Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Around the Word

BEA postscripts: The attendance figures for last week's BookExpo America are out, and the numbers were essentially flat compared to 2010 (down less than two percent). Bad omen? Or good news, all things considered? Check out this report from Publisher's Weekly and you be the judge. Once you are done, you can get a full flavor of who was actually there from this fun, witty analysis from Bloomsbury Press publisher Peter Ginna (aka Doctor Syntax) of the cast of characters who regularly populate BEA -- such as the swagaholics, schnittmans, and carrots.

Wanted, dead or alliterative: Last week we learned that the U.S. government has commissioned an intelligence unit to analyze the metaphors used in various languages for terroristic and other tips. This news inspired quite a bit of tittering from across the pond, with Michael Rosen of the Guardian exploring some of the "frightening" conclusions this over-interpretative Metaphor Program could reach to lampoon our spooks. For example, take these famous lines from Wordsworth: "The world is too much for us; late and soon/ Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers./ Little we see in Nature that is ours." Might the great romantic poet be labeled "anti-bourgeois subversive -- someone who will need to be watched." Or consider Hamlet's well-worn soliloquy or warriorisms ("slings and arrows of outrageous fortune"). "Clearly, Hamlet is a potential terrorist," Rosen writes. "And indeed he was. Or rather tried ineffectually to be. But the writer who conjured him up? Probably not."

How to become a pro at proposals: If you're new to book proposal writing game, or just looking for ways to sharpen your edge, we encourage you to chew on this tough-love post from the staff at Barrett-Koehler Publishers we recently unearthed. Though many writers think they have a great memoir or other nonfiction work to offer, there are some challenging questions you have to ask yourself before developing a viable, compelling pitch and getting it bought. For example: Is this book really needed? Why am I qualified to write this book? How will you actively market your book?

Finding the write quote: Knowing that writers may be the most self-referential beasts on the planet, literary agent Rachelle Gardner has posted a short, snappy guide to great adages about our craft. While some are philosophical -- "Only a mediocre writer is always at his best" (Somerset Maugham) -- others offer insightful practical advice. Take this gem from Kurt Vonnegut: "When I used to teach creative writing, I would tell the students to make their characters want something right away, even if it's just a glass of water. Characters paralyzed by the meaningless of modern life still have to drink water from time to time."

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