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Your Book Is Why Daddy Drinks

Most review outlets like to post positive reviews. Readers like positive reviews, and, the thinking goes, authors have a hard enough time without some review outlet slamming their book—even if it’s well-deserved. So we may see a bad review in the New York Times, or on Kirkus, but it’s rare.

Enter Tyler King and Matt Marovich, co-hosts of the podcast Your Book Is Why Daddy Drinks. While they will occasionally recommend books they actually like, for the most part, each podcast features a riotous take-down of books that are, simply put, ridiculous.

A couple disclaimers: we’d rate this podcast an R for language, so we can’t vouch that any episode is either work-safe or child-appropriate. Second, this is what you’d call a “grassroots” podcast, meaning some of the production values aren’t as polished as you might find on better funded sites, such as NPR. (Of course, there are those that might say NPR is too polished…)

With that out of the way, why not give it a listen? Sometimes, it’s good to laugh at this stuff, even if we consider ourselves serious writers. Maybe especially if we consider ourselves serious writers. And hey, sometimes the hosts even sober up enough to raise some money for a good cause.

From a review of the fourth-worst rated book on Amazon to a review of a novel featuring an inter-species relationship, it’s all here. Enjoy.

On the Condition of Anonymity

Margaret Sullivan, the public editor of The New York Times, has been tracking the (over)use of anonymous sources in her newspaper, in hopes of “discouraging a practice that readers rightly object to.” While the citing of anonymous sources shows no sign of slowing down, writer Matt Gross had a little fun in a column he wrote for the Daily Intelligencer in  New York Magazine.

As you’ll see, it’s basically impossible to pull a quote from his poetic creation, so… just read it.

Enjoy!

Young Scholars Publish Book on John Hope Franklin

HopeCelebrated historian John Hope Franklin was inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame in 1998. Now, thirty students from Duke University’s John Hope Franklin Young Scholars Program have self-published an unusual book that weaves illustrated scenes from Franklin’s life with the story of a fifteen-year-old boy who gets into trouble and recovers by connecting with the prolific author.

From the blurb:

Kendrick Parker isn’t quite sure what’s going on with his life. He doesn’t know if the girl he is interested in really likes him back and his best friend is having troubles of her own. More importantly, his parents are keeping him up at night with their yelling. It’s getting harder and harder to get to school on time, something his history and track coach, Mr. Douglass notices. Hoping to inspire Kendrick, Mr. Douglass hands him a copy of the graphic novel version of Mirror to America, renowned historian John Hope Franklin’s autobiography. Little does he realize how much it will encourage him to take action.

The John Hope Franklin Young Scholars Program, part of Duke’s Center for African and African-American Research, introduces high-potential middle schoolers—mostly members of under-represented minorities—to university research, paving their path toward college. Past projects have included researching the background of scarf joints in the barn at the Stagville Plantation in Durham; learning about the Great Migration through travels to Greensboro and Wilmington; and next year, creating a documentary about the little-known Civil Rights movement in NC during the Civil War.

John Hope Franklin’s literary landmark, From Slavery to Freedom, is now in its ninth edition and has been translated into five languages, with more than three million copies sold. This book, more than any other, has reshaped the way African-American history is understood and taught.

“My challenge,” he said, “was to weave into the fabric of American history enough of the presence of blacks so that the story of the United States could be told adequately and fairly.”

Running For Hope: A novel by the John Hope Franklin Young Scholars with illustrations from the autobiography of John Hope Franklin, is available through some local bookstores or www.Amazon.com.

SIBA Announces 2015 Winter Okra Picks

The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance has announced their 2015 Winter Okra Picks:

All the chosen books have a strong Southern focus and are published between January and March, 2015, and all of them have fans among Southern indie booksellers; people who are always looking out for the next great writer who should be on your plate and in your TBR stack.

Here they are, the 2015 Winter Okra Picks:

The Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Chris Scotton (Grand Central Publishing)

Hall of Small Mammals: Stories by Thomas Pierce (Riverhead Books)

Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm (Viking Books)

Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama by Hester Bass (Candlewick Press)

Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League by Jonathan Odell (Maiden Lane Press)

My Sunshine Away by M O Walsh (Putnam Adult)

Welcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson (William Morrow & Company)

Sisters of Shiloh by Becky and Kathy Hepinstall (Houghton Mifflin)

Mosquitoland by David Arnold (Viking Children’s Books)

A Season of Fear by Brian Freeman (Quercus)

Soil by Jamie Kornegay (Simon & Schuster)

Blackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly (Greenwillow Books)

The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance is a trade alliance for privately-held, brick and mortar, commercially zoned, retail indie bookstores in the South.

