February 18, 2009

Book Talk: Book Snobbery (or Are Graphic Novels Really Novels?)

Posted in Book Talk tagged , , , , at 8:00 pm by The Word Jar

I’ll admit it. I was a book snob. For so long I looked down my oh-so-refined literary nose at *those* things. You know what I’m talking about. Those books with all the cartoons in them. That’s right, graphic novels.

I couldn’t possibly understand how a novel could consist of so few words, and quite frankly, I thought I’d outgrown picture books in elementary school. I figured graphic novels were all “Pow” and “Zounds” like the superheroes or lame humor like Archie. Oh, how wrong I was.

I had my mind changed about graphic novels when I became a faithful reader of Pop Candy. I initially found this blog while searching for a good Lost discussion, but I stuck around for all the other worthwhile pop culture tidbits wonderful Whitney brings to my attention. As a big fan of graphic novels, she compiled an extensive list of graphic novels that would be good for first-timers to read. She even included a “For Fans Of” reference for each book, so you can see which graphic novel would suit you according to your other pop culture interests.

I started with The Complete Persepolis. I was interested in the story about the girl who grew up during the Islamic Revolution in Iran. I love history, but sometimes I just can’t slog my way through history books, try as I might. It was my hope that the graphic novel format would hold my attention better than a traditional book on this subject. So far, so good.

To my surprise, I quickly grew attached to the narrator who is growing up in a new world she doesn’t fully understand (Why does she suddenly have to wear a veil to school? Why does the family have to keep their curtains drawn?) but desperately tries to. I feel I have the same emotional attachment to her that I would if this were a traditional book, if not stronger. And I guess that’s what it comes down to for me. As long as the format can provide storytelling that gets me emotionally involved in the characters, that’s enough for me.

And when you can blow through the pages so quickly, that doesn’t hurt either.


February 16, 2009

Book Talk: Apocalyptic Reading

Posted in Book Talk tagged , , , at 11:32 pm by The Word Jar

Against my better judgment, I’ve added a new book to my “currently reading” pile. Adding the book isn’t such a big deal; I often read several books at once. It’s the book that I added.

While browsing the library this weekend, I came across Night Work by Thomas Glavinic. When the cover compares it to I Am Legend and offers a suspenseful post-apocalyptic world, I’m in. I’m in for a book that will make me wonder what happened to the world and what’s going to happen to the main character(s). I’m in for possible nightmares. I’m in for nights of checking and rechecking door locks before I go to bed.

Why do I read books like this? Because I can’t help myself. Sure, they up my paranoia level, but they also get me thinking. How would I react in those situations? Am I prepared? Does it matter?

So far in my reading we are following one main character, Jonas, who apparently is the last man left on Earth. Even in the first fifty pages we’ve seen how this isolation is changing his behavior and his mental state. The subtle paranoia is already seeping its way into the pages…and into my psyche.

I’m off to read another chapter or two before bed. And recheck those locks.

Countdown to 1,000,000

Posted in Word Fun tagged , , , at 9:28 pm by The Word Jar

Get out the party hats! The Global Language Monitor predicts that the English language will surpass one million words on April 29th (give or take a few days). Woo! I checked their website today, and we are currently 1,227 words away from the milestone.

According to their website, “Global Language Monitor (GLM) documents, analyzes and tracks trends in language the world over, with a particular emphasis upon Global English.” If ever I decide to give up my day job, this could be my next career path!

Check out The Economist to read an article about this momentous occasion (and the questions raised by linguists as to the officiality of this event).

With almost a million to choose from, it may be hard to decide, but what’s your favorite word?

February 13, 2009

Kick-start Your Book Publishing Career

Posted in Publishing tagged , , at 11:47 pm by The Word Jar

Are you a bibliophile? Is your dream career in book publishing? If so, you need to check out the Publishing Institute at the University of Denver. As a graduate of this program, I can attest to the valuable education, experience, and contacts it offers.

This intensive 4-week course covers every aspect of book publishing, from acquistions and editing to production and marketing. There are lectures and panel discussions with some of publishing’s top professionals. Students also participate in workshops and take field trips to local publishing fixtures. Students are encouraged to interact with visiting professionals at picnics and other social events, so it is easy to make contacts.

The program attracts a wide spectrum of students, but recent college graduates and career changers make up the bulk of participants. The application process is competitive, and this year the application deadline is March 23. You can see the requirements and download an application here.

There are other publishing programs offered across the country, but the Publishing Institute at the University of Denver shows participants that there is a whole book publishing world outside of NYC and the big conglomerate houses. Whether you want to edit, design, or market books, attending the Publishing Institute will get you well on your way to your new book publishing career.

February 9, 2009

A “Case” of Word Origination

Posted in Book Talk, Word Fun tagged , , at 1:11 pm by The Word Jar

Ever wonder about the origination of the words uppercase and lowercase? Me neither. Until I started reading Righting the Mother Tongue: From Olde English to Email, the Tangled Story of English Spelling by David Wolman.

