Are you already formulating your plan of attack for hitting the sales this Black Friday? Just be sure to save some shopping energy for Small Business Saturday, too, because you'll be in for a treat when you shop at your local independent bookstore.
Chances are high that if you walk into an indie bookstore this Saturday (November 30), you'll find an author or two hanging out. Organized by Indies First, more than 1,000 authors will be working as guest booksellers at locally owned shops across the country. Here are just a few:
• Martin Cruz Smith & Ayelet Waldman—Book Passage (Corte Madera, CA)
• Lynn Cullen & Joshilyn Jackson—Little Shop of Stories (Decatur, GA)
• Jill Lepore & Aaron Becker—Porter Square Books (Cambridge, MA)
• Ridley Pearson & Curtis Sittenfeld—Left Bank Books (St. Louis, MO)
• Emma Straub & Susannah Cahalan—WORD (Brooklyn, NY)
• Ann Patchett & Victoria Schwab—Parnassus in (Nashville, TN)
Do you plan on stopping by your local indie bookstore on Saturday?
The wait is almost over, book lovers! Tomorrow is the 2013 National Book Awards gala, during which one winning book will be named in each of four categories: fiction, nonfiction, poetry and young people's literature.
This evening, the finalists—instead of merely twiddling their thumbs in nervous anticipation of tomorrow—will be reading from their nominated books at an event to be held at the New School in New York City. If the idea of all of those stellar authors in one room sends you into a swoon, fret not. You can watch the whole thing as it's streamed live online! The readings begin at 7:00 pm (EST) right here.
To catch up on everything NBA—including interviews with the finalists—click on the image below. Which books are you rooting for?
Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules of Writing
1. Never open a book with weather.
2. Avoid prologues.
3. Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue.
4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said” . . . he admonished gravely.
5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
6. Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose."
7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
9. Don't go into great detail describing places and things.
10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
My most important rule is one that sums up the 10:
If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.
• Elmore Leonard •
Which Elmore Leonard book is your favorite?
One of my greatest pleasures is falling into a story someone else has written.
• Nora Roberts •
Which Nora Roberts book is your favorite?
Meaning is everything, and humans will never cease pursuing the question of meaning. Nor should they. Indeed, nor can they. We’re almost hard-wired to pursue the questions of meaning and significance.
• Thomas Keneally •
Which Thomas Keneally book is your favorite?
Obsession led me to write. It's been that way with every book I've ever written. I become completely consumed by a theme, by characters, by a desire to meet a challenge.
• Anne Rice •
Which Anne Rice book is your favorite?
The one reader I'm trying to please as I write is me, and I'm pretty difficult to please.
• Sara Zarr •
Which Sara Zarr book is your favorite?
A poet looks at the world the way a man looks at a woman.
• Wallace Stevens •
My favorite Wallace Stevens poem is "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird." Do you have a favorite?
I decided to devote my life to telling the story because I felt that having survived I owe something to the dead. And anyone who does not remember betrays them again.
• Elie Wiesel •
Which Elie Wiesel book is your favorite?
The wildly successful, Fifty Shades of Grey series by E.L. James has sold more than 70 million copies, in 50 different languages, worldwide. Despite this astronomical number of copies, there is one place you might have trouble finding one: your local library. In fact, the explicitly erotic books came in at #4 on the American Library Association's list of the most challenged books of 2012.
In light of it being Banned Books Week, we asked Beth Kery—best-selling author of the Because You Are Mine erotic romance series—to share her thoughts on the cloud of controversy that typically hangs over her genre.
Erotic Romance: What, precisely, is being banned?
As an erotic romance author, I was asked by BookPage to comment on banned books in my genre, most notably the wildly commercially successful and equally controversial novel Fifty Shades of Grey. Since I also hold a doctorate in the behavioral sciences, I’m especially interested in how human beings react to certain cultural phenomenon, why something is so terrifically popular or why it is disdained. For instance, I’ve often noticed a trend for a small percent of reviewers to discount a book merely because there is explicit, steamy sex in it, or potentially worse . . . romance. Notably, Fifty Shades of Grey, despite all of the sex and BDSM, follows most of the classic tropes of romance novels. Romance novels are the bread and butter of the publishing industry. According to Business of Consumer Book Publishing, romance novels generated $1.438 billion in sales in 2012, leaving other genres like mystery ($728 million) or classic literary fiction ($470.5 million) leagues behind in revenue.
Does this mean that the instances of Fifty Shades of Grey being banned were due to a hatred of romance novels? No, that’s not what I’m saying at all. But as I began to look into the banning of the Fifty Shades trilogy further, I realized there was a lot more complexity to it than mere moral outrage over sexual content, although that was certainly a major component. Unlike books such as Nabokov’s Lolita, Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon or even Alfred Kinsey’s The Kinsey Report, which were also banned at times for “offensive” sexual content, the stated protests against Fifty Shades were different. I would say they were often of the condescending variety. Yes, the sexual content was termed "pornographic," but the quality of the book was also frequently called into question. I had the feeling in reading some of the rationale provided that there was a good deal of eye-rolling and smirking happening. Reasons that I read for libraries not buying the book included substandard writing and “poor reviews.” I’ll admit to being surprised by the latter, as I’ve never heard of that being a reason to censor a book from a community.
The patronizing tone of many of the stated reasons for the ban of Fifty Shades—in addition to the fact that many library officials admitted to not having read the book—made me wonder about some of the unspoken judgments. By and large, it was women who raced to read Fifty Shades of Grey and other New York Times best-selling books, such as Sylvia Day’s Crossfire series or my own Because You Are Mine series. The term "mommy porn" began to be bandied around, signifying the fact that middle-aged women (ones who obviously should know better) were being swept up in the phenomenon. That’s eye-roll-worthy and funny, because the mothers and lawyers and PTA presidents in our communities shouldn’t be interested in sex, right, even in a fantasy sense? Yes, we already knew that women read fluffy, fantasy-prone romances, but romances with kinky sex? That’s just comical.
I have a lot of familiarity with that attitude, so I couldn’t help but recognize the tone of it in the reasons for banning Fifty Shades of Grey. Not only erotic romance authors, but romance authors of all subgenres, are unfortunately used to the patronizing smirk we see when we say what we write.
Yes, the appeal of erotic romance is, by and large, the fantasy element. However, that does not diminish the validity of the content. If millions of adult readers (largely women) are clamoring to explore this exciting, perhaps liberating genre of fiction, I can’t imagine why a library would stand in their way. If they are acting as gatekeepers, then the question is begged: whom or what are they protecting?