Monthly Archives: March 2012

Issue of March 25, 2012

In this week’s issue, we have not only some fabulous reading recommendations for you—see in particular “Reading the Truth”—but we also include a lot of other fun things. To be sure you don’t miss anything, read it all.

Reality television shows are not new to the medium but their focus on titillation has eclipsed their original intent. When Katherine Hauswirth wanted to turn her attention to reality grounded in truth, uncomfortable truth, she turned to two books where she found meaning in “the most chaotic places” in Intensive Care, Intensive Caring.

Nicki Leone discovers a fabulous new novel where a hair salon in Harare, Zimbabwe becomes the focal point of two people trying to put their lives back together while wrestling with secrets in their past in Love and Highlights in Harare.

With the disturbingly frequent use of “text speak,” it sometimes feels as if language is splintering into a buffet: some of this, some of that, take your chances. Elizabeth Creith has found humor in an increasingly frustrating world of initials, lowercase letters, and numbers that mean actual things in Text Abuse.

Home should be one of the sweetest places in our lives as it provides a sanctuary from the world. A bookmark celebrating the famous song took Lauren Roberts on a journey into the history of the song and its composer in Coming Home.

Being the editor of a literary publication is truly rewarding. One of those rewards is being part of contributors’ lives as they move into new challenges and turn out achievements. Lauren Roberts shares one recent experience in Making a Book.

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Change is the only constant is an old saying, but one that seems to be a fixture in my life. BiblioBuffet is no different. A few months ago Lindsay Champion who wrote the column Memoirama, asked to leave because she wanted to concentrate on her novel and also had the opportunity to return to beloved New York and join the staff on a magazine devoted to another love, theatre. It hurt to lose her. Nicki and I worked with Lindsay for two years, and during that space of time we saw a naturally gifted writer grow into an experienced veteran of the written word.

Then last week, Pete Croatto, whose writing has been getting noticed in more publications, including the Christian Science Monitor, has asked to cut back to a monthly column. Of course I agreed even though I felt, as I did when Lindsay asked to move on, hurt. As his editor, I could do nothing less. I value BiblioBuffet’s columnists as much as I value my role in their careers. It is up to me to encourage the writers to become the best they can be. That also means I must face up to the fact that at some point I will gain some and lose some. And I cannot allow my personal feelings to intrude onto my professional responsibilities. Both the pride of nurturing gifted writers and the wounds in losing them to other gigs is part of being an editor. And so as Pete moves forward so do I. It is a learning process on both sides, and one I must value as much as I do the writers.

Thank you, Lindsay and Pete and all our previous contributors. You are the heart and soul of BiblioBuffet, and I wish you all the best in your future endeavors.

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Issue of March 18, 2012

This week we cover the world of authors and books in a wide-ranging exploration of literary boundaries. Check out the new columns of Gillian Polack, Lev Raphael, Pete Croatto, and Carl Rollyson as well as the weekly editor’s letter from Lauren Roberts.

Lev Raphael interviews the author of The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything and Between Heaven and Mirth, and discovers that James Martin, SJ, is as funny and entertaining outside his books as he is inside of them in Joy to the World?

In Australia, the world of heroic fantasy recently lost one of its most important writers at a young age. Gillian Polack remembers her impact on the country’s genre writers and what she accomplished not only on but beyond the printed page in Sara Douglass: Lost Footsteps.

As Carl Rollyson’s upcoming book on Hollywood star Dana Andrews nears its publication date, he dreams of turning it into a movie with himself as screenwriter. But as he shares in Biopics, inaccuracies he routinely exorcises from his biography somehow made it into his film script due to his creative imagination.

Walking is one of the best forms of exercise around in addition to being a popular sport for millions or as Pete Croatto notes, it is a “common act with uncommon impact.” In What We Talk About When We Talk About Walking, he reviews a book that goes beyond the pedestrian act into the extraordinarily wide world of walking.

If life is a book then Lauren Roberts has a rather complicated one open before her. While there is not much time for reading, it is nevertheless making an impact, which she shares, briefly, in The Book of Life.

