Day Two at Book Expo America

Friday is here, and with it the Book Expo crowds. There are at least three times as many people
in the Convention Center today as yesterday. I saw one man in an elephant suit, a cadre of hip-looking black-haired
teenagers escorting a plush red character with X-ed out eyes, and several
sci-fi/fantasy/paranormal romance booths staffed by busty women in low-cut black
velvet and lace. Everyone is wearing
color-coded badges so we can tell the publishers from the industry
professionals from the exhibitors – though, frankly, what the difference is,
exactly, can only be explained using a Venn diagram. I spent my morning weaving my way through the
exhibition halls, introducing myself to writers and publishers (and, I’m sure,
a few industry professionals).



Everyone was very friendly, and very interested in WEbook, with one exception – the woman at the
Mystery Writers of America booth firmly
rebuffed my advances, telling me that, “We’re about getting traditionally
published. We’re a professional writers’ association.” Well! A glance at their website
tells me that “MWA is the premier organization for mystery and crime writers,
professionals allied to the crime writing field, aspiring crime writers, and
folks who just love to read crime fiction.” I guess that doesn’t include me.



My encounter with MWA reminded me of something Jeff Howe said yesterday
in his talk on crowd-sourcing: The internet enables and encourages “amateur
culture.” It’s no longer necessary to be
a professional designer in order to
get your t-shirt design recognized and created by Threadless. You don’t have to be a professional humor writer to get a cartoon caption in The New Yorker. The vast majority of
people populating LibraryThing
are definitely not professional librarians,
which is why the site’s bibliographic information is so rich, meaningful, and
downright fun.



Dictionary.com
defines amateur as “a
person who engages in a study, sport, or other activity for pleasure rather
than for financial benefit or professional reasons.” The word stems from the Latin amator – lover. I’d like to think pleasure and financial
benefit aren’t mutually exclusive, but in any case I’m all for loosening the
boundaries that determine who can create books (or t-shirts, or cartoons, or
songs). And I’d much rather read a book
written by a lover than by a professional.



In other news, I never found Clay
Shirky
, and downtown L.A. is an empty skin of a town, with no guts, no
heart, and no place to buy lunch. But
the weather’s nice.



-- Melissa



 





Day One at Book Expo America

I landed in L.A. late last night, all keyed up for Book Expo America. At today’s sessions, everyone was buzzing
about what appears to be the new holy trinity of the publishing world: Social Networking! Crowd-Sourcing! Digital Content!



The prevailing attitude towards Web 2.0 around here feels a
little schizophrenic. Lecture halls were
filled with publishers and writers looking alternately terrified, electrified, and
totally lost. Everyone seems to know
that something is happening –
something to do with communities of people gravitating around shared interests
and passions – but not everyone knows what it is, and even fewer people know
what it means or how to be a meaningful part of it.



The air in the L.A. Convention Center was thick with fear
and urgency, and I wondered if this was how the recording industry felt around
the time rock ‘n roll was invented. Then
I remembered that this kind of thing has happened many times before, and will
happen many times in the future. Rock ‘n
roll, jazz, reality TV, Web 1.0.  Something new is being born, and those who are
on the outside – both stuffed suits and creative types – are scrambling to get
a foothold, bombarded by increasingly shrill proclamations that this is going to change everything and
nothing will ever be the same again.
More than anything, people are afraid of being left behind, rendered
obsolete. Again and again, I heard these
questions:



“Will online content kill offline content?”



“Is the book a thing of the past?”



“Do I need a Facebook profile? A Twitter
feed? A MySpace
page?”



And most plaintive of all: “Who are all these people,
what do they want, and how can I make them like me (and my product)?”



Personally, I think a lot of this anxiety is misplaced. Every established entity fears being replaced
by the new. In some cases this fear is
well-grounded – we don’t do a lot of riding around in horse-drawn carriages
anymore, for instance. Cars replacing
carriages is something like MP3 replacing CD replacing cassette tape replacing
8-track replacing vinyl. The format
changes, but the essential product (transportation vehicle; audio recording)
stays the same. That’s part of what we’re
seeing in publishing: Paper gets
replaced by e-books, various digital readers, and other alternative delivery
sources. These changes aren’t a real
threat to publishing. The book remains the book, it just looks a little different.



