The People Who Write Questionnaire: Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

Miranda Beverly-Whittemore author of NYT Bestseller Bittersweet_peoplewhowrite

Miranda Beverly-Whittemore is the author of three novels including New York Times bestseller Bittersweet

If your life (so far) were a book, what would the title be?
Too many titles to pick just one! A sampling: I Never Give Up; Toubabindingho; Love Is The Most Important Thing In The World (which is something my son said recently); I Love To Sleep.

What is the greatest story ever told?
The story a mother tells her child in order to calm him to sleep.

Who is the greatest literary character ever created?
I can only tell you who I love the most, and today, that’s Scout in To Kill A Mockingbird.

Which living or dead writer would you most like to share a meal with?
Virginia Woolf, although she probably wouldn’t be much for chatty conversation.

What is your favorite word right now?
Relinquish

What word has always looked or sounded strange to you?
Moist

How many words have you written today?
489 (creative; so far) plus emails

Where have you had your most exhilarating writing experience?
In the Vassar College library my senior year of college, when I realized that what I was writing was a novel and that I was actually going to do it.

What is the thing about writing that you most deplore?
How long it takes to write what you imagined you were writing all along.

What is the thing about writing that you most love?
Feeling a story flow out of me onto the page.

What stereotype about writers have you found to be true?
I haven’t met a writer who isn’t a little bit neurotic.

What’s the biggest misconception about writers/writing?
I know plenty of writers who have perfectly lovely home lives.

What’s the one thing no one would ever guess about you from reading your writing?
I’m very, very silly at home — funny voices, dances, songs. Ask my five year old. He will gladly tell you that I’m the craziest member of the family.

Miranda Beverly-Whittemore is the author of three novels: New York Times bestseller Bittersweet (Crown Publishing, 2014), The Effects of Light (Warner Books, 2005) and Set Me Free (Warner Books, 2007), which won the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for the best book of fiction by an American woman published in 2007. A recipient of the Crazyhorse Fiction Prize, she lives and writes in Brooklyn and Vermont. You can find her on her website, the Bittersweet Booklaunch Blog, and FriendStories.com.

Academy of American Poets Awards Over $150,000 in 2014 Prizes

Robert Hass has won the Academy of American Poets 2014 Wallace Stevens Award - peoplewhowrite

Robert Hass

The Academy of American Poets has honored former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Tracy K. Smith, and more with lucrative prizes and fellowships. Here’s the list:

The Wallace Stevens Award ($100,000)
Robert Hass, for outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry

The Academy of American Poets Fellowship ($25,000)
Tracy K. Smith, for “distinguished poetic achievement”

The Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize ($25,000)
Unpeopled Eden by Rigoberto González

The James Laughlin Award ($5,000)
A Several World by Brian Blanchfield

Harold Morton Landon Translation Award ($1,000)
Selected Translations by W. S. Merwin

The Raiziss/De Palchi Book Prize ($10,000)
The Bedroom by Luigi Bonaffini (a translation of Attilio Bertolucci’s La Camera Da Letto)

The Aliki Perroti and Seth Frank Most Promising Young Poet Award ($1,000)
“They Sail Across the Mirrored Sea” by Wendy Chen

The Walt Whitman Award ($5,000)
The Same-Different by Hannah Sanghee Park

Grammarly Created a Battle of the Sexes Poll, and Women Writers Won

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The results of this Grammarly poll showed up on my Facebook feed with the comment “Duh.” If only Grammarly’s 3,000 survey respondents were among the (mostly male) book reviewers disproportionately reviewing books by men.

The People Who Write Questionnaire: Melissa Walker

Melissa Walker_peoplewhowrite

Melissa Walker  has written several Young Adult novels including the Violet trilogy. The first title in the series, Violet on the Runway, is now available on Kindle.

If your life (so far) were a book, what would the title be?
I Really Want You to Like Me (But I’m trying to get over my people pleasing ways!)

