The Authors Guild

Along Publishers Row

By Campbell Geeslin

Words are being replaced. Our joined-together alphabetic symbols for absolutely everything are giving way to a growing tribe of little pictures.

Jessica Bennett, a multimedia journalist, wrote in The New York Times, “The roots of smiley faces and emotions go back to the 1880s, but the story of the emoji, those little pictorial icons on your cell phone, began in Japan in the mid-1990s when it was added as a special feature to a brand of pagers popular with teenagers.” Apple adopted it in 2011.

And it’s spreading. “Emoji was crowned as this year’s top-trending word by the Global Language Monitor, and it was added to the Oxford English Dictionary.”

Well, I think I can promise that you will never, ever see a smiling, frowning or tear-streaked little face in this blog. No wine glasses or pizza slices. Just words.

A POET’S JOB: Edward Hirsch is author of a book-length elegy, Gabriel. Alec Wilkinson’s profile of the poet appeared in the August 4th New Yorker.

Hirsch grew up in Skokie, Ill., and he is quoted: “Why would I have Skokie in a poem? But you become resigned. Your job is to write about the life you actually have.”

A LESSON: Joyce Carol Oates was editor of Prison Noir, a book of 15 stories written by U.S. prison inmates. It’s due out in September.

Oates told PW: “Serious fiction always breaks down the barriers between people—allows us to see, think, and feel as others do. We learn to sympathize with others unlike ourselves. We learn to feel pity—and terror—even to recognize hopelessness as an illuminating experience. . . .”

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Along Publishers Row

By Campbell Geeslin

It’s vacation time, and Emma Straub’s new novel is The Vacationers. The Guardian took note of the season by inviting her to list some favorite vacations in fiction.

Straub wrote, “I’ve always liked taking my fictional characters on vacation. As in life, I think it shakes characters out of their routines, which in turn leads to more zippy contradictions and conflicts and, yes, sex.”

Among Straub’s selections were:
Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings, “a portrait of a group of friends, starting one summer at camp and stretching out over the following several decades.” Choices are made that “set the course for the rest of their lives.”
Elaine Dundy’s The Dud Avocado, an American takes a trip to Paris in the 1950s and discovers “that Paris can’t solve all one’s problems.”
Courtney Sullivan’s Maine, in which a family’s cabin is the setting for three generations of women. The landscape is so lovingly described that “you will curse your own ancestors for not thinking to purchase a similar parcel of land.”
Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad has an African safari with “complicated family dynamics, irritating fellow tourists, and a proper animal attack: all the trappings of an excellent holiday.”

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Bill Gates Hails Book by Former President of the Authors Guild

On Wednesday, The New York Times “Bits” blog reported on the surprising resurrection of John Brooks’ Business Adventures, a 1969 book long out of print. On his Web site, Bill Gates called it “The Best Business Book I’ve Ever Read” and added that he still has the copy Warren Buffett lent him. Behind the scenes, Gates helped coordinate an effort that led to the book’s republication and instant bestsellerdom.

As it happens, John Brooks, who died in 1993, was not only the “masterful storyteller” Gates hailed, but also a tremendously influential figure in the history of the Authors Guild. He served as our President from 1975-1979, and before that as Vice President and Treasurer. In a time of upheaval in the publishing industry—consolidation among publishers, new copyright legislation, changes in tax law—Brooks made sure the Guild was one of the strongest voices defending American writers.

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Bulletin Board

This week’s batch of prizes includes fiction and poetry. Deadlines range from Aug 8-31.

The Eugene Paul Nassar Poetry Prize is open to residents of Upstate New York. Submitted work must be a book of poems in English, at least 48 pages long, published between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014. Books may be submitted either by the author or the publisher. The winner will receive $3,000 and publication by Red Hen Press. Writers who have been previously published by Red Hen Press are not eligible. Entry fee: $25. Deadline: August 31, 2014. For complete guidelines, please visit the website.

The 11th Annual Gival Press Short Story Award is now accepting submissions of previously unpublished original short stories written in English. Stories must be between 5,000 and 15,000 words. The winner will receive $1,000 and publication on the Gival Press website and in a future anthology of short stories. Entry fee: $25. Deadline: August 8, 2014. For complete guidelines, please visit the website.

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Amazon-Hachette Debate Yields Diverse Opinions Among Authors

The Authors Guild is committed to an inclusive, big-tent approach to its mission as the published writer’s advocate. The recent clash between Amazon and Hachette Book Group has called attention to the contrasting viewpoints of traditionally-published and self-published authors. During this dispute the Guild has spoken out against Amazon’s tactics—which needlessly imperil the livelihoods of authors who are not involved in the negotiations—while also challenging the major publishing houses to revisit the parsimonious stance they’ve taken on authors’ e-book royalties.

The Guild recognizes all authors’ rights to make a living from their books and to pursue the most suitable audience for them. It is a sign of the strength and diversity of our membership that two of our Council Members, Douglas Preston and CJ Lyons, have taken different public stands in defense of serious authors.

