Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I Love New York: BEA and Lightning’s Espresso Book Machine

I came to NYC recently to promote my new writing guidebook The Fiction Writer, at Book Expo America (BEA), North America’s largest book fair. The Fiction Writer was showcased along with other new books for 2009 at the BEA, which was held at New York’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Centre, located in the heart of Manhattan with a view of the Hudson River.

The fair was huge and I was enthralled, if not slightly overwhelmed. I’ve been to several World Science Fiction and Fantasy Conventions; but this trade fair was ... well… HUGER (is that a word?). Over 1,500 publishing houses, retailers, printers and associated industry people displayed exhibits at the book fair. Upcoming titles (like The Fiction Writer) in all kinds of formats and genres were showcased. As I entered the Javits Centre, feeling like a character in one of my SF books, the floor buzzed with the frantic energy of industry representatives.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Mildred Huie Wilcox—Portrait of an Artist As a Georgian Lady

I’ve got Georgia on my mind… That isn’t just a line in a song. It’s a lingering sentiment that haunts anyone who has spent any time there, I think. When I attended the Scribblers’ Retreat Writers’ Conference on Saint Simon’s Island in Georgia a few weeks ago, I was treated to its renowned homespun hospitality and had the fortune to meet one of Saint Simon’s Island’s most venerated citizens: Mildred Huie Wilcox, Community Arts Advocate, Humanitarian, and International Art Scholar.

Mildred opened The Left Bank Art Gallery on Saint Simons in 1964 and later the Mildred Huie Museum at Mediterranean House. A former international model and fashion designer (she modeled in Rome, Paris and New York), this elegant and very classy lady showcases an eclectic collection of European and local art in her gallery; art guaranteed to delight your senses and promote enchanting stories from the gallery owner herself (every painting has a story). She also writes a monthly art column in the local paper, Coastal Illustrated, has written several books on Georgian history, and frequently speaks to art and writers groups.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Mildred spotted me as I made a clumsy late entrance at the conference and waved me on to join her table, where participants were already engaged in feasting. As I took my seat next to her, I found myself entranced with her Georgian gentility flavored with the international patina of the well-travelled dilettante. As I surmised from her vibrant elegance, Mildred was not only full of stories—she was a story herself.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Darwin and Lincoln: Revolution to Evolution

Two hundred years ago, on February 12, 1809, Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln were born within hours of each other in opposite worlds: Darwin in a comfortable home in the English countryside of Shrewsbury; and Lincoln in a log cabin in the Kentucky woods.

Their shared birthday is more than intriguing coincidence; it marks their shared legacy in shaping the modern world. A legacy that is far more intermingled than one might first think. It both starts and ends with one word: evolution.

The common belief in 1809 was that life was fixed in place since the beginning of a terrestrial time that went back a few thousand years at most. The “truth” held in 1809 lay in a “vertical” organization of life, a kind of established hierarchy of species on earth, descending from humans downward with a divine judge above. Focusing on the example of the terror in France, people also believed that societies generally required inherited order and a strong immutable structure to keep them from dissolving into anarchy or tyranny. The notion of democracy was a fringe ideal held by a handful of radicals. In America, where “democracy” was embraced through the revolution, the persistence of slavery tainted its ideal with ill notions of prejudice and fixed social order. Yet, the tide of change and evolution was stirring in the hearts and minds of these two men of humility and grace.