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Posts Tagged ‘Kathleen Burge’

I need to ponder a bit before deciding how I feel about publishing books that don’t earn anything for the author and that cost the “buyer” only an unenforceable promise to make a donation to a charity.

I was discussing this with Asakiyume by e-mail this morning. She self-published the delightful Pen Pal and has often said she is more interested in getting people to read the book than in making a lot of money off it. But neither us feels that artists should be expected routinely to give away the fruits of their labors. (If they really want to, there are worthy groups like Artists for a Cause that can make it happen.)

Kathleen Burge describes the new publishing concept in today’s Globe. “When the Concord Free Press was just a radical idea with a one-title book list, founder Stona Fitch nervously pitched Wesley Brown, hoping to persuade the acclaimed author to let him publish Brown’s latest novel.

“ ‘You want me to give you this novel I’ve been writing for years,’ he recalls Brown saying. ‘You’re not going to pay me. And you’re going to give it away for free and hope that readers donate money to something else.’

“ ‘I said, “Wes, yeah, that’s pretty much it.” There’s this long pause and I’m waiting for something bad to happen. And he said, “I’m in.” ’ …

“Readers agree to give away money, in any amount: to a charity, a stranger on the street, or someone who needs it. Donations since 2008 total $409,250 — and that is just those reported back to the publisher. Readers are also asked to pass along the book once they are finished, so donations continue to multiply. …

Gregory Maguire , who wrote Wicked, the wildly popular novel that became a Broadway musical, saw a chance to free himself from his reputation as only a fantasy writer — the way he is promoted by his publisher, HarperCollins — and try a new kind of novel.

“After the book, a tragic farce titled The Next Queen of Heaven, debuted with the Concord press, his publisher paid him a very welcome advance to issue a second — much larger — edition of the work.”

More here.

I can see how this rather Utopian approach could work for an established writer who wants to try a new genre. But the big hurdle for new writers is publicity. They can’t generate their own very well. How do they get into the right hands once they are published?

Photo: Lane Turner/Globe Staff
The Concord Free Press gives away books for free to readers who will donate to a charity or person in need.

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When you take pretty much the same walk every day, camera in hand, you may have trouble finding new things to photograph. You may look in vain for something different, puzzling, or mysterious.

But there is something to be said for combing the same territory over and over, as scientists are finding from studying the detailed record keeping of Henry David Thoreau.

“ ‘As far as I know, there is more information about the effect of climate change in Concord than any other place in the United States,’ said Richard Primack, a Boston University biologist who calls Concord a living lab for his research. …

Primack, writes Kathleen Burge at the Boston Globe, “has researched how climate change has affected the flowering times of plants, comparing modern data with the information Thoreau collected between 1852 and 1860. Primack and his lab found that for every 1 degree Celsius increase in mean spring temperature, plants bloom about three days earlier. …

“Primack came to his work about a decade ago, when he decided to change the direction of his research. He had been studying the effects of climate change on plants and animals in southeast Asia and decided, instead, to focus on his home state.

“But when he began searching for older records of plant flowering times in the United States, he came up short. Finally, after six months, someone told him about Thoreau’s journals.

“This was kind of a gold mine of data,” Primack said. “As soon as we saw it, we knew it was amazing.” More from the Globe.

Keep an eye open for the upcoming Thoreau exhibit at the Concord Museum April 12 to September 15, described here.

cross over the bridge

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The Facebook page of my friend Alden, the oboist, linked to an article on Benoit Rolland, winner of a 2012 MacArthur Award.  Alden said Roland reminded him of the sushi genius in “Jiro Dreams of Sushi,”  a film about a very intense and innovative perfectionist.

The story that Kathleen Burge wrote for the Boston Globe suggests just how inventive Rolland is. “For his entire professional life, Benoît Rolland has been making bows for stringed instruments with one goal: making music easier to play.

“ ‘If a musician is not comfortable with the bow, the bow becomes an obstacle, and he or she cannot be free to play,’ Rolland said. …

“This fall, Rolland, who lives in Watertown with his wife, was rewarded for his innovations and artistry over a career that has included making about 1,800 bows. He was named one of 23 MacArthur Foundation fellows, and given an unrestricted grant of $500,000. …

“Over the years Rolland has made bows for some of the world’s most famous musicians, including violinists Yehudi Menuhin and Anne-Sophie Mutter.

“Kim Kashkashian, a violist who teaches at New England Conservatory, has asked Rolland to make two bows for her.

“ ‘He actually will listen to you play and watch you play and instinctively understand the style of your playing, the particular sensuality of your bow and string relationship,’ said Kashkashian, also a leader with the local Music for Food program.

“Each of the bows Holland made for her has distinctive qualities. One works especially well if she is playing chamber music with a piano, Kashkashian said. ‘The second bow he made for me, which has a really deep chocolatey sound, I would tend to use if I were playing completely alone.’ ”

Read the Globe article here.

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