This week in open letters! I mean books!
This was the week of Open Letters to Solve Everything. First, a group of luminaries led by Thomas Chatterton Williams including J.K. Rowling, Margaret Atwood, and Malcolm Gladwell published an open letter that bemoaned an “intolerant climate that has set in on all sides” and, though it wasn’t named as such, “cancel culture”:
Editors are fired for running controversial pieces; books are withdrawn for alleged inauthenticity; journalists are barred from writing on certain topics; professors are investigated for quoting works of literature in class; a researcher is fired for circulating a peer-reviewed academic study; and the heads of organizations are ousted for what are sometimes just clumsy mistakes.
The letter was swiftly ridiculed, and then we got a new open letter by a separate group of luminaries who questioned the accuracy of the first letter’s claims and criticizing it for ignoring the problem of who has the power.
Watch out, COVID. There’s a group of journalists writing an open letter about you as we speak.
In non-open letter news, the NY Times published an extensive feature on what it’s like to be Black and work in the publishing industry, featuring professionals in a range of roles. Definitely worth a read.
Big news at Simon & Schuster as new CEO Jon Karp named Dana Canedy as the new publisher of the flagship Simon & Schuster imprint. Isaac Chotiner had a great interview with her on her thoughts on the types of books she wants to emphasize and the nature of a publisher’s responsibility.
And Penguin Random House announced that legendary editor Nan Talese will retire at end of the year after a six decade career that included editing Margaret Atwood, Ian McEwan, Pat Conroy, and many, many more. I don’t often get starstruck, but when I ended up randomly talking to her on the phone for 10 minutes as a young publishing assistant I felt like I’d just met the pope.
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:
- The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
- 28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand
- Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
- Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan
- The Guardians by John Grisham
Adult print and e-book nonfiction:
- The Room Where It Happened by John Bolton
- White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
- How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
- Stamped From the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi
- So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
Young adult hardcover:
- Stamped by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
- One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus
- Love, Creekwood by Becky Albertalli
- I’m Not Dying With You Tonight by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal
Middle grade hardcover:
- The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate
- Wonder by R.J Palacio
- The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs by America’s Test Kitchen Kids
- Little Leaders by Vashti Harrison
- Refugee by Alan Gratz
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:
- Even minor characters need to want something
- Shy characters don’t have to be passive
- Don’t smush a plot summary into the start of your query (query critique)
And keep up with the discussion in all the places!
Comment! of! the! week! goes to Peter Dudley, who recommends considering eliminating characters who are serving as filler:
People sometimes tell me my novels don’t have enough characters, but I feel they have exactly the right number of characters for the story. If a secondary character is in there as filler or as a prop, I take them out. I learned this trying to write a one-act play many years ago. I recommend that as an exercise for any writer; when you have only dialog and a couple of stage directions, you learn pretty quickly that it is a lot of work to make sure the filler has a reason to be there. Just take it out to begin with.
And finally, this is the most interesting article about isotopes in shark eyeballs that you’re going to read this week.
Have a great weekend!
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