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1. Authors Making a Name for Brands

Ron Barrett for the New York Times

Ron Barrett for the New York Times

“Cultivating Thought” is a series of captivating short pieces written by ten noted authors, from Nobel prize winner Toni Morrison to Malcolm Gladwell, printed on Chipolte cups and bags and meant to be read in two minutes. They were the brainchild of Everything is Illuminated writer Jonathan Safran Foer.

In the New York Times, Teddy Wayne looks at “the branding of literature,” companies turning to “literary luminaries to form a collective ‘spokescribe’” as the perfect pitchmen. It can work well for the writers, too. According to Wayne, Moneyball author Michael Lewis told Conan O’Brien on “Conan,” “It pays very well to write a Chipolte cup.”

Neil Blumenthal, co-founder and co-CEO of eyewear company Warby Parker–two names picked from Jack Kerouac’s unpublished journals–told the Times, “We wanted to build a brand that stood for fun, creativity and doing good in the world, and we thought writers best represented that.”

It’s not a match made in corporate heaven for all authors. “Not everyone is willing to be the face (or prose) of a brand,” writes Wayne. Elliott Holt saw her first novel You are One of Them pubbed last year. When a company sought her out to endorse an e-cig (vape, anyone?), she declined.

“‘I felt like being the face of some product would somehow cheapen me as a writer,’ she said, also expressing her reservations about the merchandise’s potential health risks. The offer of $30,000 still gnaws at her, though.”

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2. NaNoWriMo Tip #16: Write What You Don’t Know

Do you want to take your NaNoWriMo story in an unfamiliar direction? Back in 2013, Toni Morrison and Junot Díaz headlined a “Live From the NYPL” event.

The video embedded above features the entire conversation. During the discussion, Morrison shared this thought:

“I tell my students; I tell everybody this. When I begin a creative writing class I say, I know you’ve heard all your life, ‘Write what you know.’ Well I am here to tell you, You don’t know nothing. So do not write what you know. Think up something else. Write about a young Mexican woman working in a restaurant and can’t speak English. Or write about a famous mistress in Paris who’s down on her luck.”

This is our sixteenth NaNoWriMo Tip of the Day. To help GalleyCat readers take on the challenge of writing a draft for a 50,000-word novel in 30 days, we will be offering advice throughout the entire month.

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3. John Green Talks About ‘Why We Need Diverse Books’

The Fault in Our Stars author John Green has become an advocate for the “We Need Diverse Books” organization. In the video embedded above, John Green talks about why he feels that diversity children’s and young adult stories are necessary.

Green credits two books written by African-American authors, Zora Neal Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, for influencing him to appreciate literature. What do you think?

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4. Comics Take Center Stage For This Year’s Banned Books Week Celebration

banned-comicsThe American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression will celebrate Banned Books Week from September 21st to September 27th.

The organization plans to shine a spotlight on graphic novels and comics. Judith Platt, chair of the Banned Books Week National Committee, had this statement in a press release: “This year we spotlight graphic novels because, despite their serious literary merit and popularity as a genre, they are often subject to censorship.”

The American Library Association recently revealed the top ten list of most frequently challenged books for this year. Jeff Smith’s comic series, Bone, occupies the #10 spot. Earlier this year, Smith designed the cover for Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s Banned Books Week Handbook. Follow this link to access a free digital copy. Check out the entire list after the jump.


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5. Fast Food Gets Literary: Jonathan Safran Foer Curates Writing For Chipotle Packaging

