LitBits 25

A sunny but cold day here in Belleville, Ontario, and a quiet day. I’m in need of some picking up, and you  may be too. Here’s a few literary tidbits to add a bit of fun.

1. I don’t know why I haven’t mentioned this magazine before. It’s called Bookmarks: For Everyone Who Hasn’t Read Everything. It’s American with a small staff, but it’s an impressive compilation of letters, selections (including literary, genre, non-fic titles), Have you Read? and Coming Soon books, books that have won awards, Now in Paperback summaries, reviews, and an overview of the year in books (this issue covers 1977, when Leon Uris’s Trinity and Alex Haley’s Roots: The Saga of an American Family were sitting at number one on the New York Times Bestseller lists for fiction and non-fiction, respectively). There are also feature articles: Jan/Feb’s issue has a special on Murakami, for those fans who are interested, as well as an article called “The Regency in Modern Literature.” The mag is well done, in my opinion, really a wealth of info for anyone looking to lose themselves in book recommendations. It’s US $5.95 US and CDN $7.95.

2. On January 13th this year, the Telegraph featured an exclusive new story by one of my favourite short story authors, Lydia Davis. It’s called “The Landing.” Emily Keeler, who writes an intelligent blog called Bookside Table and has challenged herself to review 100 short stories this year (I’m embarrassed I’m not doing that myself), reviewed it and that’s how I came to know of and read it. Thanks, Emily!

3. Jodi Picoult fans will be pleased to know she has a new book coming out on February 28th, called Lone Wolf. To celebrate, Simon & Schuster is hosting a nationwide contest with five prizes. The contest runs Feb. 1 to March 2. The two grand prize winners will receive a pre-event meet and greet with Jodi in Toronto, 2 tickets to her Toronto event and backlist of Jodi novels. This is open to residents of the GTA only, sorry! The 3 secondary prizes consist of a complete Jodi backlist and a signed copy of Lone Wolf. Again, the link to the sweepstakes page with all the info!

4. The OLA has announced the 2012 Evergreen Awards shortlist! Among the authors are Robert J. Wiersma, for Bedtime Story, which I haven’t yet read, and Brian Francis, for Natural Order, whose book I’ve reviewed already. You can view the shortlist at Quill & Quire.

5. The Millions has compiled a list of literary Tumblrs. Have a look at their categories, including publishers big and small, and “single servings,” and if you want to add any more you love in the comments, feel free! One of my favourites has long been Booklover. She posts so many lovely bookish images and quotes.

6. This has been going around so perhaps you’ve already seen The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore? It’s a beautiful, poignant, and imaginative animated short that celebrates not only the dedication of people to books but also the ability of books and their stories to bring life to people, to inspire, revitalize, even to be comforting companions.

7. Who loves pin-ups? What about literary pin-ups? Author Patrick Rothfuss has “accidentally” published a literary pin-up calendar. While at a conference he met graphic designer  Lee Moyer, who showed him a few of his lit-inspired images but told him he was having a hard time finding someone to print the calendar. Patrick says he looked at the Dickensian chimney sweep coyly brandishing her broom, and impulsively volunteered to print it. The calendars are now available to order; a cheeky birthday or Christmas gift for your significant other or for yourself?

8. Er, whatever you may think of me, I’m actually quite the prude. But you wouldn’t know it from my next tidbit here, after the pinup girls: on library porn. I have to say, I really do love the vintage covers. With titles like Nympho Librarian and Naughty Voyeur Librarian, how can you resist? Seriously, though, it’s actually an interesting article, called “Checking Out,” in the Paris Review. Those booklovers who enjoy erotica might find some Reader’s Advisory suggestions here!

9. Simply put, I want this: the typewriter laptop sleeve. Unfortunately, my laptop is 17,” not 13″. But I would consider buying a new one just to fit.

10. If you have ten minutes, you can read this excellent new story by Michelle Berry called “Knock, Knock.” Ten minutes, if that. That’s what I love about short stories. They’re short. You can fit them in anywhere. Even brushing your teeth. There’s no excuse for not enough time. They’re a flash of light in the day.

11. A cool site I just discovered recently, thanks to Amber at Coteau Books: Fictional Food: Bringing food from page to plate. Hey, that was my idea…which I never did do anything about. Anyway, have a browse. It’s not content rich yet, but the idea is pretty cool. It’s great if you’re thinking of hosting a Hunger Games party soon to celebrate the upcoming movie release in March; there’s a bunch of Hunger Games recipes. Also check out the Mockingjay pin cupcakes (vid), A Wrinkle in Time Cake, and Remy’s Ratatouille, from one of my very favourite animated films, Ratatouille.

