Entries from February 2013

Paperback Pub Day

Defending Jacob paperbackDefending Jacob is now available in paperback. The book hit the shelves yesterday (a couple of weeks ago in the UK). The hardcover keeps selling, too: on yesterday’s paperback publication date, Random House informed me the hardcover would go back to press for a surreal 15th printing. The larger format “trade” paperback will be released in the next few months, as well.

One of the nicer aspects of Defending Jacob’s long run is how the book has been taken up by book clubs. Book Movement, a web site for book clubs — because, as Book Movement nicely puts it, “not all great books are great book club books” — lists Jacob among its top picks for book clubs. I get emails every day from people who have read the novel in their book clubs, and they always tell me the discussion was lively. So the new paperback includes a reader’s guide, which I hope will help spur discussion for clubs as well as individual readers. (Book Movement has assembled a good readers’ guide for book clubs, too.)

In other news, Defending Jacob has been nominated for the Hammett Prize, awarded each year to “a work of literary excellence in the field of crime writing by a US or Canadian author.” A very nice honor indeed, for which I am grateful.

Categories: My Books    Tags:

Miserable people

Writers are very often miserable people: some thrive on unhappiness, others don’t. But few are immune from feelings of deep and avid dissatisfaction. We write because we are constantly discontented with almost everything, and need to use words to rearrange it, all of it, and set the record straight.

Avi Steinberg, “Is Writing Torture?

Categories: Writing    Tags: ·

John and Me, cont’d

Globe image

Another shot of today’s Boston Globe. Read the article here.

Categories: Personal    Tags:

John and Me

John Kenney and me

John Kenney and I have been the best of friends for almost 40 years now, since we met in 9th grade at the Roxbury Latin School in Boston. Now John has published a debut novel, Truth in Advertising, that is hilarious and poignant and has received glowing reviews. (Truth in Advertising also happens to have the greatest book trailer ever. This is what happens when a veteran ad man like John turns his attention to book publicity.)

Recently John and I did a joint appearance at the Boston Public Library in Copley Square (that’s the BPL in the background of that photo), and we met with a reporter from the Globe beforehand to talk about books and how two guys from the same tiny school managed to become novelists. I’m not sure we ever answered that question, really. When we’re together, John and I tend to talk fast, finish each other’s sentences, and laugh a lot. But somehow reporter Bella English managed to turn our rambling conversation into a story, which ran in this morning’s newspaper. Many thanks to Bella and Globe photographer Dina Rudick for capturing such a nice moment. Read it here.

Categories: Personal    Tags: ·

Relax! You’ll Be More Productive

Working in 90-minute intervals turns out to be a prescription for maximizing productivity. Professor K. Anders Ericsson and his colleagues at Florida State University have studied elite performers, including musicians, athletes, actors and chess players. In each of these fields, Dr. Ericsson found that the best performers typically practice in uninterrupted sessions that last no more than 90 minutes. They begin in the morning, take a break between sessions, and rarely work for more than four and a half hours in any given day.

“To maximize gains from long-term practice,” Dr. Ericsson concluded, “individuals must avoid exhaustion and must limit practice to an amount from which they can completely recover on a daily or weekly basis.”

I’ve systematically built these principles into the way I write. For my first three books, I sat at my desk for up 10 hours a day. Each of the books took me at least a year to write. For my two most recent books, I wrote in three uninterrupted 90-minute sessions — beginning first thing in the morning, when my energy was highest — and took a break after each one.

Along the way, I learned that it’s not how long, but how well, you renew that matters most in terms of performance. Even renewal requires practice. The more rapidly and deeply I learned to quiet my mind and relax my body, the more restored I felt afterward. For one of the breaks, I ran. This generated mental and emotional renewal, but also turned out to be a time in which some of my best ideas came to me, unbidden. Writing just four and half hours a day, I completed both books in less than six months and spent my afternoons on less demanding work.

— Tony Schwartz, “Relax! You’ll Be More Productive

Categories: Productivity    Tags:

Boston, 1940

Boston, Valentine's Day Blizzard, 1940

The 1940 Valentine’s Day Blizzard. Cars on Washington Street in Boston stalled out in the heavy snow, Feb. 14, 1940. (Via Boston Globe)

Categories: Boston    Tags:

Tweet of the Day

Kobe tweet

Kobe Bryant was drafted at #13 in 1996, passed over by my beloved Celtics, who took Antoine Walker instead. Ouch.

Categories: Sports    Tags: · ·

Cory Doctorow: Writing in the Age of Distraction

When I’m working on a story or novel, I set a modest daily goal — usually a page or two — and then I meet it every day, doing nothing else while I’m working on it. It’s not plausible or desirable to try to get the world to go away for hours at a time, but it’s entirely possible to make it all shut up for twenty minutes. Writing a page every day gets me more than a novel per year — do the math — and there’s always twenty minutes to be found in a day, no matter what else is going on. Twenty minutes is a short enough interval that it can be claimed from a sleep or meal-break (though this shouldn’t become a habit). The secret is to do it every day, weekends included, to keep the momentum going, and to allow your thoughts to wander to your next day’s page between sessions. Try to find one or two vivid sensory details to work into the next page, or a bon mot, so that you’ve already got some material when you sit down at the keyboard.

— Cory Doctorow, “Writing in the Age of Distraction