The art really is in isolating yourself and letting as few things into your head as possible. To only admit those things into your head that come from a direction where no one else ever looks. That is the difficult thing.
Apparently, when I said that the How to Paint a Dead Man contest would be the last one of the year here at the olive reader, I lied, because today we have another awesome one, AND it’s one that we’ll be doing on a semi-regular basis from now on.
For anyone who doesn’t know, before a paperback original book comes out, we have galleys—uncorrected proofs in book form. We try to print exactly the right number we’ll need for bookseller outreach, publicity, and other efforts, but it’s not an exact science, and sometimes we end up with a couple of extra copies. Never ones to let things go to waste here at harper perennial, we’re passing them on to you!
Looking for ways to improve your life in the new year? You can start by attending the launch event for It All Changed in an Instant, the newest six-word memoir book from the folks at SMITH. The event will take place on January 5 at 7:30 pm at one of our favorite stores, WORD, and we hope to see you there. You can even get in on the action a bit early by entering WORD’s very own six-word memoir contest! Submit your entries to firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to win.
We here at Harper Perennial are thrilled to host one more contest before Christmas! I have in my posession ten SIGNED copies of Sarah Hall’s How to Paint a Dead Man, a daringly imaginative tale in which multiple lives are woven together through the prism of a still life painting. Moving from Italy to England, spanning nearly half a century, and bringing together the lives of four disparate characters, How to Paint a Dead Man is Hall’s fierce and brilliant study of art and its place in our lives.
Plus, Sarah is lovely, and she has a lovely accent.
So! To win, just leave a comment and tell me what you’re hoping to get for Christmas (or what you already got for hanukah). Go!
The Christmas Countdown is on! Tuesday’s holiday grab bag post is from Michael P. Spradlin, author of the essential Christmas classic It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Zombies. Check out Mike’s video and reminsces of his grandma – and make sure the zombie lover in your life is equipped to deck the halls with parts of Wally this holiday season.
I’ve always marveled at the talents of sportswriters. Think about it. Of all forms of journalism, I believe sportswriters have the most difficult task. They are describing events to us which in most cases have already transpired. And as readers the majority of us already know the details: who won the game, or scored the winning goal, or failed in the attempt. And yet we read every word they give us. As writers, they keep us invested and interested with the suspense already taken out of the equation. As an author myself, I find it a remarkable gift.
Growing up in a small farming community in the Midwest, I was the kid who always looked to the horizon. I wanted to know what was over the next hill. What was out there? And luckily I found at an early age, that books could take me places I could only imagine. I loved stories. And my Grandmother was a magnificent storyteller. She could keep me on the edge of my seat for hours, with thrilling tales of her childhood. As a girl, she would tell me, she rode ‘the train’ all over the American West with Sitting Bull and Custer and Wyatt Earp. I was probably too young to figure it out at the time (and I never was good in math, which is why I write) but her elaborate stories were the tallest of tall tales. I didn’t care, I loved them anyway.
And though my Grandmother came to Michigan straight out of the hills and hollers of Appalachia and thus had very little formal education, she knew the value of it. Whenever I stayed with her, I read the newspaper to her aloud while she worked in the kitchen. Whenever we went to town, there were always a few extra coins in my pocket for comic books at the drug store. My Grandmother and then my Mother nurtured my love of stories whatever form they came in.
Then one Christmas my grandmother gave me a gift that changed everything. It was a one year subscription to Sports Illustrated Magazine. I was also sports obsessed in my youth and in the age before cable or the internet and the 24 hour news cycle, newspapers and magazines were our connection to the world. And Sports Illustrated, in my mind, was the platinum standard not just of sports writing but writing period. Each week for the next year, my issue arrived in our mailbox every Tuesday and I read it religiously from cover to cover. And discovered from works by John Updike and David Halberstam and George Plimpton what practicing the craft of writing really meant.
Reading those pages every week helped a small town Michigan kid believe being a writer was possible. So far as I know, I’m the only author to come out of my hometown and it was Updike, Halberstam and Plimpton who sent me to Bradbury, Steinbeck and Fitzgerald. And they in turn sent me on the path to telling my own stories.
I know my grandmother would be so proud if she were here today to see and read my books. And as she always did, she would have taken not an ounce of credit for any of my successes. Instead, she would sit me down, and tell me about the time, as a young girl, she rode the train with Sitting Bull.
