Monthly Archives: December 2010

Issue of December 26, 2010

In this, our last column of the year, we want to thank you for being with us for 2010. And to wish you the best New Year—2011—possible. Stay safe.

Can one find a new life—or at least a change—through a new adventure? Lindsay Champion, a fan of Julie Powell for her first memoir, Julie and Julia, had considerable hesitation about reading her second memoir. What she had feared would make it unreadable did not. . . . but unfortunately there was something that left her feeling “squeamish” as she shares in The First Cut is the Deepest.

At this time each year Lauren Roberts finds herself both a bit melancholy and very excited. The latter because she loves, loves, loves the holidays, the former because it is a season of change from one year—with its memories—to another, with its potential that she talks about in Closing Out the Year.

Fairy tales are not just stories read in childhood but their plots and characters are often are the basis for many novels. Nicki Leone reviews a new compilation of retold, re-invented, and re-imagined fairy tales by contemporary writers and finds a “fractured pleasure” in their words in The Things We Are Not Meant to Know.

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Seeking Writers

BiblioBuffet has openings for regular columnists coming up in 2011.

If you are an experienced writer who enjoys writing about books, reading, or related issues please let us know. We are definitely interested in book reviewers with personality especially if you want to specialize in a given subject (cookbooks, young adult, history, etc.), but we also want to hear from generalists. And we are open to your ideas if you have a specific subject that interests you.

What do I mean by personality? We like reviewers who go outside standardized book reviews, adding themselves to the mix. Your opinions, feelings, relationship, memories and more are important when writing for us. We like you to be you!

One column I would love to add would be about libraries. Whether they are public or private, large or small, unusual or common I believe that there are stories there. Are you a writer who can talk to people about their bookshelves—regardless of what is on them—and then share the experience? Could you make any library, even one composed solely of John Grisham novels, and its owner interesting to BiblioBuffet’s readers? Would you be interested in being part of a widely-scattered team doing that in your own part of the country? Would you like to do the same for bookstores? Or maybe follow literary censorship wherever it may rear its head?

These are not the only ideas we want to see. Tell us what turns you on and why. Because if you have a love of words, a strong command of English, a desire to work with an excellent editorial team, and a passion for writing about literary subjects we want to hear from you. Managing Editor Nicki Leone can be reached at nicki . leone {@} Editor in Chief Lauren Roberts can be reached at lauren . roberts {@} (Be sure to put the addresses into the proper format before sending that e-mail.)

While the pay is not high—we offer $20 per column—we do have several excellent benefits: the opportunity to work with a brilliant content editor, maximum editorial freedom, and regular appreciation. For more details, please see our Write for Us page here. And if you want to contact our current contributors for their experiences with BiblioBuffet, feel free. We pride ourselves on keeping them happy. And our readers as well.

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Issue of December 19, 2010

Because we are heading into the final week of the Christmas holiday  and because we know that things are getting hectic for you, we went all out in making sure that this issue would be a particularly fine one. So settle back and enjoy this week’s new columns which, we hope, give you some relaxation along with good reading.

With Christmas only days away now your shopping should be mostly done. But if you are waiting to see what the last in the Booklovers’ and Readers’ Gift Guide series has, wait no more. Lauren Roberts completed it in time to begin her holiday dinner shopping and her own celebration preparations, and wishes you a Merry Christmas!

As a lifelong fan of Sports Illustrated Pete Croatto nearly fell over himself accepting when he was contacted about reviewing two new books from them. But the thrill melted into a lukewarm puddle upon receeiving them. They are not bad, he says, and and there is certainly good but his overall reaction? See for yourself in (Un)Welcome Surprises.

Being grateful at this time of the year usually refers to gifts, relationships, work, and other in-the-moment things. David G. Mitchell reminds us that gratitude for past times and past sacrifices of others, especially the ultimate one, is one worth offering as well in Never to Forget.

Why do people visit writers’ homes?  What do they hope to find there? Lev Raphael reviews a witty memoir/travelogue that takes us into famous and not-so-famous writers homes across the country, with surprising results. Even better, he gets to chat with the entertaining and erudite young author who makes her own home in the world of books in Writers’ Homes, Readers’ Castles?

A book that must read based solely on the cover? Yes, says Gillian Polack, and to make her unusual venture interesting (to BibllioBuffet readers) she decided to write down “my thoughts as and when they happen” as she read her way through the book in Reading a Book in Twenty-Four Hours: The Greyfriar.

