Six Types Of Writers

6types of writersI came across this on the net a long time ago . There’s a full analysis of each of these six types of writers at http://alexeimaximrussell.blogspot.ca, and the Writer and Blogger Alexei Maxim Russel is the originator of the above meme. I really enjoyed this the first time I saw it. And I kept it and often found myself looking over it again and again. I thought it not inaccurate at all when it comes to a generalization (nothing more) of the various categories of scriveners one comes across in the world of writers. As with most of these categories they only work to an extent, but they might serve as a compass along the often uncertain routes of a writing life. If there is anything the meme teaches its this: don’t be bitter. Writing is incredibly difficult. Too many people think that a few years and a few novels a writer makes. Not at all. Don’t be fooled. Follow your own dreams. The one true measure of a successful writer is that s/he always remained true to their artistic vision, and the only way to do that is to love what you do. That, a solid dose of common sense and a willingness to stick to a book till its over and sell it, and one will be fine. Oh, and have fun. Its never boring.

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THEY READ EVERYTHING

GOOGLE’s BOOKWORMING EXPERIMENTS AND AI DEVELOPMENT

I love reading. I read about 3 books a week. I know many people who read more, much more. Reading and writing goes back about thirty thousand years. The act of scribbling things down in various formats, from stone walls to tablets to wax to wood to paper to print to computers forms a method of recording everything, from casual notes to high culture to science. Its  is one of the essential elements for a species’ survival and advancement. Without text civilization would suffer failure. In other words civilizations that don’t  record things, pass on technology and skillsets and develop, well they simply collapse. Equally true is the fact that a society with superior technology and recorded skillsets will rule others. Knowledge is power. Its a cliché, but things become clichés for a reason.

One of the more under-discussed, under-reported and unexplored things that I have frankly been haunted about is the fact that in recent years the multinational Google are big readers. They have surpassed their goal of reading every book that has ever been written and making it available online in Google Books. Google say that 129 264 880 books are the total on the planet. I think its into the billions myself, not to mention the exponential speed of text growth since the inception of the internet. More to the point Google’s reading experiment, no doubt hugely successful, has changed our civilization forever.  It’s not simply because all the reading and scanning  of all of those millions of books without the permission of the copyright holders resulted in a much publicized lawsuit. Its because knowledge is the most valuable asset and the most useful currency available. If it is, as I hold it to be, then why do this?  Why would Google want to read and store every book available? What’s so interesting about reading every book ever written? I was intrigued. Then I read how Google had gotten into robotics and artificial intelligence.

Put this way, a book represents the most complete representation of a human thought process, the most comprehensive working out of human interactions in the world as recorded in language in fiction history, geography, poetry, maths, philosophy, science and the arts. One mirrors the human experience through reading, especially books. A book comprises an approximation of a complete act of consciousness, moving from premises, accumulating data, putting forward arguments, telling a narrative, drawing strands of various objections to opposing arguments, reflecting on emotions and human and non human interactions at many levels of complexities, and finally reaching what we understand as a satisfying conclusion to the book. Added together in all the books we get something approximating the deposit of recorded human experience. From there we move on into music, the plastic arts, painting and so on. So, one of the most perfect sources for a schematic of human consciousness and intelligence’s grasp of the many problems of life in constructing Artificial Intelligence is in reading.

Reading is not so much an obligation, but for the most part, enjoyable. Wonderfully enjoyable. In fact it can become an addiction. I would go further and say that people who read little or nothing except what their work demands or the daily tabloids are missing out on not only one of the great pleasures of life, but one of the truly great consciousness expanding experiences possible for anyone. Regarding the act of reading as something that is the purview of students or academics or nerds is simply a type of anti intellectual prejudice about something that is essential for living. I shudder to think what might be the effects of this kind of attitude if were to become more widespread.

But to get back to what Google might be working on. If they build a working AI, which seems a little more than likely, then it will become an essential component for all high functioning robots. If this happens, then the technology will undoubtedly become cloned and copied and cheaper and widespread very quickly. AI technology will then become part of what we now know as the internet, but will transform the internet utterly into something we no longer recognize as the web.

