When I talk about the politics of reading and writing, I’m not referring to who won the election. In reading and writing, politics involves being “politically correct.” I put that in quotes for a reason. Because is it really about politics? Or is it about doing what’s right? Social media buzzes with talk about diversity in publishing and books written about lived experiences. Authors debate the dangers of piracy in this digital age. But at the end of the day, everyone deserves a place at the table. Writers should be paid for their efforts. Piracy breaks laws.
Certainly this simplifies things. I won’t argue that there’s no room for discussion on these subjects, or not plenty of shades of gray. But sometimes when we’re writing and thinking about how the results will be received, the most straightforward answer works best. Think about what’s right. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. This week’s links offer some thoughts on the politics of reading and writing, along with more general interest articles. I hope you find them thought provoking. Enjoy, and happy writing!
The Problem with ‘Problematic.’ – Francine Prose discusses the pros and cons of the discussion around diversifying books. (Note, this is not arguing against the need for diversity, but talking about the ways in which the problem is being discussed and where some lines have been drawn.)
Best Books of 2017. – Publishers Weekly offers their somewhat-early list of the best books for the year.
Autumn reading always means fatter books and more serious titles for me. Call it back-to-school syndrome. This year autumn reading also sounds like an excellent way to escape the world’s ills. We could all use something to distract us from politics and terrorism, hurricanes and health insurance, if only for a little while. So among this week’s links, I offer some lists of great books to inspire you, but hopefully also a few to help you get lost.
In addition, I have the usual collection of industry-related reads. I hope you find them interesting and entertaining.
Finally, a quick reminder that I am closing to new submissions as of October 10th. You can find complete details here. Wishing you all a wonderful weekend, and some excellent reading and writing time. Enjoy!
The Ripped Bodice Report on Racial Diversity in Romance. – The ladies behind The Ripped Bodice Bookstore took it upon themselves to look into racial diversity in romance publishing. This report looks at the percentage of romance books written by authors of color at various publishing houses. (Warning: It’s disheartening.)
Friday Links return! Writing inspiration appears in many forms, and today I offer up some ideas to keep you productive through the end of 2017. During my blog hiatus, I held onto some links that I wanted to share when I started blogging again. That means these links span more than just the past week. But whether you typically get your writing inspiration from reading a great book or an article on craft, these links have something for you.
With the season’s changing, it’s the perfect time to observe what that means where you live. Whether it’s fall or spring in your part of the world, grab a notebook and pen and go people watching one afternoon. What happens to the weather, wardrobes, behavior, the pace of life? This transitional time of year makes for interesting stories. Go take notes.
Banned Books Week challenges the idea that anyone can tell you what to read. Or what not to read. This week, look through your TBR pile or scan lists of challenged books. Pick up a title you might not normally choose. Don’t let anyone tell you that a book is too racy or radical or risky for you. Dare to read dangerously.
Every year, the American Library Association tracks what books have been challenged or banned. Challenging a book involves attempting to remove access by a person or group, where banning successfully removes that book. People challenge books for many reasons, objecting to sexual content, religious ideas that conflict with their own, or subjects they find distasteful. Check out the books most frequently challenged, organized by year, and including books for children and young adults, as well as titles challenged for diverse content and even classics.
Banned Books Week takes place every September, but people challenge or ban books all year long. They attempt to block your access to material that might change your way of thinking or open your mind to new ideas. We fight for the publication of more diverse books, but we must also stand for the right to read them.
Take a Stand
Do you love a book that people threaten to ban? Speak out this week on social media. Tell us why you love that title. If you hear about someone challenging a book in your town or city, make your opinion known. Speak up and explain what makes that book important. Check out the ALA for ways to help, ideas for boosting the signal, and resource materials. Share your love of books by helping to keep them accessible to everyone.
The new year brings its own set of challenges, and for me one is always tackling my goal to read more. Given my job description, “reading more” refers to submissions, comp titles, and books purely for pleasure, and part of the challenge there is finding a good balance between keeping up with work and also discovering what wonderful books have already been let loose on the world.
Last year my personal reading fell a bit short. I had lofty ambitions and got off to an excellent start, but by the end of the year my travel schedule, submission pile, and mood over the turn the country was taking had all joined forces to make it difficult to get really absorbed by a good book. Still, I read a fair number of titles, so I’m not too disappointed with my efforts. Among my favorite reads for the year was Shonda Rhimes’s Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person. I read it early and it remained strongly in my mind throughout the year, even if I didn’t always follow all of its good advice. I’m thinking this is an excellent time for a reread, in fact.
