I’m not going to lie, it’s tough to post today and what’s happening is bigger than books. My heart is utterly breaking about what’s happening in this country. The police and vigilante mobs are murdering Black people in broad daylight and arresting journalists. 100,000+ COVID deaths and counting, by far the most in the world, and a toll that has fallen disproportionately on the most vulnerable, at the hands of a completely indifferent (at best) federal government. Untold economic devastation and a government response that only exacerbates existing inequalities.
I really struggle about what to do about it. It’s not a question, I know all the things you’re supposed to do. I try, but I fail every day at them and I need to do better. It also just never feels like enough. Sometimes it feels like the best we can do is tamp down the evil for a time, but it always comes roaring back and right now it feels like evil is winning.
All I really know what to do is to write, and I would tell someone else that matters and that is a real thing, so I guess I have to tell myself that too.
But my heart goes out today to George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and the other martyrs too tragically numerous to even name who died because of the colossal failure of all of us who tolerate, sustain, and benefit from a system that failed to protect them.
My heart goes out to all of the people whose lives were cut short by COVID and everyone still with us who has been touched by tragedy in 2020.
And if you think this post is political? Take another look at it and ask yourself some questions about why exactly you feel that way.
Anyway. I know you come here for the #books content and I do want to provide distractions for people during a heavy time because we all need some escapes from time to time too, so let’s get to the links.
You’re in luck because the Bronx Book Festival is virtual this year, which means you can participate wherever you are. Look at this incredible lineup! Panels like “Black Enough: Celebrating Black Voices” featuring Brandy Colbert, Camryn Garrett, Leah Johnson, and Ibi Zoboi. Sign up.
Many of you may be getting ready for #PitMad, that wild and crazy Twitter pitch event. Here’s some advice on how to write a one sentence pitch.
Longtime editing superstar Jonathan Karp is ascending to CEO of Simon & Schuster, succeeding Carolyn Reidy, who passed away earlier this month.
If you had wolf erotica, fan fiction, and copyright law on your publishing bingo card… well, you’re in luck.
J.K. Rowling is serializing a new novel called The Ickabog online, which you can access for free.
Thinking of writing nonfiction for kids? Tim Grove has some great advice.
LitHub released its summer 2020 book preview.
And finally, I really enjoyed this post from agent Danielle Burby about dialing your writing into that thing that makes you special.
This week in bestsellers
Here are the top five NY Times bestsellers in a few key categories. (All links are affiliate links):
Adult print and e-book fiction:
- Camino Winds by John Grisham
- Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
- Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
- Normal People by Sally Rooney
- Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner
Adult print and e-book nonfiction:
- Untamed by Glennon Doyle
- Becoming by Michelle Obama
- Plague of Corruption by Judy Mikovits and Kent Heckenlively
- The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson
- The Great Influenza by John M. Barry
Young adult hardcover:
- One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus
- Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare
- Stamped by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
- The Betrothed by Kiera Cass
- Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
Middle grade hardcover:
- The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate
- The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs by America’s Test Kitchen Kids
- Wonder by R.J Palacio
- The Complete Baking Book for Young Chefs by America’s Test Kitchen Kids
- Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid by Jeff Kinney
This week on the blog
Don’t forget that you can nominate your first page and query for a free critique on the blog:
In case you missed them, here are this week’s posts:
And keep up with the discussion in all the places!
Comment! of! the! week! goes to Lexi Bruce, for a comment on an older post on how writing changes the world.
My first published novel was a hi-lo YA verse novel about a 16 year old girl watching her parents’ relationship fall apart. The first draft was very semi-autobiographical. I got a lot of pain out on the page that I didn’t realize I was still feeling. Then my editor gave me some feedback, which made me realize things about myself that I never noticed. A few drafts later, the story was much less autobiographical (I had to add a lot of tension in ways that it wasn’t there irl), and I had discovered things and started to heal wounds I hadn’t realized I had. While the story itself in the final draft is nothing like the story of my life at 16, the emotions are where it continues being semi-autobiographical.
