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One Minute Book Reviews
Ever wonder what editors, publishers and critics mean when they describe books as “lyrical,” “provocative” or “ripped from the headlines”? Let industry veterans explain it to you. I asked experts on Twitter to decode common publishing terms and attach the hashtag #pubcode. Here are some of their answers:
“absorbing”: “makes a great coaster” @DonLinn Don Linn, publishing consultant
“accessible”: “not too many big words” @MarkKohut Mark Kohut, writer and consultant
“acclaimed”: “poorly selling” @BloomsburyPress Peter Ginna, publisher, Bloomsbury Press
“breakout book”: “Hail Mary pass” @BookFlack Larry Hughes, associate director of publicity, the Free Press at Simon & Schuster
“brilliantly defies categorization”: “even the author has no clue what he’s turned in” @james_meader James Meader, publicity director of Picador USA
“captures the times we live in”: “captures the times we were living in two years ago” @mathitak Mark Athitakis, critic
“classroom-friendly”: “kids won’t read it unless they have to” @LindaWonder, Linda White, book promoter at Wonder Communications
“continues in the proud tradition of J.R.R. Tolkien”: “this book has a dwarf in it” @jasonpinter Jason Pinter, author of the Zeke Bartholomew series for young readers
“definitive”: “could have used an editor” @kalenski, “Book Babe Extraordinaire”
“an eBook original”: “still no proofreading and bad formatting” @mikecane Mike Cane, writer and digital book advocate
“edgy”: “contains no adult voices of reason” @wmpreston William Preston, English teacher
“epic”: “very long” @sheilaoflanagan Sheila O’Flanagan, novelist (Stand by Me)
“erotic”: “porn” @BloomsburyPress Peter Ginna, publisher, Bloomsbury Press
“ethnic literature”: “stuff written by nonwhite people” @elprofe316 Rich Villar, executive director of Acentos
“frothy romp”: “funny book by lady” “Funny = funny book by a man” @jenniferweiner Jennifer Weiner, novelist (Then Came You) and television producer (State of Georgia)
“gripping”: “I turned the pages fast but didn’t read them” @sarahw Sarah Weinman, news editor of Publishers Marketplace
“gritty street tale”: “Black author from the hood. Run.” @DuchessCadbury, graduate student in literature
“lapidary prose”: “I did not know what half of these words meant” @jenniferweiner Jennifer Weiner, novelist (Then Came You) and television producer (State of Georgia)
“literary”: “plotless” @MarkKohut Mark Kohut, writer and consultant
“long-awaited”: “late” @janiceharayda Jan Harayda, novelist and editor of One-Minute Book Reviews
“luminous” or “lyrical”: “not much happens” @BloomsburyPress Peter Ginna, publisher, Bloomsbury Press
“magisterial”: “long” @BloomsburyPress Peter Ginna, publisher, Bloomsbury Press
“meticulously researched”: “overloaded with footnotes” @BookFlack Larry Hughes, associate director of publicity, the Free Press at Simon & Schuster
“memoir”: “nonfiction until proven otherwise” @BookFlack Larry Hughes, associate director of publicity, the Free Press at Simon & Schuster
“the next Elmore Leonard”: “This books has criminals or Detroit or maybe Florida in it” @bryonq Bryon Quertermous, fiction writer
“novella”: “short story with large font” @BookFlack Larry Hughes, associate director of publicity, the Free Press at Simon & Schuster
“a real tear-jerker”: “writing so bad it makes you cry” @DrewSGoodman Drew Goodman, writer and social media analyst
“ripped from the headlines”: “no original plot line” @jdeval Jacqueline Deval, author (Publicize Your Book!) and book publicist
“rollicking”: “chaotic” @BloomsburyPress Peter Ginna, publisher, Bloomsbury Press
“sensual”: “soft porn” @BloomsburyPress Peter Ginna, publisher, Bloomsbury Press
“stunning”: “major character dies” @mathitak Mark Athitakis, critic
“provocative”: “about race/religion” @mathitak Mark Athitakis, critic
“promising debut”: “many flaws, but not unforgivably bad” @mathitak Mark Athitakis, critic
“unflinching”: “has a lot of bad words” @isabelkaplan Isabel Kaplan, novelist (Hancock Park)
“visionary”: “can’t be proved wrong yet” @IsabelAnders Isabel Anders, author (Blessings and Prayers for Married Couples)
“voice of a generation”: “instantly dated” @MarkKohut Mark Kohut, writer and consultant
“weighty”: “I had to lug this dense historical monster all over town and I still can’t bring myself to finish it” @emilynussbaum Emily Nussbaum, writer for New York magazine and other publicatons
“wildly imaginative”: “wrote book high on mescaline” @simonm223 Simon McNeil, novelist
“a writer to watch”: “as opposed to one you are actually going to want to read” @janiceharayda Jan Harayda, novelist and editor of One-Minute Book Reviews
The tongue-in-cheek explanations of common publishing terms are still pouring in at #pubcode on Twitter, and I’ll update this list if warranted.
You can follow Jan on Twitter at www.twitter.com/janiceharayda.
I am still doing the waiting game...and it looks like I won't get any feedback until September. Egads! I am terrible at waiting. Good thing I have these great interviews, courtesy of Amazing Author Caroline Leavitt!
