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transgriot August 22 2014, 19:35

Read Your AP Stylebook, JIm Kiertzner And WXYZ-TV


When I took a trip up to Boston recently for the National Association of Black Journalists convention to discuss the coverage of Black transwomen, one of the things I implored them to do was make sure they got it right the first time because  white run media consistently screws up when it coves to covering us.

And right on cue, thanks to Can We Talk 4 Real  podcast host 'Michelle Brown bringing it to my attention, here's another example of messed up media coverage courtesy of WXYZ-TV and reporter Jim Kiertzner..

In the process of reporting a on string of attacks on trans women in Detroit's Palmer Park, one fatal, Kiertzner got it horribly wrong.

Let me do you job for you and write the story properly before I put you on blast for failing to read your AP Stylebook.

(WXYZ) - Detroit Police say they are investigating three hate crimes that may be related.
All three targets were transgender men women. One was killed in Palmer Park last Friday.  In that case, the killer drove off, crashed into another car and ran away on foot, but a gun was left behind.

Another shooting on Sunday and another last week were not fatal, but the victims were also transgender men women. Police are not releasing any identities of the victims.  No one is in custody but police say they have a person of interest.

Palmer Park is located along Woodward Avenue between 6 and 7 Mile.    The area east to John R and up to 8 Mile is also a well known Detroit "red light" district.  Many in the LGBT community live here and some work the streets for sex.
For now, in this area, a killer is on the loose.

2013 coverNow, let's get to discussing the problematic August 20 video report.    Jim, a male to female transperson is a transgender woman, NOT a 'transgender man'.   You also use FEMININE pronouns when referring to that person.

And using 'lifestyle' in the context of a report on a transgender person is problematic and offensive.

But you would have known that Jim had you referred to the AP Stylebook, The National Gay And Lesbian Journalism Assn (NGLJA) guide or GLAAD's guides

The way this story was reported was not only confusing to those of us in the trans community and our allies, but has raised questions of just how committed you and you station are to respecting the humanity of transpeople and reporting accurately on our lives.
desiretoinspire August 22 2014, 14:43

Tolix chairs


Hus & Hem

Tolix chairs have been a favourite style of mine for ages. As you all know I am a huge lover of all things industrial, and this is the quintessential industrial chair. It was designed by Xavier Pauchard (1880-1948) who was a pioneer of galvanisation in France, and he registred the trademark TOLIX in 1927. His Marais A Chair became a standard of café seating in France. It is such a versatile chair - and such easy upkeep. And throw a faux sheepskin on it and WOWZERS! So here you are, a tribute to the Tolix chair. (P.S. I'm starting to think this would be a fabulous option for my dining room....)


Nuevo Estilo

Joe Schmelzer

Sköna hem


Sköna hem

Sköna hem

patrik hagborg

Mattson Creative

Hus & Hem

Mestre Paco


The Design Files

Emily Henson

Heart Home magazine

writerunboxed August 22 2014, 12:18

There is No Horse & Cart. On Finding Success as a Writer.



Before we get to today’s post, I wanted to make you aware of an offer by a group called Writer Mamas. These women are trying to raise funds so that several WU community members can attend the Writer Unboxed Un-Conference in November. To that end, they’re selling $200 worth of writing books and guides for half cost. Click here to learn more about the offerings.

“That’s putting the cart before the horse, isn’t it?”

This is probably the metaphor I like the least, yet hear most often. In what context do I hear it? Things such as:

  • Developing an audience before you write a book is like putting the cart before the horse.
  • Starting a newsletter list before you have a dedicated audience is like putting the cart before the horse.
  • Thinking about long-term goals before you know who you are as a writer is like putting the cart before the horse.
  • Spending a single minute on social media before you write 1,000 words each day is like putting the cart before the horse.

Why do I dislike this phrase? Because it simplifies to a romantic narrative of how to succeed as a writer. It nearly always whittles it down to:

Romantic thing about writing vs creepy horrible spammy businessy thing.

It’s easy to feel wise and pure by saying things like that. I mean, I would love to say:

“Filing a joint tax return before hugging my wife is like putting the cart before the horse.”


