What’s not to love about Darling, I Love You?

Yes, I admire any book that has a subtitle, “Poems from the Hearts of Our Glorious Mutts and All Our Animal Friends.” The paperback’s $17 pricetag is a bit chilling, however.

Yes, I adore the illustrations of Patrick (Mutts) McDonnell. His art breathes life into words.

I had never experienced any of Daniel Ladinsky’s heart-warming poetry. Unfortunately, I read Ladinsky’s acknowledgements, too.

Here, he gives a nod to assistant Melissa LaScaleia. Some of the verses were penned by her alone. Others were collaborations between Ladinsky and LaScaleia. Making this poetry sound more like a science experiment, Ladinsky tells of staging a blind test with illustrator McDonnell.

“…in a blind test we slipped some of her work with haiku and renga into the over 1000 we submitted to Patrick for this volume.”

Sorry, sir. My enjoyment was overshadowed by wishes to see LaScaleia getting a cover credit.

Yes, I enjoyed this book. Meanwhile, I’ll be ready to read any more writing by Melissa LaScaleia. Your day will come!

 

SCRATCH: Brave book attempts to convince authors to discuss the money they make

scratch-bookAuthor-editor Manjula Martin reminds me of an Olympic diver.

Dives get scored on their excellence, as well as their difficulty levels.

Martin should get a medal for her creative courage. In Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living, she goes for the gold in attempting to get authors to reveal how they make a living from the written word.

Does she succeed? That depends on who the interviewee is. Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild, explains how her seemingly-large book advances seemed smaller when spread out over four years. She reveals that her newfound acclaim was punctuated by credit card debt.

Other authors get sidetracked talking about how it feels to be an author. What does success mean to them? In more than one occasion, Martin wants authors to talk about their social class standing as a working author.

The specifics of money disappear quickly in such cases. Some, like Austin Kleon, flatly refuse to give numerical specifics. In other instances, Martin asks how much an advance was for someone’s best-known book. The occasional figures seem to mean little when tight-lipped subjects won’t offer any other fiscal details of their work.

Martin’s interviews are flanked by numerous essay contributions from authors. Ghostwriter Sari Botton offers an illuminating explanation of how her little-known trade works. Novelist Alexander Chee praises superstar author and teacher Annie Dillard as one of his greatest influences in college. She estimated that nonfiction writers make three to five times the money fiction writers do. Then, Dillard urged students to break into print through essay writing.

In a majority of the essays within Scratch, the writers feel the need to address their pre- and post-emotional states upon finding paying work through writing. These detours make this reader think that Hmmm…How Does It Feel to Be An Author? may have been an alternative title.

Nevertheless, Martin inspires simply through her desire to pull back the curtain upon writing for pay. Once, many authors may have been shamed to admit they took ANY money for their creative endeavors. Keeping pay a secret has aided only publishers, not fellow creatives. Martin is wise in beginning to Scratch the surface upon a once-taboo topic.

 

 

 

 

Sued for a negative online review? It can happen!

(Photo credit: Daino_16, Freeimages.com)

(Photo credit: Daino_16, Freeimages.com)

And the truth shall set you free?

We’d all like that to be true. However, some businesses smarting over honest online customer reviews are taking the debate to a new level.

Meet the Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, also known as SLAAP.

The Sunday Des Moines Register ran a jaw-dropping example of a business hoping to silence an unhappy customer. A lawsuit is the too-common answer these days to someone who won’t retract their review.

Investigative watchdog Lee Rood pointed out that Iowa is one of approximately 22 states without a law protecting consumers against intimidating lawsuits, or SLAAP attacks.

In this election season, ask candidates their First Amendment views. Do you live in a state without a law protecting online reviewers?

Your honest opinion shouldn’t result in a bankrupting courtroom battle. However, reviewers should know that they’ll need to be ready to defend those opinions.