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Archives: July 2006

RITAs, Romance & Recognition

The Romance Writers of America held their annual conference in Atlanta this past weekend, and as always, the place was packed with writers, aspiring writers and those simply interested in the workings of the genre (or dying to meet hundreds of published authors at the literacy autographing session on Wednesday.) The conference gave AP’s Kate Brumback a chance to rehash your typical annual piece on “oh, it’s not just about bodice rippers” anymore, talking with high-powered types like Emily Giffin, Sari Robins and more about why they write romance.

“I write intelligent heroines,” said Robins, a former attorney like Giffin. “The writing is solid. I take a lot of pride in how good the books are. I think people don’t realize how hard it is to get published and that to get published it really has to be good.” And more importantly, they have to be able to sell, and since romance is still the top-selling genre, the competition for good quality work – like the winners of the annual RITA awards, given out Saturday night – is pretty high.

Marvel Chief Brings Comics to Late Night News

rampaging-colbert.jpgIf you’re a fan of The Colbert Report, you’ll recognize the image at right as the mock-up comic book cover that Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada prepared for Thursday night’s show, where he brought Stephen Colbert up to speed on Civil War, the “Marvel Comics Event” that pits superhero against superhero to explore the permeable boundary between homeland security and personal liberty. In his weekly conversation with the comics site Newsarama, Quesada takes fans backstage:

“Before the show, Colbert came into the green room and set the tone for me. First he gave me the warmest welcome, shook my hand and told me he’s a huge Marvel fan…As he left he gave me the wag of the finger and said, ‘You know how the show works?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘Remember, I’m an idiot,’ I told him that I was one as well and then he went off to do the show.”

Newsarama also has a recap of Quesada’s interview, including his libertarian interpretation of Iron Man.

Author Hunger Strikes in White House’s Shadow

AP reporter Brian Westley files a piece on hunger-striking political activist Diane Wilson, who is fasting near the White House since July 4 in order to protest the war in Iraq. Wilson, whose previous hunger strike against Gulf Coast memoirs was chronicled in her memoir An Unreasonable Woman, is one of many engaged in what’s been called the “Troops Home Fast;” published reports on the movement’s numbers vary from 2,700 to 4,000. Interestingly, the original press release for the fast namechecks Cindy Sheehan and Dick Gregory as “long-term hunger strikers” alongside Wilson, but there’s no mention of them in the latest dispatch…then again, Sheehan’s been busy buying land near the president’s ranch in Crawford to facilitate another round of protests planned around his vacation in August.

Pretty Boy Artist Makes Good

dan-goldman.jpgAs long as we’re chasing down memory lane this morning, let’s catch up with “hottie literatiDan Goldman, who’s been publishing chapters of his graphic novel online all summer long. Well, as Publishers Weekly recently reported, Shooting War is going to Warner Books, as part of a new graphic novel initiative from the house. Turns out that the story online will only be the tip of the iceberg…

Quartet of Memoirists Bid “Hello, Cleveland!”

Remember last month when we introduced you to the Memoirists Collective? Well, the contest they announced back then—in which aspiring memoir writers could submit excerpts for potential consideration by the Collective’s editors—has reached its final judging stages, and on August 7th, the four memoirists will all be flying into Cleveland to announce the winner at Joseph-Beth Booksellers.

danielle-trussoni.jpgWhy Cleveland, I asked Collective member Danielle Trussoni (right), author of Falling Through the Earth. “Well, as everybody knows, Cleveland is the birthplace of Quaker Oats, the site of the first automatic traffic light and is the Sister City of Bangalore,” she emailed back. “In addition, Cleveland is home to the Steamship William G Mather Museum and the Lakeview Cemetary grave of James Garfield (not the Memoirists Collective’s favorite dead president, but that is beside the point). But what really caught our fancy is that Cleveland is home of the first coronary by-pass surgery! Now that is where you’ve got to have a book event!”

