Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Celebrate Poetry!

If writers were musicians, poets would not be the rock stars, the pop icons or the members of the symphony orchestra. In fact I doubt they'd even rate as mainstream among readers as jazz does among listeners. They're pretty much to writing what indie bands are to music - autonomous, little known, more focused on producing their content than becoming wealthy or famous.

Despite the generally cold shoulder of readers, we poets keep writing anyway because we love poetry and get some kind of strange fulfillment producing more of it (droll Billy Collins says it so well).

April is National Poetry month in Canada and the U.S. It's a time when poetry organizations of all kinds celebrate their particular brand of writing with readings, displays, contests, and book sales -- a month we poet odd-balls will be filling the airwaves with our strange music, from haunting to humorous. On this March 31st eve of National Poetry Month, I'm inviting you to join the celebration. You might just find that you enjoy these strains more than you ever thought you would. Some suggestions:

  • Subscribe to a daily email poem. The Writer's Almanac with its entertaining, easy-to-understand poems read by Garrison Keillor is an excellent choice.
  • Attend a poetry reading in your community. Check the bulletin board in your local paper.
  • Enter a poem you've written in a free contest. That's right. I said FREE. Check it out here.

Finally, while I still have your attention - here's a poem. It's about why I write poetry...

I Take My Walk Just In Time

I take my walk just in time
under the frowning sky
share the green with black crows and white gulls.
They graze while I ponder should I
give it up this tinkering
with words that pilfers time
from creased shirts and dusty corners?
There’s little coin to justify
hours spent and what will be its fate
on that final bonfire-trial day?

Beside my path stands a gull so near
we could touch.
smooth pearly gray
wingtips telescoped to perfect
white dots on black.

Surely God, the original and extravagant Creator
Who thought it no waste
to paint alpine flowers
craft ocean stars
and decorate with this polka-dotted petticoat
understands the urge I feel
to build for the epiphanies of my life
little piles of words?

I turn home with lighter heart
step to subtle happy rhythms –
a woodpecker rattling her way up a finger of snacks
and on my jacket the intermittent pat pat
pat of reconnaissance raindrops.

© 2003 by Violet Nesdoly

Monday, March 23, 2009

Another salvo in the internet copyright wars

From Tuesday's (March 17th) National Post:

"A court case in British Columbia has the potential to drastically change the Canadian Internet landscape by making such search engines as Google and Yahoo! illegal.

A case brought against the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) by a small search engine for BitTorrent files, called ISOHunt Web Technologies Inc., is raising questions about whether search engines are liable for the sharing of copyright-protected content online."

Read all of "B.C. case could hamper net search"

I can just see the headline now - "Media nanny CRTC makes Google illegal; plunges Canada back into the information dark ages".

Monday, March 16, 2009

DVD Review: Skeeter and the Mystery of the Lost Mosquito Treasure

Title: Skeeter and the Mystery of the Lost Mosquito Treasure
(One of the Max Lucado Hermie and Friends DVD Series)
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Running time: 60 minutes including bonus features

When Skeeter the mosquito hears that the great Sir Sinclair M. Skeeto is coming to town, he’s less than thrilled. For Sir Sinclair M. is Skeeter’s talented and famous older brother — the brother that Skeeter knows their dad loved best because of his straight stinger and great sense of direction. Skeeter, on the other hand, has a zig-zag stinger which won’t go straight no matter what he does. He also gets lost a lot.

However, when Sir Sinclair shows up it turns out Skeeter is the only one who can help him on his current quest. As they work together they make some life-changing discoveries in this newest DVD in the Max Lucado Hermie and Friends series Skeeter and the Mystery of the Lost Mosquito Treasure.

This wise and imaginative Max Lucado story translates into a fun movie. The colors are gorgeous, the animation smooth, and the lovable characters come to life through the voices of John O’Hurley, Tim Conway, Rob Pottorf, and Melissa Disney. The quick-moving action, humorous dialogue, and lively music will have your kids – toddlers to elementary age – asking to see it again and again. Even adults can benefit from repeated hearings of God’s message about the value of uniqueness to these little creatures: “It doesn’t matter what others think of you. It only matters what I think of you. And I think you’re just right.”

DVD extras include a rejigged version of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” for the youngest set, and for kids of all ages a quiz on the story (with some multiple choice answers sure to coax a chuckle out of the adults), an explanation of the audio part of movie-making, a sing-a-long, and the recipe for Ooey Gooey Butter Cakes (but how much is a “a stick of butter, a box of sugar”?). The whole DVD, including bonus parts, runs 60 minutes.

The way this DVD teaches positive values while entertaining makes it the whole package for kids. It has me eyeing other titles in the series as gifts for the little people in my life.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The book biz

A couple of interesting articles from on the book business, the future of publishers and writers.
  • About the book business in an article on Slate:
Forget all the myths about the book business: the parties, the poring over manuscripts, and passionate arguments. The book business is a distribution business, pure and simple. It's about getting the words and ideas of a writer into the hands of a reader.

...Few readers buy books based upon reviews anymore. Listen to Farrar Straus and Giroux's editor in chief, Eric Chinski: "Reviews don't have the same impact that they used to. The one thing that really horrifies me and that seems to have happened within the last few years is that you can get a first novel on the cover of the New York Times Book Review, a long review in The New Yorker, a big profile somewhere, and it still doesn't translate into sales."

