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Love and a happy ending: Romance fiction to help you through a coronavirus lockdown

<p>Romance fiction has two <a href="https://www.rwa.org/Online/Romance_Genre/About_Romance_Genre.aspx">defining features</a>.</p> <p>First, it centres on a love story. Secondly, it always ends well.</p> <p>Our protagonists end up together (if not forever, then at least for the foreseeable future) and this makes the world around them a little bit better, too.</p> <p>In times of uncertainty, upheaval and chaos, readers often turn to romance fiction: during the second world war, Mills &amp; Boon was able to maintain its paper ration <a href="https://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198204558.001.0001/acprof-9780198204558">by arguing</a> its books were good for the morale of working women.</p> <p>The books the company was producing in this period were not about the war. Most never even mentioned it. Instead, they provided an escape for readers to a world where they could be assured everything was going to turn out all right: love would conquer all, villains would be defeated, and lovers would always find their way back to each other.</p> <p>Today, romance publishing is a <a href="https://www.rwa.org/Online/Romance_Genre/About_Romance_Genre.aspx">billion-dollar industry</a>, with thousands of novels published each year. It covers a wide range of subgenres: from historical to contemporary, paranormal to sci-fi, from novels where the only physical interaction between the protagonists is a kiss, to erotic romance where sex is fundamental to the story.</p> <p><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_34_(Internet_meme)">Rule 34</a> of the internet states if you can think of something, then there’s porn of it. The same, I would argue, is true for romance fiction.</p> <p>But where to begin? As both a scholar of romance fiction and an avid reader of it, I’ve put together this list of five great reads for people who might want to start exploring the genre.</p> <p><strong>If you like Jane Austen, try…</strong></p> <p><strong><em><a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42279630-the-austen-playbook">The Austen Playbook</a></em> by Lucy Parker</strong></p> <p><em>The Austen Playbook</em> is the fourth book in Parker’s London Celebrities series (all only loosely connected, so you can jump in anywhere).</p> <p>Heroine Freddy is an actress from an esteemed West End family, trying to balance her desire to perform in musicals and crowd-pleasers over her family pushing her towards serious drama. Hero Griff is a theatre critic and his family estate is playing host to a wacky live-action Jane Austen murder mystery, in which Freddy is playing Lydia.</p> <p>Parker is a gifted author, and this book is a light, bright and sparkling delight.</p> <p><strong>If you like (or hate!) dating apps, try…</strong></p> <p><strong><a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863092-the-right-swipe"><em>The Right Swipe</em></a> by Alisha Rai</strong></p> <p>Many people now find partners on dating apps, but these apps are often <a href="https://theconversation.com/right-swipes-and-red-flags-how-young-people-negotiate-sex-and-safety-on-dating-apps-128390">not exactly friendly</a> for women.</p> <p>Rai addresses that to great effect in <em>The Right Swipe</em>, where heroine Rhiannon is the designer of a dating app designed specifically for women.</p> <p>She meets hero Samson the first time as a result of swiping right, and then the second time, months later, when he’s teamed up with one of her primary business rivals…</p> <p><strong>If you’re fascinated by psychology, try …</strong></p> <p><strong><a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35852829-the-love-experiment"><em>The Love Experiment</em></a> by Ainslie Paton</strong></p> <p>Paton is one of Australia’s smartest and most underrated romance authors. <em>The Love Experiment</em> draws on the <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0146167297234003">36 questions</a> developed by psychologist Arthur Aron to explore whether intimacy could be generated or intensified between two people if they exchanged increasingly personal information.</p> <p>The 36 questions were popularised in Mandy Len Catron’s 2015 New York Times essay <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/11/style/modern-love-to-fall-in-love-with-anyone-do-this.html"><em>To Fall In Love With Anyone, Do This</em></a>. Here, journalist protagonists Derelie and Jackson undertake the experiment in Paton’s book, only to find love is more complex than 36 questions.</p> <p><strong>If you think we need to save the oceans, try…</strong></p> <p><strong><a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42016094-project-saving-noah"><em>Project Saving Noah</em></a> by Six de los Reyes</strong></p> <p>This book emerges from <a href="https://romanceclassbooks.com/about/">RomanceClass</a>, a fascinating community of English-language romance writers and readers based in the Philippines. One of their distinctive features is their collaboration with local actors in Manila to perform excerpts from the books (including <em>Project Saving Noah</em>) at their <a href="https://romanceclassbooks.com/live-reading/aprilfeelsday2019/">regular gatherings</a>. I was privileged enough to attend one of these last year.</p> <p>Protagonists Noah and Lise are graduate students in oceanography competing for one spot on a research project, while simultaneously being forced to work together. Their romance is conflicted and compelling, but what stands out about this book is the vividness with which their environment – natural and academic – is constructed.</p> <p><strong>If you like your protagonists to have some maturity, try…</strong></p> <p><strong><a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/44084867-mrs-martin-s-incomparable-adventure"><em>Mrs Martin’s Incomparable Adventure</em></a> by Courtney Milan</strong></p> <p>If Milan’s name sounds familiar, it’s because she was at the centre of the <a href="https://theconversation.com/if-the-romance-writers-of-america-can-implode-over-racism-no-group-is-safe-130034">recent scandal</a> engulfing the Romance Writers of America, which penetrated through romance’s usual cultural invisibility.</p> <p>When she’s not standing up against systemic racism, Milan writes excellent, mostly historical, romance. Mrs Martin is a delightful historical romp, as our two heroines Bertrice (aged 73) and Violetta (aged 69) team up against Violetta’s terrible nephew, and fall in love and eat cheese on toast together.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/133784/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/jodi-mcalister-135765">Jodi McAlister</a>, Lecturer in Writing, Literature and Culture, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/love-and-a-happy-ending-romance-fiction-to-help-you-through-a-coronavirus-lockdown-133784">original article</a>.</em></p>

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5 minutes with author Bernard Gallate

<p>In <em>5 minutes with author</em>, <em>Over60</em> asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Bernard Gallate, a writer, illustrator and teacher based in Sydney. He worked in the animation industry for companies such as Hanna-Barbera and Walt Disney before turning to writing and illustrating children’s books. His first contemporary novel, <em>The Origin of Me </em>is out now.</p> <p><em>Over60</em> talked with Gallate about creating children’s books, dealing with writers’ block, and Ruth Park’s timeless work.</p> <p><strong><em>Over60</em>: What is your best writing tip? </strong><strong>Alternatively, what is the worst writing advice you’ve ever received?</strong></p> <p>Bernard Gallate: Good tip: Experiment with perspective. Instead of always writing from within a character, step back a little and give them free reign occasionally, as if you’re observing them doing their own thing.</p> <p>Worst tip: “Keep writing regardless of how you’re feeling”. I think it’s ultimately more productive to spend a little time tending to your internal state, instead of pressing on defiantly in a terrible mood. Small excursions and occasional treats are always beneficial.</p> <p><strong>How did you find writing a novel compared to writing children’s books?</strong></p> <p>I think everything has to be more distilled, more concise when writing children’s books because of the size restrictions dictated by format. There was definitely more freedom to explore multiple ideas in the early stages of writing my novel, <em>The Origin of Me</em>. Later in the process though, structuring and re-structuring became a huge challenge – especially with a dual narrative involved.</p> <p><strong>What book(s) are you reading right now?</strong></p> <p>I’ve just started <em>The Drover’s Wife</em> by Leah Purcell.</p> <p><strong>What was the last book that made you laugh?</strong></p> <p><em>Nothing to See Here </em>by Kevin Wilson. It’s about a young woman, Lillian, who’s cajoled into becoming the nanny of twins who spontaneously combust when upset. The premise sounds grisly, but the book is a hilarious spin on the tale of an underdog prevailing against the odds.</p> <p><strong>When it comes to writing, do you plan ahead or go with the flow?</strong></p> <p>I prepare as much as possible, then jump right in and yield to the flow whenever it comes and wherever it takes me. Going somewhere unexpected and maybe a little risky is always preferable to stagnating. I wrote a 25-page synopsis for <em>The Origin of Me, </em>but the story was constantly evolving right up to the final draft.</p> <p><strong>How do you deal with writer’s block?</strong></p> <p>I give myself permission to play, go on an excursion, a walk or a swim. The solution often comes when I’m not fixated on finding it. If a scene is a bit stodgy, I challenge myself to transform it into something tasty, or remove it. A lot of my worst sections have become favourites.</p> <p><strong>Which author, deceased or living, would you most like to have dinner with?</strong></p> <p>Ruth Park. Her widely acclaimed first novel, <em>The Harp in the South, </em>has never been out of print. And after twelve years of working at The Rocks Discovery Museum, I still have young visitors telling me that <em>Playing Beatie Bow </em>is their favourite book. I love her descriptions of Sydney’s Surry Hills and The Rocks in earlier, leaner times, and her characters are unforgettable.</p> <p><strong>What trope grinds your gears? </strong></p> <p>The gay character being portrayed as witty, flamboyant and neurotic but destined for a tragic ending like a briefly spectacular firework is a bit overdone. Hopefully my character, Pericles Pappas, is a bit more nuanced. I’m always a sucker for the outsider finding their place in the world, and for the average protagonist doing something exceptional.</p>

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Guide to the classics: The Great Gatsby