Claudia Emerson, RIP

Claudia Emerson

Claudia Emerson

Claudia Emerson—Pulitzer Prize winner, former poet laureate of Virginia, and graduate of the MFA in Creative Writing Program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro—died last week in Richmond. She was 57.

From the Washington Post:

Ms. Emerson’s works were published widely, including in the New Yorker magazine and in journals including Poetry, Southern Review, Ploughshares, and Shenandoah. She traced her artistic roots to the literary tradition of her native South. “Even though I’ve never owned an inch of land in my life,” she observed, “I feel very much tied to it.”

Claudia Emerson was born Jan. 13, 1957, in Chatham, Va. Her father, whose family had farmed for generations, ran a store in town.

Emerson published five poetry collections through Louisiana State University Press: Pharaoh, Pharaoh (1997), Pinion: An Elegy (2002), Late Wife (2005), Figure Studies: Poems (2008), and Secure the Shadow (2012). A sixth collection, titled The Opposite House, will be released posthumously in March, 2015.

She was the former poetry editor of the Greensboro Review and contributing editor to Shenandoah. She won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 2006; an NEA Fellowship in 1994; a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2011; and was elected to the Southern Fellowship of Writers in 2011.

Click here to visit her website.

Here is her poem “Animal Funerals, 1964.”

That summer, we did not simply walk through
the valley of the shadow of death; we set up camp there,

orchestrating funerals for the anonymous,
found dead: a drowned mole—its small, naked palms

still pink—a crushed box turtle, green snake, even
a lowly toad. The last and most elaborate

of the burials was for a common jay,
identifiable but light and dry,

its eyes vacant orbits. We built a delicate
lichgate of willow fronds, supple, green—laced

through with chains of clover. Straggling congregation,
we recited what we could of the psalm

about green pastures as we lowered the shoebox
and its wilted pall of dandelions into the shallow

grave one of us had dug with a serving spoon.
That afternoon, just before September and school,

when we would again become children, and blind
to all but the blackboard’s chalky lessons, the back

of someone’s head, and what was, for a while longer,
the rarer, human death—there, in the heat-shimmered

trees, in the matted grasses where we stood,
even in the slant of humid shade—

we heard wingbeat, slither, buzz, and birdsong—
a green racket rising to fall as though

in a joyous dirge that was real,
and not part of our many, necessary rehearsals

2015 Manly Wade Wellman Award

Manly Wade Wellman

Manly Wade Wellman

The North Carolina Speculative Fiction Foundation (NCSFF) has announced the preliminary eligibility list for the 2015 Manly Wade Wellman Award. Seventy-nine novels written in 2014 are eligible.

The Manly Wade Wellman Award honors outstanding achievement in science fiction and fantasy in novels written by North Carolina authors, defined as writers who have made their primary residence in North Carolina for six months out of the twelve months preceding publication. In the case of a novel with more than one author, half or more of the listed authors must be North Carolina authors. The novel may be published or self-published, available electronically, in print, and/or in audiobook format.

To view the complete preliminary eligibility list, click here.

The yearly lifecycle of The Manly Wade Wellman Award is as follows:

  • in December, a preliminary list of eligible novels is published and publicized along with a solicitation for additions and corrections
  • at illogiCon in mid-January, nominations will open based on the list of eligible novels as well as write-in options; nominations will close and the list of finalists announced in March (at StellarCon, when held)
  • at ConCarolinas in late May, final voting will open; final voting will close at ConTemporal in late June
  • at ConGregate in mid-July, the winner(s) will be announced, and (anonymous) voting data will be published

A versatile, award-winning writer in many genres, Manly Wade Wellman (1903-1986) was born in Angola, West Africa. Although his work has been called “science fiction,” he successfully blended his varied interests to create a genre now referred to as speculative fiction. His fascination with Appalachian history and folklore form the basis for his fantastic Silver John series, which features a virtuous folk-ballad-singing young hero who battles supernatural forces of evil in the North Carolina mountains, defending the innocent and timid. Wellman’s numerous works of speculative fiction also include a Martian murder mystery, tales of loathsome alien invaders, and Twice in Time, the story of a man who falls into the fifteenth century and becomes Leonardo da Vinci.

Wellman was inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame with the inaugural class of 1996.

The North Carolina Speculative Fiction Foundation (NCSFF) was founded in December 2013 to promote the writing and reading of speculative fiction in North Carolina and to recognize outstanding achievements in North Carolina science fiction and fantasy. The first and currently only project administrated by the NCSFF is The Manly Wade Wellman Award. Their website is http://ncsff.org/.

Raleigh Arts Plan

Pullen and Sertoma Arts Centers

Pullen and Sertoma Arts Centers

Launched over the summer, the Raleigh Arts Plan hopes to define Raleigh, NC, as the “Southern Capital of Arts and Culture.”