What is the greatest story ever told?
I’m very into The Boy Who Cried Wolf right now, because I have a three year old who often “really needs” things.

Who is the greatest literary character ever created?
Possibly Curious George.

Which living or dead writer would you most like to share a meal with?
I would not say no to a pint with Charles Dickens.

What is your favorite word right now?
Ace, as an adjective.

What word has always looked or sounded strange to you?
Liaison, mostly for the spelling.

How many words have you written today?
438.

Where have you had your most exhilarating writing experience?
This is boring, but it was most likely at home in my big overstuffed chair.

What is the thing about writing that you most deplore?
Opening the manuscript and not knowing what comes next.

What is the thing about writing that you most love?
When you get lost in the writing and it feels like the characters are talking in your head while you transcribe their words and feelings.

What stereotype about writers have you found to be true?
They’re smart and watchful.

What’s the biggest misconception about writers/writing?
The work is not all solitary — I have writing dates often and it helps to write side-by-side.

What’s the one thing no one would ever guess about you from reading your writing?
Well, I HOPE people wouldn’t guess that nearly every sentence they’re reading has been rewritten at least twice.

Melissa Walker is a writer who has worked as ELLEgirl Features Editor and Seventeen Prom Editor. All in the name of journalism, she has spent 24 hours with male models and attended an elite finishing school for girls in New Zealand, among other hardships. She has written for many publications including Redbook, Glamour, New York, Teen Vogue, Family Circle and more (see samples of her magazine work). She is the co-founder of I Heart Daily with fellow ex-ELLEgirlAnne Ichikawa. It’s a daily newsletter about likable stuff.

Melissa lives in Brooklyn and has a BA in English from Vassar College. She would tell you her SAT scores too, but, you know, the math part was hard. She loves meeting teenagers, and is game to speak at your library or school about writing, books, fashion, magazines or pop culture (but, you know, in a smart way). Get in touch to discuss.

The Amazon-Hachette Dispute Rages On With No Clear End in Sight

Hachette versus Amazon - peoplewhowriteBack in May, Amazon began delaying and, soon thereafter, “refusing orders” of books published by Hachette after a breakdown in negotiations over ebook prices. Amazon released a statement that insisted it is not to blame for the standoff, but it was reportedly recommending other books to customers seeking specific Hachette titles. This understandably raised the ire of Hachette authors.

A month after the dispute was publicized, comedian Stephen Colbert, whose book America Again was released by Hachette, encouraged viewers of his popular news comedy show to bypass Amazon for Portland bookseller Powells.com. Now authors based in America and Germany are uniting separately to tell readers Amazon may be the place to score cheap books that are delivered quickly, but it’s also manipulating them.

Via AuthorsUnited.net, 900 American writers asserted that Amazon is deliberately “inconveniencing and misleading its own customers with unfair pricing and delayed delivery… contradicting its own written promise to be ‘Earth’s most customer-centric company‘.” Meanwhile, German-language authors bearing the brunt of a brawl between Amazon and German publisher Bonnier wrote their own letter saying: “Amazon’s customers have, until now, had the impression that these lists are not manipulated and they could trust Amazon,” clarifying “Amazon manipulates recommendation lists. Amazon uses authors and their books as a bargaining chip to exact deeper discounts.”

At ReadersUnited.com, Amazon positioned the fight as one against readers, that is ultimately slowing revenue for authors, publishers, and Amazon. In its open letter to the industry, the Amazon Books Team explains:

For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000. The important thing to note here is that the lower price is good for all parties involved: the customer is paying 33% less and the author is getting a royalty check 16% larger and being read by an audience that’s 74% larger. The pie is simply bigger.

As it stands, the stalemate is having the same effect as the higher pricing, according to Amazon’s logic.