When we last saw Teddy Wayne, author of the forthcoming Kapitoil (on sale April 13), he was on the lookout for a priest’s robe. You can see why in this hilarious video, part of the Worst Speeches of All Time series on Comedy Central (note: that is not Teddy wearing the priest’s robe in the video. He just wrote the thing.)
Happy Monday! Today’s holiday grab bag post (and it just may be the final one, unless more come in today) is from the lovely Myrlin A. Hermes, author of The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet, a topsy-turvy rethinking of Hamlet. Myrlin is our resident crafty author (you might remember her book gown), so we’re delighted to share her post below on how to make your very own recycled cashmere scarf!
I’ll admit it—I’m addicted to cashmere. Lest this seem like one of those diamond-shoes-too-tight problems suffered only by the very rich, let me assure you that writing literary fiction hasn’t suddenly become a lucrative career choice. Most of my cashmere and merino wool sweaters were rescued from thrift store bins for a few dollars apiece, which means that many of them have stains, holes, and dryer shrinkage—perfect for making into these easy fringey no-sew recycled scarves.
What’s that? Your only experience with crafts was making those knotted embroidery-floss friendship bracelets for your BFF in middle school? Perfect—you already know the basic technique! First, cut the sweater (or whatever material you want to use for your scarf) into strips about six inches long and 1 ½-2 inches wide, discarding collars, cuffs, and seams.
If you’re using cashmere or wool, you’ll want to felt these strips a bit to keep the edges from unraveling. You can do this by boiling them in a pot of water on the stove for about half an hour (yum, sweater soup!) then drying them in a hot tumble dryer. Now you’re ready to begin.
First, make three long strands by knotting several of the strips together end-to-end, leaving about two inches of loose ends at each knot. (I find it easier to work with if you make each strand no longer than a couple of feet at a time, adding more strips onto the ends as you go.) Tie these three strands (we’ll call them A, B, and C) together at one end with a double knot, which you’ll hold between your knees to keep the scarf steady while you work.
Take strand A and tie it around strand B with a simple overhand knot. Now your strands will be in order: BAC. Then tie strand A around strand C so they’re in order: BCA. Take strand B and knot it around strands C and A in turn. Keep working from left to right, tying more strips onto the end of your strands as necessary. Keep going until you have the length you want (or run out of strips—I find it takes about 1-2 sweaters to make an average scarf) then tie the strands together at the end with a double knot to secure them. If the scarf looks a little “thin” anywhere you can go ahead and add more fringe by tying short strips on where necessary. Et voilà! A low-cost luxe handmade gift in about an hour, without having to brave the mall.
In case you missed it last week, The People Speak, the documentary based on Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, will re-air this weekend on the History Channel! To whet your appetite for this excellent and informative documentary, please enjoy these clips of Howard Zinn, Matt Damon, and Josh Brolin promoting the airing:
Good morning! We had many adventures in Scranton yesterday, but it sure is nice to be back in the office today . . . and not just because we’re having a little holiday party and yankee swap later! I’m also excited to post this holiday grab bag entry from one of our favorite new authors, Kirk Farber. Kirk, a librarian, is the author of Postcards from a Dead Girl, a quirky, whimsical, and slightly macabre novel about Sid, who keeps receiving mysterious postcards from his ex. It’s out this spring, but in the meantime you can enjoy Kirk’s hilarious list of Christmas things that make him uneasy:
Hope your list of “Things to Be Grateful for This Holiday Season” is long and includes the following: family, friends, good health, and good books.
That being said, I’d like to share my alternative holiday list – “Things That Make Me Nervous Because I Don’t Quite Understand Them”:
The Large Hadron Super-Collider (not holiday-related, but generally makes me nervous)
Eggnog: origins, etymology, and ingredients of
My unquenchable thirst for eggnog
The dancing in “A Charlie Brown Christmas”
Figgy pudding: what is it, and what makes it so good that carolers refuse to leave until you give them some?
Zhu Zhu Pets
Auld Lang Syne: who is she, and why does she have so many acquaintances?
Happy holidays to all, and to all a good night. (Especially you, Ms. Syne.)
Tomorrow, the olive reader may be a bit quiet as we head to our warehouse in Scranton on a field trip to present our summer 2010 list. So while we’re living it up with our telesales reps, potentially eating in a chain restaurant and definitely having book club girl take us to costco, please enjoy this photo of us with our office christmas present from Simon Van Booy, author of Love Begins in Winter and one of our most favorite people ever:
Today’s holiday post comes from Teddy Wayne, author of the forthcoming Kapitoil and the recipient of a 2010 NEA Creative Writing Fellowship. The first time Teddy and I met, we nonchalantly discussed all manner of foully humorous things. Please let that and his post below alert you to the fact that his book is very funny, and that you should read it when it comes out in April. Or he’ll kill you.
