Sunday, December 9, 2012

Writing and social media

I am a big fan of social media and I never have enough of using it in the most creative ways, especially when it comes to areas ab initio considered as an elitist domain. Take, for instance, literature and writing in general.

When the Twitter was introduced, many adepts of the purity of writing complained about the deterioration of the quality of writing: how can you say something important within 140 characters? However, there are many who tried to use this opportunity and even succeeded to create books out of their tweets but most importantly, to promote their ideas, get in touch with journalists, readers and other writers. 

A couple of weeks ago - I know, my blog was not updated for quite a while, but some intensive work was done offline - I followed a book club discussion on Twitter about a book included on my priority list of reading: Shani Boiangiu - The people of forever are not afraid. The author answered in real time to the questions marked with the hashtag, by using an open way of the social media. It was a good opportunity for the media to ask her motivations and sources of inspiration, but also to explain some of the characters to the readers. Was an entertaining 30-minute discussion with a lot of news and tips that any writer should consider.

Another 2.0 discussion I followed relatively recently was an excellent online conversation with Salman Rushdie on Goodreads, on the occasion of the launch of his newest book, the memoir Joseph Anton. How did it work: a couple of hours in advance a chat was opened to the Goodreads members interested in asking Rushdie a question. A moderator collected them, organized the material and submitted to Rushdie to answer in real time. Due to the political sensitivity of the Rushdie's case, there were many online stalkers - 'on the Internet you can be exposed to any possible insult' around, but the majority of the questions - over 156 when I counted the last time - were decent and up to the point. For instance, he was asked what were the sources of inspiration for this memoir, what is his recommandation for the writers in process - initially Rushdie wanted to be a cricket player, how does he manage to live underground - 'the novelist's role is to engage with the world'. Now, I'm looking forward to read this book. 

Social media for avid readers contributes a lot in helping them to select their choices and better organize their wish list. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

How far your creative writing can go?

I always enjoy to try my hand on new domains and to address various subjects. For years I've read regularly scientific reports on various domains and while working my PhD in history, the complicated works on geology helped me to refresh my writing.

On the other hand, I discovered in the last two days that my creativity is getting limited. An old customer - for whom I wrote a lot of nice recipes - was so happy with my work that he hired me again, this time to cover various topics related to worms. 'Of course I can write about this, I always loved science and natural sciences particularly', I said to myself but as the deadline was getting closer, my enthusiasm disappeared completely. Finally, overwhelmed by other emergencies, I started the work - the kind of work that in my good days I can finish within 10 hours, with editing and research. However, after 1,000 words and many diverse and disgusting worms, I needed to stop and listen to an audio book in German, eventually. The last 2,000 words took me an eternity to finish, with more and more disgusting details revealed. Another batch of articles on similar topics is waiting to be finished in the next days. Because I do not want to disappoint, will finish this task - although I thought at least 5-6-7 times that I better give up than to further with that stupidity. 

On the other hand, I know that at least for a couple of months, my new job will keep me away from 'writing for nothing about everything'. Is not so bad to be full time freelance writer in your free time.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Another year without NaNoWriMo

The last year I was so focused on my personal life and professional challenges that it was completely out of question to write one single word for NaNoWriMo. This year I worked a lot my English, improved tremendously my non-professional aspects of my life and grew up spiritually, but as I landed a new job in between and I still need to fight at least for two weeks to finish some individual projects I will be able to put on hold my NaNoWriMo ideas. 

Of course I have at least 3 projects of books that will need some special time in the next month in order to be finished. The book I completed two years ago, on the occasion of my first - and hope not the last - involvement in this amazing project - still needs some proof review. But what I will probably do soon after the projects are over, will be to start by playing the NaNoWriMo competition each month. Of course I do not plan to launch in the next 12 months a book each month, but at least I need to work seriously my writing projects and get rid of the feeling of frustration from the last 12 months, when I went caught in various time consuming initiatives that wasted by time without too much financial reward. 

As my new job will not involve too much writing, I can use at least one hour the day for writing, researching and editing my books. Probably the next stop will be to set up an even stricted time management program for looking forward to a more rewarding writing life.

To all those intensively working to their NaNoWriMo works: Good luck! And see you soon!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Latest news from Frankfurt

The latest news publishers and writers from the biggest publishing event in Europe, Frankfurt Book Fair 2012.

And a couple of words about my latest memories about the Frankfurt Book Fair. Two years ago, I was one of the millions of visitors heading to visit the fair, in one of the many rainy afternoons. It was crowded, but everything was well organized and you were immediately directed to the good entrance from the first seconds of the arrival to the platform of the train.

My big disappointment was to not be able to get any of the wonderful books displayed on the shelves of the participating countries. When I decided to go to visit the book fair, I calculated all my savings for books for the coming months and thought that it will be my business of the year to go there and get amazing titles in several languages at significant discount. My first encounter was at the Pavilion of France, where I jumped enthusiastically to grab some new released titles. The disappointment occured when I started to look for a place to pay, as I was told that the books are not for sale and further explained that unless I am not a publisher or an author looking for one - I was obviously nothing else than a humblre reader - I am left with the choice of visiting the fair and getting some leaflets. My adventure in the world of books ended up with a voyeurist wandering between the generous shelves with the books I could not have it. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The days when writing is a failure

My writing story is the following: I always wanted to be paid for words - since my 17 yo illumination moment when I've read Virginia Woolf's diary. With hard work, I succeeded to be what I wanted to be, and spent most part of my life around and with words. In different languages.

