Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: The Guardian

For All Those Folks Who Thought They Could Never Finish a Novel…

I’ve written one novel and you can have a free copy

I had an extremely strong burning desire to write it so I had no particular problems finishing it; yet, many folks who deeply desire finishing a novel discover it a year later, stuck in a drawer…

I don’t know if I’ll write another novel—busy now with short tales—but, if I decided to, I’d heed the advice in a particular article in the The GuardianHow to finish a novel: tracking a book’s progress from idea to completion.

If you’re new to this blog, realize I’m mostly a “tricky” reporter—I give you just enough info to make you {hopefully} take the link I provide :-)


“When Wyl Menmuir sat down to write his first book, he was well aware it was something many aspire to but few achieve. ‘I knew I needed help to avoid it being just a stack of paper that sat in my bedside drawer. I know too many people who have written half a novel’, he says.”

The best laid plans………

“Menmuir realised early on that he would need every tool at his disposal to finish his first novel. Having trained as a journalist he decided he would work better with a deadline and set himself a goal of writing 500 words a day, five days a week.”

“Had Menmuir stuck to his self-imposed deadlines the 44,242-word novel he eventually wrote could technically have been written in just 124 days…”

“Within just nine days of setting out to write, he had his first realisation that his 500-words-a-day goal might not work out. Although he didn’t know it at the time, it would actually be one year, 10 months and two days before the novel was complete.”

And, here are the topics covered about what he learned:

Embracing the feel-good moments

Procrastinating (well)

Downing tools

Celebrating milestones

This is a very comprehensive article; plus, when you see the graphs with the author’s image, pause, because they have his comments about various stages in the writing show up; and, it takes a few seconds to see all the comments

I hope you read (or, encourage a writer friend to read) the full article

Do you feel like there’s a novel inside you?
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Ursula K. Le Guin ~ New Collections of Her Wondrous Works

This makes the 6th post I’ve done that includes Ursula K. Le Guin.

We may be getting ready to bid her physicality adieu; but, her Spirit will continue to inhabit this planet, in her writings.

And, an article in The Guardian lets us know there are new collections of her work.

From that article:

“Fortunately for readers, two new books debuted…The Unreal and the Real and The Found and the Lost (both by Saga Press). The Complete Orsinia (Library of America) was released 6 September and Words are My Matter (Small Beer Press) was released 19 September.”

The first three books are her fiction, the last non-fiction…

And, considering the genre of literary fiction (which seems to have clung to realism…):

“‘Realism is a genre – a very rich one, that gave us and continues to give us lots of great fiction’, the 86-year-old writer told the Guardian. ‘But by making that one genre the standard of quality, by limiting literature to it, we were leaving too much serious writing out of serious consideration. Too many imaginative babies were going out with the bathwater. Too many critics and teachers ignored – were ignorant of – any kind of fiction but realism.’”

Commenting on her “giving up on writing novels”:

“As I got up in my 70s, stories began coming to me more and more rarely. I finished the novel Lavinia at 78. I no longer have the stamina to undertake a new novel, even if I wanted to. So, here I am, an old writer who loves writing – what have I got left to do?”

A quote from Margaret Atwood:

“All her stories are, as she has said, metaphors for the one human story; all her fantastic planets are this one, however disguised…”

And, Le Guin:

“I wish we could all live in a big house with lots of rooms, and windows, and doors, and none of them locked…”

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In the Age of Frenzied Book Marketing, Can the Author Choose to Stay Invisible?

People have seriously wondered that, as an author, I’m willing to both sell my books and also offer them for free… 

Elena Ferrante

Image Courtesy of jonathan phillip ~

You can read about how giving books away can help an author sell more; but, you should also read about any author’s realistic expectations for book sales

So, is it any more of a wonderment that an author would choose to be invisible—not be involved in marketing events—not let folks know who they are?

The media claims that author Elena Ferrante maintains anonymity.

However, an interview with Elena on the The New York Times site has her saying this:

“…I didn’t choose anonymity; the books are signed. Instead, I chose absence. More than 20 years ago I felt the burden of exposing myself in public. I wanted to detach myself from the finished story. I wanted the books to assert themselves without my patronage.”

There’s also an article on the London Review Bookshop site that quotes a letter from Elena to her publisher, just before the release of her debut novel, Troubling Love, which says, in part:

“…dear Sandra, I will say to you clearly: if Troubling Love does not have, in itself, thread enough to weave, well, it means that you and I were mistaken; if, on the other hand, it does, the thread will be woven where it can be, and we will have only to thank the readers for their patience in taking it by the end and pulling.

“Besides, isn’t it true that promotion is expensive? I will be the least expensive author of the publishing house. I’ll spare you even my presence.”

It is said that “Elena Ferrante” is a pen name; yet, she said (in The New York Times), “…the books are signed. Instead, I chose absence.”

