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Archives: October 2008

Exclusive Interview: Douglas the Poet Versus Joe the Plumber

Occupational metaphors packed Republican stump speeches yesterday, and the symbolic barrage climaxed when John McCain told a crowd: “Well, you’re all Joe the Plumber!”

In an interview earlier this week, poet and performer Douglas Kearney urged young writers to question such seemingly harmless political language. The Whiting Award winner also talked about his upcoming projects, including poems about crucial moments in contemporary history.

No matter what happens, Tuesday’s presidential election will re-configure the emotional and political landscape of our country. In these final days leading up to this historic event, GalleyCat asked a number of writers to comment on what the election means to them.

So far, author Barry Lopez talked about Sarah Palin and author Manuel Munoz reflected on university funding. Tune in tomorrow for another installment.

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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Coming Out Party

susan-canavan-headshot.jpgWednesday night, we stopped by the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt offices, just off Union Square, where they were throwing their first party since the union of the two venerable publishing houses late last year (or early this year, depending on where you want to set the benchmarks). Shortly after arriving, we were introduced to Susan Canavan (left), who was the talk of the Publishers Marketplace deal wire for having signed The Power of Half, a story about WSJ editor Kevin Salwen and his daughter giving up half the family’s material wealth. We got to chatting about another of Canavan’s big acquisitions, a collaboration between Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, and the inevitable question came up: How will HMH work out the billing on that one? We took the rare opportunity to put our knowledge of 1970s Hollywood to use and recalled how the producers of The Towering Inferno handled Paul Newman and Steve McQueen—their names went side by side on the posters, but the one on the right was elevated slightly, so McQueen got top billing if you read left to right, but if you read top down it was Newman. But another editor had a better idea: “They should go one-on-one for it.”

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Amog those on hand to greet guests were Houghton Mifflin Harcourt executives Laurie Brown (senior vp, sales), Rebecca Saletan (publisher), Paul Von Drasek (director of field sales), Gary Gentel (president), and Bridget Marmion (senior vice president and director of marketing).

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Dave Eggers Returns To Sudan

what_what.jpgReaders rarely get a chance to explore the setting of their favorite book. For fans of What Is the What, Dave Eggers went back to the African village where the book’s hero once lived, creating a ten-minute video about the trip.

Sponsored by the Valentino Achak Deng Foundation, the video will help raise money to build a new school in the Sudanese village where Valentino Achak Deng was raised. Eggers’ novel tells the story of how Deng fled his home in 1986 during violent conflicts in that region. Click here to see the Foundation’s main video.

Following his own call for writers to work with neighborhood schools, the video series explains how the foundation will build a school near Deng’s old home. Greg Larson, a McSweeney’s editor and foundation leader, explained the project in a GalleyCat interview.

“The Valentino Achak Deng Foundation is working directly with Southern Sudanese communities to help rebuild education in the region, beginning with our educational complex in Valentino’s hometown Marial Bai … We are still raising funds to finish the secondary school in Marial Bai, and every donation goes directly toward bricks, timber, and other building materials; once construction is complete, we will rely on donations to operate the school and to supply it with books, electricity, computers, and other educational materials,” he explained.

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Mailbag Trick-or-Treat

Joe Hill Heart Shaped Box.jpgThank goodness for GalleyCat readers. You’ve filled our mailbag with goodies.

Following our 2008 Whiting Writers’ Awards coverage, one reader sent us a copy of Barry Lopez’s keynote address at the awards–download a copy of his classic speech about these troubled times.

Then, we received these frightening book recommendations, just in time for Halloween: Chasing the Dead by Joe Schreiber, Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill, and another idiosyncratic mind posted Kelly Link’s scary book list.

Responding to our IMDB for Books musings, The Millions reminded us of a great post that pondered that same question. Finally, after our literary mixology post, a few readers wrote in with pun-filled cautionary tales for writers: “For some morbid Halloween ‘joy’, think of all the authors whose alcoholism destroyed and even ended their lives. It is a staggering list (pun intended),” wrote one reader.

Bringing Book Publishing Up to Speed

peter-osnos-headshot.jpgWe wish we’d been able to get up to Boston University for Wednesday’s mini-conference on “the nonfiction book as the last best home for journalism,” but a write-up from the Nieman Journalism Lab gives us much to think about, as PublicAffairs founder Peter Osnos expressed his belief that, in the paraphrase of Zach Seward, “the settlement announced on Tuesday between Google and a group of book authors and publishers” will lead to “wider distribution of more books and increased revenue for the book industry” and could provide a model for newspapers to save themselves as well.

