Don DeLillo Wins Inaugural Library of Congress Fiction Prize

Don DeLillo wins Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction - peoplewhowrite

Don DeLillo

To coincide with the Library of Congress National Book Festival scheduled for September 21-22, the Library of Congress will award author Don DeLillo the first Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction. The announcement on explains the award “is meant to honor an American literary writer whose body of work is distinguished not only for its mastery of the art but for its originality of thought and imagination. The award seeks to commend strong, unique, enduring voices that—throughout long, consistently accomplished careers—have told us something about the American experience.”

Though this is the first award for American fiction the LOC has given, the Library has honored fiction writers in the past. In 2008, Pulitzer Prize winner Herman Wouk received a lifetime achievement award while John Grisham (in 2009), Isabel Allende (2010), Toni Morrison (2011) and Philip Roth (2012) have each won the Library of Congress Creative Achievement Award for fiction in connection with the Library’s annual National Book Festival.

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said of DeLillo, “Like Dostoyevsky, Don DeLillo probes deeply into the sociopolitical and moral life of his country.” DeLillo is the author of Underworld, Mao II, and White Noise for which he won the National Book Award in 1985.

The announcement quotes DeLillo as saying: “When I received news of this award, my first thoughts were of my mother and father, who came to this country the hard way, as young people confronting a new language and culture… In a significant sense, the Library of Congress prize is the culmination of their efforts and a tribute to their memory.”

On "" Readers Download E-Books Legally, for Free allows readers to download books for free - peoplewhowriteStarting May 1, 2013, The Bookseller reports, readers can download ebooks for free on  Copy on the site explains: “While many established authors create free ebooks to complement their print sales, more new writers are distributing their work free of charge on ebook download sites like obooko as a first step towards traditional publishing.” The site also gives writers a list of reasons why they should be interested in submitting their work for free download, one of them being, they don’t have to pay any self-publishing costs.

I’m skeptical of the benefit. At present, writers can already make their works available for free digital download; why do it through Obooko? Perhaps the main benefit is the site will likely be working to establish a community on their own and driving clicks to the site through advertising and publicity efforts. If that’s the only plus, writers are better off going through tested sites like Wattpad which spawned the career — and Random House book deal — of teen author Beth Reeks.



"Novelicious" Goes from Blog to Book Publisher

Kirsty Greenwood, founder of and director of Novelicious Books - peoplewhowrite

Kirsty Greenwood, a four year old blog for writers and readers of Women’s fiction, is spinning off a new digital imprint called Novelicious Books. Working in partnership with the rights specialists at The Marsh Agency, the new imprint will digitally re-issue light, romantic fiction from the past 20 years and publish new novels and novellas aimed at female readers.

According to The Bookseller, “The new imprint is accepting submissions, with translation rights and UK print rights for selected works being handled by The Marsh Agency. Authors will receive 50% of net receipts of all copies sold.”

Novelicious founder Kirsty Greenwood aims to leverage the following she has built toward the success of the imprint. “Novelicious is already an established authority in the women’s fiction genre. Since 2009 we’ve amassed a large community of women’s fiction readers and writers who visit our website every day, in their thousands.” She adds, “Novelicious Books is working with a fantastic, experienced team of editors and designers and look forward to building a list to be proud of.”

Which Came First, Writing About Gun Violence or Actual Gun Violence?

Robert Benton_Violence_in_Film_Bonnie_and_Clyde_Hollywood Reporter_peoplewhowrite
The Hollywood Reporter interviewed Bonnie and Clyde co-writer Robert Benton and asked him if he thought movies were responsible for promoting American gun violence. (NRA president Wayne LaPierre suggested media depictions of violence were to blame after Adam Lanza shot and killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School — 20 of his victims between the ages of six and seven years old.) Benton answered, “The Senate is responsible. The House is responsible. The fact that the Congress is in the hands of — being paid by — gun lobbyists. No. They want to blame it on somebody else… let’s look at the NRA or the weapons manufacturers.”

