Archive for June 2012
Would you give a high school commencement address if you were invited to do so?
I declined. Two years ago, when I was invited to speak at Tolland High School where I’d been a teacher for seven years, I was happy enough with the honor of being asked without shouldering the responsibility of trying to do a decent job with the speech itself. I was daunted by the prospect of how much time it would take to prepare carefully, and reluctant to stand before a crowded gym and say something honest.
This spring, when I was asked again, I accepted. I was still concerned about what it would take to prepare, but I’ve missed my students, and it seemed like a good last chance to wish them well. It felt right to contribute to an occasion that recognizes students for their work and growth.
So last week, I gave my speech. I’d had many of the graduating seniors as 9th and 10th graders, so it was great to see them and their families on their last, milestone day. I put in a plug for valuing our inner lives, and practicing seeing things in a new way through Revision Glasses.
I suppose doing the speech is evidence that I’m braver now than I was two years ago. Or crazier. My writing has made me this way. In any case, I did my best, and I was honored to be part of the celebration.
Before we moved onto the suspense of wondering which students might trip over the electrical cord and the ramp they had to cross to get their diplomas, I had this to add:
“You are the resourceful, brave, brilliant people of our future. You have the heart and the humor and the wisdom it will take to live deeply and see the world fresh and truly as it is.”
Here’s to the class of 2012. Congratulations!
John R. Read, Chief
Litigation III Section
U.S. Department of Justice
450 5th Street, NW, Suite 4000
Washington, DC 20530
Dear Mr. Read:
I urge the Department of Justice to drop the April 11th suit against Apple and five publishers who are accused of colluding to limit price competition for ebooks. I’m particularly troubled by the suit’s claim that “Together, Apple and the Publisher Defendants reached an agreement whereby retail price competition would cease (which all conspirators desired), retail e-book prices would increase significantly (which the Publisher Defendants desired), and Apple would be guaranteed a 30 percent ‘commission’ on each e-book it sold (which Apple desired)” (p. 3). I fail to see how collusion could exist, let alone be driven by these reasons, when the consequences of the agency model have actually allowed for a wider variety of prices of ebooks.
As an author, I value the right of my publisher to set the price of my intellectual property on my behalf. For example, because my publisher, Macmillan, controls the price of my ebooks, we were able to reduce the price of the first novel in my series (the Birthmarked trilogy) from $9.99 to $2.99 for a limited time to coincide with the release of the second novel. We could do so uniformly across platforms (Kindle, Nook, etc.) and for the short-term, undercut our own sales of the same traditionally published book in brick and mortar stores. This was our choice and our right, and it worked to increase visibility for the series in traditional book format, too.
The low price for a focused time benefited my publisher, the ebook distributors, traditional booksellers, the consumer, and me, and would not have been possible under the preexisting wholesale model of pricing. What is key here is that my publisher and I could take the risk. We could control the price of my intellectual property in ebook format and knowingly compete in the market. The flexibility of this arrangement, multiplied over countless ebooks and their publishers, allows for an infinite variety of pricing. The opposite was true when Amazon controlled 90% of ebook sales and dictated prices.
Furthermore, the nature of selling ebooks is inherently different from selling physical books. Ask anyone who has ever tried to resell an ebook to a used book store and that concept is immediately clear. Allowing Amazon to set prices as if it were a traditional bookseller with physical merchandise on hand is the equivalent of letting a toll booth operator decide the value of the cars going by. It’s just wrong.
Finally, I’d like to point out that Apple offered an innovative and fair alternative to Amazon’s stranglehold on the ebook market. Apple competed fairly. Amazon has the right to compete fairly, too, if it chooses for instance to take a cut less than the 30% that Apple offered the Publisher Defendants or come up with yet another model. The problem is not Apple, the Publisher Defendants, or the agency model. The problem was the absolute domination of a single ebook distributor.
Please drop the Department of Justice’s suit against the defendants.
Caragh M. O’Brien
Note: U.S. readers and writers have until today, June 25, to write the Department of Justice about the suit against Apple and 5 publishers. Email John Read: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Peter Glassman’s letter to the Department of Justice.
The Author Guild’s summary of the situation.
I joined the end of the Fierce Reads Tour with Leigh Bardugo, Anna Banks, Jenn Bosworth and Emmy Laybourne last week. Many thanks to Jennifer Laughran and Suzanna Hermans of Oblong Books and Music in Rhinebeck, NY for having us by. Your readers were absolutely wonderful with their questions and it was great to see so many writers in the gathering.
The next night, we stopped at the iconic Books of Wonder in New York City. Thanks Peter Glassman, Sam Walters, and Kaila Waybright for your warm welcome. I couldn’t believe when I looked down at my watch and saw we’d been talking and visiting for two and a half hours. The time flew.
