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Jim Cox Report: August 2020
Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:
America has become a Plague Nation.
How did this happen? How did America become a pariah nation whose citizens are now barred from entering Canada, Mexico, and all 27 nations comprising the European Union?
Can publishing play any kind of role in fixing this sad state of affairs?
Before we seek the answer to this question we need to turn to Wikipedia and define three key words:
Plutocracy: A plutocracy is a society that is ruled or controlled by people of great wealth or income. Unlike systems such as democracy, capitalism, liberalism, socialism, communism or anarchism, plutocracy is not rooted in an established political philosophy.
Plague: The rapid spread of disease to a large number of people in a given population within a short period of time. Epidemics of infectious disease are generally caused by several factors including a change in the ecology of the host population (e.g., increased stress or increase in the density of a vector species), a genetic change in the pathogen reservoir or the introduction of an emerging pathogen to a host population (by movement of pathogen or host). Generally, an epidemic occurs when host immunity to either an established pathogen or newly emerging novel pathogen is suddenly reduced below that found in the endemic equilibrium and the transmission threshold is exceeded. When an epidemic spreads to other countries or continents and affects a substantial number of people, it is termed to be a pandemic. The declaration of an epidemic usually requires a good understanding of a baseline rate of incidence; epidemics for certain diseases, such as influenza, are defined as reaching some defined increase in incidence above this baseline.
Publishing: Publishing is the activity of making information, literature, music, software and other content available to the public for sale or for free. Traditionally, the term refers to the distribution of printed works, such as books, newspapers, and magazines. With the advent of digital information systems, the scope has expanded to include electronic publishing such as ebooks, academic journals, micropublishing, websites, blogs, video game publishing, and the like. Publishing may produce private, club, commons or public goods and may be conducted as a commercial, public, social or community activity. Publishing is also undertaken by governments, civil society and private companies for administrative or compliance requirements, business, research, advocacy or public interest objectives. This can include annual reports, research reports, market research, policy briefings and technical reports. Self-publishing has become very common.
Covid-19 is a plague that has become a pandemic, starting in Wuhan, China and going on to eventually hit every nation on Earth. The virus responsible for Covid-19 first migrated from China to America's west coast. While at the same time migrating to Europe from where it then found its way to America's east coast. As I write this (July 30, 2020), in just six months Covid-19 has killed more than 152,000 American men, women and children. The death count in America is continuing to rise to new levels every single consecutive day. In 21 states the infection rates are raging out of control with more than 10,000 new infections every day -- filling hospitals to capacity, exhausting medical staff, depleting medical resources, and necessitating the presence of refrigerated semi-trucks to hold the overflow dead that the morgues no longer have room for.
Yet in other countries, many of them, the plague that is Covid-19 is under far better control with the numbers of infections and deaths at a mere fraction of those Americans are experiencing.
Why is America doing so badly?
The answer is a lack of leadership at the Federal level and in all too many Gubernatorial state houses such as Florida, Texas, and Arizona. -- But then, how did such a breakdown in leadership come about?
It came about because those political leaders are the product of a social/cultural, political/economic elite that was in turn created by an obscene concentration of immense wealth in just 1% of our country's population. That financial elite had (and continues to) used their wealth to buy the best state and federal governments their money could purchase through campaign donations and lobbyists.
These Plutocrats bought politicians who would pass laws that would protect and expand their wealth and power. They bought politicians who would appoint judges that would protect and expand their wealth and power. They bought communication systems that would protect and expand their wealth and power.
The result was an American Plutocracy that would absolutely control the Republican party (and to a lesser degree hold significant influence with the Democrat party) and allow someone like Donald J. Trump to become president of the United States -- an aspiring demagogue who would be enabled by Republic Senators and House members to take a political wrecking ball to long established American governmental standards, protocols, practices and ethical standards.
Trump got elected because of the kinds of social, cultural, racial, and economic inequities that the Plutocracy had engendered as natural consequences and byproducts of their successful attempts over the past 40 years to advance the kinds of governmental policies that would work to their advantage in increasing and protecting of their ever growing wealth.
Is there any force within America that can help bring our battered country out of the morass it currently is in with respect to Covid-19, as well as the other consequences of this plague including the current (and worsening) economic depression, failed and failing political leadership, the massive campaigns of misinformation and disinformation, broken medical supply lines, inadequate medical facilities and resources, etc.
Yes -- That's where Publishing comes in. Basically publishing has been involved with every advance that humanity has known since the invention of moveable type. Publishing dispenses information. It is how reporters tell the American public what their political leaders are up to. It is how medical researchers disseminate their findings through medical journals and CDC bulletins to the doctors working to cure plague patients and protect the public from infection. It is how sound science rebuts fake science, medical charlatans, the ignorant, and the naive -- basically, the Donald J. Trumps of the world.
As much a danger to Americans as the Covid-19 virus, is the Plutocracy sanctioned American president, Donald Trump's continuing decision to tell his fellow Americans that they don't really need to abide by what medical science has instructed them to do to keep themselves and their families safe (wear masks in public, keep a social distance, get tested and if positive cooperate with infection tracing efforts), telling that the virus will soon disappear on its own, and to continue to vilify, ridicule, mock, ignore, and seek to undermine medical experts like Dr. Fauci.
