The grand prize winner of our “America in 140 Characters” twitter competition this week is:
Mike O’Shaughnessy (@mroshaugh)
Mike will get a free pass to Wordstock and an invite to our author’s drinks night.
Our runners up:
Ian Brook Fisher (@ianbrookfisher)
Natalie Behring (@nbehring)
Have each won a free pass. Congratulations!
Check back next Wednesday for our next challenge.
Guest post by: Lidia Yuknavitch
Author of The Chronology of Water, Lidia Yuknavitch appears at the Wordstock Festival on Sunday, October 9 at 4pm on the Wordstock Community Stage and as part of two conversation My Censor, My Self on Saturday, October 8 at noon on the Weiden+Kennedy Stage and What’s with America’s Sexual/Literary Hang-up on Sunday, October 9 at 11am on the Wordstock Community Stage.
Hey. You. American woman writer. About that body of yours? Ssssshhhhhh. Meaning: don’t bleed, don’t fart, don’t deficate. Don’t lactate, don’t orgasm, don’t pee on anything. Don’t shoot your mouth off, shoot your sexuality, don’t shoot a gun. When you write about the sex you’ve had, the anger raging in you, the grief that drove you under down deep enough to leave the world, please do it by way of craft. Don’t talk too much about putting odd things in your mouth, over indulging with drugs or alcohol, or the time you woke up in the gutter in a pool of your own sick with your pants down around your ankles. Don’t make woman characters who stab themselves, inject themselves, cut themselves, or burn themselves up, please, it’s unbecoming. Don’t say “I” too much. And for the love of god, keep the scenes of childbirth (especially if there is a vagina), menstruation, and menopause (ew) to a minimum. Gah.
You must keep to universal themes. Even if the number of females in the United States as of October 2010 was 157.2 million, and the number of males was 153.2 million. Your themes, your body stories just aren’t, you know, universal enough. I mean unless you apply enough craft. See too the VIDA count so you are not confused about women in publishing.
(Hey. Pssst. It’s me. Lidia Yuknavitch, an American woman writer, author of The Chronology of Water. Yep, the boob book. I’m here to interrupt the cultural code of the clean and proper body for a second – consider it a break-in. If you want to read some new books written by American women with female characters whose bodies do what our bodies really do? Here’s some bitchin’ contraband: Zazen by Vanessa Velselka. Zipper Mouth by Laurie Weeks. Green Girl by Kate Zambreno. The Girl With Brown Fur by Stacey Levine. I promise you these American women writers have ruptured the code of the safe and pretty body. You’re welcome. Now back to your regular programming.) O.K.? We clear?
(Pssst.: see also Elfriede Jelinek. I’m just saying. Nobel Prize in Literature, 2004, when everyone voting that day must have been, what, high?)
More information about Lidia Yuknavitch and her writing see http://www.lidiayuknavitch.net/
There is so much to see, hear, do, and learn at Wordstock that you’re bound to have questions along the way. That’s why this year we’ve teamed up with Multnomah County Public Library to bring you a mobile information team.
Who are those people in red aprons with fancy tablet computers in hand?
They are Wordstock’s own roving librarians, and their tablets are more than fashion accessories, they’re information portals, for answering your copious questions.
Do they know all about the festival, like when & where to see my favorite author, & who will be on this stage next?
They sure do. They can tell you anything about what is going on at the festival. They have our mobile app loaded to help you navigate the convention center with confidence, and learn more about Wordstock’s year round work.
What other kinds of questions can they answer?
Want to know your favorite author’s age? Or in what city that book was set? How much was beaver fur worth when the character in this book was crossing the prairie? Maybe something you read rang a bell and you want to know what it was referencing? Go ahead and ask!
Can I try to stump the librarians?
You can sure try, but it’s going to be tough! These fine folks are seasoned information hunters whose research skills will astound you. And with handheld computers at the ready, you’re going to have to get creative if you really want to challenge them.
Can I take one home with me?
As nice as it would be to have a research librarian at dinner every evening, these librarians are not up for adoption. But, did you know that the Multnomah County Library can help you research anything? Their services include a 24/7 librarian by chat or text, and one on one research help by appointment. Yeah, we love Portland too.
Guest post by: D.F. Walker
Author of Darius Logan: Super Justice Force, D.F. Walker appears at the Wordstock Festival on Saturday, October 8 at 3pm on the Wieden+Kennedy Stage and is leading the workshop Kicking Butt & Chewing Bubble Gum: Writing for Teenage Boys on Saturday, October 8 at 10:30am.
Long before my agent said it, I knew there might be difficulty finding a publisher for my book. I had researched the Young Adult market, and come to the conclusion that books for teens over the age of 13 tended to be written and marketed primarily to girls. This was especially true several years ago, during the initial Twilight frenzy, before a handful of books like Shipbreaker and The Monstrumologist came along to offer glimmers of hope for boys who weren’t interested in reading about books mired in the sappy romantic entanglements of girls torn between vampires and werewolves.
