Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

11/08/2014

Writing About Sex? Why Not, It’s a Universal Aspect of Human Nature


Author and senior vice-president of sales at Penguin Random House, Ananth Padmanabhan

I came across a review of an interesting book on erotica that poses some interesting questions and concepts Re sex and romantic love.

The book, “Play With Me”, is written by Ananth Padmanabhan, who is the senior vice-president of sales at Penguin Random House, and it is his debut novel.

Author Ananth feels there is a big gap in the market today of books dealing with the heart, mind and body and where do you draw the line between them (and/or connect them) when it comes to sex and romantic love. And he should know about any gaps in the market — being the senior vice-president of sales at Penguin Random House and part of the publishing industry for nearly two decades.

“The past few years have seen a lot of short erotic stories being published but novels aren’t so common. I have written short erotic pieces before, but this is the first novel of this kind from India in the male voice,” he says.

 “How does one draw a line between heart and body? When does the mind kick in? What does pleasure do to our notion of love?” he asks.

I have written a few steamy scenes in my past projects and Ananth’s approach and the questions it raises about sex and love is something that begs more understanding or, at least, consideration in developing motives and characters.

Now, this piece from The Hindu newspaper by journalist Preeti Zachariah:

 

Love, lust, and life

“It is not autobiographical at all. I wanted to write about sex — it’s a universal aspect of human nature…” says Ananth Padmanabhan, about his debut novel Play with Me.

 

“Can one person be in love with two people, in very different ways? Yes, he can,” says Ananth Padmanabhan, whose debut novel Play with Me (Penguin, Rs.250) is a somewhat salacious take on the eternal love triangle.

The book tells the story of Sid, a successful photographer in an ad-agency and his two radically different relationships with two women — the gorgeous, free-spirited Cara who changes the way he thinks about erotic pleasure and Natasha towards whom he feels romantic love.

“How does one draw a line between heart and body? When does the mind kick in? What does pleasure do to our notion of love?” he asks.

Here in the city to release the book at Starmark, the author is remarkably candid about his reasons for writing it. “It is not autobiographical at all. I wanted to write about sex — it’s a universal aspect of human nature. And there is a big gap in the market today.”

He should know — Ananth, who is the senior vice-president, sales at Penguin Random House, has been part of the publishing industry for nearly two decades. “The past few years have seen a lot of short erotic stories being published but novels aren’t so common. I have written short erotic pieces before but this is the first novel of this kind from India in the male voice,” he says.

Also at the release was psychiatrist Vijay Nagaswami and journalist Yagna Balaji. Dr. Nagaswami attempted to define erotica. “It’s not just about sex but about people in unabashedly sexual relationships. Erotica is about using a feather, pornography is about using the whole chicken,” he smiles.  Using the popular Fifty Shades of Grey as a reference point, he wondered whether off-beat sexual themes garnered better audience response.

Ananth demurs by saying “For pleasure to be extraordinary, it doesn’t have to be unusual. I wanted this to be real and normal. This is an intense book, written with a lot of integrity that captures what goes on in the character’s mind.” Yagna adds that unlike many other books that claim to titillate, there is no flowery language and veiled allusions. This is the real thing.

Ananth explains, “I wanted to understand how pleasure is impacted by the notion of love. There is no universal formula, however,” he says. “Many times we get into relationships which seem right at that point of our lives, even if we know that they probably aren’t long-term ones.”

“Sex is a fundamental need — there is no morality associated with it,” feels Ananth. Any decision you make is okay if you can live with it yourself.  We constantly seek pleasure. Relationships are all about pleasure. Why should I be apologetic about it?” he asks.

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09/17/2013

Have Creative Writing Courses Killed the Experimental Novel?


“But, my creative writing course says I can’t do that.”

The publishing industry is in existence firstly (purposefully) to make money and secondly (accidentally or as a by-product) to mentor new talented writers/authors.

As such, the agents keep looking backwards to determine profits. “What sold last year is what will sell this year; don’t mess with the formula, even if it isn’t working” — You might think that the rise in self-published novelists getting to the public via print on demand and e-readers would have increased creativity – according to Digital Book World, half of the top 10 bestsellers in April 2013 were self- published – but it apparently hasn’t.

This will be explained later in this post.

What is the difference between creative writing and experimental writing? Try the given links – but, feel free to google these terms and select other definitions.

