Friday Links: A Celebration of Books and Booksellers

Today I wish to celebrate both books and the people who sell them. Independent Bookstore Day is tomorrow, and fall titles start hitting shelves in a few days. Reading good books takes some sting out of this ongoing pandemic, so what better time to praise all things bookish?

Independent Bookstore Day logo of a hand holding an open book.

 

What have you all been reading during this period of safer-at-home? I know not everyone can focus on books right now, but sometimes that means returning to old favorites or finding joy in poems or shorter books. I’m doing some rereading, myself. Old romantic mysteries by Mary Stewart. Humorous poetry I discovered as a child. But also new romances and women’s fiction. Fantasy as long as it stays well away from dystopian situtations. All mixed in with “homework” reading: how to be a better, more active ally to BIPOC people, and political titles about the state of our democracy. If that sounds like a lot, it hasn’t been. It’s been slow going, spread over months, with more books piling up on my TBR behind them at a rapid rate.

Fall always brings a wealth of new titles. I’m trying to keep my pre-orders at a minimum, simply because there are soooo many new books I want to read. But pre-orders are the way to go in this new pandemic economy. Let publishers know they should print copies of the books you’re looking forward to reading. Supply chains are still moving slowly, so reader interest helps publishers know where to make their best efforts.

Meanwhile, here are a bunch of links to give you ideas of what to read, and where to get your copies. Plus the usual writing/industry chatter. I hope you find something interesting and inspiring. Have a great weekend, filled with wonderful books and maybe a little quality writing time!

This Week’s Links:

Independent Bookstore Day. – A resource of online and in-store events taking place to celebrate independent bookstores across the country.

117 Black-Owned Bookstores. – A great resource if you’re looking to support Black-owned businesses. You can even check for stores in your own state.

The Importance of Bookstores During the Pandemic. – A lovely homage to bookstores and all they do for us, especially in difficult times.

Eight Trends in Book Cover Art, From Busy Botanicals to Women Walking Away. – As it says. Some beautiful examples, attached to some great reads. (I’m personally partial to the botanicals.)

Paris Stories: The Writing of Mavis Gallant. – A short film about the Canadian author and her approach to writing, with interview footage as well as the author reading samples of her work. Inspiring, plus a lovely bit of armchair travel.

Why It’s Not Empowering to Abandon the Male Pseudonyms Used by Female Authors. – A thoughtful look at the recent decision to release a number of books written by women including their birthnames over the pseudonyms they chose, and why this is not a simple situation.

9 Books about Disreputable Women by Women Writers. – Great books featuring the inside stories of women society labels disreputable.

The New California Curriculum. – An interesting look at what it means to be a California writer, and where these writers fit into the literary landscape as we reconsider what types of books should be considered “canon.”

Plotting Your Fantasy with a Bullet Journal. – One writer’s system for organizing their writing, plot, and world building.

We Need People Within Our Publishing Houses Who Reflect What Our Country Looks Like. – A great interview with Lisa Lucas, who will be leaving her post as head of the National Book Foundation at the end of the year to take on the role of publisher at PRH’s Pantheon and Schocken Books.

Friday Links: The “I Need to Close Tabs” Edition

I accumulate goodies for Friday Links all week long. The tabs stay open in my browser until I post them here on the site. This becomes problematic, however, when I don’t do a Friday Links post for a few weeks. Hence this random, fly-by collection of links to occupy your weekend. Everything is bookish, related to reading or writing or publishing, but that’s about all I can say for a theme this week. Blame the heat or quarantine or pandemic brain, or possibly all three.

An open book with a 3D, black-and-white sketch of a pirate, treasure beneath a palm tree, and a pirate ship.

Wishing you all a good weekend. Please take care, whatever that means in your neck of the woods. Social distance, wear a mask, stay home if at all possible. Read something lovely or take a long nap. Be kind to others, and to yourself. Enjoy!

This Week’s Links:

Cree LeFavour on the Pleasures of the Limitless Reread. – I am a fan of rereading, though I rarely have as much time to do so as I’d wish. This reflection on the joys of rereading really clicked for me.

