April 19, 2005

How Long Things Take

A wonderful little ditty was passed along to me via email this morning, (just when I was wondering what I was going to put in my blog).
It comes from a nature watchers mailing list. Seems this guy was cleaning out his basement and stumbled upon a book he'd forgotten. It's a collection of 5000 entries, each one citing how long a certain process takes. Here are the examples that were in my email: (s=seconds, m=minutes, h=hours, d=days w=weeks y=years)

(0.003s) - a housefly's wings to beat one stroke.
(1s) - the wings of a small hummingbird to beat seventy times.
(2-3s) - the duration of gray squirrel copulation.
(15s) - bees to communicate by dancing.
(20s) - a cloud to recharge after lightning flashes.
(30s) - flying fish to complete a "flight."
(1m) - the heart of a shrew to beat 1000 times.
(1m) - a blue shark to swim a mile.
(2m) - a giraffe to run a mile.
(3m) - beavers to copulate.
(10m) - a snowflake to form.
(12m) - a bedbug to gorge himself on human blood.
(15m) - intervals between breaths of a hibernating jumping mouse.
(20m) - death by hanging.
(1h) - an adult male to shed 600,000 particles of skin.
(2h) - newly hatched geese to begin following their mothers around.
(6h) - minimum time for a hurricane to form.
(9h) - a tornado to run its course - maximum life span.
(12h) - the male indigo bunting to sing 4320 songs.
(16h) - the ring kingfisher to incubate her eggs at one sitting.
(18h) - daily sleep requirement of the sloth.
(20h) - newly hatched ducklings to exhibit their first emotional response - Fear.
(24h) - grasshoppers to eat 1.5 times their weight in grass - about 0.05 ounce.
(24h) - a pair of house wrens to feed their young 1117 times.
(24h) - to shed 50-80 hairs from the human head.
(36h) - to sprout sunflower seeds.
(3d) - for gravel to be present in young song birds after hatching.

from Durations: The Encyclopedia of How Long Things Take by Sandow, Bamber and Rioux (Avon Books, New York, NY, 1977, 297 pages

As a tribute to every writer who has ever been asked, "How's the book coming along?" "Got that book finished yet?" "When can I buy a copy?" I thought I'd make a list of my own. Here are a few examples...more to come.

(1s) - for a person to have an 'idea' for a book they are sure will be a best seller
(3s) - the reaction time before their friends start laughing at that 'idea'.

(3w) -to get up the nerve to sit down at a desk and start writing
(3y) - to write a first novel (this time may vary. In the case of Alexander McCall-Smith, author of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, a few months. In the case of Pulitzer prize winner Edward P. Jones' The Known World, 10 years)

(3d) - the time it takes for a first time wirter to crank out their first query letter to pitch their book to an agent.
(5h) - to scour the net for the 'right' agent
(5s) - the time it takes a writer to cut and paste query into an email and hit 'send'
(1s) - the time it takes for writer to say 'oh crap' when she notices a spelling error in query letter.
(1s -6months) -time it takes for an agent to reply

(1m -1y) -time it takes for an agent to shop around a manusript
(1s) -time it takes for a publisher to say 'yes'.

And now it only takes 1 minute for a man to size up a woman to see what foods to feed her in order to 'hook-up'. (By the way, the kids today use the term hooking up to mean...well, ummm...)

From Ann Marie Michael's Cooking to Hook Up:

Is she a Party Girl? Make her Very Happy Hour: Bar Food and Screaming Orgasms. Is she an Academic Girl who loves Hemingway? Pack up a picnic of Papa's Tapa's: A Moveable Feast. Is she a Gourmet Girl up on the latest trends in cuisine? Serve her the Spanish Surrealist menu, There's No Taste Like Foam.

April 13, 2005

OK, I admit it...

I liked the first episode of Stacked.

I was ready to pan it, but I actually enjoyed it, laughing out loud more than a few times. I know...who would have thought? Two geeky bookstore owners, a swell gal behind the coffee counter, a nutty professor, an ex-wife+2 kids, a tatooed rocker, and Pamela Anderson's bombshell character-Skyler, all poking fun at celebrity written novels, self-help books, author photos, and of course, boobs.

I imagine that many in the publishing biz are going to want to get on the Pammie-train. (and won't she have the last laugh over all those snobby (jealous) critics who whined about her book contract?) I don't hate her because she's beautiful, I love her because she had two homebirths with a midwife!

Talk about savvy marketing...

The show's already hooked-up with Friendster for a series of blogs penned by the cast. Once there, you can become a personal 'fan' of any member of the cast, linking yourself to their blog, their profile, and a list of their favourite books. Did you know one of Elon Gold's favourite books is Bonfire of the Vanities? Now you do.