Oh bother, now just anyone can get a book deal

So there’s but a faint whiff of snobbery in Telegraph society columnist Celia Walden‘s latest piece on how those godawful z-list celebrites (like former Make Me A Supermodel contestant Jasmine Lennard [above], who for someone that young sure has had a hell of a lot of botox and collagen, don’t you think?) can get book deals for essentially doing nothing than be famous for a few minutes – not even the requisite fifteen.

But Walden does ask a good question: who buys these books? “I can understand why Jordan‘s autobiography might be compelling,” she adds, “but surely there’s a level at which, like living cells in freezing temperatures, human interest dies?” No kidding. But it’s also part of the desperation for the here-and-now that infects some branches of publishing on both sides of the pond. Kind of like how there’s this glut of gossip-lit books of late, but now that they haven’t done so well, perhaps that boat has finally sailed…and so too will the quest for immortalizing further z-listers.

Lagardere’s fortunes improve thanks to TWBG acquisition

If there’s any doubt that Lagardere – the parent company of media conglomerate Hachette Livre – made the right move in buying the properties of the company formerly known as the Time Warner Book Group, then it should dissolve in the face of hard data. Specifically, that acquiring TWBG (now Hachette Book Group in the US and Little, Brown Book Group in the UK) helped sales at Hachette Livre grow by 13.6% in the first half of its financial year, according to results filed by Lagardere.

The group said the “good quarter”, was thanks largely to fine performances from the United Kingdom, Distribution, Education and Part-works, and a better performance from Literature in France. There was also “very strong” growth for Hodder Headline in the UK. The Bookseller added that sales rose from 719.7 to 817.4m pounds, with TWBG contributing 98m pounds to the top line in the second quarter alone. The second quarter also saw a strong contribution from Hodder Headline with revenue growth of more than 10%.

In short, a lot of good news on the financial front – though it remains to be seen how this will carry over on publishing fronts…

BRICK LANE controversy: writers defend Ali and protesters have their say

As the controversy over shooting the film version of Monica Ali‘s BRICK LANES shows no signs of abating, the Guardian’s Maev Kennedy reports on a letter of support by the English branch of the PEN writers’ association signed by various literary luminaries – including Salman Rushdie, Hari Kunzru and Hanif Kureishi.

“Though legitimate protest and expression of views is just fine, English PEN trusts that this time should there be any concerted physical attempt to stop the production – as in the case of the play Behzti in Birmingham – the police, with the full backing of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, will stand squarely behind the film, its author and the right to free imaginative expression,” they wrote.

But Ajmal Masroor echoes some of the criticism of the movie on the Guardian’s comment blog, saying “the book [and by extension, the film] doesn’t talk about my reality or the reality of many Bangladeshis living in and around the area.” But Masroor is also quick to point out that this isn’t about censorship, but ” it’s all about being sensible.”

Another Turkish author acquitted after her day in court

I guess if you’re a famous author in Turkey, the government’s going to go after you. Orhan Pamuk was put on trial and acquitted; Elif Shafak faces three years in prison for comments made in a novel. Newspaper columnist and noted novelist Perihan Magden also faced prison time but as Reuters reports, she won’t have to, as a Turkish court acquitted her Thursday of charges that she tried to deter people from doing their military service.

An Istanbul court ruled that Magden’s defense of a conscientious objector who was sentenced to four years in a military jail for refusing to wear his uniform, and her belief that Turkey should establish a civilian service as an alternative to military service, fell within the scope of freedom of expression and did not constitute a crime under Turkey’s revised penal code, the state-run Anatolian news agency said.

Though the European Union wants very much to see Turkey change its mind about going after such writers for “insulting the state and its institutions” – aka engaging in freedom of speech – Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has so far resisted EU pressure to alter the penal code articles, saying that freedom of expression cases rarely result in a conviction. Goddamn shame, that.

We’re Having a Party—And You’re Invited!

If you work in the book industry, we hope you’ll consider coming to an upcoming mediabistro.com mixer at Me Bar on Wednesday, August 9th. RSVPs are required, so follow the link and let us know you’ll be attending. And I do mean us: Both GalleyCats will be there to introduce themselves and keep the party atmosphere flowing. Feel free to pull either of us aside and slip us a blind item!

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