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Archives: 9/2018
Sep 20, 2018 News

WASHINGTON BLACK, a novel by Esi Edugyan, published by Knopf and Random House Audio, and THE LONG TAKE by Robin Robertson, which Knopf will publish in January in the U.S., have been selected by the judges as two of six semi-finalists for the 2018 Man Booker Prize.

Among the most coveted international prizes awarded annually for literary fiction, the nominees were chosen from titles published in the UK between October 1, 2017 and September 30, 2018.

The winner will be announced the evening of Tuesday, October 16.

Congratulations to all our longlisted and shortlisted authors and their publishers.

Click here for the complete list of Man Booker Finalists.

Sep 14, 2018 Blog

This article was written by Matt Staggs and originally appeared on Unbound Worlds.

Divine Comedy author Dante Alighieri died on this day in 1321. In honor of the great poet’s life, we offer this short guide to the nine circles of Hell, as described in Dante’s Inferno.

First Circle: Limbo
The first circle is home to the unbaptized and virtuous pagans. It’s not Heaven, but as far as Hell goes, it isn’t too bad: It’s the retirement community of the afterlife. Hippocrates and Aristotle will be your neighbors, so any attempt at small talk will probably turn into Big Talk in a hurry. You’ll have television, but all of the channels will be set to CSPAN.

Second Circle: Lust
The wind-buffeted second circle of Hell is the final destination of the lustful and adulterous — basically anyone controlled by their hormones. Cleopatra and Helen of Troy were among its most famous residents during Dante’s day, but you can expect this place to be full of angsty teenagers and reality television stars by the time you arrive.

Third Circle: Gluttony
Today’s forecast calls for plenty of icy rain and slush — a “wintery mix” for all eternity. You know those people whose Instagram feeds are full of carefully lit photos of artfully arranged entrees? You’ll probably find them here, plus anyone whose response is “I’m kind of a foodie” when asked where they’d like to go eat.

Fourth Circle: Greed
This section of Hell is reserved for the money-grubbers and overly materialistic among us. According to Dante, those condemned to the fourth circle spend eternity fighting over money and valuables, so be prepared to meet all of your distant cousins who show up out of nowhere with empty U-Haul trucks moments the moment after a well-to-do great aunt or uncle dies.

Fifth Circle: Anger
Dante tells us that the wrathful and angry souls of this circle spend eternity waging battle on the River of Styx. If playing pirates forever sounds like your idea of a good time, then the fifth circle can’t be too bad. Be prepared to hoist the Jolly Roger and go to war against that one guy in line who yelled at your favorite barista, and the road rage-possessed driver who very nearly rear-ended you last week.

Sixth Circle: Heresy
Dante wrote that heretics spent eternity entombed in flaming crypts in the sixth circle, but heresy is kind of an obscure sin in modern times. There’s probably plenty of vacancies now, so let’s fill this one with anyone who goes bananas whenever “their” movie franchise or comic book changes in a way they don’t like. The air in the sixth circle is probably choked with ashes and anguished cries of “[X] ruined my childhood!”

Seventh Circle: Violence
I’ll be honest with you, dear reader: Dante was being kind of a dick when it came to designing this level. It is composed of three rings. The outer ring is filled with blood and fire and reserved for murderers and thugs. That’s fine, but it gets sketchier from here. The middle ring is where, according to Dante, suicide victims go. They’re transformed into trees and fed upon by harpies (which I guess are somehow related to termites?). The inner ring, a place of burning sand, is reserved for “blasphemers” and “sodomites.” Like I said, Dante was a bit of a dick. How about we ret-con this one (Sorry, residents of the sixth circle…) and reserve it for the likes of the Westboro Baptist Church? If that makes me kind of a dick, well, I’ll live with that.

Eighth Circle: Fraud
The eighth circle is subdivided into ten trenches. We won’t get into the specifics of who goes where (Too bad, Dante. That’s what you get for making me write abut the seventh circle) but here you’ll find con artists of all sorts. Dante described ditches, but I prefer to think of the eight circle as being a giant cubicle farm full of phone and internet fraudsters. Welcome, so-called Nigerian princes and supposed “IRS agents” who insist on being paid in iTunes cards.

