It’s been a beautiful week here in LA and June Gloom is almost over! Red Hen is ready for the beach! We’ve been hard at work gathering the most exclusive tickets in town to the most anticipated museum exhibitions, comedy shows, and luxury restaurants for our raffle at the anniversary party at the Luxe Hotel Sunset Boulevard. Be sure to look out for info on how to purchase raffle tickets coming to your mailbox very soon! We’ll be poppin’ some bubbly on November 1st, joined by award-winning poets, classically trained musicians, and world-renowned chefs. In more recent news, Naseem Rakha’s debut novel The Crying Tree (Broadway Books) drops July 9th, but if you can stand the wait, you can also nab the book at the event while sippin’ champagne and getting autographs.
Archive for June, 2009
One very important aspect of Red Hen Press is its outreach to the community of Los Angeles. We try to accomplish our mission of bringing and building audiences for literature to Southern California. Our reading series which occur at the Geffen Playhouse, Boston Court, Ruskin Arts Club, Annenberg Beach House, and Eagle Rock Center for the Arts bring emerging and prominent authors to Los Angeles all year long.
Our main activity that really accomplishes our mission of building audiences for literature involves our Writing in the Schools program. This program involves brining our authors into underserved schools in Los Angeles county schools to teach creative writing workshops. We target schools that have little or no funding for English classes, so that our program will be able to show the students how much fun and interesting literature and writing can be. Our authors teach students the basics of composing their own poetry and then let them write with exercises employing these techniques.
Ambient office noise is an art. Red Hen Press, while adequate in space, by design requires that the staff all listens to the same thing. Unless one dons headphones—which would just be awkward and ostracizing.
The staff, in general, prefers indie music. This has never seemed such a blanket term to me until the discussion of what-exactly-are-going-to-listen-to-today occurred. Since, again, in general, we all tend to like the sameish sort of thing, a good set radio station has been KCRW. We listen to Morning Becomes Eclectic every morning (we mostly approve of new host Jason Bently) and oftentimes we end up listening to the news the rest of the day. This means we also listen to Bookworm every Thursday, The Treatment every Wednesday , etc.
The major downside is on days, like today, where a particular breaking news event is aired over and over and over again. We were glad to be informed immediately of Michael Jackson’s condition and had the play by play of cardiac arrest to coma to death. This was important to all of us, as fans of The King of Pop and as drivers on L.A. freeways that may or may not be diverting traffic due to mourning. However, one to two times is enough. Anything after that is supremely depressing.
In steps our beautiful little plan B, Pandora.com. Pandora is a website that creates a custom radio station based on your preferences. You can pick a band, a song, a genre and it will create a station. It won’t simply play songs by that artists (etc.) but rather it will pick music akin, to broaden your repertoire or something. You can also mix and match bands and songs and rate songs as it picks them (thumbs up or down) to influence the upcoming playlist. We’ve done mixes like, song: Baby I’m yours (as covered by the Arctic Monkeys), bands: MGMT, Jay-Z, She & Him, and The Smiths.
Currently listening to: Coconut Records
*Pandora isn’t plan A for the soul reason that it both slows down my computer and prevents me from hearing anything anyone is saying in the office (my computer is the only one with speakers).
So, there’s that old saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” which may make sense when it comes to people, but I think everyone knows that it really doesn’t apply to books. You just can’t help but decide on whether you want to read a book based on its cover.
This is part of the joy and challenge of being a bookbuilder. You have a good amount of power over how well the book sells, because you are designing the cover, and the more attractive the cover, the more people will want to buy the book.
This brings me to some good old blog-lovin’. There are a surprising number of great book cover blogs out there, which means that I can spend part of my day trolling the internet, looking at book covers, and say I’m working.
Probably my absolute favorite book cover blog is simply called Covers. This clean, simple blog showcases recently released books that have really well designed covers. The designer or design house and publisher are all attributed, and you can comment with your thoughts on the design. The selection is random and far-reaching—novels, political commentary, biography, historical fiction, graphic novel—everything is included here. The blog also has features, interviews with great book designers and articles on book-related design. The look of the blog itself is contemporary, readable, and clean. Just the way a good cover design should be.
The Book Cover Archive is basically what it says it is: a collection of well-designed book covers. More extensive than Covers, the Archive also delves deeper into the design aspect of every cover, noting the typeface used and where the cover art was sourced, when possible. Although you can comment on covers here also, the Archive is more of a gallery than a place for discussion. Like a museum, just be quiet and admire. The site itself is attractive and well designed also.