You might think that eating at Chipotle Mexican Grill is a little bit low brow. But they want to change that. The fast food chain is now featuring original essays written by influential writers on its restaurant packaging. The author series is called “Cultivating Thought.” Jonathan Safran Foer curated the list of contributors. Participating writers will include:  Judd ApatowSheri FinkMalcolm GladwellBill HaderMichael LewisToni MorrisonSteve PinkerGeorge Saunders and Sarah Silverman. The pieces are all meant to be read in two minutes. The idea is to entertain people while they are scarfing down a burrito. Here is an excerpt from Malcolm Gladwell's Two-Minute Barn-Raising: I grew up in Canada, in an area of Ontario where there is a large community of Old-Order Mennonites. “Old Orders,” as they are known, are a religious group who live as if the 20th century never happened. They avoid electricity, drive horses and buggies, leave school at 16, and bail hay by hand. They dress in plain black and white, with straw hats over clean-shaven faces, and when a neighbor’s barn burns down, they gather as a community to put it back up. When I was little, not long after we moved to Ontario, my father heard about a barn-raising down the road. He decided to join in.

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6. Dav Pilkey, Toni Morrison & Sherman Alexie Lead ALA’s Frequently Challenged Books List

captainunderpantsCaptain Underpants by Dav Pilkey, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie led the  most challenged books of the year list this year.

This is according to the Top Ten List of Frequently Challenged Books, compiled annually by the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF). The list explores books that have received the most complaints. Check it out:

The OIF collects reports on book challenges from librarians, teachers, concerned individuals and press reports. A challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint filed with a library or school requesting that a book or other material be restricted or removed because of its content or appropriateness. In 2013, the OIF received hundreds of reports on attempts to remove or restrict materials from school curricula and library bookshelves.

We’ve got the whole list after the jump. continued…

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7. My Writing and Reading Life:Patricia Hruby Powell

Patricia Hruby Powell danced throughout the Americas and Europe with her dance company, One Plus One, before becoming a writer of children's books. She is the author of Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker, an extraordinary portrait of the passionate performer and civil rights advocate Josephine Baker written in exuberant verse. She lives in Champaign, Illinois. You can visit her online at talesforallages.com.

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8. Happy Bookday!!!

Today is the official release date of PLEASE, LOUISE. I have been buzzing with excitement all month and am thrilled that many of you have joined in spreading the word about the new book. To help welcome Louise into the world today, check out this fun birthday video! Congratulations to the contest winners. Thanks to everyone so much for sharing your stories and love of books, there were so many worthy winners. I hope that the book will inspire that same love for other young readers!


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9. Sample the Most Frequently Challenged Books of the Year


It is Banned Books Week from September 22 until 28, and readers around the country are celebrating their favorite challenged books. You can also recognize Banned Books Week Heroes, join the Twitter Party or participate in the Virtual Read-Out.

Below, we’ve linked to free samples of all the books on the American Library Association (ALA)’s annual list of the most frequently challenged library books–follow the links below to read these controversial books yourself.

Follow this link for a list of “all the books challenged, restricted, removed, or banned in 2012 and 2013.”


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10. Toni Morrison to Headline Google+ Hangout & Digital Book Signing

Novelist Toni Morrison will headline a Google+ Hangout and a digital book signing.

Morrison will join the hangout from Google New York offices on Wednesday, February 27th starting at 3:00 p.m. EST.  You can watch this event online via the Google+ page, Morrison’s Google+ page or the Google Play YouTube channel.

Here’s more about the event: “Using a Wacom tablet, Morrison will sign digital versions of her newest national bestseller, Home, published by the Knopf Doubleday Group, and will be signing the Vintage Books paperback edition of Home for Google employees. The live Hangout celebrates the paperback release of Home, as well as the culmination of Black History Month events sponsored by the Black Googler Network.” (Image Via)

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11. LOVE Banning Books

Two more books are being challenged by parents of Howell Public High School students. In this entry and this entry, there is information about The Freedom Writers Diary which faced a challenge from parents and a community group called "LOVE" (Livingston Organization for Values in Education) because of profanity. Today the Daily Press and Argus reports that Black Boy by Richard Wright and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison which are both taught in Grade 11 may be removed from the curriculum because of graphic sexual content and profanity. A decision as to whether they would left in the classroom was delayed because the school board did not have the necessary number of votes to either approve or table the curriculum. The two books have been on the curriculum for years but a change from semesters to year-long classes opened the opportunity for debate on the books being used.

