Thursday, July 29, 2010

Are we too attached to our words?

We're writers.
We love words.
We fall in love with our words.
This romance will have consequences because we have to let some of them go.
It's a complicated relationship.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Books as friends

Evenings at home - Deborah DeWit Marchant
“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Field Guide to the Internet Archives

On the steps of the Internet Archives.
If you love browsing through used book stores, you're gonna love the Internet Archives. My previous visits to IA online were interesting but not very productive as I'm too google and wiki-spoiled for their 30 second search results.

But I've recently rediscovered the Archives as a result of a trip to San Francisco. A friend asked if, while I was in the city, I could 'pop in' and request a hard copy of some texts they had online. With the aid of a GPS and two iPhone aps we found the Greek-columned building with its copper stamped doors which made, I thought, a lovely backdrop for a photo op with my daughter and grandkids.

Inside was a soft-spoken young man, just the sort you'd expect to find in a library. He wasn't able to fulfill our friend's request but told us we could get everything they had ...well, online. Of course we knew that, but there were rumors they had one of those Espresso instant book machines and I wanted to see one in action. Not all was lost though. It was kind of a kick to see the actual physical location of this gigantic digital library that scans over 1,000 books a day. And it inspired me to delve further into the Archives when I got home.

So here's my report. The Internet Archives, which provides free access to books and information that might otherwise be lost, has almost 300,000 video and moving images, 579,000 audio recordings and over 2 million books. They've even archived 80,000 live concerts. No wonder I had little luck trying for quick searches before.

Their home page has a Curator's choice in each category, in addition to its famous web page archive known as the Wayback Machine, currently sporting 150 billion pages. The non-profit IA is very much into preserving as much information as possible to prevent its loss or destruction, even referencing the Library of Alexandria, a place that's near and dear my heart, since it is the jumping off point in my upcoming book, Guardian Cats.

I've spent a good deal of time rummaging through the Archives now and have made some pretty interesting discoveries. If you're an Abe Lincoln fan, there's an autographed copy (1917) of "Latest Light on Abraham Lincoln" "including many heretofore unpublished incidents and historical facts concerning his ancestry, boyhood, family, religion, public life, trials and triumphs; illustrated with many reproductions from original paintings, photographs, etc." 

But don't think the Archives are just about obscure old books though. Take a look at this offbeat but intriguing machinima animation, a strange love story called Cuckoo Clock, the first in the Cirque du Machinima series.

Maybe you're searching for actual radio signals from celestials objects? You can find them in the Star Journal, which features ambient music composed around a series of field recordings made from a radio telescope. The Archives has lots of ambient music, but if you want to experience a live Grateful Dead concert instead, there's no shortage of those either.

I've barely scratched the surface of this vast digital library but it's making me rethink any biases I may have had. Although I'm adamantly opposed to transforming our public and college libraries into 'bookless' libraries, these digital archives with their high quality scans are an invaluable resource towards preserving many books which would be otherwise lost. Anyone can upload texts, audio and video images to the library, if they have the rights to share.

Before you take your own journey through the Archives, here's some suggestions to make your online 'field trip' more enjoyable:

  • First, get a cup of coffee and be prepared to stay awhile so you can enjoy all the cool things you will discover.

  • Create a user name and password so you can bookmark your findings. You'll lose stuff, the same as if you set a book down and went wandering down another row of stacks. It labyrinthian.

  • If you see something interesting in the Curator's Choices, you'd better click it right away because the links change each time the page is refreshed. I learned that the hard way.

  • Everything is viewable and downloadable in a variety of formats including Kindle and something called Daisy, which is an audio book format for people with print disabilities," including blindness, impaired vision, dyslexia or other issues.

  • Do try reading the 'online' book formats with their clean, clear images and clickable pages that include every page, even the old book covers and bookplates.

  • Be aware of the large variety of searching and sorting options to help you find what you're looking for.  
Some more of my discoveries I wanted to share:
  • From the audio files: crime classics, horror and Old Time Radio
  • From the video files: Here's one of those 'fun' education films some of us will remember from the 50's. This one's from 1949 called Dating Do's and Don'ts
  • Also from the videos files: Stock video footage which might be useful for book trailers, available for use under the Creative Commons license
  • Something from the Children's Library: A Subject Tag Cloud which is a pretty cool way to search.
  • From the text files: an example of the quality of a beautifully scanned book with rich color and superb illustrations from the Victorian era, Abroad (1882) is about 2 children on a voyage from England to France and Europe.
And last but not least, I couldn't resist including this little gem called 'The Private Lives of Cats'. The Guardian Cats rated it five star.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Librarian uses Kickstarter to fund video books reviews

Here's a nifty follow up to my last blog post. In the Stacks is a site that features 60 second video book reviews hosted by librarian-in-training Michelle Zaffino. In the Stacks features episodes of Michelle’s and other guest librarians’ take on new books currently out there in the stacks. All genres are covered, from adult to teen fiction, non-fiction, fantasy and mystery.
The short episodes are meant to run like ads. Longer episodes are in the works, with multiple reviews, author interviews, library visits and special guests."