“Waking up early to change the cat’s litter box before writing a poem about my son is like putting the cart before the horse.”

For the context of a writer, when we talk about success as a PROFESSIONAL – things are often more complicated than simple romantic contrasts. You have to do a wide range of tasks concurrently; you are unsure of what works; the world you WANT to live in (where cupcakes have no calories and where a book naturally finds its way into readers hands), differs from the world we DO live in (where it may actually take effort to help get a book into the hands of the right reader. Don’t even get me started on cupcakes…)

Now, before I go further, I want to be clear about two things:

  1. Yes, developing your craft as a writer is indeed THE primary thing you have to work on. I wrote about this just last week.
  2. If you have ever used the term “cart before the horse,” I am NOT making fun of you, I am not saying you are wrong, I am not trying to pick a “side,” I am not judging you. I totally get (and appreciate) that people often use this phrase when they see others veering off track and losing perspective. The phrase is meant to get people to focus on what matters.

But I worry that these simplistic phrases and encouragements: “don’t put the cart before the horse” mask the reality of how complex success really is:

  • Success is rarely a linear plan with clear steps that are taken in order.
  • Success is often more nuanced.
  • Success is often confusing, even after the fact.
  • Success is usually overwhelming.
  • Success is filled with WAY more luck than we would like to believe or admit.
  • Success usually requires a wide range of partnerships, some formal, some informal.
  • You can do everything right, but if the timing is off by 1/2 a degree, success can be elusive.

There is clearly one phrase that authors hear more often than others:

“Write the best book possible.”

There are lots of variations on this – often having to do with focusing on the craft of writing before anything else. That if you have to default to a single task: improving your writing is it.

Of course, 100% agree. Go do that.

But… is that enough? Is it enough to “merely” write the best book you can? Will that lead to “success”? Well, that depends on how you define success, right? Lot’s of possible measures on that one, including my least favorite: “to be a published author.” That one relies on the creation of a physical object as the goal, instead of the affect their writing has on someone’s life. Lots of folks have become “published authors” only to have their books sit in boxes, never read.

For some, success as a writer could include: validation, mastering a craft, inspiring others, notoriety, giving someone hope, money, solving someone’s problems, receiving awards, recognition by the cool kids, crafting an identity unique from one’s family and day job, their own ability to explore who they are and what the world is, and so so so much more.

Julie Fierro just shared an article on her “comeback” as a writer:

“My novel had been rejected by what seemed like every editor in the city… I plummeted. I avoided writers and literary events. I avoided bookstores. I stopped writing. I cut ties with my former Iowa classmates, many of whom were being published right out of the gate. I steered clear of anyone who had known me as Julia, the “writer.” The rejection, plus the stress of moving to New York, plus the Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder I’d struggled with since childhood, pushed me into a cycle of episodes, both depressed and obsessive, that would make it difficult for me to leave the house, socialize, write, and even read for years.”

Her “comeback” was realized by founding Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop, helping 2,400 writers, and now more than ten years later, publishing her first novel. She describes it this way:

“All those years of teaching and running Sackett Street were motivated in part by my own needs—for community, inspiration, and a kind of literary companionship that sheltered me until I was ready to return to the vulnerable hard work that is the writing life.”

I am a huge music fan, and want to use three examples of musicians who have touched upon this topic of success and how it is rarely a linear process with clear milestones.

One of my all-time favorite bands is Blur. Awhile back I heard an interview with their bassist Alex James, as he reflected on their success, surprised at how much work it took to get known, and then once they were famous, how much work it took just to stay on top. He spoke of the constant interviews, radio spots, gigs, and appearances. They had to struggle in the beginning, and to his surprise, he felt that it never got much easier. It was always WAY more effort than he would have expected for the simplest step forward.

Lady Gaga shares this perspective as the voice of the professional who is pushing themselves not just creatively: “We’re supposed to be tired. I don’t know who told everyone otherwise, but you make a record and you tour. That’s how you build a career.”