The Battle Between W.E.B. DuBois and His White Editor Was an Early Reckoning Over Objectivity. – We think of great writers as respected for their skills and accomplishments, but they fought for whatever ground they gained.

Writers Who Cook: Serious Biscuits with Steven Reigns. – Because I know I’m not the only bookish person who has foodie leanings.

Joan Didion & John Dunne: A Literary Arts Podcast. – An interview from the archives, where the authors discuss their careers and writing processes.

Toni Morrison Let Us Know We Are More Than the Work We Do. – A lovely look back at the author and her wisdom on the anniversary of her death.

Penguin Quiz: Which Famous Literary Group Would You Have Been In? – Fun little quiz. (I’d have been part of the Algonquin Round Table, if you wanted to know.)

It’s Time to Radically Rethink Online Book Events. – The perfect essay for the age of COVID-19.

100 Must-Read Historical Romances. – A great list of fun titles to distract you from whichever of the latest dumpster fires occupies your brain.

Friday Links: Reading Your Way to Summer’s End

This Friday I propose we all forget about the pandemic (metaphorically) and focus on our TBR piles. Stay home this weekend, fix yourself a pitcher of tasty cocktails (or mocktails–your choice), grab a lawn chair or hammock and get reading. I will admit I’m spurred on by my own weekend reading list. Mine is all client-and-submission related, but the rest of the proposal stands. And you should feel free to tackle all those great vacation reads you’d normally enjoy on a plane or by a pool. (If you have a pool in your yard, even better.)

Not sure where to start? You are in luck. This week’s links feature lots of book lists. So if you are wondering what to read, or just what to pick up first, check below for inspiration. Ignore the insanity of the outside world and sink into a romance or a fantasy or thriller for distraction. Cheers!

This Week’s Links:

Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2020 Book Preview. – Frequent flyers here know I love this feature over at The Millions. Twice a year they present an enormous list of books coming out in the half-year or so ahead.

What 100 Writers Have Been Reading During Quarantine. – Tons of great ideas here. Some are recs, some just straight lists of what these writers have been reading recently.

The 50 Most Impactful Black Books of the Last 50 Years. – As the title says. Fantastic assortment.

John Scalzi and Mary Robinette Kowal in Conversation. – A great chat between these two authors where they discuss process, science fiction, and more. For those of you looking for writing inspiration instead of reading inspiration (or both).

Independent Bookstore Day swag. – Independent Bookstore Day is creeping up, and you can now buy swag in the form of face masks or coffee mugs to honor/support the event.

2020 First Novel Prize: The Long List. – The long list for this year’s First Novel Prize by the Center for Fiction. I’m not sure every single one of these titles are out yet–I’ve heard buzz about ARCs for a couple–but many are, and you can always make a mental note for later if something appeals.

Friday Links: Honoring Juneteenth Edition

Today we honor Juneteenth, not yet a national holiday, but hopefully on the way. I put this blog mostly on the back burner the last few months, for so many reasons. But today requires acknowledgement, and it feels like a perfect opportunity to discuss racism and humanity. Throughout these weeks of protest and activism following the killing of George Floyd, I’ve been active on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook, trying to support and elevate Black voices. But it’s important for me to talk more broadly about my support of the Black community and that needs a little more space.

Racism comes in all shapes and sizes, but it surrounds us. As a white woman, I understand that I have grown up in this system. It’s in my DNA through decades of exposure. I have to do the work to resist that exposure because even if I am not actively, purposefully racist, I can still say or do things carelessly without understanding their effect. Doing that work means listening. It includes reading, viewing, paying attention. Supporting financially, emotionally, professionally. On Juneteenth, and every day after.

Publishing remains a painfully white industry, for all the active discussion about diversity the last few years. I am closed to queries at the moment, but when I reopen I will be rewriting my information about what I’m seeking. Currently I encourage diverse submissions, but I plan to be more specific about addressing BIPOC authors individually. As a reader and consumer, I work to diversify my reading choices, but I know I can always do better. I try to give money to a rotating list of charities and organizations that focus on providing opportunities to those who need them. In recent weeks, I’ve donated to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund for African American Students and We Need Diverse Books.

