Tuesday, May 25, 2010

E-books, Piracy, and the Value of the Book at BookExpo 2010

The opening plenary at Book Expo America featured, as its discussion topic “The Value of the Book,” which stems, in part, from an Op-Ed piece that appeared in The New York Times (January 2, 2010) by Jonathan Galassi, President of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, titled There’s More to Publishing Than Meets the Screen.  BEA and ABA officials acknowledge that this is a watershed year for change in the industry, and it is critically important to get leaders and opinion makers with different interests and from different segments of the industry together in one room to discuss the many aspects of “value” in books. The panel featured Chief Executives and professionals from the book industry and discussion was heated, particularly around issues like piracy, the long term viability of e-books vs print books, and what direction the industry should take.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Meet Margaret Fieland

Today's guest is Margaret Fieland, a prolific poet whose work has appeared in a myriad of publications. Born and raised in New York City, Margaret Fieland has been around art and music all her life. Daughter of a painter, she is the mother of three grown sons and an accomplished flute and piccolo player. She is an avid science fiction fan, and selected Robert A. Heinlein's “Farmer in the Sky” for her tenth birthday, now long past. She lives in the suburbs west of Boston, MA with her partner and seven dogs. Her poems, articles and  stories have appeared in journals and anthologies such as  Main Channel Voices, Echolocation, and Twisted Tongue. In spite of making her living as a computer software engineer, she turned to one of her sons to format the initial version of her website, a clear illustration of the computer generation gap. You may visit her website, http://www.margaretfieland.com.  Margaret was good enough to drop by and answer  a few questions for us.

Tell us about what you write: I'm a professional Computer Software engineer – BA in mathematics, MS in computer science, but I've written poetry as far back as I can remember, though not with publication in mind and not with any level of dedication.

What got you writing for publication?  What really propelled me into writing for publication was organizing my poetry. I used to keep the poems, when I kept them, in notebooks. They were totally unorganized, and I could never find anything. Then I wrote a poem I wanted to keep, so I got off the stick and put them up, first on my computer, and after that online, originally in Yahoo briefcase, and later in Google Documents.

Why was the organization such a key factor in moving your writing forward? Once I had the poems organized and findable, I could finally submit, and I could look them over and gain perspective on how I was doing. What ended up happening was that I submitted a poem to a contest on a whim and ended up a finalist. This was so encouraging that I started writing more, working more seriously on growing as a writer, joined critique groups, etc.

What are you working on now? Well, there's my chapter book, The Ugly Little Boy. I'm also working on a rhymed picture book and a series of math poems.

Almost every writer is inspired by someone else. Does anyone inspire you? Lewis Carroll. My all time favorite book is “Alice in Wonderland,” which I reread every exam time when I was in college, as I made it a habit to avoid the library during exams. I'm also very fond of Carroll's poetry. I've got several stanzas of Jabberwocky and You Are Old, Father William memorized.

How long have you been writing? I've been writing poetry since my teens, but only with publication in mind for the past three or four years. As a story writer I'm pretty much of a novice, as I only started writing stories after I hooked up with Linda Barnett Johnson after the first Muse online writer's conference three years ago and joined her writing forums.  I'm 62 now, so that's a lot of years of writing.

What made you want to start writing? Good question – I started and became addicted. I really love writing -- and I just plain enjoy writing poetry, rhymed and unrhymed. I've developed my own algorithm for generating rhymes, which means that I often don't have to use a rhyming dictionary at all.  Besides, if I don't write it down it stays stuck in my head.

When did you start writing? Like many teens, I started writing (bad) poetry in my teens as an outlet for my teenage angst. Then later on I started writing poetry for the people I was dating, and after that for family birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, -- basically everything.

What's the strangest thing you've ever written? I don't think anything I write is strange {looks innocently up at ceiling}. I have written several surreal poems, and I have one I really like called “Machine A Ecrire” (French for typewriter), unpublished, in the shape of a typewriter. The sentences are “variations” on the stuff they had us all typing when we were in school.

Where do you get your ideas? Darned if I know. Some of the poetry is “inspired,” some is in response to exercises or prompts I dig up, some is from lines that come to me as I'm falling asleep, some from events in my life. Lots of places. One poem I wrote this week was inspired by some words in the comments in the "spam" folder on my website {grin}.

When do you write – set times or as the mood moves you? Since I have a full time job, whenever the spirit moves me, and I have (or can make) the time. The nice thing about poetry is that a lot of it is short and taking a couple of minutes to jot down poetry is pretty easy to do. Waiting for appointments is a favorite time to write. I've had good luck being "inspired" by those articles you find in waiting rooms.