The newspaper reports that the majority of the speakers were in favor of allowing the continued use of the books and that they were loudly applauded by the crowd of about 150 people. The curriculum was approved by a group of teachers from the particular school, a district-wide subject-specific content committee, a district-wide curriculum and assessment committee, among others, before being presented to the school board.

The curriculum was approved by the school board with voting on the books themselves to be voted on at the February meeting.

The The Merriam-Webster Encylopedia of Literature describes Black Boy as follows:

Autobiography by Richard Wright, published in 1945 and considered to be one of his finest works. The book is sometimes considered a fictionalized autobiography or an autobiographical novel because of its use of novelistic techniques. Black Boy describes vividly Wright's often harsh, hardscrabble boyhood and youth in rural Mississippi and in Memphis, Tenn. When the work was first published, many white critics viewed Black Boy primarily as an attack on racist Southern white society. From the 1960s the work came to be understood as the story of Wright's coming of age and development as a writer whose race, though a primary component of his life, was but one of many that formed him as an artist.

Random House describes the book as follows:
The Bluest Eye, published in 1970, is the first novel written by Toni Morrison, winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature.

It is the story of eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove--a black girl in an America whose love for its blond, blue-eyed children can devastate all others--who prays for her eyes to turn blue: so that she will be beautiful, so that people will look at her, so that her world will be different. This is the story of the nightmare at the heart of her yearning and the tragedy of its fulfillment.

February 5, 2007
"Communications Guru," editor of Conservative Media weighs in on challenges in Howell, MI, his community.The Conservative Media: School district appears to be caving to book burners

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12. Offensive and Dangerous Words

Take the Banned Book Challenge!

Freedom to Read Poster 1988

The NY Times reports that a Newbery-award winning book is facing widespread banning from school libraries because of one word.

Speaking of Newberys, Bridge to Terabithia opened this weekend. Read an interview about censorship with author Katherine Paterson.

The Daily Press & Argus reports that the Howell Board of Education voted 5-2 to allow teachers to assign The Freedom Writers Diary, Black Boy, and The Bluest Eye to advanced English classes. School Board member Wendy Day who voted for the ban states she has filed a form to ask for an official review of the Morrison book.

Update: The Conservative Media Blog reports that banners are still "howelling" in Howell, MI. The Daily Press and Argus reports that some parents are taking the battle to the courts, claiming that books on the curriculum break pornography laws. Stay tuned. It isn't over yet.

Librarian Kathryn Greenhill, the Australian blogger of Librarians Matter mulls over the pros and cons of having a book in a university library that tells one how to kill oneself.

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13. How Blogged Close Reading Can Save Your Writing

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (Sf Masterworks)Imagine a book club full of Dick-heads all studying the same book.

That's right. A longtime fan of science fiction genius Philip K. Dick will be live-blogging his reading experience this summer. David Gill (founder of both the blog and the pun, Total Dick Head) will be revisiting Dick's dense novel, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch.

His post inspired me to dig out my own copy and re-read this trippy masterpiece. Check it out:

"Scene by scene, chapter by chapter, I'll be analyzing the action, looking for common PKD themes and connections to other works, enjoying the new notes on the novel prepared by Jonathan Lethem for the Library of America release, and exploring scholarly work done on the novel."

Yesterday Kimberlee Morrison suggested we all pick up the "cerebral and intricate" novel Paradise. That book has already spawned plenty of book club analysis, but could merit a blogged reading as well.

Close reading such "intricate" books will make you a stronger writer and help you find your reading community as well. What other books could use this kind of close reading among blogging fans?


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14. A Mercy (Toni Morrison)

I walked toward and finally into Toni Morrison's A Mercy. My feet a little uncertain on the slippery path, one voice of the many not ringing entirely right to my ear—at first. It's 1680 and a hazy, betraying time. It's a trader named Jacob, his wife Rebekka, their servant Lina, a promiscuous child named Sorrow, a traded-to-cancel-a-debt girl named Florens, and a blacksmith, an African, who walks about Jacob's homestread free. It's a time of religious radicalism and flesh trade and small pox—a time when to own more is to seemingly store up legacy, and when to love hard is to fall.