Key thought excerpts from below featured lesson article:

Experimentalism in the novel virtually died in the 1980s, but was it killed by the rise of the creative writing course, the conservatism of the publishing industry, or are they both linked?”

“…but the industry is dominated by a small number of large publishers and access to them is increasingly through agents. Most publishers are reluctant to even read unsolicited manuscripts direct from writers. Agents have close ties to creative writing courses and their tutors; they also are reluctant to accept manuscripts from writers who have not been recommended.”

“Publishers need to make money to survive, even if they are run by booklovers, and although they have been faster to respond to the digital revolution than the music industry, they have still been hit hard. In 2006 the Booksellers Association listed 4,495 bookshops in the UK, including 1,483 independents – by June 2011, the total number had fallen to 3,683, with only 1,099 independents. Waterstones, with around 350 stores in the UK, lost over £37m in 2011.”

“The corresponding rise in physical books bought online has by no means plugged the gap for the industry. This is no climate for encouraging experimentation. As agents are entirely dependent on the success of publishers, they also need to find, on the publishers’ behalf (they are agents for publishers as much as agents for writers) what they think will sell.”

“And, like the Hollywood film industry, they keep looking backwards: what sold last year is what will sell this year; don’t mess with the formula, even if it isn’t working. You might think that the rise in self-published novelists getting to the public via print on demand and e-readers would have increased creativity – according to Digital Book World, half of the top 10 bestsellers in April 2013 were self- published – but it apparently hasn’t. If anything, it has increased the adherence to popular genres: teen vampire; dark fantasy; choc-lit and so on. Self-published writers don’t want to be self-published; they want an agent and a publisher. So they stick to the advice given in books and online, and, of course, they go on creative writing courses and join writers’ groups — but, “Both of these are forms of writing by committee. There is usually a moderator – him or herself a published writer – and a peer group who regularly review the attendees’ efforts in detail. Peer pressure, and the assumed wisdom of the (published) course leader will naturally tend to smooth down any rough edges as groupthink takes over; regression to the mean kicks in and all the work begins to conform to the same norms.”

Francis Booth writes this for The Guardian (an excellent lesson in experimental and creative writing and how the TP publishing industry responds to and shapes both):

When did creative writing eat itself?

Was the experimental novel killed by the creative writing course, the conservatism of publishing and awards – or are they linked?

Mark McGurl’s recent book, The Program Era, analyses the American novel in terms of its relationship to the explosive growth of creative writing courses in universities, from their beginnings in Iowa in 1936. McGurl writes that in 1975 there were 52 university-level creative writing programmes in the US – by 1984 there were around 150, and by 2004 more than 350 postgraduate courses and around the same number of undergraduate degrees.

The UK is behind the US but rapidly catching up. The university-based creative writing course in the UK arguably began with Malcolm Bradbury at the University of East Anglia in 1970, an inspiration to me when I was doing a DPhil at Oxford in the 1980s on the British experimental novel.

In 2012 I decided to publish this as a book. I wondered if I should update it to include experimental novels written after around 1980, but there weren’t any – well, hardly any. Experimentalism in the novel virtually died in the 1980s, but was it killed by the rise of the creative writing course, the conservatism of the publishing industry, or are they both linked?

More novels are published today than ever – around 150,000 books in total were published in the UK in 2011 – but the industry is dominated by a small number of large publishers and access to them is increasingly through agents. Most publishers are reluctant to even read unsolicited manuscripts direct from writers. Agents have close ties to creative writing courses and their tutors; they also are reluctant to accept manuscripts from writers who have not been recommended.

Publishers need to make money to survive, even if they are run by booklovers, and although they have been faster to respond to the digital revolution than the music industry, they have still been hit hard. In 2006 the Booksellers Association listed 4,495 bookshops in the UK, including 1,483 independents – by June 2011, the total number had fallen to 3,683, with only 1,099 independents. Waterstones, with around 350 stores in the UK, lost over £37m in 2011.

The corresponding rise in physical books bought online has by no means plugged the gap for the industry. This is no climate for encouraging experimentation. As agents are entirely dependent on the success of publishers, they also need to find, on the publishers’ behalf (they are agents for publishers as much as agents for writers) what they think will sell.