<p><em>The Great Gatsby</em>, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 masterpiece of the Jazz Age, ushers readers into a corrupt but glittering world of cocktails, fast cars, stolen kisses and broken dreams. Status anxiety and conspicuous consumption generate a dazzling, often surreal poetry as the novel unfolds over a single summer in Long Island, New York. Beneath them trembles an ominous sense of malaise.</p> <p>The novel is narrated in the first-person by Nick Carraway, a well-to-do Yale graduate from the Midwest, whose limited acquaintance with the millionaire Jay Gatsby is the reader’s only window onto the mysterious title character.</p> <p>Fitzgerald’s editor Max Perkins complained to the author that Gatsby’s characterisation was too vague — that readers “can never quite focus upon him” — but this criticism missed the point. Jay Gatsby is not a man but “an unbroken series of successful gestures”, the product of an age — not unlike today’s culture of Instagrammable celebrity — in which identity is less a matter of innate qualities than of projecting an image.</p> <p>Fittingly, the only God invoked in Gatsby appears on a billboard, in the famous image of oculist Dr J.T. Eckleberg’s gigantic blue eyes looking down on events in admonition.</p> <p><strong>The Great American novel</strong></p> <p>Although short in length, The Great Gatsby is widely recognised as an exemplar of that most elusive of literary phenomena: <a href="http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674659896&amp;content=reviews">the Great American Novel</a>. It achieves aesthetic greatness as a self-conscious <em>tour de force</em>, the product of Fitzgerald’s desire “to write something new – something extraordinary and beautiful and simple [and] intricately patterned” as he wrote in a 1922 <a href="http://www.lettersofnote.com/2012/01/something-extraordinary.html">letter</a> to Perkins.</p> <p>Its American-ness is likewise self-conscious: one of Fitzgerald’s working titles was Under the Red, White, and Blue, and Nick’s account of Gatsby’s rise and fall exposes deep flaws and fissures underlying the American Dream of unlimited social mobility.</p> <p>Affirming the presence of class prejudice in the land where all men were supposedly created equal, Gatsby constructs a fragile romance across the gulf between old and new money — a gulf that separates Gatsby from his love interest Daisy and her husband Tom Buchanan. Whereas Daisy and Tom come from established families, Gatsby lacks pedigree. The sources of his vast wealth are the subject of much speculation as his colossal mansion dwarfs those of other millionaires with freshly-minted fortunes.</p> <p><strong>Erosion of orthodoxies</strong></p> <p>Like many of his modernist contemporaries, Fitzgerald was fascinated by the erosion of old orthodoxies and traditional constraints in the aftermath of the first world war. For women, many taboos on dress and deportment were lifting, and Gatsby’s female characters play sports, dance wildly, and drink and smoke to excess — even in the midst of <a href="http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/prohibition/unintended-consequences/">Prohibition</a>. Yet for all its “spectroscopic gaiety”, such license brings little fulfilment.</p> <p>In Chapter 1, the jaded Daisy expresses a sense of crippling ennui: “I think everything’s terrible anyhow […] And I KNOW. I’ve been everywhere and seen everything and done everything […] God, I’m sophisticated!”</p> <p>Those with the right connections can afford to be amoral. When Daisy accidentally runs down Myrtle and flees the scene in Gatsby’s “monstrous” car, Tom manages a cover-up, shifting the blame onto Gatsby. As Nick reflects:</p> <blockquote> <p>They were careless people, Tom and Daisy — they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness […] and let other people clean up the mess they had made.</p> </blockquote> <p>Social mobility and the question of race</p> <p>In the year of Gatsby’s publication, US President Calvin Coolidge announced “the chief business of the American people is business”, and in Fitzgerald’s novel it seems that “the pursuit of happiness” — that vague third term in the <a href="https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration">Declaration of Independence</a> — has been reduced to the pursuit of material success.</p> <p>Even romance and tragedy obey the logic of boom and bust. Nick reports in stockbroking language that Gatsby’s failure “temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men”, and Gatsby’s love for Daisy — a golden girl whose voice is “full of money” — is as deeply rooted in class and material aspirations as in sexual or personal attachment.</p> <p>He desires not only Daisy but what winning her would symbolise. Indeed when the penniless Gatsby first met her, Daisy’s social elevation as a Kentucky debutante is said to have “increased her value in his eyes”.</p> <p>Gatsby’s publication coincided with a high water mark of racism and xenophobia in the United States. The Johnson-Reed Immigration Act of 1924 introduced strict immigration quotas, while the revitalised Klu Klux Klan peaked at four million members in the same year. The novel has drawn criticism for its marginalisation of African Americans: one would hardly know from Fitzgerald’s novel that the Harlem Renaissance was underway. Fitzgerald is <a href="https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/what-the-great-gatsby-got-right-about-the-jazz-age-57645443/">credited with naming the Jazz Age</a>, but largely erases its origins.</p> <p>Gatsby does lampoon racial bigotry through Tom Buchanan, who spouts “impassioned gibberish” about “the white race” being submerged. Fitzgerald alludes here to two influential eugenicist studies of the period, <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/46279397-the-passing-of-the-great-race-or-the-racial-basis-of-european-history-19?from_search=true">Madison Grant’s The Passing of the Great Race (1916)</a> and <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/672061.The_Rising_Tide_of_Color_Against_White_World_Supremacy">Lothrop Stoddard’s The Rising Tide of Color (1920)</a>.</p> <p>Nick calls Tom a “prig”, but he too associates race with class difference when the spectacle of “three modish negroes” driven by a “white chauffeur” prompts his reflection that this is a world where “anything can happen … even Gatsby”.</p> <p><strong>Sensuous prose</strong></p> <p>Fitzgerald’s prose is never more richly sensuous than when dealing with the strange alchemy of affluence, and the film adaptations by Jack Clayton (1974) and Baz Luhrmann (2013) struggle to do justice to Fitzgerald’s verbal pyrotechnics.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><iframe width="440" height="260" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/4w8lohkQtbY?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span class="caption">Even the intense colour and movement of Baz Luhrmann’s Gatsby struggled to match Fitzgerald’s prose.</span></p> <p>How can one portray “a scarcely human orchid of a woman” sitting in “ghostly celebrity” under a white plum tree, as a Hollywood actress is described? Like the cover of the novel’s first edition, Gatsby’s halls are “gaudy with primary colors”. His parties swell to “yellow cocktail music”, while a “green light” shines from Daisy’s dock across the bay.</p> <p>In the novel’s closing paragraphs, Gatsby’s faith in this green light symbolises the vagueness of an American commitment to an endlessly receding future glory: “tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther”, Americans assure themselves, only to find themselves “boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past”.</p> <p>Indeed, Gatsby’s plan for the future is precisely to “repeat the past” by recovering “some idea of himself that had gone into loving Daisy … I’m going to fix everything just the way it was before”.</p> <p>Neither Gatsby’s ambitions or the nation’s can stand much scrutiny. Even before his fall, Gatsby’s “dream […] was already behind him” in “the dark fields of the republic”, leaving a “foul dust” in its wake.</p> <p>Still, what Nick most admires in Gatsby is his “heightened sensitivity to the promises of life” and Fitzgerald implies that this “extraordinary gift for hope” might be the essence of the American Dream.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/112508/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/sascha-morrell-133338">Sascha Morrell</a>, Lecturer in English, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/guide-to-the-classics-the-great-gatsby-112508">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Everything you need to know about admitting your elderly parents into hospital

<p><span>My friend Jenny recently experienced what it is like to navigate the hospital system after her mother had a major stroke, and she had some great tips. In addition to writing everything down in <em>The Notebook</em>, here are some essential rules.</span></p> <p><strong>1. Bring your elders things they need</strong></p> <p><span>Remember how women close to giving birth are advised to have a bag packed for the hospital? Same, same. If not a bag packed, make sure you have a bag handy, and a list of things you need to pack for your loved one. </span></p> <p><span>After Dad was admitted to hospital following a major fall, I rushed to see him with flowers, grapes, and grief, but I should have included pyjamas, a toothbrush, a list of medications, batteries for his hearing aids, reading glasses, a book to read (or a talking book), socks (because you can get really cold in hospital), money and civilian clothes (in case he wanted to do a runner. Also, one hospital discharged him in his PJs after a hip replacement, presumably to hitch home).</span></p> <p><strong>2. Be a ray of sunshine</strong></p> <p><span>Be nice to everyone when you visit: nurses, therapists, cleaners, caterers, casuals, the people visiting the patient in the next bed. Engage. You are all there for the same reason. Know their names, introduce yourself and your extended family if they are crowding in also. Having said that, nominate a family contact so staff can call one person, not four. Anyone in the hospital can provide useful intelligence to tell you how your elder is really being treated, how they are coping, are they distressed. This was helpful with Mum, who is almost wholly blind and deaf. She doesn’t know what is going on around her, which is intimidating, and the button for the nurses is often out of reach. She was tortured by a rogue nurse who insisted on heaving her upright by her broken shoulder, who refused to help her get to the toilet because the nurse’s back hurt, and who wandered off to leave Mum to soil herself. Mum said ‘That nurse destroyed me.’ Mum’s account was backed up by another woman in the room. It led to a polite but bloody pissed-off letter.</span></p> <p><strong>3. Introduce your parent, the patient</strong></p> <p><span>Talk about your loved one; even put a sign up with hearts on it and a description of them. Make sure everyone knows if they are vision-impaired or have dementia. Or if they are hard of hearing, so the staff will understand why they are nodding politely to an enquiry about whether they would like an egg sandwich or curried chicken with mashed potato. </span></p> <p><span>In my experience, staff are likely to engage more fully with your parent if they are encouraged to see them as a valued and loved person. Most staff are amazing but there will be the occasional arsehole with a secret sorrow. And there is very little you can do about them.</span></p> <p><strong>4. Identify who’s who in the zoo</strong></p> <p><span>Find out who the key people are and build a rapport with them. They may help you just to make you go away, nicely. The nurse unit manager is a good person to ask any questions about the treatment and keep up to date. </span></p> <p><span>Find out who everyone else is, their place in the hierarchy and their responsibilities. Who are the decision-makers in your loved one’s ‘care circle’ (as Jenny puts it)? Learn to distinguish between the uniforms, just as you would on any battlefield. (No good asking the orderly about an MRI; no good pouring out all your concerns and complaints to the tea lady. Actually, in some hospitals, she is probably as good a person as anyone.)</span></p> <p><strong>5. Be polite</strong></p> <p><span>Do not be arrogant or pushy, but don’t be brushed off either. Always be courteous. Your parent may be stressed or medicated or deaf and not pick up the finer medical points, especially the ones in Latin. The very best time to meet the doctor, I discovered, is when the doctor arrives with an entourage of medical students. The doctor did not go ‘Hmm. Ah . . .’ and move on. He explained, loudly and in well-expressed detail, for the benefit of his students, what was happening. Diagnosis, prognosis, the lot.</span></p> <p><strong>6. Call at the right time</strong></p> <p><span>Jenny says that trying to catch a doctor on his rounds was like Pokémon Go in hospitals. Especially on weekends and night shifts. Concerned families wander the corridors, trying to find the right person with the right information. </span></p> <p><span>Find out when the decision makers’ shifts are on. Jenny found herself making calls to the hospital and not being able to get in touch with anybody who knew the latest on her mother. She says, ‘Find out when the physician/surgeon/nursing unit manager will be working. Because there is no point ringing at 4pm to speak to a nursing unit manager when their shift finishes at 3.30. And don’t call them when they start at 7.30 in the morning because they are looking at all of their notes. Or at 8am because they are doing all their rounds. If you call them at 10 or 11 you are more likely to be put through.’</span></p> <p><strong>7. Make up a care roster</strong></p> <p><span>If you are fortunate enough to have other family members close by, draw up a roster. Make sure everyone has a copy.</span></p> <p><strong>8. Tell care providers and My Aged Care</strong></p> <p><span>If your elder is receiving a Home Care Package, contact the provider to let them know your elder is in hospital. They will suspend the package while care is being supplied by the hospital. Arrange a reassessment for your loved one by ACAT every time there is a new ‘health/medical event’. (For example, when Mum had a stroke, she went from a level 2 Home Care Package to a level 3, which meant that a nurse was now a part of her package. This was all good and nice. But it also meant the lovely community nurse who had been coming in regularly to dress a wound on Mum’s foot was given the old heave-ho. Sheesh!)</span></p> <p><strong>9. </strong><strong>Trust the experts</strong></p> <p><span>Once you know your elder’s hospital or rehab care team, stand back and let the experts do their jobs. Your role is to keep up morale, hold your loved one’s hand, surround them with golden glows, or good vibes, or prayers, or any other spiritual and emotional strength you can convey. Tell a few jokes. Peel grapes. You know their favourite treats. Bring some in. Custard tarts are good, maybe hash browns. Do not bring in the Hibachi and a bag of prawns.</span></p> <p><strong>10. Look after yourself</strong></p> <p><span>You’re no use to anyone stressed out of your mind and too tired to think straight. Take care of yourself, too. With wine and chocolate. Do not lie awake fretting, or doze fitfully, waking every two hours and worrying. That’s the patient’s job.</span></p> <p><span><em>Image by Rob Palmer featuring Jean Kittson, Elaine Kittson and Roy Kittson.</em></span></p> <p><em><span>We Need to Talk About Mum and Dad by Jean Kittson. Published by Macmillan Australia, RRP $34.99.</span></em></p>

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5 minutes with author Kerri Turner

