What are your New Year’s Literary Resolutions?

Do you know what I only just realised? It’s the 1st of February already and I haven’t even made a list of books to read in 2013! Well, I’ve started one now after just about punching myself in the face for my own stupidity. I deserve it. But, let’s move on, shall we?

Tell me! What paperback novels, hardback plays, collections of essays, intriguing biographies, dirty memoirs or non-fiction investigations haunt your to-read list for this year? My list is so far short because I’m determined to ensure that every single title that earns a spot on it is worthy of my very time-poor attention.

On my Books to Read in 2013, I’ve featured titles that have caressed my current obsession with adventure journalism, the third world, media-fueled changed and incredible feats of writing. While since the wee age of eleven I’ve pranced around with the notion in my airy-fairy head that I’m the next Meryl Streep, about a dozen epiphanies as of late have culminated in a redirection of my passions and talents…the writing world. But neither novels nor plays for let’s just be frank here: plotting is not my forte. But rather of the creative non-fiction sort, investigating those cobwebbed corners of the globe, splattering the world with my uncoordinated footsteps and writing about the people, the places, the ideas and the change that I see and possibly even one day orchestrate. This is why the four books on my list all feature either journalism or travel.

I am still eager to hear your own reading resolutions, however, whether they be academic, for the purpose of guilty pleasure or just because no one can not love Harry Potter. What are you reading? Oh, and if you have any recommendations for me, fire away, friends!

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Wit, Intrigue and Pragmatism…the ways to WordPress’s Heart.

The Freshly Pressed page: an honour, a privilege, a highly sought-after yet elusive territory into which every WordPress wants to gain access. If you aspire to have your much toiled-over blog post invited into this blogospherical popular group of sorts then you are very much like me. But don’t feel silly (I tell myself), don’t feel shallow (I tell myself) and don’t feel as if your priorities are in the wrong order (I tell myself) for the Freshly Pressed podium is simply a very effective method of exposing your message to a broader audience. And isn’t that the very purpose of blogging? (It is, it is!)

Freshly Pressed

Having scrutinised the Freshly Pressed page on a daily basis since the founding of Free Page Numbers, I’ve noticed a particular trend, one that everyone’s probably already aware of (I should stop flattering my own detective skills) but that I’ll point out anyway:

Titles of Freshly Pressed blog posts are usually one or more of the following:

  • Witty – Some even make you laugh out loud and you haven’t even clicked the link yet.
  • Suggestive of useful information – “Gee, I always did want to know how to do that!”
  • Intriguing – You just cannot help but find out what the title is alluding to.
  • Grammatically Correct – Rarely, if ever, will you stumble upon misspellings in the titles of the Freshly Pressed.

For example, there is currently a Freshly Pressed post titled ‘What Can You See in Fifty-Five Minutes and Thirty Seconds?’  which I judge to meet two of my four Freshly Pressed criteria: Intriguing and Grammatically Correct.

There is also one titled ‘How Watching Football is Like Dancing’ which meets three of my criteria: Grammatically Correct, Intriguing and Witty.

And if you’re still not convinced, here’s a final example: a recently Freshly Pressed blog post was labelled ‘How to Fake Your Own Death‘, a title that just so happens to meet all four of my criteria: Witty, Suggestive of useful information (who doesn’t want to know that?), Intriguing and Grammatically Correct.

So, having quite concretely established the keys to WordPress’s heart, I must now assess whether this post is worthy of some Freshly Pressed love:

  • Is it witty? Given that I think everything that comes out of my own mouth is utterly hilarious, I’m probably not the most unbiased source to ask but that small element of subjectivity aside, I think I’ll toot my own horn and say, of course it’s bloody witty!
  • Is it intriguing? “…the ways to WordPress’s Heart.” That’s intrigue right there, my friend.
  • Is it suggestive of useful information? Well, given that every WordPress blogger harbours a secret desire to be Freshly Pressed, I’m going to say that yes, a title that indicates a path to the Mother of Blogging’s heart is definitely suggestive of useful information. Vital information, even.
  • Is it grammatically correct? I am, if nothing else, a stickler for correct grammar.

Quite obviously and undeniably, this is a post worthy of a spot on the Freshly Pressed podium. Whether it actually features there or not is an entirely different story but let us all sleep peacefully knowing that it at least merited it!