Despite various personal choices and the impossibility to refuse some out-of-the-writing-box professional challenges, I continue to consider myself a writer and I published many articles and books and I am planning to do so till the last word.

However, there are some days, when even the most stupid wording is a big unsuccessful trial. Like, for instance, a couple of 150-word clothes descriptions a couple of days ago. A ridiculously simple task did not get the minimal approval and the collaboration ended up after less than 3 days. Today, I got a fabulous feed-back from a client, for a paper that I did fast, without too much editing. And this situation happens at least 3 times the month. In 100% of the cases, is the same hand typing the words and the same brain knitting the sentences. When I am too happy with the content, I receive some bad news, when I am relaxed the feed-back may be fabulous. And I continue to get my money as a freelance writer and editor. 

Of course that after 5,000 words, one may not expect to be coherent and successful, even when the only words you should write are those that make your name. But this is how it works when you get your bread from writing. Sometimes I am too much caught by the pleasure of writing and regardless of the commercial result of my work, I continue to be happy. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

With or without the new Kindle?

I really loved this montage of Washington Post dedicated to the new Kindle Fire HD!
I do not know yet if I am ready to give up the current version of Kindle, but the whole idea of making books attractive in the hi-tech era is another confirmation that people will always love books and reading in general!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Introducing iDreambooks

Launched a couple of weeks ago, iDreambooks is a new site dedicated to books and especially book reviews. I am active on Goodreads - interactive and with many interesting authors around - and Shelfari - a big library and many people, with a minimal interaction between readers. 

As far as I realized in the last minutes since I created my own account, on iDreambooks for each book, you have the reviews published by now in the media. When you are interested in a book, you enter the title and you can see the aggregated reviews and recommendations. If you've read already the book and you have your own opinion, you are free to vote the review. 

Regularly, there are giveaways available, but as far as I saw by now, you should be mostly from the US or Canada or the UK for being allowed to enter. Hope this situation will change for the sake of the European readers.

It is a site for both readers and writers. The latters can create their own giveaways and set up their profiles. As a simple reader, you can build your reading list, up to the latest preferences.


Friday, August 3, 2012

Just a trip to Galapagos

As I am preparing my first travel book, I am professionally interested in reading and finding out about different book formats and ideas. Most probably, at this stage of the research, I will be more than happy to have a simple travel memoir with different short stories and a photo book with the best photo moments of my journey. 
Till the final decision will be taken, I had the chance to clear my eyes by reading the images of a travel book from Galapagos, by Susanna IvyGalapagos Dreams: a photo journey is all you need to get ready to book your trip to this corner of the world as soon as possible. Susanna herself waited a long time until her dream come true. After winning an international online competition in 2010 she took her camera and started the discovery of the famous island. She carefully documented the unique life and fauna of Galapagos. The eye of her camera surprised the particular expression and the unforgettable corners of life from the island: from the tortoise and land iguana, to the people and the amazing lava fields. There are many people amazed by Galapagos and who produced their own works about it, but in this book I discovered the special selection of the photographer and thus, I think it is worth the effort to spend some time in the company of this book.
Born in East Berlin, Susanna spent her time travelling and recording her trips on camera. Honestly, I wish I can see more photo travel books from her.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Book review: The Playground Mafia, by Sarah Tucker

One of the reasons I always wanted - and succeeded - to keep myself away of the parents'/most specifically mothers' gangs in schools is the feeling that some could consider themselves more mothers than the others. I do not see any reasons I should be patronized and involved in activities supporting in fact the lifestyle and 'academic' expectations from one mother or another. Convinced that many of the new rich mothers with high expectations are in fact trying to compensate their relatively limited chances of achievement years ago, I prefer to pay my contributions and have my say only when something outrageous happens. And, due to my busy schedule I did not have an enormous amount of time for networking and fighting for a better curricula or against a certain teacher. Or even more, against other parents.

This is one thing about The Playground Mafia that I liked: the boring reality of the parents' committees. In this case, we have to deal with the British type of parenting and thus, expect a lot of money and expression of the social stratification. And, parents bullying. 

Some of the ambitious mothers with rich husbands of first graders created a kind of cartel controlling the activities and scrutinizing the other parents according to their rules and regulations. As usual, not all of the mafia mothers are happy and even less morally accomplished. A newly divorced mother with her son, Ben, are new in town and trying to cope with them, but the even though at the beginning the integration into the 'mafia' circles looks more smoothly than expected, at the end, she will even enter into a physical conflict with the chief mafiosa and called in court for plummeting her. In between, there are many local drama, hidden love stories, unhappy mariages, shopping and coffees. One of the strongest point of the author is, in my opinion, the art of the detail, the concentration on facts and the description of events in a very realistic way. 