AI will do everything we do. It will perform all automated functions, will run departments, do accounting, become part of scientific work, build roads and ships and planes, look after our children and run our hospitals and operate our transport systems. AI will be field tested in battle and become the indispensable weapon for every modern army.

In fact as predicted in so many science fiction novels, AI will grow exponentially in sophistication to such an extent that they will probably be regarded as people at a certain point, that is if and when they pass something akin to the Turing Test.  Some wont, of course and will be left in another new sentient life form classification.

As so much work will be done so much more efficiently by AI, populations will drop hugely because it will become economically unviable to have anything more than two children, as there will simply be no work for them and average incomes will drop as work done previously by humans will now be done by AI. Its hard to believe that it could happen but AI will sadly increase even further the gap between rich and poor, and will lead to more wars.

New missions to find habitable planets will increase in effectiveness exponentially with the use of AI, and it won’t be long before people will begin to ship off world to find new places to live. New colonies and new sources of wealth will be discovered off world and life will be discovered on other planets. All this is speculation on my part. I know that.

I also could go on. The possibilities get wider and wider and wilder and wilder. My views are also pretty dystopian on this AI development. But I am not going to speculate further. But from all this one thing is highly likely. It is this: like so many revolutions before, the act of reading as a mirror for all that we know, all that we are, has become yet another key starting point for a new technological revolution.  

 

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Ursula K Le Guin’s Cracking Speech at the National Book Foundation Awards

 

Ursula K. Le Guin accepts the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at the 65th National Book Awards on November 19, 2014.

A Brief Riveting Speech by a Mistress of Letters about the difference between writing for a market and writing for art.

 

A few days back a brilliant writer, someone who was somewhat relegated to the genre of science fiction and fantasy, was hugely honoured at the U.S. National book awards. This is in itself a matter of considerable significance. Ursula Le Guin has been re imagining our possible futures for decades in her novels and poetry, and science fiction, a genre which never really got the kinds of recognition it deserved as an art form ( I am a huge fan of same) is now beginning to be really recognized, because we are now living in the age of science fiction.  As Videos tend to disappear from You Tube,I quote Le Guin’s speech here in full. She received the award from Neil Gaiman. 

“Thank you Neil, and to the givers of this beautiful reward, my thanks from the heart. My family, my agent, editors, know that my being here is their doing as well as mine, and that the beautiful reward is theirs as much as mine. And I rejoice at accepting it for, and sharing it with, all the writers who were excluded from literature for so long, my fellow authors of fantasy and science fiction—writers of the imagination, who for the last 50 years watched the beautiful rewards go to the so-called realists.

I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality.

Right now, I think we need writers who know the difference between the production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. Developing written material to suit sales strategies in order to maximize corporate profit and advertising revenue is not quite the same thing as responsible book publishing or authorship. (Thank you, brave applauders.)

Yet I see sales departments given control over editorial; I see my own publishers in a silly panic of ignorance and greed, charging public libraries for an ebook six or seven times more than they charge customers. We just saw a profiteer try to punish a publisher for disobedience and writers threatened by corporate fatwa, and I see a lot of us, the producers who write the books, and make the books, accepting this. Letting commodity profiteers sell us like deodorant, and tell us what to publish and what to write. (Well, I love you too, darling.)

Books, you know, they’re not just commodities. The profit motive often is in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words.

I have had a long career and a good one. In good company. Now here, at the end of it, I really don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. We who live by writing and publishing want—and should demand—our fair share of the proceeds. But the name of our beautiful reward is not profit. Its name is freedom.

Thank you.”

Brilliant Stuff from a brilliant mind.

FRAGMENTED SOCIETIES

 

Feminism, Love and Identity in the Novels of Doris Lessing

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Authors Press,  India  ISBN 978 81 7273 9188  200pages

My introduction to the work of Doris Lessing was when I had the misfortune at fifteen to pick up a copy of Briefing for a Descent into Hell. I read it at a sitting and, scared the living bejeepers out of me, and gave me more nightmares than one can shake a stick at.

