The dates for next year’s Perth Writing Festival have been released: Fri 27 Feb – Mon 2 March 2009. Full program will be out in late January but I’m very excited to see Sebastian Barry is coming. Not that I’ll be in Perth then. But still. I adored his touching and beautifully-told novel A Long Long Way, an Irish perspective of World War I in the context of Home Rule (Irish soldiers treated as traitors by their own people for fighting an ‘English’ war, and by the English because of the politics going on back home).
Regular readers will know of my love for Stanza, an ebook reader for iPhone and iPod Touch. Now there’s another one: BeamItDown. The name (not especially intuitive to trying to remember it, I have to say) refers to its delivery system: instead of statically delivering the text and having you click to ‘turn’ the page, it scrolls the text down the page like a teleprompter, or indeed, like a scroll.
Currently, you can buy public domain book collections very cheaply (eg the Jane Austen collection for $2.49), or try the software free on The Christmas Carol or T’was the Night Before Christmas. I don’t know if they intend to roll it out for mainstream/modern ebooks (it may perhaps require yet another format), but certainly they are frequently adding more and more classics. Even if the ‘unique selling point’ of the scrolling doesn’t grab you, it’s a useful way to experiment with reading on your iPod/Touch if you don’t have the WiFi transfer capability that Stanza requires.
While I’m talking about book-related things for the iPod/Touch, LibriVox are doing wonderful things in turning public domain books into chapter-by-chapter Audiobook Podcasts in iTunes. Listen to the classics, or volunteer your time to record chapters.
NaNoWriMo finishes today. This collective keyboard-bashing effort has been going for ten years. Professional writers tend to look down their nose at it, with some justification, since it does minimise the skill and craft of writing in favour of the word count (quantity over quality) and I can see how some professionals would be offended by that. There’s also the risk that the high pressure of it could persuade some potential writers that it’s all too hard and cut them down before they ever get started.
On the other hand, writing is one of those professions that both fascinates people and that plenty of people think they can do, so why not encourage a try at it in a supportive environment (if nothing else, maybe they’ll be a bit more respectful afterwards). I did it in 2003 and found it useful for teaching me that I can write to a word count even when dropdead exhausted from a long day at work, so I would never completely discount its value. What makes me shudder is when successful finishers casually say they plan to give it a last quick proofread and send it off to a publisher tomorrow. Poor, poor slushpile.
The Bad Sex in Fiction Award winner was announced during the week. Excerpts from the shortlist can be read here. Let that be a lesson to you, writers: “weeping orifice” is not necessarily all that attractive in a sex scene, and perhaps avoid the “like devoted siblings” metaphors.