For writers, this battle highlights the problematic nature of reduced competition in the distribution of books. With Borders gone, Barnes and Noble flailing, and Amazon the top of mind choice for most readers, it seem writers need to take more ownership of the order fulfillment process. If we don’t, we may find ourselves caught between the publishers and Powells.com or some other unforeseen, to-be-invented force that makes it convenient and cheap for customers to get the stories they want. Authors Guild President Roxana Robinson put it best in a piece recently published on Publishers Weekly about the easy vilification of Amazon: at the end of the day, it’s “a question of who’s being the biggest bully at the moment.”

Rest in Peace, James Foley

Journalist James Foley - peoplewhowrite

Journalist James Foley was reportedly beheaded by members of the militant group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Foley, who had been captured once before by soldiers in Libya and later released, said of the ordeal, “I believe that front line journalism is important. Without these photos and videos and firsthand experience, we can’t really tell the world how bad it might be.”

The People Who Write Questionnaire: Stephanie Nikolopoulos

Stephanie Nikolopoulos_Burning Furiously Beautiful_peoplewhowrite

Stephanie Nikolopoulos wrote Burning Furiously Beautiful with Paul Maher, Jr. She is currently at work on her memoir.

If your life (so far) were a book, what would the title be?
The title I used for my memoir about growing up Greek American when it was in thesis form at The New School was The Language of Replanted Flowers. When I was a little girl, I was quiet and sensitive, and my father said I was “a delicate flower.” He had grown up farming on the mainland of Greece, and even when he moved to the suburbs of New Jersey, where there were vast supermarkets and gourmet grocery stores, he spent almost every weekend laboring to grow fruits and vegetables in our backyard. Gardening was practical for him, but sometimes he would present me with roses that grew along the fence. When he decided to move back to Greece, uprooting our family, the thing I remember most about the days leading up to it was how worried he was about one of his plants. My story is about thriving where you’re planted and about blossoming into the person you’re meant to be.

My uncle also suggested My Imported Family, which I think is quite clever and would sell better than my title!

What is the greatest story ever told?
The greatest story ever told is the one that encourages you, the one where you find community in the words on the page so that you feel a little less alone and a little more you. It’s the story that gives you Hope. It’s the story that moves you, inspires you, changes you, motivates you to action. It’s the story that keeps revealing itself time after time.

Who is the greatest literary character ever created?
Anne Shirley from Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series. She’s passionate, bold, and impetuous yet sensitive, generous, and loving, touching the lives of everyone she meets. She is intelligent and imaginative. She recites Tennyson while lying in the bottom of a boat and accidentally gets her kindred spirit, Diana, drunk on current wine. She doesn’t give in easily to the smug Gilbert Blythe, instead rivaling him academically.

Which living or dead writer would you most like to share a meal with?
I once invited Donald Miller, who wrote the bestseller Blue Like Jazz, to meet up when his book tour came through New York—but he turned me down! I’m sure he gets invitations all the time and that mine sounded just as fangirl-ish as the rest, but the reason I had wanted to meet him was because his writing was really influential on my own work, not only from a literary standpoint but also practically. He founded a website called Burnside Writers Collective, for which his friends Jordan Green was Editor-in-Chief and Penny Carothers was Social Justice Editor, and for which I eventually became the Visual Arts Editor. Over the years, I got to meet so many of the talented editors and writers who worked for Burnside — Jordan and Penny and also Amy Deal, Chad Gibbs, Kim Gottschild, Susan E. Isaacs, J. Scott McElroy, Diane Nienhuis, John Pattison, Larry Shallenberger, and Betsy Zabel. We’ve talked over meals and coffee and beer, and it’s just felt so natural, like being with family.

I started reading the Beat Generation writers when I was in high school, and one of the aspects that captivated me was that they were friends sharing their work with one another, suggesting edits and promoting each other, and living life together. Years later, with Burnside Writers Collective, I found that. I found this amazing group of writers who inspired me and encouraged me. There are so many other people who wrote for Burnside that I never met in person, but I still feel like I know them. And I’m so grateful for that community. Oh, and I did end up meeting Donald Miller in person when Susan brought me backstage before a reading she did when she was on tour with him for her book Angry Conversations with God, and I could see the light bulb going off over his head that I was the same person who’d emailed him and now had somehow finagled my way backstage!