What do you think? Who’s to blame for the violence we see in society? Political leaders? Creatives who depict violence in their art?

While I concede violent depictions in books,  films, and songs can inspire real-life violence in some cases, the truth is that violence is as old as the human race. Whether we’re talking about negative spoken words that can kill a person’s spirit, or physical weapons that aim to maim or snuff out a life; people have been visiting mortal brutality against each other forever.

Artists, who traditionally document and embellish what they’ve seen or personally experienced, attempt to translate the violence in human culture into popular culture with their work. Does this translation desensitize us to violent acts? I don’t think so. Most of us remain shocked and devastated every time we hear about yet another shooting or bombing; and the majority of us resent these acts of violence and want them to stop. Just as creators use their respective arts to depict, examine, and provoke consumers of their work, most people consume said art to better understand or escape their immediate reality.

Ironically, author Petra Lewis wrote her novel The Sons and Daughters of Ham to address the epidemic of gun violence because she found that the consistency of real-life killings were numbing people to the fact that the frequency is abnormal. “I’d be having normal conversations with people I know, and somehow it would suddenly come out that their child or a relative had been murdered. This had become like a new kind of urban parlor conversation… I dare to speculate that the vast majority of Black and Brown America knows someone who has been murdered, or knows someone who knows someone.”

For his part, screenwriter Quentin Tarantino, who regularly eschews any connection between the graphic gore in his films and the violence in society, believes “movie violence” is about tapping into what the viewer would like to express and do if placed in the same situation as the onscreen story. Speaking specifically about his film Django Unchained, Tarantino explained to NPR, “…there’s two types of violence in this film: There’s the brutal reality that slaves lived under for … 245 years, and then there’s the violence of Django’s retribution. And that’s movie violence, and that’s fun and that’s cool, and that’s really enjoyable and kind of what you’re waiting for.”

Benton says we just need to face the fact that America is a violent country. “Violence runs like a bloodline through this country, from its inception until now. I wish it weren’t so, but it seems to me to be a part of us.”

Poem of the Day: "To His Coy Mistress" by Andrew Marvell

Poet Andrew Marvell - peoplewhowrite

Andrew Marvell

In honor of National Poetry Month, the PWW poem of the day, reposted from

To His Coy Mistress
by Andrew Marvell

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love’s day;
Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side
Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the Flood;
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow.
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.

But at my back I always hear
Time’s winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long preserv’d virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust.
The grave’s a fine and private place,
But none I think do there embrace.

Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may;
And now, like am’rous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour,
Than languish in his slow-chapp’d power.
Let us roll all our strength, and all
Our sweetness, up into one ball;
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Thorough the iron gates of life.
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

Indie UK Booksellers Demand that Amazon Pay UK Taxes

Visit to learn more about the Smiths' petition - peoplewhowrite

Visit to learn more about the Smiths’ petition

Independent UK Booksellers Frances and Keith Smith have delivered a petition to Prime Minister David Cameron demanding he “make Amazon pay its fair share of UK corporation tax”. The Guardian reports the Smiths launched their petition in December 2012 and had nearly 160,000 signatures when they dropped it off today.

The Smiths explained their grievance as follows: “We face unrelenting pressure from huge online retailers undercutting prices, in particular Amazon, and it’s pushing businesses like ours to the brink. But what’s even worse is that Amazon, despite making sales of £3.3 BILLION in the UK last year, does not pay any UK corporation tax on the profits from those sales. In my book, that is not a level playing field and leaves independent retailers like us struggling to compete just because we do the right thing.” Amazon is allegedly “avoiding UK taxes by reporting its European sales through a Luxembourg-based unit” according to The Guardian piece.

