Novel advice

I’ve always found this NaNoWriMo thing to be eye-rolling nonsense. I’m less concerned with the idea of everything thinking they have a book in them than I am with the idea that they all think it’s a publishable thing. Go ahead and write your book–everyone can take a shot at it. But I submit that if you only took 30 days to do it, chances are you have 2+ years of editing ahead of you after. Anyway, two different articles on the idea of writing novels–one springing from how to get 50k words down in 30 days (any 50k will be fine, I’m sure) in as “fun” a way as possible, and one from a more traditional approach. As someone who is currently engaged in the practice of novel-writing, I’m not sure anything anyone says helps, works, or even slightly eases the doubt. My goal is to sleep well at night instead of worrying and show up during the day to do the work. Hopefully this pays off at some point.

“So you are the one who is going to reveal me for the charlatan that I am.”

Gobble up this lovely book excerpt on meeting Sam Beckett to help make it through the week, people. I’ll basically read anything Beckett related, but this one is very charming. And scary. Kind of perfect for the old hawk.

I was struck by what I thought was scorn in his voice and a cold lack of expression on his face, and I was unable to speak. The silence deepened as he stared and stared—and stared. I don’t remember my exact reply to such a stunning declaration, but it was probably something stammering, perhaps even silly, for I was a young woman proposing an ambitious project for which I wanted his cooperation, even though I had no idea how to go about it. Several months earlier I had sent Beckett a letter volunteering to write his biography, and to my amazement he had replied immediately, saying that any biographical information he had was at my disposal and if I came to Paris he would see me. Imagine then, my shock at his initial greeting. 

Imagine having been one of Obama’s speechwriters…

Jebus, that would be nerve racking. Like being Trump’s McDonald’s burger cook. Will he like it? Is my hamberder presidential enough? Will he notice the middle bun is toasted to perfection? Will he be critical of my iceberg lettuce and reconstituted onions placement? He’s such an expert. Look at the way he saves that glob of secret sauce there on the corner of his orange mouth, waiting for the perfect moment to wipe it on the cuff of his tent-like suit. Majestic.

Speeches that might have been entirely conceived and exclusively written by a speechwriter under any other president received from Obama large quantities of that scarcest of presidential resources—time.

One obscure speech that received such abundant presidential attention came in early 2010, when Obama agreed to speak on Martin Luther King Weekend at Vermont Avenue Baptist Church, near the White House. The speech would take place days before Scott Brown’s victory in the Massachusetts special election to fill Ted Kennedy’s seat threw health-care reform in doubt.

It was not lost on America’s first black president, of course, that his frequent collaborator on civil rights speeches was white. “Go as far as you can on this,” he had instructed on another set of remarks after tasking me with writing about some of the challenges in the African American community. “There may be some things you may not feel comfortable saying that I need to write myself.”

The origin of fairy tales

Before the Grimms came in and mucked it all up, were fairy tales invented by high-society women trying to improve their lot in life?

God, I want a portrait done like this.

Women’s lives during this period were deeply constrained. They were married as young as 15 in arranged unions to protect family property, often to men many years older than themselves. They could not divorce, work, nor control their inheritances. And where husbands were allowed mistresses, women could be sent to a convent for two years as punishment for so much as the whiff of rumour at having taken a lover.

It was in the repressive milieu of the troubled last decade of 17th century France that fairytales crystallised as a genre. Performed and recited in literary salons, from 1697 the fairytales of D’Aulnoy, Comtesse Henriette-Julie de Murat, Mademoiselle L’Héritier and Madame Charlotte-Rose de la Force were gathered into collections and published.

On the lost art of paste-up

We did this with chapbooks and zines in the 80s, but by the early 90s we could do a visual layout in whatever program we were using and this art slowly faded from memory. Though I remember a few times cutting and pasting layouts by hand in order to better understand how to lay them out in the programs that weren’t designed to be actual publishing tools. Could be mind-boggling at times.