Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lauren Conrad's book

So there has been some chatter on the forums I frequent about Lauren Conrad publishing a novel (for those not in the know, and I seriously envy you your ignorance, Lauren Conrad came to fame starring first in the "reality" television series "Laguna Beach" - about rich kids in California - and then graduated to her own reality show "The Hills").

This is a conversation that comes up every once and a while, and with sadly more and more frequency, as celebrities, particularly those famous for just being famous, announce they have just "written" and published a book. Real writers, and by this term I mean it not as an offense but quite literally, as very few of these celebrities write their own books, get a wee bit annoyed by such announcements and of course enjoy venting with one another online about it.

Their reason for venting is straightforward:

1. It's darn hard to publish a book. People who have spent their lives in the pursuit of such a goal, who have studied the craft in great detail, who are just in general passionate about reading and writing, suddenly discover some celeb who otherwise refuses to give a toss about books, profiting from the same industry they diss*. What's more they are getting published with relative ease. In fact often publishers will approach these celebs to ask them to write a book. I mean, what real author wouldn't love that? So of course there is just straightforward jealousy and frustration from those people out there who have dedicated their lives to writing and seeing their words in print.

* A sadly hilarious example of this is Kanye West dissing books as a whole, while at the same time promoting his own (seriously, this quote is from an interview about his book), talk about your serious oxyMoron:

"I am not a fan of books. I would never want a book's autograph . . . I am a proud non-reader of books. I like to get information from doing stuff like actually talking to people and living real life."

2. Celebs give the false impression that anyone can get a book published. It does a great disservice especially to the reputation of the picture book industry, because a lot of celebs have figured since they have kids they must know how to write a picture book, plus they're like super short, how hard can that be? It makes the public think, "Well how hard can it be to write and publish a book?" It contributes to the influx of queries that agents receive from people wanting to be published who seriously should never ever have had even the idea of writing a book in the first place. Besides which it kind of sucks that so many people think the job that you sweat blood and tears over is easy.

3. The books themselves wind up typically not being very good. Nor contributing anything particularly meaningful to society (not that all books need to, I'm just saying that celeb books rarely do this either). They come out in a flurry of hype, sell tons, make the celeb even more money than he/she probably needs, and then vanish off the radar just as quickly.


I don't take issue with celeb books.

Sure I do find it somewhat sad that the public believes these celebs actually write their own books (9 times out of 10 it's a ghost writer), and sure I'd love it if my books would become instant bestsellers, and being an actor I seriously would not mind taking a tour of the talk show circuit.

But what authors, real authors, need to remember is that celeb books don't take away shelf space from other books. I know it seems like they do, but they really don't. They are their own market, and, what's more, serve a very important purpose in the industry. They make money. They make money predictably and quickly and by the truck load. And you know what happens when a publishing house makes money? They feel more financially secure. And what happens when they are financially secure? They can afford to take risks.

Celeb books, as well as the Dan Browns and Stephenie Meyers of the world, make it possible for smaller books, for more complex books, for, dare I say it, innovative books, to get published. The publishing house is willing to take a financial risk because it has a couple Lauren Conrads in their back pocket.

I know a lot of people don't think original interesting books are being published anymore. This is probably because all the attention goes to these celeb like books and it's hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. But the good stuff is out there too. Believe me, I've seen it, I've read it. I've blurbed it.

So maybe the biggest issue with these books is that they do take away attention from the good stuff. Even though now the good stuff is allowed to exist thanks in part to the celeb books, it still can flounder while once on the shelves - having been eclipsed by those same celeb books. Maybe that is the greatest negative I can point out. The noise from those books deafens us to the good stuff that IS out there. And once and a while you kind of wish publishers would take a small little interesting book and just promote the heck out of it like they do with the guaranteed successes.

And there's the rub. Those two words: guaranteed success. Because truly, it doesn't exist in the publishing industry. There is no path to bestsellerdom, even being a famous person does not guarantee success - there have been accounts of million dollar celeb book deals totally flopping once the book hit the shelves. So it's pretty hard to imagine a publishing house calmly willing to promote in the same manner a risky complex novel by an unknown author, not when even some celebs fail.

The celeb books are the closest the industry is ever going to get to a sure thing. That's why they aren't ever going to go away. And we real authors need to just sit back, relax a bit, and accept that as truth. And remember, behind most celeb books is a ghost author, and at least he/she is getting some work out of it. That's something!

Let's try to turn the tables on the celeb books. Instead of being frustrated, let's feel secretly smug. Let's thank them for getting us past the bouncer, let's watch them dance with frenetic energy, the centre of attention, until they burn out an hour later, and go off, limping towards home. And then we'll slowly get up, smooth out the wrinkles in our skirt, walk quietly to the middle of the room. And dance. And dance. And dance. Until we're the only ones left on the floor.

