Shakespeare’s garden, that is (click image for link to BBC video).
concept to publication
Most posts appear early weekday mornings.
How to Get a Book Published
2 Persian Ceramics
3 Chinese Jade
4 Creative barcodes from Japan
5 Taoism and the Arts of China
6 The digital divide
7 New graphic design 8 Gutenberg and Asia
9 The Yi jing
10 Glossary of Book Publishing Terms
11 Books for Writers
12 Famous Last Words
13 On Julio Cortazar
14 On Lewis Caroll's Sylvie and Bruno
15 Daybook: September
16 The Making of Masters of Bamboo
Shakespeare’s garden, that is (click image for link to BBC video).
IBM has developed a program called the “The IBM Watson Personality Insights Service” that “uses linguistic analytics to extract a spectrum of cognitive and social characteristics from the text data that a person generates through blogs, tweets, forum posts, and more.”
I don’t know how this thing works, but let’s try it out on some samples of literature. It requires a minimum of 100 words of text. I chose the first page (or a substantial chunk therefrom) of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Ford Madox Ford’s The Good Soldier, Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist, Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, and James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. I also included one of Emily Dickinson’s longer poems, “I cannot live with You.”
A nice short review of River of Ink in my local paper:
“River of Ink: Literature, History, Art” by Thomas Christensen (Counterpoint Press, $35, 320 pages). The title of Thomas Christensen’s wide-ranging new history of literacy refers to the Mongol siege of Baghdad in 1258, when the invading hordes killed hundreds of thousands and destroyed the city’s Grand Library, described by the author as “perhaps the greatest repository of historic, scientific and literary documents of its age.” They threw so many books into the Tigris River, he writes, the water ran black with ink for six months. From that incident, Christensen, a Richmond resident who serves as director of publications at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, takes the reader on a world tour of literary landmarks from the invention of movable type in Korea to the “poetry of silence” of Spanish writer José Ángel Valente and the extraordinary tale of Pocahontas in London. The book is beautifully illustrated and Christensen writes with clarity, insight and admiration for these enduring wonders of the world.
I realized recently that I’ve designed at least 50 books (those are the ones I can remember). No wonder I feel as tired as Madelaine Kahn in Blazing Saddles. I made a page documenting this dubious achievement. Click the image below to visit it.
I quite often get e-mails from young writers interested in book publishing, and I almost always find them always encouraging. A young writer wrote today to say:
I read your article, “How to Get a Book Published”, and I thought I should email you about it. I am a young writer (still in high school) and I have been writing a novel for a little over a year now.
As a teenager, I have been through many phases of finding what exactly is my true passion. All of this of course leads up to what career I shall pursue after I get out of college. And it seems that writing has withstood through it all. Writing and reading have never been a chore for me, and I don’t really understand why my classmates complain about having to write an essay or read a school book. So, recently I have decided I want to pursue a career in the wonderful field of English writing and literature. (Before I had wanted to be a teacher, but I suppose dreams change.) More specifically, I concluded I want to be involved in publishing, whether that is novels or textbooks. You, I have discovered, are very experienced in the profession.
As I mentioned earlier, I have been working on a novel for a while. It is among one of the many projects I have been working on, but is by far the longest. It is that story that has brought me to your website and your article giving tips on how to publish a book. Now, I am not looking into publishing my novel yet. It is not in the slightest bit ready. I don’t think I am ready, as a writer. But I suppose I was just thinking and wondering if I ever actually wanted to share my novel with a publishing company, how would I do so and who would I submit it to. I have to say, your article is very informative. It is much more interesting and candid than any of the other websites I visited. It helped me understand the publishing world much more, and I know now that if I want to publish anything ever, I know the steps to follow.
Thank you for writing the article. I will continue to write, read, and try to improve myself as a writer and reader. Your specific words, “the most common cause of failure in writing is dropping out,” cannot be truer. I almost gave up writing because I couldn’t stick with a topic and stick with my story. Fortunately now, I have found the perfect topic for me that I will never give up on.
And here is my response:
I’m happy you are committed to writing. (Maybe your parents read to you when you were little? That seems to make a big difference.) For most people it is not the most lucrative field (there are exceptions) but for those of us who love reading and writing it has many rewards. Maybe your feelings will change as you grow older, but even if you are doing something else you can still pursue your writing interests on the side.Here is another link that might be of interest: http://www.
rightreading.com/blog/writing/ what-are-the-most-helpful- books-about-writing-and- publishing/.Best of luck, and thanks for writing.
“Hello World” used to be the first post of blog beginnings. Hard to believe it’s been nearly a year since I made a post. At one time I was a very active blogger. I posted almost every day to each of five or six sites. That’s not coming back, but I do think it is time to get back to blogging at least now and then. So hello again, world.
