Tuesday, June 29, 2010

It was a dark & stormy award season...

One of my favorite semi-literary awards has been given out. This year's Bulwer-Lytton Award goes to Molly Ringle of Seattle, WA for her egregious assault upon our romantic sensibilities.  Incidentally, this makes the second year in a row that the award went to a Washingtonian. The most dubious of dubious distinctions for our state.
Seriously, some of these are pure, unadulterated genius.  Evil genius, I'll grant you, but genius all the same...

Jan Swafford on eBooks in Slate

Bold Prediction:
Why e-books will never replace real books.

Because we perceive print and electronic media differently. Because Marshall McLuhan was right about some things... [READ MORE @ SLATE.COM]

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Writing Habit

I've been mulling this all week, which is why I haven't been blogging about it.  I want to do it right, and I needed to be sure that what I say is what I mean.

The other day, I wrote on Twitter "Make writing your habit, not part of your habit" in response to several friends I'd heard complain that they simply cannot write until they have smoked a cigarette, drank a martini, found their favorite fountain pen, sat at a specific table, used a particular computer program... etcetera, ad nauseum.

This bothers me for many reasons.

Every writing advice book and website talks about creating a writing habit.  Habituate the act of sitting down to write and you will avoid a host of issues that lead to writer's block.  Most of us seem to go a step farther and ritualize our writing, finding a place, creating a writing nest, choosing a perfect tool and attached a host of other activities to what should essentially be putting our butts in a chair and our words on a page.

I have a writing ritual too.  We all do, I suspect.  If you're a frequent reader you've heard it before: Make coffee, read newspaper, pivot to putting words on pages.  Of the whole ritual (even the coffee) only the putting words on a page is actually important.

I will go out on a limb and tell you that most of these rituals may seem harmless, but if you let them get too ingrained in your writing, they will quickly become as hurtful as they are helpful.  And I will go a step farther and tell you that tying your writing to alcohol or any other mind-altering substance (including coffee, incidentally) is a terrible idea.

"Habits in writing as in life are only useful if they are broken as soon as they cease to be advantageous."
-W. Somerset Maugham
Of course, some habits are worse than others and it's the good citizens who feel they need a little something to 'loosen up'.  Or as one old friend of mine used to put it "Slipping the muse a mickey".

Last month, not long after I wrapped up my review of Stephen King's writing memoir, a friend of mine sent me a link to a column in the NY Daily News about writers and addiction that discusses the links between creativity and addiction.  As the article rightly points out: "Steinbeck, Hemingway, Sinclair Lewis, Faulkner - Nobel Prize winners all - died drunk at the peak of their fame."  To which alcoholic roundtable I would add - in no particular order - the likes of Raymond Carver, Jack London, Edgar Allen Poe, James Joyce, Truman Capote, Herman Melville, Raymond Chandler, Jack Kerouac, Charles Bukowski, John Cheever... the list goes on and on, hitting many if not most of the brightest lights and biggest names of the twentieth century. 

I just named almost every modern fiction author on the bookshelf behind me. From that alone, one might almost be forgiven for thinking that literary greatness lay in the bottom of a bottle of rye and you wouldn't be the first to say so.
"Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism."
-Carl Jung

A lot has been written about this subject and much of it of more academic import than the NY Daily News.  And the links between what we call genius and what we call mental illness has been studied inside and out and most of the reports I read concur that it's bunk.  Perception makes it seem likely, but if I were to move my chair one shelf to the left, I would be in front of a passel of writers who are not on that list.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that no matter what they actually did, there isn't a single genuinely great artist from the Beatles to John Belushi to Basquiat that would not have been a genius regardless of what came back from the lab if we'd made them pee in a cup.  Their work would have been different but genius is genius or it isn't... if you catch my drift.  I'll go even further out on the limb and tell you I firmly believe that every one of them would have been more sustainably talented if they had avoided tying their talent to an altered chemical state.

