virtualDavis

\ˈvər-chə-wəlˈdā-vəs\ Blogger, storyteller, flâneur. G.G. Davis, Jr's alter ego…
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Keri Smith on Creativity (and Book Midwifery)

Who is Keri Smith?

Who is Keri Smith?

I’m long overdue with a post about Keri Smith (kerismith.com), and what better way to make up for that then by sharing some of her awesome advice on creativity. Both of the pointers I’m quoting below actually come from a post called, Seven Steps to Getting Published, but as far as I’m concerned they’re all about creativity, creativity, creativity. And maybe even more than “publishing” they read like wise tips for successful book “midwifery”!

But first, by way of introduction it’s time to meet one of the most innovative book artists currently in the game, Keri Smith. It’s not too far a stretch to say that she is reinventing the concept of bookness, silly-putty-ing it into one of the most unconventional vehicles for creativity and adventure bound up between covers.

Here’s a more official blurb from her website:

Keri Smith is a Canadian conceptual artist and author of several bestselling books and apps about creativity including Wreck This Journal (Penguin) [check out her readers’ cool creations here: @WreckThisBook], This is Not a Book (Penguin), How to be an Explorer of the World -the Portable Life/Art Museum,(Penguin), Mess: A Manual of Accidents and Mistakes (Penguin), The Guerrilla Art Kit (Princeton Architectural Press), Finish This Book (Penguin), and The Pocket Scavenger (Penguin). (KeriSmith.com)

Keri Smith on the Carpet

Keri Smith on the Carpet

I’m a little obsessed. For the last year I’ve been pouring over her work, each time feeling like I’m come across a co-conspirator. In fact, some of her books feel like they were born out of my own head. Only they weren’t. And her head’s done it better.

That said, I feel like these two creativity tips might have been borrowed from my head. They sound so familiar I could have written them myself. Only, I didn’t. She did. Again. So I’ll defer to Keri Smith.

Keri Smith on the Shelf

Keri Smith on the Shelf

1. Let your idea have it’s own life. This sounds a little strange but what I mean by this is once you have the idea in your head don’t try to control it too much. Let it tell you what form it should take. It really helps at this point to go for a long walk and just LISTEN it may be several long walks. Let the words and images evolve. With my most recent book it took over a year for me to know what form it would take. I had ideas for content and had begun writing but no overall format to tie it all together. I didn’t worry about it too much but just let it “be” for a while. One day while reading a book on “intuition in business”, a concept popped into my head. This concept was “play”, and it tied the whole book together and became my focus from that moment on.

2. Really enjoy yourself and the process of creating, the best work will flow out of you. People will respond the most to things you did with passion, as opposed to things you forced. Don’t worry about whether it would sell, or what’s hot in the moment your target market, or what a family member recommends. Be honest with yourself and the process. (KeriSmith.com)

See why I think that they’re both really more about book midwifery? They address the creative process from first flickering vision through generations of revising and refocusing and wrong turns and Ah-ha moments. They are all about the creative flow state that I’ve been discovering/pursuing over the last couple of years.

Listen. Play. Be honest. The rest will take care of itself.

Thanks, Keri Smith!

Book as Enduring Symbol

As we watch the book transition into its fraught future, will the eventual scarcity of traditional volumes mean we can no longer recognize an image of that rectangular thing as a symbol of “learning, poise, wisdom and moral fortitude?” Or will the book as a symbol spring eternal? ~ Porter Anderson (Writer Unboxed)

Porter Anderson (@Porter_Anderson) takes on “Book as Symbol” and concludes that it is as perennial as spring. Though debating Porter is an enjoyable sport, I rarely find the opportunity, such reasoning undergirding even his lighthearted and sarcastic observations. Instead I pass along the unfathomably clever comments I appended to his post…

le bibliophile

Le Bibliophile (Credit: Wikipedia)

I’m a bibliophile by default, and a digital reader by convenience. No. Scratch that. I am a reader by default and a print book, digital book and audio book omnivore by habit. And increasingly by appetite. In fact, I often purchase and “read” a title in all three formats. Bundling anyone? After all, print books still make awfully quaint wrappers.

