Round-up, 25 October 2012: Murderous Self-Publishers, DRM, Supply and Demand, Handwriting, Serials

A lot of noise this week (quite rightly in my view) on how Amazon controls your Kindle content, and can shut it down at its own whim, it seems. More on this another time, perhaps, but here is the original blog that kicked up the fuss, and some other links with perhaps some of the most useful commentary:

Outlawed By Amazon (original blog)

Amazon Inspires Wave of Anti-DRM Sentiment Following Customer Kindle Shutdown (links from

I increasingly favour the DRM-free approach to publishing, at least for many aspects of content. What you give away comes back to you some way or other, I feel (but then I am a generous kinda guy, I hope). Here is an article from Publishing Perspectives describing a succesful DRM-free venture: Top SF Authors Raise $1m With Pick-Your-Price, DRM-Free E-Titles. May their success ever increase (and I love how its the genre writers who’re pioneering this).

From IndieReader, some provocative views on whether self-publishing is killing the publishing industry (basically, self-publishers need to get a bit more professional):

If indie authors are going to make their mark, they’ll need to band together, put out reputable works, and stop looking for get-sales-quick gimmicks.

And from the Globe and Mail, a pertinent discussion on the creative writing industry and whether we’re creating more writers than can or will be read, with Canadian examples: Writers: graduating by the bushel, but can they find readers? Given the laws of supply and demand, I’m inclined to think that Mexican critic Gabriel Zaid is right when he (only half?) jokes that perhaps writers need to slip a five-dollar bill into their books in order to pay their readers …

And from earlier in the week a lovely blog on the lost art of letter-writing in the Guardian. Do follow some of the links therein, and also back to the extract from Philip Hensher’s book on handwriting: Why Handwriting Matters.

And finally: I am a big fan of the idea of serial fiction, and I am enjoying the reports on Naomi Alderman and Margaret Atwood’s serialised novel The Happy Zombie Sunrise Home. I can see (see above too) I am going to have to look into Wattpad some more.


Round-up, 10 October 2012: honest responses, colourblind writing, Hilary Mantel, Camille Paglia, handwriting

Out of the mouths of babes … I really enjoyed reading this blog entry by Naropan and flash fiction journal editor Stacy Walsh: ‘My Kid Waxes Lyrical On ArtPrize’ (which is an open art prize in Michigan). Note the poetry of little Eli’s honest responses to shiny surfaces and ‘Song of Lift, a 5-minute long, fully automated, viewer sensitive opera’ of a kinetic sculpture slash quarter machine. This reminds me of the need to find that ‘level of enjoying what is in front of you in that moment’ (his mom’s wise words). This is painfully simple, but the best things often are, and it can be painful (or at least, less melodramatically, a challenge) to get there. Writers (adults) often have to relearn that honest response in order to discover the intuition that’s essential for good writing.

This story makes me think of that Ray Bradbury mantra: Don’t Think. And it also reminds me of one of the smartest things I ever heard anyone say at a Naropa Summer Writing Program: Edwin Torres’s statement that ‘Difficulty is not intelligence’. Why do we so often feel a need to complicate things, to intellectualise, to overinterpret texts or overegg our writing? Sometimes we just need to let things be, to be open to their experience and our experience of them.

Can literature be colour blind? The Independent discusses race and characters-who-just-happen-to-be. It invites us to consider the norms of our writing: what is normal there, and what might normal need to be? How might normal change?

A good profile of Hilary Mantel in the New Yorker on the US publication of Bring Up The Bodies. Have yet to read, but look forward to it. Wonder if it will win the Man Booker Prize?

I love reading anything by the brilliant Camille Paglia. Such energy in her writing. Here she is on Salon talking, among other things, about her new book on art, Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art From Egypt to Star Wars.

The New York Times reports on, a ‘genome project for the world of art’, which aims to create ‘new pathways for discovering art through 800+ characteristics (we call them “genes”)’. It’s compared with the ‘musical recommendation engines’ of Pandora and other digital playlists. An elegant website, too.

I am not sure if I find it that attractive, when I compare it with the elegance of Garamond or Baskerville, but the font OpenDyslexic, described here by the BBC, could make life easier for many people with dyslexia: apparently, its ‘characters have been given “heavy-weighted bottoms” to prevent them from flipping and swapping around in the minds of their readers’. It’s now available for Instaper, and might come to Amazon and other devices. So: big bottoms are useful.

When I describe myself as a lovely writer, I am talking about my handwriting. Here’s a lovely piece from Philip Hensher in the Observer on the publication of his new book The Missing Ink: The Lost Art of Handwriting. It includes a brief manifesto to restore handwriting ‘as something which is a pleasure, which is good for us, and which is human in ways not all communication systems manage to be’, as well as a sad, sweet tale on why handwriting is important. Ah! It justifies our stationery fetish, doesn’t it? Nothing really flows like ink.