So much of the horse and cart analogy doesn’t work for me because you can’t predict serendipity and luck. That you can prepare, but you can’t plan. This is why Henry Rollins couldn’t have predicted the turn his life would take, he had to be prepared to recognize and opportunity and jump on it in the split second it became available:

“I said yes to everything. I worked like a crazy man because I realizing guys like me fail most of the time. I was around a lot of great bands, and rarely did they get over the wall. People much more talented than I’ll every be. I don’t have talent, I have tenacity, I have discipline, I have focus, and I know without any illusion, where I come from, and what I can go back to… It is a story of a lot of luck, but taking advantage of opportunity, working really damn hard, knowing there was no choice for me, but to work really hard.”

I worry that the cart & horse analogy is exactly the type of social contract that has long since broken, if it ever existed at all. That you do well in grade school and high school to get into a good college to get a good internship to get a good job which leads to a good promotion which leads to a good salary which leads to a nice house which leads to retirement savings which leads to…

…this concept that there is a basic, safe, linear order to things that leads to “success.”

Instead, what I have found from my friends and colleagues: life is complex; trusting relationships are the core of everything; great work is highly respected, but not always rewarded; persistence is key; luck is necessary, but unpredictable; ‘best practices’ are often illusions sold to you so that others can feel like gurus.

Scott Berkun puts this nicely when we consider actions based on the odds of them working:

“They say most businesses fail in the two years. That most books don’t sell many copies. Why is this surprising? The interesting things in life are hard. Do you want an interesting life? Then you have to accept different odds.”

(thanks to Ami Greko for finding this post!)

Analogies such as ‘the horse and the cart’ are often just ways to justify simple narratives of how we WISH the world would be, and to sometimes justify our own inaction.

Tell me: what has your experience been in trying to balance the road to success, while developing your craft as a writer?


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About Dan Blank

Dan Blank is the founder of WeGrowMedia, where he helps writers share their stories and connect with readers. He has helped hundreds of authors via online courses, events, consulting, and workshops, and worked with amazing publishing houses and organizations who support writers such as Random House, Workman Publishing, Abrams Books, Writers House, The Kenyon Review, Writer’s Digest, Library Journal, and many others.

transgriot August 22 2014, 10:05

History Repeating Itself In Chitown?


Chicago SkylineTransGriot Note: We African-American transwomen painfully remember that our sis CeCe McDonald spent 41 months in a Minnesota prison unjustly incarcerated after defending herself from an unprovoked racist attack by cisgender transphobic bigots.

Is the same thing about to happen to another African-American trans woman in Chicago?   This guest post by Channyn Parker suggests it's possible.

Self-Defense is Murder When You're A TWOC.

A Trans-Woman sits in Cook County Jail, Division 9, and there she awaits trial. Why?, because she refused to not defend herself.

While on the city of Chicago's West Side, she and a friend were accosted by a barrage of slurs and epithets at a near by gas station. Two neighborhood men, violently informed the young woman and company, that she was not welcome in her own community because she is transgender. Refusing to be berated, thus speaking up for herself, blows to the face were delivered by one of the men. She proceeded to fight back, the result; the accompanying man called for back up.

In an attempt to get away, the young woman and friend, got in the car, in an effort to drive off. By this time, another vehicle full of the assaulting individual's friends had pulled up, thus blocking her from behind. To the side of her, was the man now pulling at her door in an attempt to force her out of the car. In a panicked frenzy to get away, she ran her car into the man thus pinning his leg to the wall.

Amidst the chaos of the situation, the two women fled from the vehicle and hid from their attackers until she was met by safety.

At the urge of her mother, she eventually turned herself in. Here, she was to discover that her attacker was not only injured during her attempt to escape, but the injury cost him his leg. It had to be removed.

Now, a young woman trans woman sits; 26 years old, detained in the Cook County Jail, facing 10 years imprisonment for 1st degree attempted murder. Her crime; defending her life.

This crime comes on the heels of rampant violence against TWOC on our city's west-side. This travesty of justice proceeds the murder of Paige Clay and preceded the death of her friend that accompanied her that very day. Yes, she was later found murdered, her death goes unsolved.