<p><span>In <em>5 minutes with author</em>, <em>Over60</em> asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Kerri Turner, a historical fiction writer and ballet teacher based in Sydney. Her short stories have appeared in <em>Reflex Fiction</em>, <em>Boolarong Press</em>, <em>Catchfire Press</em>, <em>Stringybark</em>, and <em>Underground Writers</em>. She released her debut novel <em>The Last Days if the Romanov Dancers </em>in January 2019. Her second book, <em>The Daughter of Victory Lights</em>, is out now.</span></p> <p><em><span>Over60</span></em><span> talked with Turner about classical ballets, happy endings, and the worst writing advice she’s received.</span></p> <p><strong><em><span>Over60</span></em><span>: What is your best writing tip? </span></strong><strong>Alternatively, what is the worst writing advice you’ve ever received?</strong></p> <p><span>Kerri Turner: My best writing tip is a quote from Neil Gaiman: “Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.” </span></p> <p><span>The worst writing advice is the generic “write what you know”. You should absolutely write what you know if that’s what interests you, but learning what you don’t know so that you can write about it is a fantastic and rewarding process, and one which has resulted in some wonderful and compelling books.</span></p> <p><strong><span>What book(s) are you reading right now?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I’m currently reading <em>The Clergyman’s Wife</em> by Molly Greeley, and listening to the audiobook of <em>Mythos</em> by Stephen Fry.</span></p> <p><strong><span>You hold a dance degree and teach the art for a living. How has dance influenced the writing of your novels?</span></strong></p> <p><span>My whole life I’ve been drawn to classical ballets such as <em>Swan Lake </em>and <em>Giselle</em> – the ones that tell sweeping stories with a lot of emotion behind the characters and their actions and motivations. They’re generally also the ballets that have endings which move you and feel right for the characters and situation, but aren’t necessarily tied in a perfectly neat and happy bow. Those are the kind of stories I now like to tell. I’ve also been told that my writing has a sense of rhythm and lyricism to it, which I’m sure comes from having spent my life dancing.</span></p> <p><strong><span>What do you think makes for a good historical fiction work?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I love historical fiction that effortlessly yet vividly evokes the time period it’s set in, yet keeps the story and characters at the forefront at all times.</span></p> <p><strong><span>What does your writing routine look like?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I tend to write for a few hours from mid-morning to lunch, then spend the next few hours attending to all the admin of writing – marketing, setting up events, responding to interviews, etc – as well as doing things to refill the creative well. Then I have a couple more hours of writing in the afternoon, finishing up in time to make dinner. Sometimes I’ll do a little more work in the evenings, such as reading research books or catching up on more admin.</span></p> <p><strong><span>What trope grinds your gears? Alternatively, is there a cliché that you can’t help but love?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I’m not a big fan of love at first sight – or as it’s more often called these days, instalove. I prefer to see the building of a connection between couples. I do however really enjoy the cliché of an unlikely hero who comes from humble origins. It works in so many forms and stories, from historical fiction like Ken Follett’s <em>Pillars of the Earth</em>, to children’s books like Roald Dahl’s <em>Matilda</em>, to fantasy epics like Robert Jordan’s <em>Wheel of Time</em> series.</span></p> <p><strong><span>Paperbook, e-book or audiobook?</span></strong></p> <p><span>All of them! Print books are my favourite format, but e-books are fantastic for travel, and I love listening to audiobooks when I’m multitasking. </span></p> <p><strong><span>Which author, deceased or living, would you most like to have dinner with?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Oscar Wilde. He’d be a lot of fun over a dinner, I’m sure!</span></p>

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5 minutes with author Karen Brooks

<p><span>In <em>5 minutes with author</em>, <em>Over60</em> asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Karen Brooks, a writer, columnist and academic based in Hobart, Tasmania. She has written 13 books and appeared on the ABC’s <em>The Einstein Factor</em>, Channel 9’s <em>60 Minutes </em>and Channel 7’s <em>Sunrise </em>and <em>Today Tonight </em>as a social commentator. Her latest novel, <em>The Darkest Shore</em>, is out now.</span></p> <p><em><span>Over60</span></em><span> talked with Brooks about writing historical fiction, bad writing tips, and dealing with critics.</span></p> <p><strong><em><span>Over60</span></em><span>: What is your best writing tip? </span></strong></p> <p><span>Karen Brooks: Best writing tip is just keep writing, even when you know it’s dreadful and think it won’t work. The reason being, it’s easier to have something on then page or screen to correct than nothing at all. I don’t think I have ever received a bad writing tip – they’re all given with great intentions, even when they might not work for you. </span></p> <p><strong><span>What book(s) are you reading right now?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I am reading <em>Daughter of Victory Lights</em> by Kerri Turner. A work of historical fiction set in London during the Blitz and after. It’s marvellous. </span></p> <p><strong><span>Have your past jobs as an academic and a columnist influenced your writing work?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I think they have in both good and bad ways. The bad way is as an academic, I love the research and find it hard to tear myself away from it. I become lost in the past and follow all these amazing trails and keep digging up wonderful nuggets of information that I just want to include in the book. That cannot always happen. </span></p> <p><span>The good result is, as a columnist, I have strict word limits and pare back my writing, so I am not afraid to cut and delete – so sometimes those nuggets, as golden and glistening as they are, don’t end up in the finished work. I’m also not afraid of deleting sections, chapters or just sentences, as well as being edited – as an academic and columnist it happens all the time, and I know my novel editor is working hard to help me shape the book into its best possible condition. </span></p> <p><strong><span>What do you think makes for a good historical fiction work?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Respecting the past and any details included as much as you can, while never forgetting that your role as a writer is to entertain, move, delight and even shock the reader. History needs to serve the story, not dominate it. </span></p> <p><strong><span>What does your writing routine look like?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I rise early, go for a run, then shower, dress and work six to eight hours, five days a week. Longer days and more when I am nearing the end of a book or trying to meet a tight deadline. I take my writing seriously and treat it as a business – so I dress for work, retreat to my study space and, as much as I can, stay focused and try not to get distracted. It doesn’t always work!</span></p> <p><strong><span>How do you deal with critics, both external (from other people) and internal (from yourself)?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Great question! I always take criticism to heart – but in a good way... mainly. Sometimes, what someone notes about your book can be personal to them, but that’s no reason not to reflect upon it and see if what they’re saying can improve future work. </span></p> <p><span>But there is a difference between critiquing a work and just criticising it for the sake of it. I don’t understand people who do that – you know, go searching for all the things “wrong” with a work when there is so much “right” about it too. But you can’t please everyone. It’s hard not to be devastated if someone really doesn’t like what you’ve done – after all, writers never set out with the intention to have people react in a bad way to their novels, but it can happen. Again, I think about why they have responded in that way and move forward. </span></p> <p><span>The internal critic is much harder to deal with than external ones though! No one can critique their work and believe it’s never as good as you wish or as others might think than the writer her or himself! </span></p> <p><strong><span>What trope grinds your gears? </span></strong></p> <p><span>I don’t think there’s any trope that grinds my gears... yet. Like cliches, I love seeing how writers incorporate and use them. I am constantly impressed with original spins on old cliches, like romantic encounters and interests, or in crime fiction with detectives working a case. </span></p> <p><span>Oh, wait, there is a trope that grinds my gears after all! The stupid police boss who doesn’t respect or listen to his or her subordinates... Even when what they’re saying is smart and obvious. It can be overworked sometimes. </span></p> <p><strong><span>Which author, deceased or living, would you most like to have dinner with?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Can I nominate enough for a dinner party? LOL! Geraldine Brooks (no relation, sadly), Elizabeth George, Michael Connelly, Shirley Hazzard (I did meet her once before she died, and she was wonderful), Bruce Pascoe, Elly Griffiths, Jane Austen, Bram Stoker, Margaret Atwood and Shakespeare... oh, and Geoffrey Chaucer – my next novel features him, and I have a few questions I’d love to ask him! I could have a few dinner parties, with different authors at the table each time... wouldn’t that be sensational (and intimidating)? </span></p>

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The science of the plot twist: How writers exploit our brains

<p>Recently I did something that many people would consider unthinkable, or at least perverse. Before going to see <em><a href="https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4154756/">Avengers: Infinity War</a></em>, I deliberately read a review that revealed all of the major plot points, from start to finish.</p> <p>Don’t worry; I’m not going to share any of those spoilers here. Though I do think the aversion to spoilers – what The New York Times’ A.O. Scott <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/24/movies/avengers-infinity-war-review.html">recently lamented</a> as “a phobic, hypersensitive taboo against public discussion of anything that happens onscreen” – is a bit overblown.</p> <p>As <a href="https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=SeGl108AAAAJ&amp;hl=en">a cognitive scientist who studies the relationship between cognition and narratives</a>, I know that movies – like all stories – exploit our natural tendency to anticipate what’s coming next.</p> <p>These cognitive tendencies help explain why plot twists can be so satisfying. But somewhat counterintuitively, they also explain why knowing about a plot twist ahead of time – the dreaded “spoiler” – doesn’t really spoil the experience at all.</p> <p><strong>The curse of knowledge</strong></p> <p>When you pick up a book for the first time, you usually want to have some sense of what you’re signing up for – <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cozy_mystery">cozy mysteries</a>, for instance, aren’t supposed to feature graphic violence and sex. But you’re probably also hoping that what you read won’t be entirely predictable.</p> <p>To some extent, the fear of spoilers is well-grounded. You only have one opportunity to learn something for the first time. Once you’ve learned it, that knowledge affects what you notice, what you anticipate – and even the limits of your imagination.</p> <p>What we know trips us up in lots of ways, a general tendency known as the “<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17576275">curse of knowledge</a>.”</p> <p>For example, when we know the answer to a puzzle, that knowledge makes it harder for us to estimate how difficult that puzzle will be for someone else to solve: We’ll assume it’s <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0749596X96900091">easier</a> than it really is.</p> <p>When we know the resolution of an event – whether it’s a basketball game or an election – we tend to <a href="http://psycnet.apa.org/record/1976-00159-001">overestimate</a> how likely that outcome was.</p> <p>Information we encounter early on influences our estimation of what is possible later. It doesn’t matter whether we’re reading a story or negotiating a salary: Any initial starting point for our reasoning – however arbitrary or apparently irrelevant – “<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17835457">anchors</a>” our analysis. In <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16382081">one study</a>, legal experts given a hypothetical criminal case argued for longer sentences when presented with larger numbers on randomly rolled dice.</p> <p><strong>Plot twists pull everything together</strong></p> <p>Either consciously or intuitively, good writers know all of this.</p> <p>An effective narrative works its magic, in part, by taking advantage of these, and other, predictable habits of thought. <a href="http://www.literarydevices.com/red-herring/">Red herrings</a>, for example, are a type of anchor that set false expectations – and can make twists seem more surprising.</p> <p>A major part of the pleasure of plot twists, too, comes not from the shock of surprise, but from looking back at the early bits of the narrative in light of the twist. The most satisfying surprises get their power from giving us a fresh, better way of making sense of the material that came before. This is another opportunity for stories to turn the curse of knowledge to their advantage.</p> <p>Remember that once we know the answer to a puzzle, its clues can seem more transparent than they really were. When we revisit early parts of the story in light of that knowledge, well-constructed clues take on new, satisfying significance.</p> <p>Consider <em><a href="https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0167404/">The Sixth Sense</a></em>. After unleashing its big plot twist – that Bruce Willis’ character has, all along, been one of the “dead people” that only the child protagonist can see – it presents a flash reprisal of scenes that make new sense in light of the surprise. We now see, for instance, that his wife (in fact, his widow) did not snatch up the check at a restaurant before he could take it out of pique. Instead it was because, as far as she knew, she was dining alone.</p> <p>Even years after the film’s release, viewers take pleasure in this twist, <a href="https://www.bustle.com/articles/33625-the-sixth-sense-surprise-ending-is-obvious-if-you-pay-attention-to-these-6-clues">savoring the degree</a> to which it should be “obvious if you pay attention” to earlier parts the film.</p> <p><strong>The pluses and minuses of the spoiler</strong></p> <p>At the same time, studies show that even when people are <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0749596X89900016">certain of an outcome</a>, they reliably experience suspense, surprise and emotion. Action sequences are still heart-pounding; jokes are still funny; and poignant moments can still make us cry.</p> <p>As UC San Diego researchers Jonathan Levitt and Nicholas Christenfeld have recently <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21841150">demonstrated</a>, spoilers don’t spoil. In many cases, <a href="https://theconversation.com/enough-with-the-spoiler-alerts-plot-spoilers-often-increase-enjoyment-62154">spoilers actively enhance enjoyment</a>.</p> <p>In fact, when a major turn in a narrative is truly unanticipated, it can have a catastrophic effect on enjoyment – as <a href="https://ftw.usatoday.com/2018/04/avengers-infinity-war-ending-reactions-twitter">many outraged</a> <em>Infinity War</em> viewers can testify.</p> <p>If you know the twist beforehand, the curse of knowledge has more time to work its magic. Early elements of the story will seem to presage the ending more clearly when you know what that ending is. This can make the work as a whole feel more coherent, unified and satisfying.</p> <p>Of course, anticipation is a delicious pleasure in its own right. Learning plot twists ahead of time can reduce that excitement, even if the foreknowledge doesn’t ruin your enjoyment of the story itself.</p> <p>Marketing experts know that what spoilers <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1057740815000467">do spoil</a> is the urgency of consumers’ desire to watch or read a story. People can even find themselves so sapped of interest and anticipation that they stay home, robbing themselves of the pleasure they would have had if they’d simply never learned of the outcome.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/95748/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/vera-tobin-469645">Vera Tobin</a>, Assistant Professor of Cognitive Science, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/case-western-reserve-university-1506">Case Western Reserve University</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-science-of-the-plot-twist-how-writers-exploit-our-brains-95748">original article</a>.</em></p>