Boosting Black Voices

I’m just one person, with limited resources, but I have something of a platform. A decent Twitter following. Some terrific friends and colleagues who are on the same page about the need to boost Black voices. The older I get, the more I understand that networking can take you far, and a diverse network surpasses one with a narrow focus. More ideas, more connections, more chances of clicking with the right partner or finding that perfect opportunity. It’s not about scrambling to the top of the mountain by yourself; it’s about helping others and watching everyone rise together, then toasting your achievements with an amazing view.

Juneteenth week_Black_Publishing_Power_challenge

Amistad Books proposed the simple idea of purchasing two books by Black authors this week. Any two you wish. The concept? Flood the bestseller lists with Black voices, fiction and nonfiction. Boost the writers, give them sales, but also introduce readers to new names they might not have encountered. Have you picked up your books yet? There’s still time for this challenge, but any week counts. Go discover a new-to-you voice.

Books: The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin and Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter
My #BlackoutBestsellerList purchases: One known-to-me author–N.K. Jemisin–and one new to me–Evan Winter.

24 Black Bookstagrammers Who Should Be on Your Radar. – Looking to read more Black authors but overwhelmed by the choices? Follow a couple of these folks for great recommendations.

A frank conversation about YA literature, police brutality, and the nuances of Black storytelling. – A very timely interview with authors Nic Stone and Kim Johnson about their writing and how their books fit into the current landscape.

Resources for Writers in Support of Justice and Action. – A varied list of links including places to donate, a reading list on racism, and some really creative ways to support the Black community, especially writers.

I Am Not Your Negro: the Film. – Many streaming services are showing an array of important Black films for free right now. Of the ones I’ve watched the past couple of weeks, this one struck me as a beautiful balance between the big-picture narrative of racism in the United States and a very personal story of James Baldwin’s experience watching his friends getting gunned downed for standing up for Black rights. Available on Amazon Prime among other places. Highly recommended.

Patronizing Black Businesses/Products

Bookstores in the United States that Specialize in Black Literature. – Plug in your state to see what’s near you, or check them all out to find out who ships.

An Anti-racist Nonfiction Reading List. – A great assortment of titles, including the broad scope ones we’re seeing everywhere but also some less frequent recs that get more topical.

49 Black-Owned Bookstores You Can Shop Online. – For those of you still shopping from your armchairs (as you should be–stay safe!).

21 Black-Authored Cookbooks to Add to Your Shelf. – For the foodies, so many wonderful-sounding cuisines to choose from. Check a few of these out.

Black-Owned Etsy Shops. – Check these out for your next round of gift giving or to splurge on yourself.

16 Black-Owned Organic Loose Leaf Tea Brands. – I love how very specific this list is. And I love tea.

I could keep going on and on, obviously. But this smattering of thoughts and links serves as a beginning, only. We need to keep having the conversation, to keep doing the work, if we’re ever going to approach a world that looks somewhat equitable. And even then, as with everything, we’ll need to keep doing the work. Change isn’t permanent; it’s a process.

Friday Links: Happy Valentine’s Day Edition

Valentine’s Day puts me in a quandry. In my heart I consider it a retail holiday, designed to sell chocolates, flowers, cards, and fancy dinners. But I also represent quite a few romance writers, and I love a good love story. So there you have it. Whichever way your belief system lands, wishing you a lovely day. And hopefully some good chocolate and an even better book.

In light of the holiday, I did find some suitably romantic links. And a bunch of other stuff, too, for those of you frowning at me. I think it’s a good roundup with something for everyone, so I hope you get inspired to write something great. If you’re more in the mood to curl up with a good read this weekend, I’ve got you covered, as well.

Happy writing, happy reading, and a very happy Valentine’s Day to all. Enjoy!

This Week’s Links:

Celebrating Valentines with Our Favorite SFF Ships. – The folks at Tor/Forge share a few romances from SFF land.

