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The Art of the Autobiographical Novel Event!

Hey Guys! Feeling like you should get out of the house more, but unwilling to get your nose out of your books? (We understand!)

The Bookloft is excited to invite you to an after-hours night of fun here among the book stacks! On Saturday, August 17th at 7pm, Alison Larkin and Marshall Messer will be speaking about their respective autobiographical works, The English American and Change at Jamaica! And because book-reading can only be improved by food-eating, we'll all chat about memoir-style writing while munching on delicious refreshments!

                          

Alison Larkin's book garnered much enthusiasm, with The London Times calling it "Hugely entertaining". And we love keeping this fantastically funny local author in stock here, both in print and in audio!

Marshall Messer has been a cab driver, bartender, garbageman, actor, and teacher, and he has played blues harp at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Of Marshall Messer's debut novel, Jaimy Gordon, author of Lord of Misrule, says: "A more replete novel of sporting New York in all its vulgar glory could hardly be imagined."

Why We Love Ajiri Tea

Those of you who frequent our store have likely seen the Ajiri tea and coffee we have at the counter. You have seen the beautiful hand-made boxes and been vaguely aware of its connections with a charity organization, but what exactly does Ajiri do?

The Ajiri Tea Company was founded in the Kisii community in Kenya, taking into account the skills and opinions of the people. The tea is grown by a local cooperative of independent farmers on sustainable land, and the packaging is hand made by local women from banana bark. The paper is even made of plant material from an invasive water hyacinth species!

In addition to employing and empowering women for the future, all net profit goes to purchasing books and clothes for orphans and sending them to school.

So Ajiri does good things, and the tea and coffee are both delicious. The tea lovers on staff here can't get enough. Keep at it, Ajiri!

More information can be found at their website.

Fanfiction and Kindle Worlds

Hi folks, The Bookloft here. Some of you may have heard of Amazon's new Kindle Worlds program, and its strategy for monetizing fanfiction. We've been getting questions about our thoughts, and here is an overview.

Fanfiction writers from around the world write stories featuring characters and ideas from their favorite media in new context. This can be used to illuminate certain hidden textual clues from the original story, or for flights of fancy about how it could have been, or sometimes purely for titillation. A major demographic of fanfiction is 18-35 year old women, often seeking and writing content that is inherently adult. One particularly popular flavor has become "slash" fiction, in which characters of the same gender become romantically involved despite this not occurring in the original story. Stories are posted online, and people discuss, laud, and critique pieces, often borrowing ideas from each other and expounding on them further. Fan authors and readers can create deep personal bonds through this method - large online communities have developed around this model; one can already see why traditional publishers take some objection to this. Fanfiction, though, is not created for monetary gain, making copyright issues in the fanfiction communities a legal gray area. Publishers are usually content to leave these groups alone, as long as nobody is profitting off of infringed authorial rights.

Opinions about fanfiction vary among authors: George R.R. Martin is opposed to fanfiction in general (and especially without authorial consent); J.K. Rowling supports Harry Potter fanfiction, as long as "it remains a non-commercial activity to ensure fans are not exploited and it is not being published in the strict sense of traditional print publishing;" and the Tolkien estate is notoriously tight with the rights to his legacy.

Now comes Amazon into the picture. Kindle Worlds is a program soon to be actualized that will allow fanfiction writers within certain narrative "worlds" (the books that they piggy-back on) to publish and distribute their pieces electronically through Amazon. At the moment, only three worlds are represented - Pretty Little Liars, The Vampire Diaries, and Gossip Girl - but more are certainly on the way. This works because Alloy Entertainment, who owns the rights to these three franchises, is on board with the project, as are the original authors. The three worlds represented now are not the largest or most rabid fanbases, and it remains to be seen whether Amazon can obtain the rights to what would be some of the more lucrative properties.

What do the fan authors who sign up for this deal get? For works over 10,000 words, they get royalties equal to 35% of the net profit for every month, and 20% for works under 10,000. Note that this is net profits, on items that will cost between $0.99 and $3.99. It is unlikely that any but a lucky few will make a substantial amount of money on this, but will act more as a supplemental income for an activity that is already being done.

What do Amazon and Alloy and any other publishers that jump on board get from it? Both Amazon and Alloy get a cut from the sales. In addition, Amazon gets exclusive copyright and distribution rights to the stories. Author John Scalzi pointed out on his Whatever blog that this means they can assemble anthologies or distribute stories in different languages without paying the writers (found here). Alloy gets rights to mine the stories for any original characters and ideas that they want to take and add into their official franchise entries without recompense to the authors.