The rhythm is not equal and every 100 pages I had some dead time when I did not care about what is going in into the story. But, if you want to spend your afternoon and, in addition, you have children in school, you can learn a lot about what you should avoid for the time being. It is good writing and you will not regret the choice. 

As for the cover of the book, it is simply funny. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Food and writing consulting with Monica Bhide

Monica Bhide has an amazing story of what does it really mean to be a writer: a lot of work and ambition and the perseverance of never considering that you are too good for not learning something new every day. 

She writes on her blog, is very active on social media, writes and teaches regularly food writing classes. Now, she is decided to make a step further by offering mentoring and one on one consulting services. Anyone with a passion for food writing should try to book at least once a meeting with her in person or virtually. If you are passionate about good books about food, you can participate to her very active and interesting Book Club on Facebook

I am just reading right now her book of interviews, In Conversation with Exceptional Women which I can't wait to feature on this blog soon. 

Book Review: Love at the Speed of E-mail

Did you ever ask what the life of those international people working in the world of humanitarian work looks like? How it is to change planes and homes every couple of weeks and living in unfamiliar environments? There are many who might be jealous for the frequency of travels and the exposure to new people and cultures. At the practical level, it is always at least a small problem of adaptation and search for meaning in a changing world.

One of the most things that I appreciated at Lisa McKay's Love at the Speed of E-mail is the style of writing. Simple, sober yet warm and able to make you understand feelings and dilemmas. Her memoir is a story of her travels from Croatia to Australia, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, but also a search for the sense of home and a family. A life spent on the road could offer a lot of excitement, but also frequent questions about the world you belongs to hence her search for faith and spirituality, the stable values in a changing universe.

Her scientific background - she has an MA in forensic psychology - could explain a writing that it might be distant at the first sight, but succeeds to explain and make the story enjoyable. If one day I would like to write a memoir, I wish I can have her style: simple, direct, honest and without any sentimental embroideries even though it deals with difficult personal choices and life decisions. She writes with the passion of the journalist that found her own literary voice. This book was my first encounter with Lisa's writings but I would be curious to continue writing her next novels and books. 

In this challenging diverse world when she needs to travel all round the year, Lisa finds time to write and through her essays she tries to define her virtual home. It is the sense of sharing her own ideas. This world of words is the home she belongs to, even after she is happily married with Mike that found her on the Internet when he was busy with his own international assignments in New Guinea. They start a month-long exchange of letters that are not only accounts of their different professional encounters but ways to discover each other and share their personal worlds and visions. Maybe what Lisa is writing about is the same old love story that only develops in a different framework. But the ways in which she is doing it gives the measure of her talent and keeps the reader involved.

The cover of the book is of elegant simplicity and suits the book. I can't say I either like it or not but that it is very much in resonance with the book. 

The conclusion: if you are about to go on vacation and you do not know what to include on your reading list, don't forget about Lisa McKay's book. It is always hope for love, even at the speed of e-mail.

Disclaimer: We received a complimentary copy from the author. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Is never too late to write your book

It is never late enough to launch your book and continue writing. Very often, we read a lot in the media about successful young writer under 30 or 40 and we start feeling that it is too late for starting a career in writing after these thresholds. In fact, it is another example when we need to take our breath and continue writing, regardless of our age or the pressure of the daily boring yet financially rewarding jobs.
Paul Torday, for instance, published his first book, the famous now Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, when he was around 60. Since then, the book was turned into a movie and he published a new book almost each year. 
I liked Salmon Fishing and appreciated the humour, but loved and felt closer of Bordeaux for the fine observations and the introspective journeys. 
The conclusion of the day: is never too late to become a writer if you have something to share.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Poetry evening, with Mascha Kaléko

I am not a poetry reader and even less one of its lovers, but from time to time - maybe twice the year - I challenge my love for words with a portion of poetry. This time, I choose a small, simple and illustrated collection by Mascha Kaléko. An interesting poet with an interesting life that I would love to read more about it soon. The little booklet with which I spent a couple of mind challenging hours is called Papagei und Mamagei . It is a simple yet funny and well chosen selection of poetic short stories about the world of animals. Some reminded me of some Haiku but also of some Naturalistic short stories. The initial thought was to improve my German, but the language is not as easy and you should know more than the primary sense of the words in order to understand the short poetic compositions. 

Writing good stories

"When does a man write a good story? When he didn't think about writing it at all. It is created in his heart on its own. Suddenly he gets burned, and the burn aches and doesn't let up, he tries to write, and it 'works'...". S.Y. Agnon, Nobel Prize 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A small disadvantage of Kindle

I am one of the strongest supporters of Kindle and I my virtual library is growing more and more each day. For someone that is reading even when walking, the small practical portable bookstore gives me the chance to fill in the best possible way the dead moments. 
While reading today a historical book, I discovered a small disadvantage: many pictures were available only in the print format of the book. Probably, it is not only a commercial explanation of this move. Many Kindle books are available at half the normal price and it is normal to have different advantages than when paying the full price. On the other hand, it is possible as well that some e-pictures cannot be reproduced at the same high fidelity as in the printed formula.
As for me, I will continue to use the Kindle option, with or without clear published pictures.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Not-to-read recommendation: Dad's guide to life for girls