In case you missed it, here’s the gig on video.
The teens who named their favorite books for this list include athletes, honors students, non-readers, incarcerated girls, a prom queen, loners, computer game players, gay and straight teens, teens from the coasts and in between, teens of many races, artists, and writers. Their choices made the list (alphabetically) regardless if the books were award-winners, banned, popular, controversial, new, or classic. The sole criteria: these books are favorites.
1. Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak
2. M.T. Anderson, Feed
3. Anonymous, Go Ask Alice
4. Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler, The Future of Us
5. Isaac Asimov, The Foundation
6. Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
7. Emilie Autumn, The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls
8. Paolo Bacigalupi, Ship Breaker
9. Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
10. Misty Bernall, She Said Yes: The Unlikely Martyrdom of Cassie Bernall
11. Meredith Blevins, Hummingbird Wizard
12. Anthony Bourke and John Rendall, A Lion Called Christian
13. Libba Bray, Beauty Queens
14. Max Brooks, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War
15. Cupcake Brown, A Piece of Cake: A Memoir
16. Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code
17. Meg Cabot, Jinx
18. Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game
19. Kristin Cashore, Graceling
20. P.C. Cast, Destined (House of Night)
21. Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
22. Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None
23. Eoin Colfer, Artemis Fowl
24. Billy Collins, The Trouble with Poetry
25. Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games
26. Caroline B. Cooney, The Face on the Milk Carton
27. Chris Crutcher, Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes
28. Leah Cypess, Mistwood
29. Sarah Dessen, Keeping the Moon
30. Lauren DeStefano, Wither
31. M. C. Escher, Icons
32. Nancy Farmer, House of the Scorpion
33. Gayle Forman, If I Stay
34. Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch
35. William Golding, Lord of the Flies
36. William Goldman, The Princess Bride
37. Lori Gottlieb, Stick Figure
38. John Green, The Fault in our Stars
39. John Grisham, Bleachers
40. Teri Hall, The Line
41. Frank Herbert, Dune
42. Georgette Heyer, Devil’s Cub
43. Michelle Hodkin, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
44. Alice Hoffman, The Dovekeepers
45. Ellen Hopkins, Impulse
46. Emily Horner, A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend
47. Anthony Horowitz, Stormbreaker (Alex Rider)
48. Khaled Hosseini, Kite Runner
49. Jennifer Hubbard, Try Not to Breathe
50. Brian Jacques, Redwall
51. Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Pure Reason
52. Stephen King, Night Shift
53. Anthony Kiedis and Larry Sloman, Scar Tissue
54. Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild
55. Louis L’Amour, The Daybreakers
56. Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time
57. C. S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
58. Sarah Darer Littman, Want to Go Private?
59. Lois Lowry, The Giver
60. Gregory Maguire, Wicked
61. Yann Martel, Life of Pi
62. George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones
63. Patricia McCormick, Cut
64. Stephenie Meyer, Twilight
65. Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind
66. B.J. Myrick and Hazel Hart, The Dark Side of the Rainbow
67. Patrick Ness, The Knife of Never Letting Go
68. Caragh O’Brien, Birthmarked
69. Lauren Oliver, Delirium
70. George Orwell, 1984
71. Christopher Paolini, Eragon
72. Gary Paulsen, Hatchet
73. David Pelzer, A Boy Called It
74. Jodi Picault, My Sister’s Keeper
75. Tamora Pierce, Trickster’s Choice
76. Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
77. Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass
78. Julia Quinn, The Viscount Who Loved Me
79. Ayn Rand, Anthem
80. Philip Reeve, Mortal Engines (The Hungry City Chronicles)
81. Veronica Roth, Divergent
82. J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
83. R. A. Salvatore, Homeland (Forgotten Realms)
84. Elizabeth Scott, The Living Dead Girl
85. Alice Sebold, The Lovely Bones
86. Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook
87. Jerry Spinelli, Stargirl
88. John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men
89. Tupac Shakur, The Rose that Grew from Concrete
90. Art Spiegelman, Maus
91. Todd Strasser, Give A Boy A Gun
92. Jonathan Stroud, The Amulet of Samarkand
93. J.R.R Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
94. Omar Tyree, Flyy Girl
95. Wendelin Van Draanen, Flipped
96. Bill Watterson, The Essential Calvin and Hobbes
97. Elie Wiesel, Night
98. Jacqueline Woodson, Beneath a Meth Moon
99. Markus Zusak, The Book Thief
List compiled by Caragh M. O’Brien, June 18, 2012. Feel free to distribute. Comments welcome at caraghobrien.com.