17 Books that Will Make You Believe in Love. – BuzzFeed has you covered.

23 YA Romance Novels that Are Better than a Candlelit Dinner. – BuzzFeed again, but for the young adult crowd (and those who like to read about them).

Quiz: Find the Perfect Shakespeare Quote for Your Valentine. – What it says on the box. Fun for those of you who like to handwrite your cards.

Voices of Change. – A talk with authors Tomi Adeyemi, Akwaeke Emezi, Elizabeth Acevedo, Angie Thomas, and Nic Stone about the (slowly) diversifying landscape of young adult fiction.

RWA 2020: No Ending in Sight, Just Hollow Women. – A thorough update from the folks at Smart Bitches about the mess at Romance Writers of America.

Season of the Witch: The Rise of Queer Magic in YA SFF. – A look at how more diverse young adult fiction is queer without relying on coming-stories, particularly in the SFF realm.

How Obama’s Reading Shaped His Writing. – A bookseller looks at President Obama’s relationship to bookstores and writing.

Shelf Life: Anne Enright on the Five Books that Made Her. – The Booker Prize-winning author talks about the books she believes helped make her a writer.

Friday Links: Writers On Writing (and Reading)

I sifted through the links I discovered this week and found many focused on writers discussing writing. Normally, I need to hunt for these sorts of links to share. They appear mostly on niche sites. This week, for whatever reason (and I could speculate), the world is discussing narrative. Points of view. Truth versus fiction. Who should have a voice. I love that so many writers have joined in, whether to tell personal stories or to share a wider perspective. Regardless, I’m pleased to pass along these interesting stories, as each offers up some wonderful food for thought to take back to your own efforts.

Next weekend I’m heading off to Utah to teach at the Futurescapes Workshop. In case you missed it, I posted yesterday about how to attend my masterclass there if you’re in the neighborhood.

This weekend, however, I’m nose down in a client manuscript, plus a pile of submissions. I’ve closed the query box temporarily, because I was a bit behind from the holidays and then more than 400 of you queried me in January. That’s not even counting partials/manuscripts I’m trying to get through, so I’ve shut the gates. I plan to reopen on the 21st, once I’m back from the workshop and a bit caught up.

In the meantime, wishing you all a wonderful weekend, filled with good reads and some productive writing time. Enjoy!

This Week’s Links:

How to Write Fiction When the Planet Is Falling Apart. – Author Jenny Offill discusses her new novel, which addresses climate change.

Screenwriter and Novelist, Turned YA Author, Christopher J. Moore: Author Spotlight. – An interview with the talented, versatile writer.

Women Writers Are Driving Philadelphia’s Literary Renaissance. – An interesting look at the group of authors leading the recent surge of notable books from the Philadelphia area.

A Year in the Life: 2019. – Author Roxane Gay shares her annual roundup of books she’s read and things she’s written in the past year.

I Don’t Want to Be the Strong Female Lead. – Filmmaker Brit Marling talks about the difference between male- and female-centric stories, and what gets lost when women replace men at the head of a traditional quest narrative.

The Secret Feminist History of Shakespeare and Company. – A look at the life of Sylvia Beach, original owner and driving force behind the bookstore. I’m not sure how much of a secret it all is, but it’s definitely interesting.

The Great Vision of Houston’s Arte Público Press. – A brief history of the publisher’s efforts to bring Hispanic authors ignored by mainstream presses out into the public’s eye.

Friday Links: Building a Career as a Writer

I tend to focus on the early days of becoming a writer, for obvious reasons. How to develop craft, how to query, whether you should go to conferences, etc. But today I’m stepping back a bit and considering the bigger picture. I don’t mean you should put the cart before the horse if you’re in the early stages of writing. Those initial steps are foundational and deserve your attention. But everyone daydreams about “someday,” and plenty of writers are further along in their process. So a number of today’s links consider what it means to build a career as a writer.

I’ve mixed a few odds and ends in, as well, so there’s something for everyone. I hope you all have a lovely weekend, and set aside some time to write or to curl up with a great read. Enjoy!

