Monthly Archives: June 2011

Issue of June 26, 2011

Summer is here and the freshest of the fresh have arrived: tomatoes and blueberries, flowers and zucchini, and new books! Come discover two of the newest books plus more.

A superb new book, albeit with a few flaws, that mixes the early history of the United States, three of its main shapers and their gardening passions, including how a garden saved the process of shaping a nation is the focus of Nicki Leone’s attention in An Eden Made.

Could there be any more natural companions than books and bookmarks? It’s odd, then, that as common as they are now they weren’t always. Laine Farley shares what she discovered when she searched out the question of why antique bookstore bookmarks are so rare in Bookstore Bookmarks Then and Now.

Imagine having been in a relationship that you are no longer in and seeing yourself thinly disguised in your ex’s novel. Lindsay Champion reviews the new memoir of one woman who found herself in just such a position and wrote her own “hilariously heartbreaking memoir” in She Says.

Lauren Roberts has never been invited into a comic strip before, but a recently-issued invitation has given her the opportunity to try it out. How did it turn out? Discover the answer in Comics, Life, Common Sense, and Maybe Some Wisdom. 

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Issue of June 19, 2011

In this week’s issue, we have some fabulous reading and reading recommendations for you. The world of science? You have it with Gillian. Looking for some outstanding summer reading? Lev has that. The inside scoop at ESPN? Check in with Pete. What’s behind the biography? Carl tells all. So be sure to check all our columns out. You might just find the perfect readers’ summer in them.

What’s it really like being inside ESPN? That is precisely the subject of a new book that  Pete Croatto, in Really, What’s the Score?, found to be an “addictive, eye-opening oral history” with, unfortunately, a few oversights in an “otherwise outstanding book.”

“In other words (with caveats about the opening and closing sections) this is an excellent introduction to the subject,” writes Gillian Polack about a flawed but quite worthy book exploring the world of ancient Greek science in Scientists and Scholars and Ancient Greece.

Are you looking for something out of the ordinary for summer reading? Lev Raphael has four intriguing and entertaining choices, which couldn’t be less run-of-the-mill and more different from each other in Super Summer Books.

Carl Rollyson’s current work-in-progress, a biography of actor Dana Andrews, is causing him some frustration—not because there is insufficient material but because there is so much of it. In Biography and the Backstory, he finds himself constantly tempted to “go off on tangents” that would “dilute the compelling human-interest story” of a complex man.

On the occasion of Father’s Day, Lauren Roberts meanders a bit down the bibliophile memory lane in Dads, Daughters and Books.

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It’s Not Just Us . . .

I routinely read several agents’ and editors’ blogs so I know that the editorial team at BiblioBuffet is not the only one who receives queries that leaves us scratching our heads. What I cannot figure out is why. Why do writers not do their homework about the publication if having their work published there is so important to them?

What homework? Well, please get comfy. This will take more than a couple of paragraphs. First, we publish writing about books and reading and related issues. Related issues can be subjects as diverse as bookshelves, book buying, weeding out unwanted books, the unexpected impact of a certain book, censorship, libraries, bookmarks, bookplates or bookish ephemera, a book festival or bookstore. It is in fact anything that might be of interest to readers—and that covers a wide range. What we do not publish is anything else. 

In addition, we expect a certain level of quality. High quality. The fact that we can pay very little does not mean we accept beginners’ writing attempts. We do not. Do you know that the best way to find out what level of writing we publish is to read several of our issues? If you do that, you will learn why Carl Rollyson or Lev Raphael are much published authors, and why they are treasured essayists. You will learn how Nicki Leone explores her relationship with her books, and why she doesn’t review so much as she intwines herself into her reading. You will learn how Lindsay Champion and Pete Croatto, each of whom has a review specialty, talk about their books so that their readers know whether that book will work for them too. You can see how Gillian Polack handles the Australian publishing and books scene with wicked Aussie wit. You can read how Laine Farley, my co-writer for the On Marking Books column, researches and shares her information on bookmarks in a passionate way that brings her readers into her world. In other words, if you are a writer looking to join BiblioBuffet please read what we publish and then sit down and ask yourself, honestly and as objectively as you can, if your writing comes close to what you see in BiblioBuffet.