I'm not going to tell you I don't drink or that you shouldn't.  I do and if you want to, that's your lookout.  I'm not arguing for teetotalling or anything of the sort.  But I find that people are less interesting the farther they walk down the path that leads to "In order to write/have a good time I must drink" (or smoke pot or whathaveyou). 

Most of us write to - as Ray Bradbury said - stay drunk of writing so that the world does not destroy us, to dispel the poisonous vapors that build from everyday life.  I write here and elsewhere because it is the way that I cope with the world around me.  I understand things by writing about them.  I express my loves and hates, fears and joys and depressions via the words I put on a page or pound into a keyboard.  If anything were to get between me and that keyboard I think I would break and I cannot fathom inviting anything to do so.

Think carefully before you put a veil between yourself and the world.  Blur your vision with a drug or make totemic a particular tool that you cannot work without and you might as well slip your muse a mickey because soon she will no longer come to you willingly.  That's intentionally brutal imagery I just conjured, but nothing is worse to see on a page than a talent squandered, a muse ravaged and thrown in a ditch.

There is a fine line between creating consistency in your writing time and place; mentally habituating an activity as precursor to the act. Write even if you can't get your smokes or coffee. Divorce your writing from ancillary activities or face blockage when you can't get them.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Wrapping Up the Art Debate

This past week at E3, the leaders of the Video Game industry were given a chance to elevate the debate on video games versus art.


I'm not planning to dwell on this any more than this.  Ebert refuses to engage with his opponents, hasn't played and refuses to play any games and just prefers to snipe from the cheap seats.  As I've said before, I don't really care about video games, I care about art and resist the efforts to put it in boxes with clear labels attached.  I still think the existence of the debate is the proof of potential if nothing else.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A conversation on Art & Games (Transplanted from Facebook)

I want to try something new here.  Part of what I enjoy in the blogs that I follow is seeing how people think.  Under the assumption that there are others like me out there, I wanted to share a conversation I had elsewhere and see if it sparks any further conversation on the topic of Art: What is it? Is it a closed system? Who gets to arbitrate what does or does not constitute art?

I've been contemplating the matter I discussed yesterday for awhile now.  When I first encountered Ebert's comments on video games, I posted a link on my Facebook wall to see what my friends had to say.  My "inner circle" is a curious amalgam of writers, artists, game tesrters, and gamers with all sort of creative types thrown in among a healthy addition of accountants, librarians and historians (some of them manage to be many of those things at once) and I was curious to see what they thought of Ebert's comments.

What follows is a transcript of the conversation that followed, "anonymized" for the privacy of those involved.  I post it to show my thought process as I first started to parse Ebert's opposition to games-as-art and the way in which I bounce ideas off of my friends on these issues.  I began from the default position that even if they are not currently art, the potential to create art is there.

(Some very minor copy-editing, clarification of antecedents & emphasis added where I thought it necessary or appropriate.)


Commenter #1: Do you think boardgames can be art? What about role playing games (RPG's)? Live action role playing games (LARP's)?
Commenter #2: I certainly do. Creating a good game is something that takes alot of emagination, and encompasses many other art forms. Music, writing, 2d and even film making. And in the case of RPG's and LARPS, acting. Yes it takes much talent to do a game well.

Me: I like Douglas Adams' definition of art as 'holding up a mirror to creation' but I take it a step beyond that; I say that art without an audience is no more art than throwing a ball to yourself is a sport.

If you agree that performance art is a legitimate discipline among the visual arts, then I suppose RPG's and LARPs may contain elements that rise to art. But on the whole, they do not fit my personal definition of art insomuch as theater isn't art for the actors playing to one another, theater only becomes art when there is an audience.  Elements of the writing associated with the game may rise to art as well where it ventures beyond the realm of written instructions much as a play is a work of literature, but the stage direction is not.

