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Author at Work
by Garrison Keillor

I know nothing about what is going on in the country, I hear nothing, I have nothing to say, I am a writer locked up with a book that is due on Tuesday, so I am taking a break.

No big deal. Everybody's writing a book. In libraries and back rooms and parents' basements, men and women just like me are sitting at computers with stacks of books around them, legal pads full of notes, Post-its, index cards, photocopies, and they are trying to not answer the phone or check e-mail, trying to meet a deadline. It's like a lingering illness: There are good days and bad days. You go to bed and get up in the morning and try again.

And when the book is done, which it will be, and it's in the bookstore, people ask, "How does it feel?" You say, "Great!" but that's not true. You feel relief, and disbelief, and a sort of sorrow that it's gone and what will you do with your life now? Also there is that long passage in the sixth chapter that you meant to rewrite and did not and now you know you should have. And there is that typo. The publisher sent you a copy of the book hot off the press and you opened it at random and there it is, the word "releif" -- God showing you that no matter how hard you try, you still fall short. Humility comes with the territory. - More

Naughty Jimmy

Former president Jimmy Carter has often been a hot topic at the White House, but his name was recently before news executives and owners at the CBS stockholders annual meeting at the Equitable Center in Midtown Manhattan held recently.

A CBS subsidiary, Simon & Schuster was accused of damaging the reputation of its parent company by publishing Carter's latest book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.  Carol Greenwald, the treasurer of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, a CBS shareholder, criticized the publisher at the meeting.

According to a statement in The New York Sun, Greenwald, who calls Carter's book "error-filled," asked that a fact-checking system be set up to prevent material errors in books Simon & Schuster publishes in the future and that a code of ethics be adopted for its publishing division.

CBS declined comment, but a spokesman said that ... it is expected that company would reply.

Why Kids
Don't Read

Children become less interested in reading as they get older, with computer games and TV hogging their attention instead, a new study recently revealed.  The survey of more than 4,100 schoolchildren aged from four up to 16 showed that the numbers of kids saying they are keen readers plummets when they reach secondary school.

As the number describing themselves as 'enthusiastic' readers falls with age, the proportion describing themselves as 'reluctant' readers goes up as they get older.

Analysts believe that while children may have a good grounding in reading, computer games and television often take over when schools swamp them with books.

The major study, funded by the Arts Council, found that between the ages of four and seven, 49.7 per cent of girls and 37.3 per cent of boys describe themselves as 'enthusiastic' readers, reading for pleasure and in their spare time. - More

The Shocking Truth
About the Slush Pile

I thought the piles of unsolicited manuscripts it was my job to sift through would contain undiscovered gems. Reader, I was very wrong.

by Jean Hannah Edelstein

"I won an award in my reception class for writing, and ever since then I have known that it is my destiny to be a writer. I enclose the first 600 pages of my fantasy space opera."

At first, I was amused by the slush pile. My colleagues and I would read each other excerpts and giggle. "We are a normal Leicestershire couple, until the lights go down. This is the true story of our erotic journey, illustrated with woodcuts." "I am a 35-five-year-old mother of four children and two dogs and I have an unfortunate foot rash. I have written a novel about a 35-five-year-old mother of four children and two dogs who has an unfortunate foot rash."

It was my first job out of university: I was bright-eyed and idealistic and imagined that I might become some kind of beneficent tweedy sprite, conveying the writing of unknown literary artistes to the masses. By the time I left my job in publishing a few weeks ago, my idealism was in tatters, destroyed by the piles of typescripts I received from people who told me that their fondest desire was to write full time while sitting in a villa overlooking the Mediteranian, despite the fact that they didn't know how to spell it.

Often, the most awful stuff was written by aspiring children's authors. It appears to be a widely-held notion that anthropomorphising pavements, natural disasters or household appliances is the way to secure a place in the children's canon. But while your grandchildren may appear to really enjoy Tommy the Tenacious Toaster, the chances of it charming anyone else are slim. - More

Damn the Water Shortage...
Full Speed Ahead!

You’ve read the books, seen the films and bought the CD. But just when you thought there were no other ways for the Harry Potter brand to squeeze money out of you, along comes the theme park.

Warner Brothers and Universal studios plan to take fans of the schoolboy magician on another (expensive) adventure with the creation of a billion-dollar park in Orlando, Florida.