One of the most disturbing trends Nicki and I see in queries these days is the focus on “content.” Because that’s what much of what is seen online is considered ephemeral or fleeting as is the payment for it. BiblioBuffet is an online publication, yes, but we do not publish content. We seek to engage our readers with passion, with excitement, with excellent writing. We use as our role models magazines like Harper’s, The Atlantic, and The New Yorker. We rarely utilize links in most columns, the exceptions being my editor’s letter and to a lesser extent, On Marking Books. Columns should stand on their own; our feeling is that if one cannot say what one wants to say without relying on crutches links then one has nothing to say.

Another point I want to make is that BiblioBuffet’s reviewers like to search out books that are bypassed by larger publications. We don’t eliminate any books because if a reviewer is passionate enough to want to write about it she or he should be able to do so—and will in fact do so in new ways. But our goal is to help our readers find books that may otherwise go nearly unnoticed. And good books that sink unnoticed are a loss to all good readers. So please do not e-mail us about wanting to review *bestseller*. It’s a waste of our space and of our readers time.

Queries generally trickle in here and there as writers find us. But whenever BiblioBuffet’s guidelines get posted on a writers’ site we tend to get a deluge within a few days. Out of the last batch of around thirty-five queries we chose to keep working with two of the writers. That’s not unusual. Writing may be a matter of putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, but publishable writing for good publications demands much more. The writers we feature on BiblioBuffet demand a lot of themselves. They are talented, no question, but talent is only the beginning, They spent years, decades, honing their skills until they considered themselves “writers.”

For hopeful writers, the only advice I can give is to say that just because you can get your writing published online early in your writing process does not mean you should. If you enjoy writing “content” then follow that route. There’s nothing wrong with that goal. But if you want to write prose worth thoughtful reading then know that the best thing you can do for yourself is to skip the quick and easy detour. Stay on the Road of Hard Learning while you read those publications—not necessarily ones you agree with but those that issue fine writing—to which you aspire, and the columns and writers you admire. They are never so far above you that you can’t see them; they are merely in the place you are moving toward.

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Issue of June 12, 2011

It seems that no matter what weird weather may be going on in your part of the country—triple-digit heat or cloudy skies and cool temperatures—that enjoying some good reading ought to be part of it. And BiblioBuffet definitely has some of that for you. Don’t mess Nicki Leone’s essay of two very different books and book formats, Lindsay Champion’s look back at what she’s learned from her reviewing, what connections guest Katherine Hauswirth found in her books and her real life, and what Lauren Roberts is up to in her own library. Oh, and all of these come with some great suggestions for your own reading.

It’s been two years for Lindsay Champion here at BiblioBuffet, and she takes the opportunity of her anniversary to review not a book but her experiences with the genre, the differences between truth and honesty, and the passion that fires up her soul (and her reviews) in Two Years of Memoirs.

As the technology for the publishing industry changes so does the format of the book. Nicki Leone recently had the opportunity to experience both ends of the new range—the e-reader and a specially handcrafted work of art—and realizes that what all the differences come down to are not “causes for lament or alarm” but instead story in Story Always Rises to the Top.

The weird weather blanketing the country included a tornado in Massachusetts which, Katherine Hauswirth in Survival, Real and Unreal, who had just finished both a novel and nonfiction book with survival themes, brought home the knowledge that it’s satisfying when the protagonist finds a way to overcome the odds . . . it can help you believe that you might fare as well.”

Mention the word “dentist” and you have a good chance of watching someone flinch. But the truth is that modern dentistry is a joy, especially compared to the practices hundreds and even thousands of years ago. Lauren Roberts turned her inquisitiveness about two 1940s dental bookmarks into a compelling reason to Open Wide.

Book packages in the mail are always a joy. What’s inside may or may not also be a joy, but when it is, then it is a damn good day. Lauren Roberts had one of those delightful surprises with an unexpected but ultimately charming book in Book Love

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Issue of June 12, 2011

It seems that no matter what weird weather may be going on in your part of the country—triple-digit heat or cloudy skies and cool temperatures—that enjoying some good reading ought to be part of it. And BiblioBuffet definitely has some of that for you. Don’t mess Nicki Leone’s essay of two very different books and book formats, Lindsay Champion’s look back at what she’s learned from her reviewing, what connections guest Katherine Hauswirth found in her books and her real life, and what Lauren Roberts is up to in her own library. Oh, and all of these come with some great suggestions for your own reading.

