Friday, September 5, 2008

Blog-Jacking: The NYTimes

Cape Cod Murder Case Adds Another Chapter
By Corey Kilgannon
Originally published: August 28, 2008

TRURO, Mass. — Peter Manso has always courted controversy to promote his books, including biographies on Norman Mailer and Marlon Brando and a provocative look at Provincetown, on the tip of Cape Cod.

And there is no lack of controversy surrounding the one he is writing for Simon & Schuster about the high-profile murder of Christa Worthington, a fashion writer who in 2002 was raped and murdered here, just south of Provincetown.

The book, Mr. Manso keeps promising, will be a “bombshell” exposing a corrupt and inept justice system riddled with cronyism and corruption. He has been feeding tabloidy morsels to the press and trashing local law enforcement officials by name, saying they run this exclusive seaside town like “a suburb of redneck Mississippi.”

But Mr. Manso has now run afoul of those same law enforcement officials. Last week a Barnstable County grand jury indicted him on 12 charges, including felony counts, the most serious of which — possession of an assault weapon — carries a maximum sentence of 10 years.

The charges stem from a search last December of Mr. Manso’s Truro house by the police. He was initially charged in local district court, but the case was ratcheted up and transferred to Superior Court.

“When’s the last time you heard about someone facing 10 years in prison for not renewing a gun permit?” asked Mr. Manso, who contends he was “overcharged and selectively prosecuted by the very D.A. who is the focus of my book.”

To finish this article, click here.

Blog-Jacking: The LA Times

Craziness required
A talk with Jon Scieszka, National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, about getting kids to read
By Sonja Bolle
Originally posted on August 24, 2008

"Mr. Ambassador" as a title sounds dignified, statesmanlike. But for Jon Scieszka, it's all about anarchy. As national ambassador for young people's literature, a position instituted jointly this year by the Library of Congress Center for the Book and the Children's Book Council, he considers it his job to bring craziness to his domain, to shake things up a bit. "Crazy" is one of his favorite words, and it means something good, something unleashed: unfettered and uncontrollable creativity.

"Crazy," according to him, is where kids' minds will go when you let them.

The author of many distinctive children's books beloved for their subversive humor -- the best known is "The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales" -- the 53-year-old former schoolteacher was the perfect choice for the first ambassador. Besides the fact that he's infectiously funny, he already was an ambassador of sorts, having demonstrated his commitment to a larger promotion of reading than the average author on tour by starting up Guys Read, a nonprofit literacy program aimed at males of all ages.

Scieszka (pronounced "Sheska") took up the scepter in January. "The fun thing about this position is that there never was an ambassador before. I get to make it up as I go along. At one of my first appearances, David Shannon [author of "No, David!" and many other books], who was with me, taught a roomful of kindergartners to do the ambassador's salaam. There's nothing like 300 kids bowing and waving and going 'Salaaahhhm!' I try to make the adults salaam, too, but that's harder."

The main idea of the ambassadorship, he explains, "is to connect in a way we don't always [manage] as children's book authors and illustrators. We tend to stay in our own self-imposed ghetto. We talk to each other, but that's preaching to the choir. We have to get out there to the mass audience."

He's been trying to find more creative -- crazier -- ways to reach readers. This summer, he headlined a Guys Read Extravaganza at a Minnesota Twins baseball game.

"The Hennepin County Library has been a big supporter of Guys Read," he said. "They took the template and ran with it. That's what I had hoped would happen with Guys Read. They knew the county commissioners and the owners of the Twins were community-minded, so they set up this event. We gave away 'Time Warp Trio' books [a series Scieszka wrote with frequent illustrator Lane Smith] donated by Penguin to the first 5,000 kids who came in the gates. I was set up at a table and signed books during the first innings. Kids would come up and ask me: 'Hey, aren't you the "Stinky Cheese" guy?' They weren't baseball books, but the message was: Here's a guy who's a fan of baseball and books. You can be both."

