Readersforum's Blog

April 8, 2014

African writing blurs into ‘world’ literature

By Dan Ojwang, Michael Titlestad

Chimamanda Adichie

Chimamanda Adichie

Initiatives such as the Kwani Trust and Femrite are helping to keep a beleaguered readership alive.

It is timely to reflect on the past, present and possible future of African literature. We need to do so in ways that are neither sentimental nor purely ideological.

For close to 40 years, between the 1960s and the close of the 1990s, the image of African literature cohered around the famous African Writers Series (AWS), published by Heinemann. There were, of course, several other publishers, some of them locally owned (such as Ravan in South Africa and the Nairobi-based East African Publishing House) and some of them international (such as Longman, Oxford University Press and Evans Brothers), but none had the global reach that the AWS had in its heyday.

Although its headquarters were in the United Kingdom, Heinemann could make claims to respecting, diligently editing and promoting the work of the many African writers on its lists. It was also well represented in different regions, production staff and distributors.

The work of the publishing houses based on the continent was, in turn, complemented by a number of local institutions that nurtured writers and also mediated the ways in which their writing would be received. Such institutions included universities such as Ibadan, Legon, Makerere, Nairobi and Wits, in which many of the founding debates on the work of African writers first occurred.

A large number of emerging writers, especially in the 1960s, were first published in journals and literary magazines of the period, such as the Kampala-based Transition, the Nigeria-based Black Orpheus, and Drum and Contrast in South Africa. For Francophone African writers, there was Présence Africaine, which also doubled as a magazine and publishing house.

Those who experienced literary success in this period, figures such as Chinua Achebe, Ayi Kwei Armah, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Ousmanne Sembene, Ferdinand Oyono, Mongo Beti, Wole Soyinka, Flora Nwapa, Grace Ogot, Bessie Head and Okot p’Bitek came to constitute the canon of African literature. They would serve, in many ways, as the implicit interlocutors for many of their successors.

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October 25, 2011

Penguin and BlogHer Partner for BlogHer Writers 2011 Conference

By Gabe Habash

Held at the Hilton in Manhattan on October 21, Penguin and BlogHer, the community and media company created in partnership with women in social media, hosted BlogHer Writers ’11, a full day of events “designed for women who want to start on their path to publishing.” The conference, which was limited to 200 attendees from blogging and writing backgrounds, featured breakout panel sessions and mentor brainstorming sessions with agents.

Barbara Marcus, strategic innovations advisor for Penguin, started the day with a welcome address to attendees about what’s happening now in publishing. “Blogs to Books,” a general session followed, with Penguin editors talking about how a blog can become a book. Neeti Madan, editor at Penguin, told how she found Jenny Lawson, blogger on TheBloggess, liked her voice, and she’s now slated to author Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir for Amy Einhorn Books. And while the panel reiterated that voice is important for turing a blog into a book, Rebecca Hunt, also an editor at Penguin, said editors are “tired of one-note gimmicks. We’re tired of funny pictures of cats,” so she stressed, as did her fellow panelists, the importance of an idea that can be quickly grasped, as well as a solid following online.

The first breakout sessions of the day were titled “Publishing 101” and “How to Turn a Book or Two into a Writing Career,” designed to split the attendees by their publishing experience, a breakdown that Matthew Boyd, publishing and special marketing manager at Penguin, said was “about 75% beginning writers, 25% writers who already had a book or two and wanted to know what to do next.”

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June 30, 2011

Motovun Group Association Meets in Spain

By J.P. Leventhal

Ninety-five members, associates, guests and family of the Motovun Group Association met in the beautiful and historic setting of Santiago de Compostela, Spain June 24-27 to discuss new challenges facing illustrated book publishing and to share experiences that mutually benefit all members.

The Motovun Group Association was founded in 1977 with ‘a spirit of East meets West’ and a desire to reach out and begin communication with countries within the Soviet and Yugoslav spheres of influence. Today MGA is an association of 80 invited members who publish illustrated books representing 24 countries from across the globe.  The annual meeting embraces lectures, seminar-style meetings, shared experience break-out sessions, and plenty of time for one-on-one meetings to conduct business.  The organization is named after the medieval hilltop town Motovun in Istria, Croatia where the annual meetings were held in the early years and was the site of the meeting once again in 2010.

This year there were 20 first-timers attending the annual meeting, a record.  One of the newcomers, Ralph Möllers of Terzio/Möllers & Bellinghausen Verlag, Munich, stated, “I am completely impressed by the warmth, openness, and cooperation among the members of MGA.”
Members can participate in optional excursions in and around Santiago, as well as group breakfasts, lunches, dinners and opportunities to enjoy ample supplies of local wine, to enhance the spirit of mutual partnership and camaraderie.