My Kindle has a lot of books: the very good books that I am happy to have it and keen to read it, a lot of books I am interested in because of the subjects approached and many free books on various topics that I have no idea what they are all about. Sometimes, I am surprised to discover good books, covers and new authors whose next or previous books I will buy. From time to time, I also have books that after 10 minutes of reading I can't wait to delete from my Kindle.
Every 3-4 weeks I have the unpleasant opportunity to stumble upon such a book and due to the high volume of daily reading I think it is a fair ratio. Today, while in-between a new writing chore, a good book and a boring rainy hour, I decided that maybe Dad's guide to life for girls will give me some good ideas about children, girls and how to talk with them and what to tell them. 
From the beginning, the cover did not impress me too much - childish and cheap -, but I tried to ignore this fact thinking that you need to invest a lot of money in a good cover and maybe the author preferred to pay the price for producing a good book. I have no idea if the author used the resources for a professional editing of the book, but the result is technically good: quality editing, not grammar mistakes and thus meeting the minimal expectations of a good book. However, a correct sentence it is not enough and the artistic result is rather boring and not-interesting (almost at all).
In my opinion, the book could be limited to some professional advice in the Introduction and it rather suits  an article or some series of articles published in some parenting reviews that no one reads seriously. It consists of a series of advices, on a lecturing tone, from how to deal with your sexual life to how to reach success in college (in this order), and some professional advice about how to not be trapped by the Nigerian scams. Honestly, do not misunderstand me: there are very interesting advices, but the style is...exactly what do you expect from a father lecturing you for hours about why you should not do it. If it matters, I would be very happy with some inspiring stories written in a more relaxed way. The subject is obviously very serious, but it is not a reason to turn it more boring than a complicated chemistry lesson for teenagers in a summer day. 
FYI: the book is not recommended for: gay females, transgenders, orphans or ethnic minorities. 
I am keeping my literary optimism for the quality of the other books on my Kindle shelf. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes

I enjoyed most part of the articles and books by Julian Barnes, but in the case of The of an Ending I could not wait to finish the book. I had the book on my priority list for a long time and the preview presentations made me want the book even more. But, when I started to read it I could not wait to finish it. 

Maybe a couple of years ago, when I was very young and open for hours of meditations about age, time and  the memories of early childhood I would have been the happiest person in the world. Now, not wiser, but more interested in rich stories than in monologues about life and death I was able to appreciate the writing, but am not resonating with any of the characters or of the story. I do not want to look as a not-very-snobbish reader but I felt the wing of the boredom around my head every moment spent in the company of the book.

Tony Webster is a former teenager with philosophical thoughts that will end up in the routine of the retirement, after a modest life of a divorced male in the 21st century. The best of his life, as in the case of many normal human beings, was the adolescence. The intensity of life and the courage of trying things for the first time is lost and even the efforts to go back into the past are a modest memory of what it should be. Once he advanced in life, the past is the lost hope of a better future. But even this image of the past is in fact not corresponding to the reality, as it is the result of a selective process of memory. "When you are in your twenties, even if you're confused and uncertain about your aims and purposes, you have a strong sense of what life is, and of what you in life are, and might become. Later...later there is more uncertainty, more overlapping, more backtracking, more false memories" (pp. 104-105). And here it comes the reason for keeping my heart cold when reading this book: I loved a lot being very young and starting to write the world in my own words. But, on the other hand, I think that the more I know the more I can grow and develop my thoughts and personality. I cannot be nostalgic and focus permanently in the past, but take the challenge of every single day and hour of the day as a way to discover myself and the world around. I understand that forgetting could be sometimes an anchor that save us from the inferno of the memories.

However, it is something I appreciated about the book: the cover is indeed explaining very well not only the title, but also the content of the book. Those interested in finding their own style and enjoying the perfection of the English language will also enjoy Barnes' special style. 

It is always something to learn about when reading a book.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Day of Honey, by Annia Ciezadlo

Day of Honey was the book I was looking to read for a long time. As I am passionate about books, the Middle East and travels, and trying to learn step by step the art of cooking, I found here all the perfect ingredients for a perfect literary lunch. First of all, it is a good writing of an experienced journalist able to use the words properly in order to create amazing yet not sophisticated visual images. I was equally impressed by the diplomatic art of avoiding to focus on the huge problems faced by the Middle East as such and for the countries and ethnic and religious groups part of the area. If you open your heart, with a good meal you can discover a different side of the coin. Thus, Annia Ciezadlo went far beyond the usual image that she mentioned: "The dominant narrative of the Middle East is perpetual conflict: the bombs and the bullets and the battles are always different, and yet always, somehow depressingly the same".
Starting from this grey perspective, she placed herself in a different perspective of history: "There are many ways to save civilization. One of the simplest is with food". The recipes and food and smells she is writing about are wonderful stories about life and death, survival and cultural habits. A salad can save your life and the bread and salt between the people at the same table can tell the story of love and friendship.

What is home?