This is legal, a contract between consenting parties, so it removes some of the ambiguity from the normal legal state of fanfiction. With this legitimacy, however, comes a price: that of censorship. Fanfiction has a reputation for being, on occasion, pornographic. Amazon will not be allowing graphic sexual acts in the stories published through this method. They will also be monitoring for "offensive content." Obviously, there will be some sort of screening process - whether it will be an actual person or a computer picking out keywords, or a combination of both is yet to be seen. Amazon also holds the right to deny publication based on what they define as a "poor customer experience," which can take many forms. While this may be their way of maintaining quality control, it is also a broad net that could be thrown at many an unsuspecting author. Already a large portion of what attracts people to fanfiction is disqualified, but how will this censorship affect slash fiction, or other topics that can get steamy without being specifically pornographic?

One part of the process that has not been addressed, and is probably easy to overlook on both sides, is protection for the drafts that are barred from being published. Since they do go through a screening process, and are therefore read by an entity (electronic or biological), they have certainly entered Amazon's servers. Are these drafts protected from the idea mining that will take place with the published writings? Can Amazon cite a poor customer experience, and then pass the document to Alloy because it had one good idea among some unacceptable ones? It is unlikely, but something that should be addressed before the program goes live nonetheless.

Is it fair? Do fanfiction authors have to stoop to what would be considered a terrible deal for standard publication just because of its seeming self-referentialism, or does the craft deserve more consideration, perhaps as a "found object" art more than intellectual property theft? While it is obviously an attempt at further corporate gain, is it also giving a valuable level of legitimacy to the craft that is worth the costs? In some cases it could be, especially considering that fanfiction authors have little in the way of intellectual rights. Perhaps the thrill that they liked your idea and put it into the series (making it canon) will be enough. This is to say nothing about the cultural etiquette found within the fanfiction communities; how will this development affect these communities? Will there be a sense of betrayal inherent in selling fanfiction that splits established communities in two (see 50 Shades of Gray and the fallout from its publication)?

It may end up being a non-issue; the type of censorship used in selection excludes much of what makes these communities unique. Pornographic material rules out an extensive amount of fanfiction and much of its draw. Slash fiction, another popular topic, may not make it past the "offensive content" or "poor experience" clauses because of its (however inaccurate) association with overtly sexual content.

Given all of this, Kindle Worlds may simply become another fanfiction community with its own idiosyncracies and etiquette. On the other hand, there is the possibility of a single author selling works on Amazon, and writing other pieces that would not be acceptable there and sharing these with other communities. Since fanfiction stories are intimately informed by each other, would this encourage Amazon to pursue legal action against other, often nebulous, fanfiction communities where traditional publishers have thusfar lacked the audacity to tread?

Books for Graduates

Millions of students are nearing the end of an educational arc; whether they are finishing high school, receiving a bachelor's degree or a technical degree, or completing their graduate program in obscure fracture dynamics, they'll soon be moving on to new pastures. What better gift than an inspirational book? Here are a few of the things on our shelves now.

Don't forget about gift certificates - usable for online purchases, too!

The Toaster Project - An heroic attempt to make a toaster from scratch. 101 Things I Learned in Film, Business, Fashion, Culinary, and Architecture School.
18 in America - A young man defers college to play 18 holes in the lower 48. The Best Advice Ever Given - A collection of commonsense wisdom and wise advice.
Lean In - Sheryl Sandberg empowers women to achieve their full potential. Grow the Good Life - Why vegetable gardens make you happy, healthy, wealthy, and wise.
On Looking - A startling exploration of how we perceive and discover our world. A Peoples' History of the United States - Zinn's classic text.
100 Diagrams That Changed the World - From the earliest cave paintings to the iPod. There Was a Country - Legendary author Chinua Achebe gives a personal history of Biafra.
Vampires in the Lemon Grove - A magical collection of stories from Karen Russell. The Man of Feeling - A sleek and strange tale of cosmopolitan love.

Kobo Arcs are In Stock!

You may have noticed that The Bookloft is now selling ereaders and ebooks though a partnership with Kobo. But did you know that we have - in stock now - some shiny new Kobo Arcs?

It's true! Kobo's newest reading device is a snazzy 7" multimedia tablet, with full access to the Google Play network for movies, games, apps, video chat, photo sharing, and music, and 3 million books from the Kobo library. With the fastest processor on the market and one of the sharpest screens, a vibrant experience is at the tip of your fingers. We've got the 16 and 32 GB models here, for $199.99 and $249.99 respectively. More information from Kobo here.