And, like the Hollywood film industry, they keep looking backwards: what sold last year is what will sell this year; don’t mess with the formula, even if it isn’t working. You might think that the rise in self-published novelistsgetting to the public via print on demand and e-readers would have increased creativity – according to Digital Book World, half of the top 10 bestsellers in April 2013 were self- published – but it apparently hasn’t.

If anything, it has increased the adherence to popular genres: teen vampire; dark fantasy; choc-lit and so on. Self-published writers don’t want to be self-published; they want an agent and a publisher. So they stick to the advice given in books and online, and, of course, they go on creative writing courses and join writers’ groups.

Both of these are forms of writing by committee. There is usually a moderator – him or herself a published writer – and a peer group who regularly review the attendees’ efforts in detail. Peer pressure, and the assumed wisdom of the (published) course leader will naturally tend to smooth down any rough edges as groupthink takes over; regression to the mean kicks in and all the work begins to conform to the same norms.

Continue to read rest of article

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06/12/2013

Delving Deeper Into the New Professional Publishing Ecosystem


Delving deeper into new publishing ecosystem

The changing publishing system is about so much more than just ebooks and print books — and what each of these ‘formats’ (and that’s ALL they are – just formats of the ‘printed word’) are doing to each other or to the publishing industry in general.

There has been some real structural changes to writing and publishing processes that enable some truly amazing things — and these changes are not related so much to past publishing industry changes as to entirely new concepts that were just not foreseeable in the ‘Gutenberg past’ that so many can’t seem to shake out of; especially when arguing ‘publishing-change-that-really-isn’t-change-but-just-an-extension-of-past-changes’.

“Draft”, a streamlined online word processor with version control, seems to be a good place to attempt this, hopefully, enlightening discussion:

By Eric Eldon in Tech Crunch:

 

In Writing Platform Push, Draft Lets You Collaborate Then Publish Anywhere

Draft, a streamlined online word processor with version control, is getting deeper into the new professional publishing ecosystem.

The one-man team of Nathan Kontny has just introduced a new REST API that’ll let any news outfit or other publishing organization connect Draft to the other software it uses. If you’re BuzzFeed or The Huffington Post* or another media company with a big mix of full- and part-time writers, you could use the API to let writers and editors work through versions together in Draft then publish straight to your custom content management system.

Meanwhile, if you’re running a group blog using a standard setup from WordPress or Blogger and you want a more pristine, versioned environment, Draft now lets you publish from it to them.

Since launching in March, it has also added features to publish to Tumblr, Twitter and most recently LinkedIn and MailChimp (which should be particularly useful to content marketers).

Beyond publishing out, Kontny has also made it much easier to pull in content for a draft. He’s added audio and video transcription, a two-way sync tool with file storage services like Dropbox, Evernote, and Google Drive, and a Chrome extension that lets you pull text into a new or existing draft.

Pulling in content

The updates have been coming fast. He’s also built commenting so collaborators can discuss specific sections of a draft, and simple social analytics that let you measure tweets about your writing based on word count, day of the week and reading comprehension level.

Draft, and private-beta competitors like Editorially and Poetica (please invite me, folks) are trying to create a new writing-centric platform to go along with the leading publishing tools of the day. It plays friendly with publishing tools, but isn’t trying to deal with website design and hosting or massive backend content management.

The API and publishing options, the transcription and syncing tools, and comments all help it toward that goal.

I have a suggestion…

Read and learn more

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03/06/2011

Ultrafast (1gig/sec), Cheap Broadband for Publishers & Writers? Only in Hong Kong!


Hong Kong's population density helps its broadband companies reach users at low cost.

A little peripheral news today. Hong Kong Broadband Network is offering astoundingly fast broadband at an astoundingly low price to homes in that city-country.

Yep, less than $26 per month for 1000 megabits a second! You know what ‘superfast’ Verizon offers in the good old U.S.A. ? 50 megabits a second for downloading and 20 megabits a second for uploading…AND it costs $144.99 a month! 

Is it any wonder our country is rushing to implosion!!

You think we could write faster with this service? Maybe not, but if we hang out with fast…perhaps some would rub off on us. 

Randall Stross has this to say in the New York Times:

Cheap, Ultrafast Broadband? Hong Kong Has It

HONG KONG residents can enjoy astoundingly fast broadband at an astoundingly low price. It became available last year, when a scrappy company called Hong Kong Broadband Network introduced a new option for its fiber-to-the-home service: a speed of 1,000 megabits a second — known as a “gig” — for less than $26 a month.

