Write As If No One Will Ever Read Your Work, Former MFA Professor Advises

Ryan Boudinot, executive director of Seattle City of Literature, shares his observations from teaching in  in a master of fine arts creative-writing program - peoplewhowrite

Ryan Boudinot, executive director of Seattle City of Literature

“We’ve been trained to turn to our phones to inform our followers of our somewhat witty observations. I think the instant validation of our apps is an enemy to producing the kind of writing that takes years to complete. That’s why I advise anyone serious about writing books to spend at least a few years keeping it secret. If you’re able to continue writing while embracing the assumption that no one will ever read your work, it will reward you in ways you never imagined.” So writes Ryan Boudinot in a post for The Stranger that shares eight observations from Boudinot’s time teaching in a master of fine arts creative-writing program.

Also among Boudinot’s learnings: “For the most part, MFA students who choose to write memoirs are narcissists using the genre as therapy. They want someone to feel sorry for them, and they believe that the supposed candor of their reflective essay excuses its technical faults. Just because you were abused as a child does not make your inability to stick with the same verb tense for more than two sentences any more bearable.” And this: “Anyone who claims to have useful information about the publishing industry is lying to you, because nobody knows what the hell is happening. My advice is for writers to reject the old models and take over the production of their own and each other’s work as much as possible.”

Read the full piece here.

Self-Publishing Pioneer Says Amazon is Directing Customers Away from Her Books

Tina Engler, founder of erotic literature publishing company Ellora's Cave, believes Amazon is responsible for her declining sales revenue - peoplewhowrite

Tina Engler, aka Jaid Black, founded erotic literature publishing company Ellora’s Cave in 2000. By 2012, she was earning $10 million a year.

By 2012, Tina Engler was making upwards of $10 million a year in sales of titles published by her erotic literature imprint Ellora’s Cave. “But in 2013,” New York Magazine reports, “revenue dropped by more than $2 million, a trend that continued in 2014 and seems destined to continue this year.” Engler, who goes by the pseudonym Jaid Black, believes Amazon is the reason her year-over-year profits are falling.

“Without them, I never could’ve risen to the heights that I did,” she acknowledges of the e-tailer which is responsible for the bulk of her sales earnings. But, now, she says, Amazon has started delivering search results that directly compete with Ellora’s Cave titles “offering similar works by other authors, many of whom self-publish via Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), at free or discounted rates—even when customers search specifically for one of her company’s books.”

Engler’s claims echo the complaints Hachette leveled against the e-commerce company last year in their protracted battle over e-book pricing. The standoff has since been resolved, but while new deals between publishers like Hachette and Simon and Schuster are reportedly “economically advantageous” the problem remains for writers and publishers who rely on one retailer to distribute their books.

In the first years of Ellora’s Cave, Engler digitally released the books herself for $4 or $5 apiece, accepting payment via PayPal, and individually emailing customers files. Her main marketing strategy at the time involved posting positive reviews of her own work on Amazon and similar sites. “Engler estimates that she made $40,000 after the first year, and come 2003, revenue was up to $1 million.” Considering her declining revenue and tense relationship with Amazon which declined to comment for the New York Magazine story, Engler is considering “new ways to create income for Ellora’s…that don’t involve Amazon.”

Extremist Group Burns Iraqi Library, Destroys Rare Manuscripts

According to a report by The Independent, ISIS militants burned “as many as 112,709 manuscripts and books, some of which were registered on a UNESCO rarities list”, then “demolished the [Mosul Library] building using explosive devices.” It is believed that Iraqi newspapers dating back to the beginning of the 20 century, maps, books and collections from the Ottoman period are among the lost documented history.

Jill Abramson is Writing a Book About the Future of News Media

Jill Abramson will write a book about the future of news media for a reported $1 million - peoplewhowrite

Jill Abramson

The New York Post reports ousted New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson, who learned her male predecessor was earning more than she was, is not writing a “score-settling book”. Rather, according to the statement Abramson sent to the Post, the book will follow “news media’s battles to remain the bedrock of an informed society.” Abramson added, “…I’m going to wear my reporter’s hat again to tell the full drama of that story in a book, focusing on both traditional and new media players in the digital age.” Simon and Schuster bought the book at auction last Wednesday for a reported $1 million after Abramson and her agent Suzanne Gluck approached publishers last week.

Post-New York Times, Abramson has been making select appearances and working on launching a start-up that will pay journalists $100,000 for long-form pieces.

