YOU MUST BE KIDDING: I did a double-take when I saw the submission fee charged by the Virginia Kirkus Literary Award: $150. First I thought it was a typo but checked two pages on the contest’s web site and there it was again: $150. Kirkus Reviews launched the annual award “to discover the best unpublished first novel or story collection.” Apparently it also launched it to discover new ways to rake in the dough for parent company VNU Media. Granted, Kirkus Reviews is a good publication and provides a real service for writers, publishers, and booksellers. But this big company can’t charge a reasonable fee to read manuscripts for its contest? I have heard of reading or submission fees up to $25. When I submit my stuff to contests, I usually draw the line at anything more than $15. What about you? The press release advised writers to “send all questions and comments" to them. I believe I will. In the interest of fair play, I have to say that the Wyoming Arts Council charges no reading fee for its two annual writing competitions. State and federal government funding offsets the cost for judges, printing costs, etc. I administer the contests and my salary is paid through our general budget. In this way, we have an advantage over a for-profit company such as Kirkus. While reading fees by little magazines and small presses have risen, you can still send your prose to places such as the New Millennium Writing Awards for $17 per story and take a chance on the publication's $1,000 first prize in fiction. Deadline is Nov. 17.
"CALENDAR GIRLS,” BIG TIMBER VERSION: Gwen Petersen, cowboy poet and long-time attendee at Wyoming Writers, Inc., conferences, has come up with a unique way to get attention and raise funds for a new arts center in Big Timber,
FOR WRITERS WHO COMPLAIN ABOUT HOW DIFFICULT IT IS TO FIND A PUBLISHER: This great quote comes from a
Mystery writer James Sallis will conduct a master class, “Telling Good Lies: Where Fiction Comes From,” on Saturday, Oct. 1, 9 a.m.-noon, at the Casper College Literary Conference, Casper. Fee is $25 for students, $40 for non-students. From 1:30-3:30 p.m., Sallis will join WAC fiction fellowship winners Geneen Marie Haugen, Alyson Hagy, and John English for a free reading. Reception will follow. FMI: 1-800-442-2963, ext. 2639. Here's a timely excerpt from Sallis's Eye of the Cricket spoken by New Orleans private eye Lew Griffin: “The storm came in over the lake, bowing the shaggy heads of young trees and snapping branches off the old, blowing out of Metairie where the white folks live. In my own back yard a hundred-year-old water oak at last gave in, splitting in half as though a broadsword had struck it, opening like a book.”
WHO WINS THE GRADUATION BOWL?: During my recuperation from knee surgery, I read a lot and, when brain fatigue seeped in, switched on the TV and cycled through 500-plus channels. I was all set to watch the Florida-Wyoming football game on Sept. 3. I figured one of my many pay channels would carry the game (for a price). But I was wrong, so switched to football on radio. As I listened, I wondered how it came to pass that I have connections to both
SEPARATING THE WHEAT FROM THE CHAFF: We know that chain bookstores such as Barnes & Noble and Borders have spent the past decade trying to take over the world. They haven't succeeded -- Wal-Mart beat them to it. But the main criticism I have about chain stores is that their staffers don’t know books. A gross generalization, to be sure, but that’s been my experience. That’s why it’s so refreshing to see a book person like Jason Cooper making some changes at the B&N in Cheyenne, thus far the only one of its kind in the state. The UW grad and teacher at the annual Young Writers Camp held in Story, Jason sent this communiqué from the book-selling front: “I thought it might interest you to know that I -- as the head of the bargain department at Barnes & Noble -- have set up a new table in the store that sets the literary titles in bargain fiction apart from the pop titles. When you walk into the store & down the main center aisle, turn left into the second center aisle (the one that leads down toward the restrooms) & you'll see a table with a sign on it that reads LITERATURE AT BARGAIN PRICES. On that table (which shall be, I believe, a permanent fixture, with titles rotating on & off it as new books come in), at the moment, are books by Zadie Smith (Booker Prize-nominee), AS Byatt (Booker Prize-winner), Peter Carey (two-time Booker Prize-winner), LP Hartley, Douglas Coupland, Rose Tremain (Booker Prize-nominee)….as well books about books, books about the act of reading, biographical works on Ted Hughes & the Beats, etc. And all of them bargain-priced. In the near future, there may (if we get our way in the ordering process) be titles from Virginia Woolf, Andrea Barrett, Monica Ali, Mark Spragg, Annie Proulx, Graham Greene, Kent Haruf, a bio of Ralph Ellison & lots of others....Let your literary friends know, as well, that there's now a bargain table fixture in our local Barnes & Noble with the finest in world literature.” The store is located at 1851 Dell Range Blvd. in Cheyenne, sandwiched between Red Lobster and the new sushi place. Call 307-632-3000.
Wyoming authors will disperse to neighboring states this week for book festivals and other events. Here are some highlights:
Saratoga author Lori Van Pelt will be signing copies of her new book, Pecker's Revenge and Other Stories from the Frontier's Edge (University of New Mexico Press), on Thursday, Sept. 22, 6-8 p.m., at Copperfield Books in Scottsbluff, Nebraska.