The Berkshire Festival of Women Writer's has begun!

...and our very own Laura Didyk is leading two workshops!

The festival says it best: "The annual Berkshire Festival of Women Writers is a collaborative, multi-venue event sponsored by Bard College at Simon’s Rock with many local partners, celebrated county-wide in the month of March, Women’s History Month." This month there are over 50 events being held in the Berkshires; workshops, panels, readings, and performances of all kinds. There's something for everyone! See more here.

Our own Laura Didyk is hosting two memoir-themed events. Laura is an accomplished writer, editor, and teacher. Be sure to catch her this month at:


Illumination: Memoir Writing as a Path to Peace

Wednesday, 3/20 from 6:00-8:30 PM at the Stockbridge Congregational Church

Writing about your own life means more than merely reporting on your past. When you bring the perspective of who you are today to bear on stories from your life, not only will the stories shine with new and surprising significance but you, the writer, will be transformed in the process. Approached in the spirit of discovery, memoir writing becomes a vehicle for illumination, insight, and wisdom that can bring the writer a sense of peace while inspiring and changing her readers. Writer and teacher Laura Didyk will lead memoir-writing exercises and give a short reading from her memoir in progress. Following the usual format of Women's Interfaith events, the potluck dinner starts at 6 PM, and the program will begin at 7:00. Please bring a dish to share.

Garbage into Gold

Thursday, 3/21 at the Berkshire South/Jenifer House 6:30-8:30 PM

There's a myth about successful writers: they know what they want to write; they sit down and write it, brilliantly, on the first try. Wrong. Sometimes, most times, we need to write (and write and write) to find our subject matter, to arrive at a turn of phrase, an image, or a piece of dialogue that will bring us to the gold of our own work. In this workshop, writing practice, writing exercises, and on-the-spot assignments will help us quiet our inner editors long enough to surprise even ourselves.
Both sound good, eh? The even better news is that there are 53 events like that, and most of them are free!

My Bookstore comes with a dash of the Berkshires

Have you heard of My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop? If you haven't, it's a charming homage to the importance of old-fashioned independent brick-and-mortar bookstores, by the authors who frequent them. Even better, The Bookloft has been included! Our friend and Berkshire neighbor - and New York Times bestselling author - Simon Winchester has written quite a few kind words about us. Here's a sample:

That they are all here conjoined - the writers and their bookstore, the book-loving customers and their formidably well-read army of booksellers - underlines the point that Eric Wilska likes to make: that this is a community bookstore, providing a much-needed service for a community that, as he believes and which all of us pray is true, simply could not and will not countenance the vanishing of one of the last truly great independent bookstores in the country.

And if this precious place happens to be lacking a mullioned bow front window or two, and has to exist sans cat napping on the Agatha Christie shelf, but is in fact down from the dollar store and a step away from the Vietnamese nail salon, who truly cares? Just as long as it is here, and stays here until we are gone, and long after. It is the kind of place that almost makes the notion of strip malls acceptable, provides the very idea with some kind of commercial blessing, and is a literary benison for us all.
Our thanks to Simon for that. If you would like to read more, the book is on our shelves now - chock full of other nice things about other stores as well!

Kobo eReaders For Sale Now

The demos are in, and we've got the devices for sale. If you're looking for a stylish, easy-to-use device (with full wifi capabilities!) this season, come check out the Kobo Glo and the Kobo Mini! The Glo ($129.99) is a backlit e-ink device with space for 2,000 books, and the Mini ($79.99) fits 1,000 books right in your pocket! If that's not even enough space, each device has an expansion slot so that you can carry entire libraries on your hip.

Julia's 2 Cents on Audiobooks

I finished listening to the wonderful production ofThe Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, read by Anthony Heald. I enjoyed the story a great deal, and his voice suited it well. Another classic I enjoyed listening to was Watership Down by Richard Adams, read by Ralph Cosham. It's an interesting story, and well worth a listen, even if you, like myself, are not one for talking animals.

Something to think about for people of all ages are well-read "chidren's" books. I read and listen to quite a bit of juvenile fiction, and I must say it can be absolutely fantastic. One such is The Scorpio Races by Maggie Steifvater, read by Steve West and Fiona Hardingham. Their joint narration enhanced the story with a magical wonder, despite there being no magic present in the book itself.

Two series that I have thoroughly enjoyed were Septimus Heap by Angie Sage, read by Gerald Doyle; and Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, read by Jim Dale. Whether dealing with the humorous or the serious, both narrators made me appreciate equally the jokes and adventure of these series.

- Julia

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