The real revolution happens when the way a book gets
created, and what a book actually
means, gets turned on its head. That’s
what people are really thinking of when they invoke the trinity of social
networking, crowd-sourcing, and digital content. Suddenly the power shifts into the hands of
communities, where the boundaries between creator, publisher, and consumer
blur.



I’m with everyone else in not knowing quite what this means
for the future, but I’m not too worried about the death of the book – or, at
least, not about the death of reading and writing. A few years ago, we all predicted that
reality TV would take over the airwaves. And, sure, there are a lot more reality shows than there were when there
were none. But there are still plenty of
scripted shows, too. As a consumer, now
I have one more type of entertainment to choose from than I did before. Even the music industry, the ultimate example
of what happens when bigwig corporate types fail to see the writing on the wall
– and the embodiment of every publisher’s fear of impending obsolescence – experienced
a revolution in how its product gets distributed and consumed, but not a
revolution of its product. People might
not buy albums anymore, but they still make and buy and listen to music.



I predict that in the future, readers will have a lot more
choices when they’re looking for reading material. Crowd-sourced Civil War history? Check. Bite-sized stories just right for a two-minute wait at the
supermarket? Check. Collaborative contemporary political
analysis? Check. Old fashioned 453-page novel written by a
single author? Check, check, check. The Web 2.0 revolution, as far as I can tell,
will be one of big gains, for readers, writers, and the most flexible, savvy
publishers.



Of course, every publisher wants to be flexible and
savvy. Which is why they brought in the
experts to stand at podiums and drink bottled water and tell us what’s up. I jumped around from session to session, scribbling
furiously. These were the highlights of
my day:



Jeff Howe of Wired and author of the
forthcoming Crowdsourcing: Why the Power
of the Crowd is Driving the Future of Business.



Jeff talked a lot about models like Threadless, where the community creates, selects,
and ultimately markets and buys its own product.  Threadless makes cool crowd-sourced T-shirts. WEbook
makes cool crowd-sourced books. As you
can imagine, I listened intently – and afterwards I had the chance to shake
Jeff’s hand and slip him a copy of Pandora, WEbook’s first published book and a
particularly gutsy example of crowd-sourcing – a novel written by 17 authors
and 17 other contributors! Of which I
am one. </own-horn-tooting>



Tim Spalding, founder
of LibraryThing



First of all, LibraryThing
is the coolest site devoted to reading and books that I’ve seen in a long time. If you’re not a member yet, check it out. Second of all, Tim is one smart cookie. He spoke eloquently about the limitlessness
of the digital vs. the physical world, and he introduced me to a word I’d never
heard before: “Book sales are epiphenomenal.” He also pointed out the key to all the
user-generated, crowd-sourcing hype: “Give
users the opportunity to do something for themselves, not the opportunity to do
something for you.”



I, for one, am taking heed. What opportunities does WEbook
offer you, dear WEbookers? I’d love to hear it from the collective horse’s
mouth.



Tim was also kind enough to accept a copy of Pandora. Who knows, maybe he’s reading it in his hotel
room right this second.



Tomorrow? Notes from
the exhibition hall.



-- Melissa





P.S. I was totally
bummed that I missed Clay Shirky, author
of Here
Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations
.
Word on the street is that he’s bald, so I may spend the rest of the expo tapping the shoulder of every bald man I meet, hoping to strike
gold.  Wish me luck.





Our Train Tales Makes the Mundane Memorable

Ourtraintales
Here’s a nifty idea: Take
an experience many people have shared, and invite people to share their
experiences. Add the timelessness,
romance, and adventure of a train ride, and you’ve got a recipe for great
story-telling. That’s the concept behind
Our Train Tales, a WEbook collection of short non-fiction
stories that take place on the various point-to-point railway systems around
the world.



Says Project Leader iMorpheus, “Our Train Tales is an
extension of my approach to photography: The Minutiae of Everyday Life: Making
the mundane memorable. Your average day is just that: average. Most people, in
developed countries, do not experience catastrophic events on a daily basis. So
what is their day made up of? Well, going to the supermarket; dropping the kids
off at school; reaching work on time; and interacting with coworkers and
recalcitrant machinery or software. So, via retelling, my goal is to make these
events significant.”



