This Week in Books 1/21/11

by | Jan 21, 2011 | Uncategorized | 49 comments

Light news this week! It’s This Week in Books on a diet. We’re keeping our New Year’s Resolutions after all.

Let’s see what have we here. The good people at NPR are launching a new short fiction contest, but SPEAKING OF CONTESTS, I know those NPR people are great and all that with their insightful commentary and amazing radio programs, but WE ARE HAVING A CONTEST NEXT WEEK RIGHT HERE! Prizes and riches beyond compare (not really) hang in the balance!! Fun beyond compare (really)!! An ARC of a certain space adventure involving universe breaking will be given away! There will be more prizes than that!

This blog. Monday. Be there. Er. Here.

(Don’t worry, there are more links.)

In e-book news, writing for my employer CNET, David Katzmaier talked about how he borrowed a Kindle and was completely sold that e-readers are an improvement over paper. Only there was one problem with the Kindle: it’s not easy to borrow e-books from libraries (as it is with the Sony Reader). So he’s not buying a Kindle.

Writing in the Guardian, Laura Miller notices an interesting fact of 21st Century life absent from much of contemporary literature: this little thing called the Internet. (via Stephen Parrish)

Could one of the perennial debates in writing circles be settled at long last? Slate’s Farhad Manjoo launched an impassioned broadside against the wasteful, malicious scourge of the writing world: two spaces after a period. I used to be a two-space sinner, but I have repented and seen the light, hallelujah.

The great Janet Reid tackles a very important topic necessary of distinction: the difference between a query and a pitch. Know it.

Now, I didn’t read the Babysitter’s Club books as I was busy at the time playing baseball and watching Star Wars (not at the same time, though that would be awesome). Where were we? Oh. Babysitter’s Club. I’m told that this is a hilarious post if you were a fan. (via my friend Holly Burns)

This week in the Forums, how to deal with writer’s butt, organizing your submissions, have you read THE CITY AND THE CITY? I want to talk!, how to handle subchapters, and what makes you good at what you do?

Comment! of! the! Week! there were tons of great Twitter tips in yesterday’s post about how to use Twitter and I’d hate to single out just one, so I’m going with a collective comment of the week for that thread. Thanks everyone!

And finally, via Sommer Leigh in the Forums, Ira Glass and the radio program This American Life is one of the great treasures in both America and life, and he sat down for a really great series of chats about storytelling. It’s an absolute must see, especially the first one:

Have a great weekend!


  1. Lisa Aldin

    I freaking loved The Babysitter's Club. And the Saddles Club. I am checking out that link RIGHT NOW.

    Happy Friday!

  2. Laura Campbell

    Although my space usage is constantly in the back of my mind now, I was ready to thrown down after reading Manjoo's offensive article. His arrogance got in the way of his message. It felt more like an attack, as if I was stupid for not being up-to-date with the manual changes. Two spaces is the way all children learn to write in the American school system, from grade school to high school.

    On a lighter note, I absolutely loved The Babysitter's Club series. I always wanted to be part of the group. I still have all my novels. And my little sister read the spin off series, Babysitters: Little Sister. The post is hilarious! Thanks!

  3. Dara

    I too loved the Babysitters Club. Good memories there ๐Ÿ™‚

    Also, I would recommend a Nook over a Kindle. You can get library books on that one easily; I've done it dozens of times already.

  4. T. Anne

    Funny Babysitters club link. I cannot wait for an opportunity to win an arc of a certain space novel that involves corn dogs and well, space. It will come autographed from the author, right? =)

  5. Dawn Simon

    My name is Dawn, and I used to be a two-space sinner. Someone corrected me a few years ago. First I thought she was wrong because I'd been taught to put two spaces in high school, but…um…she wasn't.

    Dara, yay about the Nook! I got one for Christmas and haven't tried to check out a library book yet.

    I imagine it was super exciting, helping deliver your clients' books into the world when you were an agent. Now it's got to be amazing to hold your own ARC. Congrats!