The Book Cover Archive Blog is more like Covers, fostering discussion of new book cover designs, albeit in a more “bloggy” style. Here the focus is talk, news, and opinion (kind of like Fox News, but not stupid, and prettier). Besides discussing new cover designs, the Blog posts design news and industry-related articles. While it’s not updated as often as one might prefer, it’s a must-read for anyone interested in the look of books.
Also mentionable are the Book Design Review (with the intriguing web address of nytimesbooks.blogspot.com…) and shelved books, which both feature new book designs. Shelved books is the blog of book designer K. Glyder, who reveals her design process and alternate designs for covers she’s done. An interesting look behind the design-process curtain.
It’s amazing the difference that a good design can make in a reading experience. When I first started reading Anna Karenina, I had a pocket-sized Signet edition that made me want to tear my eyes out with its Bible-thin pages and teeny type. I had to stop reading and buy the Barnes and Noble edition, with its nice, thick pages and larger trim size.
So read these blogs and learn to go ahead and judge that book by its cover. Because no matter how good the writing might be, if the cover is ugly, you might not enjoy it anyway.
California is in a precarious situation. We have a colossal budget gap, and in an attempt to fill it, the state has set its sights on one area that is in desperate need of support: education. Eliminating CAL Grants, firing teachers, and slashing schools’ operating budgets are just a few of the wounds that the education system must lick in this harsh economic time.
For the arts in schools, this is a kick to the stomach while you’re down. You see, many California classrooms already rarely-to-never see the arts. After the arts budget in California was slashed to nearly nothing several years ago, schools have been struggling to recover. Sometimes arts programs in schools are only made possible through the efforts of private organizations. These foundations and other such organizations provide much-needed support to our struggling system.
It’s my second week of planning our 15th anniversary party and I’m getting more excited about it by the day! Have I mentioned that we have FOUR featured authors this year? Mark Doty, Carolyn See, Naseem Rakha, and Alicia Ostriker will all be taking the stage and rocking the mic at our November 1st event. Both Carolyn and Naseem are West-Coast writers, Carolyn here in LA and Naseem in Oregon, while Alicia and Mark are both based in the great Garden State. If I am correct, Mark will actually be joining Alicia as English Department faculty at Rutgers University in the fall, I wonder if they will have a chance to meet before the event. Anyway, it’s exciting to research each author’s background and their different writing styles and subjects. I checked out Carolyn See’s “Golden Days” and “Making a Literary Life” from the Valencia Library the other day, so I’m excited to get started on those. We’ll see what writing advice Guggenheim and Getty Fellowship recipient Carolyn See has to offer me in her nonfiction book “Making a Literary Life.” When I’m not reading books by our authors, calling LA organizations to donate raffle tickets, and inviting hot celebs to our November 1st bash, I’m getting the scoop on the development and publishing aspects of Red Hen. The other day Mark told me all about his latest writing projects and gave me the 411 on sending off writing into the wide world of publishing. First step: Always send a SASE! Second: Write a cover letter! Today Adam taught me a little about development, or, how to get corporate sponsorship, which we are aiming for with this year’s Nov. 1st luncheon. Mainly I’ve been learning that it’s all in the language, that the right wording can go a long way, whether you’re applying for funding or sending off a manuscript to a publisher. Needless to say, the online thesaurus has become one of my most visited websites.
Red Hen Press
Short Story Award
for publication in The Los Angeles Review
Deadline: June 30, 2009
Judge: Judith Freeman
Established in 2001, in celebration of the new century and a new tradition of literature, this award is for an original short story with a maximum of 25 pages. Submission is open to all writers and themes. This year’s judge is Judith Freeman.
Award is $1000 and publication of the awarded story by Red Hen Press in The Los Angeles Review. Entree fee is $20 for two stories, 25 page limit. Please include your name on the cover sheet only. Send SASE for notification. Entries must be postmarked by June 30.
Red Hen Press
Attn: Short Story Award
P.O. Box 3537
Granada Hills, CA 91394
Past recipients of the Red Hen Press Short Story Award
“Jane Rose and Her Fairy Tale Feet”
by Jim Moore
by Sandra Worsham
“Shimmer off a Spoon-Faced Moon”
“Where I Am Now”
Awards are open to all writers with the following exceptions:
A) Authors who have had a full length work published, or a full length work currently under consideration by Red Hen Press.
B) Employees, interns, or contractors of Red Hen Press.
C) Relatives of employees or members of Red Hen’s executive board of directors.