Whether it’s the daily commute or a three-thousand-mile
journey, share your train tale on Our Train Tales.



-- Melissa





WEbooker of the WEek Candice Tells the Truth

In the overview of her WEbook project Creative
Nonfiction
, candice writes:



Candice_2











I'm no good at creating
characters or devising plots. Poems only come to me once in a blue moon. But I
still love to write! Under my bed and in my closet are chock full of 'stories'
in countless journals and over time these true stories or viewpoints have been
written in a kind of style that's beyond factual, technical reporting. I've
come to learn that this 'style,' this thing I automatically do, has a name;
creative non-fiction!









In addition to Creative
Nonfiction
, you can find candice’s
“true stories and viewpoints” in her project Dreaming On, a
collection of “recurring, strange, erotic, terrifying, or prophetic” dreams
from WEbookers far and wide, plus a handful of other WEbook
projects-in-progress
, including Motherhood and  Rhyme +
Rhythm = Reason for Living.
She’s also written over 2 dozen reviews of work
by her fellow WEbookers!





In recognition of her quality submissions and
insightful reviews, candice is the recipient
of the coveted WEbooker
of the WEek
award. What better way
to introduce her to her soon-to-be-adoring fans than to ask her to share the
true story of her writing life?





Here it is, WEbookers! Enjoy.





***





I
was born in Manhattan in 1977 (year of the big blackout and Son of Sam) from
Puerto Rican and Dominican parents. I was mostly raised in Queens and have been
living in Brooklyn for about 7 years. I lost my mom to cancer 10 years ago. She
gave me my middle name, Candice, so it is the penname I give myself here in
order to honor her.



 



When
I am not writing or thinking of what to write, I am raising my 1 year old son,
Alex. I try to take part in the local La Leche League meetings once a month, a
group of mothers who breastfeed. Once a week I teach Spanish to Senior Citizens
that are mostly African Americans from the South and who have wanted to better
communicate with Latinos in their community.



 



Like
many people, I’ve had my share of odd jobs, enjoying some more than others;
receptionist, tutor, note taker for Deaf students, babysitter, pageant model’s
assistant, park cleaner, cashier, summer English teacher. I am almost done with my studies at Hunter
college in Latin American Caribbean Studies.



 



When
I was about 12 or 13 I was given a diary. I pretty much haven’t stopped writing
since. Aside from the cathartic venting I get to do, it took me awhile to
realize that writing could be done with more flair, style, and fun, so I
started to take it more seriously. My
thing seems to be creative nonfiction, memoir-type pieces.





***





As an extra bonus, I asked candice to share her
least favorite work in the English language. The verdict: Horny. So if you’re going to
write a steamy submission on WEbook, and
you want a good review from a WEbooker
of the WEek
, be sure to use the words aroused
or in the mood. Anything but horny.





Till next time, happy writing!





-- Melissa







Today on WEbook


We’ve made a few improvements to the way things work around WEbook. I thought you’d like to know.



Ratings:
All WEbook
submissions can now receive a rating along with feedback! If you’ve given feedback to submissions
already, you can go back and add a rating. Since WEbook submissions are
constantly being revised and improved, you can change your rating at any
time. Ratings are a great tool for
writers to gauge reader response at a glance, and for leaders of multi-author
projects to decide which submissions should be included in the finished
project.



Search: You can now filter your search for
projects by genre/topic and language. You can also search
for groups
by name or description.



FAQ: We updated our FAQ, so if you’ve been finding yourself
with frequent questions, check it out. A
particularly nifty video
overview
can be found at “What
is WEbook About?



I hope you’re as pleased about all this as I am, WEbookers. As always, we’re dying to hear your feedback
and suggestions for how we can make WEbook
an even better home for writers, readers, reviewers, and other creative
folks. Leave
feedback on the forum
, or email us at info@webook.com.



Happy writing!