So, here she is.... another victim of being fed up. Here she is, another victim of the devastating reality of the social injustice Trans-Women of Color face.

I could go on and on with all of the crushing details that this case entails. While sitting with this woman today, it took all that was within me not to cry. She holds fast to her innocence as her public defender offers little defense. Again community, I urge you to offer your support.

With her permission, I have offered to gather whatever resources I can to help her go public with this. All I know is that a trans-woman sits, eyes glazed with fear, uncertain of her future. As always, hold her in loving light and prayer. Write her, as your letters of support are welcome. Rally whomever and whatever support you can offer.
causticcovers August 22 2014, 07:02

Bondage Manga Wodehouse & Stolen Cover Art


Yet another case of public-domain PG Wodehouse being debased by random ebook sellers, this time one Sheba Blake Publishing...

..who also sells another Wodehouse short story using artwork stolen from the cover Norton's edition, by Antony Hare. The Norton edition looks like this...

..and the Sheba Blake version like this...

In fact, a quick look at the Sheba Blake website reveals a vast array of stolen covers, many from Vintage UK and Penguin. Cunningly, those stolen from Vintage still retain the 'Vintage' branding...

Penguin Frome and Vintage Mirth

Vintage Rudge and Dombey, and that Hunted Down cover is from Peter Owen

..and I'm sure that all of these other covers could be found to have been stolen too, with a bit more Googling.

desiretoinspire August 22 2014, 06:13

WE Design


Spotted this powder room on Remodelista and I knew I had to see more of the house. What is it about subway tile, dark grout and the warm, golden hue of wood that gets me every time? Add in a hint of copper or pipe used for anything other than carrying water and well, I'm weak at the knees. Greenpoint Townhouse by Brooklyn based multidisciplinary design and construction firm WE Design.

transgriot August 22 2014, 04:34

Rest In Power, Kenishia Hubbard 1964-2014


Was stunned to hear that one of our transsisters, Left Coast advocates and my fellow Texan Kenishia Hubbard suddenly passed away at age 50 on Monday August 18 in San Diego, CA..

From Kenishia's daughter Nita Hubbard:  (multiple pronouns changed to avoid misgendering Kenishia and respect her life)
For those of you who are unaware my father suddenly passed away at the age of 50 years young yesterday afternoon. I am saddened and in shock but more importantly I want to make sure that everyone who knew Kenishia is aware of her death so they may join our family and friends in her home coming. Please spread the word.  I will keep everyone posted on the wake and funeral services. Rest in peace daddy, I love you. Kenishia "KiKi" Hubbard January 3, 1964 - August 18, 2014.

Kenishia was born in Fort Worth, graduated from Dunbar High, studied at Tarrant County Junior College and served our country proudly as a US Marine.   Kenishia was also a mentor to many transsisters in the San Diego area .

I had the pleasure of meeting her along with many of my BTAC family at the recent edition of the Black Trans Advocacy Conference in Dallas.

Kenishia was my roommate for the event and we spent a few long nights discussing our lives up to that point and her desire to expand her outreach wings in the San Diego and national trans community.   She had a heart as wide as our home state and never failed to put a smile on my face and everyone else who she came in contact with during the time we were together at BTAC 

And as I found out to my chagrin at the Saturday fun day, she plays a mean game of dominoes.

I made a friend during that weekend, and saddened I didn't get the opportunity to build on the connection we made during that weekend in Dallas like I wanted to do.    

A reminder to all of us.  Tell the people that you care about and who mean a lot to you how much you appreciate them while they are in this plane of existence to hear it..   Once they are gone, it's too late to do so. 

Services for Kenishia Hubbard are pending at this time, and as I get information about the homegoing service arrangements or any memorial services being planned in the San Diego area, I'll pass that info to you as soon as I receive it.

If you wish to send donations, flowers or cards, you can do so via Kenishia Hubbard's daughter Nita Hubbard.  Phone number is 972-750-1929 or you can call 619-506-7505.

