Madeleine Robins

May 18, 2017

Decisions, Decisions: The Art of Reading to an Audience

Filed under: Publishing,Reading,Writing — madeleinerobins @ 6:16 PM

declaiming-poetry.jpgOnce you’ve gotten past your jitters, or at least bundled up your jitters and put them in a small box on a high shelf, it’s probably time to think about what you want to read.

There are a number of different considerations. To begin with, are you reading in support of a work that’s about to be published? Then maybe you should be reading from that work. Ditto a work that’s been published within the last few months. Particularly if you’re on an author trip being paid for by a publisher (I never have been, but I hear it’s a thing). In all these cases, you’re reading to support a specific work, and that specific work ought to be part of the presentation. (more…)

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May 19, 2016

Whitehall

Whitehall CoverI ought to have mentioned this earlier, but: about a year ago I was approached (doesn’t that sound mysterious?) about becoming part of the writing team for a serialized historical story called Whitehall, focusing on Charles II, his wife Catherine of Braganza, and his mistress, Barbara Castlemaine. Not a period I know well, and I was a little reluctant to take on something I’d never done before… and then I heard about the people who’d be on the team with me: series creator Liz Duffy Adams; Delia Sherman; Mary Robinette Kowal; and Barbara Samuel (and Sarah Smith coming in as guest writer on #11). In which group, in my own mind, anyway, I  was decidedly a Junior Partner.

When a group of writers like that invites you to play, you say Yes. Thank You. Which I did. And dived into research and reading and plotting, in the most unsual sort of collaborative process I’ve ever participated in. Once I got over the first flush of “wait, you–what? but I was writing that scene” push and pull of the thing, I began to realize how generous, and inventive, and fun all these people were.

We knew the story, of course: Charles, newly returned to the throne, finds his nation impoverished and damaged by the years of religious turmoil. He has to marry money, even if that money comes in the form of a Portuguese Catholic: Catherine of Braganza. Catherine’s nation, under threat from their larger, more powerful neighbor Spain, needs England’s military strength to keep her country safe. Meanwhile everyone in England , from the peerage to the peasantry, has an opinion, good or bad, about the new Queen.

What that outline doesn’t tell you is how rich the characters are: Charles, finally on the throne, enough of a king to realize that he cannot enact vengeance on the nation that killed his father and sent him on a decade-long flight through Europe. The original laughing on the outside/sorrowing on the inside guy–restless, thoughtful, deeply intelligent, taking the stewardship of his nation very seriously. Catherine, with the weight of her nation on her shoulders, who–against all self-interest–falls in love with her new husband. And Barbara Castlemaine, who loves her king, but realizes as well that her standing at court depends on maintaining ascendancy over the new queen. And a cast of secondary characters who scheme and want and worry, with–literally–the fate of nations on the line.

Whitehall is available from Serialbox: one episode a week for 13 weeks, available as e-book or audio-book. With five different voices telling one story, each of us with our own take on the time, the place, and the people. For what it’s worth, me, I’m Team Catherine all the way. At least one of my fellow writers is team Barbara. Where do you come down on this one?

 

January 21, 2016

Change is the Only Constant

Filed under: Publishing — madeleinerobins @ 10:42 PM
Tags: , , ,

In times of change it’s always useful to remember that everything is a time oChristmasCandlef change. Since the advent of print-on-demand, and then of e-books, there have been approximately 47 trillion articles written on The End of the Book As We Know It, the End of Publishing As We Know It, and so on. It’s easy to believe that the old ways were handed down from Mt. Olympus: a trade book shall require 9 months from the moment it is handed to Production, neither 8 months nor 10, but 9, and 9 shall be the number, forever and ever, hallelujahYea, verily, there is but one way to distribute books. Etc. But that has never been so; it’s a rule of thumb, not an amendment to the Constitution.

We forget that, in Jane Austen’s time, the author shared the expenses of publication. We forget that in many cases books were purchased by subscription: when the new canto of Lord Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage was announced, you went to the bookseller and reserved your copy. The publisher didn’t create a big advance printing, he (it was pretty much always a he in those days) printed and bound enough for the subscribers, plus a small overage. Which meant that if something really caught on the publisher–and the printers and bookbinders who worked for him–were suddenly in overdrive. Even a hundred years later, when bookshops were more prevalent, this was the case.

I have been doing research on apprenticeships for a project I’m working on, which led me to a book from 1747,  The London Tradesman, a survey of many of the occupations available to the workingman. In the course of discussing bookbinding the book notes that journeymen bookbinders “seldom earn more than ten shillings a week when employed, and are out of business for half the year.”

Wait. Bookbinding is a seasonal trade? Or was? Are the poems not ripe until August? Is there a spawning season for travel journals? Say what? (more…)

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