Aside from the 'parody' books that were featured in tonight's episode, I was able to notice a few covers of current titles on the literary market. There was a prominently placed poster for Edward P. Jones' The Known World in the background of quite a few shots and I'm pretty sure it was Paul Quarrington's Galveston that was propped up on one of the tables. (please let me know if you had any other title spottings?)

I wonder how far publishing execs will go to get prime-time placement for their books on the set????

When the bookstore owner suggests a nobel-prize winning author's tome of social commentary, Skyler (Pam's character) says: I don't want it, he looks mean.

Bookstore owner replies: You can't buy a book based on the author's photo! That's the same as judging a book by it's cover.

Of course I had to laugh over that one...since just last week I posted a rant about the dreaded author pose and my obsessing over having my photo taken for the book jacket. Pam, have you been reading my blog again? Call me...
See: Photo-Op

April 08, 2005

Litblog Co-op

What a nifty idea.

the litblog co-op
Uniting the leading literary weblogs for the purpose of drawing attention to the best of contemporary fiction, authors and presses that are struggling to be noticed in a flooded marketplace.

I think I'm gonna start singing Kumbaya...

April 05, 2005


Spring is here and one of these days I need to get around to having my picture taken for the book jacket. I'm trying not too get weird over it, but I suppose there's a bit of pressure there...do I - look scholarly, look fun, look wise beyond my years, should I have it taken with glasses, or without (and will I look all squinty eyed and lost without them?)

The composition of the author photo is purposely contrived to convey the appropriate authorly attributes specific to his or her genre. It is no accident that Margaret Atwood, queen of Canadian fiction, is photographed with a small, monarchical smile and not Robert Munch’s exclamatory, eye-popping enthusiasm and Where’s Waldo fashion sense. The photo is a kind of visual resumé — it is offered as a testimony to the nature and quality of the book’s contents. The author’s image does not only complement the book, it is the visual encapsulation of the book itself.
from Deconstructing the Author Photo by Lorie Boucher

Now here's a group of authors who know how to pose for a photo shoot.
House of Anansi
House of Anansi

Ms. Boucher goes on to say:
Visual stimuli are a daily assault on our senses and on our intellects. Correlations between dissimilar things are made for us to consume daily, unquestioningly. But there is no relationship between a photo of an author and the text he or she creates. It is a marketing ploy that plays on our basic instinct to assign value to what we see, rather than to expend energy analyzing what is being purposefully contrived for our consumption.


Nicholas Blincoe of the Telegraph would argue that he feels lost when he doesn't find an author's picture inside the back flap of the book jacket.
Perhaps I'm alone, but I need a face to project my warm feelings on to; even if the face resembles a lump of squashed Plasticine, matted with dog hair. But, then, I am a huge fan of Anthony Burgess.

Jim Cox, in his article Author Photo Advice claims that author photos make good business sense for both publisher and author, and that human beings are "conditioned to notice what our fellow homo sapiens look like". Here's what he had to say about his experience with a photo shoot.
As those who have seen me can attest, I'm overweight, wear a beard to cover up a multitude of chins, and have never won a beauty contest in my life. But I took my non-photogenic self to a portrait photographer, and after an hour's session, the guy came away with a picture of me that makes me look like I was a Fortune 500 magnate and a Hollywood star rolled into one.

I think I will be buried with that framed photo clasped firmly in my moribund hands.

The funniest account of an author shoot I have read was in Neil Gaiman's journal for American Gods.
As the shoot wound down, Jeff and I got to chat a little. "How would you like me to make you look?" he asked. "Brooding, mysterious, scary, friendly -- what kind of impression are you trying to give?"

I thought for a moment, and realised that I had no idea. "Could you make me look surprisingly f*able (the spelling has been bleeped as to not to offend those who will probably be offended anyway) for a writer, please?"

He laughed (and so did the rest of the crew) and said he'd do his best.

And we wrapped up the shoot, then I ate and drove another three hours back.

Actually, I'd settle for brooding.

Really, I'd settle for not very goofy.

I think I need an image consultant...or maybe I'll just read Kathleen O'Reilly's latest,
The Diva's Guide To Selling Her Soul instead.