I couldn’t be happier about contributing to the Olive Reader, Harper Perennial’s weblog, or, as the kids call it, “web log.” Nothing says the holidays like writing a sub-200-word blog post spreading the word about your forthcoming novel (Kapitoil, available April 13) that eight people will read because you posted it on Facebook and no one will “like,” “comment” upon, or “like” (in the non-Facebook sense)! It kind of feels like those disappointing Christmas mornings you had as a child, when you woke up expecting toys under the tree and all your family members gathered together, and instead found yourself arrested under suspicion of acting as ringleader for a multistate crystal-meth ring. Well, my Wi-Fi time is limited here at Franklin Correctional Facility, so I’ll sign off by entreating you once more to embody the holiday spirit and purchase a small yet heartfelt book by one of HarperCollins’s lesser-known authors: Going Rogue by Sarah Palin.
Today’s holiday wish list comes from Richard Milward, author of Ten Storey Love Song. It also comes with a contest! Write your own letter to Santa in the comments and you could win an autographed copy of Richard’s book! There will be five lucky winners, in fact.
This Christmas I want a sack of milk chocolate pennies, a hardback book about Henry Darger (the art world’s favourite recluse), a huge dead turkey surrounded in vegetables, a good bottle of whisky, and a suitable weather front giving way to snow so deep it’ll stop traffic. And I want to wake up on Christmas morn with no symptoms of cold, flu, hypothermia, or hangover.
Good morning! I hope everyone reading this had a lovely weekend. A weekend filled with some stereoptypical holiday cheer. Because today’s holiday grab bag post is anything but stereotypically cheerful. Today we have a video from Tony O’Neill, author of Down and Out on Murder Mile and the upcoming Sick City (a tale of two junkies, Hollywood, and a mythical Sharon Tate sex tape.) And if you watch this video, you’ll see why everyone at Harper Perennial loves him oh so much:
One of our most beloved backlist books here at harper perennial is Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. So we’re also very excited to note that the Zinn Education Project has recently relaunched. The site helps bring a people’s history to America’s classrooms—a very vital endeavor. Check it out!
In our latest holiday grab bag post, Justin Taylor, author of Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever, a collection of short stories that is just as good as its title, shares a tale of Will Oldham, John the Baptist, E.C. Ball, and being a Jew on Christmas. Enjoy!
A few years ago, I was lucky enough to see Will Oldham and his two brothers (Ned and Paul) open for Hazel Dickens at Joe’s Pub. During the show, the Oldham brothers played two songs about John the Baptist, both covers, and both called “John the Baptist.” Not long after, I was lucky again, and got to interview Will. In the course of our conversation I asked him about the original versions of the two “John the Baptists.” One, he said, was by a guy named John Martyn and appeared on an album called “Stormbringer.” The other was by E.C. Ball. I picked up an album by each man, and got my original versions. The John Martyn album didn’t do much for me, but I fell right damn in love with E.C., and his wife Orna, one of the finer husband-wife gospel teams in the history of American folk music. I own as much E.C. Ball music as is publicly available for purchase, and at least one recording session that isn’t, but I’ve always wished for a recording of Will’s version of “John the Baptist.” You can imagine my extreme delight, then, when just two days ago I received an email from the great Nathan Salsburg—mastermind of the Twos & Fews imprint of Drag City, and, as it happens, the guy who organized those Oldham/Dickens shows. Nate’s note announced that “Face the Frowning World: An E.C. Ball Memorial Album” has just been released by the Tompkins Square label. It features, among other things, a Will Oldham version of E.C.‘s “John the Baptist.” I’m incredibly excited to see this album enter the world, and I look forward to spending a lot of time with it, as soon as I get my hands on it. It would be an absolute delight to wake up on Christmas Day and find this disc under my tree. Alas, since I don’t live with anyone likely to buy me a Christmas present, don’t have a tree, and am Jewish anyway, this delectable collection is probably going to end up being one of those gifts you give yourself. But hey, at least I won’t be disappointing me with socks.
Perhaps you, dear reader, have a folk music-loving, Christophile Jew in your own life. You can learn more about this record, including how to buy it for him, here.