A year or two later I picked up The Grass Is Singing, then The Marriages of Zones Three, Four and Five,  and I was hooked. Here I knew was a marvelous writer. The style was direct, fluid, highly intelligent without any consequent loss of emotional intelligence, and she shied away from none of the big issues. I read everything I could find by her and finally devoured the mind bendingly brilliant The Golden Notebook  at least twice if not three times (I really don’t recall).

So when my friend and colleague Dr Ajit Kumar suggested we co pilot a project on Lessing I was very enthusiastic indeed. Some world class academics on Doris Lessing have contributed papers to the volume, and I have to say the cover design by the Graphic Artists in Author’s  Press is great.  The Authors (I include a biographical sketch of each author at the end of this blog post) have written on a vast panoply of themes and perspectives covered in Lessing’s Novels – sexual violence, racism, cold war politics, family, motherhood, sociological perspectives on colonialism, dynamics of child rearing, philosophy of gender, among others. There is some brilliant work here and the exhausting work of editing taught me an immense amount.

This is a book Doris Lessing herself was interested in seeing a proofed copy of  when she heard of it through the Doris Lessing Society, which greatly excited not only us but all the contributors. Sadly Lessing died on the 17th November 2013 and did not get to see it.

Central to Lessing’s concerns was the notion of woman in the world, in other words feminism in the broadest sense of the term.

The notion of any fundamental feminist theory rests not only on the struggle for female reproductive rights but on the idea of every woman’s legal and moral right to control of her own body. Similarly the notion of any fundamental feminist theory does not extend to female political rights but to the primordial recognition of women as co legislator with their male counterpart in any political and legislative dialogue. By extension the notion of any fundamental feminist theory rests not only on the struggle for equal pay between man and woman, but on the parity of productive potential between the sexes and the elimination of all discrimination on gender grounds, especially on the grounds of the necessity of maternity/paternity leave and childcare time. Finally a notion of any fundamental feminist theory postulates women’s full possession of their minds and bodies and thereby the radical elimination of all forms of sexual oppression, of any culture of rape of women, including rape within marriage.

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Doris Lessing’s writing has brought a revolution by her unique and deeply critical female sensitivity to the unfair or highly limited roles of woman and to their restricted representation in society and its literature. The book discusses in detail some of her approaches to discussing these very limitations and her approaches to these limitations. Her focus zeros in on female self definition despite the limitations imposed on them because of patriarchy and related social taboos. She portrays how women have overcome odds and liberated themselves not only from patriarchy, but also from mental, emotional, physical, social and political oppression.

A great writer. I was delighted to work with Ajit in editing it, and really chuffed to contribute and article to it on – The Golden Notebook.

Contributors:

1. Lili Wang is Professor of English in the English Department, Fujian Normal University, China. Her research interest lies in English Literature and has been teaching English for more than 30 years. Her recent publications include A Study of Doris Lessing’s Art and Philosophy (Beijing: Social Sciences Academic Press (China), 2007); “Lessing’s Paradoxes: ‘A Mind of Winter”(on Mara and Dann). Foreign Literature Studies. Vol.31, No.2, 2009; “Seeking for Traditional Mother’s Memory: A Comparison between Woolf and Lessing”. Foreign Literature, No.1, 2008. She has been a visiting scholar in Cambridge University, Berkeley, University of California, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Hong Kang University.

2. Amy Lee has a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from The University of Warwick, UK. Her research interests include witchcraft and witchery, the Chinese Diaspora, female self-writing, contemporary fiction and culture, narratives of detection and marginal experiences. Recently she is working on young adult literature. She has published on women’s diasporic writing, life writing, and gender issues in contemporary fictions and film. She has taught professional and creative writing; and is dedicated to promoting creative teaching and learning in the secondary school sector. Currently she is an Associate Professor in the Department of Humanities and Creative Writing of Hong Kong Baptist University.