For my part, I believe that like sound, art constitutes both a sender and a receiver and without both it is self-nullified. Also, art must generally (and with few exceptions) be an intentional act.

Back to traditional games. Let us place games within their continuum. At one end of a line I would place the humble boardgame with a defined path for pieces from which one may not deviate and with players who have no volition and there is little or no strategy. The only random element is a dice roll. That is not art. Watching someone play it in defined circumstances may be raised to art, but the act itself is not art in my opinion.

Somewhere in the middle of the pack we find the strategy games such as Chess and Go. Strategy and elegance and often (as in tournament play) an audience. T his is where it begins to get sticky, but it is more a martial art - attack and defense, gain and relinquish territory, trade pieces, and there is an ultimate winner and an ultimate loser. In the world of visual arts, it does not qualify because even if there's an audience (in tournament play or a park setting, for instance) there is no more a message delivered than watching a family play Sorry or Monopoly.

(time passes while I mull things over and get some work done)

Me: The video game messes this up because it bridges the divide between the movie and the board game. On their own continuum, there are games that can only be defined as games, and there are games that are truly immersive and rise to the level of true interactive novels or movies.

Mario and most of the "navigate level/kill monsters" games fall on the opposite end of things. Play is constrained, and repetition will eventually get you through the level, but again the goal is to win or capture the princess or whathaveyou. Grafting a story onto these puts them into a strange storytelling void space where I take them on a case-by-case basis.

Likewise, games like Little Big World where you use them to create your own games do not rise to the level of art insomuch as they are a very creative and interactive tool to create art akin to an animated version of Photoshop. My paintbrushes or typewriter are not art, they're the foci by which I strive to create art.

(Arguably, unconstrained Role Playing Games such as World of Warcraft and even tabletop RPG's are in the same realm as Little Big World -- they are a tool by which art could conceivably be created under the right circumstances.)

The place where video games breach the art/game divide is when they become a conversation between the game designers (artists) and the gamers (audience). This is a relatively new phenomenon brought about by advances in computing that blur the lines between movie and game and further blur the line between the gamer and the character.

Where Ebert when seriously astray (as he sort of admitted himself) is in saying that they aren't art and *could never be*. I look forward to seeing artists take full advantage of these tools and whether or not they are now art, I see no reason to expect that they cannot be or that they never will be.

But all of this is largely irrelevant because I'm no more the arbiter of taste for you than Ebert or Rudy Giuliani are.

Commenter #1: I think a lot of gamers are freaking out over the Ebert kerfuffle because they are implicitly assuming "if it's not art, it's not important." And since games are important, then they think they must be art. Of course there are many more important things in the world than just art.

Your definition of art as needing an audience is interesting. Couldn't you view traditional games as also being a conversation between the designer and the players-as-audience? When we sit around and interactively enjoy the creation of Gygax [co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons], Teuber [Settlers of Cataan], etc., surely we are the intended audience?

I suppose that's one interpretation. Except that in my view, the game in that case is a tool of expression, not the expression itself. Because computers are used to create art doesn't make computers de facto art themselves. Or perhaps a better comparison would be textbooks aren't literature, but what we do with what we learn from them can be. If the game consists of a series of rulebooks, then they themselves would not rise to the level of art but would become the tool by which it becomes possible for art to happen. I suppose it's possible that gaming modules are art or at least an interactive form of literature, but I still don't think the game as a whole meets the qualifications.

On the whole, I think you're right about the reason for the outcry. I also think it's absurd to assume that games are or have to be important. Or that there's any actual need to make them so. Millions of meals are consumed, shared, and enjoyed without ever rising to the definition of cuisine. But that doesn't invalidate their enjoyment or make their creation a worthless endeavor. Personal nourishment and the experience of eating them together with friends is the important element there. And so to I think it is with games even if the nourishment is wholly metaphorical. Joining together around a gaming table to tell a joint story is a worthwhile endeavor whether or not it ever attains literary stature.