Ninth Circle: Treachery
The final circle is a frozen wasteland occupied by history’s greatest traitors. So … Washington, DC in February?


Photo by Ian Stauffer on Unsplash

Sep 14, 2018 Blog

Congratulations to our Penguin Random House authors who have been chosen by the respective five category judges as “longlisted” semi-finalists for the 2018 National Book Awards.

Wednesday, October 10: The “shortlist” of five finalists per category will be announced.

Wednesday, November 15: The five winners will be revealed at the annual National Book Awards dinner.

See below for our semi-finalists in each category.

 

Fiction

 

Nonfiction

 

Poetry

 

Translated Literature

 

Young Adult Fiction and Nonfiction

 

Sep 11, 2018 Blog

This article was written by Laura Furman and originally appeared on Signature Reads.

As the series editor who chooses the stories in the annual O. Henry Prize Stories, I read hundreds of short stories every year. I also have the benefit and pleasure of asking each year’s twenty winners to write a short piece about how and why they wrote their stories. Along with my own experience as a short story writer, I’m in a good position to ponder a question often posed by aspiring writers: What are the essential elements of a good short story?

As I set out to answer that question, however, I found myself instead enumerating what is not essential.

The first thing you should set aside is any explicit or guiding notion of what your story is “about.” Readers often ask writers what their stories mean, but if the writer has a ready answer, that is a problem. A good writer knows where and when the first hint of a story appeared, and how she wrote it. She knows what the process was from draft to finish – but a story’s “meaning” is often as much a mystery to writer as to reader, and that’s as it should be.

Writing a short story is an intuitive activity driven by the writer’s wonderful subconscious and it’s as far from meaning as dreaming is from being awake. Conscious logical planning will get you from Point A to Point B in the shortest time but the subconscious excels at fortuitous invention. A writer must learn to trust the startling images and characters that come up in the course of composition. Her subconscious, if she trusts it, will guide her through the beginning, background, and development to the ending, which is often the most difficult part to write, and to understand.

The next most important thing is grasping the particular demands of this form. In bringing to life the world of a short story, it is crucial to know what to leave out. Despite some superficial resemblance to the novel, the short story differs from it in important ways; a story must draw the reader in without attempting to imitate the enveloping completeness or epic sweep of a novel. A short story also isn’t a song or a poem, forms that express their world of meaning through extreme compression and abstraction. Some very terse stories do resemble a poem or song, for example Michael Parker’s “Stop ‘n’ Go” in The O. Henry Prize Stories 2018. Whatever its length, though, and however elaborate or simple its language, the short story is rooted in its own unique deployment of quotidian details, which must feel real and convincing.

In all stories, even the most starkly written, the story’s world must be recognizable, however eccentric or fantastical or hyper-realistic it may be. Characters sit on uncomfortable chairs or walk on graveled paths, and the reader must be able to sit on those chairs and walk on those paths. Frequent O. Henry winner William Trevor’s conflicted Irish and English characters feel as real and important to the fond reader as her own friends. The main character in Jo Ann Beard’s “The Tomb of Wrestling,” in The O. Henry Prize Stories 2018, confronts an intruder who means her harm, and the reader is as terrified as she is.

The thousands of decisions a writer makes in editing a story boil down to trusting the reader to make connections. That trust dominates the writer’s decisions as she moves from draft to draft and decides what the reader needs in order to understand plot, sequence, setting, and character – without spelling out those elements. Explaining is unnecessary when the story is right; in fact, too much explanation feels to the attentive reader like an annoying interruption, a breaking of the spell. Never underestimate your reader’s intelligence.

At a magical point, the writer’s subconscious inventions connect with the reader’s intelligence and emotions, and the reader understands why the story ends where it does; how the ending is an illuminated version of the beginning; that the story’s secret has been revealed without words. The trust that has guided the writer to get rid of all but the right details has paid off and the reader has everything she needs to make the story’s meaning her own.

Photo by Da Kraplak on Unsplash

Sep 11, 2018 Blog

This article was written by Alexa Martin and originally appeared on Signature Reads.