What would you sacrifice to be a size zero? For more than a few women, the promise of thin thighs in 30 seconds might just convince them to deal with the devil. Award-winning author Kathleen O'Reilly's The DIVA'S GUIDE TO SELLING HER SOUL (Apr., Downtown Press) is a story for every woman who knows that getting celebrity-style skinny involves a pact with Lucifer‹or in this case, the silver-tongued Lucy. She's the trashiest gossip columnist in the city and she's working a pyramid scheme that's truly evil. The more clients our "innocent" heroine V recruits for her "Life Enrichment Program," the more of V's decadent desires will come true. Unfortunately, V soon discovers there maybe something worth saving in her after all, which means when she made the deal with the devil she may have truly damned herself - unless she can figure a way out.

(However she gets out of it, I hope it involves chocolate. ;-)

April 04, 2005

into the domestic

It's worth pointing out: a lot of what was submitted was dauntingly undaring. On the whole the submissions from women were disappointingly domestic, the opposite of risk-taking - as if too many women writers have been injected with a special drug that keeps them dulled, good, saying the right thing, aping the right shape, and melancholy at doing it, depressed as hell.
Extracted from New Writing 13, edited by Ali Smith & Toby Litt

This excerpt from the introduction of New Writing 13 has gotten a lot of flack in the past couple of weeks. I'm not here to join my voice in ripping Ali Smith and Toby Litt to shreds...anyone who's ever had to wade through piles of submissions for an anthology, contest, or literary review can attest to the murkiness of the task, one that only begins to feel 'worth it' when you stumble upon one of the few gems hidden among the rest. I believe them when they say they didn't mean it that way.

What I found most interesting about the swell of voices that rose up from The Guardian's original article was that it obviously touched a quivering, aching nerve, pointing to the fact that women's literature (as well as the feminist movement in general) is undergoing an identity crisis. (Just look at the whole Pink Ladies vs. Gray Ladies debate between female litbloggers a few weeks ago.)

I hear women whining about it all the time. Aren't we 'over' it yet? Women writers cry, "A good book is a good book, why should my work be labeled as 'women's literature'? Then we fight amongst ourselves until we don't know what to say to one another anymore. (or until we aren't speaking)

Come on girls.

The fact is, there's still a lot of inequality in the world. From very basic things such as the price of a haircut (That American Idol contestant Bo Bice's locks are much longer than mine, yet he'd only have to pay $15 for a trim because he's a man.)
to larger issues like the single mother who has had to drop out of her university courses because government funding for higher education for single moms only allows for 2 years of study rather then the 4 she needs to enter the field of her choice. No becoming a doctor, lawyer, or even a teacher, for her.

This summer, Lorig Charkoudian sat down in her local Starbucks and began to nurse her 19 month old daughter. Shortly after she began, she was asked to move or leave by a manager, even though no customers had complained, and her state of Maryland has legally protected the rights of mothers to breastfeed in public.
from Nursing at Starbucks: An Interview with Lorig Charkoudian
by Jackie Regales


From a global perspective, this year's 49th session of the Commission on the Status of Women- Beijing +10, found that we aren't much further along than we were a decade ago and called for a renewal of worldwide action. Women the world over are struggling to raise their children in war torn countries and refugee camps. Thousands of children are being orphaned each day in Africa because of AIDS.(Please visit Beijing and Beyond to find out how you can participate.)

The fact is, we are far from 'getting over it'. If you don't like what you perceive the voice of feminism to be, then let's get off our Desperate Housewife watchin' bums and do something about it. Those of us with little or nothing to lose need to start making a difference in the world. How much time does a single mother, the woman working three jobs, the woman in bed with ovarian cancer, have to write letters of protest, to stand on the steps of government buildings, to call their local representatives? They need other voices to stand with them so they can be heard.

I know there are a thousand causes, but a truly feminist act can be as simple as helping a sister in need. (cook her supper, babysit while she goes to the grocery store or laundry mat, send clothes to an orphanage, buy a goat for a mother in a poverty stricken country.)
I challenge you to commit an act of Radical Domesticity Today!

Here are just a few groups that could get you started (if you know of others, email me and I'll add them to my list)
Nurse at Starbucks
Beijing and Beyond
Revolutionary Knitting Circle
Raging Grannies

And back to the question of women's art, I think Judy Chicago said it best in a Globe and Mail interview where Sarah Milroy asked her about a recent rehang of the Museum of Modern Art in NY.

I want to be able to see Lucian Freud next to Alice Neel. I want to see Cassatt next to Degas, Sonia (Delaunay) next to Robert Delaunay, and I'll decide who's the better artist. I want to see Suzanne Valadon next to Utrillo who she trained, for God's sake. He was her son. I want to see the whole picture and then I want to judge, and I don't want to look at them in the context of 'she was the only women.' We're half the population. Let's get half the space. And if all we were making was quilts and lace, then put them up on the wall and let me see for myself which was the more exquisite. I don't want to be told. I'm tired of being told.