Richard Maturi of Laramie County is a featured author at the South Dakota Festival of the Book in Deadwood, S.D., Sept. 23-25. Maturi will speak about his book, Triple Crown Winner: The Earl Sande Saga. Sande was born in Groton, S.D., and was the jockey who won the Triple Crown in 1930 on Gallant Fox.
Publisher and rancher Nancy Curtis of Glendo will feature books by High Plains Press at the Mountains and Plains Booksellers fall trade show at the Marriott Denver Tech Center, 4900 S. Syracuse in Denver Sept. 22-25. New books by HPP include Beasts in Snow by poet Jane Wohl of Sheridan and The Last Eleven Days of Earl Durand by Jerred Metz.
A Montana Book Festival panel entitled “Tough Guys,” featuring mystery writers James Crumley, James Lee Burke, Neil McMahon, Craig Johnson of Ucross, and Cheyenne’s C.J. Box, will be held 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 24, at the Holiday Inn Parkside in Missoula.
“NUNS’ SIGHS” ON THE MENU IN
I read books but don't review them. For that, you have to turn to the many litblogs that do (see Web del Sol's "House of Blogs"). I recently read Sky Bridge by Laura Pritchett. She is part of the burgeoning field of fiction writers who lovingly yet realistically delve into the lives of High Plains people. Many are natives. Colorado's Kent Haruf and Wyoming's Mark Spragg leap to mind. Others are like Wyoming writer/editor Gaydell Collier who were raised in other places "but got here as soon as I could." Kent Nelson (Colo.) comes to mind, as well as South Dakota's Kent Meyers (what's with the "Kent" trend?). Laura Pritchett grew up on a small cattle ranch in northern Colorado. His book of short stories from Milkweed Editions, Hell's Bottom, Colorado, earned her the 2002 PEN USA Award for Fiction. To experience Pritchett's work first-hand, attend her writing workshop at the Cheyenne YMCA Writer’s Voice on Thursday, Sept. 15, 7 p.m. Cost is the same as for other Y events: $15 for members, $20 for non-members. Pritchett will sign copies of her books at 2 p.m. that day at City News, 1722 Carey Ave., Cheyenne. You can sign up in advance by calling Chris Shay, 307-634-9622. Yes, Chris and I are related by marriage and are members of the Clan of Committed Readers.
This is the third and final part of a report on book festivals prepared by
summer intern Lindsey Grubbs. This segment provides an overview of staffing concerns (who does the work?) and the dicey issue of pay for writers. For previous installments, see posts of Aug. 30 and Sept. 9. If you would like a copy of the full report, e-mail me and I’ll send you one. WAC
Most book festivals begin by organizing the substantial workload among existing paid staff of its planning committee. This is particularly true of those run by state humanities councils. In almost every case, this proves to be too much for one or several staff members, who also have other responsibilities. A few festivals have tried to get the event up and running with just one part-time person. You can imagine how difficult that is.
In almost all of the festivals studied, a director was contracted who could devote most of his/her time to the book festival. For many of these festivals, the paid staff member was responsible for general organization. Many of them delegated tasks to volunteers, which were often organized into volunteer councils, each with different areas of concentration.
None of the festivals contacted said that they paid large honoraria to the authors that came to the festival. Many utilized local talent, enlisting authors who live within a reasonable driving distance. This reduced travel fees, lodging costs, etc. Some festivals have the policy that they never pay the authors. However, they may encourage other people or organizations in their regions to contact authors that they would like to see, and do not discourage separate organization or groups from paying an author to appear.
Some festivals do pay the authors. The organizer of the
Great Salt Lake Festival said that this was the hardest part of the event because payment is determined on a case-by-case basis. Some of the authors received no payment, while some had only room and board covered, and still others had additional payment on top of this. The GSLBC organizer also said that she tries to find authors already on tour. When this happens, their publishing company will usually pay expenses.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Part II of a report on book festivals prepared by
WAC intern Lindsey Grubbs. This segment looks at the organization and budgets of select festivals (see list in Aug. 30 post). If you would like a copy of the full report, e-mail me and I’ll send you one.
Who sponsors and organizes book festivals? The vast majority of the festivals are sponsored by state or government arts/humanities organizations, such as arts councils, humanities councils, and Centers for the Book. Additionally, many of the festivals are sponsored by a grouping of these organizations, all working together.
The budgets of festivals come from a variety of sources. The larger festivals tend to have a lot of corporate sponsors. They also get support from the media, whether radio stations, TV stations, or newspapers. In almost every case, media sponsorships for festivals consist not of a monetary exchange, but simply of free advertising for the festival. This could range from a small newspaper ad or radio promo, to a large newspaper section, such as the one that The Missoulian sponsors for the Montana Book Festival in
Smaller festivals also used this “in-kind” support from media organizations, but typically had less corporate funding. As a general rule, the amount of funds raised from local businesses depends heavily on the amount of effort that is put into contacting them. This is very labor-intensive, and used effectively only by the larger festivals. It does not seem to be a constructive use of time for others, especially those that receive most of their money from state arts councils, humanities councils, and Centers for the Book.
Next week’s wyolitmail will feature the final segment of the condensed report. It discusses festival staff and payment of the writers.