Annia is a journalist living in New York City with a multicultural background that for sure contributed to her open mind in understanding and discovering the world. Following her husband, a NYC journalist too whose family lives in Lebanon she goes, discover and is trying to make a home in the war-torn Iraq and in Lebanon. Everything started with a honeymoon in Iraq, in 2003, and continued as a love story in the Middle East till today. Cooking is a way to appropriate the space, to create her own world and share it with friends and family. 
For many of us, always on the road, the entire world could be a huge home that we can hardly know during our short lives. However, there are some benchmarks that will help us to find our place somehow, and, in Annia's words: "We cannot go on journey unless we have a place to stop, food and water to drink, somewhere to sleep in safety and people to give us these things". As global citizens, we can decide where home is, but we still need the old ingredients for considering a place home.

Histories of food

Annia Ciezadlo is a journalist discovering the world with the peaceful weapons of the anthropologist. Familiar with this domain of human sciences, she reads the cultures through their food. "Even the most ordinary dinner tells manifold stories of history, economics and culture. You can experience a country and a people through its food in a way that you can't through, say, its news broadcasts". For a journalist, such an observation could guarantee a special consideration for the hard work of writing from the most difficult corners of the world. 
She starts by discovering the cuisine of the city and of the country. The ambition of the journalist leads her to find out that, for instance, despite the usual stereotypes about the lack of a proper and tasty Iraqi cuisine, the first cooking book discovered by the French historians was in fact written in Iraq. At the end of her Iraqi journey, she can conclude that the ''map of modern-day Iraq" can offer more insights if read through the smells of the traditional dishes.

Memories of the city

In both Iraq and Lebanon, she got in touch with a world of intellectuals that made me think about all stories I've read and heard about the writers and artists from Bagdad and Beirut. Unfortunately, due to the never ending sectarian wars and the danger of religious fundamentalism, I am pessimistically tempted to think that at least for a decade or so, we will rather meet such an eclectic life outside Iraq and Lebanon, in the places  where specific members of the Diasporas meet, than in one of those cities.
For someone that has never been in none of those cities, you are left with the impression of faded glory and traces of wars. Sadly enough, it is also about the histories of countries unable yet to tackle their destinies and whose present and future was hijacked by an uneducated gang, probably with terrible food tastes. I can bet that uneducated warriors and fanatics are unable to appreciate the pleasure of a good dish, even if it is a traditional recipe made in the country that they claim arduously they venerate. 
Besides the depressing feeling that we get caught in when it comes to breaking destinies due to unclear political circumstances, we can understand as well the powerful tool of the cultural diplomacy of the good food. Thus, I wish to hear more about Annia Ciezadlo's future works. 

Closing conclusions

Are there any aspects about the book that I did not like it? I feel that each time it was about writing 'life' stories about conflicts on the run she was like keen to get rid of those episodes and return to the creative cooking table. From the warm colors of the recipes, suddenly the writing was turning very neutral and unpleasant.  
There are a lot of episodes in the book that makes you smile and even laugh, beyond the tensed circumstances. For me, one of the most laughable is when the Muqtada's man in Iraq is lecturing about Marilyn Monroe. 
As for the cover, I appreciated very much the power of the simple cover. The image tells a thousand words but the words of the book as well tell more than a thousand words about the Middle East through Annia Ciezadlo's eyes.
One more thing: if after finishing the book you feel overwhelmed by the hunger for a good Middle Eastern food and you would like to try some recipes by yourself, you should turn the pages and discover at the end of the book a couple of recipes that will keep you busy for a long time from now. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Writing book reviews?

If you love books and you want to write about fresh new books out of the print, then you should apply to this very appealing offer
In order to be included as a regular reviewer, you should be simple, personal and more importantly to love books more than anything else.

The cause for banning books

The more you forbid a book the more readers you will have. I am against forbidding books, but totally in favour of explaining why you like or you do not like a certain book. In fact, I discover very often that many of the so-called 'forbidden books' were in fact very bad and did not even deserve my time and money. What determined me to run to find them was their so-called mysterious glamour.
I remembered that long time ago, when we used to live in a dictatorship of illiterate that did not want to hear about books, we have two rows of books. The simple and not-problematic books were on the first line. In the back, we used to have a couple of books that anyone should know that we have it. Most of them were old French books of disgraced communists, some Russian stories and books by local authors that for various reasons become hated by the regime. Once I grew up I started to read one by one the 'secret' books, but I was hardly able to finish more than 25% of them. There were bad stories and militant literature that even despite my lack of exposure to various literary theories I was able to detect the overwhelming lack of style and literary qualities. 

Recommend best Young Adults novels

The competition is over, all you have is to submit your selections for this NPR competition.

