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Publicity-Hungry Minister Lures Reporters to Church with Flickering Lights*

A North Carolina pastor announced plans for a Halloween bonfire at Amazing Grace Baptist Church, and at least one local television station was credulous enough to send somebody out to hear his explanation.

Make that two local TV stations, with at least one Associated Press staffer figuring the story was worth bumping up the news chain. The gimmick here is that Rev. Mark Grizzard and the 14 members of his church believe that the King James Bible is the only version that counts, so they’ll be burning copies of any other translation they can get their hands on, as well as books by “heretic” authors like Billy Graham, Rick Warren, and “the Pope” (although it’s unclear whether they mean John Paul II or Benedict XVI). The one thing we’re curious about: Where are all those books coming from, and how much did they cost? (OK, maybe that’s two things.)

(Actually, now that we think of it, there’s a third issue we can’t quite shake: What are the non-English-speaking peoples of the world supposed to do for salvation if they can’t read the “preserved, inspired, inerrant and infallible word of God” as laid out by King James’ crew of 47 scholars? It’s all very confusing.)

*That’s right: We’re stealing from ourselves. Also, yes, we recognize that, technically, the headline is inaccurate because the bonfire is still two weeks away.

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Charles Dickens Fights for Copyright in the Wild West

Yesterday, at The eBook Test, Mike Cane reminded us that Charles Dickens was an outspoken advocate for writers’ intellectual property rights, and that he took his crusade to the United States, where pirated editions of his novels once flowed freely. This put us in mind of a great episode of Bonanza we stumbled onto one lazy Sunday afternoon years ago, in which Dickens—played by Jonathan Harris of Lost in Space fame—arrives in Virginia City to read from Oliver Twist and is angered to discover that they are already familiar with the scene…

So, what happens is that the local newspaper is serializing Dickens without his permission, and when the publisher’s office is destroyed… oh, heck, the whole episode is on YouTube if you want to take a look. We’ll just point out one more scene where Dickens has a poignant conversation with Hoss Cartwright in which he compares his literary output to the Ponderosa by way of explaining why he’s willing to defend his work against unauthorized publication…

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As If Publishing Didn’t Have Enough Problems

bedbug-picture.jpgEmployees at one of New York’s largest publishers were stunned to receive a memo about “an insect issue in certain areas on several of our floors” that is severe enough for the company to deny staffers all access to the premises from 1 p.m. this afternoon until Monday morning. The memo also asks employees to “1) leave your office doors, files and desks unlocked; 2) leave in place any items that have not been recently used, rather than take them home; and 3) make accessible the perimeter of your office/cubicle as much as possible.”

Those specific instructions, combined with the vague description of the situation as an “insect issue,” plus the announcement that “a representative from the pest control company will be here on Monday to answer any further questions you may have,” have led staffers to suspect that what they’re dealing with is bed bugs. “I thought the fact that they’ll have a bug expert there to answer questions was a giveaway,” an anonymous source told us. “You wouldn’t do that for roaches or ants or mice.” Having dealt with bed bugs ourselves, we totally sympathize with their concerns—and if that does turn out to be the problem, staffers may want to throw their backpacks in a washing machine (setting: hot) then put them in the dryer on high heat for an hour, just to be safe. We don’t know what to do about briefcases; maybe you could leave them open on your chair with a post-it note asking the exterminators to spray them. Or maybe our readers have suggestions…

UnBeige: Hungry Little Caterpillar at 40

At UnBeige, mediabistro.com’s design blog, Stephanie Murg informs us that it’s the 40th anniversary of The Hungry Little Caterpillar, a classic children’s book by Eric Carle that’s sold more than 12 million copies in 45 languages:

The famed caterpillar actually began his life as an ordinary worm [Stephanie reports]. After some fortuitous experimentation with a hole puncher, Carle got to thinking about a bookworm and created A Week with Willi Worm, which ended with the title character growing into a morbildy obese worm. “I showed it to my editor, Ann Beneduce, and she didn’t like the worm so much,” explains Carle in a video on his website. “She said, ‘How about a caterpillar?’ And I said, ‘Butterfly!’” And the rest is history.”

The Year in Publishing: December 2008

Oh! We almost forgot: Over the holidays, another memoirist turned out to be a big phony: Berkley cancelled the publication of Herman Rosenblat‘s Angel at the Fence when the author admitted that he did not actually meet his wife from opposite sides of the barbed wire fence at Buchenwald twelve years before their first date. As HarperStudio chief Bob Miller pointed out, everybody rushed to blame Oprah for Rosenblat’s ability to perpetuate his fraud as far as he did.

The Year in Publishing: November 2008

The Year in Publishing: October 2008

The Year in Publishing: September 2008

Jason Boog joined the GalleyCat team, and the industry news kicked into high gear…

The Year in Publishing: August 2008

The Year in Publishing: July 2008

  • Randy Pausch died. After being diagnosed with cancer in 2007, the Carnegie Mellon professor had skyrocketed to fame after delivering a “last lecture” to students; the Wall Street Journal article about that lecture led to a book deal for Pausch and WSJ reporter Jeffrey Zaslow, and when the book came out in April, it was an immediate bestseller.

  • Science fiction writer, poet, and literary critic Thomas M. Disch committed suicide, in between the publication of his last novel and a collection of short stories.
  • Twelve publisher Jon Karp wrote an article about the state of the industry, which argued for establishing a quality niche rather than trying to be everything to everybody; Richard Nash of Soft Skull expanded on the idea.

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