A choral story—not limpid but liquid, where brutality bathes in prose that is sometimes so gorgeous that one cannot reckon the act with the words used to describe it. It's necessary to read Morrison, or at least the best of her. It is important to go back to slave trade, to the jungle overhang and to the panting bears of a not-yet-settled country.

From the end—like a prayer, like the rising final words of a sermon, like a truth that will not be suffused:

... to be given dominion over another is a hard thing; to wrest dominion over another is a wrong thing; to give dominion of yourself to another is a wicked thing.

2 Comments on A Mercy (Toni Morrison), last added: 1/4/2009
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15. Toni Morrison Burn This Book

Toni Morrison's books have been challenged on a consistent basis. Hear what she has to say about censorship. According to an Associated Press article by Hillel Italie,

Morrison, 78, has long experience with censorship. Her novels "Beloved," "Song of Solomon" and "The Bluest Eye" have frequently been threatened with removal from library shelves — and sometimes pulled — because of sexual, racial or violent content.
Burn This Book is a collection of essays on censorship, edited by Toni Morrison and published in May 2009. Read a review at "Travels of a Bookworm" and check out the links, including one to an excerpt of Burn This Book.

Join us in reading banned and challenged books. The Banned Book Challenge continues until June 30. Set your own goal.

2 Comments on Toni Morrison Burn This Book, last added: 6/20/2009
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16. Oprah Winfrey’s Double Dickens Book Club Pick

Oprah Winfrey picked a classic double header for her latest book club selection, choosing Charles DickensGreat Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities.

During her announcement, Winfrey noted: “I’m going old, old school … Normally I only choose books that I have read, but I must shamefully admit to you all that I have never read Dickens.”

Winfrey will use Penguin’s new $20 paperback containing both books and nearly 800 pages. Amazon noted yesterday they have free Kindle editions of both titles. Penguin offers a $7.99 digital edition that includes illustrations, author background, and historical information.


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17. On creating the feeling you want the reader to feel

“Do you think writers have to feel what they want the reader to feel when they’re writing?” I asked my friend Alex Chee in email this weekend, after reading a new story of his that powerfully evokes the kind of moony, depressive, sickeningly self-reflective state I’ve been in. “Because the end of this novel is completely kicking my ass. I hate what I’m learning about myself as I write it, but the dissociated part of me is fascinated that I’m learning so much about myself by writing something that is not literally about me at all.”

He replied:

I think we do. In true first person, definitely. God knows it was why writing Edinburgh was hell. When someone asked me if I wanted to work on a screenplay for it I thought ‘Not for anything in the world.’ But also, for writers, there’s a book that makes you as you make it. And in the writing of it, you learn to master both yourself and the book in a way you never have to again.

What comes to mind is advice Annie Dillard gave us, to think of yourself as going down in an old-fashioned diving bell [see above], a thread of air connecting you back to yourself. And when you must, to return to the surface. To treat an engagement with that work like deep sea diving. She meant for essays, memoir, but I found it applies to first person autobiographical fiction, too.

I guess one reason Alex and I are so fascinated by Jean Rhys is that she struggled with the same problems. But see Toni Morrison’s stern warning about writing from anything but the cold, cold brain.

Debate and discussion — but not attacks — are welcome in the comments below.