As one of six brothers, Scieszka has a particular interest in boys' relationships to books.

"We were all crazy boys, but there was a whole range of readers," he said. "I was always a good reader, and I saw what that could do for you. I went to Catholic school through the 9th or 10th grade. The teachers' attitudes were always, 'Oh, that wouldn't be Jon getting in trouble in the back of the room, he's such a good reader!' So it would be my friend Tim who always got whacked. It's helpful to be the reader, I learned.

"Then I was an elementary schoolteacher for 10 years, and I saw firsthand that boys had a harder time getting into reading. I also have a son and daughter of my own. It was almost stereotypical -- my daughter [Casey, now 24] was crazy about reading, and my son [Jake, now 22 and a student at NYU] . . . not so crazy."

One of the widest planks in Scieszka's ambassadorial platform is to broaden adults' ideas of what reading is, and he observes how much more weight his tips seem to carry coming from Ambassador Scieszka than from Author Scieszka. "My first tip is to include not just fiction in your idea of reading. Include graphic novels, include "Calvin and Hobbes." Third- and fourth-grade boys devour those -- and they're really sophisticated, but parents will say, 'Oh, that's not really reading.' "
Scieszka calls this a "William Bennett position": "If they're not reading Greek myth, don't let them do it at all."

But Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series, Scieszka says, "Is Greek myth," or at least a way into it. "I first saw fairy tales in 'The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show,' and they sounded kind of familiar. Then I read the fairy tales. Then I wrote my own books [in which he often, in a smart-alecky way, fractures traditional stories] and messed them all up for everyone. Now that's got a happy ending!!" he says, cheerfully anarchic.

Scieszka considers the debate about what qualifies as "real reading" a red herring. Online reading is certainly reading, he asserts, and it's foolish to ignore new media, as it is the new frontier in publishing: "Everyone's kind of chasing it, but no one knows what it's going to look like yet." His own "Trucktown" series for beginning readers has a website with interactive games, which he hopes will develop into a social site on the order of Webkinz. He is curious to see how Scholastic's forthcoming multimedia project, "The 39 Clues," will fare, and he has his own project in the works ("Spaceheadz," scheduled for 2009), in which kids will have a say in the development of a story through reading blogs, examining pictures and offering feedback.

"It may seem like heresy," says the ambassador, "for the children's literature ambassador to say reading is not the be-all and end-all. But kids could be watching great TV, designing their own video games, or making their own animation." It's all good brain work, he believes.

To finish this article, click here.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Shopping? No, I'm Just Here For The Recommendations.

We've been noticing a new trend in our store. Folks are gathering around our Staff Picks table, taking pictures of the books we've recommended.
At first we thought, wow -- we must have some photogenic books! But then we saw someone take a picture of Shantaram (Inkwell Michelle's pick), and that has a pretty clich├ęd cover, so we knew that something else was afoot.
The next time we saw somebody camera-clicking the Staff Picks, we ran over, blocking their shot and asking if they were terrorists.
No, they told us, they were not. They were just taking a picture to remind them to look up the book later online.
After Sean Penn-ing the camera out of their hands, we asked them to elaborate. Were they cross-checking our recommendations with other reviews or...
Then they got that look on their face. If you work in a brick and mortar bookstore, you know the look. The look that says, 'I'm buying it on Amazon.' Yeah, that look.
Picking up the pieces of their phone from off of the floor, we said, 'Thank you, come again,' but really we were thinking, 'I hope your carpal tunnel syndrome is fatal.'

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Book News, In Brief

Author Rick Riordan and his new series, The 39 Clues, get this week's 'The Next Harry Potter' write-up in the NYTimes. You may remember Riordan from last year's write-up in the LATimes, where his Percy Jackson & the Olympians series was proclaimed -- you guessed it -- 'The Next Harry Potter.' I'll say this for Riordan. He's got one hell of a press agent.