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How the moral lessons of To Kill a Mockingbird endure today

<p>Harper Lee’s <em>To Kill A Mockingbird</em> is one of the classics of American literature. Never out of print, the novel has sold over 40 million copies since it was first published in 1960. It has been a staple of high school syllabuses, including in Australia, for several decades, and is often deemed the <a href="https://www.sbs.com.au/nitv/nitv-news/article/2017/02/21/australian-kill-mockingbird-makes-it-big-screen-indigenous-actor">archetypal race and coming-of-age novel</a>. For many of us, it is a formative read of our youth.</p> <p>The story is set in the sleepy Alabama town of Maycomb in 1936 - 40 years after the Supreme Court’s notorious declaration of the races as being <a href="http://time.com/4326692/plessy-ferguson-history-120/">“separate but equal”</a>, and 28 years before the enactment of the <a href="https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/civil-rights-act">Civil Rights Act</a>. Our narrator is nine-year-old tomboy, Scout Finch, who relays her observations of her family’s struggle to deal with the class and racial prejudice shown towards the local African American community.</p> <p>At the centre of the family and the novel stands the highly principled lawyer Atticus Finch. A widower, he teaches Scout, her older brother Jem, and their imaginative friend Dill, how to live and behave honourably. In this he is aided by the family’s hardworking and sensible black housekeeper Calpurnia, and their kind and generous neighbour, Miss Maudie.</p> <p>It is Miss Maudie, for example, who explains to Scout why it is a sin to kill a mockingbird: “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us.”</p> <p>Throughout the novel, the children grow more aware of the community’s attitudes. When the book begins they are preoccupied with catching sight of the mysterious and much feared Boo Radley, who in his youth stabbed his father with a pair of scissors and who has never come out of the family house since. And when Atticus agrees to defend Tom Robinson, a black man who is falsely accused of raping a white woman, they too become the target of hatred.</p> <p><strong>A morality tale for modern America</strong></p> <p>One might expect a book that dispatches moral lessons to be dull reading. But <em>To Kill a Mockingbird</em> is no sermon. The lessons are presented in a seemingly effortless style, all the while tackling the complexity of race issues with startling clarity and a strong sense of reality.</p> <p>As the Finches return from Robinson’s trial, Miss Maudie says: “as I waited I thought, Atticus Finch won’t win, he can’t win, but he’s the only man in these parts who can keep a jury out so long in a case like that.”</p> <p>Despite the tragedy of Robinson’s conviction, Atticus succeeds in making the townspeople consider and struggle with their prejudice.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><iframe width="440" height="260" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/HOocTXKPVVU?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span class="caption">Atticus Finch delivers his closing statement in the trial of Tom Robinson in the 1962 film.</span></p> <p>The effortlessness of the writing owes much to the way the story is told. The narrator is a grown Scout, looking back on her childhood. When she begins her story, she seems more interested in telling us about the people and incidents that occupied her six-year-old imagination. Only slowly does she come to the events that changed everything for her and Jem, which were set in motion long before their time. Even then, she tells these events in a way that shows she too young to always grasp their significance.</p> <p>The lessons Lee sets out are encapsulated in episodes that are as funny as they are serious, much like Aesop’s Fables. A case in point is when the children return home from the school concert with Scout still dressed in her outlandish ham costume. In the dark they are chased and attacked by Bob Ewell the father of the woman whom Robinson allegedly raped. Ewell, armed with a knife, attempts to stab Scout, but the shapeless wire cage of the ham causes her to loose balance and the knife to go astray. In the struggle that ensues someone pulls Ewell off the teetering body of Scout and he falls on the knife. It was Boo Radley who saved her.</p> <p>Another lesson about what it means to be truly brave is delivered in an enthralling episode where a local farmer’s dog suddenly becomes rabid and threatens to infect all the townsfolk with his deadly drool.</p> <p>Scout and Jem are surprised when their bespectacled, bookish father turns out to have a “God-given talent” with a rifle; it is he who fires the single shot that will render the townsfolk safe. The children rejoice at what they consider an impressive display of courage. However, he tells them that what he did was not truly brave. The better example of courage, he tells them, is Mrs Dubose (the “mean” old lady who lived down the road), who managed to cure herself of a morphine addiction even as she was dying a horribly painful death from cancer.</p> <p>He also teaches them the importance of behaving in a civilised manner, even when subjected to insults. Most of all Atticus teaches the children the importance of listening to one’s conscience even when everyone else holds a contrary view: “The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule”, he says, “is a person’s conscience.”</p> <p>The continuing value in Atticus’ belief in the importance of principled thinking in the world of <a href="https://www.economist.com/prospero/2016/02/22/how-to-kill-a-mockingbird-shaped-race-relations-in-america">Black Lives Matter</a> and the Australian government’s rhetoric of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/commentisfree/2018/jan/18/the-african-gang-crisis-has-been-brewing-in-australias-media-for-years">“African gangs”</a>, is clear.</p> <p>Atticus’ spiel on “conscience” and the other ethical principles he insists on living by, are key to the enduring influence of the novel. It conjures an ideal of moral standards and human behaviour that many people still aspire to today, even though the novel’s events and the characters belong to the past.</p> <p>Lee herself was not one to shy away from principled displays: writing to a school that banned her novel, she summed up the <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/harper-lee-letter-to-a-school-board-trying-to-ban-mockingbird-2016-2?IR=T">source of the morality</a> her book expounds. The novel, she said, “spells out in words of seldom more than two syllables a code of honor and conduct”.</p> <p><strong>Fame and obscurity</strong></p> <p>When first published the novel received <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/books/ct-harper-lee-to-kill-a-mockingbird-1960-review-20160219-story.html">rave reviews</a>. A year later it won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature, followed by a <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/films/2016/04/19/to-kill-a-mockingbird-film-review/">movie version</a> in 1962 starring <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vouoju4mETc">Gregory Peck</a>. Indeed, the novel was such a success that Lee, unable to cope with all the attention and publicity, <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/books/go-set-a-watchman/why-harper-lee-kept-her-silence-for-55-years/">retired into obscurity</a>.</p> <p>Interviewed late in life, Lee cited two reasons for her continued silence: “I wouldn’t go through the pressure and publicity I went through with To Kill a Mockingbird for any amount of money. Second, I have said what I wanted to say, and I will not say it again.”</p> <p>The latter statement is doubtless a reference to the autobiographical nature of her book. Lee passed her <a href="http://time.com/4234210/harper-lee-childhood/">childhood</a> in the rural town of Monroeville in the deep south, where her attorney father defended two black men accused of killing a shopkeeper. The accused were convicted and hanged.</p> <p>Undoubtedly influenced by these formative events, the biographical fiction Lee drew out of her family history became yet more complex upon the publication of her only other novel, <em>Go Set a Watchman</em>, in 2016. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2016/jun/05/go-set-a-watchman-by-harper-lee-review">Critics panned it</a> it for lacking the light touch and humour of the first novel. They also decried the fact that the character of Atticus Finch was this time around a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/11/books/review-harper-lees-go-set-a-watchman-gives-atticus-finch-a-dark-side.html">racist bigot</a>, a feature that had the potential to taint the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/feb/19/go-set-a-watchman-harper-lee-legacy-to-kill-a-mockingbird">author’s legacy</a>.</p> <p>Subsequent biographical research revealed that <em>Go Set A Watchman</em>, was not a sequel, but the first draft of <em>To Kill a Mockingbird</em>. Following initial rejection by the publisher Lippincot, Lee reworked it into the superior novel many of us know and still love today.</p> <p>Lee gave us the portrait of one small town in the south during the depression years. But it was so filled with lively detail, and unforgettable characters with unforgettable names like Atticus, Scout, Calpurnia and Boo Radley that a universal story emerged, and with it the novel’s continuing popularity.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/100763/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/anne-maxwell-179443">Anne Maxwell</a>, Assoc. Professor, School of Culture and Communication, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-melbourne-722">University of Melbourne</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-the-moral-lessons-of-to-kill-a-mockingbird-endure-today-100763">original article</a>.</em></p>

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5 minutes with author Minnie Darke

<p><span>In <em>5 minutes with author</em>, <em>Over60</em> asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Minnie Darke, a writer based in Tasmania. Darke is the pen name of Danielle Wood, who has written non-fiction, short story collections, and novels for adults and children. Her bestselling book <em>Star-crossed </em>has won the Margaret Scott People’s Choice Award and been published in more than 30 countries. Her latest novel, <em>The Lost Love Song</em>, will be out on March 3.</span></p> <p><em><span>Over60</span></em><span> talked with Darke about etymologies, her dinner with Margaret Atwood, and a trope she has mixed feelings about.</span></p> <p><strong><em><span>Over60</span></em><span>: What is your best writing tip?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Minnie Darke: The Australian writer Bryce Courtenay was once asked what every young writer needs in order to be successful, and he answered, “Bum glue.” Apparently, he kept a belt at his writing desk and would literally buckle himself into his chair. Although there’s now research that shows your brain will benefit if you get up and walk around at intervals, or periodically shift from your sitting desk to your standing desk (or whatever groovy set-up you have), the truth remains that you simply have to put in the hours: the hours, and hours, and hours, and hours that it takes to produce your very best writing.</span></p> <p><span>I also remember reading another very important piece of advice, but alas (and sorry, dear anonymous adviser) I can’t remember where. It went something like: “Nothing except writing is writing. Talking about writing is not writing, thinking about writing is not writing, planning to write is not writing. Only writing is writing.”</span></p> <p><strong><span>What book do you think more people should read?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I’m not a huge fan of the word ‘should’, but there are many, many books I’m really grateful I didn’t miss out on reading. It’s hard to pick one, but from where I’m sitting right now, I can see the shelf of books that I’ve curated according to one of my most important principles and the main one I’ve tried to live out while writing <em>Star-crossed</em> and <em>The Lost Love Song</em>. It is this: readers shouldn’t have to choose between a strong plot and great writing. Some of the books that I think have both, in spades, are <em>The House of the Spirits </em>by Isabel Allende, <em>We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves</em> by Karen Joy Fowler, <em>The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August </em>by Claire North, and <em>The Name of the Wind</em> by Patrick Rothfuss.</span></p> <p><strong><span>What was the last book that made you laugh?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I confess that I’m a bit of a word nerd, which is why I bought the book <em>The Etymologicon</em> by Mark Forsyth. The stories that lurk behind the words that make up our crazy, difficult, melting-pot language are frequently laugh-out-loud funny. </span></p> <p><strong><span>What do you think makes for a good romance?</span></strong></p> <p><span>In my ideal romance there are two lovers that I love, individually, as characters. They are almost certainly flawed, but this only makes them more interesting. Because I love them, I want them both to be happy. Further, it’s obvious to me that both their lives will be better if they can find a way to be together. After that, I need to be frightened that the great boon of their being together might be made impossible by some force – internal or external. And, then there’s the ending. It has to be immensely satisfying, if not necessarily happy.</span></p> <p><strong><span>How does your writing routine look like?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Up at 6am, make a cup of tea, take to my desk in my gypsy caravan in my back garden, buckle myself into my seat (no, only joking about that) and try to ignore my three children bickering while their dad nags them to get ready for school (not joking about that, at all), write until about 2pm while getting up and down to let the two dogs in and out (and in and out, and in and out, and in and out) of the caravan, and occasionally make more tea. Then eat lunch, change out of my pyjamas and dressing gown and go get the kids from school. Such glamour!</span></p> <p><strong><span>How do you deal with writer’s block?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I tell myself this: “A professional sandwich maker makes sandwiches. They just make the sandwiches. You’re a professional writer. You write the words. That is what you do. So just sit down and write the words.”</span></p> <p><strong><span>Which author, deceased or living, would you most like to have dinner with?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I did have dinner with Margaret Atwood. Tick! And although she once said, “Wanting to meet an author because you like [their] books is like wanting to meet a duck because you like paté,” nothing could change the fact that I loved meeting her.</span></p> <p><strong><span>What trope grinds your gears? Alternatively, is there a cliché that you can’t help but love?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Ha! Great questions! The things that ‘grind my gears’ are usually at the sentence level rather than the trope level, but… I have to admit that I’m sometimes irritated by love stories where the protagonists hate each other at first sight, and this is evidence that they’re meant for each other. In my life, if I dislike or distrust someone at first sight, there’s usually a very good reason! But, as soon as I say all that, I immediately think of Shakespeare’s <em>Taming of the Shrew</em> and its great-great-granddaughter text, the movie <em>Ten Things I Hate About You</em> – both of which I love, and where that trope works to perfection. Perhaps it’s all in the way it’s done, and not in the thing itself? </span></p> <p><span>As for a cliché that I can’t help but love? I’m quite fond of the idea of old lovers meeting up again at a new time in their lives and reinventing their relationship – I always find myself sucked in by click-bait like, “They were in love as teenagers, then met again by chance after 40 years…”</span></p>