When you're not writing, what do you like to do? Read, listen to music, play my flute and my piccolo, walk our dogs, do crossword puzzles.

Tour with VBT-Writers on the Move through April. New and famous authors, plus useful information.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Hypothetical Library gets Dangerous

The Hypothetical Library is a sort of Borgesian blog run by book cover designer Charile Orr.  The blog asks real authors to posit a pretend book, including cover copy and Charlie then designs a cover for it.  Of course this makes the book so rich with potential, especially when the copy is good, as it invariably is, that the temptation for any author would be to go ahead and write it.  That is, unless the book is dangerous.  That's dangerous as in The Dangerous Alphabet, subversive perhaps, but maybe even deadly.  That's what this week's guest Neil Gaiman has come up with -- a book so dangerous that reading it would cause the world to end.  Seeing the provocative cover that Charlie Orr has come up with certainly evokes a response.  You can't help but begin to imagine the words that would be between the covers--to begin postulating the impossible in your own head.  Gaiman, the master of the absurd and macabre (always with a touch of fatherly tenderness), is the perfect author for this kind of thing, and he is having a week long stint, which includes an audio book and special e-book version.  Check it out, if you dare.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Who said that poetry and construction work don't mix?

Members of the construction team which built Poets House's new home joined actor Bill Murray in May 2009 for the first poetry reading at 10 River Terrace. Produced for Poets House by Limey Films, Inc.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Celebration of Motherhood

Being a mother is very different now than it was when I was a child. Now, because of the boomer generation, more and more mothers are also grandmothers, great grandmothers, even great, great grandmothers. We’re often part of the sandwich generation meaning we’re taking care of our own children and also our mothers and fathers, often ailing. Many of us are juggling two careers (or more!) if we’ve chosen to work outside the home as well as take care of that home ourselves. We partner more with husbands or partners who are sharing responsibilities that once were only under the purview of the mom - of - the - house.

But mothers are still the same in many ways. We are still often the fixers, the worriers, the most caring of caretakers. This is a year when mothers may need more tender care than they’ve been given in the past.

The trouble is, the traditional ways don’t seem quite right this year. Flowers seem very frivolous for households on a budget. I’ve always felt sad when I must throw away wilted blooms. Candy or lollies aren't a good choice for many who are diabetic, hypoglycemic or working on slimming their hips or maintaining teeth. The beautiful cards on offer often don’t say the right thing or don’t reflect our mothers’ personalities. After all, we’re not all that sentimental, syrupy kind of mothers the pastel cards seem; we may resort to humor which then doesn’t reflect our feelings.

The answer is a book of poetry. One that reflects many aspects of motherhood and all the relationships surrounding it. Mom won’t expect all the poems to fit your relationship with her; instead she’ll get to reflect on motherhood in general and choose the passages that have special meaning for her. Those may reflect ways she relates to her own mother, reflect the ways she relates to you, or maybe even open a subject you should have talked about with her long ago. 

Carolyn Howard-Johnson and I have written such a chapbook of poetry for mothers with beautiful photos by May L. Lattanzio. The title comes from one of Carolyn's wistful poems, “She Wore Emerald Then . . .” We hope you’ll consider ordering it for your mother from Amazon. They’ll ship fast and you can give it alone or slip it into a the box filled with a pashmina scarf, a pair of silver - tone earrings, a rose, and of course, the gratitude that is always implicit but maybe not always quite so explicit. 

Here is one of the poems from it:

Wishing to Be a Child Again

She goes too long
in the telling of a story.
Gutters between her brows
make her angry
even when she's not.
If I had know then
I would not have looked so hard,
have listened for the sweet
notes, ignored how on and on she went
I would have loved what I had.

It is from our Celebration Series of chapbooks. A new concept in poetry chapbooks, as far as I can tell.

Speaking of poetry, if you're a poet or interested in poetry in general, Carolyn and I will be chatting on (US) Mother's Day 4:30 pm (Pacific Time) May 9. We'll be talking poetry, mothers and daughters, and anything else you call in.  Poets are welcome to call in with a few memorable lines from their own poetry about holidays. To set a reminder for the show or to listen in, visit:
To call in on the day, just visit the site and click on the "click to call" buttons (no charge as it uses voice over internet protocol technology - - that means it uses your PC for the voice communication), or you can dial in without a computer on (US): (646) 716 7734.  We'd love you to join us.