I also realized that my previous fiction writing attempts hadn’t turned out well because I wasn’t being emotionally honest with myself.
And finally, um, I may have made a TikTok…
Have a safe weekend and let’s keep fighting for a better world.
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Art: Downtown Brooklyn in the fog. Photo by me. Follow me on Instagram!
Carol Cronin says
Thanks for this. Stay safe.
Judy DaPolito says
Thank you for your comments on the grave and ongoing injustice against people of color and on the horrible COVID toll on the most vulnerable among us. I can see nothing political about caring for the wellbeing of other humans.
Sharon Bonin-Pratt (Shari) says
Nathan, your first six paragraphs speak my heart. This isn’t the world I thought I was leaving my kids and grandkids. We can all do better, we can all do more, and we must.
Thank you so much, Jonathan, for mentioning the wrongs of this country/world. As writers, we have a responsibility to see, really see, what’s going on, and to do our little part in bringing hard truths to the surface. Bravo for doing just that.
Nancy S. Thompson says
You’re the second author I know with a voice, a platform, and an audience to speak out today against the injustice and inhumanity recently suffered by George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery. And I want to thank you for that. It’s not an easy thing to do knowing there could be blowback or you might be alienating some who might buy your books. But this is so much more important than any potential royalties. Those who have the public’s ear wield immense power and influence and should speak up, be heard, and stand their ground. Equal rights under our current lack of effective leadership have suffered setback after setback. So if you have a voice, #SaySomething.
Deborah Gray says
You are right to use your platform, if you so choose, to make a statement on something so gut wrenching and wrong. We need diversion – books, puppies! – but we need to face the cold, hard facts of systemic racism, rooted deep in this country. No one can afford to turn away from it any longer. Everyone should condemn it and do whatever we can to protect the lives of all who are vulnerable and threatened.
Thank you. So many hearts breaking. So much feeling of disbelief and powerlessness. But I love to hear the voices of resilience. We need to hear them. Be loud, everyone. Thank you for sharing your voice.
*Resistance* not resilience, I meant to say. This world makes me tired. Peace.
Janet Salonius says
Thank you so much for writing this. It feels like everything is upside down and backwards. Just seeing your words of compassion is a balm to wounded souls. I hope we do find a way to make a difference.
Neil Larkins says
No, Nathan, you’re not being political. You’re being human (sorry to sound trite). You see what you see and like all of us, find it overwhelming. There truly is much evil in this world and it comes in many forms and besets us from a thousand directions. But stand firm in what you are and along with us you’ll get through it.
Naomi Lisa Shippen says
It is heart breaking indeed. I cannot believe what is happening in America right now, I am truly shocked and saddened. A very heartfelt post, Nathan, this year is an absolute nightmare. My hope is that out of all this devastation some lessons will be learned and we can make positive changes toward a kinder future for all.
Best post I’ve read from you. You’ve succinctly captured the heartbreak many Americans are presently feeling. The tumult and uncertainty wrought by this pandemic, racial unrest, rising fascism and the political divisiveness of a spiteful, incompetent leader, have pushed many of us into a heightened state of frustration. Sadly, evil IS winning and I fear a revolution, fought and paid for by the sacrifices of the good and righteous among us, will be necessary to save our nation. Heaven help us all.
My sympathies go out to all in the States. It has been a very difficult year. Wishing peace and health for all those over there during the rest of 2020.
Angela Brown says
There are so many words I want to say, so many emotions to express, so much so that I wish to scream. But screaming brings attention to the scream and not the WHY behind my scream.
So I hold my hold my scream praying the WHY remains the focus.
I’ve had the outline of a story waiting for me, patiently as I focused on my paying gig for some months and then COVID-19 was handled with the delicacy of striking a hammer into the apex of a glass house with all of us beneath the falling destruction, damping my writing drive more than I would care to admit.
Now, it is time to let the desire to scream to flow into the words and be my silent scream for me.
Thank you, Nathan, for speaking on this and so much more in this post. It is appreciated far greater than words can express.
Nathan Bransford says
Hang in there! Thinking of you.