Sunday, December 24, 2006

New Release Spotlight: Dear John

Dear John, By Nicholas Sparks

Nicholas Sparks is famous for being the writer of hits like Message in a Bottle and A Walk to Remember. Like these movies, the novel Dear John is sweet, the ideal love story for all those people who are true romantics. In an “opposites attract” story, ex-solder John Tyree meets college girl Savannah Curtis as she does volunteer work building houses. The two young people share several heartwarming scenes, including one under the stars, in which falling in love appears simple and easy. There is also an interesting subplot involving John and his connection to his father. When September 11th occurs, however, John’s re-enlisting in the army creates a horrible strain on his relationship with Savannah, the girl he believes is his one true love. Like all of Spark’s novels, however, the ending leaves the reader cursing the cruelty of fate, as the “Dear John” letter inevitably arrives from the United States and crushes John as he works in Iraq. Sparks does a good job avoiding too much political commentary, despite the controversy of the war in Iraq, and he uses the army lingo in a very natural fashion. The dialogue, though, often appears sappy and unrealistic. Sparks’ books are beginning to be too predictable: boy meets girl, something horrible happens, boy and girl are not able to overcome, and heartbreak ensues. Perhaps Sparks should attempt to write a happy ending just for some variety.

Review by Maureen Inouye, Indigo Editing, LLC

New Release Spotlight: I Feel Bad About My Neck

I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman, By Nora Ephron

This new book of essays by the writer of such hits as Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail is amazingly funny. Short, sweet chapters are full of insights about the trials and tribulations that women face as they begin to age. Ephron’s writing is wonderful, with the same comedic timing that makes her screenplays so memorable. She has a voice that is both charming and wise. All women will relate to her insights on some level. No subject is sacred as Ephron provides her perceptions on things like reading, why women’s purses are often over-stuffed, and even sex. Despite the funny stories, however, this book is best read in several separate sittings because the book begins to feel superficial after a while. And for younger women, some of the angst of aging (and the pressures to get Botox) are still unfelt – so that Ephron’s impact is probably only felt fully by those over fifty, like herself. But if you are looking for a simple, fun book, full of honesty and feminine wit, this is a great short read.

Review by Maureen Inouye, Indigo Editing, LLC

Friday, December 22, 2006

Short Story Contest

Announcing the 3rd Annual

Ooligan's Choice Short Story Contest

What: Unpublished short stories (maximum of 4000 words, one story per person)

Theme: The Hidden Self (Exposing that which you keep hidden)

Who’s eligible: The Portland State community, past and present

When: Submit by midnight, January 21, 2007

How: Send a Word document, double-spaced and formatted in 12-point type, via email attachment to Include your name and title of your story.

Judges: The Ooligan Press Editors

The Ooligan Press Editors will carefully select and professionally edit the four best entries.The winning stories will receive the Ooligan Editors’ Choice Award and will be published in Ooligan’s Best Short Stories of 2007, our annual electronic journal.

Sponsored by Portland State University’sPublishing Program and Ooligan Press

Monday, December 18, 2006

Question: Editorial Duties

Suzanne asked: So what does an editor do? Is your main duty correcting grammar?

Correcting grammar is definitely a part of being an editor, but certainly not the main duty. Editors often have the larger job of developmental editing, working through a book with suggestions on plot and character development in fiction books and research and argument strength in nonfiction books. In developmental editing, the editor becomes an advocate for readers, flagging potentially confusing passages, watching for details that are unnecessary or misleading, and sometimes recommending a complete restructuring of the book in order to bring it to its highest potential. The editor and author work together as they pass through developmental editing and revision stages at least twice, usually three or four times, before even moving on to the proofreading and grammar checking stage.

Furthermore, editors watch trends in publishing and bookselling to help their authors keep up with the competition. If a manuscript is originally historical fiction, but bookbuying trends lean toward books that include a supernatural element, the editor and author could work together to introduce this new element and give the book a marketing edge.

While aspiring authors often view editors as the stereotypical apathetic critic, the reality is that many authors say their books would not be what they are without the assistance of their editors.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Glimmer Train Press Contest

Fiction Writing Competition

Glimmer Train Press is now accepting submissions for their winter Fiction Open competition.
First Place: $2,000, publication in the winter edition of Glimmer Train Stories, and 20 copies of the anthology
Second Place: $1,000 and acknowledgement in Glimmer Train Stories
Third Place: $600 and acknowledgement in Glimmer Train Stories

The stories can be any length (under 20,000 words) and any theme.

The entries can be submitted online and will be accepted from Nov. 1, 2006 through Jan. 15, 2007.

For more information, see

Monday, December 11, 2006

Chicago Manual of Style...on CD

Have you ever thrown your back out by carrying the large orange Chicago Manual of Style? Well, worry no more. You can now buy the manual on CD, which is much lighter and adds the benefit of electronic searches instead of digging through the index only to be confused by the numbering system. Isn't technology great?

Visit the Chicago Manual Web site to learn more about it.

Buy it for less at Amazon.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Plagiarism in the News

With the recent accusations of plagiarism against Kaavya Viswanathan, Publishers Weekly interviews Judge Richard Posner, U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, on plagiarism from Shakespeare's day to present.

Copyright and intellectual property laws do not protect ideas, but merely the words used to express them. This is how so many genre fiction books, and sometimes literary fiction books, that seem to follow the same formula remain safe from legal prosecution. The danger comes in using another author's words without due credit and permission.

Some authors encourage aspiring authors to use plots already on the market to get their creative juices flowing. It can serve as a writing exercise until you build a plot of your own. The movie Finding Forrester features an author encouraging his student to use the first lines of his own short stories to serve as a starting point. While these are indeed great exercises to break writer's block and keep the words coming, it's important to realize that these are simply exercises. Aspiring authors must return to these plagiarized passages and make them unique before passing them on to the public. And while using an existing plot as an outline is not technically plagiarism, the lack of originality will prove a hindrance in seeking a publisher.

Posner touches on the fact that many schools and universities are using software such as Turnitin to scan academic papers and discipline plagiarists. Most schools administer a failing grade to students who are caught plagiarizing, and Posner recommends that publishers begin using a similar software to verify originality of manuscripts before accepting them for publication.

"We may be entering the twilight of plagiarism," he says.

Read the article preview at and watch for the full article in the November 27 issue of Publishers Weekly. Take a moment to check out Posner's book, The Little Book of Plagiarism, as well.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Congratulations OBA winners!

Congratulations to this year's Oregon Book Award winners!

George Aguilar, Sr., in Creative Nonfiction for When the River Ran Wild! Indian Traditions on the Mid-Columbia and the Warm Springs Reservation

Andrew Bernstein in General Nonfiction for Modern Passings: Death Rites, Politics, and Social Change in Imperial Japan

Dorianne Laux in Poetry for Facts About the Moon

Richard Moeschl in Drama for Arthur’s Dreams

Gina Ochsner in Short Fiction for People I Wanted to Be

Graham Salisbury in Young Adult Literature for Eyes of the Emperor

Diane Siebert in Children’s Literature for Tour America

Justin Tussing in the Novel for The Best People in the World

Congratulate also to the recipients of three special awards: Ursula K. Le Guin, C.E.S. Wood Distinguished Writer Award; Paulann Petersen, Stewart H. Holbrook Literary Legacy Award; and John Monteverde, Walt Morey Young Readers Literary Legacy Award.

You're welcome to read the judges' comments and discover the works of all 32 Oregon Book Awards finalists. Literary Arts will present readings by these accomplished writers in communities across the state beginning in January.

Find all this at the Literary Arts Web site.