12. Penguin Books cufflinks, anyone? Or Sherlock Holmes cufflinks and earrings! Or Jane Austen literary lovers book earrings (Pride and Prejudice). Also see Watership Down-inspired soaps, with fragrances like Clover and Kehaar’s Sea Breeze.

13. I know of artist George Walker because of my sister, Thérèse Neelands, who had him as a teacher at OCAD. (Thérèse is also an artist. You can find her her Etsy store here and her other illustrations at her site, Strawberry Snail, if you haven’t seen it already.) I’ve since seen several of Walker’s lovely books with woodcut illustrations, but I only just heard of his short film, called The Book of Hours, posted on Twitter by The Porcupine’s Quill. The Book of Hours is a wordless narrative told in 99 wood engravings.

14. Lastly, for today, here is author Heather O’Neill (Lullabies for Little Criminals) on how to date a writer. I liked this even more for its imagination and humour than practical advice!

It’s Valentine’s Day, as you know. A day often fraught with expectations, guilt, and even loneliness. Let’s put aside the commercialism and love who we love, as we do every day no matter what, but let’s not forget ourselves, either. Loving ourselves means we have even more to give. Today, I say, treat yourself to some small act of liberation! Or, if you prefer, a big one.

“You, whose day it is, get out your rainbow colors and make it beautiful” (traditional Nootka song).

Thank you for reading here, everyone.

LitBits 22

It’s amazing how fast I’m accumulating these literary tidbits these days. It’s probably an indication I’m spending way too much time not working or being productive but—hell. There are worse ways to procrastinate, I’m certain. Enjoy!

1. Probably I don’t need to tell you that the lovely Julian Barnes won the Man Booker Prize yesterday for his novella The Sense of an Ending. I look forward to this book, as I do all of his, though I’m a bit behind on his releases. Here is the man himself by way of Telegraph video, on his win. Becky Toyne called The Sense of an Endingperfect.” There is no higher praise. But there were other books worthy of winning, and Patrick deWitt’s The Sisters Brothers was one of them (as was Esi Edugyan’s Half-Blood Blues). I wanted to share this article with you, called “I lost everything and then, got it back,” because it’s a fabulous one on deWitt—well written and funny, a nice introduction to him.

2.  The Nobel Prize in Literature is not as celebrated in these parts, it seems, though of course it’s quite major. This year’s prize was (significantly) awarded a Swede, a poet named Tomas Tranströmer. The award was given to him “because, through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality.” For those of you not familiar with Tomas and his work, check out Paul Vermeersch’s “Tomas Tranströmer internet roundup.”

3. Okay, it feels very weird to “promote” such a thing but I can’t help it. I’m quite excited to be writing fiction, to be actually doing it instead of just writing about it. You know how I feel about Sarah Selecky already, and I’m sure I’ve mentioned her daily writing prompts. This past weekend I finally committed to the idea of actually writing fiction exercises. Because as you know, doing facilitates more doing. Mooning about wanting to write and having nothing to write and being all fearful was getting me exactly nowhere. So I started Story, a site on which I do one of Sarah’s writing prompts (the icon is on the right side as a widget as well) each day. So far I’ve managed six exercises, and it’s actually been relatively easy! I made it public, as I explain on the About page, because if there’s any feedback, it will, I hope, help me improve and also provide motivation and perhaps even inspiration. It may seem silly to publicize my writing: many writers would simply try and publish for real, not stick their writing online for free. I’m still shy about calling myself a writer, though I wondered if putting this online was a bad idea. I’m not certain. These are supposed to be more like warmups for me, and I’m doubtful they belong in magazines or journals. The idea is to get myself into that state of mind, the writerly state, and from there be able to write stories that I can submit. That said, I’m clueless about this whole thing…

4. I have a page here on the site called Favourite Bookshops (if you’d like to submit your favourite, email me or use the contact form!), the idea behind which is to promote brick-and-mortar bookshops so that people will patronize them (and I don’t mean going in there and talking down to them, of course!). In London, England, Iona created her own sort of indie love project, called One Book on the Shelf. Iona visits all the bookshops she can find in London, takes beautiful photos, and interviews the staff as well as reports on what she experiences. Enjoy a virtual tour! And be sure to check out her visit to Ripping Yarns,” home” of Jen Campbell, author of Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops.