If this is true, it seems like a no-brainer that Amazon give to Caesar what is Caesar’s; but the issue is likely complicated by the fact that Amazon operates online, which means they can be headquartered wherever on the continent is most cost-efficient and still be a more convenient buying option for European customers. Ah, the complexities of the digital vs print battle.

This scuffle marks the latest episode in a protracted battle between Amazon, bookstores, and publishers. Last month, Amazon Publishing announced it would pay their author royalties on a monthly basis, as opposed to the bi-annual schedule of traditional publishers. Amazon bypasses publishers to communicate directly with agents and writers. In response, major bookstore Barnes and Noble has refused to carry titles published on Amazon’s imprint, and sharply reduced orders of Simon and Schuster titles for a perceived lack of support by the publisher.

Author James Patterson's NY Times Ad Asks "Who Will Save Our Books?"

Patterson bought ad space on the cover of Publishers Weekly, in The New York Times Book Review, and in Kirkus Reviews asking

Patterson bought ad space on the cover of Publishers Weekly, in The New York Times Book Review, and in Kirkus Reviews asking “Who will save our books?”

“The Federal Government has stepped in to save banks, and the automobile industry, but where are they on the important subject of books?,” James Patterson asks in an ad he took out in the New York Times Book Review, on the cover of Publishers Weekly, and in Kirkus Reviews. The ad continues: “Why are there no impassioned editorials in influential newspapers or magazines?”

There are, in fact, many impassioned editorials floating around about the state of books. Just recently, bestselling writer Scott Turow damned a recent Supreme Court ruling, calling it “The Slow Death of the American Author” in a New York Times op-ed. Turow’s op-ed drew a swift response from President of the American Library Association Maureen Sullivan. But Patterson raises a great point about what the government role should be in shoring up the flailing book industry.

The next question is which aspect of the industry, which entity or group needs the most support right now? Writers? Publishers? Libraries? Bookstores? Readers? It’s hard to know which hole to plug, there are so many.

So far, the government seems to be squarely on the side of readers. Most recently,  The Office of Science and Technology Policy directed Federal agencies to “develop a plan to support increased public access to the results of research funded by the Federal Government” which met with mixed reaction by publishers.

Patterson says his aim is to “stir the pot a little bit” and advance the conversation about the challenges facing the book industry. Patterson told Publishers Weekly all stakeholders need to start thinking solutions rather than problems. In particular, the piece describes his frustration with “the same article about the book business being in trouble” being written over and over again, ad nauseam. Challenging the New York Times in particular to “wake the fuck up,” Patterson says “That article is not worth running.”

HarperCollins Educates Readers About Enhanced E-Books

Sh*t my dad says author justin halpern tries to  explain enhanced ebooks to his dad_peoplewhowrite

Sh*t My Dad Says and I Suck at Girls author tries to explain Enhanced Ebooks to his dad

HarperCollins has released a new section of their website focused on explaining what the “EEB” (Enhanced Ebook) is.  Described as an ebook that offers an interactive digital experience that “[gives] the reader something that they cannot get in the traditional print book”, recent EEBs by the publisher include Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, Colin Powell’s It Worked for Me, and Veronica Rossi’s Under the Never Sky. Whether novel, autobiography, or cookbook, these enhanced reading experiences allow the reader to unlock images, songs, recipes, etc that offer deeper opportunity to engage with the text. HarperCollins’ spokesperson Jessica Barraco told Publishers Weekly, “We thought having a page like this would be great to show consumers what they’re paying for. [It] makes it easier for consumers to make a decision.” Perhaps enhanced products like this will be the way forward for writers to command higher prices and royalties.