 

When I first started writing what is now Intercepted, my debut novel, I did it hidden in my basement with the intention of never letting it see the light of day, but as I kept writing — and, let’s be honest, deleting — I grew more interested in the craft, and more interested in what made the authors I admire stand out from the rest. One thought kept popping into my head over and over again: writing voice.

Yes, the term “writing voice” may seem like a simple enough concept on the surface, but what does it really mean?

As writers, there are so many things we consider as we put our words onto paper: filter words, dialogue tags, adverbs, and even show. Am I a plotter or a planner? Where does my manuscript belong in terms of genre and sub-genre? What in the world is a query letter? All of these questions can be answered concisely, but when it comes to voice, the explanation becomes more complex.

Voice can be a combination of your writing tone, sentence structure, patterns, and perspective. It is a stamp on your writing that makes your work personal and recognizable, so much so that your audience can identify a sample of writing as yours without ever seeing your name. As a debut author, that seems like a daunting task, but it makes all the difference in how you will be received as a writer. Presently, in the world of publishing, there are so many talented authors saturating the market that standing out amongst the crowd can seem almost impossible. This is one of the reasons why voice is so important.

For me, discovering my voice started well before the thought of writing a book ever crossed my mind. I blogged; it was not a popular one by any means, unless you ask my mother or best friend. It was just a means to stay in touch with friends and family and update them on the happenings in my life. However, as I continued to write my blogs, the comments from readers started to influence the way I wrote. I would get a thrill when someone would reach out to me and tell me how hard he or she laughed at my latest post. Even better was when I’d get an email from a reader stating how much they wanted to get together and have a drink after reading one of my posts.

After a while, I knew what I wanted my readers to feel when they read my words. I wanted my stories to be relatable and fun. I wanted my readers to feel like they were having a night out with friends. And that feeling of relatability transferred into my writing style once I finally became brave enough to start my manuscript.

Even if you don’t blog, there’s no way in this day and age that you aren’t writing to someone at some point during your day. And while I’m not sure anybody wants to read a book of tweets or Facebook statuses, you are still using writing to get your point across. Another great way to hone in on your voice is to grab a notebook or open a word document and go wild. Just write whatever your heart desires. A quick google search will yield you tons of writing prompts if that’s what you need to get your juices flowing.

Sit down and ask yourself what kind of author you want to be. Decide what experience you want your reader to have. Ask yourself what you can bring to the story that nobody else can.

Most importantly, be yourself. Find inspiration from your favorite authors and allow it to guide you when developing your style. Part of being a writer is being a reader. Knowing what draws you to an author is crucial in creating your own voice. Everyone has an influence, just don’t lose your voice trying to emulate someone else.

As writers, we all might be a little crazy to do what we do, so make sure you’re doing it in a way that makes you happy. Whether you’re writing a romantic comedy, thriller, or memoir, remember that yourstory is important and your voice is needed.

Writing/Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Sep 3, 2018 Blog

This article was written by Matt Staggs and originally appeared on Unbound Worlds.

Welcome to another installment of Two Book Tango: an ongoing series in which Unbound Worlds pairs two titles that go well together. Today’s pairing is Vince Beiser’s The World in a Grain: The Story of Sand and How it Transformed Civilization, and Frank Herbert’s Dune.

If you’re like me, the only time you probably think about sand is when you’re sinking your toes into it at the beach in summer, or maybe changing your kitty’s litter box. As it turns out, both of us should be thinking about it a whole lot more. According to Vince Beiser, author of The World in a Grain, we’re running out of it, and that could mean a lot of trouble in the very near future.

We take sand for granted. Many of the fundamentals of human civilization were only made possible by sand: mining, building our cities, paving our roads, and more. Not much has changed today.  We use more of it than any other natural resource. It is in our electronics, our optics, our windows … there’s almost as many uses for sand as there are grains of it on a beach. There’s different varieties of it, and, like oil, diamond, and precious metals, high value sand isn’t distributed evenly. The more useful it is, the harder it is to get, and good sand can bring a pretty penny. 