What does translate into sales? A direct connection to the reader. That comes from publicity or word of mouth.
Read all of the The Kindle Revolution

  • Branding
On the contentious subject of branding, if you read the interview with popular agent (and founder of the Lawton Doll Company) Wendy Lawton a few days ago, you'll know where she stands.

Jill Priluck at Slate takes a slightly different view.

Brands are often the elephant in the room no one wants to confront. Some authors consider it unwise to be branded as, er, brands; it's a signpost for low-brow, mass-market sensibility.

...In today's fickle marketplace, the Internet—with blogs, videos, Twitter, and other promotional tools like Amazon's Author Stores—is the modern-day equivalent to hand-selling. Thomas Friedman even posted a chapter of Hot, Flat and Crowded on LinkedIn and asked members to weigh in. (Disclosure: I was part of Friedman's publishing team.) In a way, authors are empowered in this new model, provided they can leverage their networks into living, breathing communities who have a stake in—and benefit from—an author's ballooning platform.

But it comes with a price. When authors are beholden to a brand, they ally themselves, almost like actors and athletes, with agendas and meanings that are well beyond their control. In their desire to fulfill the dictates of a brand, authors can compromise their integrity as writers, especially if they cubbyhole themselves.
Read all of Advertisements for Yourself - Can and should book authors become brands?

In the area of branding, I'm more amused onlooker than anything. Long ago I blew my branding potential by branching out into all kinds of genres -- kids, poetry, writing how-to, book reviews, articles for adults. Now I love my mercurial life far too much to limit myself to one particular brand. And so I'm content to remain an unlabelable and unknown writer -- which would probably have been my fate in any case.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Book Review: Something Out of Nothing: Marie Curie and Radium by Carla Killough McClafferty

Title: Something Out of Nothing: Marie Curie and Radium
Author: Carla Killough McClafferty
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR); 1st edition (March 21, 2006), Hardcover, 144 pages
Suggested age: 9-12 years
Genre: Biography
ISBN-10: 0374380368
ISBN-13: 978-0374380366

Juvenile biographies like Something Out of Nothing: Marie Curie and Radium by Carla Killough McClafferty are why I love non-fiction. This book not only brings Marie Curie to life but adds lots of details from a time in history when radioactivity was a new and unexplored phenomenon.

McClafferty tells Marie Curie’s story chronologically, starting with an incident from her childhood in Poland. Though at 10 she was the youngest person in the class, “Marie was usually chosen to answer the inspector’s questions because of her incredible memory. Everyone knew she could recite a poem by heart after reading it twice.”

We follow Marie as she completes school, works as a private tutor for a wealthy family and finally at the age of 24 travels to Paris to study at the Sorbonne. There she meets Pierre Curie, falls in love and opts for a life in Paris devoted to Pierre, later a family, and science.

The story of radium’s discovery is as captivating as any fiction. We cheer for the Curies as they overcome lack of funds, poor lab space and health problems. Especially admirable is their refusal to take out a patent on this new element, which soon fetched huge amounts of money and could have made them rich. When asked why there were no patents, Marie replied, “Radium is an element. It belongs to all people.”

The section which tells of the world’s initial reaction to radium is particularly mesmerizing. We read with horror-filled fascination about medicines laced with radium, rooms where people gathered to drink tea and breathe irradiated air, and factories where workers sharpened the points of paint brushes with their mouths in order to paint the tiny numbers and dials on watches with radium paint.

McClafferty has done a wonderful job of bringing Marie Curie to life by including quotes from letters, journals, and newspaper clippings in the text. Something Out of Nothing is illustrated with lots of photos of the Curies as well as historical items like pictures of products and labels.

The hardback volume is printed on heavy paper. With its black-and-white photo illustrations, the book is an object of beauty on its own.

The story is well-documented with a back section of source notes, chapter footnotes, a selected bibliography, a list of recommended websites and an index. McClafferty, who graduated from the Baptist School of Radiologic Technology, has previously written a book about X-rays and appears to have a good grasp of the scientific aspect of the subject. Yet she writes simply enough for kids to understand. Something Out of Nothing is rated at a 9 to 12-year-old reading level but older kids and adults will enjoy it too. Highly recommended.


Interesting links:

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Fear the Kindle

Kindle being the ebook reader put out by Amazon (which I don't think is available in Canada yet). This Slate article tells why the Kindle is bad for writers, publishers, readers and book lovers.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Writing News!

1. Deadline extended:

The 2009 Utmost Christian Writers Poetry Contest deadline has been extended to March 7th. This means you must get your prize-winning poems in the mail on or before March 7th.

The number of entries is down and this is an excellent year to enter this rich contest! Open to Christian writers worldwide. Details here.

2. Spring Wordshop in Calgary, Alberta - April 17-18

In store:
Keynote speaker Lisa Samson (two-time Christy Award winner!)

Workshops including:More info. If you're in the Calgary area - plan to attend!!

3. Write! Canada in Guelph, Ontario - June 18-20

For information and to register go to the Write Canada site.
  • Workshops (Don't miss the workshop by moi - A3 "Writing for the Children's & Young Adult Christian Market"- so I'll be there)