The film-makers believe that they can recreate the dream of every child reader, and probably a few million adults too, who have imagined themselves flying in a game of Quidditch or walking into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for a lesson in spells rather than spelling. - More

Thirty-Six Rejections Later:

There's a note for the postman pinned to the front door of Marina Lewycka's functional, foursquare house in the rowdy university quarter of Sheffield. "If no answer," it says, "please put packages behind the wheelie bin. Don't worry - they're only foreign books." A blase attitude to the new foreign editions of her bestselling first novel, A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, that arrive with every post - it had been translated into 29 languages at the last count - but she has a simple explanation. "What thief would be interested in foreign books?" - More

New Name, Scope
For Business Line

Grand Central Publishing recently announced a new name for the old Warner Business imprint--now to be known as Business Plus--and a new plan to extend the line to the UK. Executive editor Rick Wolff will continue to lead acquisitions in the US, and Headline editorial director David Wilson will oversee the new UK effort. (Headline has not previously had a dedicated business line.) Together they will "develop joint acquisition strategies, and [look] to acquire world rights when possible."

Web Tools May Soon
Digitize Books

A few simple keystrokes may soon turn blather into books.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have discovered a way to enlist people across the globe to help digitize books every time they solve the simple distorted word puzzles commonly used to register at Web sites or buy things online.

The word puzzles are known as CAPTCHAs, short for "completely automated public Turing tests to tell computers and humans apart." Computers can't decipher the twisted letters and numbers, ensuring that real people and not automated programs are using the Web sites.

Researchers estimate that about 60 million of those nonsensical jumbles are solved everyday around the world, taking an average of about 10 seconds each to decipher and type in.

Instead of wasting time typing in random letters and numbers, Carnegie Mellon researchers have come up with a way for people to type in snippets of books to put their time to good use, confirm they're not machines and help speed up the process of getting searchable texts online.

"Humanity is wasting 150,000 hours every day on these," said Luis von Ahn, an assistant professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon. He helped develop the CAPTCHAs about seven years ago. "Is there any way in which we can use this human time for something good for humanity, do 10 seconds of useful work for humanity?" - More

Bad Man Wins
Kids Book Prize

Red House children's award-winner is a tale of a dastardly plot to do away with a village dog

Andy Stanton: 'just to be on the same list as people like Michael Morpurgo is amazing'. Photograph: Martin Godwin

The children have spoken, and they have gone for a stinky old man who hates children and fun and corn on the cob. Andy Stanton has been awarded the Red House Children's Book Award overall prize for You're a Bad Man Mr Gum!, his darkly humorous novel for younger readers.

You're a Bad Man Mr Gum! features a nasty old man, a horrible butcher and a dastardly plot to do away with the village dog, Jake. Set in a town called Lamonic Bibber, with a language called funty and the catchphrase "the truth is a lemon meringue", the book is whimsically reminiscent of Roald Dahl.

It is Stanton's first book, and his follow-up, Mr Gum and the Biscuit Billionaire, has already been longlisted for the Guardian children's book prize.

Speaking after the awards ceremony at the Hay festival, which was a lively affair attended by children who had voted for the winner along with some of the leading lights of the children's book scene, Stanton said that he was startled to have won.

"It feels a bit like I shouldn't really be here," he confessed. "As if slipped under the radar without anyone noticing - just to be on the same list as people like Michael Morpurgo is amazing." - More

New Imprint, New Editor =
New Markets

Amy Einhorn is moving to Putnam to start the eponymous imprint Amy Einhorn Books, where she will be vp and publisher, beginning July 9, and reporting to president Ivan Held.  Einhorn will publish fiction, narrative nonfiction, and commercial nonfiction, focusing on "intelligent writing with a strong narrative, always with great storytelling at its core."  Einhorn has been hardcover editor-in-chief at Grand Central, where she also founded and launched the Five Spot imprint.

Separately, Matt Weiland--who returned to New York earlier this year to open a NY office for Granta--is joining The Paris Review in the new position of deputy editor. Editor Philip Gourevitch says, "Matt is among the sharpest and most versatile editors of both fiction and nonfiction of his generation.  His experience, his range of interests and tastes, and his grasp of The Paris Review's traditions and possibilities make him a natural new member of our staff."

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