So, she apparently feels a pen name is a “sign” for an author; yet, it is true, she’s stayed out of the promotional circus

Yet, an interview in The Guardian has her being asked the question, “Do you ever feel that your anonymity limits your ability to shape the debate inspired by the books?”, and the author doesn’t deny anonymity.

Perhaps “…I didn’t choose anonymity…” (in The New York Times) isn’t a denial by the author that she’s anonymous but merely a stressing of her “absence”

Here’s her answer to The Guardian‘s question:

“No, my work stops at publication. If the books don’t contain in themselves their reasons for being – questions and answers – it means I was wrong to have them published. At most, I may write when I am disturbed by something. I have recently discovered the pleasure of finding written answers to written questions such as yours. Twenty years ago, it was more difficult for me; I’d try but eventually give up. Now I see it as a useful opportunity: your questions help me to reflect.”

She only does interviews by responding to written questions—she wants to be “absent”

One of my dictionaries says this for “anonymous”: “Having no known name , identity or known source”.

And this for “absent”: “Not being in a specified place”.

So, are “absent” and “anonymous” all that far apart?

And, is the author I’m writing about—the one who’s anonymous (but, didn’t “choose” it) and absent from the visible stage of the Book World—just using a gimmick to create more sales?

This response to the questioning in an interview on The Paris Review site seems to me to turn what some might believe is gimmicky marketing into a profound statement about the act of writing and the “interface” between the author and the reader:

“I’ll try to state it from the reader’s point of view, which was summarized well by Meghan O’Rourke in the Guardian. O’Rourke wrote that the reader’s relationship to a writer who chooses to separate herself, radically, from her own book ‘is like that which we have with a fictional character. We think we know her, but what we know are her sentences, the patterns of her mind, the path of her imagination.’ It may seem like a small thing, but to me it’s big. It has become natural to think of the author as a particular individual who exists, inevitably, outside the text—so that if we want to know more about what we’re reading we should address that individual, or find out everything about his more or less banal life. Remove that individual from the public eye and, as O’Rourke says, we discover that the text contains more than we imagine. It has taken possession of the person who writes. If we want to find that person, she’s right there, revealing a self that even she may not truly know. When one offers oneself to the public purely and simply through an act of writing—which is all that really counts—this anonymity turns into part of the story or the verse, part of the fiction. “

So, even if an author doesn’t remain absent or anonymous, they’re still revealing, in their book, more of themselves then they might imagine

What do you think?
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Teenagers & Reading ~ Two Views

I have, counting this post, 13 articles here that are tagged Wattpad <— go ahead, take that link and you’ll see this post plus all the others (and, if you take that link at some point in the future {and, I write about Wattpad again} you’ll see all the other ones, too :-)

More on Wattpad in a bit

There are two recent articles that both refer to a third, all about teens and reading:

First the two:

from Slate: The New Yorker Essay About How Kids Don’t Read Takes the “Get Off My Lawn” Genre to Dark New Depths

from The Guardian: Teen readers aren’t in crisis, they’re just making their own rules

Both of those articles are trying to correct the claims in the following article from The New Yorker

Do Teens Read Seriously Anymore?

You can decide if you want to read the first two after I’ve shared a few excerpts from the third one:

“It’s very likely that teen-agers, attached to screens of one sort or another, read more words than they ever have in the past. But they often read scraps, excerpts, articles, parts of articles, messages, pieces of information from everywhere and from nowhere. It’s likely that they are reading fewer books.”

Remember, for later, that he said it’s likely they’re reading fewer books

“Yes, millions of kids have read Harry Potter, “The Lord of the Rings,” “The Hunger Games,” and other fantasy and dystopian fictions; also vampire romance, graphic novels (some very good), young-adult novels (ditto), and convulsively exciting street lit. Yet what happens as they move toward adolescence? When they become twelve or thirteen, kids often stop reading seriously.”

Notice the broad implication about “serious” reading…

“Much of their social life, for boys as well as girls, is now conducted on smartphones, where teen-agers don’t have to confront one another.”

One more:

“Reading frustrates their smartphone sense of being everywhere at once. Suddenly, they are stuck on that page, anchored, moored, and many are glum about it.”

O.K., I can stop excerpting now; but, if you want to read a person seriously out of touch with the teen world, you can finish that piece

Now, I want to share a link to another article, from the magazine Eater, called Here’s Anthony Bourdain’s Foreword to Marilyn Hagerty’s Book Grand Forks, and, as I share an excerpt, trust me I’ll tie all this together:

“If you’re looking for the kind of rapturous food porn you’d find in a book by M.F.K. Fisher, or lusty descriptions of sizzling kidneys a la Liebling—or even the knife-edged criticism of an AA Gill or a Sam Sifton—you will not find it here.

“The territory covered here is not New York or Paris or London or San Francisco. And Marilyn Hagerty is none of those people.

“For 27 years, Marilyn Hagerty has been covering the restaurant scene in and around the city of Grand Forks, North Dakota, population 52,000.”