  6. Jen Albin

    Perhaps Mr. Manjoo can pay for all of us to have more typing lessons? (Two spaces) As a former academic, I can state confidently that keeping up with manual changes is akin to knitting a sweater to match your pet chameleon – why bother? It's just going to change again. Consistency is key. I could try to remember to type one space instead of two in my MSS, but I'd end up with a mix of one and two spaces, which is far worse than using two spaces throughout. Considering the number of real stylistic and grammatical errors writers make, spacing is rather pedantic. Case in point, I just used a split infinitive.

  7. Steve Masover

    The City and The City is a terrific novel, one for which I'm really glad I left my usual reading ruts.

  8. Kathryn Magendie

    I laughed last night during The Office when Darryl went into the bookstore and the clerk showed him a kindle (or other e-reader) – he said, "I'm in the paper business and these things scare the hell out of me." Later, he has a bag and when his coworkers ask what's inside, instead of telling them he bought an e-reader, he says it has "nasty porn; nasty old lady porn – nasty stuff; you don't want to see it" — Laughing! ๐Ÿ˜€

  9. Emily White

    I'm a two-spacer, I'll admit it. I just don't know how to stop! This is how I was taught to type and my typing is to the point where I don't even think about it; my hands do all the work without my input. I've tried to stop, I really have, but when I'm in the middle of a writing brainstorm, I can't stop at the end of every sentence to make sure I only press the space bar once.

    *note: I couldn't even stop myself from using two spaces in this comment, and I'd really meant to. ๐Ÿ™

  10. rosaria

    No more two spaces?Ouch!How do I train my typing fingers?

  11. Watcher55

    Watcherโ€™s Credo: โ€œThe rules of good writing are taunting me, so I broke them.โ€

    I wholeheartedly disagree with Manjoo, and for not so arbitrary reasons. A space signals a pause? (Aspacesignalsapause?) As if our poor readers are going to loose their place because their eyes have to traverse an extra centimeter or two. The extra space is โ€œbloody uglyโ€? To a claustrophobe, space is a wonderful thing.

    I use the two space rule because it gives me the flexibility I need to break it. When separate sentences represent separate thoughts I use two spaces, but when I want to emote a certain sense of foreboding, anger, gloom or what have you, I use sentence fragments separated by a single space: โ€œYou murdered my family! My name! And I relived it over and over!โ€

    The single space rule is restrictive and I refuse to follow it.

  12. Michele Stefanides

    I have been using two spaces to end sentences since I was taught to type in the 70's. I was also a copy editor and a business editor, and we were taught to use two spaces, also. I switched careers and did not keep up with changes in "typography", so how would I have known? The Manjoo article was so very arrogant and offensive. I'm open to learning new things, but I don't appreciate being treated like an "ignorant" idiot. I have liked this blog so far, but if you continue to include links to such offensive articles, I may start looking for a blog that provides teaching in a kind way.

    On to the Babysitter's Club–my daughter was obssessed with those books. I saved them all and will pass them on to my granddaughters when they are old enough.

  13. Laurel

    I'm a two-spacer, too! I was taught that two spaces are correct but often newspapers and other publishers preferred one because it saved paper real estate.

    At any rate, I agree with Jen. Whatever you do it should be consistent or it looks sloppy. Also, MS Word does not auto-correct for either one space or two although fragments earn a green squiggle, so all us two space troglodytes must be in good company. (If you consider Microsoft good company!)

  14. Ted Fox

    I was a two-spacer when I got my first "real" job but had a boss who preferred one, so I made the switch and now like it much better myself. The only problem? My new boss is used to two spaces, so I feel like a nitpicky know-it-all whenever I go (insert Bill Lumbergh "Office Space" voice) "Um, yeah, we're going to need to go ahead and sort of switch that."

  15. Watcher55

    I appreciate the link to Janet Reid's post on the difference between a pitch and a query. I plan to attend my first sci-fi convention in March because it includes a writer's workshop and the possibilty of pitching my WIP is a real possibility.

  16. Munk

    Ira Glass streams epiphanies in an everyday voice.
    I could listen for hours. Thanks for posting.

  17. Geoff

    Lol, I always give my wife crap for the double space. She even does it when texting. I'm gonna send her that link for sure!