To mix my metaphors: Just keep swimming everyone. Just keep swimming.

**I am adding a caveat here, I realise that the term "real author" is provocative, and to be honest it is meant to be. However there are some celebs out there (typically they are not the celebs who are famous only for being famous) who ARE real authors, who happen to be multi-talented and actually write their own books, and are good at it. I'm talking Julie Andrews here, and John Lithgow etc. I think we all know to which celebs I am referring in this post.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Neil Gaiman at Luminato

Hey all! Just a quickie.

I wrote about the Neil Gaiman event that took place last night (which was awesome!) over at Check it out here (and I must say I am uber proud of the picture what I took).

Also I am officially up on the Polaris Convention website (July 10 - 12 here in Toronto), so yay!

I like being officially up on websites!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Off days . . .

We all have off days.

Especially us artistic types. Oy.

We can have off weeks, months . . . hopefully not years . . .

I must confess that I personally have been struggling for a little while now, dealing with all the usual fears associated with an artistic temperament. The usual worries, self doubts. And yes, despite my new year's resolution to be more confident (or again, as my friend puts it, "Be confident stupid!"), it isn't like I can automatically become something without a great deal of effort. New Year's resolutions aren't magical, they take work.

But I am feeling much better. I am. I am lucky because I have some amazing support, the coolest friends, the best family . . . people who will listen to me when I am down and cheer me on when I'm going for it. And awesome blog readers who make me smile with all their comments. So first off, I want to express my immense gratitude to all of you for your continuous support. It means a lot to me.

Thank you.

Next I want to talk about Kermit the Frog.

Now many of you will know that Kermit the Frog is Adrienne's ideal man (. . . frog, whatever). For those of you new to my blog, I shall explain briefly why. First off he is sensitive and very talented (can sing, dance, act, write his own material, produce and direct). He is also level headed and practical. However he can also cut loose, knows how to have a good time, and can be very funny. I mean his sense of humour in general is just fantastic - that laugh . . . Adding onto all of that he is also a leader of men . . . women . . . bears . . . pigs . . . chickens . . . rats. . . whats-its . . . etc. You feel better knowing he's around.

And he also owns his own theatre, which for an actress is a very attractive quality.

He is also wise, but not in an obnoxious pretentious way. He is wise in a simple perfectly put kind of way. And he does it through song.

Now the first half of my post and my second merge.

When all else fails, and you are feeling still a little down in your artistic endeavors, and even though your friends and family and blog readers have all made you smile, may I offer the following musical interlude to set your mind to purpose. It works wonders for yours truly, I do hope it can have the same effect on you guys.

"Have you been half asleep and have you heard voices? I've heard them calling my name. . . I've heard it too many times to ignore it, it's something that I'm supposed to be . . ."

For those of us seeking our rainbow connection:

Now that you have been inspired by my ideal man, may I offer you some more aquatic advice, this time of the more pragmatic variety. You now know what you want to do, so here's how to do it:

So there you go. Most importantly I think we need to remember that yup we can have off days, but that doesn't mean every day following will also be off. This too shall pass. And if it takes a little longer than usual . . . well . . . we've always got Kermit the Frog to keep us believing in the magic.

It ain't true if it ain't a little cheesy. :)

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Book Expo of America (BEA) 2009!

First off let me apologise with my extra long absence. I realise that I have been starting many blog entries like that of late, but it doesn't make the sentiment any less sincere. Life has a way of being life you know? Getting in the way and all that . . .

At any rate, I am back, and with one of my uber extra long posts sharing every minor irrelevant detail of my adventures that was BEA this year. So put the kettle on, curl up with the cat, and enjoy the following tale!

Our story does not begin well unfortunately. I shan't go into great detail about what happened, but needless to say it involves an 8 hour delayed flight. I was supposed to get into the great and wonderful New York City at 3:30pm. Instead I arrived at the hotel at 1:ooam. This was a bit of a pity. However I did meet the delightful Marian Jarkovich who works for Robert Rose here in Toronto who was also attending BEA and so we hung out for the day in the airport, and shared a cab into the city.

Here is a picture of me pouting about the delay in the airport in Toronto:

I had to get up at a reasonable time Friday morning because that's when I was doing my official signing of copies of Timothy and the Dragon's Gate. I was of course really looking forward to it because there is nothing like a book signing to make an author feel special. That is, so long as people are there waiting for you to sign for them, otherwise it is uber depressing.