Rest in power and peace Kenishia.  Until we meet again.  

causticcovers August 22 2014, 03:32

Essential Penguins Return


Every now and then Penguin fire out a burst of Essentials, a series that usually consists of books from the Modern Classics line, rebranded as smaller paperbacks with eye-catching covers. The thinking is that these will appeal to the sort of people who would not pick up a classic. Who are these mad people? Can we give them a good pummeling?

After a long period of quiet, a new batch of 10 have just been released, with cover designs by a range of contemporary artists. Click for bigger versions.

Design by Joe Cruz

A typically violent Cleon Peterson design

One of my favourites in this series, by JP King

Design by Camilla Perkins; I'm not sure that this quite hits the spot: see this post for numerous other takes on the Triffid

Design by Mr Foxx

Another favourite, by Australian typographer and illustrator Georgia Hill: she painted the lettering on glass and then took a hammer to it for the final photograph 

The third of my favourites, a creepy work by Karl Kwasny

Design by illustrator and comics artist Jon McNaught

Design by illustrator and children's book artist Carson Ellis

Design by Emily Sutton

desiretoinspire August 21 2014, 20:42

A bathroom retreat


Australian design firm Minosa Design has done it again, creating a bathroom retreat that is an absolute dream. The clients wanted a space that seamlessly opened up to the master retreat that included space for 2, private but open to the master bedroom, a vanity that did not look like a vanity, and subtle bling, among other items. The space was tough to work with, having only 3 walls and a large window that could not be altered. What Minosa Design came up with is brilliant and gorgeous. Check out a few before photos...

Here is a CAD rendition of the space...

And this is what it looks like now!

guyslitwire August 21 2014, 19:10

Mike Dawson's Troop 142


This week I’ve finally gotten around to Mike Dawson’s Troop 142, a graphic novel about one Boy Scout troop’s travails over a week away at camp. I was prompted to read it because of his post about the book’s sales history on his blog. That discussion is something I’ll take up later, but first my review.

I almost don’t know how to describe how I feel about this book, which is a good thing. It’s one I’ve been thinking about constantly since I read it, and one I’ll be re-reading more than once. To say I like it or even love it is a bit misleading—it is disquieting, and while I read it I was pushed into uncomfortable places both in terms of memory and how I think about myself now, particularly as a guy relating to other guys and guy stuff.

The book revolves around boys of various ages from Boy Scout troop 142 and their fathers, as they undertake a week at Pinewood Forest Camp, a place where troops get together and do activities for merit badges and bonding—campfires, swimming, hiking, sing-alongs, and the like. But underneath that all-American framework and every-boy experience, each boy and man here bristles with the tension and discomfort of unbridled testosterone and unbound nature of this space where boys will be boys, and boys are made men.

The boys do very adolescent things—curse, call each other names, sneak drugs, plot encounters with girls, mock one another and heap abuse on anyone seemingly weak or outside the group. Meanwhile, the adults seem oblivious, in part because they’re dealing with their own ability or inability to fit in and make sense of this “man’s world.”

There’s this thing that comics can do much better than novels and movies, and that’s the ability to explore character and mood and conflict without the standard needs of plot. Here, Dawson really leans into this. By having every page simmer with tension, often unidentified, and to leave many questions unresolved in ways that force you to revisit each character and their actions and choices, standards of plot and protagonists are very muddied in this narrative.

I found myself asking over and over again, who am I rooting for? Is anyone here doing the right thing? Do men even remember the ways that they fell victim to or enacted all the terrible things boys do to other boys on the path to adulthood, and if not, can cycles of pressure and violence ever be broken?

That’s lots of heady stuff for a graphic novel, and that very headiness is, I’m guessing, part of why the book won an Ignatz award, a prestigious comics award, when it came out. So why didn’t it do very well in sales, as Mike Dawson puzzles in his blogpost? 

