What To Do With a Book (Besides Read It)

After oohing and aahing over Isaac Salazar’s book sculptures earlier this week, I started thinking about the various things I’ve done with old books, besides read, collect, and generally adore them.

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Mostly, I’ve used old books to make new ones, like the journals above, made from miniature Shakespeare collections.  The books were in bad shape when I got them.  The bindings were broken and most of the pages had fallen out, so I was happy to bring them back to life.  I used the few pages that were left to make the papier-mâché bowl.  One Christmas, when I was feeling creative and Hon was feeling industrious, we made this fireplace for the bookstore I was managing.  The fireplace was even featured in the New Yorker’s Book Bench blog (she said proudly).

With a little ingenuity, there are hundreds of things that can be made (re)using books.  This purse by curbly.com is an example, and I’ll be featuring more in future posts tagged “Once a Book.”  If you’ve done any book re-use projects, I’d love to hear about them.

As a book lover, I want need one of these purses, but I can’t even sew a button, so it’s not likely I’ll be making one soon.

For those of you who can sew, here’s the tutorial from curbly.

Resources: curbly.com, The Daily Post.

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There is More Than One Way to Make A Book

Mark Twain said,

“The man who does not read good books has no advantage
over the man who can’t read them.”

I wonder what he would say about doing this with books:

Isaac_Salazar_bookart_05.jpg

The New Yorker Book Bench blog posted this picture and a writeup about Isaac Salazar, the artist who created this sculpture by folding and cutting a book.

Looking through a gallery of his work on booooooom.com, I’m amazed and inspired by his creativity and skill.  I once managed a used bookstore (second best job in the world) where thousands of books were discarded every year.  We donated as many books as we could and sent the unwanted ones to recycling, but not all books meet such an eco-friendly end.  A lot of them end up at the dump.  This artist is doing his part to keep old books in circulation and out of the landfills.  As a lover of books and book arts, seeing a book turned into a piece of art as beautiful as this,  just makes me happy.

To read more, visit Page-Turner.

Resources: The New Yorker, The Daily Post.

99 Y.O. Self-Published Poet’s Mega-Bestseller

Japan’s Toyo Shibata was 92 when she started writing poetry.  Her self-published anthology, “Kujikenaide,” (Don’t Lose Heart) has sold 1.5 million copies in Japan since its publication in 2009.  With sales like that, I’m sure American publishers will take note.  Now that her story has been published in Reuters and is being picked up by mainstream media around the world,  I’m hopeful that it’s only a matter of time before her book hits the shelves in the U.S.  I definitely plan to be in line to buy it.

For more information, here’s “A Little Encouragement” from the blog, From Tokyo to the World.

A Little Encouragement Few people can say they’ve lived as long as Toyo Shibata [柴田トヨ]. At 99, she has seen two world wars, four emperors and 81 prime ministers. Over the span of such a long life, one would hope to acquire valuable wisdom about the world and how to be happy. Ms. Shibata has. She is the author of a bestselling anthology of poetry published early last year with the title “くじけないで,” or “Don’t Be Frustrated” [though I would translate it as more like “Hang i … Read More

Resources: The Daily Post, The Book Bench, From Tokyo to the World

New Hope Comes in a Literary Package

There’s something very exciting about the debut of a literary journal.

All the tension and turmoil bubbling around the publishing world these days can leave those of us who are in love with words feeling sad, worried, and a little bit hopeless.  Enter a new lit mag and our hope is renewed … The word lives.  The word thrives.  Hooray for the word!

And three cheers for the debut of The Literarian, an online journal from The Center for Fiction.

We’re here to celebrate and support the extraordinary breadth of literary fiction in the U.S. and around the world,” writes editor Dawn Raffel in the welcome letter.