I find the idea that whether or not society at large validates your activity as "Art" either validates or invalidates that activity is patently absurd. [Note: In fairness, Ebert makes this same point about the absurdity of looking for the 'art' label to validate your interest in gaming as well.]

Commenter #1: So where do you draw the line between a tool for creating art, and an interactive piece of art? (Assuming you think it's acceptable for art to be interactive.)

Me:Certainly art can be interactive. In fact, the requirement of audience hinges on the need for an interaction real or implied between artist and audience. Certainly in the literal sense kinetic sculpture is a fascinating and highly-interactive discipline.

I'm thinking aloud here, so forgive me if this seems convoluted...

The line is fuzzy and is getting fuzzier and therein lies the rub with video games. I'm fighting the urge to say something airy-fairy about how art is a conversation with the cosmos and defined by that which echoes in our souls... or some such thing. And in a manner, that really is what we're talking about. Art persists. It has the ability to span a time frame larger than the lifetime of its creator. Even if it persists only in a collective memory of what was lost or ephemeral, art has to have an ability to be... well, timeless, I guess. It isn't about the enjoyment of a moment's gameplay or the passing glance on a gallery wall, but the long-term effect that it has in how it reflects society and what society does when confronted with that reflection. That is a level of art in which film certainly excels.

A lot of what passes for art in the present tense is really just about an "artist" (self-defined) convincing a target audience that this is what he's done. So too with literature, film and all other artistic movements and I imagine that video games too will follow in those footsteps. In a manner of speaking, it's about throwing everything at the wall and seeing what persists even once the sales pitch falls silent. The poseur will fade and the art will be what remains, what persists, and what is echoed in later works by those who follow.

In truth (or Truth, perhaps?) I think that art is defined so greatly in retrospect by the appreciation of our descendants that defining it now is - at best - a guess. We cannot know, we can only guess what will be seen as art by those who follow. We can only hopefully spend our best energies in pursuit of it and trust to the curious wisdom of posterity.

Commenter #1: Is it possible for a Choose Your Own Adventure type of book to be art? Assuming it's sufficiently well-written, of course.  From there it is a small step to Zorkesque interactive fiction, and on beyond zebra.

Me: Sure, I suppose if a writer of Cormac McCarthy or Margaret Atwood's literary caliber wrote a choose your own adventure, anything is possible. I would certainly pay good money for a copy.

Commenter #2: Art needs an audience. If a man in the forest screams and no one hears him did it ever really happen? To him it may have given something on the inside, but to everyone else, no. Likewise when the artist creates the art, it is for his own enjoyment and self expression. He may or may not care about the interpretation of others.

Me: Welcome back to the tussle.

That's an interesting point and very true to a certain extent. On the whole, almost everything we consider art was created by the artist for himself or herself, not to fit a market demand. The personal nature of the creation is paramount and one of the many hurdles games have to cross before they can fully rise to the level of art. This was also a hurdle that comics/graphic novels tripped over time and again before they finally ascended fully to become literature. Only when they were under the control of a dominant personality with a strong vision, a personal artistic quest and a message to convey did guys like Spiegelman, Moore and Gaiman pull the whole genre up with them.

The greatest movies, novels, paintings, and sculptures (since the end of the papal patronage era anyway) were created to satisfy an inner desire of the creators... in fact, even those artworks that were created on assignment (as almost all of the works of the great masters were) are unified by the ways in which they went beyond the stultifying bonds of their assignments.

But that doesn't negate the fact that part of what defines them as art is that they are in conversation with their audience. The audience reaction, and most especially the reactions of other artists in how they react to or spring off of the piece is a large part of what differentiates the mass-produced paintings for sale at TJ Maxx from the paintings that flow from your brush.

That and the fact that those paintings suck, but that's another show.

Which, I suppose, brings us full circle back to the difference between just reflecting creation and reflecting it and saying something about it at the same time.