“If anything, I find we badly overuse the traditional book as a symbol.” ~ Porter Anderson (Writer Unboxed)

Indeed! A nostalgic eleventh hour attempt to ensure the symbol’s immortality? I’m reminded by Vaughn Roycroft’s anecdote (read Porter’s post and then scan down to Roycroft’s comment to enjoy his quirky story) of a library and garden designer I once knew who sold fancy folks learned libraries by the foot. Paneling, bookshelves, paint, leather club chairs, carpet, musty odor and collector’s edition books. Silly gobs of money for guilt tomes that might as well have been hacked spines glued into 4″ shelves.

English: Mabie Todd Swan 14k gold flexible nib

Mabie Todd Swan fountain pen (Credit: Wikipedia)

That said, the book will endure, not just as a symbol, but as a luxury. An indulgence. A preference. Many of us after all still age wines to perfection and draw ink into fountain pens despite the preponderance of cheaper, easier, more abundant and better marketed alternatives. I haven’t ever ridden in a chariot or published poems on stone tablets, but I instantly recognize both in humanity’s timeless iconography.

And what a joy it will be one day many decades anon to creak open the dusty spine of a vintage Quixote to read aloud to my grand nieces and nephews… Even with Porter’s Campari stains obscuring some of the text.

What do you think? Will the book endure as a symbol? Or perhaps it follow the slide rule and the Ford Pinto off to EFFI (the Elysian Fields of Forgotten Innovations, which incidentally, might be near Pine Point…)

Print Books: Purge or Hoard?

Although I love my print books, e-readers, in one form or another, have become my primary reading device over the last few years. I barely touch my print books, although they are still beautiful and important to me. But they sit on my bookshelf as a decorative and intellectual art form… When I voiced my reluctance to ship my books, one of my editors, horror-stricken, said: “You have to take your books with you! I mean, they are books. They are so important!” The book lover in me didn’t disagree, but the practical side of me did… In the end, I decided to leave 80 percent of the books behind, donating them to bookstores and even throwing some old, tattered volumes in the garbage. Readers, what would you have done? (NYTimes.com)

Books

Image by henry… via Flickr

Old news. Familiar question. Sort of…

I just returned from the Writer’s Digest Conference where the question of jettisoning or clinging to print collections came up several times. No consensus, but an interesting question.

This winter/spring is “out with the old, in with the new” time for me, so I’m lightening my load in as many ways as I can. My 2012 word-of-the-year? Agile. I’ll revisit this in the months ahead. Am I throwing too much too fast for you to follow my line of reasoning? Yes, I am. Concept still jelling. Actually the concept and the conviction have jelled, but I’m still sorting through how to explain my mission. Dump nonessential baggage and travel light. Simplify. Cut the crap. Chase the dream… As you can see, I’m still in beta on this!

Nick Bilton‘s July 27 post, “Print Books: Should They Stay or Should They Go?” cuts right to the chase, and I suspect that his decision to pare print down to 20% of his collection will be an increasingly common phenomenon.

I’m not there. I like digital, but I’m a sucker for ink and paper and bindings. I’m passionate about marginalia-filled white space and flattened relics which tumble out of books instantly transporting us back to an orange poppy in Big Sur or a teenage romance. I’m not ready to swap my bookshelves and floor/windowsill/desk stacks for a slim digital facsimile. Not yet. Purge I will, but not the books. Not now.

What about you? Do you feel the urge to purge?

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Born Again Books

Book Sculpture by Guy LarameeWith the increasing popularity of electronic readers and e-books, the future use of hard-bound books also comes under question… French Canadian artist Guy Laramée tackles it from a decidedly philosophical — and creative — perspective, carving intricate, three-dimensional landscapes that look amazingly real up close. (TreeHugger)

Based in Montréal (only an hour and a half north of me), French Canadian artist Guy Laramée tickles the already ticklish debate over the destiny of printed books. Fusing art and anthropology Laramée carves books into sculptures which arrest the viewer not only with their intricate three dimensional beauty, but with the cascade of questions each piece compels. Why books? Why vintage books? What are the implications of destroying words and ideas in order to create romantic, usually natural scenes? Read the rest of this entry »

Surrounded By Books


Surrounded by Books: 10 Second Pause

A publishing world evolution. Print. Digital. Books. Gadgets. We’re bombarded with speculation, doomsday nay-saying and snake oil promises. Exciting. Exhausting. Time to take a rest. Just for a moment. A short rest. Here. On this bookshelf… Aaahhh.

