Monday News: Romance bookstore, race in children’s lit, Germany & copyright, and NaNoWriMo
Romance, Perception, Plagiarism, and Ripped Bodices – You may have heard about the Kickstarter campaign to start an all Romance bookstore in Los Angeles. The store’s name, The Ripped Bodice, is stirring up controversy (surprise!), and there have been numerous conversations on Twitter about whether the name is an homage and a reclamation, or a degrading insult. I am of the opinion that there is unwarranted shame around books that are often referred to as “bodice rippers,” and that despite assertions that the term is a concept of yore, that the power battles that often gave rise to those particular sexual politics are still very much alive in the genre (and not to be denigrated, because they often address important gender role differences and issues). Anyway, Bobbi Dumas’s piece from Kirkus provides a summary of some of the Twitter discussion, and if you are curious about why a Romance-only bookstore is a great idea, you can check out this interview with sisters Bea and Leah Kock for their view. Dumas presented a list of pros and cons, and among her pros,
Not embracing the term bodice-ripper is actually turning your back on the amazing women who were pioneers in the field, who changed publishing forever, and who were the first romance superstars—and actually wrote bodice rippers! These books electrified readers, and our revisionist feelings about those books that were so successful and impactful (and for some readers, life-changing) dishonors the genre. (Skye O’Malley was a huge bestseller for a reason.) – Kirkus Reviews and the Daily Dot
‘A Fine Dessert’: Judging a Book by the Smile of a Slave – A complex discussion around how to portray slavery in children’s literature, catalyzed by the recent publication of a book about children through history making a particular dessert. One of the examples is that of a slave woman and her daughter, and after they serve it to the white plantation owners, the mother and daughter hide in the closet to “lick the bowl clean.” The jovial depiction of the slave woman, contrasted with the frightening detail of the closet, along with what many perceive as inadequate discussion of the historical context, have made the book a subject of debate. Refreshingly, the author, Emily Jenkins, blogged her agreement with the critics, admitting that the portrayal was “racially insensitive.” Jenkins has written many books that have been praised for their inclusiveness and portrayal of diverse perspectives, a topic that is not easily balanced in literature intended to both entertain and educate young children.
Just what kind of information about slavery to present to children, particularly very young ones, is a difficult question. While a few illustrated books, like Tom Feelings’s wordless 1996 volume, “The Middle Passage,”deal bluntly with slavery’s deepest horrors, most titles for children tend to focus on subjects like the Underground Railroad or inspiring tales of enslaved people actively struggling against oppression.
But even heroic stories hold pitfalls. Alvina Ling, the editor in chief of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, recalled intense discussions around the order of the words in the subtitle of “Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave,” a 2010 picture book about a real former slave from South Carolina who created ceramics inscribed with his verses.
“Even though he was a slave, we wanted him to be seen first as an artist,” Ms. Ling said. – New York Times
Germany Wants To Define A Snippet As Seven Words Or Less; Doing So Is Likely To Breach Berne Convention – The Disruptive Competition Project (DisCo) reports that Germany is trying to limit the number of words allowable in a “snippet” of text to seven (7), after unsuccessfully attempting to charge a licensing fee to search engines (particularly Google) for using text snippets. As this piece from TechDirt points out, such a bizarre and arbitrary limitation means that Germany’s regulation contravenes the Berne Convention, which actually struck the word “short” from the phrase “short quotations,” suggesting precisely the opposite intention from the current proposal:
As the DisCo post goes on to explain, that weirdly precise limit is a result of a last-minute change to the German snippet law, which carved out “individual words and smallest text excerpts” from its scope. Of course, that
begsinvites the question: how big could that “smallest text excerpt” be? For reasons that are not clear, the Copyright Arbitration Board suggested that the answer was “seven words long”. The DisCo post points out there would be an interesting and unexpected consequence of adopting that seven-word limit on snippets officially: it would put Germany in conflict with its obligations under the Berne Convention on copyright. – TechDirt
8 tips to help you win NaNoWriMo – last year, apparently 325,000 people signed up for NaNoWriMo, promising to attempt writing a 50,000 word novel within the month of November. You may cringe at the idea of an event encouraging people to write faster, but as many point out, it’s not so much finishing the book that’s important; it’s having the incentive to start, and this annual event provides inspiration for a lot of people who want to write a book. The whole thing sounds incredibly stressful to me, but I’m clearly not the target audience. The event has helped a number of bestselling books get written, which isn’t such a bad thing:
Think you’d like to give NaNoWriMo a try? You’re in good company. In addition to the thousands of people who have never written a book in their lives, plenty of bestselling authors also participate in the event and many of them provide mentorship and words of inspiration to those undertaking the task alongside them.
Keep in mind that what begins as a few words scribbled in a notebook or typed into an empty Word document could soon become a published book. Numerous bestselling novels — including Sara Gruen’s “Water for Elephants” and Marissa Meyer’s “Cinder” — were drafted during NaNoWriMo. – Mother Nature Network