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A Difficult Job Well Done

One of the difficult parts of being a book reviewer is having to say “no” to nice people. This time I am speaking of publicists, the fine folks who work very hard trying to get publicity for their clients’ books.

Publicists come in two basic varities: in-house and freelance. The in-house ones work for publishers. In the larger houses, where the publicity department can span a large number of employees for all its different imprints, the publicists are assigned books that the house is issuing. Freelance publicists, whether they work for a publiity firm or themselves, are hired by the authors. If they are excellent, they are expensive, sometimes running $5,000, even $10,000 a month and many have a required minimum number of months for a contract. Not all of them are in that price range, and not all of the less expensive ones are less able. Certain specialties such as primary television appearances cost more than others such as Internet-focused ones.   

I have enormous respect for them. Despite the numerous blogs, websites, radio and television shows, newspapers, magazines, trade journals, and other media interested in authors and books they and their clients are competing against an almost unbelievable number of “competitors”—288,355 “traditional” and 764,448 “non-traditional” books  in 2009.

And publicity is key for these books. An unknown author has a better chance of having a book published than does a second-time author whose first book didn’t do well. So the pressure is on to get publicity even if the author has the house’s publicity team behind her. Authors have to be “out there,” helping to reach readers. For that reason, many turn to independent publicists to supplement their own and their house’s efforts.   

And that’s what makes the career of book publicist one of the toughest jobs around. They are hired to get publicity and they work very hard, but ultimately they cannot control the outcome of their efforts. BiblioBuffet and other review venues are sent books continually in the hope that some of them will get that desired review.

In this holiday season I’d like to send a special acknowledgement to book publicists, especially to those who remain nice in the face of rejection. There are so many of you who should hear “thank you!” more often than they do. Well . . .  Thank you. We at BiblioBuffet appreciate your efforts because without you we might not hear of some great books. We love your e-mails, your press releases, your ARCs, your books. We love your niceness. Have a great holiday season!

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Issue of December 12, 2010

Here we are at the height of winter with short days, cold weather, and reasons to gather around the soup pot. This time of the year, whether you view it as perfect (like I do) or not, is excellent for reading. Could there be anything much  better than settling onto the sofa or in a comfy chair with a book, your family, your pets, and a comforting mug of tea nearby?

For Nicki Leone, her cookbooks and her kitchen are more than ways to eat, they are memories, explorations, mentors, friends. They cover the world and the world’s cuisines even as they  measure time, relationships, homes, and experiences. But what they all have in common is that she fell in love with each one: How a Cookbook Makes It Onto My Kitchen Bookshelf.

Having become an aficionado of memoirs during her time with BiblioBuffet, Lindsay Champion was nevertheless unprepared for a book she describes as a “not-memoir.” What surprised her was how good it was once she got used to the idea that the author showed “what it means to be human in a far more profound way than the epic memoir journeys fraught with dramatic license” in Not a Memoir Review.

Bookmarks take on a holiday flavor too. For more than 100 years, magazines have printed articles on how to make homemade gifts including bookmarks. Laine Farley explores some of those articles, both old and new, print and online, in Bookmarking the Holidays.

Too many people allow themselves to get caught up in unpleasantness when they think of holiday shopping. It need not be that way. It should not be that way—especially when the work has  been taken out of it for you. Join Lauren Roberts to find more gifts for the readers in your life (and you!) in Dashing Through the Gifts in a One-Stop Shopping Spree.


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Daze of Shopping

I am not a shopper by nature, training, or instinct. In fact, I hate it. Groceries aren’t bad. I buy what I need and get out, even at the farmers’ market. But anything else—clothing, furniture,  even antiques—tears at my patience. Browsing, strolling, looking, comparing products are all anathema to me.  The only exception is bookstores, and those have only a slight advantage. I can last for as long as one hour, but after that I want out! So why would someone who feels this way willingly take on the months-long task of researching, gathering, editing, writing, and linking hundreds of gift items do it?

Cause I’m nice? Let’s say that’s the reason. My mother would agree and it helps my reputation.  But now that the Booklovers’ and Readers’ Gift Guide is in its third week (and I have only two more to go) I thought you might like to know a little bit about what went on behind it.