In a delightful little detour from the history of spelling, Wolman discusses the operations of a Gutenberg printing press. Typesetters would sit at cases of letters, quickly setting lines of type to be placed in the press. To increase efficiency, letters and symbols used less frequently, such as capital letters, were placed in a high case. Non-capitalized letters had to be within easy reach, since they were used more often. So, capital letters were stored in the “upper case,” and non-capitalized letters were stored in the “lower case.”

Boom! Word origination! Good stuff!

February 8, 2009

Book Review: How Not to Write a Novel by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman

Posted in Book Reviews tagged , , , , at 1:46 pm by The Word Jar

How Not to Write a NovelHaving trouble writing your novel? Are you drowning in rejection notices from agents and publishers? Maybe the book you should have written is How Not to Write a Novel. Too late now. Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman beat you to it.

Endless books and classes tout strategies and exercises to help writers with everything from developing plots to curing writer’s block. But these authors and instructors don’t realize it can sometimes be just as useful to know what not to do. Mittelmark and Newman have blessed the writing world with just such a tool. Culling tips from their own experiences as both writer and editor, they offer 200 “observations” that, if heeded, will guarantee your manuscript never sees the inside of a bookstore (unless you smuggle it in while browsing for real books).

No element is left out of How Not to Write a Novel. Plot, character, style, setting, and theme all get the unroyal treatment. Although little attention is paid to how writers can remedy the missteps discussed, the authors graciously offer examples (which they seem to have taken great pleasure in writing) to illustrate their points. These excerpts provide humorous running stories throughout the book, and the reader can only hope the authors have greatly exaggerated any material that might actually have crossed their desks.

This book is a must-read for both writers and book editors. Writers may recognize some of their own earnest, yet misguided, attempts at novel writing. Book editors will give a knowing chuckle, while kicking themselves for not writing this book first.

(Review copy source: Public Library)

February 4, 2009

Book Review: Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth by Xiaolu Guo

Posted in Book Reviews tagged , , , , at 8:43 am by The Word Jar

Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous YouthFenfang is a ravenous Chinese youth in an evolving Chinese society. She is ravenous for food she sometimes can’t afford to buy. She’s ravenous for love she can’t find. Most importantly, she’s ravenous for the personal freedom not so easily afforded in a country steeped in a Communist history.

Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth by Xiaolu Guo chronicles Fenfang’s attempts to live life on her terms. As a peasant from a small Chinese village, she faces a bleak future. Her dreams stretch beyond a life of farming sweet potatos, and at the age of 17, she follows those dreams to Beijing.

Taking menial jobs and living in state housing, Fenfang discovers that Beijing “never showed its gentle side. You’d die if you didn’t fight with it, and there was no end to the fight. Beijing was a city for Sisyphus—you could push and push and push, but ultimately that stone was bound to roll back on you.” Fenfang’s stone comes in many forms—a sexist producer not interested in her script because she’s a woman; a possessive suitor; nosy neighbors in her housing complex—but she never stops pushing back.

Readers may sometimes find Fenfang timid in action, but her spirit is always bold. Guo adeptly balances Fenfang’s youthful apathy with adult determination, giving Fenfang’s actions a sympathetic realism. Through the journal-style narrative, the reader feels firsthand the pressure on Fenfang. She is literally one of a billion. She can quietly take her place as a sweet potato farmer, like so many others, or she can fight to make her mark on the world. One can’t help but root for Fenfang in all her battles, whether they are against undeserving men, persistent cockroaches, or society at large.

(Review copy source: Public Library)

February 3, 2009

New Year’s Resolutions

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:09 pm by The Word Jar

I made two New Year’s resolutions this year, and both of them led me to starting this blog. Resolution #1: Read more. Resolution #2: Write more. If I was going to write consistently, I knew I had to write about something I loved. I thought of a book review blog.

I know there are plenty of book review blogs out there, but I also know there is always room for more. With the major newspapers decreasing book review space (or getting rid of it) and an endless stream of new books hitting the bookshelves, the responsibility falls to book lovers to spread the word about worthy books or warn fellow readers not to waste their time.

I did not set specific goals for my resolutions, although I’ve always thought that finishing one book a week is an admirable goal. I’m already behind that rate, having read only two books in January, but I’m not worried. The same goes for writing. In a perfect world, I’d like to post one entry a day. That won’t always happen. But now I have a venue for my thoughts and writing, so I have taken the first step to keeping my resolutions.

So, for Resolution #1: Read More, I’ll grade myself with a half check mark at this point. The same for Resolution #2: Write More.

Now that February is here, how are you doing with your resolutions?

A few words…

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:33 am by The Word Jar

Welcome to The Word Jar! As an avid reader and freelance editor and writer, I am surrounded by words. I love them! I read them, I put them in their correct places, and I attempt to string them together.

My purpose for starting this blog is to have a place to discuss all things “wordy.” My posts will mainly consist of thoughts on the books I’m currently reading, reviews of books I have read, and my opinions of publishing trends. Maybe I’ll share some random word-related information along the way, too.

If you love words as I do, I hope you’ll share in this adventure with me. I’d love to hear your book suggestions and interesting word factoids. And what would a Word Jar be without words, so feel free to share your favorites!

Thank you for stopping by, and visit The Word Jar often.