    And that article about the internet is interesting. Do you think its because a lot of writers seem to skip out on the pop culture of the times as to not date their book? I had so many of my beta readers ask me that – if I was worried that my book was too specific in time and place – because the first few drafts of my WIP made a LOT of references to popular media of a certain time (namely, my lifespan.) (I've since toned it down.) Frame of reference is good and you don't wanna confuse people with vague reference, but are we too concerned with keeping a book "timeless"? I'm reading China Mieville's Kraken and I LOVE how "in the now" it is, with talk of texting, social media, punk music, chat rooms and networking. Its specific to a generation really, but is that a bad thing?

    Just some thoughts. Anyway, I'm rambling all over your blog so I will stop now. Sorry about the mess. I'm a terrible house guest.

  18. Khanada

    I, too, was a bit irritated at the tone of the two-space article. I am 40 years old and learned to type as a teenager. Of all the nasty habits I've acquired over the years, THAT'S the one he wants me to worry about??

    I was going to at least try to drop the 2nd space, but now I think not. The way I see it, I'm doing these people a favor. How else are they going to look down their noses at the rest of us if we take this away from them?

  19. Sean

    Kathryn, the bookstore segment on The Office last night was hilarious!

    And since e-readers are taking over, I guess we don't have to worry about saving paper anymore with just one space after a period. Personally, I like two spaces from a period. I also like two spaces from a stranger in a movie theater, especially when they're on their phone.

  20. swampfox

    I'm a trained two-spacer, but now I have another copy of my ms that uses the one space rule. Had to. Just signed a contract with a publisher who required it. That was a convincer.

    Weird word verification: skinglu. Self-defined.

  21. Cindy Noble

    According to Manjoo's article, the two space after a period "rule" came about because it made things typed with monospaced fonts more readable. So now that everyone can use fancy proportional fonts in their word processors, their manuscripts (or emails, or whatever) should use only one space after a period.

    But, what if one is still using a monospaced font, such as Courier? Would two spaces after a period still be correct in this case?

    And how much would a space-after-sentence faux pas hurt a manuscript's chance during submissions?

    Inquiring minds want to know. Really.

    *I'm a two-spacer by feel. It's just what the fingers do. Curse you, 9th grade typing class!

  22. MJR

    I'm not a huge ereader, but I love my Sony pocket ereader…so don't necessarily go for a Kindle or Nook without first checking out the Sony. The online bookstore isn't as extensive as Amazon, but it's good for an occasional eread. Being able to borrow books from the library is a plus, too.

  23. Meredith

    That video was excellent! I really needed that! Thank You!

  24. rnorwicke

    Thanks for the spacing article. I remember someone teaching me to use two spaces. It was my high school typing teacher. We learned on IBM Selectrics. Nathan, you have saved me countless keystrokes. My bones and tendons thank you.

  25. Susan Kaye Quinn

    I'm intrigued for Monday! And thanks for the video clip – very interesting. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  26. Kelly Bryson

    Those videos were fantastic! Thanks for sharing them- it explains why agents will say "no" to a project and ask you to send pages of the next one.

  27. Kristin Laughtin

    As a librarian-in-training, I'm really hoping Amazon will make it easier for libraries to lend ebooks onto Kindle devices sometime soon. I know there are "talks" about it, but it would be a great way of promoting reading and libraries. I love my Kindle, but still love print books, so it hasn't been a big issue for me yet, but I know it will be for many people in the future.

    I had no idea there was still so much contention about spacing! I do two spaces because that is how I learned (and I'm 27, so it wasn't all that long ago). The article reeks of arrogance and is whiny, though. Consistency is all that matters for me. Plus, I figure it's easier to do a find-and-replace to change all the two-spaced areas to one space than to do the reverse, if anybody really cared about it (and so far, nobody has).

    I used to be suuuuch a huge fan of the Baby-Sitters Club. I'm looking forward to ending this comment by going to read that post now!

  28. Mira

    Ha ha, you're so funny, Nathan. I enjoyed this post. ๐Ÿ™‚

    So, first, the controversial "two spaces" article – I could be wrong, but I think the Slate guy is trying to be funny/ironic/tongue in cheek. He's too subtle, which means he can be misunderstood, but I think that's his intent….