Universal Studios to Build "Wizarding World of Harry Potter" Theme Park

Actress Ginnifer Goodwin at Harry Potter Theme Park in Universal Studio Orlando - peoplewhowrite

Actress Ginnifer Goodwin at Harry Potter Theme Park in Universal Studio Orlando

Could Hogwarts be coming to Los Angeles? The L.A. County Board of Supervisors has approved Universal Studios’ request to build a Harry Potter Theme Park. The park, based on J.K. Rowling‘s blockbuster book and film franchise, is part of a $1.6 billion plan by parent company NBCUniversal to “invest in production and tourism projects over the next 25 years,” according to Hollywood industry trade Variety. The park itself is projected to cost about $500 million. Construction on the LA lot will begin later this summer; Universal Studios Orlando already has a Harry Potter Theme Park. At the end of last year, Sony released an augmented reality Wonderbook for its PlayStation 3 console called Book of Spells, inspired by the Potter series.

NYT Says Multiple Reviews of Some Authors-While Others Get Little Notice-'Seems to Work'

New York Times editor Scott Heller - peoplewhowrite

Scott Heller

If you think getting an agent or getting published is hard, try getting a book reviewed. As most publications with significant circulation numbers have either slashed or removed their book review sections, only a few works enjoy the exposure — and implicit stamp that it matters — that a literary review provides. Even if the review is bad, the author receives what amounts to an advertisement of themselves and their work;  if the review is good, that obviously bodes well for the ultimate success of the writer.

For this reason, many authors pay book clubs and literature blogs to review their work. In a piece I wrote for last year, Troy Johnson, founder of the African-American Literature Book Club ( told me, “Unfortunately, for a self-published author, the main way they get reviewed is if they pay for the commissioned service.”

And then there are those that enjoy multiple reviews. In the same (prestigious) publication.

A recent piece in the New York Times admits “It’s beginning to feel like Nathaniel Rich Month at The Times.” Referring to the author and son of former NYT columnist Frank Rich, writer Margaret Sullivan points out: “The author’s new novel was reviewed in the Arts section on April 10, then again in the Sunday Book Review on April 14. Mr. Rich also wrote an essay for the Sunday Book Review, with many references to that novel, “Odds Against Tomorrow.” In addition, the Editors’ Choice section of the Sunday Book Review listed Mr. Rich’s novel second on its list. Back in January, Mr. Rich and his brother were also the subjects of a feature story about literary families.”

When Sullivan questioned theater and books editor Scott Heller “about the frequent duplication and the amount of attention sometimes heaped on one author”, Heller told her the newspaper’s book critics — Michiko Kakutani, Janet Maslin and Dwight Garner — make their own decisions about what to review without collusion with the editors of the Sunday Book Review, or freelancers Heller may have hired to write a review.

Heller admits, “In the best of all worlds, it would be healthiest to spread the attention around… There are so many deserving writers out there, and it sends a wrong signal.” However, the piece concludes, Heller feels the system “seems to work.”

What exactly seems to work, and for whom, in Heller’s estimation is not clear. In March, posted 2012 stats on the number of women authors reviewed in relation to male writers, and the numbers were lopsided in favor of men.  A piece posted on last June says 88% of books reviewed by the New York Times are written by white authors.

At the end of the day, the whole process is subjective — which can be frustrating for the writer that gets passed over, and gratifying for the writer who gets picked, over and over again. As I’ve noted in a previous post on some writer’s conundrum with self-publishing, getting the validation of the traditionally elitist and exclusive publishing apparatus (imprints, agents, reviewers) offers a sense of validation. “If X publishing imprint [or reviewer] can only publish [or review] an average of 10 to 20 titles a year and they choose you, it must mean you’re good, right? We writers, like most artists, crave that pat on the head, particularly from the hand that wears the signet ring.”

But new intel is challenging the validation logic. Writers are buying their way onto bestseller lists. Traditional publishers are getting into the self-publishing business. And respected review sources like the New York Times are admitting their system of choosing which books to review “sends a wrong signal.”

In other words, maybe it doesn’t mean as much as we think it means when we see a book lauded in our favorite lit journal or streaking to the top of the bestseller list. Maybe, we have to do the dirty work ourselves: read a few frogs to appreciate a (prince)(ss) piece of writing when we find it.