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18. Quote of the Week

"If there's a book you really want to read but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it."
~ Toni Morrison

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19. The Best Bunch of Writing Quotes

"Writing comes more quickly if youhave something to say." ~Sholem Asch

"Men may move mountains, but ideasmove men." ~Lois McMaster Bujold

"Ink on paper is as beautiful to meflowers on mountains; God composes, whyshouldn’t we?" ~Audra Foveo-Alba

"There is more pleasure in buildingcastles in the air then on the ground."~Edward Gibbon

"There is nothing in a caterpillarthat tells you it’s going to be a butterfly." ~Buckminister Fuller
“You need chaos in your soul to givebirth to a dancing star.”~Nietzsche

“Author sho never give you somethingto disagree with never give you anything to thinkabout.”~Michael LaRocca

“If my doctor told me that I had sixmonths to live, I wouldn’t brood, I’d type faster.”~Isaac Asimov
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20. Ypulse Essentials: Classroom Technology Could Be Better, ‘Hunger Games’ Guys’ Roles, Nick Announces eBooks

The cast of ‘Jersey Shore’ (is banding together to demand more money for their fourth season, set to start filming in just a few weeks in Italy. Among the contested points in their contracts: limited personal appearances. Snooki has been... Read the rest of this post

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21. Occupy Wall Street Library Catalog Online

As the Occupy Wall Street protest continues, the activists camped out in New York City have built an impressive library. Thanks to Library Thing, you can now explore the library online and watch it grow.

Currently, the makeshift library counts 390 books. Follow this link to find out how you can donate. We’ve listed ten books from the library below, illustrating the scope of the collection. The Occupy Wall Street librarians also hope to schedule more author visits.

Here’s more from the library blog: Rather than having scheduled mega-events with activist authors coming to pep talk the whole occupation, I would prefer smaller, impromptu groups and a books-oriented approach to fit with our little niche mission. My idea is to ask authors to come talk about the “books that have inspired you” and then whatever else they want. We can post announcements in advance on a dry erase board and/or make an announcement when someone arrives. Then, whoever happens to be around can come check it out. If it’s only a few people, I see no problem with that. Whatever stimulates conversations, and huge groups don’t allow it so much. I feel this is a good role for our library.


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22. Bob Dylan and Toni Morrison to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

Bob Dylan and Toni Morrison will be among the 13 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor bestowed by the United States, alongside other notables as Madeleine Albright, John Glenn and John Paul Stevens.

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23. Bob Dylan and Toni Morrison to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

Bob Dylan and Toni Morrison will be among the 13 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor bestowed by the United States, alongside other notables as Madeleine Albright, John Glenn and John Paul Stevens.

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24. Oberon Books Publishes Toni Morrison and Rokia Traoré’s Desdemona

UK publisher Oberon Books has published Desdomona. This play, a re-imagining of William Shakespeare’s Othello, features writing by Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison, lyrics by Malian musician Rokia Traoré and a foreword by theater director Peter Sellers.

Here’s more from the release: “Desdemona is an extraordinary narrative of words, music and song about Shakespeare’s doomed heroine, who speaks from the grave about the traumas of race, class, gender, war — and the transformative power of love. Toni Morrison transports one of the most iconic, central and disturbing treatments of race in Western culture into the new realities and potential outcomes facing a rising generation of the 21st century.”

The story focuses on the relationship shared between Othello’s wife and her African nurse Barbary. Morrison became inspired to write the play as a response to Sellars’ 2009 production of OthelloDesdemona first debuted in May 2011 at Vienna’s Theatre Azkent. Productions have ran in Belgium, the United States and Germany. In July 2012, Sellers directed the play at London’s Barbican Concert Hall.

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25. Oprah Winfrey Picks The Twelve Tribes of Hattie as Her Book Club 2.0 Selection

Oprah Winfrey revealed her second Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 selection, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis. Published by Knopf, the book “tells the story of the children of the Great Migration through the trials of one indomitable heroine.”

Winfrey explained her choice: “The opening pages of Ayana’s debut took my breath away … I can’t remember when I read anything that moved me in quite this way, besides the work of Toni Morrison.”

Winfrey will release an Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 edition of the book. She will interview Mathis on Sunday, February 3 at 11 a.m. ET/PT on OWN’s “Super Soul Sunday,” but the episode will air on Oprah.com and OWN’s Facebook page and on Oprah Radio’s “Oprah’s Soul Series” on Sirius radio.

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