Call me ADORABLE, more like it

Books, Uncategorized

This project does a really sweet job of capturing those intimate experiences people have with books, those lasting impressions that you carry around for the rest of your life, when you finish the last page and you whisper, “No one talk to me for a while.”

It’s called Call Me Ishmael, and it essentially involves people leaving voicemails about a book they love and a story they’ve lived. Then they (s/he?) transcribe it and it’s just all the sweetness. Here’s one about The Fault In Our Stars:

I’m considering leaving one about Anne of Green Gables and the 18-year-old copy I still have. (It has a Clifford the Big Red Dog stamp from the school book sale where I bought it!) Speaking of which, does anyone know where I can buy raspberry cordial in Toronto?

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Starting on my Jonathan Strange costume right now

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What’s that? A “Comic-Con” for books? All this needs now is Tina Fey and Amy Poehler and it’d be like it was tailor-made for me. 

…Oh, wait, THEY’RE THERE, TOO. (That page doesn’t have the title of Amy Poehler’s upcoming semi-memoir, but they actually just released the title and cover and I’m pretty damn excited.)

Sorry, I may have jumped ahead. I’m talking about BookCon, which you can read all about in this Vulture article. TL;DR: It’s a new-ish (they’ve been doing something similar for the last two years under a different name) part of Book Expo America (BEA), one of the biggest book trade fairs in the world, which is happening this weekend in NYC. While the multi-day fair is pretty much for industry types looking to buy and sell publishing rights, they’ve set aside one day for a public festival, organized by ReedPop, a more consumer-savvy and pop culture-oriented subsidiary of the BEA’s organizer, Reed. Book fans can pay $30 to interact with authors in a way that they hope is like those rabid fan conventions with Spock ears and overnight lineups. So far, 8,000 tickets have been sold, which is a long way from the ~150,000 attendees San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) gets. 

The article goes into some detail about challenges and issues (e.g. lack of diversity among the panelists, the lack of an actual literary focus in favour of more entertainment and blockbuster-y/commercial books, etc.), but I still think it’s a really neat experiment, and I’m bummed I can’t attend this year (though I’ve added it to my Google calendar for 2015). I understand the need to feature celebs like Neil Patrick Harris and Tina Fey alongside authors like John Green and Veronica Roth, though I hope that as the festival expands (if it does), they can offer room to lower profile, but equally awesome, authors. It’s super early, though, and no one really knows what form it’s going to take yet. (Publishers aren’t even sure if they’re going to sell books there or not!)

As a two-time SDCC attendee and a book nerd, I’m just so tickled pink to see things like “Literary quiz shows” on the docket and a policy about bringing weapons (as in, don’t) to the con, including “sharpened metal-bladed weapons (including axes, daggers, hatches, knives, kunai, shuriken, swords, sword canes and switch blades).” Oh gosh, I really hope book cosplay takes off.

Book publishing meets YouTube

Books, Culture, Uncategorized, Writing

If you’re a YouTube star with a robust fan base, you just got one step closer to publishing a book.

This NYTimes article from yesterday is all about a new imprint called Keywords Press — a joint venture between Simon & Schuster’s Atria Publishing Group and the Hollywood United Talent Agency — that wants to publish books by YouTube entertainers.

Judith Curr, the president and publisher of Atria, says signing YouTube celebrities “gives us access to a whole new talent pool.” Credit Nancy Borowick for The New York Times

Judith Curr, the president and publisher of Atria, says signing YouTube celebrities “gives us access to a whole new talent pool.” Credit Nancy Borowick for The New York Times

There is precedence for YouTube stars to publish books, and it is common practice for book publishers to mine for manuscripts from well-known individuals with built-in followings, but it’s really interesting to see a whole imprint dedicated to the gambit and to even tweak their publishing models to follow YouTube-like practices; most of these books will be crowdsourced, and they’ll be shot out into the marketplace faster than other books.

In the article, iJustine (one of five YouTube stars who have already signed deals with Keywords) says, “I’ve always wanted to write a book, but the proposal process is kind of crazy [….] I would say, ‘Why can’t I just do it?’ That’s what we are used to doing online.'”

I just hope these YouTubers are also good writers. Having a talent for making videos and a ready-made audience is great, but there’s something to be said for having the chops to write well, too. Being sellable shouldn’t be the only prerequisite to getting published. I also hope there’s still room in the publishing industry for all the aspiring authors who haven’t had time to build their own customer bases because they were, you know, busy learning how to write a good book.

 

Taking stock

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This is what’s getting me through today:

I was perusing this public list of people’s bucket list items, and I gradually realized that I’d done a lot of them. Like, a lot. It’s remarkable how a few bad months can make you feel like you’ve never done anything good your whole life. Or, like all the exciting, novel experiences and adventures in your life happened so long ago, on the other side of some awful schism in your life, that they may as well have happened to someone else. 

As I scrolled through them, I realized how lucky I am to have done a lot of these things, and it’s really interesting to see what things people hold on to as life goals or dreams. For some, the items are so small that it made me take stock of how many of the things I take for granted (ex. laughing until I cry) are actually really valuable experiences.

