a verb approach, that is, “action!” And there IS something compelling about the sounds of the keys when you’re typing, too, which means that SOMETHING is happening (and hopefully it’s not akin to Jack Nicholson’s freakout in THE SHINING).
(Note that this book gets 5-star reviews on Amazon, too!)

Overall,  I like the energy in this one. Did I buy it? No. I might look at the library. I’ll probably skulk around it and if over the next two months, I “finish” 2 or 3 of my current writing books (a weakness, yes, because they’re like my support group whether I’m writing fiction on my own, or regional journalistic pieces), I’l borrow or buy it. Stay tuned…

So, there ya’ go.  If you’re stalled, pick up one of these OR if you’re wondering what new (writing) book just might put you in your chair and move you to get started or keep going, maybe just holding one of these little tomes and flipping through the pages will help. Hey, why not?

Full moon, getting its freak on

February 24, 2011 § 9 Comments

I know the full moon occurred sometime last week for its usual amount of hours. However, I believe there is some conspiracy afoot (incurred by Mother Nature, of course) that involves an extension of the full moon.
I’m saying that, according to all the quirks, faux pas, mistakes, twists, dips and downright “what the heck?s” that happened this week, the full moon is ongoing. I dont’ know how it looks like it’s no longer full – perhaps the power of Wikileaks or sci-fi writers banded together or some secret group engaged in adjusting the light reflected from the moon so that it no longer looks full, just to trick us,  but I’m telling ya, it’s been a rockin’ ridiculous, rioutous week that has included everything from lost project files, to frozen PCs to misplaced money to a million individual moments of quiet head-shaking – and it’s been totally full moon-able.

Thank goodness for the peace of writing with a pen, the reading of a thick good book and the moments to stare off, thinking about a particular line just read and for the rituals of  returning to home life after work.

And thank goodness for stepping outside an hour past twilight with the dogs and all three of us looking into the parklike area where all the backyards meet and seeing seven deer, all lying there, unfettered, unconcerned,  just bathing in the moonlight.
Freaky. Unexpected. Beautiful.

If the full moon is going to go long, then fine, let all the nonsense occur as long as we can have those deer right there, nearly invisible, among us.

OK, and I might have to do a little howling, but that just goes with  moon territory.

Write what’s on your mind and push and pull and twist it (like taffy) so someone else might want to read it. Just go. There is no writing “in the box.”  Crawl out of there and write, write, write. If you go long enough, there will be something in there, in your writing: something good, something lesson-able, something that makes you say “oh.”  And just for that, it’s good enough, it’s wonderful.

Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype (1992), by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. It was on the NY Times bestseller list for 145 weeks. Impressive.
But no, I haven’t read it yet. Yes,  it’s been on my shelf for at least nine years.
How can I recommend it? I don’t know. It just seems like a good time to open it up. 
And wait for that (I know it’s not really full) moon to go away.

Valentine’s Day…still

February 14, 2011 § 6 Comments


A lovely card from our family in Brooklyn…

These are plates, not candy! Fun, albeit useful only for a very few days a year! (including taking a picture of them for one’s blog!)

And this Valentine surprise from Jeanie, who also gets to sell her cool and lovely creations to various shops! Bravo!


MY DEAREST FRIENDS, LETTERS OF JOHN AND ABIGAIL ADAMS … So absolutely suited to Valentine’s Day,and any day really. This is a wonderful book, not necessarily to be read all at once.It’s OK; it merits dallying in the language and the emotion of it.  Admire. Get a grasp of letter writing…at its best!

The following about the book is directly quoted from the New York Times, (2007):

“He was her “Lysander,” after the Spartan hero. She was his “Diana,” after the Roman goddess of the moon. She called him “My Dearest Friend.” He called her “Miss Adorable” and his “Heroine,” who sustained “with so much Fortitude, the Shocks and Terrors of the Times.”
He, of course, was John Adams, the brilliant, charming, often irascible Revolutionary patriot who became the second president of the United States. She was Abigail, his spirited, stoic and equally brilliant wife. The two were not just what one television dramatization of their lives all too glibly termed “America’s first power couple” at a time when most women were accorded little power or influence. They were also uncommonly well-matched partners who shared a passionate dedication to the Revolutionary cause, as well as a love of books and history, a playful sense of humor, a voluble literary gift and deep and abiding affection for each other.”

Get it. Read it. Keep it on the nightstand, or the coffee table, but no, it’s not a coffee table book. It’s meant to be read and enjoyed. What’s so special about this one?  “Reading” a President and his First Lady, a public celebrated couple  who had an abiding relationship in which they invested time, and writing.

going…going…almost gone (the ice, I mean)

February 11, 2011 § 10 Comments

To my cousin Sam with whom I grew up and who lives now in Florida, I offer up these ice-y pictures.