(Note: from here on out I’m talking about the book industry and how graphic novels fit in there. If that doesn’t interest you, then check out Troop 142, hopefully available at your local bookstore, or library, or here)

When I first saw the book, the cover didn’t grab me—something about it said it was for an audience much younger than my, and not necessarily in any way that might be fun. That being said, I picked it up from a local comic book store several weeks ago because it was on sale, and I’d been meaning to look it over to see if it would Dawson’s post spawned. In reading the post, I quickly realized that my initial assumption about the book was wrong. This is not a book for kids, or even tweens.
be a good fit for the kidslit bookstore where I work. Unfortunately, it sat in that tower of bedside “to be read” books until I saw the internet kerfluffle

And this is part of the book’s “problem.” It doesn’t seem to know its audience, something said in humorous and frank ways by comics blogger Abhay Khosla when he discussed Dawson’s post on his tumblr. But Khosla misses the point: when Khosla writes about the price point killing an audience, he is speaking as if the audience for this book is in a comic book store, which it most certainly is not. This book is squarely aimed at bookstores. It’s audience is another question entirely, but before we get there, let’s talk about what happens to books in bookstores: Books are categorized, and this book defies categorization in any number of ways.

Besides its cover, this book crosses categories in all sorts of ways. If this were a novel, it would be shelved in Young Adult. But graphic novels have never quite figured out what it means to be a YA book. Dawson’s book is narrated by an adult (sparsely, but it’s still there) so it seemingly has something to say to and about adults. Yes, but that’s not where the book gets its punch. The whole book is about how adolescent boys are shoved into this thing we call manhood in ways that are terrible and unconscious and dark. It's about being a young adult.

Another recent, great graphic novel about summer also messes with this YA thing: This One Summer, by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki is really, really good. But it’s very hard to put in someone’s hand, because the content is definitely YA or older, while the central characters are two tween girls. Having younger (tweens) or older (adults) characters' perspectives front and center is an adult literary fiction device, and one which, in the visual medium of comics, confuses potential readers trying to identify if a book is for them. The best cartoonist hitting that YA space? Hope Larson, hands down. Her books Mercuryand Chiggers are still on the young side of the YA category, but everything else about them works in terms of the expectations of the audience.

The other thing that many people, including Abhay Khosla, miss when criticizing Mike Dawson’s business savvy, is that his book has a publisher. Publishers bear the brunt of the marketing and distributing of books. That’s what they do. Secret Acres has published some excellent books: Capacity by Theo Ellsworth, Gaylord Phoenix by Edie Fake, and Get Over It! by Corinne Mucha. But they did Mike a real disservice by not distributing Troop 142 in any real discernible way to the book market rather than the comics market, and by packaging the book, from cover to price point to cover copy, in a way that lets readers know what this thing is and who it sees as its audience.

Every author I know who has ever gotten attention from a publisher is thrilled, but sometimes authors and publishers are a poor match. Mike is very different from the other cartoonists of Secret Acres—namely, the others are all interested in visual textures and the comics as visual art even before narrative. The other cartoonists in Secret Acres’ stable are sold based on the visuals alone—they are marketed through posters and sample images and the like. You can hand sell the heck out of those books at festivals and conventions. So it would appear that Secret Acres doesn’t know how to market what Mike does, in part because they see their audience as the artcomic world, one they can contact through shows and select comics stores.

Dawson’s previous publisher did know how to market him, however. His first book, Freddie & Me, was published by BloomsburyUSA, a book publisher who distributed that book potentially to every brick & mortar store in every city in the US, and marketed the book using the tools familiar to booksellers. His sales reflected that difference. Unfortunately, where this leaves Mike Dawson is unclear. All I can do as a reviewer is tell you to read his books. I know I will be seeking out everything he did, not because of how easily they look like they fit into my book habit, but because, if they’re anything like Troop 142, they will push and pull at me in ways that the best books do: ways that surprise, and trouble, and delight.
desiretoinspire August 21 2014, 15:12

Ikea experiment with time travel


Ikea never ceases to amaze me with their creativity in their products and in their marketing. This is hilarious. 

It’s no ordinary illusion. Together with hypnotist Justin Tranz, IKEA let young couples experience their future in a fascinating time travel experiment.

In the experiment, world-renowned hypnotist Justin Tranz put a young couple in deep trance before they’re being exposed with potential life-changing events in advance. Guided by Tranz, the young couple embarks on a time journey where different life predictions awaits them – from celebrating a birthday for their imaginary 6-year old daughter, to an odd meeting in the bathroom with the same daughters future boyfriend, years later.