Sand is big business: People lie, steal, and kill for it all the time. Pirates and bandits, corporations and entrepreneurs, everyone is getting in on the sand game. The big money isn’t just in supplying the stuff for high end electronics manufacturers and construction firms, either. The rising waters of climate change are slowly eating away some of your favorite beaches (maybe even the one we mentioned above!), impacting local tourism as vacationers choose to spend their time and money elsewhere. The services of engineering firms specializing in beach restoration have proven popular, but such efforts are only a temporary stopgap. Inevitably, erosion continues, and with it, the renewed call for more sand.

Oddly enough, the issues explored in World in a Grain have something in common with Frank Herbert’s science fiction classic, Dune. Herbert, who worked as a journalist for a time, was inspired to write the novel after researching erosion in the sand dunes of of Florence, Oregon for an article. 

Sand may be getting hard to come by on Planet Earth, but not so on Arrakis, the parched, desert world of Frank Herbert’s Dune series. Still, it’s just as important, because that’s the native habitat of the planet’s sandworms: thousand-foot-long razor-toothed worm-like monsters that produce spice, or “melange.” Spice is an addictive substance with many properties, among them the awakening and cultivation of psychic abilities. The use of these abilities are what makes interstellar travel in Dune’s galaxy-spanning setting possible, so melange, much like our own sand, is part of the bedrock of civilization. 

The massive worms are considered sacred creatures by the Fremen, a nomadic people descended from spacefaring religious pilgrims who arrived on the planet generations ago. It is the Fremen who have made Arrakis habitable for human beings by building water reservoirs and canals, and they know the ins and outs of their desert home intimately — especially the potential dangers posed by the sandworms. The creatures don’t make a habit of hunting beings, but the vibrations caused by human footsteps and machinery used to extract melange sometimes trick the worms into breaching the surface in search of other sorts of prey. 

The Fremen aren’t the only inhabitants of Arrakis. The planet is under the stewardship of the House Atreides, a noble family tasked by their emperor with producing spice in the quantities needed to power a massive, star-faring civilization. It’s not a great position to be in. The Atreides must please their emperor, and maintain good relations with the Fremen, while being ever wary of plots concocted by the other royal Houses. 

If you haven’t read Dune yet, you’re in for a treat. It’s one of the genre’s great works of world-building, offering readers a complex saga of politics, resources, and, family. Forgetting it will be almost as impossible as getting sand out of your swimsuit.  

The cover of the book The World in a Grain

The World in a Grain

The Story of Sand and How It Transformed Civilization

VINCE BEISER

After water and air, sand is the natural resource that we consume more than any other–even more than oil. Every concrete building and paved road on Earth, every computer screen and silicon chip, is made from sand. From Egypt’s pyramids to the Hubble telescope, from the world’s tallest skyscraper to the sidewalk below it, from Chartres’ stained-glass windows to your iPhone, sand shelters us, empowers us, engages us, and inspires us. It’s the ingredient that makes possible our cities, our science, our lives–and our future.

And, incredibly, we’re running out of it.

The World in a Grain is the compelling true story of the hugely important and diminishing natural resource that grows more essential every day, and of the people who mine it, sell it, build with it–and sometimes, even kill for it. It’s also a provocative examination of the serious human and environmental costs incurred by our dependence on sand, which has received little public attention. Not all sand is created equal: Some of the easiest sand to get to is the least useful. Award-winning journalist Vince Beiser delves deep into this world, taking readers on a journey across the globe, from the United States to remote corners of India, China, and Dubai to explain why sand is so crucial to modern life. Along the way, readers encounter world-changing innovators, island-building entrepreneurs, desert fighters, and murderous sand pirates. The result is an entertaining and eye-opening work, one that is both unexpected and involving, rippling with fascinating detail and filled with surprising characters.

The cover of the book Dune

Dune

FRANK HERBERT

Frank Herbert’s classic masterpiece—a triumph of the imagination and one of the bestselling science fiction novels of all time.

Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides—who would become known as Muad’Dib—and of a great family’s ambition to bring to fruition humankind’s most ancient and unattainable dream.

A stunning blend of adventure and mysticism, environmentalism and politics, Dune won the first Nebula Award, shared the Hugo Award, and formed the basis of what is undoubtedly the grandest epic in science fiction.


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