It’s been two years for Lindsay Champion here at BiblioBuffet, and she takes the opportunity of her anniversary to review not a book but Ther experiences with the genre, the differences between truth and honesty, and the passion that fires up her soul (and her reviews) in Two Years of Memoirs.

As the technology for the publishing industry changes so does the format of the book. Nicki Leone recently had the opportunity to experience both ends of the new range—the e-reader and a specially handcrafted work of art—and realizes that what all the differences come down to are not “causes for lament or alarm” but instead story in Story Always Rises to the Top.

The weird weather blanketing the country included what for people in Massachusetts was a tornado which, for Katherine Hauswirth in Survival, Real and Unreal, who had just finished both a novel and nonfiction book with survival themes, brought home because, she says, “whether in fiction or nonfiction, it’s satisfying when the protagonist finds a way to overcome the odds . . . it can help you believe that you might fare as well.”

Mention the word “dentist” and you have a good chance of watching someone flinch. But the truth is that modern dentistry is a joy, especially compared to the practices hundreds and even thousands of years ago. Lauren Roberts turned her inquisitiveness about two 1940s dental bookmarks into a compelling reason to Open Wide.

Book packages in the mail are always a joy. What’s inside may or may not also be a joy, but when it is, then it is a damn good day. Lauren Roberts had one of those delightful surprises with an unexpected but ultimately charming book in Book Love

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In with the New!

Two weeks ago I mentioned that BiblioBuffet’s guidelines for submitting books for review consideration was undergoing some revisions. Those revisions are finished and now posted.

We will consider any books other than those in the following genres: business, self-help, true crime, New Age, and romance. Books published through publishing services such as those from iUniverse (especially those that come through its Authors Guild and ASJA partnerships), Xlibris, Booklocker, and Lulu will also be considered, but as always our first priority for review consideration is quality.

How is quality determined? The traditional way—that of an editor accepting on behalf of a publishing house and offering an advance—is changing. Sometimes rights to out-of-print books are reverted to authors who may elect to re-publish the book themselves. Sometimes multi-published authors may choose to publish one or more books themselves. And since there is no one way to excellent books, BiblioBuffet’s doors are open to all possibilities.

As stated, we focus on quality. Things we look at include whether the book was professionally edited; whether the author has published anything else, either in print or online, in a professional capacity (personal blogs don’t count); and if the book has been blurbed  by anyone recognizable. First and foremost, we look at story. Is it well written? Is it worthy of our readers’ time and attention? Finally, does the cover art and interior design of the book meet commercial standards?

In other words, we expect any book we review to be good enough for a bookstore shelf even if because of the lack of distribution it wouldn’t make it there. As always, BiblioBuffet hasn’t and will not compromise its integrity. If we say a book is worth reading then we believe it is worth reading regardless of its heritage. You can count on that!

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Issue of June 5, 2011

Food gone bad or just gone; intimate letters missing but information found; books that should be written; and one book that will last forever are all part of this week’s new issue. We hope you enjoy it.

Searching through letters, diaries, and other work, biographers delve deeply into their subjects’ intimate lives. In The Silent Woman, Carl Rollyson describes his recent explorations into the life of Amy Lowell that led him to her companionate muse, Ada Dwyer Russell, who, he found, came alive through Amy’s poems.

Sports books tend to follow the crowd. No surprise, Pete Croatto says, since publishers need to make money. But there are some still unwritten that could do that, and to help out, he devised a wish-list of “essential” sports books as well as the people who should write them in What Else Is Out There?

Food history is as fraught with (herb) murder, human suicide, expeditions gone mad (or maybe just bad), and food tampering. Gillian Polack undertakes her own food journey, thankfully without any problems, through history and books in “Molasses is evil”: Teaching Food History by Example (or, What Not to Do).

The recent Great Memorial Weekend Read was almost a one-book weekend because of a single memoir that gripped Lauren Roberts so passionately she nearly stopped with just that book. Books with that kind of impact are not common, but they are unforgettable as they move From the Shelf to the Heart.

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