So there you have it, my friends. If you want to win WordPress’s heart, make sure your posts are cocktails of wit, intrigue, pragmatism and grammar and you’ll soon all be partying it up in what is essentially the platinum lounge of the blogging world!

How do you spell ‘love’?

Love Letter

Love Letter….is there any concept quite as absurd as that of the love letter? A love letter. As if it’s actually possible to congregate your thoughts and feelings and inner absurdities onto one page, as if you can arrange them in coherent sentences or order them letter by letter to resemble something along the lines of sense…while poetry and plays and letters are certainly the language of the heart…I honestly don’t think it’s possibly to accurately communicate love in any kind of orderly fashion.

I therefore vow to forever fire my love letters from canons for the chaos and passion of literary shrapnel is so much more akin to the workings of the human heart.

Some VERY good advice.

Quote

Writers, will you listen? Will your change your ‘very good’s for ‘excellent’s? Will you surrender your ‘very hot’s for ‘scorching’s? Will you swap your ‘very confused’s for ‘bamboozled’s?

I think this quote speaks volumes to writers about how we can tweak our words just the tiniest bit to yield very big (woops…I mean enormous!) results.

30 Day Book Challenge….in one sitting.

1. Your 10 favourite books of all time.

Let me hear your best groans: my favourite books of all time are without a doubt the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. To a degree unparalleled by any other work of literature, the Harry Potter books had me hanging on for every word, waiting with bated breath for the next instalment, going to sleep at night and literally dreaming of Hogwarts and incessantly tempted to read and read and re-read in spite of my ever-growing pile of other unread books. But back to the actual question, my ten favourite books of all time:

  • The 7 Harry Potter books – J.K. Rowling
  • Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer
  • The Tiger’s Wife – Tea Obreht
  • Life of Pi – Yann Martel

That was so difficult, it was actually painful and I feel deeply sad for all of the books I had to exclude.

2. Your 5 least favourite books of all time.

  • Breaking Dawn – Stephenie Meyer
  • Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
  • The Casual Vacancy – J.K. Rowling
  • Macbeth – William Shakespeare
  • The House of Silk – Anthony Horowitz

3. Your favourite characters and which books they’re from.

  • Dobby and Hagrid – Harry Potter
  • Julie Powell – Julie and Julia
  • Red – Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption
  • Ellie Linton – Tomorrow When the War Began
  • Robert Langdon – The Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons
  • Natalia’s grandfather – The Tiger’s Wife
  • Bridget Jones – Bridget Jones’ Diary
  • Scout – To Kill a Mockingbird

4. Characters you hate and which books they’re from.

  • Jessica Stanley – Twilight
  • Nanny – The Nanny Diaries
  • Alaska – Looking for Alaska
  • Tybalt – Romeo and Juliet
  • Lucius Malfoy – Harry Potter
  • Demetrius – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • John Tate – DNA

5. If you were stranded on a desert island, what five books would you take with you? Include one reason for each.

  • The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho – I would take this book with me as a reminder that you can achieve anything at all that you desire if you focus your thoughts in the right direction and believe in the possibility of their fruition. I think this would be especially useful information given the momentous task I would be faced with of escaping the island.
  • Julie and Julia – Julie Powell – I would take this book because although it may seem, to the unsuspecting eye, to be just another culinary biography, it’s in truth and without exaggeration the funniest book I’ve ever read. And humour, on a desert island, would be a necessity.
  • Hatchet – Gary Paulsen – I read this book as part of a reading competition when I was in grade seven and I remember making a very clear decision that if I were ever to be faced with a situation of man versus nature, I would call upon this book. As the story of a young boy, the sole survivor of an aeroplane crash in a forest, and his journey of fighting the elements of nature, this little novel is simply brimming what handy hints for basic survival.
  • Life of Pi – Yann Martel – Well, Pi got stranded in a life boat with an orangutan, a zebra, a hyena and a Bengal tiger and he managed to survive. A book to put the wee issue of a desert island in perspective.
  • The Passage – Justin Cronin – This book happens to be the fattest of the unread books on my self and although I have no idea yet whether or not it’s any good, if I were to be stuck on a desert island, I would definitely be in need of as much fresh material as possible.

