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"Anyone who doesn't pick up the next volume
is mad! Mad, I tell you!" >>read more
From the Editor
Acknowledgments Pages Say More Than Thanks
There is no better form of literary one-upmanship than a well-written acknowledgments page. Well, other than holding down the top spot on the New York Times best-seller list, of course. Having your very own fatwa is also hard to beat. ("Oh, I'm fine, other than the fact that I had to go into hiding because my book provoked the wrath of millions of people . . . What's up with your career?") Oh, and buying a Scottish castle with the royalties from your book sales is pretty good, too.
But, other than having a number-one best-seller, having your own security detail, or living in a castle, your book's acknowledgments page is really the best way to make other writers apoplectic with envy. And the beauty of this approach is that nobody can accuse you of being a pompous jerk because you're hiding your pomposity in the guise of thanking people. In honor of our Spotlight on First Novels, showcased in the October 15 issue of Booklist, and as a service to first and aspiring novelists, I present a crash course in writing an acknowledgements page that allows you to wear the guise of a humble and gracious scribe while, in reality, letting every writer who is less successful know exactly how much more successful you are. Read on and learn whom to thank—and how to thank them.
By thanking your long-suffering agent, your wise editor, your energetic publicity and marketing teams, your persistent film-rights agent, your tireless foreign-rights office, and the versatile actor who voiced your audiobook—your "team"—you are instantly placing yourself in the tiny club of authors who actually have a team. Most writers do not have a team. Even many published authors would settle for "someone who answers the phone." (Note: you may also thank "the gang.")
Your Research Crew
By thanking the patrolmen, detectives, lawyers, forensic anthropologists, NASCAR drivers, river guides, Civil War reenactors, or circus clowns who helped you with your research, you are letting people know that you did research. The more esoteric the job title, the more interesting and dangerous your research will sound. And the more people you thank, the more research we can infer. If you are worried that people won't get the point, be sure to thank one person in particular, for "Answering my frantic calls at 2 a.m. when I needed to know such-and-such" or, better, "Replying to 50,000 e-mails, no matter how boring and detailed they were." Ideally, your research will be reflected in your writing—but, just in case it isn't, be sure to mention it all here.
Your Illustrious Peers
It's very important to thank a lot of famous writers. This tells us, and them, that you are on their level and allows starry-eyed readers to imagine that you spend a lot of time drinking cocktails together and exchanging bons mots. To encourage the impression of chumminess, even if it is likely false, use only first names. To that end, only thank authors whose first names allow us to guess who they are (Cormac, China, Zadie). There's really no need to thank John, David, and Mary. They could be anybody. (Well, Jonathan does have a tantalizing ambiguity.)
Another tack you can take is to use a famous author's familiar name. Anybody with Google knows that Elmore Leonard goes by "Dutch," but telling "Jo" you appreciate her advice on your children's book will suggest that you're no ordinary Muggle. What makes this approach awkward is that, for some particularly obscure familiar names, you may need to use the last name for context (Patsy Cornwell, Tobin Anderson), which, ironically, makes you seem less intimate with the person you're nickname-dropping.
Thank one dead, obscure writer, being sure to mention that their out-of-print book ("an unheralded masterwork") was wholly responsible for your decision to become a writer.
Your Watering Hole
You know, the one where you drink with Cormac, China, or Zadie? Thank the bartender by name and reference an in-joke so we know you're a regular. If your usual drink reflects either your sophistication or your spirit of adventure, here is the place to mention it. Even if you prefer Bud Light, you may prefer to mention your appreciation for a Negroni, a Sidecar, or a Moscow Mule.
You Are a World Traveler!
As a famous and successful author, the world is your oyster. But name-dropping, London, Paris, or Berlin is just so tacky. (Well, you might get away with Berlin.) Better to thank the proprietor of your special writing getaway, the place you go when it's just four weeks to deadline, where you write around the clock in sheltered anonymity. It doesn't matter whether this is a pensione in Venice or a cabin in Appalachia. The point is that most writers are just desperate for an hour away from their damn kids; your ability to leave town at will will have them drooling with envy.
Your Book Awards
Don't mention these. That's just tacky. And, besides, you have someone on your team whose whole job is to put foil award seals on the dust jackets of your books. You would probably thank that person if only you could remember their name.
You might as well thank these people, if only to avoid discomfort at holiday get-togethers. But, unless your brother is the lead singer of a famous band, your father is a famous painter, or your mother's mysterious disappearance has haunted you since childhood, keep it brief.
The rule of thumb here is: dogs and cats, yes, birds and ferrets, no. Your dog was there for you when no one else was and it is during your rambling evening walks that you find your best ideas. Your dog has some delightfully human character trait (he can always be a good listener) and, if he is old and infirm, we should know that, too. (It makes you seem more patient and caring.) If he is a rescue dog, mention it twice.