10 Words You Need to Stop Misspelling

I would almost go so far as to say that this page should be mandatory reading before anyone is issued a writing utensil... via the mad geniuses at The Oatmeal:

Video Games and the State of The Arts

I am not the biggest fan of video games.  I don't stand in line on Black Friday to get the latest marvel of the digital realm, nor do I follow the goings-on at E3 with bated breath.  I don't play them now and my childhood was similarly bereft of the usual suspects of 80's childhood gaming.  My dad thought they were a waste of time and money and therefore I made most of my favorite toys out of wood and words.  My Pac was unmanned and my space was not invaded.

So it feels odd to stand before the critical firing squad on their behalf, but here I stand nonetheless.

A few months ago, legendary film critic Roger Ebert unleashed a bit of a tempest in the internet teapot by pounding on his bully pulpit about how video games were not an artform and never could be. 
"No one in or out of the field has ever been able to cite a game worthy of comparison with the great poets, filmmakers, novelists and poets."  -Roger Ebert
Though I often disagree with him, I have a great deal of respect for Roger Ebert within his field.  I follow him on Twitter and value his cultural commentary and wit.  And it pains me to see him wander so far down a dubious path.

I suppose that it's worth noting and to his credit that this constitutes a baby step back for Mr Ebert from his original blanket statement that video games can never be art and simply that no one now alive will live to see it.   Which sort of amounts to the same thing.

I am not a video game designer nor a film critic.  I am an artist, an accomplished designer, sculptor and painter.  I studied at the Colorado Institute of Art alongside many who were studying game design, so I am quite familiar with what goes into creating a game.  At the time I didn't think they were "art", but then I was a snob and pretty much felt the same way about my graphic design classes.

Where Ebert falls off the radar, in my opinion, is when he looks at the current video games and believes he can determine that no future game will ever attain the heights of artistry. That the current state of video games is below even the most rude cave painting.  Not even a scribble.  The latest assault was launched in response to a TED presenter's ill-conceived argument in favor of the "art" of video games and then eviscerating her own point by ending on an argument about marketing.

I'm a big fan of most of the TED speeches on the whole but this one was ill-conceived and defensive.  (I've appended it below for you to make up your own mind about it.)

I am ready to stipulate from the word go that nothing currently on the market constitutes what I would call art. There are no games currently on the market that I would hold up against the likes of Robert Frost, Mark Twain, Allen Ginsberg, Michelangelo, Picasso, Bach, Schubert or any Great Master of any field you care to name

It doesn't matter because frankly that's not the standard for any artform.  Who has ever held up a Picasso beside Huck Finn?  It's a ridiculous notion that the apple must conform to the standards of the orange.

Humanity has spent thousands of years trying to figure out what art is, how to define it.  The nearest dictionary I have currently at hand  defines art thusly:

"1. The human effort to imitate, supplement, alter or counteract the work of nature.  2. The conscious production or arrangement of sounds, colors, forms, movements or other elements in a manner that affects the sense of beauty; specifically the production the beautiful in a graphic or plastic medium."
-American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language
(c) 1980 -  William Morris, editor
Considering Mr Ebert doesn't settle on a specific definition of what is or is not art beyond "we know it when we see it" (sort of like pornography, I suppose) and the blanket "it's a matter of taste", we have to go with someone's definition, so it behooves me to use the most authoritative one I have at hand and that one was prepared with the help of contributing editor for the visual arts John Walker III, noted art historian and former chief curator of the National Gallery of Art, in Washington, DC (he died in 1995).

Possibly because Mr. Walker was born the same year as my grandmother, this definition is a bit old fashioned in its obsession with evoking only the beautiful and perhaps because Roger Ebert was born not long after my dad, his view on video games is similarly dim.  But here's the thing: Mr Walker doesn't get to tell me what is or is not art any more than my dad did or Mr Ebert does.  I'm as big a fan of dictionaries and the lexicographers who compile them as anyone, perhaps more, but this is the first time it has ever occurred to me to look that word up in the dictionary.  They don't get to tell me what constitutes art.