D) Relatives or individuals having a personal or professional relationship with any of the final judges where they have taken any part whatsoever in shaping the manuscript, or where, for whatever reason, selecting a particular manuscript might have the appearance of impropriety.
Procedures and Ethical Considerations
To be certain that every manuscript finalist receives the fairest evaluation, all manuscripts are submitted to the judges without any identifying material. Bios, acknowledgments, and other identifying material are removed from judged manuscripts until the conclusion of the competition.
Red Hen Press does not use students or interns as readers at any stage of its competitions.
Red Hen Press is committed to maintaining the utmost integrity of our awards. Judges shall recuse themselves from considering any manuscript where they recognize the work. In the event of recusal, a manuscript score previously assigned by the Managing Editor of the press will be substituted.
For more information please contact us:
Red Hen Press
PO Box 3537
Granada Hills, CA 91394
Part of being the Bookbuilder is to make sure the supports of the book you’re building are stable; that is, that narrative or poems and the visual design are held up by good grammar and perfect spelling. Nothing kills the enjoyment, appreciation, and beauty of a book like a “teh” or a misplaced or missing period.
I encounter all sorts of interesting spelling and grammar quirks, but there are some that pop up constantly and make me want to tear my hair out. Sure, some of you may say that writers have editors for a reason, that some of these grammar rules are obscure, esoteric, or archaic, that computers can fix it for you, that most people don’t really care about this stuff. But may I counter that part of being a decent human being and a cognizant Homo sapien is understanding and using language correctly and being able to communicate written ideas. So, do the human race and yourself a favor: learn these rules and never, ever break them. Or I will hunt you down (see below).
First, some tools to help you along the way:
- Learn that Microsoft Word is a necessary evil. Because it is the standard word processing program, it must be used, but is not to be trusted (though it is helping me make this list right now; I thank it, cautiously).
- Never, I repeat, NEVER type two spaces between sentences. This was a typing rule taught back when people still used typewriters. Now that we type on computers, this rule is obsolete, as the computers input this extra space for us. If you break this rule, a bookbuilder somewhere will hunt you down and kill you. Dispute over this rule has been known to be a dealbreaker in relationships.
- Learn what an em dash is, and use it. Please refer to page 263 in your Chicago Manual of Style. Note: The code for an em dash on a PC is Alt+0151.
- Never use “- -.” This is completely incorrect in every possible case in which you could want to use it. (Even the blog editor program fixes the double dash to turn it into a correct m-dash!)
- Get a thesaurus. This will help you avoid tics within the flow of your writing (many an author has been known to “get on” to a word and use it 3 times within 2 pages—this is distracting, and distracting is bad).
- The semicolon can most often be thought of as a replacement for the word “therefore” or an alternative when commas are becoming too populous in a sentence; colons should be used extremely sparingly, most often to indicate a list to follow.
- Do not think that flouting grammar rules makes you cool, alternative, or hip. It just makes you look like you don’t know what you’re talking about. Ask any potential employer, book publisher, or your parents. Also, it is a little-known fact that many of your friends will be impressed if they find out that you know proper grammar, because they probably do not, and they will want your help and treat you like a god.
- Learn the difference between “flout” and “flaunt.”
- Learn how to spell, or accept your inability to spell things correctly. Dictionaries exist for a reason. Guessing is absolutely prohibited; if you aren’t sure, look it up. The internet now makes this easy.
- If you reference something in your writing, double-check to make sure that you are spelling and capitalizing it correctly, and that you are actually correct in your reference. Your memory is not always to be trusted.
- Respect your editor. They are there to help, not to make you look bad.
- Despite all above rules, the Bookbuilder still suggests writing first and editing later. You’ll be more free in your ideas if you write without fearing typos. Plus, forcing yourself to go back later to clean it up will also give you perspective so you can improve the quality of the writing, not just the pure mechanics.
Red Hen Press’ new title Silverstein & Me is featured in Playboy online!
Hef describes Shel Silverstein as “one of my dearest friends.” Shel’s Playboy illustrations helped shape the magazine’s style in its earliest days. Silverstein & Me (Red Hen Press), a new memoir of his life by fellow cartoonist and lifelong friend Marv Gold, offers an inside look at how Playboy shaped Silverstein’s career as well. In the chapter below, Gold and Silverstein discuss Silverstein’s first meeting with Hef.
In honor of the arrival of summer and the travel season, the Bookbuilder would like to endorse traveling in search of inspiration—visual, cultural, or narrative.