"The everyday is exciting! It’s on those seemingly ordinary days life happens and changes. And when it does, so does our home"..."In the new IKEA catalogue you can find solutions for every episode in life", says Johan Wickmark, Global Catalogue Manager.

infosthetics August 21 2014, 13:57

The Feltron Annual Report of 2013 on Communication



Each year, Nicholas Felton releases an personal year report, and the one of 2013 [feltron.com] was just released. These reports always stand out because of the immense sense of data-centric detail, and an always original infographic style.

This year, the report focuses on communication data, as it aspires to uncover patterns and insights within a large collection of tracked conversations, SMS, telephone calls, email, Facebook messages and even physical mail.

See also the annual reports of:
- 2012
- 2010 and 2011
- 2010 (about his father's life)
- 2009
- 2008
- 2007
- 2006
- 2005

rq_books August 21 2014, 13:36

Patty’s Motor Car



There’s a reason I got stuck on Patty’s Motor Car when I was reviewing the Patty Fairfield books. A couple of reasons, I guess. And if you want to look at it that way, the reasons’ names are Philip Van Reypen and Christine Farley.

I’m a weirdo who spends a lot of time thinking about things like how Patty Fairfield’s suitors fit into the structure of the series, and I think there’s a turning point here, a two-book transition between between the first seven books of the series and the last eight. Everything through Patty’s Pleasure Trip is about Patty the kid. Then, in Patty’s Success, Wells pushes Patty into the real world by making her deal with the job market. Then she introduces Christine and Phil, apparently for the purpose of splitting up Patty and Mr. Hepworth. This book brings Christine and Phil closer–and for the record, I don’t actually dislike Christine, just what she represents–and moves Patty further into the world by giving her mobility, in the form of an electric car.

I wonder a lot whether Wells seriously considered Phil as a possible endgame suitor for Patty. I find him so consistently awful, but I can’t find any sign that Wells agrees, unless writing him as a reckless, selfish manipulator who thinks he can get away with anything because he always has before counts.

Um, so, yeah. I hate Phil Van Reypen so much. You can take that as a given, although I have no doubt I’ll manage to remind you. Anyway, the next book changes the trajectory of the series a little, but I find it difficult to read these two books that push Patty towards Phil, because he is the worst. I started keeping a journal again shortly before I started rereading this book and now it’s full of “WORST”s in relation to Phil. In fact, if you looked at my journal, you’d think the whole book was instances of Phil being awful alternating with wordless conversations between Patty and Mr. Hepworth. And it is, kind of, but some other stuff happens, too.

So, this car company holds a contest: they put out a book of puzzles and riddles and things, and the person who sends in the most complete and correct set of answers by the deadline wins an electric car. Patty, with a bit of help from Kenneth Harper, a lot of help from Phil, and a bit of important last minute help from Mr. Hepworth, submits a set of answers and–you noticed the title, right?–wins the car.

The Fairfields move to the Jersey shore for the summer, and Patty gets to drive her car around a bunch, and we’re introduced to Mona Galbraith, who Wells never actually describes as nouveau riche. Instead Wells calls her “pushing,” and says her house and her clothes are unnecessarily fancy, but it’s cool, we all know what she means.

But yeah, other than that it’s all Phil getting Patty into scrapes, which he sometimes also gets hor out of, and also there’s a delightfully uncomfortable conversation between Patty and Christine where Christine tries to get Patty to acknowledge that Mr. Hepworth is in love with her and Patty says some stuff that’s one step removed from repeating “I’m not having this conversation,” over and over again. It’s pretty great.

Anyway, I hate Phil Van Reypen, but the rest of this book is pretty fun.

Tagged: 1910s, automobiles, carolyn wells, girls, series
writerunboxed August 21 2014, 11:00

Flog a Pro: would you turn this bestselling author’s first page?