I'm loving Kickstarter more all the time. Michelle is using this grass roots fundraising format to raise $5,000 develop her site. To view her progress and maybe kick in a couple of bucks, see 'In the Stacks' Kickstarter fundraising project. 

What would you do with $5,000 towards your writing/book related projects?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Need funds to promote your artistic project? A Kickstarter review

Kickstarter is a unique funding platform for writers, artists, filmmakers, musicians, illustrators and others to bring their projects and ambitions to life. It's based on two premises: 1- the idea that a good idea, communicated well, can spread fast and wide and 2-a large group of people pledging small amounts of money (pledges can start at $1) can create the capital needed to get your project off the ground. Projects must be fully-funded or no money changes hands. is the grassroots version of a patron of the arts. With a wide definition of 'creative', there are 18 categories of projects ranging from silly to sublime. If you have a project you can present well, you will not only get patrons, but people who will be excited to promote your project. It's easy interface for sharing is awesome. I 'shared' "Vuvuzelas for BP" on Twitter and FB, a project in the Event category, which needed funds to purchase 100 vuvuzelas to play in front of BP's International Headquarters in London for a one-day flash mob. The project was an overwhelming success, receiving more than double the $2,000 goal.

On the more sublime side there is A Field Guide To Now: An Illustrated Collection of Essays and Prose, an illustrated collection of essays and prose exploring the present tense. The creator, Christina Rosalie, set her project cost at $10,663 which was successfully raised in the 90 day framework. 

Here's an example of a self-promoting video from an author.

Another interesting project by a Brazilian student re-creating Little Red Riding Hood onto storyboards for an animation project.

I spent several fun hours browsing through Kickstarter, amazed at the creativity of the projects as well as the enthusiasm of people who want to support the arts. You can simply 'follow' a project without pledging or you can pledge anywhere from $1 to $1,000. Kickstarter seems to be a well constructed, easy to understand format that could help you get your project, well...kickstarted!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Would you read this book?

This is my current version of a jacket blurb. I would love to know what you think. Would this entice you to read this book?


Not even the librarians are aware of its existence. Only the cats know about the secret chamber under the library, hiding a mystical book with power to change the world.

But a professor who suspects the book survived the fires which destroyed the Library of Iskandriyah, is driven by his blind desire for power to possess it and losing the book once to the same creature who stole his sight has only fueled his vengeful quest.

Will the Guardian Cats be able to save this ancient treasure placed in their care over two thousand years ago? Will the young apprentice tabby, left on his own, be able to keep it out of the hands of the dangerous professor. If he fails, what will happen when a man with that much craving for power has the ability to use it. If he wins, what on earth will he do with the creatures unleashed from the darkest corners of the library who wish to destroy far more than one book.

Guardian Cats and the Lost Books of Iskandriyah,
by Rahma Krambo
Would you read this book? Would love to hear your comments?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

KitLit Writers Conference you can attend in your jammies

Thanks to Karsten who I met Twittering, I discovered a writer's conference especially for kidlit writers. The only price of admission is having your MC be under 18 years of age.

WriteOnCon is a project that was started by seven writers who wanted to 'pay it forward' for other writers. Just like a 'real' conference, there will be keynote speakers, agent panels and lectures but they will presented in the form of blogs, vlogs, moderated chats, webinars, podcasts and livestreaming.

What's really awesome about this conference is their growing list of  industrial strength professionals who will be the presenters. There are also critique forums which will allow writers to receive feedback and exposure for their work, and the entire program has been designed to be both informative and entertaining.

From what I've seen of their vlogs, this looks to be a very fun and interesting event. Did I mention this is a 3-day conference?
And if you haven't seen Karsten dance, you don't know what you missing.

When: Tuesday – Thursday, August 10 – 12, 2010
Cost: Free!
Who: it’s for EVERYONE!