6. The best book you’ve read in the last year.

  • The Tiger’s Wife – Tea Obreht

7. The worst book you’ve read in the last year.

  • The Casual Vacancy – J.K. Rowling

8. Your favorite quotes from books.

Oh my goodness, there are just so many quotes from books that I’ve collected over the years and have adored!

  • “People are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.” – The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
  • “If people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane.” – Looking for Alaska – John Green
  • “It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” – Harry Potter – J.K. Rowling
  • “Happiness can be found in the darkest of times if only one remembers to turn on the light.” – Harry Potter – J.K. Rowling
  • “For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.” – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” – Through the Looking Glass – Lewis Carroll
  • “Make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservation, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. If you want to get more out of life, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty.” – Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer

9. Your favorite quotes about books.

  • “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside a dog, it’s too dark to read.” – Groucho Marx
  • “That is a part of the beauty of literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “I am by nature a dealer in words, and words are the most powerful drug known to humanity.” – Rudyard Kipling

10. Name five absolutely great film adaptations of books.

This category is totally brilliant because there actually are some films that represent their literary counterparts in pure style.

  • Into the Wild – directed by Sean Penn
  • Fight Club – directed by David Fincher
  • The Shawshank Redemption – directed by Frank Darabont
  • The Blind Side – directed by John Lee Hancock
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 – Directed by David Yates

11. Name three absolutely awful film adaptations of books.

  • My Sister’s Keeper – directed byNick Cassavetes
  • Eat, Pray, Love – directed by Ryan Murphy
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock – directed by Peter Weir

12. Your favorite authors.

  • Mitch Albom
  • J.K. Rowling
  • Mark Twain
  • Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Yann Martel
  • Tea Obreht
  • Markus Zusak

13. Your favorite book from childhood

  • I’m Glad the Sky is Painted Blue: Poems of the Very Young

14. A book you regret not having read sooner

  • Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway – Susan Jeffers

15. A book you haven’t read but is on your “will read” list.

  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith

16. A book you haven’t read and have no intention of ever reading.

  • The Host – Stephenie Meyer

17. A book you want to like, but can’t get into for whatever reason. Why can’t you get into it?

  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Jonathon Safran Foer – I’m not sure why I can’t get into it…I have tried but perhaps not hard enough. I just find the style prohibits my ability to become absorbed by the story.

18. A book that you think is highly overrated.

  • 1984 – George Orwell

19. A book that you think is woefully underrated

  • The Five People You Meet in Heaven – Mitch Albom

20. The environment you most enjoy reading in

  • In transit – on a train, on a bus, on a plane with nothing to do but drink warm liquids, eat salty snacks and read juicy literature.

21. The most disturbing book you’ve ever read

  • Roxy’s Baby – Catherine MacPhail – granted I read this book when I was twelve and so its themes, which may seem relatively mild to you, were quite intense for me at the time and I therefore remember it as disturbing. Excellent, but disturbing.

22. A book you once loved, but don’t anymore. What changed?

  • Twilight – Stephenie Meyer – I know, I know, I’m ashamed to admit that as an impressionable thirteen year old, I had a love for Edward Cullen. However, I can honestly say that having actually gone back to re-read this global phenomenon, I’ve been horrified to realise how poorly written it actually is and how little appeal it now holds for me.

23. A book you once hated, but now love. What changed?

  • Macbeth – William Shakesepare – I truly despised this play when I had to study it at school. But as I’ve grown older and have explored more thematic elements of literature and theatre, I’ve come to realise how poignant and juicy and loaded with subtext much of this play actually is.

24. Your favorite series

  • It be incredibly boring and cite my very first answer: the Harry Potter series – J.K. Rowling

25. The nerdiest book you’ve ever read.

  • Le Petit Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupery – nerdy because I read it in French.

26. Your favorite type of nonfiction book

  • Biographies and Memoirs
  • Philosophy books

27. Your favorite genre

  • Literary fiction

28. The first book you can remember reading on your own

  • Hi Fella – Era Zistel

29. An author you wish was more well-known

  • Yann Martel

30. The book you’re reading right now.

  • The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

The Self-Publishing Revolution

I heard the other day that 81% of people say they want to write a book. However, from the same source, apparently only 1% actually do. There are myriad unexpected difficulties that aspiring authors stumble across, from lack of time to writer’s block, but I think what stops writers in their tracks most often is the publishing process. Sending manuscripts away, receiving rejection letters, trying as best you can to sell your idea to publishing houses that receive countless wannabe-books everyday…it’s a difficult business and if you don’t believe me, just take a look at J.K. Rowling’s journey. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone quite quickly become a global phenomenon but not without a substantial fight from Rowling to get it published in the first place. Best-seller potential or not, publishing is not a walk in the park.