    Anyway, after reading the article and the posts, I have no idea what to do, but since following rules of grammar is my mission in life, I've decided to start a new paragraph after every sentence. That way I won't be breaking any spacing rules.

    So, the links are very interesting. I'm going to respond to them all now, because the post is on a diet (ha, ha!) and there's only a few of them.

    A CONTEST!!! Yipee!! Yay!!! So, what kind of contest? Is it a writing contest? Can I enter the contest? Can I be the only entrant? Then I'd win. What are the prizes? Are they money? I need money. Oh boy, I can't wait. Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!! Hurry up Monday, there's a contest coming!

    I'm also thinking of entering the NPR short fiction contest. The guy said he is looking for pieces that are emotional and have character, so I'm thinking of entering this blog post I'm typing right now. It doesn't get much more emotional than this blog post.

    I'm not sure what all the issues are around library lending for e-books, so it's a very interesting topic. I bet it's complicated.

    In terms of literature not mentioning the internet, I really like what Geoff said. I agree.

    I don't know what to say about the query/pitch thing, although I liked Janet Reid's post. But I have nothing to say, and certainly don't feel emotional about it. Hope this doesn't lose me the NPR contest.

    You know, some of the forum threads are really funny. And I think Sommer is terrific. That video is also terrific – very informative!!

    I was surprised to hear that you didn't read the Babysitter's Club because you were playing baseball and watching Star Wars, though, Nathan. I figured it was because you were a BOY and wouldn't be caught dead with that book in your hands. This, by the way, is another hidden benefit of e-readers. Now boys can read the Babysitter's club without fear. No one will know. I guess other people can secretly read some other books, too, but I can't think of other secret books right now.

    Okay, that's it. Fun links, fun post, and fun contest coming up!! Does it get any better than this?

    Monday, hurry, hurry!

  29. Matthew Rush

    Ira Glass is the man. Also, no offense Nathan, but having my writing come anywhere near wining anything in an NPR contest would be … indescribable.

  30. D.G. Hudson

    Re – David Katzmaier's post: Interesting facts about library lending. I have to check if we can do that on our e-reader (Kobo).

    Checked out Janet Reid's difference between a pitch and a query. Very concise info. Thanks for the link.

    People were writing about computers – what about TRON or its recent follow-up? Not too literary, but science fiction doesn't strive to be.

    Never read the Babysitter's club, it had no appeal to me, a science fiction reader. Star Wars would have been my choice, too.

    An ARC of your new book? A tantalizing prize. Will check in on Monday.

    Have a great weekend! (we all deserve one)

  31. D.G. Hudson

    Another comment – the one or two space disagreement. I prefer two spaces, which is a pause. One space is hardly a breath. I can see the point when a manuscript is sent via email, but how crushed up do we want our print to be?

    Reading is supposed to be a pleasure, not a sprint to the finish line.

    However, for submitting purposes, I follow guidelines. It just seems very inconsequential to our real life to discuss the bloody space between sentences.

  32. Jenn Crowell

    That Baby-Sitters' Club spoof? Best "This Week In Books" link ever.

  33. Sommer Leigh

    Contest! I heart contests! I can't wait for Monday now and boy, I can pretty much count on one hand how many times I've ever said THAT.

    I am a two-space-terrorist. When I'm editing documents for the people I support at work I regularly go through and delete all their extra spaces. VIVA LA REVOLUTION!

    Mira – you are terrific too and I so miss your posts! Also, your one sentence paragraphs are a lovely compromise.

  34. Krista V.

    I have to tell you, I clicked over to check out "This Week in Books," and my three-year-old happened to be standing right here. As soon as the page came up, he said, "What's that?!"

    He was pointing, of course, to the cover of JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE COSMIC SPACE KAPOW.

    So my three-year-old and I are eagerly awaiting JACOB WONDERBAR together:)

  35. Marilyn Peake

    So happy to read that article about the absence of the Internet in modern fiction. The science fiction novel I'm working on right now includes a future, more evolved version of the Internet. ๐Ÿ™‚

  36. Anne R. Allen

    I believe two spaces are still the proper format for screenplay scripts, which are always written in Courier.