What is your favorite word right now?
My favorite word is “galaktoboureko.” It sounds like a dessert from another galaxy!

What word has always looked or sounded strange to you?
Every time I see the word “comely,” I think it means the exact opposite of its definition. In my mind it’s synonymous with “homely.”

How many words have you written today?
I never keep track, but definitely not enough!

Where have you had your most exhilarating writing experience?
Oh, I love this question! I always carry a journal when I travel, and some of my most exhilarating writing experiences have been on the road. I remember reading my bible and writing as the sun set while I looked out at the Ponte Vecchio in Florence. I thought it was the most romantic existence ever until I realized the birds I thought were flying overhead were actually bats!

What is the thing about writing that you most deplore?
Even though I’m an editor by trade, I hate editing my own work.

What is the thing about writing that you most love?
I love that writing permits being quiet. It’s a wonderful feeling to slow down and ruminate. I’m always amazed that when I come to the page I so often have no idea what I’m going to write or think I’m going to write one thing only to discover my writing takes me somewhere completely unexpected and amazing.

What stereotype about writers have you found to be true?
I think the stereotype that writers are selfish holds some truth. You have to be a bit selfish as a writer if you want to produce quality work. Writing demands a lot of time — time to write, time to research, time to edit, time to read, time to attend readings, time to pitch, time to do social media; time that other people spend with loved ones or, you know, sleep. But I think writers are also incredibly generous, giving feedback on each other’s work, promoting and blurbing each other, helping non-writer friends write cover letters.

What’s the biggest misconception about writers/writing?
I get frustrated by the notion that writers write for the pure love of the craft and are happy being starving artists. Yes, of course, we write because we’re passionate about words and stories, but it is work. Difficult, time-sucking, soul-baring work. And we should be compensated accordingly.

What’s the one thing no one would ever guess about you from reading your writing?
I think that depends so much on what someone reads of mine. I once wrote an essay about how reading Jack Kerouac’s On the Road encouraged me to be independent, and I was shocked when people commented that they thought I read the Beats because I was trying to be cool. Back when I had started reading the Beats, it never occurred to me that reading any specific author would make me appear “cool” because I didn’t think others thought reading itself was cool. To a large extent the Beats themselves were outcasts, and I related to that, to the feeling of being a little different, to not always fitting in. If anyone reads my personal essays and the memoir I’m working on, I think they’d see how very uncool I was. They’d read about how quiet, awkward, dorky, and rule following I am and might be shocked to discover how much I like the literature of the Beat Generation.

Stephanie Nikolopoulos is a writer and editor living in New York City. She is the author, with Paul Maher Jr., of Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.” She also wrote the introduction to the reissue of the classics A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains by Isabella Bird and Hunting the Grisly by Theodore Roosevelt and contributed entries to Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia. Her writing has appeared in BOMBlog, Brooklyn Rail, Burnside Writers Collective, Gothamist, The Literary Traveler, The Millions, Resource Magazine, and other publications. She earned her BA from Scripps College and her MFA from The New School. She blogs at www.StephanieNikolopoulos.com.

The People Who Write Questionnaire: Torrey Maldonado

Torrey Maldonado, author of Secret Saturdays_PeopleWhoWrite

Torrey Maldonado‘s acclaimed debut Secret Saturdays was a 2011 ALA Quick Pick.

If your life (so far) were a book, what would the title be?
Boy Meets World.

What is the greatest story ever told?
I joked with a packed house, “My character is at risk of becoming a real-life Darth Vader.” Everyone laughed and got it. So STAR WARS…

Who is the greatest literary character ever created?
An unimaginable number of jobs have been created by Disney. It all began with Mickey Mouse so he may be the greatest character invented.