In a world with so many books published permanently, it is very important when you can make a right selection. Even though the tastes may differ from a person to another, it is very important that we write and talk about our choices and preferences. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

ELLE competition for creative writers

As a writer-in-process or experienced, any occasion when you can put your words on trial is very important. Thus, when I stumbled upon this ELLE Competition, I knew that I should participate. So you should give you a chance at least to get more experience, especially taking into account that it is a free of charge competition. 
Following, the content of the announcement:
"Calling all ELLE readers who are also writers: You could be published in ELLE’s October 2012 Personal Style issue! We’re looking for essays of 500–750 words in length about a treasured piece from your wardrobe. It’s about more than just a favorite item of clothing, because a cherished dress is never really just a dress: It’s a reflection of where you’ve been, what you’ve accomplished, how you see the world—a reminder of definitive moments in your life.
So here it is: your chance to write a humorous, poignant, heartbreaking, or shocking ode to the clothes that made you who you are today. To enter, simply e-mail your submissions to by June 25, 2012. (Please paste your text in the message window rather than sending an attached document.)".

Good luck everyone! Fashion is not such a trivial topic, after all!

Tales about Widows and widowhood

Apparently, being a widow or a widower is a good subject for the writer. Yesterday, while searching some more information about The Widow's Tale by Mick Jackson I discovered more than 5 books with the same title. Moreover, there are as well successful books about widowers and their stories. 

A lady in her 60s lost her husband in a car accident. The book is an account of her wanderings outside London, looking for herself and recounting the memories of her life. Do not expect a sweet story about stories from the past that make you cry. The tone of the story is very alert, with schizoid alternations between pure humour and unexpected craziness. You can feel the ups and downs the lack of regret for the treason and the late courage of finding what was hidden in the secret closet. What I found very attractive to this story was the good and strong beginning, when you are driving in the race by running far away from home. The action is authentic and you will realize that it is about to stop only a couple of minutes and pages later. Even though the language is interesting, I felt sometimes that it was maybe too pretentious. Otherwise, the words are well chosen and can create an accurate image of the anthropological diary of the woman, step-by-step. 

The book is pleasant to read and do not present a high level of difficulty. You can easily read the book when  travelling or late on a Saturday afternoon. Do not expect drama or nostalgia, but a very honest account of a normal life. 

As for the cover, I find it rather boring, it could be the cover of any book about loneliness.

Always judge a book for its cover

In the majority of cases the decision to buy a book is determined by my immediate various interests. Especially in the last year or so, since I have my Kindle, I prefer to order the books immediately and to read them the next second after my order was processed. 

On the other hand, I also buy books from the bookstores and, besides the books that I need or I've heard about, for the love at the first sight, I need something more than a standard description according to which the book was a New York Times Bestseller in the year 200x. And this magic ingredient is called the cover: I always judge the book by its cover and I will continue to do so. 

When I've found today this list of the 50s coolest covers, I felt as my choices were not only a fancy and fashionista habit, but something that is widely appreciated. My top 3 favorites? The Stranger, The Great Gatsby and Jurassic Park.

Murakami for the week?

I must confess that I am not a great fan of Murakami and I did not grasp easily many of his books. For instance, I did not like at all the Norwegian Wood. But, anyway, I am not at all a fan of the Beatles and thus, it is easy to understand how it was possible to do not come along with the style and inspiration. I am sure that I will need to re-read soon Dance, Dance, Dance and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, but also A Wild Sheep Chase and South of the Border, West of the Sun.

On the other hand, I loved the normal fragility of being from After Dark and the well documented journey through the Japanese psyche from Underground

Maybe my mistake is to consider him too much a Japanese writer and to try to select and dislike the influences he brought from the 'Western' culture. 

I still have a couple of books by Murakami to read and a lot of occasions to reconsider my opinion on him. And after I watched this morning this image published in the New York Times I realized even more that if I want to understand his books, I should go beyond the literary and wordy-focused understanding of literature and to try to challenge my mind with visual interpretations of words. A Murakami book is waiting for me on the shelf for a couple of months already.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Writing mathematics

Very often, when I am faced with various manifestations of writer's block, I prefer to take a big break and read something completely different from the subject I am addressing for the moment. Indeed, in the majority of cases, it is like breathing a different kind of air. My mind is getting relaxed, the tension is decreasing and I am finally able to take the right distance from my former ideas.

One of my favourite topics, by far, is the scientific books and articles. When I was preparing my PhD dissertation, I used to read a lot of complicated chemistry articles or geology studies. Due to my technical high school background, I was also able to understand the majority of the articles. Such bibliography has helped me a lot in organizing and finding my academic style: I prefer to write in a simple way, without too many fluffy and complicated words, looking for clarity and concision. 

Today, as part of my busy schedule, I stumbled upon this interesting article including an interview and some reviews of books about mathematics, by Dana Mackenzie. I agree that it is a lot of fun and challenge in a book about mathematics, regardless of your basic background. And I made a mental evaluation of my current library and of the scientific books that I would like to read and review very soon. Apparently, my blogging activity is changing for good many priorities from my daily reading list. 

A good day for the writer

Working with words it is not a simple job. Some days are full of joy and nice sentences. Other days are cold and for a simple paragraph of a relatively simple writing I should wait more than an hour until I find a certain coherence and fluidity of my ideas translated into words.

Today, for the first time in months, everything went more than perfect: I woke up early, finished all the administrative correspondence within 30 minutes and spent the next 4-5 hours writing my daily articles and marketing plans. During the 10 minute breaks, while sipping my coffee, I added a little blogging article here, updated another status there...Now, after almost 6 hours of intensive and successful writing, I am ready to start my 'other' work: writing reviews, finishing some books, more blog posts and fishing for ideas for a healthy re-launch of my blogging life. 