    Ira Glass is a treasure. What a simple, elegant explanation of story structure. Eat your heart out, Robert McKee!

  37. Josin L. McQuein

    You can search / replace the two-spaces with singles easy enough.

    And YAY for contests!

  38. Carol Riggs

    My daughters read the Babysitter's Club and enjoyed them (*she said, showing her age*). They liked Animorphs better though, which I actually read, and we enjoyed the TV series too. Good times!

    And TWO spaces after a period–ugghers. I grew up with using one (*she said, showing her age*) and two looks really odd to me. I went to a temp agency once and did the typing test with only one space, and got points knocked off for it. The lady there wasn't sympathetic, saying EVERYONE did two spaces, and it was NEVER one space. Um, excuse me?

    The Internet is not widely mentioned in contemp literature, how interesting. Well, in my YA light sci-fi (circa 2033) they've switched to the Grid. Ten thousand times faster, people! (and it's real too, cutting edge now, so could be in universal usage by 2033)

  39. Michelle Globetrotter

    I used to love the Babysitters Club! I was surprised when you mentioned them…havent heard anyone talk about them in years! haha

  40. terripatrick

    ONLY ONE SPACE AFTER A PERIOD? How did I miss this information?

    Thanks for the information. I shall look much more professional now. But it's going to be hard. to. get. my. fingers. to. cooperate.

    OK, I see it now. ๐Ÿ˜€

  41. lac582

    With regards to the Internet in novels – I think Geoff's point about dating one's work is valid, but I think another part of it is that the act of using the Internet is passive and undramatic. Do we really want to read a scene about someone researching something by typing it into a search engine and reading back the response, even if it's 10x more logical then having them break into their neighbor's house to snoop around for the same answer?

    It's like in movies these days – so many sequences suspend disbelief and make you think "you know, all this sillyness could be avoided if she just picked up her cell phone and called xyz!" But screenwriters go out of there way to write something dramatic, with action, because someone talking on the cell phone seems easy, and boring.

  42. John Kurt

    Thanks for the CNET link about library renting to the Sony Reader.

    I'm about to sell my Sony PRS-600 (probably on ebay) so that link will help… MOUHAHAHA

    Fyi: Let your CNET buddy know that one can library-onto-kindle. Tell him to download Calibre. He'll be able to take it from there.

  43. The Red Angel

    I used to be an avid fan of THE BSC when I was younger, so the "Where Are They Now?" article was extremely entertaining to read, haha.

    Thanks for sharing. ๐Ÿ™‚


  44. Cari

    @D.G. – yes, you can use your Kobo with library e-books.

    @John Kurt – Library e-books don't support the use of Calibre. You can try it, but we (librarians) don't recommend it. David's post was needed. The point is that Amazon needs to get on board with libraries. I'm a writer, too, so I understand the need to keep the publishing industry alive. But libraries are needed, too, so much.

  45. D.G. Hudson

    @Cari – thanks for the info re the Kobo e-reader. We like libraries as well!

    Nice to know we have the option.

  46. Mira

    @Sommer – thanks, you're very cool, Sommer. ๐Ÿ™‚ You guys at the forums are great fun! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Monday, Monday. Wherefore art thou Monday?

  47. Megan G.O.

    I guess I had more time in my childhood–I managed to read The Babysitter's Club, play baseball, and watch Star Wars.

    It must have been a time management issue, right? Because I'm sure you were not implying that girls were reading the Babysitter's Club while you boys were playing baseball and watching Star Wars. That would be sexist and presumptive, and I'm sure you're smarter than that.

  48. Lucinda Bilya

    Just when suffering from a another case of "am I crazy" fever…another one your fantastic blogs soothes the hot brow with coolness.

    Ira Glass! Tnx Nathan.

    After reading Janet Reid's comments, I pegged it at the top of my favorites…right beside yours.



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Hi, Iโ€™m Nathan.ย Iโ€™m the author ofย How to Write a Novelย and theย Jacob Wonderbarย series, which was published by Penguin. I used to be a literary agent at Curtis Brown Ltd. and Iโ€™m dedicated to helping authors chase their dreams.ย Let me help you with your book!

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