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Along Publishers Row

By Campbell Geeslin

“Sadly overlooked is . . . the summer non-read,” wrote Jordan Ellenberg in The Wall Street Journal, “the book that you pick up, all full of ambition, at the beginning of June and put away, the bookmark now and forever halfway through chapter 1, on Labor Day. The classic of this genre is Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, widely called ‘the most unread book of all time.’”

Ellenberg, a professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and author of How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking, provided his list of this summer’s candidates for most unread: Flash Boys by Michael Lewis, Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman and Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty.

Of Capital, Ellenberg commented that at 700 pages it may replace Hawking’s Brief History as the most unread book of all time.

BIG ADVANCE: James Rollins’s 20 novels have 6.7 million copies in print. He’s just been paid $15 million to write four more. The New York Times describes his books as “mostly science-fiction action and adventure thrillers.” The new books will be a continuation of his best-selling “Sigma” series. His tenth in that series, The Sixth Extinction, will be out in next month.

Rollins is a veterinarian and he said, “I can still neuter a cat in under 30 seconds.” He volunteers his vet services near his home in Lake Tahoe, Calif.

He also continues to meet with a dozen writers every other week. He said that his success has not inhibited his fellow writers: “Every time I come in, they tear me apart.”

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New Books by Members

This week’s recent and upcoming books by our members include titles by Carol Bradley, Erzsi Deak, J. Syndey Jones, Gordan Korman, Malcolm Mc Neill, Sherry Shahan, Anne Rivers Siddons, Patrick Taylor, Ben H. Winters, and Stuart Woods. Titles below the jump.

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Amazon Launches E-book Subscription Service

Earlier this week vigilant browsers of were treated to a preview of its new e-book subscription service, Kindle Unlimited. The page, which was quickly taken down, announced that the service would offer “unlimited access to over 600,000 titles . . . for just $9.99 a month.”

Now it’s official. An Amazon press release confirms the numbers above, and announces some high profile offerings in its catalogue.

Subscription services, which allow readers to pay a monthly fee for unlimited access to all the e-books in the service’s catalogue, have been on the rise in recent months. The two leading firms in the subscription market—for now—are Oyster and Scribd, who both released statements welcoming the competition, according to a report by Digital Book World.

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Bulletin Board

This week’s batch includes several contests and an artists’ residency. Deadlines range from July 31-Aug 1.

The Glimmer Train Very Short Fiction Award is open to all writers. Stories cannot have appeared in print before. Submissions cannot exceed 3,000 words. The winner receives $1,500, publication in Glimmer Train Stories, and 20 copies of that issue. Second place wins $500 and third place wins $300. Entry fee: $15 per story. Please do not submit more than three stories. Deadline: July 31, 2014. For complete guidelines, please visit the website.

The Narrative Spring Story Contest is open to fiction and nonfiction writers. Entries may be short stories, essays, memoirs, photo essays, graphic stories, literary nonfiction, or excerpts from longer works of both fiction and nonfiction. Entries must be previously unpublished and should not exceed 15,000 words. The winner will receive $2,500, second place $1,000, third place $500, and up to ten finalists will receive $100 each. Entry fee: $22. Deadline: July 31, 2014. For complete guidelines, please visit the website.

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Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

Mindell Dubansky, a librarian at the Metropolitan Museum, collects objects that look like books—but aren’t books. They are made from wood, plastic, soap, granite, coal, slate, metal, ceramic, wax, and plaster.

The New York Times said, “She once paid $1,200 for an 18th century tea caddy disguised as a stack of books.“ She has “books” by the authors Y.B. Untidy, R. U. Laffin and Dusty Evsky. E. Raser is the author of Right the Wrong. It contains an eraser.

Mock volumes have been produced since 1411. Dubansky said, “Books make you feel important. Books make you feel learned. They reflect to others how you feel about yourself.”

CURSE & BLESSING: Joyce Carol Oates wrote an introduction for a 1988 Writers at Work collection of interviews that had appeared in The Paris Review.

Oates wrote, “Flannery O’Connor, attacked by critics for her ‘dark’ and ‘pessimistic’ vision of life, observed that no writer is a pessimist; the very act of writing is an act of hope. And so it is. And so do most writers perceive it, as a vocation, a privilege, a curse that nonetheless contains a blessing. John Hersey puts it most simply, and most honorably: ‘Writing is the only real reward’.”

DRAMA: The main character in a new Broadway play, Sex With Strangers, is “a 40-ish female novelist.” She has “retreated from the publishing world after being stung by the indifferent reception to her first novel.”

The actress who plays her, Anna Gunn, told The New York Times, “When you feel so deeply about what you’ve chosen to do as a career—that’s a calling and you can’t do anything else—and then you kind of get slapped the first time out, and you see the people around you skyrocketing to fame . . . “

Playwright Laura Eason said the character ”is not someone who’s insecure. She actually feels and knows she is very talented. She just hasn’t gotten the acknowledgment she believes she deserves.”

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