-- Melissa





WEbooker of the WEek Survives the New Millenium With a Name from the Fifties

Bobby_nelson
Visit Bobby_Nelson’s profile and
you may suspect that this is no ordinary WEbooker. You’ll be right. With two projects underway – "Laugh
It Up, Mandy" Anecdotal Fame: Celebrities and Our Stories
and How to Survive in the
New Millenium With a Name from the Fifties
– and submissions with
titles like “Where’d
you get this afro pick?”
and “The
pug’s gift
,” the man clearly has a flair for words. Click a bit deeper and you’ll find insightful
reviews, intriguing poetry, and perhaps the world’s most original method for getting
out of a speeding ticket
. (No, I’m
not going to tell you what it is. You’ll
have to go over to 101
Things Every Man Should Know How to Do
and find
out for yourself
.)



And so, ladies and gentlemen, it is my
privilege to present to you: Bobby_Nelson, WEbooker of the WEek.



When he’s not busy WEbooking, Bobby_Nelson is a
substitute high school teacher. Come
December, he will be an officially licensed saint/superhero – also known as a “high
school English teacher.” He’s 24 years
old and he lives in Fairfax, Virginia.  According to his own claims, Bobby_Nelson enjoys
abbreviating common words in everyday speech. An example? "Hey, can you hand me that
penc'? Sweet, much apprec'."



In answer to
the pressing question, “What the heck is that all about?”Bobby_Nelson answers, “I figure I'm saving air and syllables
for when I really need them, like if I sink to the bottom of the sea and I
encounter very speech rhythm-conscious fish.”



Hey, he’s WEbooker of the
WEek, he can abbreviate all he wants.



Finally, in
response to my entirely undignified begging and pleading, Bobby_Nelson
agreed to share a sneak preview from what he calls his “half-life memoir.”  (Whatever that means.) This is some very exclusive stuff, WEbookers – enjoy.



From How to
Survive in the New Millenium with a Name from the Fifties




"Triumphant Dan, my
co-pilot for this trip and friend for this life, turned the volume knob to the
right, blaring Vince Neil’s vocals just as he bellowed “Girls, Girls, Girls”
for the 786th time in the song. I forget why I gave Dan the “Triumphant”
moniker. In fact, I’m not sure that he, or I for that matter, had done anything
triumphant enough in the definitive sense of the word to truly earn the
distinction. But I had called him that for so long when we first became
friends, so changing the name seemed absurd to me just to fit the word’s
parochial dictionary definition. Maybe he would triumph in some way by the end
of this trip. Maybe I would triumph in some way by the end of this trip.

       





We arrived in Ann Arbor, a city I liken to an uncle with a
Ph.D., but who also has a house complete with an ice luge and a penchant for
Wendy’s late night drive-thru. The town had grown along with the University of
Michigan; stone-faced city buildings were situated between regal and historic
university landmarks and townhouses inhabited by undergrads living and dying
with every shot in their game of beer pong. Ann Arbor was the perfect middle
ground for a union between young and old, mature and otherwise, eloquence and
locker room talk. It only made sense that we had come to the city for our
friends’ wedding."


***




"I took I-94 East into a city that had been as damaged verbally as it has
been by history and crime: Detroit. I didn’t care about the maladies of this
once thriving metropolis, this was reality. D.C. sometimes seems too polished,
like it’s hiding something, be it a president getting to third base, a massive
monetary kickback financing a private vacation to the Bahamas, or a member of
congress getting hot via an instant message with a 16-year old boy. Detroit, on
the other hand, can’t hide that kind of filth; the people here know that fault
exists and refuse to pretend it can be covered up easily, their collective
conscience won’t let them. Their mayor is a philanderer and a thief, abandoned
houses rot into urban prairie while many struggle to find a decent home,
buildings gutted by fire serve as known drug dens. These visible scars that
draw the jeers of outsiders are more a sign of an acknowledged past that
strengthens the core of a city’s resolve to improve, rather than a symbol of
inability to prevent urban blight."



Read more
(and let Bobby_Nelson know what you
think) here.



Congrats, Bobby_Nelson!



-- Melissa



 





WEbooker of the WEek Goes to Drunken Uncle Anowalk

Anowalk
In keeping with a glorious new tradition here at WEbook, Monday marks WEbooker of the WEek day. This week’s recipient is anowalk. Anowalk
is no stranger to WEbook. In his own words: “In terms of the WEbook family, I’m the uncle that refuses to
grow up; the one who always shows up for family functions, but drunk or without
pants on.”



