Banning Books Helps No One

When I was finishing my Master’s Degree at Elmhurst College, I had to read Toni Morrison’s Beloved as part of a literature course.

Many classmates waxed poetic about how great Beloved was, what a masterpiece of fiction, how deep and insightful it was. I remained silent as I didn’t care much for the book. Perhaps it was the issue of slavery that made me uncomfortable or the stream-of-consciousness writing that made me feel ill at ease. Regardless, Beloved is not meant to make you feel comfortable. This is not a book meant for you to recline in your easy chair with your hot cocoa and slippers.

Beloved is meant to be controversial.

As much as I didn’t like the book, I wouldn’t have it struck from a course curriculum like a group of parents are trying to do at Salem High School in Plymouth, MI.

The parents’ objection to Beloved is not slavery but sex, references to bestiality and taking “God’s name in vain.” Seriously? This is the reason they want their teens in AP Literature to not read Beloved? Do the parents really believe their teenagers will go out and have sex with cows because they read about it in Beloved? Or perhaps they think their teens will turn into crazed sex maniacs?

Such closed-mindedness makes me feel for the teachers trying to teach their students in such an ignorant environment. Parents who insist on banning books from a curriculum based on such “content” have no faith in their own children and do not give teachers the means to educate.

No wonder America is falling behind the rest of the world when parents spend all their energy banning books and not promoting them.

Publish or Perish?

Amazon might have brought about the end of store front bookstores such as Borders. Now it might make publishers obsolete.

Who Needs Publishers? article details how Amazon is courting top authors and writers in need of self-publication who previously were locked out of book deals by New York publishers. I should feel bad for the publishers and probably the lost jobs down the road. Publication houses closing, agents losing clients, editors out of work if this trend gains speed.

I’m all for the economy gaining jobs rather than losing them, but I have long been frustrated (as I’m sure many other authors are) of the old gate keeping system that’s become more rigid and impossible for new writers or unusual genre fiction to gain any foothold.

The old system could take years if you’re a writer. Just getting an agent who thinks your writing is worth his/her time could take even longer (or never happen), but without that agent most fiction automatically goes in the slush pile regardless of its quality.

Yes, there’s a lot of crap people write and send that probably shouldn’t be published, but Amazon gives these writers a shot not only to self-publish but also bring it to a wide readership. More profits also go the author who did most of the work instead of a long series of middle men.

I’m not hoping for the death of publishing houses, but they need to be more accessible and competitive with Amazon by courting new talent rather than automatically locking the gates on them. If they do this, they risk these authors going to someone who will publish them because they are no longer the only game in town.

Quit Worrying. Just Write!

Sometimes the words and ideas flow effortlessly. More often than not you need an inspirational kick in the ass.

When I joined Nanowrimo for the first time in 2009 I had less of a lackluster experience. I diligently went to my keyboard every night tapping away until I got to my 1700 words.

The writing was crap. My plot flailed wildly and my characters didn’t stay consistent. By mid-November I had little motivation to finish.

I continued to write.

I’d like to say that exercise had a happy ending and what I wrote in November 2009 became an excellent book with engaging characters. Truth is after Nanowrimo (which I didn’t win) I left the book unread on my computer for months.

Then in October I revisited the idea and thought of an even better book than what I originally struggled with. Now I’m rewriting the book that once seemed to have so little promise. The story and characters (after months of letting my imagination subconsciously tinker with them) are much better. There still is a lot of work that needs to be done, but if I hadn’t taken that crazy leap into writing in Nanowrimo I still would not have a book to work on.

The hardest thing is to delve into the unknown, sit your ass in front of the keyboard and write something, anything even if it seems useless at the time because you never know where that idea might lead.