3. Ajit Kumar has done his Ph.D. research work on Doris Lessing’s novels at Kurukshetra University, Kurukshetra, India. He is a well published scholar of Doris Lessing. He has published many research papers in national and international journals of English studies. He has presented many research papers in national and international conferences and seminars. He has written the Introduction and Textual Notes of Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms and Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. He is engaged in editing a book on British Women Authors. He was honoured with Best Research Paper Award in World Conference AIAER-2010.

4. Pamela Grieman is the managing editor of the American Indian Culture and Research Journal at the University of California, Los Angeles. She received her doctorate from the University of Southern California.

5. Oran Ryan is a writer. He has written novels: The Death of Finn (Seven Towers, 2006), Ten Short Novels by Arthur Kruger (Seven Towers 2007), and One Inch Punch (Seven Towers, 2012). He has written plays: Don Quixote has Been Promoted (2009, Ranelagh Arts Festival) for the stage and Radio: Preliminary Design For a Universe Circling Spacecraft (KRPN, San Francisco, California 2010) He has lectured on James Joyce, has written and published short stories, poetry and literary critical articles. He is currently working on his next novel titled Hardcastle Dies Laughing.

6. Florica Bodiştean Ph.D is Associate Professor and Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences of Aurel Vlaicu University, Arad, tenured for the following courses: Comparative Literature, Theory of Literature, Stylistics of Poetic Texts and Literature of Children and Adolescents.. Main published studies include: Representations of Femininity in Tolstoy’s Novel War and Peace; Heroic and Erotic in Hemingway’s War Novel; A Vision on Femininity in the Romantic Historical Novel: Walter Scott, Ivanhoe; Tristan and Isolde, or On the Conventions and Liberties of Medieval Eros; Patterns of Femininity in the Heroic Epic. Homer: The Iliad and The Odyssey, The Renaissance Woman vs. the Woman of the Middle Ages in Cervantes’s Don Quixote. She has published books: Marin Preda or About the Complexes of Creation (doctoral thesis, 2002), A Theory of Literature (2005, second edition – 2008), Poetics of Literary Genres (2006, second edition – 2009), Literature for Children and Adolescents Beyond „Story” (2007), Heroic and Erotic. Essay on Feminine Representations in the Heroic Epic (2013). She is the member of the Romanian Writer’s Union, editor-in-chief of “Journal of Humanistic and Social Studies”.

7. Ambalika Biswas is Associate Lecturer of English at Royal Thimphu College an international college under Royal University of Bhutan, is educated at Rashtraguru Surendranath College with Bachelors and Post Graduate degree in English from University of Calcutta. She has a specialization in Indian Literature, T.S Eliot and Gender and Literature. Ms. Biswas has done her Bachelors in Education from Loreto College, University of Calcutta. Prior to teaching at Royal Thimphu College she used to teach as a part time lecturer at P.N Das College, Palta (West Bengal State University).

8. Feruza Shermatova is a current Fulbright visiting scholar at University of Washington, Seattle, WA, who researches how gender is expressed in Kyrgyz language. She got her Ph.D. in comparative English-Kyrgyz linguistics namely, the issues of translation of syntactical stylistic devices from English into Kyrgyz in 2011. Her primary research interests focus on stylistic analysis of fiction and linguistic problems of fiction translation.

9. Baliram N. Gaikwad, is a Fulbright Post-Doctoral Fellow at African American Studies, University of Florida, USA. He achieved Doctoral degree in British Literature from India and has authored several research papers on British Literature and Dalit literature. Dr. Gaikwad works as an Assistant Professor and Chair, Dept. of English at Acharya and Marathe College, Mumbai.

10. Chung Chin-Yi has completed doctoral studies at the National University of Singapore. Her research centers on the relationship between deconstruction and phenomenology. She has published in Nebula, Ol3media and the Indian review of World literature in English, Vitalpoetics, Rupkatha, an Interdisciplinary Journal on the Humanities, KRITIKE: An Online Journal of Philosophy, SKASE Literary Journal and Thirty First Bird Review, Linguistic and Literary Broadbased Innovation and Research, and Humanicus: an academic journal of the Humanities, Social Sciences and Philosophy. She has 4 years of teaching experience at NUS, teaching exposure modules and higher level electives. She presented papers on the Beckett centenaries in 2006 in Denmark and Ireland and recently at the Theory Culture and Society 25th anniversary conference.