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Seduction by Query

There’s no wondering why our newest columnist, Elizabeth Creith, won our editorial hearts immediately. Actually, except for Carl Rollyson who I invited to join the BiblioBuffet team, all of our columnists have seduced us with excellent query letters. Each was different, reflecting its owner’s personality. But without exception they were all enticing pieces of writing, showcasing not just the writers’ backgrounds and ideas but their personalities. They knew that we weren’t looking for “content.” They showed us they had things to say that would appeal to our readers.

Elizabeth’s was no different. It was obvious from the beginning that she had read our Write for Us page and followed the guidelines. You’d think this would be common sense for querying writers, but conversations with fellow editors and several years of experience have taught me that common sense is  . . . uncommon. Let me show you. Here’s Elizabeth’s letter:

I’d like to write a regular column for you. I see it as commentary in a light and drily humourous style, covering everything from the physical development of books (because it’s hard to take a stone tablet to read on the bus) to modern reading habits and the advent of electronic books (reading an e-book in the bathtub give a whole new meaning to “Kindle”) and everything in between. I’m a bookmaker as well as a writer and reader, and I have an author’s familiarity with the publishing industry.

Some ideas for columns:

  • Basalt to bytes – a race through book formats in history
  • How do you dog-ear a Kindle? – a technophobe muses on e-books
  • Quarto, folio, elephant – the vocabulary of books
  • Librocubicularists Anonymous – a twelve-step programme for those who read in bed
  • The Breeding Habits of the Common Book
  • The Dictionary Dance – descriptivist, prescriptivist, who cares? (I do!)

I have a track record as a columnist on radio. I worked for CBC as a freelance writer and broadcaster for about a decade, during which I had three regular features. One was slice-of-life humourous commentary, the second a folklore “column” and the third a humourous column about life as a shepherd in Northern Ontario. I also did a pet column for two online newspapers.

In addition I’ve been writing fiction and non-fiction for over twenty years, and have publishing credits both in print and online. I write horror and fantasy as well as humour.

I’ve never missed a writing deadline. You can find my references at my blog, Elizabeth Creith’s Scriptorium.

My reading interests are, in alphabetical order, animals, art, fantasy, history (military, social and scientific), humour, paper arts, physics, poetry, pottery, science fiction, textiles, writing and editing. I’ve also been known to indulge in mainstream literary fiction.

Currently on my night stand – or, more accurately, the pile on the floor by my bed –

  • Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink”
  • Terry Pratchett’s “Nation”
  • William Tapply’s book on writing mystery
  • Richard Lederer’s “A Man of My Words”
  • The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes
  • Paul Jackson’s book on how to make pop-ups
  • Creative Bookbinding
  • How to Shoe Your Horse
  • I just finished reading “Lavinia” by Ursula K. LeGuin

I don’t have a clip on reading or books, so I’ve written a sample column.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Elizabeth Creith

May I just say that this is a jewel of a query. I sat up. I paid attention. Then I promptly forwarded it on to Nicki for her opinion. And we had a new columnist.

Writing humor is hard. I know. I’ve tried it, and my results were so poor I not only have never attempted to publish any of it, I’ve never even tried to write it again. I’ll leave it to those who can do it well. Thankfully, for our readers, we have one of them. And the fact that she specializes in biblio-humor is fantastic. Where else but at BiblioBuffet will you find someone who knows how to shoe a horse and dance with dictionaries?


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Issue of March 11, 2012

If flowers aren’t yet blooming in your part of the country at least you can comfort yourself with longer, lighter evenings. Later sunsets mean more time for reading outdoors, perhaps even different types of books. What kinds do you prefer? I like outdoorsy types myself, not necessarily those based on physical activity but certainly those with a sense of “otherness” or incorporating larger places, events, things, people. Our contributors have their own reading changes as we show in their columns this week.

James Baldwin was more than a great American writer. Nicki Leone found that listening to a 1961 interview with him changed her life “when his voice came over the radio and said everything that I had ever said to myself about the nature of art and identity, and said it so very beautifully” as she herself says in A Question of the Beat: Rediscovering James Baldwin.