I think the reason I have the most problem with Ebert's thesis is that he confesses almost proudly that he has never played a video game and has no intention of ever doing so.  My dad said much the same thing about comic books and well read though he was in other areas his refusal to interact with the subject matter made his opinions similarly invalid on the subject.

Blind men do not get to be critics of the visual arts.  Deaf people are not taken seriously as critics of symphonies.  No critic of a field of which he or she is ignorant gets taken seriously, nor should Mr. Ebert.

As a film critic, I would not presume to argue with him on the relative artistic merits of any given film.  I may disagree with him, but only insofar as my personal preferences differ from his.  But by wandering from his field of expertise to cast a value judgement not only upon the present but upon the future potential of video games takes him from the realm of elder statesman to just another crank.

There is nothing I have seen in the current crop of video games that is art.  The important caveat here is "that I have seen".  Just as there is nothing Ebert has seen to convince him otherwise either.  And there never will be because he prefers to sit on the sidelines and be a curmudgeon.

Ultimately, I think that Ebert's denigration of games as an artform - whatever his qualifications to do so - and especially the backlash and debate that was spurred are what mean that even if they are not, they can be.  And ultimately the will be.  Just as culinary ethnologist Sidney Mintz defines cuisine not by whether or not a food is consumed, but by whether or not it is debated, I'd wager that in the long view, the same can be said of art.  Perhaps the debate itself is proof of the potential for video games to rise above their current rung on the cultural ladder.

Above my desk is a framed quote from futurist Alvin Toffler that says  "The illiterate of the future will not be those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn."

The central problem with the artistic arguments of my dad, Ebert and even Walker is that they hinge upon a static definition of art.  No such thing exists.  Words mutate and change, meanings coelesce and evaporate almost daily and anyone who clings to a single definition - especially one that seeks to capture a concept so dynamic as "What is art?" is begging to be left behind.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Half Bull

I think my next writing project just became The Labyrinth of Lawrence Kansas.  Because honestly, having been to both places, Lawrence is easily as interesting as Forks.

NEW YORK—In a desperate effort to find a trendy new fantasy subgenre to succeed the ebbing vampire craze, Razorbill Books executive Graham Childress decided this week to throw all his professional weight behind a new series of novels featuring minot...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Just call me Spaceface

I am sending my face to space!  And you can too.

I always wanted to be an astronaut.  This is just the kind of geeky thing I love.  I'm sending a picture to NASA to carry into space on one of the final Shuttle missions!


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Time & Space

I am intrigued by this video. 

If we cannot get people of the current time aesthetic to sit still for a class, how do we get them to sit for a complete novel?  This is interesting, but I'm not certain that I am convinced.  For one thing, I do not accept that there is any single vector for the epidemic of the dropout phenomenon.  If this is true, for instance, why is it that the most dynamic and growing segment of book sales is YA?

Food for thought, though.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The conversation yesterday about social media reminded me of this old post about my favorite lexicographer, Erin McKean. (Yes, I have a favorite lexicographer, don't you?)

One thing she emphasizes is important for us all to remember and especially when considering the social media/marketing debate.

"This is a little known fact about the internet: the internet is actually made up of words and enthusiasm."

-Erin McKean
TED Talk (speech)

Also, this happens to be one of the most beautiful speeches on the English language I can readily think of. (Which is why I am posting it here for the second time)  If you're not familiar with Erin McKean, you should familiarize yourself with her. You really owe it to yourself.  I'm admittedly too fussy about language most of the time, but her enthusiasm and her arguments are really difficult to reject.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The MJ Manifesto - Some Thoughts

Maureen Johnson, popular YA author has planted her flag and declared a line she will not cross.  MJ (as she is called by her fans) is almost a cult figure in the YA community and one of the 'must follows' on Twitter.  Her blog and her books are wildly popular and her name is one to conjure with in some circles.