I'm honored to have Melanie here--she's just a wonderful writer, and a terrific friend.
Where did the idea for Mrs. Tom Thumb come from?
I was half-way through the 2nd book of my contract when I knew it was a dead end; I couldn't finish it. Yet I had a deadline mere months away! Before I told my editor, and gave her a heart attack, I knew I'd better come up with another idea and maybe a chapter or two. So I started Googling like mad, paging through lists and lists of historical events, figures, women - I did know the time period that I wanted to write, as well as the setting. Since ALICE was set in England, I wanted my next one to be an American story. On one of those lists I saw the name "Lavinia Warren Stratton - aka Mrs. Tom Thumb." It rang a bell and I remembered that she was in a small scene in one of my favorite books, E. L. Doctorow's RAGTIME. She was feisty, even in his book. So I started researching her and was immediately enchanted by her story and her voice.
As far as what she has to teach us - it's both an uplifting, and cautionary, story. Uplifting in that she truly never saw any limits, any obstacles - but cautionary in that she started to believe her own hype, in a way. She very willingly traded on her stature in order to see the world, but then somehow deluded herself into thinking others didn't see her, first and foremost, as a dwarf.
Can you talk about your writing process?
When I write, I really try to "become" the protagonist; it's the only way I can capture the voice. So Vinnie's voice was entirely different from Alice's, and thus, the book has an entirely different quality. ALICE was more lyrical, more dreamy - befitting the ALICE IN WONDERLAND books. MRS. TOM THUMB has a verve, a pulse - I think it's a uniquely American story, written in a uniquely American style. As Vinnie herself would have told you, she was a proud patriot, and I truly tried to capture something of that in the book. As far as what surprised me - her relationship with Barnum. That became the driving point of the book; I began to understand he was the only person in her life with a personality as big as her own. And I'm never consciously aware of "deciding" on a structure - I just let the book appear to me as it wants to.
As someone who was drowning in research this year, I have to ask you, how do you do it?
Research is fun! I love immersing myself in history books, finding amazing websites (and there are so many, as this book takes place against a rich panoply of American history). The only pitfall of research is spending too much time in it, and forgetting to tell the story! The characters and their relationships have always to be the main focus of the book; the historical details are important and rich, but they can't overwhelm the characters and their stories.
Come on, tell us about your writing life!
My writing life, now that I have one book out (ALICE I HAVE BEEN), one just out (THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MRS. TOM THUMB), and one I just turned into my editor (for publication next year), is much more difficult than it used to be! I have to be much more disciplined, giving a certain amount of time over to paperwork, busy work - work, in other words! Which means I have to carve out my writing time, whereas before, my entire day was devoted only to writing. So in the mornings I usually do the busy work; in the afternoons, I write. Many of my evenings are now taken up with calling or SKYPING with book clubs, which is a joy.
What's up next for you?
Right now, I'm drawn to a couple of eras; one is pre-Civil War America, the other is the early days of Hollywood. I'm going back and forth, but keeping an eye open for anything else that might inspire me. I have a bit of time before I have to start the next book - the one that will be out in 2 years.
What question didn't I ask that I should have?
You should have asked me what my favorite part of being an author is - because I would have answered, "Meeting fellow authors like you!"
Recently I got an invitation to a bridal shower on this gorgeous stationary that arrived via email. Now, I love stationary, always have. I adore pretty paper and journals and printed notebooks, but I am aware of the environmental cost of all this paper, and so I try to buy paper that is at least partially recycled and send internet cards whenever possible. The problem is that up until now, those internet cards have been a sorry substitute for gorgeous stationary, and the experience one gets of opening a letter. Enter Paperless Post, a beautiful online stationary service that allows you to put together lovely notes, invites and letters and arrives in your email box in an envelope, that opens. I just sent a thank you card to a friend and she LOVED it! It is free to start and then offers a really reasonable 'stamp' purchase price. Writing emails, just got a whole lot prettier!
Check it out!
It's Tuesday! Time for another Amazing Author interview courtesy of Amazing Author Caroline Leavitt!!
Elizabeth Searle talks about life, art and Girl Held in Home
Sometimes, I just love Los Angeles, like when I was driving down the street with my husband and saw these great stop signs. They immediately made me smile. I actually have a big issue with stop signs, or rather with people not stopping but rolling through them. It makes me crazy. It doesn't take more than 2 seconds to stop and as a pedestrian, I really resent having to watch out for drivers, texting, talking, only looking one way, running stop signs, when I step off the curb alone, or with my sweet pups, not to mention someone gunning it past me, while I am still crossing. Come on folks, you're in a CAR, you can really do some damage, which on foot, I can not. I always joke with my husband that I'd like my own siren to wail whenever I witness one of these daily (ten times daily!) infractions.
But for now, I'm just glad that someone out there chose to make the STOP SIGNS, a little more interesting, so that who knows, people might just stop at them, and read them, and think. And if anyone can do a "Stop. Really.", sign, I'd be grateful for that too.
Emma Straub is frankly amazing. Her first novel Flyover State was named one of the best books of the year by the Courier Journal and just try to find someone who isn't raving about Other People We Married, her extraordinary collection of stories about love, loss, and the ties that bind and sometime strangle. She's also a bookseller at BookCourt and she runs a graphic company M. & E. with her husband. I'm thrilled she's here--thank you, Emma!