Archive for the 'Reading' Category

AWP Recap

Dear Readers:

I recently attended the annual AWP conference which this year was held in Denver, Colorado. As usual, it was a stimulating conference, highlighted by the huge book fair and exhibit. Last Thursday I moderated a panel called, “Writing Biographies: Making Someone Else’s Story Your Own,” (panelists: Phillip Lopate, Honor Moore, Robert Root, Kim Stafford and Joy Castro). I was thrilled that the conference room we were given was filled to its capacity of 350 persons. I was also delighted that there were two Santa Barbara attendees – Paul Willis and Glenna Luschei. I thought the panel went as well as it could have gone.  I bow to my stellar panelists – you all shined and I thank you!

There were many highlights at this years’ event – Michael Chabon was a keynote speaker and he was hysterical. Although I have not read any of his books, he has inspired me to do so. On Saturday, writers from THE SUN Magazine gave a great reading featuring editor Sy Safransky and writers Steve Almond, Alison Luterman, Ellen Bass and Frances Lefkowitz. The stories made us laugh and cry—just what we want our readers to do. There were quite a few panels discussing the role and future of small presses, and others addressing the future of book publishing. Here’s a summary of one panel I attended which was moderated by Mary Gannon, the editorial director of Poets & Writers. The panelists included agents, editors and publishers. Mary did a fabulous moderating job and she and the panelists left me with many issues to They all gave me many thing to ponder, such as:

1)    The new technology (ebooks) will make readers out of those who are not readers.

2)    There will no longer be professional book reviewers, but the readers or actual buyers of the books will do the reviewing. Book promotion will be done via word of mouth, in the same way people spoke about books in the past—passed on to friends during lunch, coffee and in the same way independent store owners suggest books to their regular customers and book clubs.

3)    Nielsen’s BookScan which has been in place since late 2009, is a monitoring and analysis service which monitors English-language books by providing weekly point-of-sale data. It tracks about 75% of retail sales which includes chains, independent stores, discount stores and  internet retailers. This service now gives publishers the chance to see how many books of a particular title were sold, so if a big publisher is thinking of taking on an author who was published by a small press, they can tell exactly how many books were sold and if sales were low, they might decide not to take them on.

The way I look at it, this is good and bad news for authors, but either way, we are entering a new era in the book industry where not much is predictable except one thing and that is  that our  children’s children may not even know what a paperback novel is. In many ways I feel sorry for them, but in other ways I’m excited for them because the technology might inspire more people to read. I’m not sure this affects those in their 50s like me who has not yet used my Kindle which has been sitting on my desk now for two months. I thought it a good idea to get ‘with the program,’ and buy one, but somehow, I just cannot bring myself to use it. I grew up in libraries and the paper books are a part of my blood.

I’d love to hear how you feel about the book publishing industry—where you think it’s headed and how you feel about it. Please write into my comment section here.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Diana

In Memory of J.D. Salinger

If I had to choose my favorite novel of all time, it would be Catcher in the Rye. Learning about the passing of J.D. Salinger’s passing last week, marked the end of a personal and societal era. It was consoling to know that he died peacefully in his home in New Hampshire at the age of 91, after what have been fifty reclusive years.

I always wondered what makes an author become a recluse. Or anyone for that matter. Are they trying to escape the attention of fans or are they just antisocial characters? Perhaps they are a combination of the two. If we look at literary history, we observe that many creative people do indeed seek solitude, either to focus on their work or stay out of the limelight. In reality, Salinger’s private life is irrelevant because what we should remember about him will be that he produced a book with a very memorable protagonist, one who has resonated with more than five generations. Catcher in the Rye is one of those rare books like Le Petite Prince that parents and children both stand to gain something from discussing.

There are so many things I love about the book, including the personal narrative of Holden Caulfield who truly depicts the angst and issues of adolescence by illustrating his deep sense of alienation, continuous questioning, and rebelling against authority. I loved Salinger’s blending of the typical adolescent character with his cynical sense of humor and sensitivity which sometimes peeked through the terror of his inevitable hormonal rages. Holden frequently voiced the common belief held by many adolescents that adults are both phony and superficial.

Salinger’s writing style and voice has so inspired much of my own writing. In fact, I have read the book a number of times, particularly when trying to find the voice in my prose. I have tried reading his short stories, but they did not resonate with me nearly as much as Catcher in the Rye. Much of Salinger’s writing focuses on the youth and in fact, he was once quoted as saying, “I almost always write about very young people.”

As I prepared to write this blog, I did some research on Salinger’s life and came upon some interesting factoids that coincidentally resonates with my New Year’s resolution. Although the son of a Polish Jew, in his late twenties Salinger studied Zen Buddhism and adhered to Vendanta Hinduism which advocated celibacy and detachment from responsibilities. Perhaps these interests contributed to his reclusive nature. Salinger also adhered to the principles of kriya yoga and other eastern spiritual, medical and nutritional beliefs including those of Edgar Cayce.

I am curious to learn more about Salinger. Perhaps his heirs will discover hidden secrets, journals or unpublished manuscripts that they might choose to share, as such is usually the case. It seems to be that we are more inspired and curious about the lives of deceased artists than living ones. and as my son recently mentioned in an email, “some of the most famous artists are only recognized through their death.”

What do you think?

What Books Nourish You?

Over the years, my attitude has changed. I used to not be a fan of rereading books, proclaiming that there are simply too many books to read.

But now as a seasoned writer and one who studies the works of my favorite authors, I’ve changed my view on this. I believe it’s important for writers to have books near them which provide nourishment and inspiration.

Anaïs Nin believed that the books which nourish us are not books which tell us how things are, but rather books which show us how to change things in our lives. Nourishing books give us a feeling of being pushed into life. They are books which make us smile and stand proud. They are books we don’t want to sell to the used books stores each time we relocate. They are books which travel with us from residence to residence or from town to town.

For me sometimes the most nourishing book is poetry and sometimes it’s fiction and other times it’s memoir. As a teenager, the most nourishing book for me was Salinger’s book, Catcher in The Rye. As a budding writer, I was fascinated by his honesty and candor and wondered how one could write in a way that was easy for everyone to understand. I also loved the writings of the prophet Khalil Gibran and the poetry of Rod McKuen. I admired their simplicity.

These days, the books which follow me from residence to residence are the journals of Anaïs Nin, the novels of Balzac, Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s One, Norman Mailer’s Executioner’s Song and Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. On those days when my attention span is shorter, I might gravitate to my favorite quotation books for the fuel for my creations, and the poetry of Billy Collins is always my favorite, no matter my mood. 

What books nourish you?

 


Quote of the Week


"A writer uses a journal to try out the new step in front of the mirror."

~Mary Gordon

About Me


I am a memoirist, essayist, poet and teacher whose passion is keeping a notebook. My notebook is my muse and my alter ego. It contains personal snippets of my life and observations from the world around me. Diarist Anaïs Nin has been a great source of inspiration for me. My hobbies include writing, writing and more writing, but when I have extra time, I enjoy reading, walking, hiking, yoga, working out, cooking and hanging out with my family and Maltese Poodle, Spunky. In order not to become ensconced by the glare of my computer screen, I also teach in the UCLA Extension Writers' Program and in various conferences and festivals around the country. My pleasure comes from sharing my joy of journaling with professional writers and anyone interested in writing.

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