It's just about time to wrap up your acknowledgments, and you've saved the best for last. Sure, you wrote a book that topped the best-seller list, is about to earn you your very first fatwa, and shows distinct series potential (Scotland, here you come!)—but a dreamboat husband or wife is the ultimate accessory. Your spouse should look good in a tux (or a bridesmaid's dress), should be a good dancer (or a hilariously bad dancer but a good sport), extremely accomplished in a nonliterary art or craft (scrimshaw, furniture making, bartending), and unbelievably gorgeous. Naturally, they stood by you during the years before you became big, nursing your babies, giving you backrubs, and holding your hair back when the pain of rejection caused you to overindulge in Negronis. The more overt your public display of affection, the better: who would really proclaim to the world, "I love you, Snuffums!" but someone who is so in love that they don't care what the world thinks?
You do, of course, care what the world thinks, no matter how successful you become. And the more you care, the longer your acknowledments page will grow.
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The advantage this series starter has over monster reboots like Kenneth Oppel's This Dark Endeavor (2011) is that teens aren't as familiar with the story of Dr. Moreau, and so the ungodly plot developments may yet surprise. Shepherd follows H. G. Wells closely but from the perspective of the good doctor's 16-year-old daughter, Juliet. >>read more
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In his silvered fifties, Renn Ivins extends his reign as a Hollywood sex symbol, adding screenwriting and directing to his accomplishments. Twice-divorced, he also embarks on a closely observed relationship with his movie's ambitious star, Elise, who is younger than his two children, Will and Anna. >>read more
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Hidden forces, from undercurrents to regrets, fear, and longing, shape the powerful stories told in the best first novels of the past 12 months, books of remarkable originality, conviction, compassion, and artistry that embody fiction's vitality and resonance. >>read more
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By Ayana Mathis
This was not the life that smart and lovely Hattie expected to live after fleeing Jim Crow Georgia in 1923 and settling in Philadelphia. Two years later, married (at 16) to an irresponsible man, she is poor, cold, hungry, and desperate as her twin babies sicken with pneumonia. >>read more
Read-alikes: After the Great Migration
By Donna Seaman
The novels and short stories below imaginatively chart the powerful, often surprising and disconcerting social, cultural, and psychological ripple effects of the Great Migration. For a solid historical footing, turn to The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration (2010) by Isabel Wilkerson. >>read more
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By Kathryn Burak
Claire thinks it is grotesque that Emily Dickinson's dress is displayed at the poet's homestead museum in Amherst. But she feels close to her deceased mother there, and she sneaks into the museum at night to write sparse lines, often reflecting on her mother's suicide. Sometimes she even puts on the dress. >>read more
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This crop of first novels, all reviewed in Booklist in the past year, introduces memorable characters and intriguing situations in books for readers in grades four through twelve. >>read more
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Starting with the title, this wry, moving debut novel does a great job of blending the personal and the political without denigrating either. Growing up in the Puerto Rican East Harlem barrio in 1969, Rosa, 14, changes her name to Evelyn and tries to be more mainstream. Then her activist abuela arrives from Puerto Rico and moves in, and Evelyn feels as if she's found "an older overdone version of me." >>read more
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Roland Beaulieu, the father-in-law of Rabagliati's alter ego, Paul, is dying. His illness has been gradual, and his decline isn't a surprise, but that doesn't make it any easier for anyone in the family. Roland has worn many hats in his long and rich life—orphan, reckless youth, self-made man, husband, father, patriarch—but none fully captures the impact he has had on the lives around him. >>read more
A Wrinkle in Time
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Commemorating its fiftieth anniversary, L'Engle's classic couldn't have scored a better talent to adapt its story into comics form. Larson produces high-quality coming-of-age stories featuring female protagonists, with the most recent (Mercury, 2010) even including a fantasy element to highlight the tale's emotional stakes. She dives wholeheartedly into L'Engle's seminal epic, chronicling the journey of Meg Murry, her preternaturally intelligent younger brother, Charles, and their friend Calvin O'Keefe, crossing distant worlds to save the Murrys', lost patriarch. >>read more
Featured Blog: Book Group Buzz
Friday, October 12, 2012 8:17 am
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
Posted by: MaryKate Perry
I read Tom Franklin's Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter in July and it remained with me all summer long. Now, as the weather turns, Franklin's well-crafted dialogue continues to wander through my head. When I opened to the first chapter and landed smack in the middle of a horrific day in the haunted life of Larry Ott, recluse by necessity and perennial murder suspect, I knew this was one of those rare and tenacious tales. >>read more
Wednesday, October 10, 2012 8:30 am
Posted by: Admin
Book Group Buzz welcomes a new blogger!
MaryKate Perry received a Masters in Literature and then, once satisfied that she could find plenty of books for herself, decided she wanted to help others find some as well. After attending the UW's iSchool, she settled in Olympia, Washington, with her husband and two daughters. Through her volunteer work at the Timberland Regional Library she selects materials for homebound patrons as old as 93, and at home she finds books for small people. She also hikes, swims in lakes, and bakes an abundant quantity of desserts for her book group. >>read more