Sequel to a Bestseller: Harper Lee

This is the first of two postings concerning an interesting, and sometimes problematic situation in publishing: the sequel to a runaway bestseller. Like most aspiring authors, I hope the promise of my first work will convince a publisher to offer me a three-book contract, something that is fairly common. Doing so shows the writer that…

Concussion

In mid-August I attended a preseason football game at Heinz Stadium, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the National Football League team I’ve followed since my youth. Temperatures were in the low nineties with high humidity, and the Steelers lost to the Detroit Lions. All that being said, I found being at a professional game an…

To Know & Be Known #3: Cartoon Collection

The third part of this series is concerned with a way of knowing me that, compared to my commonplace book and personal library, may seem rather off-beat. I have collected editorial cartoons, cartoon strips and cartoons for years. At this point I reckon the binders pictured above contain close to a thousand or more of…

To Know & Be Known #2: Personal Library

Visiting a home for the first time, I tend to gravitate toward its bookcases when the opportunity presents itself. These repositories of knowledge communicate a variety of messages to the casual observer. For the purpose of this post I’m boiling them down to, 1.) expressing who the books’ owners aspire to be, or, 2.) who…

To Know & Be Known #1: Commonplace Book

Commonplace books (or commonplaces) were a way to compile knowledge, usually by writing information into books. They became significant in Early Modern Europe. “Commonplace” is a translation of the Latin term locus communis, which means “a theme or argument of general application,” such as a statement of proverbial wisdom. In this original sense, commonplace books…

Ought I have a “Bucket List”?

Nowadays many people are in the habit of compiling “Bucket Lists,” catalogs of experiences they want to have or things they wish to accomplish before “kicking the bucket.” Curiosity about this phrase’s origin led me to delve into my favorite resource on the meaning of words, the authoritative Oxford English Dictionary (OED). The theory regarding…

The way things used to be . . . perhaps: Part Two

How, then, have changes outlined in the first part of this blog (the introduction of personal computers and wordprocessing software, the re-definition of publishing as a commodity industry and the dawning of the Internet Age) affected the course of this honorable endeavor? Here’s my admittedly biased but informed take on each factor. Personal computers &…

Tiny House, Big World

The burgeoning “Tiny House Movement” has caught my eye. Broadly speaking, the concept involves ditching the large suburban dwellings (2 stories, 3-4 bedrooms, 2-3 bathrooms, 2-car garages, luxuriant lawn, etc.) that came into vogue in the U.S. in the boom decades following World War II, for homes whose footprints are appreciably more modest. I’ve come…

Writing: a process of reduction

In cooking, reduction is the process of thickening and intensifying the flavor of a liquid mixture such as a soup, sauce, wine, or juice by simmering or boiling. The more I write, the more I believe something analogous to reduction takes place as I self-edit and re-write (and re-write) a manuscript. True Confession #1: thus…

Returning the Flags – July 9, 2016

My July 11th post told how Michigan Civil War veterans donated their National colors and battle flags to the state in 1866. This time I will describe the recreation of the historic event, 150 years after the fact. It occurred to people that re-enacting the flag return ceremony would be a fitting “bookend” to Civil…

Returning the Flags – July 4, 1866

When the Civil War ended, Michigan’s Governor Henry Crapo (kray-poe) invited her veterans to donate their battle flags to the state. Over 122 regimental and National flags, many of which were torn from being in combat or were stained by their bearers’ blood, were handed in on July 4, 1866. (There were also captured Confederate…

The way things used to be . . . perhaps

Legend has it that, for most of the Twentieth Century, the American publishing industry worked like this: authors signed with New York houses to have their works appear in print. The writers traveled to the Big Apple to be coddled by their literary agents and publishers, whose blandishments included two-martini lunches and expensive dinners. The…