19 June 2008

My writer's memory

This morning I woke up (after repeated head-butts from my cat) and stepped out of bed onto a sheet of paper.

I picked it up and found my scrawled point-form summary of a few writing ideas I came up with while trying to get to sleep last night. I wrote them on the paper so I wouldn't forget them, obviously.

They're good ideas. And considering that I'd forgotten it had happened at all, it was a good thing I wrote them down.

Go me.

16 June 2008

Quoth the blogger, "Fair use!"

Via LISNews and the NY Times I've learned that,

The Associated Press, one of the nation’s largest news organizations, said that it will, for the first time, attempt to define clear standards as to how much of its articles and broadcasts bloggers and Web sites can excerpt without infringing on The A.P.’s copyright.

(Yes, I'm being slightly cheeky with that excerpt.)

It's an interesting development. It battles a bit with fair use, but I think in the end we'll come out with a better definition for what's "okay" to quote, at least from this group, and it will set a precedent for quoting in blogs from other sources.

It also reminds me of why I have a blog, and it isn't just to connect with potential readers or network with other writers or because I'm arrogant enough to think the world wants to hear me - though all of those things are partially true. I have a blog because it's a new* frontier in writing and interaction, it's a massive experiment in social networking and information exchange, and I can't wait to see what comes next both for laws governing current internet habits and with future technology.

* I know that "new" is slightly wrong. I've had a blog since 2001, and I was nowhere near the first. But they've never been so widespread or problematic as now.

Quick update: Simon Owens from Bloggasm.com emailed me to point out his interview with Rogers Cadenhead. Cadenhead owns The Druge Retort, where The Associated Press demanded he remove seven items that it said contained unfairly quoted material. Owens' interview reveals a lot more of the history behind the dispute.

08 June 2008

The last words expected sooner than expected

Just a quick update on my work in progress. It's going swimmingly. I've hit the 59,000 word mark just now and I have a good plan for the ending. It's a mystery - much more than I knew it was going to be - and although I have all the standard doubts that crop up when you skim through a first draft before it's finished (oh what a bad idea that is,) I do quite like the thing so far.

I've written a whopping 30,000 words in the last two weeks, but only because I really knew where the story was going and how it would get there, and I had the time (read: made the time) to write. I love that this is a completely different type of book than my last few, and so I'm getting to explore new characters and different issues. I'd been writing a lot about the theme of "who you really are," for instance, and now it's all about secrets secrets secrets.

This is a good change. I was getting tired of identity crises. Sneakiness is much more interesting.

I hit the halfway blues this week, which meant that I suddenly began to question if it was worth a full book after all and if everything I'd already written was just a load of crap anyway, but I managed to bulldoze through. It's my hope that I can keep up momentum for the ending and therefore end with enthusiasm rather than doubt.

And that's it.

05 June 2008

The Power of "Recommended Age Ranges"

I found a Guardian blog article through LISNews that argues against putting age ranges on books. The article says,

On our first class visit, after solemnly absorbing the instructions of the school librarian about how to turn pages and whatnot, my classmates and I were let loose on the stacks. I made a beeline for the looming four-foot shelves that were stocked with Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary and Laura Ingalls Wilder. But just as my chubby little hands grasped a copy of Betsy's Busy Summer, a book featuring an epic watermelon seed-spitting contest, a stern hand clamped down on my shoulder.

"No, Jean," said my teacher, turning me away from the delicious fat volume towards the shelves with thin ones. "The books for you are over there."

It was devastating. I spent the rest of the year re-reading Dr Seuss and gazing longingly at the tantalising array of books without pictures.

Sadly I can't comment on the blog post without signing up for an account with the Guardian, but I'm a little discouraged by the general reaction to the idea of age-tagging books. The author seems confused: it wasn't age tags that prevented her from reading, it was the teacher, and it will always be the teacher (or the parent, or whoever is close minded enough to not pay attention to an individual child) whether the books are age tagged or not. The ranges are meant to guide those of us who would like to have some idea of the audience of a book. It's only a guide. They may be misused, but the critical thinking required to realize that a child may be over or under the recommended ages will not be improved by removing the guide altogether. And the sensitivity needed to reassure a child that there is nothing wrong with them if they are over or under the recommended ages should be mandatory whether the guide is there or not.

I understand the desire to keep everything so completely vague and equal that nobody feels the least bit bad about anything because they have no information with which to feel bad, but I think the value of the guides is great, and we should concentrate on being all right with stepping outside of the recommended boundaries rather than abolishing the information altogether.

02 June 2008

Crime: the McDonald's of genres

This is not a pretty thought, but it has its purposes. From an article in the Telegraph by John Sutherland:

"Everyone 'power browses' nowadays. One of the casualties of the new hurry-hurry, buy-your-book-and-buzz-off bookshop ethos has been the blurb - and all that accompanying matter that used to be crammed, so informatively, on to the assorted surfaces of the dust jacket.

In today's book world it's the title which has to grab any prospective purchaser by the eyeballs and close the deal before the book alongside gets its shout in.

In crime fiction, there's a nifty gimmick that one can call 'the signature title'. 'Me again,' it says. Oddly, it seems to have taken hold in the crime genre only."

So I guess this means I'll have to find some way to keep readers (if I actually get any) with my titles. Most of the good ones seem already taken. Yesterday I directed someone to Sue Grafton by the question, "Do you know who writes those alphabet books?", so it works. James Patterson took the numbered books as well as the nursery rhymes. My favourite is another mentioned in the article: Jeff Lindsay's Darkly Dreaming Dexter and its sequels. That stuff just rolls off the tongue.

I have no ideas. It's probably just a method of procrastination to worry about it anyway. I was already pondering The Rejector's statement that Fiction writers do not need platforms and trying to figure out why I I have a blog, anyway. Enough of this! To write.

01 June 2008

The Librarian

Last night I went to a retirement party for my head librarian. He's been #1 at my library since 1979. The past 29 years have put forth tremendous changes in libraries, information, and technology, and it was clear from the crowd at the party and the open house earlier that the community really appreciates the wonderful and constantly relevant service he's developed through this time.

What hit me most, though, was the talk of his kindness and patience. I know it's true that he was beyond helpful with patrons, and I know from experience that he was always patient and approachable about whatever questions I had. I've been given many opportunities to learn and grow in my work with the public library and he is responsible for that. As person after person got up to give speeches about his incredible career I thought about what an inspiration he is for me, as I'm only just starting out.

I tried to explain this to him in pithy statements on both his goodbye card and the guest book that was being passed around. I think I failed both times. It's not something I can say without thinking about Hallmark or Daytime Television Specials. I'm not sure many people in the world get an employer who so clearly personifies the ideals in their chosen career. What do you say to that person? How can you make it clear how much it means to have their example to guide you?

And so I fail. But it's an understandable fail, and it leaves me thankful and welcoming the future.

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