My 2013 wasn’t as good as some other people’s, but it did have its ups in between the downs. And, while I toasted to 2014 by drinking sparkling wine and saying “Good fucking riddance” to 2013, I should probably acknowledge that I did, in fact, accomplish some stuff…I guess.

Things I did in 2013:

  • Joined a writing group. I love meeting with my writing group. It’s a blissful hour that happens at the library every other week when I get to discuss writing and characters and stories and sci-fi with people who just get it, you know? It might be the only time I forget about all the other shit going on. Plus, it forces me to produce new material on a regular basis, and I think receiving and incorporating feedback (especially when it’s hard to hear) has really helped my writing.
  • Finally wrote some stuff I don’t hate. I didn’t publish anything (though I’m on track to do that in 2014), but I did finish some stuff and finishing all on its own feels pretty damn good.
  • Disembarked from a bad relationship. Related: started a new, much healthier relationship with a great therapist.
  • Got to be the Best Maid in my best friend’s wedding. It involved a surprising amount of crafting, a whole bunch of tears, and the best party I’ve ever been to and it was amazing.
  • Started a (hopefully long-term) volunteer gig that I totally dig. It’s at Story Planet and it’s spectacular.
  • Moved downtown. I finally live somewhere so cool I don’t even care that my ceilings are too low for upright bookcases.
  • Got a new job that fits my life a bit better.
  • Adopted my first pet. He’s a hamster named Doc who refuses to pose for photos, sorry.
  • …bought a PS3?

Okay, the accomplishments are kind of dwindling now so I’ll stop. My regrets include not writing more/faster/better (I think that will be a regret of mine every year), spending more time brooding and crying than enjoying life, falling back into unhealthy habits and not travelling more. Which actually creates a good starting place for what my 2014 is going to look like:

2014-make-it-so

  • I am going to write more/faster/better, and also remember that I do it because it’s fun.
  • Every time I start feeling sad, I’m just going to stop being sad and be awesome instead.
  • Exercise more and eat better.
  • Travel SOMEWHERE.

Giddy up.

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Grit

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“It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.” – Babe Ruth

I know how terribly obvious this sounds, so just consider this a preface: It’s so easy to get disheartened when you see people achieving more than you.

I’ve wanted to write novels since I was a tyke, but I only really started writing seriously about two or so years ago when I realized journalism wasn’t going to be enough for me. Since then, I’ve hated almost everything I’ve written. And, on days that end in “y,” I poor salt in my wounds by comparing myself to people who are out there, writing stories and sharing them with the world at a skill level and speed that I can’t seem to keep pace with.

During my last couple of years as a writer-in-training, I’ve tried out and discarded dozens of ideas, eventually landing on a premise for a novel about time travel that I felt was decent. I wrote about 30,000 words that I eventually threw out. (Though I remain committed to making that premise work in some way, some day…maybe tomorrow, actually, now that I think about it.) Over the last 10 months, I’ve taken a break from novel-writing to take a crack at writing a short story. And last night, I finished it. (I’ve come to love that word. Finished. Mmmmmm.) And, amazingly, despite its problems, I actually like it. Callooh callay! (Of course, now it’s time for the heartache of rejection, but I’ll cross that bridge when I have all of the wine.) (Am I over-using parentheses?)

I’m writing all this out because it’s important to remind myself once in a while that I’m making progress, even if it is painstakingly slow. And progress is so important, because it means I’m sticking to my goals even though I’ve barely left the starting line of this exhausting marathon. And that, according to my new favourite TED Talk, is how you succeed.

I don’t know if I’ve got talent. I don’t know if the world wants to read what I’m peddling. But if grit really is a key indicator of success, I think I may stand a chance, because it sounds like having grit is a choice. Every day, I can sit at my computer and choose to keep plucking away. I can choose to be gritty by simply refusing to give up. While I hope this perseverance leads to my eventual success (however I’m defining that on a particular day), it also serves a more short-term goal: it makes me feel like I have some control over this ridiculous, largely luck-based pursuit of mine, and that gives me something to hold onto on those days when I feel as though I’m typing nonsense into the abyss.

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The Day of the Doctor Who Anniversary Fete

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I love the whimsy of Doctor Who. And the hijinks. And the gravitas and the wonder and the possibility. What imagination! What joy!

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I also happen to enjoy thematic party food, so when I invited some friends over to watch the 50th Anniversary Special tonight, I decided to have some fun:

Bowtie pasta in Dalek takeaway boxes:

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TARDISale (gingerale with blue food colouring):

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Jelly babies! (hooray for the candy shop near my apartment that sells British sweets):

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Cakes with ball bearings and Weeping Angel grilled cheese sandwiches (thanks to my WarpZone cookie cutter):

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And, Geronimo! (Also featuring the Sherlock and Watson cookies my friend brought over.)

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Now that the party is over and the special has been watched, I can’t wait to read about all the shout-outs to previous generations of Doctors I missed in the episode. I also really want to give John Hurt a hug, but I don’t know if that’s plausible.