The first issue includes six short stories, interviews with Cynthia Ozick, Yiyun Li, a video of Sam Lipsyte reading from his novel “The Ask,” and an essay by Martha McPhee about her five favorite novels with women behaving badly.  Each issue takes a world view, too, by publishing highlights from international literary magazines.  This issue showcases Wet Ink from Australia and the St. Petersburg Review. Future issues promise a venue for emerging writers.

It’s not all storm and stress in the world of words.  At least I don’t think so, and neither does The Center for Fiction.  That’s good news for writers, readers, and everyone else in love with words.

PS:  I would be remiss in my devotion to Philip Roth if I missed this opportunity to mention his upcoming visit to The Center for Fiction on February 24 at 7 pm. Oh, to live in New York again!!

Resources: The Center for Fiction, The Daily Post

Depth and Focus Straighten Tangled Plots

At The Book Deal, publishing veteran Alan Rinzler offers an insider’s look at the new world of publishing.  With more than 40 years experience at some of the top houses, his insights and opinions are an incredible resource for writers trying to break into the business.

His latest post, Ask the editor:  How to untangle a plot, gives specific and directed advice on:

  • Pruning overcomplicated plots
  • Best practices for storytelling
  • DIY Plot Pruning
  • Developing your rhythm

Mr. Rinzler ends the post with an invitation to send questions.

After spending the better part of the morning (and probably most of the coming afternoon) clicking and reading through this blog, I knew I had to share it here.

Enjoy!

Resources: The Book Deal, The Daily Post

Monday Motivator: Virginia Woolf’s Wild Horses

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“Blame it or praise it, there is no denying the wild horse in us.”
— Virginia Woolf
from “Jacob’s Room”

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I chose this quote in honor of Virginia Woolf’s 129th birthday, tomorrow, January 25.  What do the words evoke in you?

The Monday Motivator is a weekly quote posted to encourage, inspire, and motivate writers of all skill levels and across genres. If you have a favorite quote to share, I’d love to include it.  Click here to see past Monday Motivators.

Resources:  The International Virginia Woolf Society, The Daily Post

Publisher Not Doing It For You? Self-Promote!

Scholarship donations, iPads, twofers, and an endless assortment of junk drawer schwag.  Authors are turning to non-traditional marketing to boost sales and pick up the slack left by publishers who no longer have the budget.

In How Authors Move Their Own Merchandise on WSJ.com, reporter by Joanne Kaufman looks at a few novel (and successful) approaches.

Resources: wsj.com, Post A Day

Happy Birthday, Edgar Allan Poe

“Words have no power to impress the mind
without the exquisite horror of their reality.”
— Edgar Allan Poe

The Masque of the Red Death
Image by ProfessorMortis via Flickr

Mention his name and goth girls swoon, black cats hiss, and the timid turn away.  Edgar Allan Poe was born January 19, 1809.  More than 200 years after his birth, cities still fight for ownership of the dead writer’s corpse, whose tortured life and mysterious death were as strange as the tales he told.  Tales like “The Cask of Amontillado,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and “The Masque of the Red Death” still have the power to shock and enthrall readers all these years later.

In pop culture, Mr. Poe is most often revered as the master of the macabre, but his pen and his influence reach far beyond that.  He and Nathaniel Hawthorne are credited as the fathers of the American short story.  “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” was the first detective story and created the genre.  “The Balloon Hoax” was an early form of science fiction and was an inspiration for Jules Verne’s “Around the World in Eighty Days.”  His poem, “The Raven” is still one of the most famous poems ever written.

He was born in Boston, was orphaned at age three, and taken in by the Allen family of Richmond, Virginia.  His older brother Henry died young and his sister Rosalie went insane.  He lived in Philadelphia with his wife and mother-in-law, before moving with them to the Bronx, New York.  He was married only once, to his 13-year old cousin Virginia Clemm, who died at age 24 of tuberculosis.  He was an alcoholic and a drug addict and was labeled paranoid and perverse.  The day before he died, he was found on a Baltimore street, delirious, incoherent and wearing clothes that weren’t his.