And that was before his panel even started. Once he was up on the dais, he declared, “We are going to take every book and make it available in every way that technology permits: ebooks, audio books, large print, by chapters. There’s nothing that stops us technologically from making books available in every way that is now possible.” (Longtime GalleyCat readers may recall: He’s felt this way for a long time.) And when his co-panelists suggested that book publishers couldn’t just start rushing timely books to the market on a regular basis, Osnos pushed back: “I don’t accept that as a model because if you have subjects that are topical, you need to be able to move quickly.”

Books for a Better Life Nominees

books-betterlife-logo.jpgThe New York City chapter of the National MS Society sponsors an annual “Books for a Better Life” awards ceremony—which also serves as a fundraising gala that over the last 12 years has generated more than $1.5 million&#8212 and the latest nominees have just been announced, recognizing fifty books in ten categories, ranging from inspirational memoirs to childcare/parenting guides (and we wouldn’t swear to it, but we think this might be the first year for the “green” category.)

The February awards ceremony will also include “Hall of Fame” tributes to Drs. <bMehmet Oz</a and Michael Roizen, co-authors of the You: An Owner’s Manual health guide series, and to HarperStudio publisher Robert Miller—whose books at Hyperion have popped up on the shortlists quite a few times over the years, including this year’s mega-hit The Last Lecture.

Who Will You Put in the White House?

bobkolar-election.jpgMore than 100 authors and illustrators contributed to Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out, a new book about U.S. presidential history, including Bob Kolar, who drew a timeline illustration of our first 43 presidents that also serves as a trivia game. And while you might think that his artwork is going to become outdated next week, Kolar and Candlewick Press have already thought of that—and produced a set of Barack Obama and John McCain stickers. All you have to do is download the images (PDF) and print them out on sticky-back label paper. Then, as you watch the election with your kids, or read the paper with them the next morning, you can put the new president at the head of the line.

Kolar’s artwork is really big, and we thought reducing it to fit inside our homepage template would spoil the effect, so we’ve left it at the bottom of this post… or as a popup image.

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Aping Film Styles for Fun and Promotional Profit

To recap the saga about an ancient battle between good and evil playing out among teenage vampires at an exclusive New York City prep school that began in Blue Bloods, Melissa de la Cruz sets up the release of book three (Revelations) with an animated trailer from Grapevine Productions, the same crew that developed online spinoffs from NBC’s Heroes:

The manga-influenced transitions look cool, but the real takeaway here is their strict utilitarian value as storytelling tools. The actual “animation” is fairly lowkey; there’s a few objects in motion, but for the most part we’re dealing with camera-based movement over still images or little highlighting flourishes (like all those vampire eyes).

Here’s another simple animation for a much different type of book: The University of California Press draws upon the educational filmstrips we sat through in elementary school to promote Joel Best‘s Stat-Spotting, which teaches us how to discern when the data might not equal the facts.

Whiting Winner Manuel Munoz on the Writing Vote

Even though he just won a $50,000 Whiting Writers’ award, author Manuel Munoz is looking for a President who can help his creative writing students. In this exclusive video, the young writer reflects on what the 2008 election means for his creative writing students at the University of Arizona. In addition, Munoz gives some hints about his upcoming novel.

No matter what happens, Tuesday’s presidential election will re-configure the emotional and political landscape of our country. In these final days leading up to this historic event, GalleyCat asked a number of writers to comment on what the election means to them.

Yesterday, author Barry Lopez talked about Sarah Palin. Tune in tomorrow for another video installment.

David Lynch To Take Book Online

9781585425402H.jpgFollowing the success of his 2006 book, Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness and Creativity, David Lynch is working on a web video series based on that print project.

The brilliant director who once angrily opposed film’s transition to mobile content, saying, “It’s such a sadness that you think you’ve seen a film on your f***ing telephone,” is headed out to the web video frontier.

Penguin published Lynch’s 2006 book, a tome that explored his creative process and experiences with meditation. He reportedly inked the deal with On Networks, a digital company with other interesting multimedia projects in the works. From the the NY Observer report:

“The Austin-based company bills itself as a ‘digital media innovator leading the change in how digital TV programs are created, distributed, consumed and sponsored.’ It recently made a distribution deal and has an amazing new show ‘Smart Girls at the Party’ from Amy Poehler premiering on Nov. 17.”

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