It depends on my to continue in this new yet old writing pace. Most probably, with a little bit of courage, I will be able to finish my three very important writing projects till September and get ready for a new writing start. Working as a part-time or a full-time writer is never easy, mostly when your inspiration is the main source of profit and financial support for your other projects. 

Writing in process...I hope, it will be good writing...

Ready for Kobo publishing?

Kobo promises to launch soon a new platform for writers. All you need is an account with them and your book ready to be converted. The rest will be done by them. 
While preparing this post, I took the opportunity to browse their library and I found many interesting books. The site can be read in English, French, Dutch and German. For iPad and iPhone users, there are additional possibilities to find the best formats for an easy reading.
If you are passionate about reading - as I am - but your reading budget is strictly limited, you have the option of free eBooks  covering the following domains: popular films based on books, verses, classics, gothic, mysteries and romance. If you are ready to pack for your dream vacation but feel unhappy that you can't take a book with you, now you have a couple of opportunities to relax while learning and reading something new.
Welcome to the Kobo world! 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

No space for the audio-books into my life

The idea of audio-books did not enter my universe easily. The reason was not a certain romantic idea about the need to feel and smell the paper. When the Kindle entered the market, I was more than happy to use it because I correctly seized the opportunity to save money and space for more books. My reluctance against the audio-books is purely of practical nature: very often, I use the musical/sound-related background when I am doing boring editing and, in general, activities that do not require a high level of concentration. Consequently, my choices of audio books are significantly narrowed: most probably will prefer books in languages that I want to improve and that will create a certain familiarity with the words.

But, due to the fact that many sites and blogs posting free books were closed or decided to shut down by themselves following the controversies around ACTA, the chances to find free books decreased. I know the pros and cons of the free books and I am tempted to support a middle position: free books should be allowed if the author wants to. On the other hand, the author should be aware that such a policy will encourage more readers to pay for the other titles if the first (free) impression was positive. Anyway, the alternative to free books are the audio books and there are some interesting websites offering free audio books. When no other solution possible, why not giving a try to the audio books? It is what I’ve done this evening, but I am still trying to get used with the system. Literature is a different category of reading and in comparison with, for instance, a lecture that you listen to refresh information already knew, for understanding correctly a novel or a short story, any word is important. The conclusion, at least for the next ten years to come, is that I will use the audio variants only when no other possibilities available. I continue to be a grateful follower of the written word. 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Book Review: Warriors into the Wild (1)

As an aspiring children's writer myself, reading the books for the little ones could be considered a professional duty. However, the hidden reason is that I simply love to read such books and sometimes I find such lectures a real challenge from the point of view of the language and writing in general. 
I chose Warriors into the Wild completely by accident: One afternoon, in the bookstore, I wanted to find a book, not too expensive not necessarily for children. Even though I am not a fan of cats - I am even allergic to them - and do not fancy too much books with animal characters - a matter of age target - the good price and the attractive cover drove me to the counter for paying it. 
First, to start with the cover: pleasant colours and a dynamic image that gives you an idea that there is action is waiting for you under the covers.
Second, it is a pleasant and entertaining book to read either for your documentation or simply for spending a relaxing afternoon. The language is well chosen, with a lot of verbs of action and a moderate difficulty level which recommends the book for children up to 8 years old. Also, there are some episodes of moderate violence that could raise the threshold to 10 years and more.
The book is part of a long series which started to be published in 2003 and is written by Erin Hunter, in fact a name for two authors. The book was compared with the Harry Potter series but at least for this first volume, I did not find too many common points, except the magic stone that appears at the end of the book. 
The subject is the life of feral cats and the adventures of the apprentice Firepaw. Firepaw is a domestic cat that left his quiet life for living in the wild forest, where the rules are made by four fighting clans. Firepaw, the 'kittypet' used to the comfort of the life alongside the 'twolegs' succeeds to qualify as a good fighter, under the name of 'Fireheart', at the end of a couple of adventures during which honesty and the good heart guided him to make the powerful choices. Thus, for example, when he met Barley, a cat from the previous life, while hunting, and asked if he like his current life, Firepaw's answer was: "I know who I am now".
The characters have a dual nature: you expect their decisions and weaknesses and actions as cats, even though they make moral choices as humans do. The two levels of action do not appear as opposed and this feature makes the book pleasant to read and genuine.
I am not sure that I would have time in the next months to continue the adventures of Firepaw, but if I will have some available time, I will be curious to follow him up.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Book Review: My Last Blind Date