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5 minutes with author Rachel Givney

<p><span>In <em>5 minutes with author</em>, <em>Over60</em> asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Rachel Givney, a writer and filmmaker based in Melbourne. She has written and edited scripts for television shows such as <em>Offspring</em>, <em>The Warriors</em>, <em>Rescue: Special Ops</em>, <em>The Young Doctors</em> and <em>All Saints</em>. Her debut novel <em>Jane In Love </em>is out now.</span></p> <p><em><span>Over60</span></em><span> spoke to Givney about Jane Austen, discipline, and the enemies-to-lovers trope.</span></p> <p><strong><em><span>Over60</span></em><span>: What is your best writing tip?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Rachel Givney: “Don’t get it right, get it written.” Get the first draft written down – it doesn’t matter if it’s terrible, just finish it. The old cliché is true, any art is 1 per cent inspiration, 99 per cent perspiration. Once you have that first draft written, it’s much easier to go back and edit.</span></p> <p><strong><span>After years of screenwriting, you finally wrote your first ever book. How did you approach this novel compared to your other work?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Writing a novel required me to include greater sensory detail, to set the scene for the reader in a way not needed in screenwriting. </span></p> <p><span>For example, a part of the book is set in 1803, where the character Jane travels to London. The polluted Thames would have smelled rotten as the industrial revolution dawned; London’s inhabitants would have churned the streets to mud with their boots, Jane might have expressed shock and horror at the squalid scenes. I described these for the reader, whereas if I were writing a screenplay, I would have left it to the production designer, the director, the actors, to bring it to life through audio-visual choices. With the book I also had greater opportunities for introspection, to describe characters’ thoughts, and express feelings which they keep to themselves.  </span></p> <p><strong><span>What book do you think more people should read?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Jane Austen’s <em>Persuasion</em>. Austen wrote it towards the end of her life, to me it feels sadder and quieter than her other more popular works, though it still contains the astute observation of her earlier novels. The moment where the hero, Wentworth, estranged for many years from the heroine, Anne, lifts her into a carriage, is filled with quiet erotic tension, quite striking for an Austen novel. The way he holds her and the way she responds shows neither of them has forgotten what they once had; that real love, while it may lay dormant, never dies… </span></p> <p><strong><span>What was the last book that made you laugh?</span></strong></p> <p><em><span>Unreliable Memoirs</span></em><span>, by Clive James. A hilarious, heartfelt tale of suburbia. </span></p> <p><strong><span>What book do you wish you had written?</span></strong></p> <p><em><span>Sophie’s Choice</span></em><span> by William Styron, I loved this Gothic masterpiece.</span></p> <p><strong><span>How do you deal with writer’s block?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Writing for film and television deadlines for 15 years has taught me good lessons in discipline and routine.  On a good day, I rise at 6 or 7 and go for a run around the park. Then I will have breakfast and shower and get to my desk at 9am-ish. I will write for four hours, taking a 15-minute break every hour. Lunch is at 1 to 2pm, then another two hours of writing in the afternoon, stopping at around 4pm. I write whatever is next to be written. </span></p> <p><span>On a bad day, I get to my desk and nothing comes, or it comes out badly, and then I hate everything. And this is the time when I hope I have the discipline to forge on, to “don’t get it right, get it written”.    </span></p> <p><strong><span>Which author, deceased or living, would you most like to have dinner with?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Jane Austen! In reading Austen’s letters while researching <em>Jane in Love</em>, I sensed great wit and cleverness, but also sadness. Austen’s an enigma, she wrote around 3000 letters in her life, upon her death, her sister Cassandra burnt all but 161 of them. I’d love to hear her talk about her writing, but only if she wanted to, I wouldn’t want to pry. If she didn’t want to talk about that I’d ask her if she had a good recipe for elderflower wine, I believe she liked making it!</span></p> <p><strong><span>What trope can’t you help but love?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I love the website <a href="https://tvtropes.org/">tvtropes.org</a>! My favourite trope is any romance between two seeming enemies who are forced to spend time together, where hatred changes to respect, and respect turns to love, like Jamie Lannister and Brienne of Tarth in <em>Game of Thrones</em>.</span></p>

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3 things historical literature can teach us about the climate crisis

<p>New novels about climate change – climate fiction, or cli-fi – are being published all the time. The nature of the climate crisis is a difficult thing to get across, and so <a href="https://theconversation.com/imagining-both-utopian-and-dystopian-climate-futures-is-crucial-which-is-why-cli-fi-is-so-important-123029">imagining the future</a> – a drowned New York City, say; or a world in which water is a precious commodity – can help us understand what’s at stake.</p> <p>This is unsurprising in these times of crisis: fiction allows us to imagine possible futures, good and bad. When faced with such an urgent problem, it might seem like a waste of time to read earlier texts. But don’t be so sure. The climate emergency may be unprecedented, but there are a few key ways in which past literature offers a valuable perspective on the present crisis.</p> <p><strong>1. Climate histories</strong></p> <p>Historical texts reflect the changing climatic conditions that produced them. When Byron and the Shelleys stayed on the shores of Lake Geneva in 1816, the literature that they wrote responded to the <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-a-volcano-frankenstein-and-the-summer-of-1816-are-relevant-to-the-anthropocene-64984">wild weather</a> of the “year without a summer”.</p> <p>This was caused largely by the massive eruption of the Indonesian volcano Mount Tambora the previous year, which lowered global temperatures and led to harvest failures and famine. Literary works such as as Byron’s <em><a href="https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43825/darkness-56d222aeeee1b">Darkness</a></em>, Percy Shelley’s <a href="https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45130/mont-blanc-lines-written-in-the-vale-of-chamouni"><em>Mont Blanc</em></a>, and Mary Shelley’s <a href="https://theconversation.com/eight-things-you-need-to-know-about-mary-shelleys-frankenstein-93030"><em>Frankenstein</em></a> reveal anxieties about human vulnerability to environmental change even as they address our power to manipulate our environments.</p> <p>Many older texts also bear indirect traces of historical climate change. In <a href="http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20170419-why-paradise-lost-is-one-of-the-worlds-most-important-poems"><em>Paradise Lost</em></a> (1667), Milton complains that a “cold climate” may “damp my intended wing” and prevent him from completing his masterpiece. This may well reflect the fact that he lived through the coldest period of the “Little Ice Age”.</p> <p>Even literature’s oldest epic poem, <em><a href="https://www.britannica.com/topic/Epic-of-Gilgamesh">The Epic of Gilgamesh</a></em> (c. 1800 BC), contains traces of climate change. It tells of a huge flood which, like the later story of Noah in the Old Testament, is probably a cultural memory of sea level rise following the melting of glaciers at the end of the last Ice Age.</p> <p>These historical climatic shifts were not man made, but they still provide important analogues for our own age. Indeed, many cultures have seen human activity and climate as intertwined, often through a religious framework. One of the ironies of modernity is that the development of the global climate as an object of study, apparently separate from human life, coincides with the development of the carbon capitalism that has linked them more closely than ever.</p> <p><strong>2. How we view nature</strong></p> <p>Reading historical literature also allows us to trace the development of modern constructions of the natural world. For example, the Romantic ideal of “sublime” nature, which celebrated vast, dramatic landscapes like mountains and chasms, has influenced the kinds of places that we value and protect today in the form of national parks.</p> <p>When we understand that such landscapes are not purely natural, but are produced by cultural discourses and practices over time – we protect these landscapes above others for a reason – we can start to debate whether they can be <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/28/britain-national-parks-reclaim-rewild">better managed</a> for the benefit of humans and non-humans alike.</p> <p>Or consider how in the 18th and early 19th centuries, the work of nature writers such as <a href="https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/A_Memoir_of_Thomas_Bewick_written_by_him.html?id=CLtcAAAAcAAJ&amp;redir_esc=y">Thomas Bewick</a>, <a href="https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/charlotte-smith">Charlotte Smith</a> and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/science/grrlscientist/2013/nov/05/natural-history-selborne-gilbert-white-anne-secord-book-review">Gilbert White</a> played a powerful role in promoting <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08905490903445478?scroll=top&amp;needAccess=true&amp;journalCode=gncc20">natural theology</a>: the theory that evidence for God’s existence can be found in the complex structures of the natural world. Past literature has also been crucial in disseminating new scientific ideas such as <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/25733437">evolutionary theory</a>, which understood natural phenomena as entirely secular. Literature does not just reflect changing views of the natural world; it shapes them.</p> <p>Studying historical texts helps us to understand how modern cultural attitudes towards the environment developed, which in turn allows us to perceive that these attitudes are not as “natural” or inevitable as they may seem. This insight allows for the possibility that today, in a time in which our attitude towards the environment could certainly improve, they can change for the better.</p> <p><strong>3. Ways of thinking</strong></p> <p>Some of the attitudes towards the natural world that we discover in historical literature are contentious, even horrifying: for example, the normalisation of animal cruelty portrayed in books such as <a href="https://www.mimimatthews.com/2016/04/22/animal-welfare-in-the-19th-century-an-earth-day-overview/">Black Beauty</a>.</p> <p>But we can find more promising models too. Voltaire’s <a href="https://fr.wikisource.org/wiki/Po%C3%A8me_sur_le_d%C3%A9sastre_de_Lisbonne/%C3%89dition_Garnier">poem</a> on the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, for example, has been used to think about the ethics of blame and optimism in responses to modern disasters, like the 1995 <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/lessons-from-earthquakes-there-isnt-always-someone-to-blame-when-the-earth-goes-from-under-our-feet-1569149.html">Kobe earthquake</a> and the 2009 <a href="http://blog.practicalethics.ox.ac.uk/2009/04/an-earthquake-in-the-theodicy-doctrine/">L’Aquila earthquake</a>.</p> <p>Reading past literature can also help us to appreciate the natural world for its own sake. Samuel Johnson commented of the natural descriptions in James Thomson’s poems <a href="https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/52409/the-seasons-spring">The Seasons</a> (1730) that the reader “wonders that he never saw before what Thomson shows him and that he never yet has felt what Thomson impresses”. Amid the frenzied distractions of modern life, the work of authors like Thomson, Dorothy Wordsworth and John Clare can help us to slow down, notice and love nature.</p> <p>Historical literature can remind us of our own vulnerability to elemental forces. The famous depiction of a storm in King Lear, for example, mocks Lear’s attempt:</p> <blockquote> <p>In his little world of man to out-scorn<br />The two-and-fro-conflicting wind and rain.</p> </blockquote> <p>Shakespeare might appear to aestheticise dangerous weather, but the play reminds us that the storm is far bigger and messier than any human attempt to represent and interpret it.</p> <p>At the same time, literature can remind us of the need to take responsibility for our own impacts upon the environment. We may not want to follow pre-modern and early modern literature in viewing climate change as divine punishment for bad behaviour. But when Milton suggests that it was the fall of man that brought in “pinching cold and scorching heat” to replace the eternal spring of Eden, his narrative has clear figurative resonance with our present crisis.</p> <p>Historical literature can show us how writers responded to climate change, trace how they influenced modern ideas about nature, and reveal valuable ways of relating to and thinking about nature. The climate crisis cannot be addressed only through technological solutions. It also requires profound cultural shifts. To make those shifts requires an understanding of past ideas and representations: both those that led to our current predicament and those that might help us address it.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/127762/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/david-higgins-287911">David Higgins</a>, Associate Professor in English Literature, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-leeds-1122">University of Leeds</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/tess-somervell-896321">Tess Somervell</a>, British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in English, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-leeds-1122">University of Leeds</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/three-things-historical-literature-can-teach-us-about-the-climate-crisis-127762">original article</a>.</em></p>

