Friday, July 8, 2011

Around the Word

Are e-readers killing the book-up? Freelance writer, playwright, and Brooklyn-ite Lisa Lewis speaks to/for many literary lovers this week with a playful, lighthearted complaint about how E-readers have destroyed her dating life. Writing on the New York Times' City Room blog, the 29-year-old NYU grad student argues that her golden pickup line, "I love that book," has become obsolete because we can no longer glance and see what people are reading on the subway, etc. For Lewis, checking out a book title isn't just a conversation starter, but a general indicator of future compatibility. "A man's literary taste can score as many points as being good with my parents or an ace in the kitchen," she quickly adds, "[Now] I am limited to those who peruse The New Yorker in print and I fear those days are numbered." Are e-readers crimping your style? 

Query karma: How's this for a payback payoff? John D. MacDonald received countless rejection letters before becoming the prolific and respected short-story writer and novelist we remember. Once he made it big, he decided to literally turn the tables on his literary tormentors and send out a sarcastic, form rejection letter to unsuccessful editors looking to acquire his work for their magazines.  Here's a brilliant opening snippet, brought to us courtesy of Letters of Note: "We would like to write a personal letter to each and every one of you, but the great mass of stories submitted from this office makes such a procedure impractical. Surely you can understand that!"

No need to be a baby about your bio: If there's one topic that most pro ghosts struggle with it's writing about themselves, and that trouble goes double for developing their own promotional materials.
Our favorite blogging agent, Rachelle Gardner, comes to the rescue this week with some smart tips on how to create a top-flight bio to put your best professional face forward. In particular, she focuses on how to present your bio in a query letter for fiction versus non-fiction, as well as what you should highlight if you have few, or no, publishing credits to list. Don't include too much extraneous resume-like information -- try to limit your educational background and previous work experience. Most important, she advises, "make it professional -- but you also need to convey personality and writing style. Don't try too hard to be funny, but include something that makes you seem like a real person." 

Meet the smorgas-book: Talk about crowd-sourcing -- this week saw the release of a new mystery novel, No Rest For The Dead, that was written collaboratively by 26 best-selling spine-tingling authors. Contributors included Daivid Baldacci, R.L. Stine, and Kathy Reichs. The book's premise centers around a detective who helped convict a woman of murdering her husband -- though 10 years later becomes convinced he got it wrong. Each writer was assigned a portion of the tale to flesh out-- without being told what came before or after. The idea for the book was the brainchild Andrew Gulli, who runs Strand Magazine and also edited the finished product. "If you add up the group of writers who have taken part in this book, you'll find they have sales in the hundreds of millions of books," says Gulli, "In the history of publishing nothing like this has ever occurred." All proceeds are to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, as both of his parents died of Cancer. 

"Doublethink" these writing tips: George Orwell is widely hailed as a pioneering thinker on the politics of language. But our friends at Daily Writing Tips argue this week that the rules of his seminal essay, Politics and the English Language, were made to be broken. Orwell, a devout socialist, witnessed the power of propaganda in writing and maintained a penchant for the clear and concise. His top six writing commandments include "never use a long word where a short one will do" and "never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech you are used to seeing in print." Among other counterpoints, Daily Writing Tips argues that not all figures of speech should be sent to the metaphor retirement home and some can be especially catchy when used in punny contexts. Take, for example, "A government agency turns over a new leaf about deforestation...." Be sure to check out all six of Orwell's writing commandments and let us know if you think they still ring true.

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