I am not too much into chick lit - although I should confess that I had a time in my life when I was more than delighted to go through the entire Shopaholic series - but I always like to read new books and discover new writing styles. This rainy afternoon I decided that nothing else can help me to find inspiration than this short story by Susan Hatler : My Last Blind Date. 
As I have not heard about the writer before and before starting the lecture, I wanted to browse her website for more info and liked one of her remarks about her writing styles: "I'll write whatever calls to me". 
My Last Blind Date was released in February 2012 and tells the story of the date between Rachel and Noah. Work colleagues and too shy to share their interest in a relationship they are set together on a blind date on Valentine's Day, by Ellen, a generous colleague. The moment of surprise has passed, they get along well together and, if we have to trust the end, are happy even after. 
It is short, at a certain extent predictable story of 25 pages, whose zest is the dialogue: smart yet funny exchanges and interesting wordings going beyond the temptation of triviality that many chick lit and romance books could be tempted to use as a way to attract the readers. Do not expect too much action or suspense, but you can count on a pleasant hour of reading in the afternoon. You can take it on your Kindle while on vacation or read it later in the weekend when you need to get refreshed after 7 exhausting weeks of life as a single.  You should keep your optimism and good humour and simple wonders could always happen. 
Last but not least, the cover is attractive as well, with a lot of red - a colour highly recommended by both specialists in publishing, design and marketing. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

All you want to know about Kindle books

For the moment I am only a writer-in-process, but when I am out of inspiration, I am a permanent reader. Last night, I discovered that months back I downloaded The Kindle's Publisher's Guide and decided that it is the right time not only to better use my Kindle resources, but also to learn how to make my own book.
Most part of the book is dedicated to the step-by-step orientation in a different world of writing and the difference with the usual Microsoft Word is dramatic. This is even more difficult when you deal with various academic works, when you require footnotes and special graphic representations. If you have your own writing plan and want to focus exclusively on your words, you will certainly prefer to focus on a better wording than on  HTML formatting tips. In most cases, you do not even need to do so, as you can operate the various adjustments later, after your text is ready. In addition, you can find many programs - for free - helping with the conversion process. 
One of the most important advise is that you should not publish anything unless you have read it, mainly in the e-reader format, in order to be sure that it is readable from both the technical point of view and from the point of view of the content. 
Besides the detailed technical aspects - that I would love to explore further, eventually, with the help of a dedicated workshop or two, there are some good advices about how to advertise your eBook online:
- Find a good selection of tags and keywords that will help to find out your page in searches
- The usual online description of the book should not go beyond 1,500-2,000 characters
- Find the right target groups for your book and start the conversation about it. 
- If you consider useful, use paid Google AdWorks or Facebook ads for increasing your chances of publicity.
- Monitor permanently the results and the investment.
Overall, it is not very difficult to be a self-published author, but you should be aware that your writing only will not help you to reach success. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Writing happiness

As a professional writer in the process, I enjoy every piece of advice about how to improve my writing, either it is about simple blogging or sophisticated literary writing. 
Thus, I enjoyed a pleasant lecture of the eBook by Marya Jan - Writing Happiness, How to write blog content that works. You can read this booklet very fast, for free, and if you are looking for some inspiration in-between posts or when you feel that the writers' block is around, it is the right lecture to lift you up.
In the words of the author, it is a "non-grammar focus guide for writers and non-writers who are in the business of generating content". This is the reason why, for instance, you are not scholarly advices that first and forehand your posts should be grammatically correct in order to achieve success. In a way it is obvious, in a world of words facing a very serious confrontation. 
The book includes a couple of very useful advices, more or less evident even for experienced writers. It includes a couple of insightful quotes, mostly from Stephen King's On Writing, a book which I highly appreciate. Regardless of your domain of writing activity, you will find for sure 2-3 tips.
Shortly, here are my lessons learned from the lecture of the Marya Jan's book:
- If you are a writer it does not mean that you should stop reading. You should be in touch permanently with what people from your domain are writing, but also for improving your style and looking for new sources of inspiration. My experience is, when I find something interesting, I prefer to blog about it as well and, eventually, share my impression with my audience.
- You need to find a reason to write. In other words, to find a clear reason to put your words in order. The reader needs to discover something new, and thus clarity is key. The organization of your blog post matter as well: the headline and the first paragraph are very important for a successful reading. The end matters as well as an incentive to encourage the reader to return or to go further to explore other writings published on your blog. 
- Related to the previous aspect, you should find your voice in writing. This is the reason why very often I preferred to put my intensive blogging on hold for a couple of weeks or even months, as I was looking to accommodate different voices and writing personalities.
- Add to the ingredients of a successful writing the proper connection with the reader. Do you know who are your readers, what are their tastes and interests? In many cases, your domain of activity is limiting your domain of activity and thus, creates the possibility for the development of your niche. For instance, if you are a fashion blogger, you will be interested in covering all issues dealing with fashion, but if you are into do-it-yourself fashion it will be even better for reaching a certain audience.
- As you are writing for a blog, you should take into consideration the limited attention and time of your usual writer. If you are interested in complicated writing, you should avoid blogging. However, there are many examples of successful bloggers addressing highly complicated issues with the help of clear expressions and short sentences. 

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Monday, May 28, 2012

The writing break is over

This blog was on vacation for almost seven years. But as I do not like abandoning any of my writing projects, I would continue to write about writing, books and my daily writing struggle. I used all those days and night since the the last post to improve my writing and even succeeded to get a (modest) living out of writing.
Time to share my experiences and update my plans.
Will be back very soon!