My River of Ink” Literature, History, Art has gone to the printer. Official pub date is December. A couple of blurbs came in.
“Truffle-rich, cumin-exotic, from Mutanabbi Street to Céline’s ballets, Gutenberg and the Koreans, a winged sphinx and an iron man and Nur Jahan — oh, and a beturbaned Sadakichi Hartmann — these world-trotting essays make one groovy box of idea-chocolates.”
—C.M. Mayo, author of The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire
“A world tour of cultural histories, a tour de force of eclectic scholarship, a relief map of the journeys of a restless intellect, Thomas Christensen’s River of Ink flows from ancient China to the current Americas with myriad revelations along the way. Christensen is a genial guide to little-known wonders with a wealth of information and a light touch.”
—Stephen Kessler, author of The Tolstoy of the Zulus
Thank you, Catherine and Stephen
Since Jane Austen is so much in the news again these days, it might be worth revisiting this post, which I originally published in 2007:
Is the attractiveness of authors directly related to their promotability in the minds of publishers today? Certainly to judge by the photos on their dust jackets, authors have gotten collectively younger and cuter every year for the past several years. Some publishers deny, however, that they place any importance on author photos. I guess Wordworth Editions is not among them. For a reissue of Austen they have tarted Jane up a bit. The image on the left is the portrait of Jane Austen by her sister Cassandra (said to be the only fully authenticated portrait of the author). The image on the right shows the effects of Wordworth’s Photoshop magic: Jane’s bonnet has been removed and replaced with flowing locks, her cheeks have been rouged, and if I’m not mistaken she has had some subtle nips and tucks about the eyes and mouth. Wordworth’s managing editor Helen Traylor explains:
She was not much of a looker. Very, very plain. Jane Austen wasn’t very good looking. She’s the most inspiring, readable author, but to put her on the cover wouldn’t be very inspiring at all. It’s just a bit off-putting.
I know you are not supposed to judge a book by its cover. Sadly people do. If you look more attractive, you just stand out more. Sadly, we do live in a very shallow world and people do judge by appearance.
I guess that about sums it up: “Sadly, we do live in a very shallow world.”
“Every separation is a link.” — Simone Weil
An ecclectic mix of links today. Enjoy.
Every separation is a link
This is what I’m thinking of for the cover of my new book, a selection of my essays. We’ll see if my publisher likes it.
I’m happy again to also be the book’s designer/typesetter. The image is a photo I took of the Castel San Giogio, an early castle (ca. 1400) in Mantua, Italy. Mantua is built amid lakes rather like my old home town of Madison, Wisconsin.
For the cover I darkened the water, but not so much that it is just a solid color–it still retains reflections, although that is hard to see in this image.
“Every separation is a link.” — Simone Weil
It’s been a long time since I did a redesign to this creeky old website. Now I’m in the middle of one; in fact, I am uploading core files to the server even as I type this. The home page has been changed to look like the above, and the main pages referenced in the nav at the upper right have been updated as well. There’s still lots that remains to be done, but I’ve been working hard.
The home page on the old site looked like the below. Let me know what you think.
Cool video made from David Foster Wallace commencement address.
“Every separation is a link.” — Simone Weil
“Every separation is a link” — Simone Weil
I returned home yesterday to find a case of books waiting for me.
This is my translation of poems by José Ángel Valente, considered by many the most significant Spanish poet of the second half of the twentieth century. (Thanks to Eliot Weinberger for the generous blurb.)
The book was published by Archipelago Press, in a lovely edition with a laid-textured cover. Its elegantly simple design is by Dave Bullen (whose mastery of typography is evident in the treatment of the title on the cover).
Stitching together photos can be great fun in the proper context. I think the Piazza del Duomo in Milan counts as one of these. This photo was taken 5 April 2013 with an Olympus E-Pl2. I stiched the images together with Olympus’s own photo software, called Olympus ib, but I’ve uploaded the result to a new service I found called Dermander, because I like its scrolling and embedding functions. Its a bit bare-bones (I wish it had the capability of selecting where to begin the scroll), but in contrast to Clevr (a service I’ve used before), it does allow full-screen panoramas (click the play icon and then the full-screen icon at upper right).
This version is downsized for web viewing. The original comprises seven large images.
This is nice. While I was traveling I received this e-mail:
Dear Tom Christensen,
On behalf of the Northern California Book Reviewers (NCBR), I am delighted to tell you that 1616: The World in Motion has been nominated for the Northern California Book Award in General Nonfiction as one of the best works by a northern California author published in 2012. Congratulations!
We hope that you can join us for the ceremony. Please let us know. It is free and open to the public; feel free to invite your friends and family. If you can’t attend yourself, please send a friend or representative to represent you and to accept should you receive the award. All nominated books at the awards will be celebrated, acknowledged, and made available for purchase and signing. We are looking forward to celebrating all of the nominated books and authors.
