Friday, January 4, 2008

Holiday Roundup

I've been quiet lately, thanks to the holidays and then my return to work a couple of days ago. So this post is going to be a bit of catch-up for a lot of the things I've wanted to comment on in the last few weeks.

First off, thanks to a post by literary agent Jonathan Lyons, I read this very interesting piece by Dave Eggers. The part that is particularly interesting is his bit on selling out, which is a longish addendum to his response to the initial email. I've never had much concern over how avant garde anything was, but it was very interesting to read the rant of someone who once did, but no longer cares. I agree with Eggers' conclusion that tracking "sellouts" is just another form of fashion, and that might very well explain why I've never had any interest in it.

I saw an interesting post called Respecting Romance over at the BookEnds Literary Agency. This post was all about why some romance writers are embarrassed by their chosen genre, and why they shouldn't be. I don't read very much romance, and I definitely don't write it, but it recalled to mind the stigma that surrounds sci-fi and fantasy. I think most genres have some sort of stigma, actually, but here again -- it's all fashion. Write because you want to, and because your topic interests you. "Great art" can be formed in any genre -- any medium at all, in fact, as many artists have demonstrated.

Next I want to point out a post called Critters Vs. Betas (and the Dreaded Spouse Question) over at Dwight's Writing Manifesto -- and not just because he mentions me in the post. I recently posted some of my thinking on the topic, but Dwight has a new way of looking at it that I hadn't quite thought of before.

Literary agent Kristen Nelson recently made a post about the new Top Dealmaker feature at Publisher's Marketplace. I thought it was really useful information, and quite insightful (she usually is). It's good to have an agent's take on this sort of thing.

On an off-topic note, Stephen Parrish recently posted about Dinner For One, "a British one-act play [that] is a New Year's Eve tradition in Germany." Shortly after he mentioned this play (first time I'd ever heard of it), a German friend of my uncle brought it up. Go figure. Interestingly, the Wikipedia entry on the play notes that "although the sketch is most popular in non-English speaking countries, it is typically shown in the original English without dubbing or subtitles. Curiously, the film remains practically unknown to the English speaking world (except for Australia)." How very curious, indeed! Can you imagine a work of yours becoming a yearly tradition in some other country, but being utterly uncared-about in your native land?

I re-watched Terry Gilliam's cult classic Brazil the other day. It's a dystopian movie that made a big impression on me in high school, and which I've since counted as one of my top favorite movies even though I hadn't seen it for over eight years. My wife got it for me on DVD as a Christmas present, which was a really pleasant surprise. I was a little worried it might not seem as good now that I've grown up a lot more, but actually it was better than before. This movie is dense with symbolism, dark humor, and pointed social commentary. If you haven't seen this one, it's definitely worth a look -- the ending is probably my favorite movie ending of all time.

Have you ever heard of the (in)famous lexicographical term Mountweazel? I'm confident you'll find that trivia article both edifying and humorous.

Over the holiday break I read Stephen King's much-touted On Writing, and found it to be quite good. Most of you have probably read it already, but if not, it's definitely worth a read.

Another book that I'm finding even more helpful at present is Chris Roerden's Don't Murder Your Mystery. This is a very nuts-and-bolts book on writing, specifically aimed at Mystery writers. Don't let that fool you -- this gem is extremely applicable to all genres. The author has been a professional editor for over forty years, and she (yes, she's a female "Chris") really knows her stuff. For me, this book came at just the right time. I hope it finds you the same way.

And, I think that was about it!

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