Fortunately once I was escorted to signing table number 6 there were a few people waiting for me, and once I started, there was a constant stream of people. It was so awesome, and everyone was just so sweet. I have to say though the highlight of the experience was that I was signing just two tables away from John Rocco, who I have mentioned many times on this blog as he is responsible for my awesome covers (and is a brilliant author/artist of his own work). He came over and we hugged and I might have been just a little too giddy about meeting him, I hope I didn't scare him . . . oy.

Since I only had an hour, we had to end the line for books. But when I went upstairs to the Weinstein Books booth to sign some stock I was kind of followed and I wound up signing books for another hour. I did not mind in the least. How can one mind something so very flattering?

Finally at 1pm we were done, and I met up with my amazing fellow Toronto author Tish Cohen for a brief lunch in the convention centre. We sat on some chairs and people watched and talked all about our experiences and general chat about the book world. Then she was off in a cab and I wondered around the centre for a bit to check things out.

Now I know a lot industry pros are saying the conference was way different this year, and I totally believe them as they kind of know what they are talking about, but from where I stood it seemed just as vibrant and packed as two years ago when I first attended. The only famous face I saw though was Neil Gaiman and that was a bit of an odd moment. See we follow each other on Twitter, but we of course don't actually know each other. The internet though is a strange place, and as I walked right by him I almost stopped and said "Hey" as if we were old friends. Until of course I realised he has no clue who I am. But it was quite a close call. He was of course signing copies of The Graveyard Book with the world's longest queue.

Then I went back to the hotel to wait for my friend Carrie (who lives in Boston) to come join me for the weekend. The rest of the weekend was awesome. Friday evening we had drinks with friends of Carrie's mom, then a late dinner with her friend Faran, her cousin, and her cousin's two just lovely friends. We walked on Saturday (glorious weather btw) from Rockefeller Center (which was right where the hotel was) all the way down to Battery Park - stopping off at lunchtime to meet with my friend John from LAMDA.

For dinner we met up with some amazing author ladies who I've met on the internet over at Verla Kay (aka The Blue Boards). We had so much fun, and were maybe just a little too giddy at the fact that we were meeting each other in person:

(left to right) Me, Shana Silver, Bettina Restrepo, Jenny Moss, Jean Regean, Megan Crewe, Ashley Formento, Aprilynne Pike, Laurie Compton)

Then Carrie, her cousin, and I went to a massive bar on a barge on the Hudson. We climbed up to the top where we had a wonderful view of the city.

Next Carrie's cousin got a text from the two gents from the previous night inviting us to tag along to a midnight showing of "Up" which I have been dying to see. And so we saw it. And so we wept like babies (from sadness and laughter). This is a very good movie. See it.

Sunday, Carrie and I met up with Faran once more for a delectable lunch, and then we parted ways, she to go back to Boston, and me to check out the Guggenheim for the first time. I have to say, it was smaller than I expected. And very crowded.

I walked back to the hotel through Central Park which was just glorious, the weather was beyond perfect. My favourite bit was the ramble where despite the fact that the park was packed, there were very few souls to see.

The evening prompted another walk, where I wandered over to Times Square which was terrifying in how packed it was. I went up Fifth Avenue, and got to watch some fireworks going off in the distance. Then I stopped by Tiffany's to check out their window display and it was totally made for me: a combination of doorknobs and keys! (for those of you who know Alex and Timothy you'll know just how perfect that is) And so I took a picture:

Monday was my last day and I was doing a presentation for the Jewish Book Network as well as joining them for a luncheon. It went very well. I think it helped that I demonstrated to them all the proper way to die melodramatically. Yes, you read that right. And I got to meet a lot of lovely people.

And then I was off home. The flight was not only right on time, it got in early. I went from the airport to the pub to meet up with some friends. And then finally home where my glorious pillow was waiting for me.

And then I slept.

And it was good.

Some pictures!

Outside the Javits Center which was where the BEA was being held . . .

Signing books with enthusiasm!

Inside the lobby area of the Javits. You'll note in the above picture posters for the latest Dan Brown book. I understand that they felt they needed to hang 30 ft posters because they are concerned no one will have heard of this book otherwise. Kind of have to feel sorry for this Dan Brown guy . . .

The Hachette Book Group section (they distribute Weinstein Books - whose booth you can see in the distance).

Just loved looking at the seeming infinite numbers in the sky . . .

Carrie and I stopped into St. Patrick's Cathedral, we'd never been inside before!

Proof we made it to Battery Park (doesn't Carrie look proud of herself!).

Me just hanging around at Battery Park. Gorgeous day right?

Radio City Music Hall - right across the street from my hotel. Purdy ain't it?