Which living or dead writer would you most like to share a meal with?
Any schoolteacher-author-parent publishing two books-a-year. He/she has the Holy Grail. I’m “Tim Robbins-ing” out of Shawshank just to do one.

What is your favorite word right now?
Vacation. It’s when I write. Most of the year, I’m in my Clark Kent suit. On vacations, I show my “S” and do what I do. Write, feel super.

What word has always looked or sounded strange to you?
Balderdash. It means “nonsense”. It weirded out my 3rd grade teacher too. Instead of looking it up, she gave me detention for using it.

How many words have you written today?
The great news is I’m in Disney World and haven’t written a word today. The bad news is my writer’s brain is “GUILTing” me for that.

Where have you had your most exhilarating writing experience?
Hot spot to write = spot with hot music. [My characters] Sean’s and Justin’s playlist, that I list in Secret Saturdays, rocketed me through writing the book.

What is the thing about writing that you most deplore?
That I can’t wave wands and things happen. Like pen a book a week. Or reply to folks’ asking my first be a film with a “POOF” and SO IT IS!

What is the thing about writing that you most love?
I loved visiting a school of 2,000 youth plus parents who read and loved my book. Note to self: “Try taking a selfie with them next time.”

What stereotype about writers have you found to be true?
Each writer has their own process.

What’s the biggest misconception about writers/writing?
If your book hooks readers like Hunger Games and Harry Potter, yours will be BIG. Critics say mine and some of my friends’ do but…

What’s the one thing no one would ever guess about you from reading your writing?
My writing is what I needed as a reluctant reader — fun reads with meaty issues to transform me.


Voted a “Top 10 Latino Author” and best Middle Grade and Young Adult novelist for African Americans, Maldonado was recently honored as a top teacher by NYC’s schools Chancellor. His work builds boys into multidimensional males and youth into global, caring citizens. Before teaching, he trained schools to implement Conflict Resolution programs through the U.S.’s largest victim-services agency. Praised for its timeless feel, his acclaimed novel, Secret Saturdays, made states’ reading lists and is assigned alongside classics and in anti-bullying initiatives. His forthcoming works also are inspired by his and his students’ lives.

Sony Is Officially Out of the E-Reader Business

Sony has confirmed today that they will not be making another ebook reader. via the-digital-reader.com - peoplewhowrite

“Sony has confirmed today that they will not be making another ebook reader – not even for their sole remaining market in Japan.” – the-digital-reader.com

Sony’s decision not to produce another e-reader follows their February 2014 announcement that they were shuttering their e-bookshop. With the lion’s share of readers using Amazon Kindles and Barnes and Noble Nooks, and the iPad ranking highest among tablet users according to a PCMag.com survey, writers and publishers need to figure out how we can leverage the devices readers prefer in fresh ways. How can we deliver digital stories that go beyond the standard, expected page-to-digi transfer?

In 2011, bestselling author Victoria Christopher Murray introduced the A Chapter A Month Club which enabled readers to receive a new chapter of original writing by authors on a monthly basis. In 2013, Margaret Atwood released a serial novel via Byliner.com. Now that Amazon has launched its Kindle Unlimited ebook subscription service even as similar services like Oyster and Scribd gain market share, a serial system of some sort could really engage readers. Interesting how this 3.0 platform is bringing back the storytelling delivery popular in the days of old school radio.

The 2014 Man Booker Longlist Announced

Longlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize - peoplewhowrite

Longlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize

The 2014 Man Booker Longlist is here. For the first time, the prize is open to any title written in English (rather than just English and Commonwealth Writers); a change that was received with some grumbling for fear that future judges would privilege North American sensibilities. The longlist features six Britons, four Americans, two Irish writers, and one Australian:

Eleanor Catton, author of The Luminaries won the prestigious £50,000 prize last year.