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The Authors Guild

Robinson in NYT Op-Ed: “Be Ready for Radical Empathy” When Drawing on Others’ Stories

In a recent op-ed piece for the New York Times, Authors Guild President Roxana Robinson ventured an answer to one of the thorniest questions faced by writers of fiction. “Who owns the story,” she asks, “the person who lives it or the person who writes it?”

Since authors must draw on the stories of others, they are open to charges of exploitation. Robinson recalls once hearing a critic say, of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, that Stowe had no right to write about the black experience. Drawing on her own experience writing about a young male Marine in the novel Sparta, Robinson reaches a different conclusion, arguing that “it’s empathy”—not exploitation—“that allows a writer to feel her way into someone else’s experience.”

“A writer is like a tuning fork: We respond when we’re struck by something. The thing is to pay attention, to be ready for radical empathy. If we empty ourselves of ourselves we’ll be able to vibrate in synchrony with something deep and powerful.”

See the entire opinion piece here.

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

Oprah Winfrey can sell books and so can Stephen Colbert.

Colbert, whose America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t, is published by Hachette, has been waging a fierce public counter offensive against Amazon’s freeze play on Hachette book orders.

His latest weapon in the good fight was a first novel by a young writer named Edan Lepucki, whose California isalso published by Hachette.

“We will not lick their monopoly boot,” said Colbert as he suggested that viewers pre-order California from independent bookstores. The upheaval caused by Amazon, Colbert told his audience, “is toughest on young authors who are being published for the first time.” He also recommended the novel to his 6.6 million Twitter followers.

The book, published last Tuesday, has become “one of the most pre-ordered debut titles in Hachette history,” said The New York Times, quoting a company spokeswoman.

Lepucki’s book tour was expanded, and she signed 10,000 copies at Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon. The original print order of 12,000 copies has been expanded, too—to 60,000 copies.

Last Sunday’s Times Book Review described California as a novel “in which characters traverse a cross-section of mid-collapse landscape, framed by the gradual decline of civilization.”

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New Books by Members

This week’s recent and upcoming books by our members include titles by Melissa Balmain, Livia Blackburne, Emma Campion, Breena Clarke, Mira Jacob, Peter Laufer, Eric Liu, Marja Mills, John Sandford, and Susan Wiggs. Titles below the jump.

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AG Council Member Preston’s Amazon Letter Rapidly Gains Support

Novelist and Authors Guild Council Member Douglas Preston has gathered a grassroots opposition to Amazon; his open letter to the bookseller is currently catching wildfire among the authorial community.

The letter calls on Amazon to resolve its dispute with Hachette without incurring any more collateral damage to authors and readers. “No bookseller,” Preston writes, “should block the sale of books or otherwise prevent or discourage customers from ordering or receiving the books they want. It is not right for Amazon to single out a group of authors, who are not involved in the dispute, for selective retaliation.”

Preston began circulating the letter two weeks ago, hoping to find a dozen fellow authors to add their signatures. Publishers Weekly reports that the list of supporters—still growing—had snowballed to over 300 by this morning, and includes such luminaries as Stephen King, Scott Turow, Nora Roberts, and James Patterson.

Preston, who hasn’t yet sent the letter to Amazon, is still collecting signatures. To add your name to the list, send Doug an email at dipreston@me.com.

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

David Leavitt’s eighth novel is The Two Hotel Francforts. For an interview in Sunday’s New York Times Book Review he was asked to name his favorite novelist of all time and a novelist writing today.

Leavitt said, “Penelope Fitzgerald. The Beginning of Spring, The Gate of Angels and The Blue Flower are novels I return to again and again, with joy and awe.

“Among writers working today, I have the greatest admiration for Norman Rush. I also admire John Weir, who deserves to be far better known than he is. And I was floored by Edward St. Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose novels.”

The Blue Flower has been noted by so many writers that I got a copy from my library and read it. They were right.

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New Books by Members

This week’s recent and upcoming books by our members include titles by Larry Baker, Ju Ephraime, Judy Fridono, Diana Gabaldon, Rebecca L. Johnson, Kate Kelly, Marc Leepson, Jerry Ludwig, Jody Lynn Nye, and Lauren Willig. Titles below the jump.

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Highly Anticipated SCOTUS Decision Keeps Copyright Law Technology-Neutral

In a 6-3 decision hailed by copyright proponents and the creative industries, the Supreme Court held today that Aereo, a subscription service that allows users to watch television programs over the Internet mere seconds after they are actually broadcast, violates copyright holders’ exclusive right to “publicly perform” those programs.

The case, American Broadcasting Companies v. Aereo, was brought by a coalition of television networks and other industry groups. But the decision resonates beyond the broadcasting industry, reinforcing the bedrock copyright principle that authors and other rightsholders are entitled to compensation for uses of their works.

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Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

Do we need two books to tell us that our manners these days could stand some improvement?

Amy Alkon, author of a syndicated column, wrote in her new book: “Today rudeness of all kinds is at its peak . . . and this dismal condition is due in large part to technology.” She blames e-mail, text messages, tweets and Facebook. Well, technology can hardly be blamed for the title of her book: Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck.

Edwin L. Battistella called his book Sorry About That. He wrote that apologies from corporations, celebrities, and politicians are not intended to “express genuine remorse or accept blame but to make the offence go away as quickly as possible.” Wall Street Journal reviewer Barton Swaim wrote: “In today’s culture an apology need not be an admission of guilt or a plea for forgiveness. If you do it well, it’s an opportunity to insist that you are actually a wonderful person.”

Today, we just say, “I take full responsibility for that” awful, crude, embarrassing remark I made. And hope the rotten words are soon forgotten.

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New Books by Members

This week’s recent and upcoming books by our members include titles by Annamaria Alfieri, Kathi Appelt, Patrick A. Durantou, Dave Eggers, Alan Furst, Kerrie Logan Hollihan, Ed Ifkovic, Stephen King, Marc Levy, Patrick McManus, Claire Rudolf Murphy, Deborah Rodriguez, and William Stadiem. Titles below the jump.

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Bulletin Board

This week’s batch of contests includes a little bit of everything, from poetry to creative nonfiction. The deadline for all of them is July 15.

The Bard Fiction Prize is open to emerging writers who are American citizens under the age of 40 at the time of application. In addition to the monetary award, the winner receives an appointment as writer in residence at Bard College for one semester. Applicants should include a cover letter explaining the project they plan to work on while at Bard and submit a C.V., along with three copies of the published book they feel best represents their work. Deadline: July 15, 2014. For more information, please visit the website.

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