Former White House Press Secretary Heads to Amazon

Jay Carney, former White House Press Secretary, is now Amazon's SVP Worldwide Corporate Affairs - peoplewhowrite

Jay Carney

Today is Jay Carney’s first day at Amazon where he will fill the newly created post of Senior Vice President for Worldwide Corporate Affairs. Politico.com reports, “The new position brings the e-commerce giant’s worldwide public relations and public policy shops into one department under Carney. He’ll split his time between Seattle HQ and the D.C. office, where Amazon veteran Paul Misener will continue to run the company’s lobbying efforts.” The former White House Press Secretary who succeeded Obama’s first PR man Robert Gibbs in 2011 and served in the position for close to three and a half years went on to a Senior Political Analyst role on CNN before making the exit to Amazon.

The New York Times points to a growing trend of high-profile D.C. insiders migrating to the tech sector:

Technology companies are pouring money into lobbying as the industry seeks to extend its influence, and brand-name figures are signing up to lead the efforts.

Uber, the fast-growing ride-hailing service, hired David Plouffe, who ran Mr. Obama’s 2008 campaign. Susan Molinari, a former congresswoman, runs Google’s lobbying shop. Mark Penn, a veteran of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaigns, is at Microsoft. Lisa Jackson, Mr. Obama’s former Environmental Protection Agency chief, works for Apple. Last year, Apple reportedly considered Mr. Carney for a senior post.

2015 Windham Campbell Prizewinners Announced

2015 Windham Campbell Prizewinners-Edmund de Waal-Helen Hedmondson-Teju Cole-Geoff Dyer-Debbie Tucker Green_peoplewhowrite

l to r: Edmund de Waal, Helen Edmundson, Teju Cole, Geoff Dyer, Debbie Tucker Green

Nine writers hailing from the U.S., U.K., Nigeria, and South Africa have been awarded the 2015 Donald Windham-Sandy M. Campbell Literature Prizes at Yale which comes with a $150,000 cash prize to support their work. The winners are:

Teju Cole, Helon Habila, and Ivan Vladislavić

Edmund de Waal, Geoff Dyer, and John Jeremiah Sullivan

Jackie Sibblies Drury, Helen Edmundson, and Debbie Tucker Green

2015 Windham Campbell Prizewinners-Ivan Vladislavic-John Jeremiah Sullivan-Jackie Sibblies Drury-Helon Habila_peoplewhowrite

l to r: Ivan Vladislavić, John Jeremiah Sullivan, Jackie Sibblies Drury, Helon Habila

Founded in 2013 by book collector Sandy M. Campbell in memory of his partner author Donald Windham, the prize is meant to give writers who have at least one published book or one professionally-produced play time to write without financial concern. Awards are made by nomination only.

The Mystery of the Muse

Where does inspiration come from? Elizabeth Gilbert shared her theory in her 2009 TED Talk:

“[C]enturies ago in the deserts of North Africa, people used to gather for these moonlight dances of sacred dance and music that would go on for hours and hours, until dawn. They were always magnificent, because the dancers were professionals and they were terrific, right? But every once in a while, very rarely, something would happen, and one of these performers would actually become transcendent. And I know you know what I’m talking about, because I know you’ve all seen, at some point in your life, a performance like this. It was like time would stop, and the dancer would sort of step through some kind of portal and he wasn’t doing anything different than he had ever done, 1,000 nights before, but everything would align. And all of a sudden, he would no longer appear to be merely human. He would be lit from within, and lit from below and all lit up on fire with divinity.

“And when this happened, back then, people knew it for what it was, you know, they called it by its name. They would put their hands together and they would start to chant, “Allah, Allah, Allah, God, God, God.” That’s God, you know. Curious historical footnote: when the Moors invaded southern Spain, they took this custom with them and the pronunciation changed over the centuries from “Allah, Allah, Allah,” to “Olé, olé, olé,” which you still hear in bullfights and in flamenco dances. In Spain, when a performer has done something impossible and magic, ‘Allah, olé, olé, Allah, magnificent, bravo,’ incomprehensible, there it is — a glimpse of God.”

Kwame Alexander Wins Newbery Medal and Coretta Scott King Honor

Author Kwame Alexander - peoplewhowrite

Poet and children’s book author Kwame Alexander has written 17 books

Children’s book author and poet Kwame Alexander has won the 2015 John Newbery Medal and a Coretta Scott King author honor for his book in verse The Crossover. Both accolades are given by the American Library Association which also announced Dan Santat’s The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend as the 2015 recipient of the Randolph Caldecott Medal, Marjorie Agosín’s I Lived on a Butterfly Hill the winner of the Pura Belpre Award, and National Book Award-winner Jacqueline Woodson whose book Brown Girl Dreaming earned multiple honors. Read the full list of winners and honorees here.