So, what does that excerpt about food snobbery and a more humble and honest food writer have to do with teens and whether they’re reading “seriously”?

First, what is “serious” reading for a teen?

Let me start before that—what is “serious” reading for a six-year-old?

Is it Shakespeare?

And, “should” teens be reading Charlotte Brontë or Ray Bradbury or Allen Ginsberg?

Maybe that writer in The New Yorker wants teens to be reading the equivalent of “rapturous food porn”

Remember that excerpt up there that said: “Reading frustrates their smartphone sense of being everywhere at once. Suddenly, they are stuck on that page, anchored, moored, and many are glum about it.”?

Now, I can close the circle and bring Wattpad back.

There are over 40 million folks using Wattpad to read (for free) !

And, somewhere around 80% of those people are below the age of 18 !!

Plus, about 85% of those teens are reading on their smartphones !!!

And, for me, the real clincher is that most of those roughly 32 million teens are also writing on Wattpad !!!!


Just ran out of !s…

So, my experience of Wattpad includes teens and they read my serious books and they leave me serious comments and they’re doing it on their smartphones

Nuff said…

The defense rests…
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If You Write for a Living (or, even if you don’t do it for a living), Should You Be Paid to Speak at an Event?

I’ve been following a story… 

Paying Authors to Speak

Image Courtesy of sanja gjenero ~

Not one I’m intimately involved in—I don’t count on being paid as a writer (even though being a writer is my main occupation...)—the United States government pays me a military pension—though, I am looking for an alternative income that could exceed the pension and afford me more freedom of mundane decision :-)

But, it is a story I’m intensely interested in

I first caught wind of the issue in The SpectatorWhy English writers accept being treated like dirt.


concerning the Oxford Literary Festival not paying authors they invited to speak…

“The worst literary festivals prey on their [authors] hope of recognition like conmen preying on lonely old ladies’ hopes of company. If only they could talk to potential readers, writers think. If only they could get them in a room, sit them down and persuade them to give their damn book a chance.”

“In English literary culture, and I suspect the literary cultures of many other countries, middle-class taboos play their part in keeping writers servile.”

“As a well brought up Englishman, it has taken me years to overcome my instinctive nervousness at asking to be paid. It felt sordid, not the sort of thing nice people do. Certainly, when I raised the grubby subject of money, the festival organiser replied in the pained tones of a bishop who has just heard a fart ricochet around his cathedral. I agreed to work for nothing, then resented the festival organisers and despised myself for going along with them.”

That’s a very personal-view-article and, if you’re a writer, you should consider reading the whole thing—if you know a writer, you might consider passing the link to them

The next article I saw about the issue was quite different—in The BooksellerAuthors rally behind festival boycott campaign.


Beginning with reference to an open letterA call to boycott festivals that don’t pay author fees

“‘Twenty years ago there was a glorious cottage industry feel about the festivals but now they are much more professional events. ‘Special Advisors’ are handsomely paid to organise prestigious sponsors to foot the bill for pompous dinners – it has always seemed to me that having minor royals round a dinner table would be much more suited to a food festival or a British Legion event. Somewhere some literary festivals have lost their way. Wonderful events happen – but often the organisers don’t even know. They were busy changing for dinner! Hopefully the spirit of celebrating writing and the sometimes subversive spirit of creativity can return.'”

Then, a few days later, again in The Bookseller, I saw this—Oxford Literary Festival looks to start paying authors.


from a statement from the Festival (which other articles have disputed…)

“We have of course been aware of the debate regarding author payments for some time, but given the limitations of the tight budgets we run to (the Festival’s last audited accounts show a loss of £18,000 in 2014) paying each speaker would require an additional 15% in costs or £75,000 for the 500 speakers across our 250 events planned for 2016. However, once April’s Festival is over, we will meet with all interested parties to discuss how to achieve payment of fees for all speakers while safe-guarding the presence of our record-levels of unknown writers for 2017 and beyond”.

Then, the last article I’ve seen (though, as with most issues surrounding authors and pay, there will probably be more…), from The GuardianLiterary festival boycott could trigger writers’ block.


“Last week you carried a news item (Report, 14 January) in which prominent authors called on publishers and writers to boycott festivals that don’t pay them. If they mean events where no writers are paid, I wholeheartedly support them. If, however, they want a boycott of festivals where some writers are paid and others not, all they will achieve is a decline in the number of opportunities for established and new authors to present their work.

Philip Pullman states that ‘only the authors … are expected to do it for nothing’. In most cases, this is patently not true. Those who actually do it for nothing – indeed often contribute financially – are the organisers and supporters. If an author has a ‘name’, they are bound to attract an audience, which means that relative unknowns are able to enjoy an equal degree of publicity on the strength of their colleagues’ prominence. It is only fair to pay the well-known authors more since, without them, there would be little or no audience at all.”
~ Ed Tonkyn

So, whether you’re a publisher, writer, or the dearly-loved reader, do you think all authors should be paid to speak at gatherings and events?
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