11. Shahram Kiaei is a faculty member in the Department of English, Qom Branch Islamic Azad University, Qom, Iran

12. Sushumna Kannan is currently Adjunct Faculty at San Diego State University, USA. She has an MA in English (Literary and Cultural Studies) from EFLU, Hyderabad. She has submitted her PhD thesis titled “Akka Mahadevi, a saint, poet and rebel?: A Study in Feminist understandings of Tradition” at Centre for the Study of Culture and Society, Bangalore and awaits defense. She has attended conferences, national and international, and has presented papers. She received the Regional Fellowship for doctoral work at France for two years. Having worked at several colleges in and around Bangalore.

Publishing and not Being Damned

Getting work published and reducing the Tears Involved

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Archive Image of Thompson Reuters Publishing – see http://thomsonreuters.com/core-publishing-solutions/

The purpose of writing is to be read. No amount of false humility will ever sufficiently delude a writer into thinking she is destined to a kind of solipsistic world of simply writing for themselves. Writing is communication. It cannot not be. So, with writing comes an audience, and therefore some kind of vehicle whereby ones work reaches a readership. Sometimes the work deserves an audience. Sometimes not.

That being the case its hard to fathom the amount of humiliation, suffering, frustration and soul destruction writers endure to get published and get successful. Its sometimes a baptism of fire leading to real personal and artistic growth, realism and maturity; sometimes an embittering experience which leaves the artist scarred – more often a bit of both.

My own personal worst experience was a publisher saying ‘yes’ to a novel of mine only to baulk when they feared getting sued – by a church. The book was subsequently published and did fine and nobody sued anybody.

The good thing is once you actually do get published, it gets a tad easier to get published subsequently, and one doesn’t take things like rejection slips too seriously. Publishers are invariably the gatekeepers of what’s worth publishing. That being the case, this doesn’t mean that publishers are always right.

For instances: Joyce’s ‘Dubliners’ took twelve years to publish, a work of genius. The publisher regarded it as something akin to porn. The New Yorker consistently rejected the work of the young rather angry J.D. Salinger, including shelving after accepting the very first short story where this weird fellow called Holden Caulfield made his first appearance. Let us remind ourselves here that ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ has subsequently sold sixty million copies world wide with an average annual sale rate of two hundred and fifty thousand copies. Moving on to much smaller sales but an equal brilliant game changing work, Becketts Trilogy, a  trilogy of novels – Molloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnameable, was rejected by so many publishers that Sam the Man actually made a list to ensure he reminded himself of how many publishers could actually get it wrong.  The first novel of Proust’sRemembrance of Things Past’, ‘Swanns Way’, was rejected, only for the publisher to come crawling back to apologize and admit he was wrong.

The list goes on and on and all it really establishes is that Publishers are only human and get it horribly wrong as do we all. To understand that is to forgive and to save oneself so much misery, especially if one is struggling and starting out, or trying to break into another genre, or just cant find a publisher for your new novel or book of poetry.

Of course there can be all kinds of reasons why one’s work is being rejected by a publisher. As publishers largely don’t give reasons why they say no (imagine actually have to give a reason to the hundreds or even thousands of submissions a publisher might get in a week), its better not to speculate too much on the why of things. When it comes to magazines, for instance, if I am constantly being turned down for reasons I simply cannot fathom,  I generally send in a piece I have published in another country more than once, in other words something I am reasonably sure is an okay piece of work, and if that too is turned down, I just don’t submit there again.