My reading goals for this year are very similar to the ones from last year: Read more works by authors of color, read more works in translation. I’m aiming for 60 titles, which I didn’t quite hit last year, and we’ll see what happens. I kicked off the year with poetry — milk and honey by Rupi Kaur, which I loved — but right now I’ve got my nose back into the submissions pile.
Do you have reading goals for 2017? Anything in particular you’d love to pick up? Maybe a big book you’ve been saving for when things calmed down post-holidays? I’d love to hear what you’re all excited to read.
It seems we’ve gone a bit overboard with these national and international days, but National Book Lovers Day is certainly one I can get behind. And frankly, there’s something a bit decadent about it landing mid-week. Almost permission to sneak off and read on the sly, instead of doing whatever it is you’d be doing on a random Tuesday.
I’ve got my nose deep in manuscripts at the moment, so I will resist the urge to play hooky because I feel like reading client projects and submissions definitely falls into the spirit of the day. But I do hope to find some time this evening to settle in on the couch with a nice glass of wine and a good book with a cover.
Here’s a quick wrap-up for anyone curious as to the outcome of my readathon experience this weekend. I made it about 18 of the 24 hours, but because things geared up at 5am in my time zone, I was pretty much done by 11pm, without a lot of hope for waking early and reading more before the 5am deadline the following day. So I crashed and just got up briefly to cheer everyone on Twitter, then conked out for a few more hours.
Still, I read two entire books over the course of my readathon, one full comic book trade (about 6 regular-length issues), and made it about 50 pages into a third book, so I call it a win. Sunday, I did very little, and certainly no more reading, but it made for a great weekend, and as always I found the readathon experience to be tons of fun. There’s something about knowing so many other people around the world are settled in with their books and keeping track along with you. The social media aspect makes it even more enjoyable. A different experience for what is normally such a solitary activity.
We’re just over a quarter of the way through the readathon, and I’m about two-thirds of the way through my book. I always have high hopes for these events, but the reality is I rarely manage more than three books over the course of a readathon, and that’s only if I read pretty steadily for the full 24 hours. Today I will probably grab something short to read in the middle, once I’ve finished the Ishiguro, so I have a bit more sense of accomplishment.
I do realize that reading speed is personal and enjoying your book is the important part of the readathon, but at the same time, I’d love to make more of a dent in my TBR stack, which is enormous. All I can do is keep plugging away, and put down any reading picks that aren’t suiting my mood to move on to something that might engage me more. And on that note, I’m headed back to my book.
Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon kicks off this morning. It’s an east-coast-centered event, which means for me here in SoCal, the reading starts at 5am. I’d considered delaying a bit and reading slightly later than the rest of the crew, but what’s the fun in that? So I set my alarm and now I’m wide awake and raring to go. This means: coffee is brewing, I’ve pulled out my Jane Austen mug for the occasion, I put an extra pillow on my couch, and the coffee table is weighed down with books. I’ll post here occasionally throughout the day, but will probably be updating on Twitter: @NepheleTempest, so if you’re curious about my progress or what I’m reading, that’s the place to check. Happy reading to anyone else participating!
Every April, The Los Angeles Times hosts their Festival of Books (note: their website is already gearing up for next year), a two-day extravaganza that features panel conversations on every publishing, writing, and bookish topic imaginable, author signings and interviews, awards, and a campus-full of stages and tents catering to everything from cookbooks to young adult fiction to literary magazines to local writing groups and organizations. And since writers and readers need to eat, there have also been a heck of a lot of food trucks in recent years. It’s a feast for the eyes, the brain, and the stomach, much of it outdoors, and really, what more could you ask for on a spring weekend?
This past weekend we might have asked for a little less rain, but the weather on Saturday was more drippy than anything, and the sun obligingly came out on Sunday. I try to attend most years, and was glad it was a bit cooler and maybe a touch less crowded than usual, though there were still plenty of people in attendance. I went to a number of panels and heard authors speak on their recent works, including young adult authors Nicola Yoon, Jason Reynolds, Ruta Sepetys, and Victoria Aveyard; romance authors Tessa Dare and Anne Girard; and upmarket authors Alexander Chee, Laila Lalami, Stewart O’Nan, Aimee Bender and more. I managed not to cart home any more books, but only because purchasing them at the festival meant carrying them around the USC campus the rest of the day. I certainly added a number of titles to my TBR list, and of course I’ve already read much of these authors’ work.
Anyone near LA or planning to travel in this direction should aim to come the weekend of the book festival. It’s a wonderful event every year and catnip for anyone who loves to read and write. But in the meantime, I’ll be posting a few videos over the next few days to share some of the interviews held with attending authors. Whether or not your read/write the genre in which these authors work, I think you’ll find they each have a great deal to share.