The 32nd Annual Northern California Book Awards will be held Sunday, May 19, 2013, at Koret Auditorium, San Francisco Main Library, 100 Larkin, at Grove, at 1:00 p.m.
Immediately following the awards, a public reception with book signing for all of the nominated books will begin in the Latino/Hispanic Room at the Library. (The Library closes at 5:00 on Sunday.)
The event draws an enthusiastic literary audience to celebrate books and writers in northern California. All of the nominees will be brought on stage for recognition during the ceremony, and the winner in each category will be asked to speak briefly and read for three minutes. (Please come prepared to read for three minutes if you are announced as winner.)
Your book will be ordered for purchase at the reception by Friends of the San Francisco Library’s Readers Bookstore at the Main. During the reception, please stand or sit near your books for a time, so those who wish their books signed may find you. Please introduce yourself to the booksellers. There will be a reserved table for book signing at the reception.
The Northern California Book Awards were established by the NCBR (formerly BABRA) in 1981 to honor the work of writers and recognize exceptional service in the field of literature in northern California. The awards recognize excellence in Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Translation, and Children’s Literature. In addition to the book awards, the Fred Cody Award is presented annually for lifetime achievement. This year, poet and educator Kay Ryan will be honored. A complete list of nominees is posted on Poetryflash.org http://poetryflash.org/programs/?p=ncba_2013
The Northern California Book Awards are sponsored by Northern California Book Reviewers, Poetry Flash, Center for the Art of Translation, Red Room (redroom.com), Mechanics’ Institute Library, PEN West, the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library, and San Francisco Public Library.
Someone representing NCBR may contact you directly regarding an interview opportunity if we receive a media request.
Please let me know if you have any other questions.
~Joyce Joyce Jenkins, NCBR chair
N C B R * Northern California Book Reviewers
Pixels or sensor size? Consumers have been trained to judge cameras by their pixel counts, But there are other factors that may be more important to image quality, in particular lens quality and sensor size. Recently I purchased an Olympus PEN E-PL2 camera. This is one of the newish breed of interchangeable lens mirrorless digital cameras that have near-DSLR-size sensors in bodies almost as small as those of point-and-shoots. It’s a good camera for me because much of my photography is travel related, and DSLRs tend to be too heavy and conspicuous for travel work (If I had the budget I would upgrade to the newer OM-D E-M5.)
On a recent trip I took both the Olympus and my old Canon A630 (which was more of a photo enthusiast camera than the current Powershot line, which to me is barely an upgrade from an iPhone camera), and I found that I used the Canon point-and-shoot more than I expected to. Among its advantages are its smaller size, which allows it to be slipped into a pocket and whipped out instantly (the Olympus is a little too big for this, except maybe when equipped with a pancake lens), its shorter time lag time between shots, its silent shutter (the PEN’s is fairly loud), and its swivel view screen, all of which make it well suited for inconspicuous street shooting — it draws virtually no attention. The Canon is also good in low-light situations, when I might not bother to pull out the PEN (unlike the more recent but expensive OM-D E-M5 in the same line, low light is not one of its particular strengths).
But how does the image quality compare? Photography sites tend to do comparisons between comparable cameras, which makes sense if you are shopping in a particular segment. It is less common to compare cameras that are significantly different in nature. But I was curious how great the difference would be between such cameras, and I made a quick, unscientific comparison. The results indicate the the larger sensor size and better optics of the Olympus are (as would be expected, or at least hoped) a distinct upgrade from the Canon. (The Canon is 8 megapixels, the Olympus 12.3 megapixels, but I don’t think that is sufficient to account for the difference in these images).
The Canon images are on the left, the Olympus on the right. The first obvious difference is in color. Olympus has the reputation of producing satisfying jpegs out of the camera without post processing (I’m mostly shooting jpg with the occasional raw; these are jpegs), but I’m not sure in this case that the color of the tomatoes is more accurate from the Olympus than the Canon — though I do think the Canon overdarkens the countertop and stove. (These images are reduced in size and sharpened a little to compensate for the reduction but otherwise not manipulated. They were taken without a flash.)
The difference becomes more apparent (even when reduced to the tiny size of these blog images) when we zoom in. Most obviously, the Canon fails to capture detail in the tomato sprigs, while the Olympus captures individual hairs.
There is also a clear difference in the cameras’ ability to capture the quality of the tomatoes’ translucent plastic container (the angles of the shots are slightly different).
Bottom line: no surprises (thankfully), but I think it is interesting to see just what the degree of difference is between a relatively top-of-the-line point-and-shoot and a typical mirrorless camera. For people who want high-quality images from a small camera, I would recommend the Olympus PEN series.