5. Speaking of Jen, she’s started a new project: The 100 Poem Challenge. Jen will explain all in a video if you follow that link, but the gist is here, in Jen’s own words:

My name’s Jen [hi!] and I’m a writer and bookseller living in London, UK. I also have EEC Syndrome, which is a rare form of Ectodermal Dysplasia. New research has shown that, due to a fault in the p63 gene, people with EEC Syndrome suffer progressive sight loss because of their corneas reproducing incorrectly. At the moment there is no cure for this. I wrote a blog post about me being told this recently over here. So, I’m doing a fundraising event to raise money for the research centres who are looking for a cure, and who are are also doing research into better understanding and helping out in other areas affected by EEC Syndrome.

What I’m Doing

I’m writing 100 poems in just one weekend: 5th & 6th November. I’ll be posting them online as I write them over at 100poemweekend.blogspot.com. On the run up to this weekend, I’m asking people to give me tag words. You can suggest one by dropping me an email [link over on my blog], or tweeting me @aeroplanegirl. Each of the poems will be inspired by a tag word, and the person who gave me that tag word will be credited within the blog post.

Here is her donation page. On this page you’ll also find a breakdown of who Jen is, why she’s doing this, what she’s doing, and where the money is going. Take note of how wonderfully supportive people have been; it’s awesome! Congrats, Jen, on your success—with everything!—so far!

6. In keeping with the English theme, here is author Neil Gaiman—who is actually a huge supporter of Jen and through whom I found her—in a quite funny video promoting All Hallow’s Read: basically, give someone a scary book this Halloween to read. My choice to give this year is The Halloween Tree, by Ray Bradbury (in fact, I would give this every year. It’s my favourite Bradbury book). And also Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury. Two deliciously shivery October reads.

7. Calling all Roald Dahl-loving Torontonians and those who can make it to Toronto! It’s Roald Dahl Day here on October 23, starting at 11am. September 13th is the big day in the UK but we can’t let them have all the fun, can we. Check out all the stuff going on: this promises to be quite a fun day! If you can’t make it, perhaps you can pick up one a copy of The Twits, say, or George’s Marvellous Medicine (one of my faves) to celebrate a brilliant man’s work.

8. A major theme these days is Occupation. Check out Occupy Writers, which lists all the authors in support of the Occupy movement worldwide. New works now by NEW: Original works by Francine Prose, Lemony Snicket, D.A. Powell, Duncan Murrell, Anne Waldman, and Danica Novgorodoff and Michael Voll.

9. Oh, I know all you booklovers and reviewers are going to love this: introducing CataList, put out by BookNet Canada, a fab one-stop wishlist-making place where you can browse publishers catalogues to your heart’s content.

10. Any Jodi Picoult fans reading here? Now’s your chance to win an entire library of her books! No kidding! The folks at Simon & Schuster asked if I was willing to include this and it is my pleasure to get you all excited…about books! Jodi does have a new book, Lone Wolf, coming out February 28th 2012, too.

click image for contest details

 

11. Books and art: never shall the two be separated. Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller have built a house made entirely from vintage books. My first reaction? Hey, no windows; I don’t like it. And then I read their artists’ statement addressing the fact that there are no windows, that this is done on purpose: “The work has no windows and in the absence of external stimulation, we must imagine the worlds of the books, and hear the voice in our head that talks to us when we read.” It rubbed me the wrong way, that sentence, even though of course I respect the artists’ right to express themselves however they want. But I didn’t like it, admittedly first because a house with no windows is simply ugly to me even if you justify it, and claustrophobic, and dark, but more importantly because it’s looking out the windows that gives us the perspective we bring to what we read. And literally, I never read not in front of a window. Never.

12. I’ve never had any opinion of Daniel Radcliffe, whether regarding Harry Potter or anything else. But then I read this list of books that have made a difference to him, and not just a list but his explanation of how they affected him, and I have a mini-crush. I have respect. Wow. Not that I expected less, but I’m impressed.

13. Award Season is upon us, whether we would have it or not. But you may not be so aware of the Independent Literary Awards. They are in no way affiliated with any of the major awards, nor any organizations, stores, or publishers. In a nutshell, they are strictly for the people, by the people. Wallace Yovetich tells us more at BookRiot.

14. Pick any environmental issue and likely Margaret Atwood is at the forefront. That may be hyperbole but, seriously, this woman is involved in so much it boggles my mind. Her latest book, In Other Worlds, has been printed both regularly and with 300 special editions—get this—made from straw. “The medium is the message” tells us why. Canopy’s 300 straw-based copies of In Other Worlds are available at canopyplanet.org. Proceeds will be used to finance the group’s Second Harvest program. You can also grab a bird-saving coffee while you’re at it.


As always, I hope you enjoyed these litbits and if you have any you’d like me to include here, just shoot me an email! Thank you to those who did email or tweet me, particularly Jen Campbell, Marie Clausén, Jaclyn Qua-Hiansen, and Anneliese at Simon & Schuster!