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Hobby Horse

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

I need a hobby.  In some ways, my time is overbooked, with volunteer work, family obligations, and working on my writing, but I don’t do anything relaxing or fun with other people on a regular basis.  I have a lawyer friend who drives a bobcat around her little farm.  

the bobcat out clearing brush

the bobcat out clearing brush

My cousin Barb, off now to Ukraine, kayaks with friends off the coast of Alaska.  

kayaking off the Alaska coast

kayaking off the Alaska coast

Yet another friend plays clarinet in a volunteer orchestra

a really good likeness!

how did they train her?

I know I’d write better, explore more of the ideas circling my brain, if I did something with other people–something besides good works, which, I confess, don’t refresh me.  I know farming and kayaking are not for me.  I’d like to know what works for other people.  How about you?

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getting further behind

Friday, March 13th, 2009

March is an over-packed month for me, so I’m not keeping up either with my novel in progress (The Body Project) or my Alchemy story here.  I’m lecturing on March 14 in Peoria, IL, on the Maltese Falcon, did another lecture last week for a conference on women and gender, and have a couple of short writing projects to finish.  

On March 28, I’m running a tour of V I’s Chicago as a fundraiser for a literacy group on whose advisory board I sit.  I drove the route on Monday.  We hope to start in South Chicago, where V I grew up.  She was left for dead in Dead Stick pond in Blood Shot, and almost killed in the city’s garbage landfill in Fire Sale.  

images

 

However, we had massive rains in Chicago Sunday and Monday, and the roads were under water.  The tour will visit other highlights of the girl detective’s life, and we’ll drive past Barack’s house.  The secret service won’t let us stop but hopefully people can snap pictures quickly through the bus windows.images-1

Meanwhile, I’ve agreed to read short stories for the 2010 Edgars, so I’m not even reading anything I really like these days, whine, whine whine.  If you’ve read a wonderful gripping novel lately, let me know–I’m desperate for a rich story!

I’ll hope to get back to a better writing schedule in a couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, here’s an interesting factoid I picked up doing research for my gender studies talk:  If you watch movies, you may not ever have noticed, but most of the speaking parts go to men.  In fact, 72 percent of speaking parts go to men.  Women can talk less than a third of the time on screen, but, in fact, this mirrors real-life social experience.

A variety of studies, most recently at the University of San Francisco, show that in mixed groups, whether at work or at play, women can speak about a third of the time.  If we take up more time — more space — than that — we’re labeled as conversation hogs, as aggressive bitches, and social pressures are marshaled to silence us.  Notice for yourself the next time you’re at a dinner party and a woman seems to dominate the conversation:  a wall comes down between her and her neighbors.  Women as well as men stop listening to her. 


From 2008 Report to the Media

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How do we go forward?

Sunday, March 8th, 2009

A few weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal ran an article on the dangers of clinging to past ways of doing business.  Contrary to what aging boomers like me believe, older experienced managers don’t always offer the best ways of solving problems, because we’re wedded to what worked for us thirty years ago, when we were starting out.

It’s the book business that interests me most, and I realize that I’ve been only looking backward: I want small neighborhood bookstores, and book reviews and independent publishers so that a myriad voices can be found.  Instead, we have megastores, online marketing, fewer juried review outlets, and a handful of conglomerates publishing blockbusters.

We’re not likely to return to that, but we need some of the key elements of the old model if we are going to preserve multiple voices, and if people are going to make a living writing, publishing and selling.  We need a way to browse, as you can at a bookstore, and we need a way to get good reviews of many books.  We also need a way for new writers to find an audience, which used to happen when the independent bookstores hand sold books like mine (I didn’t become a national bestseller until my sixth book, and nor did Sue Grafton.  Publishers today won’t wait on slow bloomers like us–we get two books to break through, and then it’s on to the new new thing.)

When I look at the blogosphere, I find it hard to cull out the voices I want to listen to.  It’s true there are some great book blogs out there, like BookSlut, but the big questions for all Internet media are: how can you make it pay, and how can you make it visible?

Similarly, if we move more and more to an e-book universe, how do you browse for books?  The Amazon model, where they suggest “you might like Bloodsucking vampires of Outer Space” based on a previous purchase simply cuts out all other choices.  The Amazon model also demands that you pony up a big cash outlay to get your book featured on their home page, just as Barnes & Noble demands a big cash outlay to have a title put in the front of the store.

So, my creative friends and readers, what are some ways to think differently about how to get books and readers together in the age of the Net?

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