Trained by reading hundreds of submissions, editors and agents often make their read/not-read decision on the first page. In a customarily formatted book manuscript with chapters starting about 1/3 of the way down the page (double-spaced, 1-inch margins, 12-point type), there are 16 or 17 lines on the first page.

The challenge: does this narrative compel you to turn the page?

Please judge by storytelling quality, not by genre—some reject an opening page immediately because of genre, but that’s not a good enough reason when the point is to analyze for storytelling strength.

This novel was in first place on the New York Times hardcover fiction bestseller list for August 10, 2014. How strong is the opening page—would this have hooked an agent if it came in from an unpublished writer? Do you think it’s compelling? Reminder: “compelling” is much different than “interesting”—it means that you are irresistibly urged to turn the page by what you’ve read. Following are what would be the first manuscript page of the Preface and the first 17 lines of Chapter 1. There are two polls.


On October 18, 1969, Caravaggio’s Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence vanished from the Oratorio di San Lorenzo in Palermo , Sicily. The Nativity, as it is commonly known, is one of Caravaggio’s last great masterworks, painted in 1609 while he was a fugitive from justice, wanted by papal authorities in Rome for killing a man during a swordfight. For more than four decades, the altarpiece has been the most sought-after stolen painting in the world, and yet its exact whereabouts, even its fate, have remained a mystery. Until now . . .

Take Our Poll

Chapter 1

It began with an accident, but then matters involving Julian Isherwood invariably did. In fact, his reputation for folly and misadventure was so indisputably established that London’s art world, had it known of the affair, which it did not, would have expected nothing less. Isherwood, declared one wit from the Old Masters department at Sotheby’s, was the patron saint of lost causes, a high-wire artist with a penchant for carefully planned schemes that ended in ruins, oftentimes through no fault of his own. Consequently, he was both admired and pitied, a rare trait for a man of his position. Julian Isherwood made life a bit less tedious. And for that, London’s smart set adored him.

His gallery stood at the far corner of the cobbled quadrangle known as Mason’s Yard, occupying three floors of a sagging Victorian warehouse once owned by Fortnum & Mason. On one side were the London offices of a minor Greek shipping company; on the other was a pub that catered to pretty office girls who rode motor scooters. Many years earlier, before the successive waves of Arab and Russian money had swamped London’s real estate market, the gallery had been located in stylish New Bond Street, or New Bondstrasse, as it was known in the trade. Then came the likes of Hermès, Burberry, Chanel, and Cartier, leaving Isherwood and others like him— independent dealers specializing in museum-quality Old Master paintings— no choice but to seek sanctuary in St. James’s.

Take Our Poll
My vote and editorial notes after the fold.

HeistDid you recognize Daniel Silva and his The Heist? According to the Amazon page, this was Gabriel Allon Book 14, a series starring Gabriel Allon, art restorer and occasional spy. Clearly this author does something right, but was this opening page compelling if you picked it up to sample it in a bookstore?

My votes:

Preface: it worked for me, raised a very strong story question and promised to introduce me to a world I don’t know for a fresh adventure. Yes, I turned this page.

Chapter 1: I wasn’t happy with the “it” in the opening sentence that refers to nothing whatsoever, but the opening paragraph did introduce a very interesting character—and then the narrative slumped into laborious description. If the description were colored by the character’s perceptions and experience, which I call “experiential description,” it could contribute to characterization, but this is just a report.

In critiquing more than 800 first pages on my blog, Flogging the Quill, the first page just about always foreshadows what the rest is like, and I’m not into a drone of description at the cost of having something happening that involves this interesting character. Sorry, I’m busy, got no time to be coy, no page turn for me.

Your thoughts? Would you have turned the page?

If you’d like to help beginning novelists with your constructive criticism, join me on Wednesdays and Fridays for floggings at my site, Flogging the Quill.

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About Ray Rhamey

Ray Rhamey is the author of five novels and one craft book, Flogging the Quill, Crafting a Novel that Sells. He's also an editor who has recently expanded his creative services to include book cover and interior design. His website, crrreative.com, offers an a la carte menu of creative services for self-publishers and Indie authors. Learn more about Ray's fiction at rayrhamey.com.

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