Things are changing, however. The technological revolution has taken the world by storm as companies, unparalleled in their enormity, compete for your business with constant product innovation. Thus we are bequeathed with things we never thought we needed but now couldn’t possibly live without: iPads, tablets, smart phones, Kindles, laptops and iPods along with numerous other thingamajigs and doodads. We live in an age when everything is available online and if its not, then its value is almost questionable. If a company doesn’t have a website, it doesn’t exist. If you’re still stapling flyers to telegraph poles to get your message out there then you have officially been left behind. As I drive into Brisbane city, I always pass this building, and I think it says it all:

Orange Digital

This same virtual principle now applies to the literary industry, as much as I’ve tried to crusade against the phasing out of tangible, touchable books. My one-woman cries for literary justice have been drowned out by the incessant whirring and beeping of new gadgets springing to life. However, although my heart tells me that nothing can parallel the look, feel and smell of a real book, I am determined to not be left behind. I have therefore arrived at the doorstep of the eBook world. 

EBooks number themselves in the millions now and due to their low prices and weightlessness (if you have a Kindle, you can take your entire library with you onto an aeroplane), are streaking ahead in the literary popularity contest. Easily downloaded onto any of your smart devices, eBooks are also instantly accessible, directly feeding you information with only milliseconds of delay. Yes, eBooks are apparently magical.

Fortunately, the perks of the eBook revolution extend far beyond the reader’s convenience. Aspiring writers now have a new avenue through which to distribute their work: the digital avenue. Gone are the days when the writer’s only route was through an official publishing agency. Gone too are the days when self-publishing involved trying to navigate the confusing print and distribution process. If you have a complete body of text that you feel is worthy of a readership, you can digitally bind it within seconds, upload it onto either Amazon or your own website and be selling your eBook in a matter of minutes. Easy as that (or so they say).

So, the question I pose to the blogosphere is this: why doesn’t everyone write an eBook if it’s so easy? Is it because they don’t believe they can, they have no desire to, they don’t have an idea for the content, they’re intimidated by the technology side of things or simply because they’re unaware of this opportunity? Surely the eBook revolution is a means to increase that 1% statistic?

I know that I personally have a desire to write and publish an eBook. I am a writer at heart but have always been intimidated by the business side of the literary industry. Now however, that is no longer a stumbling block. So why I haven’t I uploaded a best-seller to the web yet? Well, that’s another thing I wanted to speak to you all about. Given my complete and total incompetence regarding plot development, I think my forte is non-fiction, both creative and formal. My mind has been browsing through the wide world of possible topics and I have narrowed it down with the advice: “write what you know”. If I were to write an eBook with the intention of delivering genuinely helpful and accurate information, I would write about one of the following: health, vegetarianism and veganism, the English language (report writing, research techniques, essay writing etc.) or possibly even drama. My question to you, dearest readers, as a little bit of market research, is this:

Within these broad topics, what do you want to know? If you were to purchase an eBook, what would you like it to include? What questions would you like it to address? 

Goodreads Choice Awards 2012 – Have you voted?

As 2012 begins to end (All evidence points to it being November already!), we’re invited to squeeze in one last title for this year: Goodreads Choice Awards 2012! Check out the nominees, see which you’ve read, decide whether any are worthy of your vote and if so, help that book secure the pleasure of a Choice Award! There is a category for every kind of reader, from Biographies, to Science Fiction, to Romance!

Goodreads

If you tell me who you voted for, I’ll tell you who I voted for!

(I only voted for one book this year, in the Nonfiction category, surprisingly:  Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative – Austin Kleon)

Why, as someone who devotes much of their time to running a blog about books, did I only vote for one book in the Goodreads Choice Awards 2012? Well, it’s the only book of the nominees that I’ve read, to be honest, and fortunately for my integrity, I did really love it. I guess I just didn’t read many new releases this year! I’m just itching to know – who did you vote for and why?!