Ad hominen attacks: To get ‘personal’ with a publisher, to send them angry notes filled with nasty well chosen phrases, to spread unfounded stories about them is probably the most foolish and self destructive of actions. It rightly establishes you as someone who can’t really be worked with. Its a bit of a career killer. Of course ‘getting personal’ with a publisher is not the same as loudly and accurately complaining, critiquing and objecting to actions on the part of a publisher with which a writer has a real problem. That’s a writer’s job, and part of the creative process. On the other hand if your work has been rejected, move on. Read over the text after a week or two when one feels a bit better. Ask an honest friend to do the same. If it is okay, send it elsewhere. If it isn’t, fix it. If it isn’t fixable, start another book. This is what serious writers do. Its good to start over betimes.

Publishers come in many many forms, and having been published by many of them, I really don’t mind what their motivations are so long as they treat my work with professionalism.

1. The Political Publisher: This type may have serious ideological motivations around the published text, and may be connected to a religious or a political party or be financed by a governmental body. They have deep pockets and many friends and a rolodex that would be the envy of many a politician. They are generally quietly powerful, well connected,  generally produce high quality work, in other words they will turn your words into a well produced book which will be marketed and sold in many bookshops and be readily available online. There are pitfalls going with a publisher like this, especially the danger of being branded with the same markings as ones publisher, or being associated with the same ideologies or political parties that the publisher has such big connections with. Ask yourself why the publisher has said ‘yes’ to your work before going forward with it. If you are happy to proceed, then do.  

2. The Big Commercial Publisher: This publisher works for a big profit, takes big risks sometimes and has little or no ideology beyond the bottom line. The fact you might be a serious worker in the field of literary fiction or commercial genre fiction matters little to this publisher. As well as publishing interests they may hold a huge stake in television, radio or news media and they may also have their own political interests. This also doesn’t matter to them. They have signed a contract with you because they see money in your work. Whatever genre one works in, one might long to have a publisher like this. this is a company who will give you a six figure advance, a three book deal, and provide huge marketing and publicity machine behind your work. Who doesn’t dream of selling many many books and to be  a famous client of a huge publishing company? Beware though – one is but one of hundreds or even thousands of clients in a giant multinational company. Beware too: It is an incredible amount of pressure, and not  for everyone. It is certainly a type of success, and the type of success that is easily seen and easily measurable in terms of money and fame and books sold. The pitfall here is that such a level of exposure and expectation placed  on ones work and on ones personality can make one lose a sense of perspective and identity. Monumental egos are born in this womb of super fame and self destruction can be the result. It can also negatively impact the quality of ones output. One can be writing to feed the commercial machine one has become a part of rather than staying true to ones own vision.

3. The Small Commercial Publisher: This is a manageable arrangement for many writers. Here one’s work is sold to a regular audience of expectant readers and one can predict a level of income based on the appreciation of a manageable fan base. Publicity is also regular and one finds oneself on the radio and possibly television arts shows, magazines and news media. The pitfall here is the sheer predictable lack of challenge in such an arrangement. One needs some level of resistance and struggle to grow, which may come from other writers, critics or a demanding readership who expects more from their writer, rather than the same novel or text being reproduced in different ways over the course of a mediocre career, which is also a danger with large Commercial publisher. A politically or ideologically minded publisher would not for a moment stand for such a thing.

4. The Not For Profit Publisher. These publishers provide probably the greatest service to the world of writing, taking as they do previously unknown writers or struggling writers of worth and providing a sufficient platform for such writers to actually begin their careers. Not for profit publishing is on the rise due to print on demand services whereby small amounts of a book can be produced at low rates and enough numbers sold to make up for the money spent on small levels of publicity and the hiring of rooms for launches and readings. So many writers owe their careers to these visionaries. It is a sad thing they remain uncelebrated considering all they do. The pitfall here is that they are not for profit: Publicity is small and most of the work is done in the publishers spare time and there may be problems with the finished work unless one has an infinite amount of time and thoroughly  proofed and re proofed ones work before sending it in.

The publishing world is a veritable labyrinth. There are many variations on the above divisions of publisher. For instance: Small Publishing houses are owned by big concerns and are allowed to function independently. Do you homework before sending in manuscripts. Use agents and more than anything – rewrite. Its pretty much the essence of writing.