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American Dirt fiasco exposes the shortcomings of publishing industry

<p>In an early chapter of <em><a href="https://www.google.com/books/edition/American_Dirt_Oprah_s_Book_Club/FkiSDwAAQBAJ?hl=en">American Dirt</a></em>, the much-hyped novel now at the center of a racial controversy, the protagonist, Lydia, fills her Acapulco, Mexico, bookstore with her favorite literary classics. Because these don’t sell very well, she also stocks all “the splashy bestsellers that made her shop profitable.”</p> <p>Ironically, it’s this lopsided business model that has, in part, fueled the backlash to the book.</p> <p>In the book, Lydia’s favorite customer, a would-be poet turned ruthless drug lord, orders the massacre of Lydia’s entire family after her journalist husband writes a scathing expose. Lydia and her 8-year-old son must flee for their lives, joining the wave of migrants seeking safety in the U.S.</p> <p>With the border crisis as its backdrop, the book was anointed by the publishing industry as one of those rare blockbusters that Lydia might have stocked in her fictional bookstore. Its publisher called it “<a href="https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250209764">one of the most important books of our time</a>,” while <a href="https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/books/story/2020-01-27/oprah-winfrey-american-dirt-book-club">Oprah</a> chose it for her book club.</p> <p>But the author, Jeanine Cummins, is neither Mexican nor a migrant, and critics <a href="https://tropicsofmeta.com/2019/12/12/pendeja-you-aint-steinbeck-my-bronca-with-fake-ass-social-justice-literature/">savaged the book</a> for its cultural inaccuracies and damaging stereotypes. At least one library at the border <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/27/opinion/american-dirt-book.html">refused to take part in Oprah’s promotion</a>, 138 published authors wrote an <a href="https://lithub.com/dear-oprah-winfrey-82-writers-ask-you-to-reconsider-american-dirt">open letter to Oprah</a> asking her to rescind her endorsement, and the publisher canceled Cummins’ book tour, claiming <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/01/30/american-dirt-tour/">her safety was at risk</a>.</p> <p><a href="https://www.colorado.edu/cmci/people/journalism/christine-larson">As someone who studies the publishing business</a>, I see this ordeal as a symptom of an industry that relies far too heavily on a handful of predetermined “big books,” and whose gatekeepers remain predominantly white.</p> <p>Sadly, this model has become only more powerful in the digital era.</p> <p><strong>A high-stakes poker game</strong></p> <p>Today’s publishing industry is driven by three truths.</p> <p>First, people don’t buy many books. The typical American <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/09/25/one-in-five-americans-now-listen-to-audiobooks/">read four last year</a>.</p> <p>Second, it’s <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/suwcharmananderson/2013/03/28/book-discovery-give-me-blind-dates-with-books/#1d6618f23192">hard to decide which books to buy</a>, so most people look for bestsellers or books by authors they already like.</p> <p>Third, nobody – not even big publishers – can predict hits.</p> <p>As a result, the business can sometimes seem like one big, high-stakes poker game. Like any savvy gambler, editors know that most bets are losers: People don’t buy nearly enough books to make every title profitable. In fact, only about <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/12/books/review/Meyer-t.html">70% of books</a> even earn back their advances.</p> <p>Luckily for publishers, a single hit, like Michelle Obama’s <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38746485-becoming?ac=1&amp;from_search=true&amp;qid=bwZd6RTzVB&amp;rank=1"><em>Becoming</em></a>, can subsidize the vast majority of titles that don’t make money.</p> <p>So when publishers think they have a winning hand, they’ll bet the house. To them, “American Dirt” seemed to have all the cards, and the book sold at auction for <a href="https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/book-deals/article/76994-book-deals-week-of-may-28-2018.html">seven figures</a>.</p> <p>With that much money on the table, publishers will do everything they can to ensure a payoff, channeling massive marketing resources into those select titles, often at the expense of their others.</p> <p><strong>Who’s holding the purse strings?</strong></p> <p>It wasn’t always like this. Back in the 1960s, publishing was a sleepy industry, filled with <a href="https://www.pw.org/content/publishing_in_the_twentyfirst_century_an_interview_with_john_b_thompson">many moderately sized firms making moderate returns</a>. Today, just <a href="https://www.bookbusinessmag.com/post/big-5-financial-reports-reveal-state-traditional-book-publishing/">five conglomerates</a> dominate global publishing.</p> <p>Big firms seek big profits, and, as Harvard Business School professor <a href="https://www.npr.org/2013/10/24/239795165/blockbusters-go-big-or-go-home-says-harvard-professor">Anita Elberse</a> has pointed out, it’s cheaper and easier to launch one enormous promotional effort for a single “big book” than to spread resources across those smaller bets.</p> <p>With each publishing house releasing just one or two big books a season, few authors can hope to produce one of those splashy bestsellers.</p> <p>That’s even more true for marginalized authors, because every step in the publishing and publicity process depends on <a href="https://blog.leeandlow.com/2020/01/28/2019diversitybaselinesurvey/">gatekeepers who are largely white</a> – to the tune of 85% of editors, 80% of agents, 78% of publishing executives and 75% of marketing and publicity staff.</p> <p>Nevertheless, the book world does occasionally publish blockbusters by authors of color, whether it’s <em>Becoming</em> or Tayari Jones’ <em><a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/06/books/review/american-marriage-tayari-jones.html">An American Marriage</a></em>. As black author Zora Neale Hurston <a href="https://pages.ucsd.edu/%7Ebgoldfarb/cogn150s12/reading/Hurston-What-White-Publishers-Wont-Print.pdf">wrote in 1950</a>, editors “will publish anything they believe will sell” – regardless of the author’s race.</p> <p>But those editor beliefs about what would sell, she noted, were extremely limited when it came to authors of color. Stories about racial struggle, discrimination, oppression and hardship – those would sell. But books about marginalized people living everyday lives, raising kids or falling in love? Publishers had no interest in those stories.</p> <p>Of course, well-told stories of struggle are important. But when they’re the only stories that the industry aggressively promotes, then readers suffer from what novelist Chimamanda Adichie calls “<a href="https://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_ngozi_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story?language=en">the danger of a single story</a>.” When a single story gets told repeatedly about a culture that readers haven’t experienced themselves, stereotypes become more and more deeply engraved in popular culture. In a self-perpetuating cycle, publishers become even more committed to promoting that one story.</p> <p>Much of the criticisms around <em>American Dirt</em> centered on Cummins’ lack of first-hand experience – the book, for instance, was peppered with <a href="https://medium.com/@davidbowles/non-mexican-crap-ff3b48a873b5">inaccurate Spanish expressions</a> and off-key notes about the middle-class heroine’s actions and choices.</p> <p>While a vast network of publishing insiders would have likely looked at <em>American Dirt</em> before it was published, they all missed elements that were glaringly evident to informed readers. For the mostly white publishing world, Cummins’ book simply fit the narrative of the “single story” and aligned with pop culture stereotypes.</p> <p>Its failings easily slipped past the blind spots of the gatekeepers.</p> <p><strong>The internet’s unfulfilled promise</strong></p> <p>The internet was supposed to have upended this system. Just 10 years ago, pundits and scholars heralded <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2008/mar/22/society1/">the end of gatekeepers</a> – a world where anyone could be a successful author. And indeed, with the digital self-publishing revolution in the late 2000s, <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/they-own-the-system-amazon-rewrites-book-industry-by-turning-into-a-publisher-11547655267">hundreds of thousands of authors</a>, previously excluded from the marketplace, were able to release their books online.</p> <p>Some even made money: <a href="https://christinelarson.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Christine-Larson-Open-networks-open-books-gender-precarity-and-solidarity-in-digital-publishing-1.pdf">My research</a> has found that romance writers doubled their median income from 2009 to 2014, largely due to self-publishing. Romance authors of color, in particular, found new outlets for books excluded by white publishers. Back in 2009, before self-publishing took off, the Book Industry Study Group identified just six categories of romance novels; by 2015, it tracked 33 categories, largely driven by self-publishing. New categories <a href="https://bisg.org/page/Fiction">included African American, multicultural, interracial and LGBT</a>.</p> <p>By 2018, at least <a href="https://www.actualitte.com/PDF/autopublication%20etats%20unis%20chiffres%20bowker.pdf">1.6 million books across all genres had been self-published</a>. Nonetheless, though choice is expanding, readership has stayed <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/09/25/one-in-five-americans-now-listen-to-audiobooks">flat since 2011</a>. With more books but no more readers, it’s harder than ever to get the attention of potential buyers.</p> <p>Meanwhile, many grassroots outlets that could push a midlist book – industry jargon for one not heavily promoted by publishers – to moderate levels of success have receded. Local media outlets that could create buzz for a local author are hollowed out or <a href="https://www.usnewsdeserts.com/">have vanished altogether</a>. In 1991, there were some <a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=wruuBgAAQBAJ&amp;pg=PT43&amp;lpg=PT43&amp;dq=john+b+thompson+decline+of+independent+bookstores&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=5l9nKK1Tbi&amp;sig=ACfU3U01GFevWyDLEGvuDwSwDvaE7Uovzw&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=2ahUKEwjatPqaiLbnAhXFXc0KHU-LCNQQ6AEwAHoECAkQAQ#v=onepage&amp;q=john%20b%20thompson%20decline%20of%20independent%20bookstores&amp;f=false">5,100 indie booksellers</a>; now there are <a href="https://www.npr.org/2018/03/29/598053563/why-the-number-of-independent-bookstores-increased-during-the-retail-apocalypse">half that many</a>.</p> <p>The onus is now on authors to promote their own work. They’re spending a full day a week doing so, according to a forthcoming paper I wrote for the Authors’ Guild. In that same paper, I find that authors of color earn less from their books than white authors; in addition to other serious problems, this indicates they may have fewer resources to promote themselves.</p> <p>It’s clear the internet has not delivered the democratization it promised.</p> <p>But it has helped authors in at least one important way. Social media has offered a powerful outlet for marginalized voices to hold the publishing industry accountable. We’ve seen this twice already this year – with <em>American Dirt</em> and with the <a href="https://theconversation.com/if-the-romance-writers-of-america-can-implode-over-racism-no-group-is-safe-130034">Romance Writers of America</a>, which lost sponsors after it penalized an author of color for condemning racial stereotypes.</p> <p>Such outcries are an important start. But real progress will require structural change from within – beginning with a more diverse set of editors.</p> <p>On Feb. 3, executives from Macmillan, the publisher of <em>American Dirt</em>, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/feb/03/macmillan-latinx-american-dirt-dignidad-literaria">met with Hispanic authors and promised to diversify its staff</a>.</p> <p>It’s an example that the rest of the publishing industry should follow.<!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><span><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/christine-larson-426866"><em>Christine Larson</em></a><em>, Assistant Professor of Journalism, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-colorado-boulder-733">University of Colorado Boulder</a></em></span></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/american-dirt-fiasco-exposes-publishing-industry-thats-too-consolidated-too-white-and-too-selective-130755">original article</a>.</em></p>