Yesterday, she put her foot down on the hot-button topic of SELLING YOURSELF TO EVERYONE YOU MEET and CREATING YOUR BRAND and SELLING YOUR GODDAMN BRAND TO ANYONE WHO WILL LISTEN.  And other things that I'm required* by the Chicago Manual of Style to spelled in all caps.  Writers hear it all the time.  Every book, every blog, every magazine tells us that we are brands and if we're not, we're fools.  The writer has to be the key that winds a social media and self-marketing machine or YOU ARE DOOMED! DOOOOOMED!!.

But it's all BS because what the so-called social media experts who push this version of social media "branding" don't get is that social media exists to circumvent that kind of thing, to make it easier to ignore it.  Because social media is a two-way street.  It's not about shouting slogans and titles at your friends, it's about making friends and building community.

And what kind of friend would I be if I didn't buy your book?  Get it?
"The more the internet expands, the more people—okay, authors, who are a KIND of people—are being encouraged* to go online and PROMOTE, PROMOTE, PROMOTE! To aid in this endeavor, these poor writers are being shipped off to conferences where they roll out people like me under the guise of being experts on something. And in general, the quality of advice is pretty craptastic. “Get a Facebook page!” “Get lots of people to LIKE you!” “SHOUT THE TITLE OF YOUR BOOK AT PEOPLE UNTIL THEY START CRYING AND BUY IT.”
Maureen Johnson
MJ is one of the 'must follows' on Twitter.  It's a crime that she doesn't have a million followers.  She's one of the few writers I've followed online that I haven't knocked back a beer or two with or at least shaken hands with.  Frankly, I'm not her target audience, but it's difficult not to like her.  And she does social media as naturally as breathing.  She is genuine, funny, accessible and creative and quirky as all get out.

And she knows what she's talking about.  The more she demurs the appellation of "Social Media Expert" the more I'm inclined to take her advice because the so-called "experts" have failed to grok social media and are falling behind as the collaborative Web 2.0 model takes hold.**

Should you promote yourself and your work?  Of course you should.  But as she points out, there's a long walk between the advice of the SHOUT UNTIL THEY BELIEVE YOU model of social marketing and the true heart of social media.  There's a difference between making a connection and selling Band Instruments to the kids and then skipping town before they realize they've been had.

I've written a manifesto or two in my time or at least written several things that could be mistaken for one.  This is the first time I think I've really recommended one on this blog.  A few months ago, I outlined three authors I thought were the real pioneers in this game.  Two of them are already walking the path she's laying out here, creating genuine community, engaging in the conversation.  (Anthony Zuiker is the only one who didn't and his innovative project fizzled.  There's a lesson there in bringing people along rather than imposing your vision, but I digress.)

You can shout your message and repeat it until we're sick of it.  Some people will buy it and some people will even like it.  But that's not social media, it's old-school marketing.  MadMen, style.  Missing the point that when you are genuine and engaging and actually have something to say you're actually using the medium to be social.

Which is kind of the point, isn't it?


*Not really, but marketers do it all the time anyway.
** This footnote is just here as an homage to MJ, who loves footnotes.

Great quote from a great interview...

"If by “literary” you mean “[Will I write books] read only by people who want to feel superior,” um, no. I plan to continue writing fake books."

- Joseph Finder
The Disrespectful Interviewer - Dissing on Joseph Finder

By the way, if you are unfamiliar with the Writer-in-Residence blog, I highly recommend it to your attentions. A fun blog, always worth reading.

Apple, the Ebook and the consequences of free...

Published: June 7, 2010
Apple's advances in the e-book market are not as impressive as they sound, but could prove trouble for Amazon down the road.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Quote of the moment

We notice things that don't work. We don't notice things that do. We notice computers, we don't notice pennies. We notice e-book readers, we don't notice books.

- Douglas Adams