“Crummy Pap” or Classic Prose?

Technology can make a person feel like they just got pushed in the deep end of the pool.  Every new software release or “cutting-edge” gadget screams for attention – but is it the wave of the future, or just a shallow puddle?

E-books and Self-publishing get a lot of press today.  And when I see that much buzz about a game-changer in a field I love, I have one response – Scepticism.  (Should I fork over the dough for a Kindle, or a Nook, or wait or the next great thing?  I don’t know!)  But, I’m an open-minded gal, so I do a little research, a bit of querying friends, and then I remember my favorite barometer…history itself.  I came across this little nugget via Writer’s Almanac:

Sir Allen Lane, (born 1902), managing editor of London’s The Bodley Head, and later creator of Penguin Books, didn’t have anything to read on the train.  He had a long ride back from visiting one of his author’s – Agatha Christie – and refused the magazines and cheap literary fare available at the depot.  He thought, “Why isn’t there something good to read for sale, that people can afford?”  Penguin Pocket Books was born, making the hardbound publications accessible to everyone.

Writer’s Almanac reports,  “Lane was determined that paperbacks, then mostly low-quality products of low-quality writing, could be the vehicles of great, contemporary fiction… Like most innovations, Lane’s idea — and his success — was initially regarded as a cause for concern by many other publishers and writers. It lowered the aesthetic value of great works of literature — a book like The Grapes of Wrath, for example, needn’t be a beautifully bound hardcover to last a lifetime, but could instead exist as a nearly disposable pocket-sized tome in bright orange, adorned with a funny little bird in mid-waddle. But Lane claimed paperbacks would effectively democratize literature, converting frequent library users to book buyers and readers of crummy pap into readers of classic prose.”

Sounds a little like the furor over E-Readers, doesn’t it? 

How about the uproar about self-publishing?

As Steven Anderson (of GoldMinds Publishing) stated recently in a presentation (read more here), the publishing world has a history of trends – the era of hardbacks was replaced by the era of dime novels, then mass market paperbacks (thanks Sir Allen!).  Now we are faced with a new epoch in the life of literature – digital access, for both readers and writers.

Where do you stand on the issue of digital publishing?  Love e-readers, but hate self-publishers?  Devoted to paper books no matter who writes them?  Has history proven that changes in format and accessibility eventually find a balance

– and does quality rise to the top?

  Leave your comments below and give us YOUR perspective on publishing!

Who’s That Loser? – The Backwoods Boob

We’re snobs.  We think that education and money and power and prestige and Dr.-Big-Britches-says-so makes up the sum total of a person.

Again and again, I read accounts of famous orators, writers, artists, scientists – all who have a resume that reads like Robbie the Reject, until that one magical turning point in their lives when the rest of the world recognized their brilliance.  (Often this is some days after their obituary has appeared in the local paper.) Were they all colossal idiots who one day got infected with genius DNA? Or do we have a skewed perception of what success as a human being really means?

Take this famous American:  He had 10 older brothers and sisters to beat him up, grew up in a town named after his father (try getting a fair shake in that club), and lived so far out in the boonies that he learned to read by watching his mother. Obviously homeschooled, he misbehaved his way to getting the boot out of Yale, then wrote a book purely on a dare (his wife’s), and because he didn’t believe there was anything else worth reading.  For his first book, he literally wrote like a girl.  Epic fail.  Not one for subtle hints, he wrote a series of other books that finally landed him some respectability – and hopefully a few bucks.

Who was this Loser?

I’ll give you a photo hint…

James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851)

James Fenimore Cooper

  That’s right.  This historical hottie wrote one of the best-loved books of all time – The Last of the Mohicans.  Set against our snooty-toot modern definition of success, this guy is a tragic blip of backwoods boob.  I mean, come on – homeschoolers don’t make anything of themselves.  We all know you have to have an expensive university degree to rise in society.  If you spend years on a project – say, writing a book – that turns out to be utter poo, only a moron would try it again.

  Thank goodness we have so many parents, teachers, counselors, investors, politicians, and total strangers telling us how to go about our daily lives.  That’s why we’re surrounded by so much success and elevated thinking. (Smell the sarcasm?)  Why, I’ll bet they raise the national IQ to 260 before long!  (No, wait.  It was lowered recently to 80.)

  They say history is written by the winners.  I say we have a responsibility to look at history with our point of view, and to redefine success as a life well-lived.  No strings attached.

How do you define success?  What is success for yourself, as opposed to other people?

Friday Flash – “Crossing”

Today is the anniversary of the Mayflower setting sail from England for the New World.  This haunting picture got my historical flash fiction wheels turning…

Mayflower II masts in the fog

Mayflower masts in the fog

Just a boy, out for adventure and a new life. Crossing the sea, what could go wrong?  Rats and moldy hardtack and brackish water didn’t phase him.  The unwashed and unkind couldn’t crush his dream of freedom.

  It had only been a little thing.  A fresh orange, the drops still fresh on his lips.  Now the ropes bit into his wrists, his skull drummed a rhythm against the mast in a syncopation with the waves.

 He wedged his foot against the crow’s nest and stared into the grey void of his future.

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In other news, this week has been a marathon of work!  I cranked out several pages for a literature unit on Crystal Brave, taught a fantastic group of new knitters at Yarn Diva, jumped into Geocaching, and waded deeper into social media as a business tool (thanks Kristen!).

Super-exciting was finding that I’d been mentioned in VampLit Twitter Daily’s Thursday, Sep. 15 issue for my flash fiction blog post from last Friday.

I want to share some of the genius I stumbled over this week, so here we go…

Worth the Click – a mash-up of the week’s noteworthy sites

Rebel Chick’s Journey – She’s made a decision to be happy, and movin’ on!

Writers In The Storm – Great observation on the pressure of social media

The Bloggess – Fall-down funny (language alert for some posts)