What I'm recommending as a member of the publishing industry is that we all, in our own ways, seek to promote sound medical practice at ever opportunity. As a book reviewer I'm doing it by trying to bring to the attention of librarians and the general public good books on what the Plutocracy has done to the governance of our country and the exacerbation of our social, economic, and racial justice problems. To bring to their attention good books by knowledgeable authors on and about the current Covid-19 plague.
It is the obligation of those members of the publishing industry who are writers with any expertise or experience with the Covid-19 plague to write the best they can about it in any medium they have access to be it publication in the form of books, pamphlets, newspaper columns, newsletters, or digitally as with on-line blogs, Facebook groups, twitter, etc.
It falls upon those members of the publishing industry who produce print publications such as books, newsletters or newspapers, or who host bloggs or internet discussion groups, to make their services available to writers (and reviewers) so their messages can go out to a public that is in dire need of as much sound information as possible about why America has become a Plague State and what can and must be done about it!
I suppose that I should provide some personal background. I'm a self-described Goldwater Republican. Back in 1964 I worked on the presidential campaign in Salt Lake City, Utah to elect the Republican Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater. Unfortunately he was soundly defeated by the Democrat Lyndon Johnson. But that did nothing to deter me from being a traditionally conservative Republican. So my rather scathing perspective on the current Republican Party does not come from some dewy eyed Democrat.
Now here are reviews of books that are of particular and special interest to writers and publishers:
Rick Benzel & Susan Shankin
New Insights Press
9781733841160, $15.99 Paper/$5.99 Kindle
Launch It! The 7 Stages to FINALLY Writing and Publishing Your Book is an excellent, informative guide for authors looking to follow through on their dreams of writing and publishing their first book. It explores the entire gamut of 7 fundamental steps of the publishing process in great detail, explained by two highly experienced publishing professionals whose background includes working at major publishing houses and then starting two self-publishing enterprises. Each of these seven stages of publishing that they explain requires a different skill set, which is why new authors often bog down either at the beginning, midway, or even just after their book is published. There are many decisions authors must make as they go through the progression of the 7 steps, from deciding what they want to write about and why, to whether to hire an editor or ghostwriter, to choosing and working with a book designer, to assessing the pros and cons of using a book distributor or KDP's print on demand option.
Launch It! explains everything you need. It helps new authors bolster their confidence to put pen to paper, finish their manuscript, and then understand their publishing options. It also provides post-publication publicity tips such as organizing a launch party. Rick Benzel & Susan Shankin's Launch It! not only provides a clear step-by-step game plan, but addresses common obstacles and provides keys to overcoming them with the goal of getting one's great book idea into print successfully, then promoting it to the public through basic marketing strategies. Many competing titles address the new writer's concern of how to produce a book, but few others incorporate the additional steps needed to understand not just the writing and creative development process, but the work of publishing and promoting one's words. Benzel and Shankin explain that the ultimate goal goes beyond publishing and explores what makes one's book unique and how to transform publishing a book into greater results such as becoming a speaker, workshop leader, or highly sought-after consultant.
Launch It! is about launching more than one's dreams, seeing them come to fruition in a logical, organized manner that acknowledges common barriers and provides the tools to overcome them. Those interested in self-publishing models for success who have something important for readers and, in these days of often working from home, more time to pass on their wisdom to others will find Launch It! an encouraging and comprehensive blueprint that takes the complex world of book publishing and synthesizes its process into seven key segments that would-be authors can easily understand and employ. Highly recommended.
The Women Writers Handbook
Ann Sandham, editor
Aurora Metro Books
c/o Publishers Group West (dist.)
9781912430338, $19.99, PB, 224pp
Synopsis: Now in a newly revised edition of the publisher's inaugural publication of "The Women Writers Handbook" first published in 1990 (and which won the Pandora Award from Women-in-Publishing) features poems, stories, essays and interviews with over 30 women writers.
These women writers include both emerging authors and luminaries of contemporary literature such as: A.S. Byatt, Saskia Calliste, April De Angelis, Kit de Waal, Carol Ann Duffy, Sian Evans, Philippa Gregory, Mary Hamer, Jackie Kay, Shuchi Kothari, Bryony Lavery, Annee Lawrence, Roseanne Liang, Suchen Christine Lim, Jackie McCarrick, Laura Miles, Raman Mundair, Magda Oldziejewska, Kaite O'Reilly, Jacqueline Pepall, Gabi Reigh, Djamila Ribeiro, Fiona Rintoul, Jasvinder Sanghera, Anne Sebba, Kalista Sy, Debbie Taylor, Madeleine Thien, Claire Tomalin, Ida Vitale, Sarah Waters and the great-niece of Virginia Woolf -Emma Woolf.