From the press release:

The Raleigh Arts Plan is the development of a ten-year master plan to strengthen arts and culture for all the city’s communities and people. This plan comes from the community and will reflect a shared vision for the cultural future of the city’s people. The planning process is led by the City of Raleigh but will also include partners, organizations and citizens who want to be involved in fulfilling the community’s vision. The results of the plan will include initiatives to grow arts and cultural opportunities across the city that reflect the needs of the community.

At www.raleighartsplan.com, citizens can get involved by answering questions about what they’d like to see, culture-wise, in their city; customize a personal profile; and interact with other artists and cultural curators through “Mindmixer,” an online engagement tool that will “connect organizations with community members who might not otherwise get involved.”

The creation of the Raleigh Arts Plan was developed by The Cultural Planning Group, a San Diego-based firm. The $150,000 initiative will focus on engaging the community in arts and culture as well as developing the future of arts and culture in the city.

Introducing Writers and Filmmakers.com

Money may be “only a tool,” as Ayn Rand once said, but for independent writers and filmmakers, cold hard cash is often the thing standing between their movie idea and the movie actually being produced one day.

Enter www.WritersandFilmmakers.com, a new web-based company dedicated to the belief that the “filmmaking and writing community can decide on our own what is good…and what to fund!”

Writers and Filmmakers.com believes we are living in the golden age of filmmaking. The talent is strong, the drive is visible, the passion is overflowing! Everyone wants to make a film that will blow the audience away—and Writers and Filmmakers.com wants to help. They want to empower those filmmakers and writers who are unable to raise funds simply because they are not connected.

Through two contests—one for feature-length films, and one for short films—writers can win up to $20,000 and have their film shot, while filmmakers can win up to $50,000 and launch their movie career.

For more information, including a detailed FAQ, click here.

With only 1,000 applicants, total, per contest, divided between writers and filmmakers, the odds are actually pretty good—at least as far as these things go.

Sign up for their newsletter or check out their Facebook page here.

#GivingTuesday

In the commercialized gauntlet that is the period of days following Thanksgiving—as “Black Friday” becomes a week-long event and “Cyber Monday” deals can be had around the clock—we’d like to encourage you to remember the non-profit organizations in your end-of-year giving plans.

Today is #GivingTuesday, after all. Why not consider donating to the North Carolina Writers’ Network?

The North Carolina Writers’ Network connects, promotes, and serves the writers of this state. We provide education in the craft and business of writing, opportunities for recognition and critique of literary work, resources for writers at all stages of development, support for and advocacy of the literary heritage of North Carolina, and a community for those who write. The North Carolina Writers’ Network believes that writing is necessary both for self-expression and a healthy community, that well-written words can connect people across time and distance, and that the deeply satisfying experiences of writing and reading should be available to everyone.

From the unprecedented crowd at October’s 2014 North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame induction ceremony (some 300 strong), to the 200-odd attendees at this year’s Fall Conference in Charlotte, NCWN is committed to encouraging writers of all stripes, from newbies to New York Times bestsellers.

Please consider giving. You can donate easily, online, by following this link.

You’d be surprised what even a modest donation can do. Any amount helps.

Thank you.

Self-Published? The Numbers Don’t Lie

This morning’s books waiting to be opened and shelved at Book World. (Ron Charles/The Washington Post)

The book review department at The Washington Post receives about 150 books a day.

Read that again.

150 books. A day.

These are books that had to find an agent, then a publisher, then be professionally edited, and then find someone willing to throw marketing dollars at them, because The Washington Post? It doesn’t review self-published books.

They’re not alone, of course. Few major media outlets do. But if you’ve ever wondered why, or screamed about the injustice of a policy like theirs, here’s some insight.

Roger Sutton, editor in chief of Horn Book magazine, recently penned an open letter to self-published authors, explaining more or less why Horn Book magazine doesn’t review self-published books. There are several reasons, which Ron Charles does a nice job of summarizing in his follow-up blog at The Washington Post.

But this one stands out:

A related problem is that while many, many people want to self-publish their children’s books, far fewer actually want to read them.

Frankly, that’s not a problem limited to children’s books. Plenty of adult writers are more interested in publishing than in reading the work of their peers—and plenty of others are more interested in publishing than mastering the craft of writing.

The numbers don’t lie. More than a half-a-million books are published in this country every year. Whether you’re self-published or traditionally published, that’s an uphill climb if ever there was one. But the roadmap for success, for both, remains the same: study your craft. Practice your craft. Know your audience. Comport yourself professionally.

And for the love of all things sacred, use an editor. And a proofreader.