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“Mahalo ScoMo” Hawaiian shirt added to National Library archives

<p>After Scott Morrison infamously went on a Hawaiian trip during the unprecedented bushfires that gripped the nation, his “Mahalo ScoMo” shirt was created in response to the ordeal.</p> <p>Now, that shirt has been immortalised forever, after the creator donated one of the Prime Minister-patterned shirts to the National Library of Australia.</p> <p>The button-up shirt features dozens of hibiscus flowers, a print which is commonly featured on tropical themed clothing.</p> <p>However, this one comes with a twist, as their stamens were emblazoned with Scott Morrison’s face, complete with a smug smirk.</p> <p>Australian menswear company MR. KOYA designed the shirts, with all proceeds from their sales going directly to the NSW Rural Fire Service.</p> <p>Unsurprisingly, it didn’t take long for the shirt to gain traction and go viral on social media, with over 1000 Aussies being quick to snap up the limited made-to-order shirt, raising $35,891 for firefighter relief.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr">Recording season 15 of <a href="https://twitter.com/bondirescuetv?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@bondirescuetv</a>, and once again I'm saying "It's the hottest summer on record" in the opening segment. ⁠<br />⁠<br />To honour this harrowing occasion, I'm wearing the <a href="https://twitter.com/mrkoya?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@mrkoya</a> "Mahalo ScoMo" shirt - an ode to our PM's leadership skills.⁠<br />… <a href="https://t.co/DipS7JteAN">https://t.co/DipS7JteAN</a> <a href="https://t.co/wOllol223x">pic.twitter.com/wOllol223x</a></p> — Osher Günsberg (@oshergunsberg) <a href="https://twitter.com/oshergunsberg/status/1224918660663386114?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">February 5, 2020</a></blockquote> <p>Now, following the incredible response, the shirt has entered one of the country’s largest collections of cultural ephemera to join other items of significance gathered during the bushfire crisis.</p> <p>MR. KOYA co-founder Yema Akbar said the design was a huge success, with one new Australian planning to wear the shirt during his citizenship ceremony.</p> <p>“It wasn’t quite ready in time. We weren’t sure how the shirts would be received, but we’ve been thrilled with the overwhelming reaction,” said Mr Akbar.</p> <p>“We are privileged to be part of the formed collection of ephemera on the bushfire crisis.</p> <p>“The support received has been truly inspirational and is a testament to the larrikin spirit of Australians, digging deep to have a cheeky laugh.”</p> <p>The shirt will be housed in the library’s Special Collections Reading Room.</p>

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5 minutes with author Frances Whiting

<p><span>In <em>5 minutes with author</em>, <em>Over60</em> asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Frances Whiting, a novelist, feature writer and columnist based in Brisbane. She published two collections of her columns – <em>Oh to Be a Marching Girl</em> in 2003 and <em>That's a Home Run, Tiger!</em> in 2006 – before releasing her debut novel <em>Walking on Trampolines </em>in 2009. Her second novel, <em>The Best Kind of Beautiful </em>is out now.</span></p> <p><em><span>Over60</span></em><span> talked with Whiting about Ernest Hemingway, the detective series she could not get enough of, and the role of panic in her writing.</span></p> <p><strong><em><span>Over60</span></em><span>: What is your best writing tip?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Frances Whiting: I love that quote from Ernest Hemingway: “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” It makes me laugh – and wince a little bit – because it’s true. The best writing tip I can give it just to put in the time. A large part of the process is committing to it. Just sitting down, taking a deep breath, and beginning…</span></p> <p><strong><span>What was the last book that made you laugh/cry?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I’ve just discovered Kate Saunders, who writes these lovely mystery series in the vein of Agatha Christie. The protagonist is a genteel lady detective Laetitia Rodd. She is such a delightful and witty character I look forward to reading more of her adventures. The book I read was <em>Laetitia Rodd and the Case of the Wandering Scholar</em>, and I enjoyed it immensely.</span></p> <p><strong><span>What does your writing routine look like?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Panic, most of the time, to be honest. I work full time, I have a teenager, a tweenager, a husband, a 95-year-old mother and a very large dog to take care of, so I squeeze it in between all that! Mostly very early in the morning when the house is quiet, I can get an hour or two in. </span></p> <p><strong><span>Do you deal with writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Walk. Walk. Walk. </span></p> <p><strong><span>What book do you think more people should read?</span></strong></p> <p><span>When it comes to books, I don’t think the word “should” belongs. Reading is so very personal, isn’t it? But if I wanted to recommend a book that beautifully illustrates the flow and rhythm of writing, I would gift someone any P. G. Wodehouse novel. </span></p> <p><strong><span>How have your other jobs, past and present, influenced your fiction writing?</span></strong></p> <p><span>All of them have in some way. From primary school teacher, waitress, go-go dancer (not really), nanny, event manager, journalist and lecturer, it’s all the stuff of life, isn’t it? Which is the stuff of books!</span></p> <p><strong><span>Which author, deceased or living, would you most like to have dinner with?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Mary Wesley, because books-wise she was a bit of a late bloomer, like me!</span></p> <p><strong><span>What cliché(s) do you wish novels would stop using?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I like to be surprised by books, and I really don’t like it when we can see what is coming a mile away. I hope my books are less obvious to the reader and that when the surprises come, they really are just that.</span></p>

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How to learn about love from Mills & Boon novels

<p>“We expect love to be one of our greatest joys. But, in practice, it is one of the most reliable routes to misery,” <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/jan/10/romantic-realism-the-seven-rules-to-help-you-avoid-divorce">wrote Alain de Botton</a> in a recent article, before informing us that divorce rates <a href="https://theconversation.com/january-divorce-rush-dates-back-to-the-middle-ages-35928">peak post-Christmas</a>.</p> <p>Some have blamed one well-known publisher of romance novels as a reason behind this tidal wave of lost hopes. One scholarly article in the <em>British Medical Journal</em> <a href="http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/veteran-bodice-ripper-that-defies-parody-bp625mpml">claimed</a> that Mills &amp; Boon was a contributing factor to divorce, adultery, and unwanted pregnancy.</p> <p>Mills &amp; Boon is over 100-years-old and has an established reputation of supplying escapist romantic fantasies for its predominantly female readership across the globe. But with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I’d like to come out in defence of these romantic novels. Despite their escapist nature, there is a considerable amount of realism contained within their pages.</p> <p>This might seem like a surprising claim. But realism in romance has always been a part of romantic fiction. Charlotte Smith (1749-1806), an early writer of romances, also injected a degree of reality into her novels. While her heroines of sensibility were being wooed from the turrets of their high towers by heroes with appellations such as Orlando and Willoughby, her subsidiary characters faced issues such as extra-marital affairs, unwanted pregnancies and marital rape. As Stuart Curran <a href="http://www.palgrave.com/gb/book/9780230550711">argues</a> of Smith’s works, they record a moment in English fiction where the “intrusion of ‘real life’ into the world of romance marks the beginning of a reconstituted literary realism”.</p> <p>And I reckon that this “literary realism” is equally available, at least in some measure, in many of the romantic novels of Mills &amp; Boon. But how shall we define “realism”? The sceptic’s definition should suffice. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/jan/10/romantic-realism-the-seven-rules-to-help-you-avoid-divorce">De Botton lists</a> seven rules that will allow any reader to develop the emotional skill of romantic realism, and thereby save their marriage.</p> <p><strong>Embracing imperfection</strong></p> <p>First on the list is to “accept perfection is unrealistic”.</p> <p>Now, the heroes of the average Mills &amp; Boon romance, despite appearances on the covers (which generally feature muscular Adonis-like men or heroes who bear a resemblance to popular film stars) are, in fact, very far from perfect. The male lead of Penny Jordan’s <a href="http://www.harlequin.com/storeitem.html?iid=24667"><em>The Most Coveted Prize</em></a> (2011) freely admits this to himself. As the reader is introduced to Kiryl, the narrator informs us that he has “a darkness within him that he had never wholly been able to control. Something of a mental vampire, an echo of himself that, when aroused, could only be calmed by feeding off the emotional pain of others”.</p> <p>It will take the equally far from perfect 19-year-old heroine Alena to save Kiryl from himself and cement their relationship. In order for this to happen, Alena has to accept the reality that Kiryl is not the perfect hero she has constructed him to be within her imagination, saying to him: “I didn’t love you. I loved someone I created inside my own head and heart – someone I now know never existed. That was weak and foolish of me.”</p> <p>Once she has admitted the truth to herself and, in de Botton’s words, “she has grasped the specifics of his imperfections”, she is free to focus on the fact that she loves him anyway, and would rather be with him and his imperfections than spend the rest of her life without him.</p> <p><strong>The art of loving</strong></p> <p>This leads me nicely onto de Botton’s fourth rule of romantic realism, which instructs us to “be ready to love rather than be loved”. Alena – along with countless other Mills &amp; Boon heroines – loves her hero even though she is fully aware of his failings.</p> <p>So the heroines have no issue following de Botton’s advice. But it must be acknowledged that the heroes do have more trouble. Their alpha male status seems to inhibit them from admitting what they perceive as weakness – which for the main part, manifests itself in the form of their vulnerability to the heroine. The final admission of the hero’s undying love for her will almost destroy him.</p> <p>But, as Kiryl admits, “a man can only lie to himself for so long”, and despite Jordan reducing him to a shadow of himself – as she does with so many of her heroes – it will become clear that the hero of the tale can only be saved by embracing both the heroine and his love for her.</p> <p><strong>But it’s all about the sex, right?</strong></p> <p>One of the criticisms which have been levelled at Mills &amp; Boon romantic novels over the years is the inclusion of scenes of an explicit nature. How realistic is the invariably great sex the average Mills &amp; Boon heroine can anticipate with her hero?</p> <p>As de Botton observes, one of the frequent failings in relationships is that we fail to “understand that sex and love, do and don’t, belong together … the general view expects that love and sex will be aligned. But in truth, they won’t stay so beyond a few months or, at best, one or two years”.</p> <p>Not many Mills &amp; Boons address this point. But some do. In another sample from her corpus, Jordan does attempt to hint that the “other key concerns” that de Botton highlights such as “companionship, administration, another generation” do have an impact on sex in relationships. In her 1982 novel, <a href="https://www.millsandboon.co.uk/p38167/blackmail.htm"><em>Blackmail</em></a>, the heroine, Lee, is forced to take a break in sexual relations with her husband Gilles because the birth of her son “had not been an easy one”.</p> <p>And akin to her literary ancestor, Charlotte Smith, Jordan also featured many older heroines. In her novel from 1989, <em><a href="https://www.millsandboon.co.uk/p29067/a-rekindled-passion.htm">A Rekindled Passion</a></em>, for example, the heroine, Kate, is just shy of 40. Kate has spent all of her adult life as a single mother, having fallen pregnant at age 16. When the baby’s father, Joss, reappears, Kate turns down his offer of sex after he tells her he wants her, saying: “It wouldn’t be sensible. We’d both regret it.”</p> <p>Both Kate and Lee love their heroes, but their love is not aligned with sex. The heroines and heroes reach their happy endings in these novels, because all parties accept this.</p> <p>Harlequin Mills &amp; Boon, as a publisher, openly retails their fiction as escapism. But like all great romantic fiction, from its earliest days to contemporary times, these novels do address realistic issues which people face every day in their relationships.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/71530/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/valerie-derbyshire-331457">Valerie Derbyshire</a>, Doctoral Researcher, School of English, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sheffield-1147">University of Sheffield</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-to-learn-about-love-from-mills-and-boon-novels-71530">original article</a>.</em></p>