This Week’s Links:

Overcoming Writing Anxiety. – Different from writer’s block, this can hit at any stage of your career. Some good ideas here on how to combat the problem.

If You’re Looking to Write More in 2020, Rebecca Makkai Has Your Strangely Specific Prompts. – Pretty much what it sounds like. Author Rebecca Makkai is Tweeting daily prompts this year under the hashtag #366prompts. (We get an extra because it’s a leap year.)

Writing Excuses: Evolution of a Career. – The first episode of this season of the Writing Excuses podcast focuses on how writing careers evolve and all sorts of important questions that you might associate with that topic.

How and When Should a Writer Use a Pen Name or Pseudonym? – Some of the reasons why a writer might wish to write under a different or an additional name.

How Edith Wharton’s Novel of New York High Society Speaks to Class Divisions Today. – Author Jennifer Egan discusses The House of Mirth and the ways in which it still resonates.

“Why would I close the door to a queer person?” LGBTQ Fantasy Comes of Age. – A look at the crop of new fantasy novels that feature more gender-diverse casts.

Friday Links: The Ups and Downs of Publishing Culture

Publishing appears to be in the middle of a cultural revolution. It makes sense. As goes the world, so go the books it produces. The Romance Writers of America are in the midst of a clash between the old, stodgy, racist past, and what we hope will be a bright, brilliant, diverse future. The fact is, there’s room for everyone at the table.

In light of all the strife going on–not just in publishing circles–I’m offering up links that highlight a variety of reading material, and the varied people producing them. I hope they inspire you to try something new, and to be accepting of other people’s culture and history. Part of what I love about what I do is how different my job can be every single day. That’s the beauty of books; there’s always something fresh to discover.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend. Happy writing!

This Week’s Links:

WTF, RWA. – Another great history of the events surrounding the Courtney Milan banning and the insanity at Romance Writers of America.

Has African Migration to the U.S. Led to a Literary Renaissance? – A wonderful look at some of the African writers now living and working in the U.S.

Ursula K. LeGuin’s Revolutions. – Addressing the author’s work from not just a political perspective, but with an eye on how she envisioned the future.

The Sound and the Story: Exploring the World of Paradise Lost. – Philip Pullman writes about the epic work and how it influenced his own writing.

Most Anticipated: The Great First-Half 2020 Book Preview. – The Millions takes their annual look at the most anticipated titles due out in the first half of the year. A hugely diverse assortment.

10 Collections from Latinx Poets You Might Have Missed in 2019. – I’m always on the lookout for new poetry because poems fit so easily into my hectic reading schedule and give me a wonderful break. A nice assortment here to check out.

Writing Characters of Different Races and Ethnicities. – A great resource. I probably linked to it previously, but it’s worth another mention.

Book Releases: LGBT YA Books of January-June, 2020. – Pretty much as described. A terrific roundup of upcoming titles.

Romance Writers of America and Their Racism Problem

I joined RWA as an associate member (typical for a literary agent) in 2005, and over the last fifteen years have participated in a number of conferences–both local and national–providing content and taking pitches. I could see the benefits offered by the organization to their members, but I also became aware of the downsides of the group. RWA leadership has always felt entrenched in their ways. Reluctant to change, slow to catch up with major shifts in the publishing industry. It took considerable time for the shiny new e-book format to count as a published book, whether members were looking to upgrade their membership status or enter the RITA Awards. When self-published authors sought recognition on par with their traditionally published peers, there was more deliberation over eligibility. But throughout all of these slow-moving changes, one issue has been consistent: RWA remained far too white.

As with other concerns, RWA has been addressing their racism problem. Very slowly. There have been discussions regarding the RITA Awards, the nomination and judging processes. Experts have been called upon to help determine ways to improve the system. To make it more fair, diverse, welcoming. There’s been a lot of talk. For years. And yet. And yet, here we are, with this enormous mess that began, unbeknownst to most, last August, and became very public just days before Christmas.