All five cities have landmarks or museums dedicated to him and the Poe Wars over who gets his corpse (Baltimore has it now) aren’t cold yet.

edgar-allan-poeIn honor of his birthday, I’m happy to share this fantastic party favor, a make-your-own Edgar Allan Poe doll, courtesy of the Toy-A-Day blog. (Caveat: Lots of pop-ups, but definitely worth it.) Mr. Poe might roll his eyes at the frivolity of the gesture, but I like to think it would make him crack a smile.

Resources: Post A Day, Edgar Allan Poe Museum/Richmond, Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Sity/Philadelphia, Edgar Allen Poe Cottage/The Bronx, Edgar Allan Poe Society/Baltimore.

“Suspicious” Quotation Marks: Funny? Mostly!

I’ve never really told anyone this, but I’m kind of a jerk when it comes to grammar and punctuation.  I usually don’t correct grammatical mistakes, I try not to be too critical of people who say “yous” instead of  “you,” and I don’t walk around with a Sharpie correcting improperly placed apostrophes (even though I want to).  Sometimes these mistakes bother me, and sometimes they just make me laugh.

Take suspicious quotation marks, I don’t know where the The Employees Must “Wash Hands” picture originated, but it’s all over the internet, and when I saw it I laughed out loud.  Then I cringed a little bit, hoping the sign wasn’t posted in a “restaurant.” (<–Deliberate misuse.)

Excessive use of quotation marks AND sarcasm.

The first pair of suspicious quote marks  I remember was on an insurance company sign on the street where I grew up.  The sign read:

“Insurance That’s “Affordable”

Even as a kid I used to roll my eyes at that.

Bethany Keeley has built a mini media empire around the offending punctuation.  The “Blog” of Unnecessary Quotation Marks is a collection of pictures submitted by readers, accompanied by Keeley’s hilarious comments.

With a disclaimer like that, no wonder the jar's empty!

She compiled the best of the unnecessary into “The Book of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks,” which publisher Chronicle Books calls, “a smarty-pants guide, “perfect” for desperate grammarians, habitual air quoters, and anyone who appreciates a good laugh.”

If you can’t wait to pick up the book, visit the Facebook group, Quotation Mark Hunters, which is where I found these pictures, and spent far too much time surfing and laughing.

I hope you’ll have a good laugh too, and maybe it will make you think twice before using quotation marks “willy-nilly.”

For clarification on the proper use and single vs. double quotation marks, and just about any other grammar question, visit Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips.

Grammar Watch is an occasional series about grammar peeves, abuses, giggles, and rants.  Email me with any topics you’d like to see included here.

Resources:  The Daily Post.

Bookshelf Porn … You’ll Know it When You See It

This is not my beautiful house, but oh, how I wish it were.
Look at those books!  Shelves and shelves of them!

And wow! Get a load of this bad boy!  Gorgeous!

I’m feeling flushed and giddy!  Shhh, don’t tell anyone, but I just spent the afternoon in the self-indulgent pursuit of the biblio-rotic.  I’m talking about Bookshelf Porn.  That’s right, I’ll cop to it, and I won’t be ashamed!

Bookshelf Porn as the website says “is porn for book lovers.  A photoblog collection of all the best bookshelf photos for people who *heart* bookshelves.”

nom-nom-nom:  Clair Olivia WaymanI’m a book lover.  I ♥ all things book, and after spending time at this site, I have to admit that I ♥ bookshelves, too.  Now I’m lusting after about 99% of the shelves I gawked at.

All this book love made me think of my favorite Groucho Marx quote:

“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend.  Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”

While we’re on the subject, Groucho also said,

“I find television very educating.  Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”

I’ll admit, I probably spent nearly two hours looking at all those gorgeous bookshelf pictures, so now,  if you’ll please excuse me … I need to go read.

Take that, Kindle!

lovegeneration:  one of my favorite bookshelves of all time

Resources:  Bookshelf Porn, Post A Day,