Clever minds are at work in public art spaces. I was walking High Line Park in NYC with my family this weekend when we came upon a theater-type, open air seating area which descended downward, with windows at the bottom overlooking the traffic of 10th street that ran directly below. We gladly sat for a while, looking out the “screens” at the flowing taxis, thinking about how life is art if you look at it differently. Is “streetscape” a word? Probably.
This streetscape had a vanishing point, color, motion, and real-time change, and it was fun to see kids come down and press their faces to the glass, practically toppling into the traffic, but safe. I liked how the seating invited us to watch, like that was what we were called to do, unlike when you stand on a bridge, for instance, looking over the rail.
Imagine my delight when my family returned to street level, and we looked back at where we’d been sitting. From below, the same glass windows were again screens, but this time we were looking in, at the viewers in the theater area. When someone walked across the front carrying a white pole, a microphone boom, over his shoulder, we saw the movement from screen to screen, and realized there had to be some degree of magnification in the glass from this direction. The people above were super clear, super vivid.
It was wonderfully odd. And then it hit me: we’d been there shortly before, ourselves. If that theater space was now the artwork, we’d been in it. We’d been the subjects. But now we were the outside artwork for those observing from within.
We were art, on both sides of the glass, observers and subjects both times. I felt this leap of a connection to whatever mind set up the puzzle game in the first place, knowing that some day people like us would come and relish it. That’s vision. That’s trust. And I’m grateful.
The art was simply there, with no interpretive guide or anything, just waiting for us to entertain ourselves, experience it, and be changed forever.
My first delight of BEA yesterday was being in the same room with Stephen Colbert. I felt this inner gasp of Wow! There he is! He was small, silly and far away at the podium, but fortunately, there were two big projection screens on either side of the platform, so I could see him in his normal TV-esque headshot, too. He took the success of 50 Shades of Grey as an excuse to make random references to his throbbing member throughout his talk. Hysterical.
At lunch, a trustworthy bookseller told me that 200,000+ self-published titles were produced last year. Wow again! That’s a huge number. I hardly care what this means in terms of each writer trying to get noticed in the throng. What gladdens me is the idea of all these people writing. We are writers! I imagine this pent up longing to have our books out there, and now that there’s finally a convenient way to do it, tons of people are. For me, writing adds such a richness to my life, and I love knowing so many other people have a similar process in their lives, too.
Next wow: an hour’s worth of kids, librarians, bloggers, teachers, writer friends, and booksellers came through my signing line, some from as far away as Australia. Some of them had the kindest words to say about the Birthmarked series, and others were encountering it for the first time. It made me happy to introduce them to my editor and chat for a minute.
I woke at 3 a.m. with my head buzzing, playing over conversations with my editor, my agent, and the folks from Roaring Brook at dinner last night. My day in New York gave me a chance to see in a new way where my book fits in Roaring Brook, within Macmillan, within a stream of publishing houses, within a world of readers and writers. It’s kind of like the old lady who swallowed the fly, then the spider and onward, with me being the fly. Many thanks to Jon Yaged, Simon Boughton, and the team at Macmillan for bringing me in and making me feel so welcome.
BookExpo continues today and tomorrow at the Javits Center in New York City.
Sometimes I have a character appear.
Im sposed to keep a jurnal. FI ken rite 100 wrds, thal let me go out with thuther kids but I dont see no uther kids. Jus ol pepl. 29. Sgreen out ther tho. I lik this pen 2. Ma ear iches. Ma hair 2, cuz uv the stichs. 48. Thers mor stichs on ma arm 2 from the axsident. 58. I no yur gone to reed this so dont think Im gone tell you no secrits and you dont need to bothr teln me I cant spel nethr cuz I no all that. 91. FI kood jus rmembr the rest. Im dun. Dun.
Two years now I’ve kept this scrap of story. That’s all there is, but I love it. It makes my head take off in fifty different directions.
Next week is BookExpo America (BEA) in New York, and I’m excited to go. It’s a big publishing convention, apparently. What this involves on my end:
1. Picking comfortable shoes.
2. Printing off my schedule and a map of NY around the Javits Center.
3. Watching for my pass to come in the mail. Should it be here?
4. Checking if my agent’s phone number is in my cell phone.
5. Preparing to adjust to the unexpected and unfamiliar.
That last one is my favorite. No matter how many people give me tips about how difficult it is to get a taxi or where to stash ARC’s so they won’t be stolen, let’s face it: I don’t really know what I’m getting myself into. I love this sort of situation. Cool things could happen. I’ll probably meet some really nice people who love books. I’ll doubtless commit some dire solecism and survive. I’ll learn how people pronounce “BEA.” I’ll get lost, and then find my way. It’s all good.
If you happen to see me at BEA (I sign at 3:00 Tuesday, Table 21), please say hello. I’ll be happy to see you!