Yes, there’s beauty in wicked frozen Winter, but truly, living with it for weeks at a time,we become inured to it after a certain amount of  early mornings shoveling, chipping, scraping and sliding around, on foot and in the cars.

…and then you witness a downy little bird on the bench or the furniture that is otherwise ice-bearded and yet you marvel at even their claw feet that somehow seem immune to the cold.

The frozen little “fir” tree that stands sentry at the front porch was crispy and in the wind, rattled and threatened to smash into a million little fir pieces…but it didn’t.

And the cardinals have a way of making snow look fabulous, even romantic, with their red crests a sharp silhouette against the snow. and for a moment you recall the holidays but you’re  on the other side of Xmas songs and snow, and you realize with relief that Spring is just around the corner.

From left to right:   1958…Me, my (big) brother Barry, and our cousins Sandy (Sam), Greg and David. Betsy, the 4th cousin, would come along soon! Oh, and note the long sled.
Yup, this is when we REALLY loved winter and got out in it every chance we could, bungling clothes notwithstanding.

Happy Halloween! though an “inky” day, not one on which I’ll do much writing…

October 31, 2010 § 3 Comments

I called The Mud House this morning at 8:30 a.m. to set an interview with one of its owners. They have early hours (take a look) so figured my chances were good, and they were there. It’s set; we’ll talk tomorrow. I wished they  could have passed one of their well-known art-techie lattes to me through the phone.
In the meantime, there’s a bit of homework to do about the place and while the website is good (and well designed), the pictures I’m after are in their Facebook album. And I just de-activated my FB account the other day. Drat. 

I haven’t written a darn thing in my journal, my coffee is a bit weak (HM is sleeping in following a howling crazy party we costumed up for and attended last night in the city so I made coffee this a.m. …bleh) and there are a million things that need doing while my pen lies quietly…just … over there…on the desk.

Why on earth we haven’t had a president who runs on the three-day-weekend ticket is beyond me. With a little rest and a little more time for all of us on the homefront, we’d be far more productive and a lot more fun, overall.  I digress.

Everything is conspiring to  make it a Halloween-y Eve!
Huge bowls of candy, silly strobe lights to set in the darkened rooms of the house, eerie spooky music to blast into the front yard from the Zune, more leaves than I can rake thus leaving hundreds of them underfoot to crackle and swoosh at each step, and there’s a bit of wind, if it sticks.

Had to share these great craft papers from Graphic 45 tho’ I’ve no idea at the moment what I’ll be doing with them. But I’m an ALICE IN WONDERLAND fan/devotee and needed them. 
The designs are on heavy stock and likely ATC or bookmark ameable but somehow, that seems so…”done.” Will come up with something “Alice-y” to do with them, but for now…

This is “Alice” gone a tad Halloween…

Tim Burton would have to love these interpretations of the classic drawing.

Now where would the Hatter get himself a piece of candy corn?

We’re gearing up for the neighborhood which is packed with “littles.” Nor and I will be in costume to answer the door; we’re not letting HM dress up – he’s too scary, so he’s in charge of lights and technical effects.

And in hopes of keeping away from the candy, I’ve set out some apples for Nor, HM, and me and there are four different cheeses in the fridge, too, you know, to feed those hard-working hand-out-the-candy characters! Hope it works, but I’m skeptical. I’ve already had a mini Almond Joy, and it’s not even noon. Egads.

PS Debnance did a cool booklist – she listed her top 10 scariest books.
Great idea.
And so to share (and because imitation is sincerest form of flattery), I offer my top 7 scariest books, herein (top 7? yup):
1) The Exorcist – Wm Peter Blatty
2) The Children’s Hour – Lillian Hellman
3) The Tommyknockers – Stephen King
4) Cruddy – Lynda Barry
5) The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox – Maggie O’Farrell
6) The Legend of Sleepy Hollow – Washington Irving
7) Turn of the Screw – Henry James

book “cool”

October 24, 2010 § 9 Comments

It’s all about used, I mean, recycled books, mags, movies, instruments, electronics and DVDs at Bookmans, in biz for 30 years now in Arizona, specifically the Tuscon, Phoenix, Flagstaff and Mesa areas.
Its six stores totalled retail space comprise 114,000 square feet and it continues to re-define recycled as it grows, simultaneously offering cultural events, classes (like Yoga) and fundraisers and it fights sincerely against censorship. 
Who couldn’t love it? Bookmans also has a blog.
One more major thing: the Bookman stores are also pet-friendly. Geez.
Oh yeah, and offer free Wi-Fi.

 Road trip, anyone?

PS Apparently online purchasing via Bookmans is coming soon! 
Me likey.

So go ahead, check out the youtube video for fun. It’s dominos –  with books!

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