A gorgeous bookmark gold gilt ornate letters on thick matte black card that advertised a nineteenth-century book caught Laine Farley’s eye and stirred her interest in the illustrator whose beautiful work received as great a notice as the author’s by the book’s reviewers. It’s a fascinating story: Taine’s Pyrenees: Useful and Beautiful.

For Katherine Hauswirth it was the melding of reading and eating, which she discusses in her review of two books with “good words” that revolved around “finely prepared food.” These two books reminded her of what “good food and friends can provide even, or perhaps especially, in a life that’s sometimes estranged from the very finest flavors” in Senses and Soul.

Can it truly be that Elizabeth Creith knows the real reason that we never have enough bookshelf space—no matter how many bookshelves we build or bookcases we buy? What is the deep dark secret? Find out in Out of the Dark.

What are your comfort books? We all know about comfort food but what kind of books do you turn when you need familiarity? Lauren Roberts shares what is currently comforting her in Restorative Reading.

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A few days ago, Gillian Polack sent an e-mail to Nicki and me with the ominous subject line: “Bad news.” Something like that always makes my heart shrivel up a bit with terror; what am I going to know?

Do you remember that one of the first things I did for BiblioBuffet was interview a writer called Paul Haines? How we talked at great length about his use of bad language and how it should be handled? How he was fighting cancer? Well, he fought beyond anything I’ve ever seen. He lasted long enough so that he got to see his child have her first day at school. The doctors kept saying “You won’t see Christmas,” “You won’t see New year” and he did. Today, however, he died.

I thought you ought to know.

Thank you both for letting me do that interview, and thank you especially for letting his language shine there on the page, without any cuts or alternates.

The interview to which she referred was her second column for BiblioBuffet. I didn’t remember it until I re-read it and reached the end where an excerpt from Wives, his novella was.

Now I remembered. I remembered the discomfort with which I read it. I remember the struggle within myself as editor and reader, the former arguing that my personal boundaries should not transcend my responsibilities as editor, the latter cringing at the scene depicted and the language used. And I remembered the discussion with Nicki over that discomfort. She had no problem with it, but it wasn’t her personal take on it that mattered. Nor, as we talked it out, was it mine. Ultimately, it came down to editorial accountability. Was BiblioBuffet willing to stand behind its motto of “writing worth reading”? If so, I had to face the fact that this might mean, as it did then, printing material that I personally found offensive.

Nicki and I both eventually won myself over. I didn’t have to like what went up all the time, nor did I need to print everything that came our way, but I did need to be true to the mission statement that I originally wrote for BiblioBuffet. For the first time I had to face, squarely, the fact that running a publication that possessed integrity meant going beyond personal boundaries. I couldn’t control what the contributors chose to write, nor did I want to. I don’t believe in hiring the best and then trying to stifle that excellence. Prior to opening BiblioBuffet I learned a lot of lessons as a writer. This was the beginning of my lessons as an editor.

To Paul and Gillian I owe a great deal of thanks for their contributions to my life—as a person, a writer, a reader, and as an editor.

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Issue of March 4, 2012

Each day is getting a bit brighter and a bit longer. For some of us, spring is already here, for others it is more slowly entering nature’s consciousness. But regardless of how your days feel there is always time to discover emerging books and ideas. That’s what we have for you.

What is it like to have a biographer seeking out the inner sanctum of someone to whom you have a deeply personal relationship? And how does the feelings that searching brings up translate to information for the biographer? Carl Rollyson explores what happens at his end when resistance meets need in A Biographer on Your Doorstep.

How books and stories and how their telling of stories and the copying of books and the retelling of stories create cultures and underpins the thoughts a society has about itself is the focus on Gillian Polack’s interest in Cultural Memory and the Stories We Tell.

A desperate search for a book that wasn’t  a cookie cutter sports memoir led Pete Croatto to make a fortuitous discovery on his library’s bookshelves: an “unexpected salvation” in the form of a 2010 book by a baseball player that “can serve as a handbook for athletes and for fans,” a book he enthusiastically shares in The Professional.

From zero to 60 in reading. Lauren Roberts recently found herself moving that fast through some “cleansing” books designed to wipe away a disturbing doorstop of a book, and found herself on a journey of  engagement in Voyages of Solitude and Discovery.

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