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5 minutes with author Maya Linnell

<p><span>In <em>5 minutes with author</em>, <em>Over60</em> asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Maya Linnell, a writer based in rural Victoria. After working in journalism and public relations, she is now writing fiction and blogging for Romance Writers Australia. Her debut novel, <em>Wildflower Ridge</em> was recently shortlisted for the 2019 Australian Romance Readers Awards. </span></p> <p><em><span>Over60</span></em><span> talked with Linnell about rural living, Anh Do’s uplifting work, and the literary trope she can’t stand.</span></p> <p><strong><em><span>Over60</span></em><span>: What is your best writing tip?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Maya Linnell: Let yourself write junk! I’ve heard it said that an author doesn’t know what they’re trying to say until they’ve finished the first draft, so give yourself permission to write waffly descriptions and scenes that are likely to be cut in the next draft, just so you can push through and complete the story. Then you can cut the wheat from the chaff.</span></p> <p><strong><span>What book do you think more people should read?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Anh Do’s <em>The Happiest Refugee</em> is uplifting, heart-wrenching and inspiring. I dare someone to read it without smiling.</span></p> <p><strong><span>How has rural living influenced your writing?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I’ve lived in small country towns most of my life, and my office overlooks our paddocks, so my writing days are full of breaks to check on the cows, shoo the chickens off my garden and admire the wallabies, with a sound track of magpies, galahs, honeyeaters and cockatoos. It’s second nature to write about the issues faced by my community, my friends and my family on a regular basis, whether it’s livestock, snakes, succession planning, drought, mental health, good seasons and bad, and of course weather.</span></p> <p><strong><span>What was the last book that made you laugh or cry?</span></strong></p> <p><em><span>The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parker</span></em><span> by Joanna Nell was a heart-warming tale that made me cry, and I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of Cassie Hamer’s second novel <em>The End of Cuthbert Close</em> which had me laughing every second page. It will be out in March and I know it’ll fly off the shelves.</span></p> <p><strong><span>How do you deal with writer’s block?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I sit at my desk from 9am to midday every weekday while I’m working on my first draft and tell myself the quicker I hit the 1,000 word mark, the quicker I get to do other things, like gardening, baking or sewing. At the moment I’m sewing skirts for my <em>Bottlebrush Creek</em> book tour – encompassing Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia) – and it’s a great incentive to stop me procrastinating or giving in to writers block.</span></p> <p><strong><span>Paperback, e-book or audiobook?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Paperback! After a day at the computer, I can’t stand looking at a screen for leisure. I also love audiobooks for long drives, housework and gardening. We live in the country in a big house, with huge gardens, so I get plenty of listening time!</span></p> <p><strong><span>Which author, deceased or living, would you most like to have dinner with?</span></strong></p> <p><span>Maya Angelou. She was the first famous person I’d ever heard of with the same name as mine – which was quite unusual in my small country town – and her writing is just beautiful.</span></p> <p><strong><span>What trope grinds your gears? </span></strong></p> <p><span>I love most tropes, but I can’t stand a book that trivialises violence against women. It’s less common these days, but that whole ‘abusive rogue who redeems himself to become the perfect partner’ is never going to work for me.</span></p>

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“Book murderer”: Author’s travel hack sparks debate

<p>Carrying books in your trip can be tricky. Some copies may prove too thick, heavy or bulky, taking up precious space in your luggage.</p> <p>While some resort to e-books and audiobooks, Alex Christofi has something else in mind.</p> <p>The British author took to Twitter on Tuesday to share his hack. “Yesterday my colleague called me a ‘book murderer’ because I cut long books in half to make them more portable. Does anyone else do this? Is it just me?”</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr">Yesterday my colleague called me a 'book murderer' because I cut long books in half to make them more portable. Does anyone else do this? Is it just me? <a href="https://t.co/VQUUdJMpwT">pic.twitter.com/VQUUdJMpwT</a></p> — Alex Christofi (@alex_christofi) <a href="https://twitter.com/alex_christofi/status/1219564301029138432?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 21, 2020</a></blockquote> <p>Christofi defended the book cutting as a way to help him keep reading.</p> <p>“The alternative is I just don’t read them because I can’t be bothered to carry them around,” he shared.</p> <p>“If people would just publish in sensible sized volumes I wouldn’t need to take matters into my own hands.”</p> <p>Some fellow readers expressed approval of Christofi’s trick.</p> <p>“I really like this Alex, and am completely ok with it. In fact it undercuts (tish boom) their hubris in writing such a bloody long book in the first place,” one responded.</p> <p>“Why are people so precious about the books they buy? Crack the spine, spill stuff on it, dog ear pages who cares as long as you’re reading,” another wrote.</p> <p>However, most replies were critical of the method. “I’ve never seen anyone do this. It’s definitely a book crime,” one wrote.</p> <p>“Is it just me, he says, posting a murder on the timeline,” another replied.</p> <p>“I’ve been an avid reader since I was 2. Carrying around books was never a burden to me, it was a joy. To mutilate a book to save an inch or two/a few ounces, then criticize the author/publisher for making such large/long/big books. His bindings are loose in more ways than one,” one said.</p> <p>“You’re a monster,” more than one commented.</p> <p>Publishing company Simon &amp; Schuster chimed in with a recommendation, “Can someone get this man an audiobook or e-book?!”</p>

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5 minutes with author Janet Gover

<p><span>In <em>5 minutes with author</em>, <em>Over60</em> asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Janet Gover, a writer and former television journalist based in London, England. Her 2016 outback novel <em>Little Girl Lost</em> won the Epic Romantic Novel of the Year Award presented by the Romantic Novelists' Association in the UK. Her latest book, <em>The Lawson Sisters </em>is out on January 20.</span></p> <p><em><span>Over60</span></em><span> talked with Gover about Dr Seuss, Terry Pratchett and outback Australia.</span></p> <p><strong><em><span>Over60: </span></em>What is your best writing tip? </strong></p> <p>Janet Gover: Allow yourself to write badly sometimes. Seriously. When I’m doing the first draft of a book, I’m still discovering the characters and their story. Sometimes I’ll write a chapter that I know is not good, but I write it, go past it and continue my voyage of discovery. I then come back and fix the bad bits later, when I know what I was really trying to say.</p> <p><strong>What book do you think more people should read? </strong></p> <p><span>Any book. Just read. Reading is so much more than just a pleasure, it opens your mind to new ideas and places and people. Read fiction, non-fiction, kids’ books, graphic novels… whatever appeals to you. And if you haven’t already, read <em>The Lorax</em> by Dr Seuss. I keep coming back to this book that has wisdom well beyond the years of its intended readers. </span></p> <p><strong><span>How has outback Australia influenced your writing?</span></strong></p> <p><span>When I left Australia to travel, I started to realise how unique outback Australia really is. Things we see every day and often take for granted don’t exist anywhere else in the world. That’s why so many of my books are rural stories. As someone once said to me… You can take the girl out of the bush, but you can’t take the bush out of the girl.</span></p> <p><strong><span>What was the last book that made you cry?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I am a huge fan of Robyn Carr’s <em>Virgin River</em> series. I recently reread the first book – and, yes, I got all misty. That’s why her books have such a prominent place on my shelves.</span></p> <p><strong><span>What does your writing routine look like?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I try to be at my desk by 9 every morning, although sometimes I cheat and linger in bed with a cup of tea, a book and my cat. I spend my mornings doing emails, and paperwork and chatting to friends online. I grab a bite of lunch around midday and that’s when I start writing. I bury myself in the book until my husband calls to say he’s leaving work. That call gives me time to finish what I’m doing – and quickly do the breakfast dishes before he gets home. </span></p> <p><strong><span>Do you deal with writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I don’t really get writer’s block, but when I am struggling, that’s when [the advice] above becomes important. I just write through it. I know what I am writing is bad, but that doesn’t matter because at some point my Writer Brain kicks in and tells me what I really should be doing. </span></p> <p><strong><span>What romance trope can’t you get enough of? Alternatively, what cliché do you wish romance novels would stop using?</span></strong></p> <p><span>I love a second chance story. <em>The Lawson Sisters</em> is one of those. We all make mistakes in our lives, and I like to think we will get the chance to put things right.  </span></p> <p><span>I am not a huge fan of the ‘forced marriage’ trope. This may have worked in the past, when women had so little power, but I think that as writers in the 21st century, we should be telling our readers that they are strong and able to take charge of their own lives. That’s a theme that reoccurs a lot in my stories.</span></p> <p><strong><span>Which author, deceased or living, would you most like to have dinner with?</span></strong></p> <p><span>This is a tough one. I get terribly nervous around authors I admire and am afraid I’ll say something silly and embarrass myself. I would love to have dinner with the wonderful Terry Pratchett. No author has ever made me laugh or cry as much as he has. I would like to say thank you and I miss you.</span></p>

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Margaret Atwood’s new book to remain unseen until 2114

<p><span>Margaret Atwood’s unread manuscript will remain locked away until 2114.</span></p> <p><span>The Man Booker prize-winning novelist is one of the first contributors to the Future Library project based in Norway. </span></p> <p><span>Conceived by Scottish artist Katie Paterson, the project saw a thousand spruce saplings being planted in the forest of Nordmarka outside Oslo in 2014. In a century, the trees will be cut down, turned into paper and used to print an anthology of 100 unpublished books – including Atwood’s. </span></p> <p><span>“The idea is that one author per year is commissioned specifically to write a new piece of work for the forest, with the knowledge that nobody is going to read it until the trees are fully grown,” Paterson told <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-12-17/the-future-library-norway-wood-margaret-atwood/11783438">ABC RN</a>.</span></p> <p><span>Paterson said Atwood was the first author she and the Future Library Trust approached for the initiative.</span></p> <p><span>“We got a phenomenal response from Margaret,” Paterson said.</span></p> <p><span>“She responded to our letter not only agreeing to write for the Future Library, but giving us advice about what kind of trees to plant and how to plant them because she grew up in a forest herself.”</span></p> <p><span>Atwood, author of T<em>he</em> <em>Handmaid’s Tale</em>, said of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/sep/05/margaret-atwood-new-work-unseen-century-future-library">her decision to participate</a> then, “It is the kind of thing you either immediately say yes or no to. You don’t think about it for very long.</span></p> <p><span>“When you write any book you do not know who’s going to read it, and you do not know when they’re going to read it. You don’t know who they will be, you don’t know their age, or gender, or nationality, or anything else about them. So books, anyway, really are like the message in the bottle.”</span></p> <p><span>Since Atwood joined, five other authors have come on board: <em>Cloud Atlas </em>novelist David Mitchell, Turkish writer Elif Shafak, Icelandic poet and lyricist Sjón, Man Booker-winning author Han Kang and Norwegian autobiographic novelist Karl Ove Knausgård. Every year until 2114, a writer will be invited to contribute to the collection.</span></p> <p><span>The trust plans to store the manuscripts in a special Silent Room in Oslo’s new public library, and print 3,000 copies of all 100 texts when the time arrives.</span></p> <p><span>Paterson acknowledged that there are “many unknowns” in today’s world. “We’re in a total climate crisis, in a catastrophic moment, and so we can’t predict entirely that the forest will still be there in a hundred years, but we have to do everything we can to ensure that it will be,” she said.</span></p>

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