I don’t know about the pants, but I do know that anowalk’s been around the block. Along with 33 other writers, editors, and
other contributors, he helped create Pandora, WEbook’s first published book. (Once you buy the book, flip to
Chapter 53 to read anowalk’s
contribution.)



More recently, anowalk
has become something of a WEbook
superhero
. In the past couple of
weeks, he’s penned an extremely helpful article for 101
Things Every Man Should Know How to Do
,
on “How to Tell if She’s Faking it”; a
poem about a family reunion
; and a Haiku Life Story
with my personal favorite sub-title of all time:



First Time Out of NJ, I Land at a
California Airport with $40, Half A Pack of Cigarettes, Two Shirts, a Granola
Bar and My Uncharged Cell Phone to Discover My Brother Has Forgotten to Pick Me
Up, At Which Point I Remember and Finally Understand a Philosophy Lecture I
Attended in College About Nature and the Sublime.



So who is this anowalk
character?



It turns out that he was born in Washington D.C. a month and
a half late in the summer of 1983, the youngest of three sons. His father is a high school math teacher; his
mother a “short Hungarian woman who can’t stop reading.” Anowalk left home at 18 to
experience the “mystical wonders of working minimum-wage jobs at Wal-Mart,
overnights at Shoprite and slinging coffee at Seattle’s Best.”



When asked about his history with writing, anowalk  says: “I
began writing sport articles for my middle school newspaper in 7th grade.
In the 12 years since I’ve branched out to poetry and fiction prose.
Writing is what my mind has always seemed to turn back to:  Bored in
class, in church, sitting in traffic, at the dentist’s office.  I dream up
characters, try to figure out their history and what their story is, or I jot
down haiku and random lines of a ghazal. I turn 25 in August.  That
birthday marks a tipping point in my life – 12 years not writing, 13 years
writing.  Man, I’m getting friggin’ old.”



I’m not even going to touch that “friggin’ old” assessment,
which can only be interpreted as malicious provocation for those of us who saw
25 come and go a while ago. But I do
have to ask: Anowalk, what the heck is a ghazal?



I assume it’s some kind of poem, and if I’m right, I’m sure anowalk is an authority. He studied literature and philosophy at
Ramapo College of New Jersey, and his favorite type of writing is poetry; he
loves “the play between passion and brevity that comes with a good poem.”



When he’s not writing or reading, anowalk enjoys black &
white photography, Joss Whedon shows, aggressive women, poker, his
exceptionally tall roommate Tommy Two-Tone, clicky pens, politically incorrect
jokes, the word buxom, talking about himself in third person, and making lists.



If he could pitch any two animals against one another in a one-on-one arena
battle, he’d choose a polar bear and a rabid silver-back gorilla. His prediction? The gorilla would KO the bear in the first
round. To which I say: Duh, you made the silver-back gorilla rabid. This hardly seems fair. But I’ll
give the guy a pass – after all, he is WEbooker of the WEek.



Congrats, anowalk,
and enjoy 25 while you can. It’s all downhill
from here.



-- Melissa





Guest Blog: Top WEbooker Sarah on How to Write a Good Project Overview

As the project leader of Ex-Pat
Journal
, one of the most active projects on WEbook, today’s guest blogger, Sarah, knows a thing or two about
attracting readers and writers to a WEbook
project. The first step? Write a good overview. Here’s what Sarah has to say about that
all-important introduction to your WEbook
project.



-- Melissa



***



The
project overview is the first thing potential writers or contributors see when
they click on your WEbook project, so you
want it to be good. It should be inviting, inspiring, informative, and possibly
even fun. Here are some tips for making the most of that introductory page.



  • Be Broad. If you’re looking for other writers to contribute to your project, you'll want to start off by being as broad as possible. It is important to attract as many writers, readers, and critiquers as you can, because the more active your project, the better the published result will
    be. To get top notch writers, phrase your subject matter in a way that intrigues people; that way they'll immediately think, "Yes, that's happened to me, too! I should tell my story about that time . . ." The more people who can relate, the more potential writers and readers you'll have. A project overview about the carpet cleaners in Southwestern Washington is probably not quite broad enough. "Love" might be a more universal topic.