Similar to what I do for my Christmas shopping, I also do for the Gift Guide, that is, I began “shopping” for it around February. I take particular note of items or services mentioned on various websites, in e-newsletters, and in blogs I follow. This year as in previous years I just added the URLs to a simple Word document. It worked except for the fact that it was not organized in any particular manner at first, and its increased size made that problematic. Fortunately, my natural turn for de-cluttering and organization kicked in soon thereafter and I developed some category titles. Everything added afterward went into its proper place.

(While I found it worked fine, I realize  it can be further refined so for 2011 I will have a folder bookmarked on my computer labeled “BB Shopping.” This is where the links I’ve found useful in previous years as well as new ones will go. The folder will be divided into sub-folders for the home page of any company whose product will be featured and within that sub-folder I will link the pages for the specific items.  The reason is that things can sell or be discontinued, especially as the year goes on. And things are often added as well. So it makes sense to have both pages linked.)

As time makes itself available, I begin to download the item links to the proper category. What I did not do this year but will do for 2011 is to add a one-word note on what the specific item is (“bracelet”) within its category (“Jewelry”). That should help with a problem that cropped up this year, having the same link in more than one category. Another problem I encountered was that in my enthusiasm I would sometimes find the same item in more than one place (and bookmark both links) or even find it in two different searches several months apart with the same result. It’s easy enough to eliminate any duplicates but it’s an annoying step at a time when I am feeling rushed for time.

Then around October I check the calendar. How much do I have thus far? What is the calendar looking like for late November and early December? What day does Christmas fall on? How many Sundays are there? What is the relationship of Sunday to Christmas? When does Hannukuh take place? With those answers I then decide when to begin my series, how many weeks to devote to it, and how many items will make the final cut.

Another thing I did not do this year that will change in 2011 is writing out the short descriptions of each item, suggestion, or experience that make up the paragraphs in the Guide over the months. While it doesn’t really save time, it does make the final part—putting together the actual letter—far easier if I can copy and paste and merely have to tweak at the end instead of creating it under deadline for several weeks in a row.

Finding the best way to do this annual project is not just a time-saving device for me. It will also, hopefully, eliminate or at least cut down on the “yikes” mistakes I see when I peruse the letter after it goes live.  In addition to sometimes missing filling in a link altogether, I have found links to dead pages or to items that are no longer available, and once to my horror, a link that I had forgotten to, um, link and now could not for the life of me, find anywhere. It happened during the first of this year’s series. I spent nearly fifteen minutes frantically scouring the web using variations of the phrasing I had but had no luck. In desperation I found a suitable replacement—actually a lovelier one—and quickly linked that.

And that, I think, is what made me determine to instill even more organization into this Guide. Proofing the issue after it has gone live, double-checking for errors, is hard because I am tired. Anything that slows down the process means I can’t get off the computer until it is fixed, and that can make me irritable. It means I am essentially spending more time “shopping” or at least dealing with shopping issues than I want. And, really, you haven’t seen a cranky shopper until you’ve been with me at the culmination of not just minutes, not just hours, not even just days, but months of shopping. I will tell  you it ain’t a pretty sight.

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Issue of December 5, 2010

Holidays. Shopping. Reading. Books. Sports. Re-discovery. Food. Religious questions. We have some of it all for you this week as the BiblioBuffet team spreads its reading wings far and wide in search of some good things for you.

While on a search for a book to help his writing fears, Pete Croatto came across another book by a respected writing teacher that takes readers into the world of spring training. And what he found was not just an incredible story but a wisdom about writing and baseball he soon won’t forget in On Writing (About Sports) Well.

Fantasy and its cousin, Urban Fantasy, are among the most popular of fiction categories, and this week Gillian Polack sits down with three UF authors to discuss the parameters and autonomy of the genre, its definitions, and what this sub-genre means to its writers in Writers Talk About Urban Fantasy.

Many people believe in religious faith, but when one writer wanted to explore her personal relationship with it the resultant book turned out to be, as David G. Mitchell in What Can We Know?, an “invitation to everyone to try to understand . . . our fundamental values and how we live our lives.”

The holiday shopping season is in full bloom (as it were), and BiblioBuffet is here to help with suggestions. Lauren Roberts offers the third in her five-part series,  Booklovers’ and Readers’ Gift Guide as well as the opportunity to win some free books in Lost in the Forest (of Holiday Shopping).

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