(I’ve been using the word “fete” a lot lately because I’m reading Connie Willis’ To Say Nothing of the Dog. Please accept my apologies. These things just seep in, you know?)

Stop trying to make me freak out, TEDTalks

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There is a lot of valid advice in this video about not wasting your 20’s. Clinical psychologist Meg Jay, who specializes in twentysomethings, says the decade is a ‘developmental sweet spot’ when you should be taking advantage of opportunities to invest in yourself through work, education and fruitful relationships, so when you hit your 30’s you’re ready for that big career move or settling down with a partner.

That being said, the video is a bit alarmist, especially if you’re nearing the end of your 20’s or past it. With so many people experiencing quarter-life crises and worrying about lagging behind other people/society’s standards in terms of personal and professional development, the common reaction to this video is probably: Oh no, I think I’ve wasted my 20’s.

Just to mitigate the inevitable panic of anyone over the age of, say, 27 or so: It may feel like we’ve wasted our 20’s now, but we probably haven’t. Whatever experiences and work you’ve accumulated since turning 20 may seem aimless or unproductive now, but it’s all investment in yourself. Which is Jay’s point.

“I’m not discounting twentysomething exploration here,” she says. “I’m discounting exploration that’s not supposed to count. Which, by the way, isn’t exploration. That’s procrastination.”

So before you (or I) jump to the conclusion that we’ve wasted our 20’s because that’s what our sad inner voices are telling us, let’s consider the possibility that we’ve done exactly what she’s advising in this talk. Then we can pass along this sage advice to a new twentysomething as someone who’s been there and done that, and not as a cautionary tale.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Internet

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Listen, Internet, we need to talk.

I think you’re great, and I really enjoy our time together, but I think I need a break. You’re suffocating me. Adding Facebook to our relationship really helped us flourish, and Twitter was really exciting, I’ll admit, but when you pulled Google Buzz out last week, well, I only have so much energy to spare.

I know it’s kind of terrible for me to spring this on you today, of all days, but maybe taking a little time apart will help us refocus our priorities and come back to the table ready to start anew… in a few days. For now, though, I’m just going to say ‘no’ to Buzzing with you and you’re just going to have to respect my boundaries.

I hope you understand, and that you don’t think I’ve just been using you for Googling and to kill time when my friends are busy. I really do care about you, and I definitely see us together in the future. For now, though, don’t call me.

Stay cool,
Zalina

A potpourri post for the New Year

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“We fight terrorism not only by dropping bombs, but also by building schools.”

I just want to share this blog post on Sen. Clinton’s speech on development. I like the highlights of the speech that Kristof chooses, especially about emphasizing investment over aid.

Christmas post-mortem

I somehow didn’t find the time to share my thoughts on this before Christmas, but better late than never. Usually around that time of the year, I would gripe about how I don’t celebrate Christmas and how it gets shoved down my throat from every angle for weeks and weeks leading up to Dec. 25. This year, however, what really bothered me was the griping coming from everyone else about the PCness of the expression “happy holidays.”

This is the wrong way to think about using the expression “happy holidays”: It’s a politically-correct euphemism for “Merry Christmas” that we’re forced to say regardless of the context because we have to be sensitive to those who don’t celebrate the birth of Santa Jesus.

And here is the good way of thinking about using the expression “happy holidays”: In corporate or just generally broad settings, saying “happy holidays” means that you understand that there are other holidays being celebrated at this time of the year other than Christmas. In every other case, just say “Merry Christmas” if that’s what you really mean.

The best photos in the universe

I shared this on Facebook as soon as I saw it because it just has to be shared. I almost couldn’t decide which one would be my new desktop wallpaper – #3 Eternally Stargazing won, eventually.

H&M Gets Trashed

Let’s all thank Twitter for alerting me to this story. Apparently, people are very upset that H&M and Wal-Mart destroy and throw out unsold clothing (both chains deny that this is their policy and have said they’re going to investigate why this was happening in their NYC stores). I love hearing stories like this because bad deeds deserve bad press, and bad press (hopefully) leads to reparations.

Mirror, mirror on the wall… how environmentally responsible am I?

I love and want this ridiculous mirror. Guilt is the best motivator.

Because I also love bargains

I’m going to post this one on my bulletin board. Full price is for suckers.

Everyone’s a critic around awards season

Instead of sharing my own bloated predications, consider these lists as my own. (When it’s time for the Oscar Poll, EW writes my ballot after all.)

Even so, I will share my five best favourite movies for the year. (And I’ve seen A LOT of movies this year, so I actually feel informed enough to choose favourites, for once.)

1. Up in the Air
2. The Hurt Locker
3. Star Trek
4. Up
5. Moon

Okay, well, I haven’t seen Fantastic Mr. Fox, and I think if I had, it’d probably make my list, but here it is anyway.

Oh, and my New Year’s resolution is just to follow through on the goals I set out for myself on Labour Day. Just so you’re up-to-date.