A brief recap, for those unfamiliar with the situation. Author Courtney Milan, who speaks out frequently against racism and stands up for the rights of all marginalized writers, was accused of breaking the RWA Code of Ethics when she criticized a work by author Kathryn Lynn Davis as being racist in its descriptions of a Chinese character. (Note: Milan herself is half Chinese.) RWA announced they were suspending her membership for a year and banning her from holding future office. Author Alyssa Cole shared the censure announcement on Twitter. She included links to the Code of Ethics and the original Twitter conversation that supposedly spured the complaint against Milan. Over the next few days, a sea of complaints were lodged in reaction to RWA’s handling of the situation and treatment of Milan, united under the hashtag #IStandWithCourtney. News articles began appearing in major outlets. RWA backed off their judgment, but only so far as to state they would turn the situation over for legal advice. Davis herself appeared to backtrack somewhat in an article in The Guardian.

For a thorough and regularly updated timeline of these events, including information about the initial complaint against Milan, I will link to author Claire Ryan’s detailed post: The Implosion of RWA. Huge kudos to her for keeping all of this straight. Also, for a recap that includes the most recent fallout–the cancellation of this year’s RITA Awards–I offer this Entertainment Weekly article.

So, what does all this mean? The reality is that there’s a world of difference between making policy adjustments to keep up with shifts in the industry, and getting to the root of how you treat actual people. Where RWA’s leadership could possibly afford to take their time determining the place e-books held in the world, there should be no such dithering regarding the rights of their membership–all of them–to be treated fairly, equally, and with respect. That means all ethics complaints are reviewed, and that evidence should be included before judgments are passed. It means you maintain transparency. And it certainly means you don’t drop a bombshell of censure right before Christmas and then close up shop for the holidays. RWA’s very handling of the initial complaint suggests that they themselves were aware that they were not behaving in an acceptable fashion.

This situation goes far beyond the need to diversify nominees for a book award; RWA has demonstrated that they need a complete overhaul of staff and culture to address racism at every level of the organization.

I could go on and on about all the things wrong with this situation, but many people, more articulate on the subject than I, have already done an excellent job. I can only comment on my own commitment to continue pushing for diversity and fair treatment in the publishing industry. I joined with a number of other agents to send a letter calling for the resignation of the full RWA leadership, and I will not be participating in any RWA events–providing presentations, taking pitches, etc.–until such time as they have cleaned house from the top and recommitted the organization to fairly representing all of its membership. I don’t know if it’s possible, and I reserve the right to walk away completely if they fail in the task.

 

Friday Links 2020: Kicking Off the New Year

Welcome to the first Friday Links for the new year! I’m still in vacation mode, so this week’s mostly a collection of book recs and some bookish culture, and one unfortunate mess. Plenty of time for more meaty content starting next week.

I hope you’re all enjoying the start of 2020, and that you’ve planned out some great reading and writing goals. I’ve put together a pretty ambitious to-do list, and I look forward to getting things going. More details as the year progresses. But it’s good to have positive things to focus on, especially when the world around us continues to resemble a dumpster fire. Time to create a wonderful new year with each new day.

Wishing you all a lovely weekend and an energetic, productive January. Happy writing!

This Week’s Links:

The Disappearance of John M. Ford. – An interesting look at the history of a once-popular science fiction author who fell into obscurity.

The Lives They Lived: Remembering Some of the Artists, Innovators, and Thinkers We Lost in the Past Year. – Obviously a mix of writers and other well-known individuals, but notable for the fact that it’s probably the only time you’ll find Harold Bloom, Toni Morrison, and Judith Krantz discussed on the same page.

The Romance Writers of America Racism Row Matters Because the Gatekeepers Are Watching. – One small piece of a huge, unfolding puzzle that officially exploded over the holidays. More on this separately once I’ve had a chance to actually assemble my thoughts into something coherent.

20 Books We’re Watching for in 2020. – A brief list but there are some excellent sounding titles here. Starting filling up that new year’s TBR list.

56 Books by Women and Nonbinary Writers of Color to Read in 2020. – Another great list of upcoming works to be on the lookout for.

2020 Preview: What Our Fiction Editor Will Be Reading This Year. – One last bunch of suggestions for your TBR list, this time from Kirkus Reviews.