Critique: Knowledgeably compiled and deftly edited, "The Women Writers Handbook" by Ann Sandham (Commissioning Edtor for Ladybird Children's Books at Penguin Random House) also features an informative Foreword by Cheryl Robson (the Aurora Metro Books publisher). Of special note is the inclusion of a instruction article on how to operate a writing workshop, a five page Resource Directory (compiled by Saskia Calliste), and a fun one-page Quiz.
Informative, thought-provoking, inspiring, "The Women Writers Handbook" is an extraordinary, unique, and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in both organization and presentation. Certain to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library Writing/Publishing collections in general, "The Women Writers Handbook" is unreservedly recommended for Women's Fiction, Literature, and Writing supplemental curriculum reading lists in particular.
Editorial Note: Together with the original writing workshops plus black and white illustrations, editor Ann Sandham has compiled this new edition of "The Women Writers Handbook" to celebrate Aurora Metro Publication's 30th anniversary as an independent publisher. 20% of profits from the sale of "The Women Writers Handbook" will to go to the Virginia Woolf statue campaign in the UK.
25 Great Sentences and How They Got That Way
W. W. Norton & Company
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110
9781324004851, $25.95, HC, 336pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: We all know the basic structure of a sentence: a subject/verb pair expressing a complete thought and ending with proper punctuation. But that classroom definition doesn't begin to describe the ways in which these elements can combine to resonate with us as we read, to make us stop and think, laugh or cry.
In "25 Great Sentences and How They Got That Way", master teacher Geraldine Woods unpacks powerful examples of what she instead prefers to define as "the smallest element differentiating one writer's style from another's, a literary universe in a grain of sand." And that universe is very large: the hundreds of memorable sentences gathered here come from sources as wide-ranging as Edith Wharton and Yogi Berra, Toni Morrison and Yoda, T. S. Eliot and Groucho Marx.
Culled from fiction, nonfiction, drama, poetry, song lyrics, speeches, and even ads, these exemplary sentences are celebrated for the distinctive features (whether of structure, diction, connection/comparison, sound, or extremes) that underlie their beauty, resonance, and creativity. With dry humor and an infectious enjoyment that makes her own sentences a pleasure to read, Woods shows us the craft that goes into the construction of a memorable sentence.
Each chapter finishes with an enticing array of exercises for those who want to test their skill at a particular one of the featured twenty-five techniques, such as onomatopoeia (in the Sound section) or parallelism (in the Structure section).
"25 Great Sentences and How They Got That Way" will be treasured by word nerds and language enthusiasts, writers who want to hone their craft, literature lovers, and readers of everything from song lyrics and speeches to novels and poetry.
Critique: An inherently fascinating read for anyone with an interest in the English language and storytelling, "25 Great Sentences and How They Got That Way" is very highly recommended, especially for community, college, and university library Grammar, Rhetoric, and Linguistics Reference collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of writers, linguists, students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "25 Great Sentences and How They Got That Way" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.64).
Editorial Note: Geraldine Woods has taught English at every level from fifth grade through Advanced Placement, most recently at the Horace Mann School. She is the author of numerous nonfiction books for adults and children..
You Should Be Writing
Brenda Knight, author
Nita Sweeney, author
9781642502558, $15.95, PB, 180pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: From famous all-time-great poets like T.S. Eliot to modern creatives like Roxane Gay, the selected writing quotes comprising "You Should Be Writing: A Journal of Inspiration & Instruction to Keep Your Pen Moving" aim to instruct and inspire novice and experienced writers alike to become a better writer.
Featuring a writing practice on every page. This is a DIY journal that will prove to be invaluable aspiring and practicing writers everywhere. With quotes from a diverse group of historical and modern authors to use as creative prompts on every page, writers will be able to bring their writing inspiration with them wherever they are.
Additionally, "You Should Be Writing" features plenty of great advice, such as Toni Morrison's encouragement, "As a writer, a failure is just information. It's something that I've done wrong in writing, or is inaccurate or unclear. I recognize failure - which is important; some people don't - and fix it."
Critique: A DIY consumable that makes it unadvisable for community and academic library Writing/Publishing collections, "You Should Be Writing: A Journal of Inspiration & Instruction to Keep Your Pen Moving" is ideal as a curriculum text for creative writing classes and is especially recommended for any writer struggling with writer's block. It should be noted that "You Should Be Writing: A Journal of Inspiration & Instruction to Keep Your Pen Moving" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $19.92).
Editorial Note: Brenda Knight began her career at HarperCollins, working with luminaries Paolo Coelho, Marianne Williamson, and Huston Smith. Knight was awarded IndieFab's Publisher of the Year in 2014 at the American Library Association. Knight is a successful poet, writer, and editor who also serves as President of the Women's National Book Association, San Francisco Chapter, and is an instructor at the annual San Francisco Writers Conference, Central Coast Writers Conference.
Nita Sweeney's articles, essays, and poems have appeared in Buddhist America, Dog World, Dog Fancy, Writer's Journal, Country Living, Pitkin Review, Spring Street, WNBA-SF blog, and in several newspapers and newsletters. She writes the blog, BumGlue and publishes the monthly email, Write Now Newsletter.
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Susan Rubin -- "The Road Not Taken"
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So until next time -- goodbye, good luck, and good reading!
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