Why Writers Need Bloggers

I’ve come to see book bloggers as indispensable to authors, especially first-time authors.

~ Miriam Gershow

When Miriam Gershow (@miriamgershow) published her novel The Local News she landed coveted reviews in The New York TimesMarie Claire andLadies Home Journal. Home Run! Or not…

It turns out that even a top drawer print run and allstar mainstream media buzz, the job still fell to her to keep the novel visible and selling. And she did, due in part to her discovery that book bloggers are an essential (and friendly) ally.

One of the most surprising things about book publishing is that after the initial fanfare and reviews and readings… there is almost a deafening silence… suddenly it was my responsibility to keep the buzz going. (Guide to Literary Agents)

For Gershow, and for an ever-increasing parade of authors, the blogosphere and its social media cousins offer affordable word of mouth relationships directly with readers. As the data maelstrom grows louder and more overwhelming, more and more readers are tuning out. Traditional marketing channels are less effective than they used to be. But bloggers invest themselves day after day in cultivating a loyal readership. Blogger recommendations are respected, trusted and acted upon.

I do know that when a book is talked about in the blogosphere—especially by the insatiable bloggers with their insatiable readership—it keeps that book alive in the public consciousness.

Besides, authors have far greater accessibility to bloggers than they do to mainstream media outlets. So time and effort invested in courting bloggers is far more likely to pay off. But that’s not all, Gershow confides. Writers need book bloggers for their delicious soul food!

And… bloggers are good for the writer’s soul… They remind me that what I’m doing matters. And for that alone, they are worth their weight in books.

The Invention of Paris

The Invention of Paris

Eric Hazan's The Invention of Paris

Eric Hazan’s The Invention of Paris is a guide, quartier by quartier, to the “psychogeography” of the first great modern city. Hazan is a far-left radical editor now in his 70s, and has lived in Paris all his life. Not only does he know what a certain street smells like, but he can tell us about the geographical, social and political forces that put it there. A widening or a curve might conceal an entire history of oppression – or the moment Baudelaire admired a passing grisette.

Hazan reckons Baudelaire to be the first truly urban poet, a flâneur at the meeting-point between the nocturnal solitary and the individual lost in the crowd. The book proceeds in his urgent spirit, mingling personal knowledge and reminiscence with a Balzacian grasp of the whole. The ghost of Walter Benjamin, the leftwing thinker of a mystical bent who fled occupied Paris and committed suicide at the closed Spanish border, presides over this magnificent meditation on limits and boundaries.

Read the full review in The Guardian

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To India with Love

Ask people who have been there, and they’ll all tell you India is like no other place in the world, a land that stirs every one of the five senses and stays in your heart forever. It is this India that brought together three friends, Waris Ahluwalia, Mortimer Singer and Tina Bhojwani to raise funds, spirits, and awareness for the victims of the attacks in Mumbai in November, 2008.

The editors set out to create a scrapbook-collecting personal photos, stories, and memories from people who, like themselves, love India. The contributors include Wes Anderson, Adrien Brody, Francesco Clemente, Anthony Edwards, Jeanine Lobell, Natalie Portman, Yves Carcelle, Jean Touitou, Owen Wilson, Laura Wilson, Cynthia Rowley, James Ivory, Matthew Williamson, Rachel Roy, Tory Burch, Padma Lakshmi, Shobhaa De, Ratan Tata and Mukesh Ambani. This book declares to Mumbai and the whole country that we are all thinking of them and support them: hence To India, with Love: New York to Mumbai. Profits from the sales of the book will go to support families affected by the attacks. This book can truly make a difference, by opening eyes to the wonders of India and by once again letting the pen-or a camera-dominate the sword.

via mumbaiwegotyourback.com

Bravo, Tina Bhojwani! This is an exciting accomplishment and a creative twist on humanitarian philanthropy. I’ve ordered To India with Love, and I can’t wait for it to show up in the mail. I hope all you Indiaphiles will consider purchasing this dazzling publication and spreading the word to your friends. More once I’ve had a chance to meander through the colorful pages…

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