  • Be Narrow. Once you've established how widespread your project is, you'll want to narrow it down, and give it a distinct slant. "Love" is a topic that many people can speak to, but you might want to ask some follow up questions or propose ways writers can interact with the subject—remember, your project overview does more than just tell about your book. It also acts as a prompt or springboard for great ideas. You might want to suggest a few ways writers can interpret love:
         bouncing back from a break-up, the first time, or even internet dating.


  • Use Specific Details. Nothing makes writing come alive like plugging in some good concrete
         details about your subject. Whether it is bagels on a platter arranged in concentric circles or a faded orange t-shirt that reads, "Hugs, not drugs," using real-life details makes even a project overview interesting.


  • Be Concise. You only have so much space, so it is important to get your message across in the fewest words possible. Once you've written a draft, go back and tighten it up. Writers can tell at a glance if a project is right for them, so make that glance worthwhile.


  • Ask For Help. If you’re looking for a specific type of contribution or feedback, say so in the
         overview! Do you want writers to submit articles on a particular facet of your topic to help round out an anthology? Are you writing the first draft of a novel, and you want readers’ first impressions of your characters or plot, or help figuring out what happens next? Are you submitting a more polished manuscript, and looking for intensive editorial guidance? The project overview is the place to establish what kind of collaboration you’re in the market for.


-- Sarah





WEbooker of the WEek KellyNPaterson Will Never See These People Again

Kellynpatterson
Q:
What do you do with a WEbooker who has started four WEbook projects and written in six more,
for a total of 24 submissions, including a story
about a Tanzanian bus
and another about a
trip to a swinger’s club
?



A: You name her WEbooker of the WEek, of
course! In keeping with this newly-minted
tradition, KellyNPaterson
will receive the respect and admiration of her peers, along with a crisp new WEbook T-shirt. One glance at KellyNPaterson’s profile
makes it clear that her life story is far too varied and fascinating to be
summarized here, so I decided to ask her a few Qs of my own.



***



Q:  KellyNPaterson, you’re
the WEbooker of the WEek! How does that make you feel?



A: Oh, Vishnu!  Does this mean I have
to write a “Thank You” speech?!  Wow!  Where do I start?  Well,
I am going to have to start with all my creditors, because if it weren’t for
you, well, I would not have to write for a living…



Q: When was the last time you got into a
fight?  Who was it with, and what was it about?



A: About a week ago in London, with a British
woman in a wheelchair.  Yes, I fought with a woman in a wheelchair!
The woman called me a “spoiled American brat” (to my face—which is NOT very
British, I might add…) and, well, I do not care if you are in a wheelchair or
not, you call me names and I am going to respond!  What—did you expect me
to just WALK away? 



Yes, I know, very bad joke, but I think I already have a
reputation for not being very politically-ERECT. 



Q: In your profile, the title of
your memoir is “Laughing
at Oxygen
.” How did you come up with
this name?



A: In the middle of nowhere, Tanzania, I worked
as a Science Teacher Trainer for the Tanzanian Department of Education.  I
spent a lot of time in makeshift laboratories teaching Tanzanian Science
Teachers how to conduct science lessons without electricity or indoor plumbing.



Just about everything in Tanzania was funny to me (I was 19,
folks!)—from the language (there are 6 ways to say “no problem” in Kiswahili—depending
on the problem), to being charged by a herd of Cape Buffalo or getting a bat
stuck in my hair (and other close encounters of the large mammal kind), to making
an ass out of myself in front of Jane Goodall.  I could not hide my amusement—so the Mhehe (the
Tanzanian tribe I lived with) put my work and my incessant giggling together,
and named me “Anachecka Oxygena”: She
Who Laughs at Oxygen. 



Q:  You find yourself awake at
4:00 in the morning.  Did you just wake up or are you still up from the
night before?  What are you up to?  Are you alone?



A: If I am up at 4 AM, I am either looking for a Taco Bell (after a
night of partying, even if I happen to be in a Bengali village or Prague), or I
waking up to catch a plane to Suriname or such. 



Q:  Anything else you'd like
WEbookers to know?



A: My personal motto:  “I will never see these people
again!”  It works because it enables one to make an ass of oneself just about
anywhere, under any circumstances, and have no regrets.





***



To learn more about KellyNPaterson, check
out her stories in Ex-Pat Journal, Life Stories, and
What is
Your Dangerous Idea?



-- Melissa







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