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March 10, 2011

An Unpublished Will Eisner Keynote Address from the ‘Will Eisner Symposium’

The following is a transcript of Will Eisner’s keynote address at the “‘Will Eisner Symposium: The 2002 University of Florida Conference on Comics and Graphic Novels.”

Will Eisner Google Doodle," by Google

I’d like to start this evening by talking about how important this gathering is. I think this is probably a turning point. I’ve been trying all evening to think of a decent metaphor to explain this wonderful thing that has been put together by Don Ault and his team. All I could think about is trying to explain to you how a Jewish boy feels being able to join a gentile country club.

This seriously is a moment in time for which I have been dreaming all of my professional life, as most of those who worked around me dreamt about but weren’t even aware that this was possible. We now, for the first time, we’re being recognized, not yet accepted, but we’re now recognized in major bookstores and in the rooms of academia – in the academic community. We’re now being discussed as a form of literature, and this is what I’ve been hoping for in all these years.

                                                                                                                                          …read more

February 18, 2011

Tools of Change 2011: Technology and the Future of Storytelling

Filed under: Conferences — Tags: , , — Bookblurb @ 11:34 am

By Calvin Reid

As attendees were learning the details about Borders’s bankruptcy filing, O’Reilly’s Tools of Change conference was winding down three days of programming with a slate of panels that included a look at the rise of Transmedia storytelling and presented a new generation of online literary ventures that offer a glimpse at the future of reading. Indeed, despite a crowded calendar of digital conferences, this year’s TOC sold out completely attracting 1,400 attendees, and the event’s popularity, utility, and cachet only seemed to grow.                                                                          …read more

February 17, 2011

Tools of Change 2011: Old Pros, New Tools and the Future of Publishing

Filed under: Conferences — Tags: , , , — Bookblurb @ 6:59 am

By Calvin Reid

Still buzzing from author Margaret Atwood’s keynote presentation, O’Reilly’s  Tools of Change conference spent the rest of Tuesday doing what it does best: offering up a slate of presentations crowded with knowledgeable professionals. Tuesday’s panels featured a lineup of chief technology officers from O’Reilly, HarperCollins, and Reed-Elsevier discussing the future of e-books; a slate of booksellers offering the best ways to sell them; and a much anticipated evening keynote offering a “Unified Field Theory of Publishing,” from consultant Brian O’Leary.        …read more

February 16, 2011

Atwood takes stage at TOC and tells publishers to keep feeding their authors

Filed under: Conferences — Tags: , , , — Bookblurb @ 2:29 pm

16.02.11 | Philip Jones

Author Margaret Atwood used her Tools of Change keynote speech to warn the industry not to eliminate authors, and make sure they are paid enough to “pay for the cheese sandwiches”.       …read more

January 21, 2011

ABA Winter Institute Kicks Off

By Judith Rosen

If there was one thread woven through yesterday’s Legislative Day at the American Bookseller Association’s Winter Institute, it was “the resurgent vitality in independent bookselling,” which ABA president Michael Tucker, co-owner and CEO of San Francisco’s Books Inc., referred to at the opening session. That vitality was evidenced not only by the convention’s sellout audience of 500 booksellers, but by the number of new booksellers, soon-to-be booksellers, and frontline booksellers who came to the show…read more 

January 10, 2011

Hanvon brings world’s first color E Ink reader to CES, we go hands-on (video)

Filed under: Conferences — Tags: , , , , — Bookblurb @ 12:46 pm

Hanvon is aiming to fill the chasm between monochromatic e-readers and color LCD-based tablets at CES this year with its all-new color e-reader. It features the famed 9.7-inch color E Ink panel, the first of its kind, and offers the rather spectacular resolution of 1200 x 1600. We managed to spend a few precious moments with a prototype unit and were impressed by the solid and thin construction and the excellent viewing angles on offer….read more

December 18, 2010

Emerging Technologies Debated in France

Filed under: Conferences — Tags: , — Bookblurb @ 1:40 pm

Many kids attended the salon to see the latest in children's books. Photo: Eric Garault, SLPJ 2010

 Salon du livre et de la presse jeunesse is an annual children’s book fair for both publishers and young readers held just outside of Paris in Montreuil, this year from December 1–6. It is, of course, a haven of book perusal, book buying, and author and illustrator signings. However, a conference that occurred on the last day of the fair delved into that precarious territory beyond the pages: new media. A four-person panel discussed the topic of New Technologies: Publishing, Animation and Crossmedia. The panel represented varied points of view…read more

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