Although my agent felt we were going into a difficult market during uncertain economic times, he was convinced we would eventually be facing a bidding war for Darius Logan: Super Justice Force. Much to his disappointment—and, I must confess, mine as well—all we got were rejections. And with each rejection, there came a few very interesting comments as to why the book was getting the shaft. The three things we heard most consistently were “teen boys don’t read,” “not girl-friendly enough,” and “there’s no market for a book like this”—which I suppose covers both teen boys not reading and not being girl-friendly enough. I can’t recall how many rejections I got—but add up all the major publishers in North America and you’ll have ballpark number—and every one of these rejections pointed out that either teen boys didn’t read, my book was not girl-friendly enough, there was no market for the book, or sometimes, combinations of these three truths.
As difficult as it was to be rejected, that was not what bothered me the most. The thing that got under my skin, eating away at me like some deadly virus, was the matter-of-fact dismissal of teen boys as being non-readers by nearly every publisher in North America. It would have been one thing to not get a publishing deal because my book sucked—I’m a grown man with a thick skin can handle rejection based on the quality of my writing or lack thereof. But to not get a deal because “teen boys don’t read” was a bitter pill that I refused to swallow. If, in fact, teen boys aren’t reading books, it seems to me that there must be reason, and that this reason should be addressed immediately, lest we become a nation populated by illiterate men who didn’t read when they were teenagers.
Educational reform began in this country in 19th century, with the state of Massachusetts passing the first compulsory school attendance laws in 1825. More states followed suit, until eventually all states had laws requiring children to at the very least attend elementary school. Despite raging debates over budgets, over-crowding in classrooms and the fiasco of No Child Left Behind, the United States still pays a fair amount of lip- service to the importance of educating its children. Unfortunately, it seems that quite often this interest only extends to the most rudimentary of educations, and after a time, many young people are left to fend for themselves.
I believe that it is not only important to educate children and teach them to read, it is important to give them things they will want to read. To do any less is a violation of a moral obligation that comes with the educational process. And the pervasive and nonchalant attitude of publishers that teenage boys don’t read is not only a violation of this moral obligation; it is an abandonment of an entire portion of the population that has been deemed to not be commercially viable. In other words, there is no profit in boys reading books.
Don’t get me wrong. I know there are a lot of things in these tough economic times vying for the attention of teenage boys. Capturing a percentage of that audience is not easy, but it is necessary and morally correct. There are teenage boys out there who like to read. I hear from them, their parents, and their teachers on a regular basis, and everyone tells me basically the same thing: “It’s so hard to find good books for teen boys.”
I submit to the publishing industry as a whole this simple truth: it’s not that teenage boys don’t read, it’s that you aren’t publishing anything worth reading. Some publishers are better than others, and there are some awesome books out there—the Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness is amazing, and Charlie Higson’s The Enemy is one of my favorite YA books of all time. But overall the market of books for older teen boys vacillates between bleak and pathetic.
As the publishing industry struggles to define itself amidst the rising popularity of electronic books and the closures of both independent booksellers and national chain stores, there is no better time to rethink the old strategies that clearly aren’t working. Rather than turn its back on an entire segment of the population, now is the time for publishers to start putting out books that will appeal to boys. This means books with subject matter that boys will be entertained by, with covers that will appeal to them (you would think both would be no-brainers, but trust me, they aren’t). I guarantee, once publishers actually start putting out good books for teenage boys (and marketing them properly), teenage boys will start reading books. Of course, I know that they already do.
D. F. Walker is a writer, filmmaker, and crime fighter. More information about him, his thoughts and his projects can be found at www.SuperJusticeForce.com
Guest post by: Jennifer Richter
Author of Threshold, Jennifer Richter appears at the Wordstock Festival on Saturday, October 8 at 11am on the Attic Institute Stage
I’m actually reading my husband Keith Scribner’s novel, The Oregon Experiment. I read some early drafts years ago, and it’s great to reunite with these characters and see how fleshed-out and compelling and complicated they’ve become. Can I call that my favorite book of the year?
Which writers have most influenced you?
Two writers who were also my early teachers have influenced me a great deal: Yusef Komunyakaa and Bruce Weigl. They’ve written about the Vietnam War as well as more domestic subjects with a strikingly honest, desperate tone; my book Threshold focuses on the subjects of motherhood and illness, and Yusef and Bruce’s poetry helped me to write from the trenches.
What are you working on now?
I’m taking this fall off from teaching to work on poetry collection #2.
Another focus at the festival this year is children’s literature. What was your favorite book as a child? Who is your favorite children’s book author now?
I have great memories of learning to read with the Ant and Bee books by Angela Banner. Somebody needs to get those back in print.
I’ve loved reading Jon Muth’s books to our kids; also William Steig’s Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. Lio Lionni’s Frederick—about a dreamy little poet-mouse in a “chatty family of field mice”—is also fabulous.
What is your favorite website for writing and literature?
What is your favorite food?
Coconut macaroons. Also the marionberry pie I just made with our backyard berries.
Do you have any connection with Portland or to the Pacific Northwest? Have you been to Portland before and, if so, what is your favorite thing about it?
We’ve been fortunate to live in Corvallis—about an hour and a half south of Portland—for the past eleven years. We get up to Portland often; our family favorites are Powell’s, the fountains you can play in, the Portland Arts & Lectures series, Voodoo Donuts, and the bike paths along the riverfront.
For more info about Jennifer Richter see http://jenniferrichterpoet.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002546123820&sk=info
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