From the AP: The author of the best-selling novel The Horse Whisperer is recovering in a hospital after eating poisonous mushrooms during a holiday in Scotland, his agent said Tuesday. Nicholas Evans' agent said the writer, his wife, her sister and the sister's husband became sick after cooking and eating mushrooms they had picked in the woods Aug. 23. I had a similar experience once, only I was at a Wu-Tang concert, and the mushrooms were psychedelic.

Having completely forgotten that the majority is rarely right, HarperCollins has just launched authonomy, a "global community site to find/promote new writing." Here's an even wordier, loftier description from the authonomy website: authonomy is a brand new community site for writers, readers and publishers, conceived and developed by book editors at HarperCollins. We want to flush out the brightest, freshest new literature around - we’re glad you stopped by. If you’re a writer, authonomy is the place to show your face – and show off your work on the web. Whether you’re unpublished, self-published or just getting started, all you need is a few chapters to start building your profile online, and start connecting with the authonomy community. And if you’re a reader, blogger publisher or agent, authonomy is for you too. The book world is kept alive by those who search out, digest and spread the word about the best new books – authonomy invites you to join our community, champion the best new writing and build a personal profile that really reflects your tastes, opinions and talent-spotting skills.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Book News, In Brief

I thought that bookstores and colleges were supposed to be hotbeds of sexual expression and exploration. So how is it that the Boise State College Bookstore has been tied into a scandal involving...condom coupons? From The Arbiter Online: After multiple complaints from students, parents and faculty, condom coupons were removed from the coupon booklet handed out to students entering The Boise State Bookstore. The coupon was for 20 percent off any purchase of $5 or more at The Ozone condom shop located on Broadway Avenue.

A bibliokleptomaniac is like a shoplifter on steroids...chewing a power bar...and sipping an energy drink. From Chronogram Magazine: If you have any resemblance to bibliokleptomaniac Stephen Blumberg, you have an intense love for books. Blumberg’s obsession led him to multiple arrests in the 1980s and early ’90s for his theft of over 20,000 rare books from over 140 universities in 45 states and Canada, and to custom-build 86 bookshelves that extended over windows and into the backs of closets to house his collection.

Remember that Twilight prequel we told you about yesterday? The one where Stephanie Meyer changes the p.o.v. from Bella's to Edward's and calls it a new book? Well, we read some of it today, comparing it to the first book in the best selling series. Rough estimate: At least a third of the book is exactly the same. The dialogue is a carbon copy, and even some of the descriptive passages remain unchanged! This was some lazy, money-grabbing, almost-a-scam sh*t Meyer was going to pull here, so let's hope (for her sake) that its leak to the internet will cause Meyer to do a major re-think. Moroni knows she lost enough fans with Breaking Dawn. This book would've only lost her more.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Book News, In Brief

Michael Phelps just won eight gold medals and Coca-countless endorsement McDeals. Does he really need $1.6 for his ghost written memoirs?

The New Zealand Herald has this advice for self-publishers: Eff a paperback, print your work in a three ring binder. Their reasoning? The chances of you making a living off of your print-on-demand work is next to nil. But the odds of you being able to make some money in the lectures and consulting fields? Slightly better.

Extra, extra! Read all about it! Internet leak spares millions the drudgery of reading another Twilight novel...for now. From the Stephenie Meyer, the author of a popular teen vampire series of books, says she has temporarily ditched the final episode of her series after an incomplete draft was leaked on the internet. The last book was to retell the story of the first installment of her series, Twilight, from the point of view of Edward Cullen, the main love interest of the human teen Bella Swan.

Speaking of, I mean tie-ins: Bloomsbury, the British publishers of the Harry Potter books, can't wait for December 4th. What's the significance of 12/4/8, you ask? Well, that's when Rowling's first series spin-off, Tales of Beetle the Bard will be released to the non-millionaires of the world. It seems that after selling millions and millions of copies of the first seven Potter books (and pocketing billions and billions in profits), Bloomsbury's feeling a little light in the pockets. I guess Biggie was right: Mo' money, mo' problems.