Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Festival of Books 2014 – Publishing: the Editor’s Voice

Dan Smetanka – Counterpoint/Soft Skull Press
Bart Schneider – Kelly’s Cove Press
Deena Drewis – Nouvella
Peter Ginna – Bloomsbury Press
Ethan Nosowsky – Graywolf Press

Random thoughts from the editor’s perspective

Smetanka called the panel “organic, free-range editors. It’s rare to see them in daylight.”

Nosowsky:  (He recently published The Empathy Exams, a collection of essays that hit the NY Times list.) Graywolf Press is a small nonprofit press. Books of essays are conventionally thought to be not commercial. Luck is a huge, huge side of publishing. This book was just one we really liked. We thought, “This feels different.” It’s getting a ton of good press. A really good book + a lot of hard work + a little bit of luck = good fortune.

Drewis: (About publishing Novellas) There was a niche to fill. We’re actively pursuing authors. We read literary magazine. (Novellas are 10,000 to 40,000 words.) When a good book is a good book, it’s a good book. A collection of essays that does well rises out of the ashes of what publishers think is publishable.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Festival of Books 2014 - Publishing: Inside the Literary Magazine

Robert Scheer:
Oscar Villalon: Zyzzyva
Bruce Bauman: Black Clock
Jon Christensen: Boom
Tom Lutz: Los Angeles Review of Books

Random thoughts on publishing in a literary magazine

Christensen: (About his goals) I want to host a lively dinner party with passionate conversation. That’s the voice we’re looking for. A magazine is an evocative object that sits on your coffee table for three months.

Villalon: We focus mainly on West Coast writers and artists: California, Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, and Alaska. And we promote emerging writers. (They have a feature called “First Time in Print.”) Zyzzyva is published three times per year.

Scheer: You’re supposed to kick ass and make waves. Most of the print stuff is gone. There is something exciting about electronic publishing. The Internet is the most liberating and the most threatening. ( has been around for nine years and has five Webby Awards.) (He mentioned the website’s first big story was written by Pat Tillman’s brother about his death, saying many people globally read it within 24 hours.) You can find a massive audience all over the world, but [the Internet] is a fragile business model. (He called Snowden a hero.) Google and Yahoo destroyed our privacy (mining data and targeting ads), not the NSA. Invasive gathering of data would be a wet dream for Hitler and Stalin. [Online] shopping is the greatest expression of modern freedom. The consumer impulse and totalitarian impulse are tied together.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Festival of Books 2014 - Nonfiction: The Art of the Personal Story

Meghan Daum: moderator, The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion
Leslie Jamison: The Empathy Exams
Dinah Lenney: The Object Parade
Leo Braudy: Trying to be Cool: Growing Up in the 1950s
Pico Iyer: The Man Within My Head

Random thoughts on writing about oneself

Iyer: Growing up in England, you’re taught to be as impersonal as possible. Through the mask of the impersonal, you reveal things you wouldn’t normally share.

Braudy: I grew up in the 1950s. There was an impersonality in general.

Jamison: When gazing at an object outside the self, it brings the self to bear. When I rise up to meet the external thing, everything I’ve ever lived is part of that. I started off writing fiction. I follow where the energy feels, what my heart has something to say about.

Braudy: Stick to emotional certainty, if not factual truth. I had to free myself to get at emotional truth. (Events are out of order. Characters are blended.) I gave all my friends different names.

Iyer: Memoir is always fiction. Nonfiction takes liberties with facts, and fiction tends to draw from real events and real emotions. The personal parts are slippery. That doesn’t matter. Emotional truth matters. The destination is the imagination of the reader. I didn’t want this book to be categorized. It’s not nonfiction or fiction. (He took out the original subtitle after a year of debate because it made it sound like a nonfiction book.)