In the United States, we don’t have anything close to that. But we could. And we should.

Verizon, the nation’s leading provider of fiber-to-the-home service, doesn’t offer a gig, or even half that speed. Instead, it markets a “fastest” service that is only 50 megabits a second for downloading and 20 megabits a second for uploading. It costs $144.99 a month. That’s one-twentieth the speed of Hong Kong Broadband’s service for downloading, for more than five times the price.

One thing working in Hong Kong’s favor, of course, is its greater population density, enabling broadband companies to reach multiuser dwellings at a much lower cost. But density is only part of the explanation. The personality of Hong Kong Broadband should be noted, too. A wholly owned subsidiary of City Telecom, it is an aggressive newcomer. It was willing to suffer seven years of losses while building out its fiber network before it turned profitable.

Hong Kong Broadband’s principal competitor is an older company, PCCW, which has several other lines of business, including phone, television and mobile. PCCW also offers gigabit service to the home and benefits from the same population density. But PCCW’s price is more than twice as much as Hong Kong Broadband’s. Despite its low prices, Hong Kong Broadband now operates in the black.

Inexpensive pricing of gigabit broadband is practical in American cities, too. “This is an eminently replicable model,” says Benoit Felten, a co-founder of Diffraction Analysis, a consulting business based in Paris. “But not by someone who already owns a network — unless they’re willing to scrap the network.”

In the United States, costs would come down if several companies shared the financial burden of putting fiber into the ground and then competed on the basis of services built on top of the shared assets. That would bring multiple competitors into the picture, pushing down prices. But it would also require regulatory changes that the Federal Communications Commission has yet to show an appetite for.

Dane Jasper, the chief executive of Sonic.net, an Internet provider based in Santa Rosa, Calif., says that most broadband markets in the United States today are dominated by one phone company and one cable company.

Read and learn more

11/17/2009

Words and Silence – Food for Thought


Thomas Carlyle once said: “Silence is more eloquent than words.”

This is an interesting thought for writers since, on the simplest level, silence would translate into writing NO words! At least if you wanted to be eloquent. Hummmm…

Well I came across an excellent analysis of Thomas Carlyle’s quote made by Jeanne Dininni in her “Writer’s Notes” blog. A blog “Helping Writers Follow Their Dreams Through Information, Inspiration, and Encouragement!”

Her treatise on this thought has earned her a spotlight here and I am privileged to present her:

Words and Silence
by Jeanne Dininni

Personally, I would say that there are definitely times when silence is more eloquent than words–as in those times when no words are adequate to express an emotion or when nothing we could say would ever be sufficient to respond to another person’s sorrow or despair without trivializing it.

I also believe that silence can be a highly effective method for punctuating a statement and providing dramatic contrast, which can not only drive an idea home in a particularly potent manner but also encourage (and allow) a listener to really ponder it.

Of course, the above comments would apply more to verbal exchanges than written ones–though there are also many times when silence in written messages can exert a powerful (though not always unambiguous) influence.

“Silence” in Writing

We all know that not replying to something said by someone in an e-mail, letter, or comment can sometimes cause that person to question why and wonder about the significance of the omission. This type of “silence” can create serious doubts about our message’s intent and sometimes even give the recipient a totally erroneous impression of what we meant to convey. This would be a negative application of silence in our written communications, which–while certainly powerful–wouldn’t actually qualify as “eloquent.”

In the writing arena, I also think that, in many cases, economy of words can have a similar effect to that of auditory silence in conversation. This is true in the sense that it leaves some room for individual thought, opinion formulation, and/or personal application of a concept, rather than bombarding the reader with the author’s own perspective and thereby limiting the reader’s engagement with the work in question. This would be a positive manifestation of written “silence” which might actually qualify for Carlyle’s “eloquent” descriptor.

Another version of this type of “silence”–whether in speech or writing–would be the art of asking questions. This is because the very act of questioning implies that a period of silence will follow, during which the hearer’s/reader’s input will be welcome–another positive manifestation of written “silence.” (Even rhetorical questions invite the hearer/reader to ponder the topic and provide the “space” for him to reach his own conclusions.)

What are your thoughts on words and silence–either from a writing or conversational perspective? You have the floor!

Visit Jeanne’s blog at http://www.writersnotes.net/

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