Showing posts tagged Powells.com
The first thing you discover when you write a guidebook is this: You are wrong about everything.
I’ve spent the past several years updating travel guides. It quickly becomes apparent that whoever wrote the previous edition of the book you’re working on was an idiot, even (especially) if that person was you.
This is partly because of the inconvenient fact that books take a long time to publish, and places change quickly. A guidebook’s shelf life may be three or four years, so anything wrong stays wrong for a while. People will write in to let me know the ferry tickets cost two dollars more than the book says, or that there is no crayfish risotto on the menu, and the Rauschenberg goat sculpture is not in the middle of the room or even in that museum at all. This is of course very helpful.
Then there’s the other kind of wrong, when the author’s perception of a place simply doesn’t match the reader’s. One person’s adorable B&B is another’s floral nightmare. Where you see an edgy, no-frills dive bar, somebody else sees the bathroom in Trainspotting. (It is also wrong to use the words “edgy” and “no-frills.” “Floral” is OK.) Heisenberg figures in, too, sometimes: by observing and describing a thing, you’ve magically added it to the backpacker trail, and now it’s ruined.
Making a guidebook, in other words, is — at least for the moderately neurotic author — an acute lesson in the impossibility of capturing “truth” or “fact” in writing, of ever really communicating a vision or experience, never mind a sense of what the food is like. The second you record a fact it squirms away, becomes a fiction.
Becky Ohlsen is guest-blogging at Powells.com all week: http://powells.us/11PB7Z1
What’s the strangest or most interesting job you’ve ever had?
I once sold knock-off perfumes in parking lots all over Los Angeles. I’d seen an ad in the paper. I showed up for an interview, which consisted of myself and 40 other people jammed into a room and shown wads of money that could be ours if we just broke the law a few hours a day. We were told not to worry if we got arrested, that the company would bail us out. We were given a script that was invasive, yet compelling, with which to approach customers as they walked out of Walmart: Does your girlfriend wear perfume? Yeah? What kind? Okay, but I’m selling Obsesssion for half as much. Smells the exact same; I got about 50 bottles in the trunk of my car. Surprisingly, the job wasn’t that hard. The perfume really did smell the same and who doesn’t want to save a buck or two? I probably made more money doing that job than I have as a writer in all my years since, combined.
Five books I love but am too scared to reread lest I hate them now, thus forcing myself to question which aesthetic (Fiona then, Fiona now) to trust, since it’s always possible I have become too demanding, fussy, implacable, and impatient over the years:
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
A Death in the Family by James Agee
Light in August by William Faulkner
Angels by Denis Johnson
U and I by Nicholson Baker
Read the rest of our Q&A with Fiona Maazel: http://powells.us/11xNmcy
Would you rather tour the Eiffel Tower or enjoy an elephant ride in the Mekong Delta?
Get inspired. Select DK Eyewitness Travel Guide titles are now 20% off: http://powells.us/10ztt2g
April is National Poetry Month!
15% off all poetry — we’ve handpicked some of our favorite collections to get you started: http://powells.us/10vb9Hr
“A young woman came up to me at Emerald City Comicon and told me she’s in the navy and that Captain Marvel inspired her to apply for flight school.
That was such an extraordinary moment for me. I don’t know what to do with it. My throat gets tight just thinking about it.”
Read our Q&A with Kelly Sue DeConnick, who writes the Avengers Assemble, Captain Marvel, and Ghost comic books: http://powells.us/10WaQaX
“Four or more players gather together to try and build one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Each player picks a different civilization and wins through strategies like military might or economic trading. There are a lot of different ways to win this game, and the expansions that are available now add even more depth to the game. This is one of my favorite games to introduce to people who are done with settling Catan and ready to move into a more complex game.”
Recommended by Eric G., Powell’s Books
Find it here: http://powells.us/10lkYaQ
Why do you write?
A couple of years ago, my answer to this would have been different, I expect. Wizards of the Coast was putting together an anthology of all of the short stories I had done for the Forgotten Realms over the years. Part of my task was to provide an introduction to each of the stories — what was I thinking when I wrote it?
Going over those stories was like looking at an old photo album. I was thrown back to the time, place, and mental state so vividly… it was like reliving the last 25 years of my life.
And then I understood why I write: This is my spiritual journey. This is the way I make sense of the world around me. I use my characters as sounding boards as I try to resolve the big questions bouncing around inside my head. I cannot imagine my life without this tool, this outlet.
Read the rest of our Q&A with R. A. Salvatore: http://powells.us/10RwflO
AN EXCERPT FROM OUR Q&A WITH MUNCHKIN CZAR ANDREW HACKARD ON THE POWELLS.COM BLOG: http://powells.us/10FJq9b
What’s the strangest or most interesting job you’ve ever had?
Other than this one, which is both the strangest and most interesting, I’d have to go with my first-ever summer job: cleaning industrial ice cream machines at the main manufacturing plant for a Texas-based grocery chain. It taught me a lot about the dignity of doing a necessary job well, even when that job is not what most people would consider glamorous or exciting. It also taught me that I did not want to be doing that for the rest of my life.
Introduce one other game you think people should play, and suggest a good version with which to start.
“Should” is subjective, but my go-to non-Munchkin game right now is Dominion. All the players start with the same 10 cards, and who wins depends partly on the luck of the shuffle and partly on which player is best at acquiring and using resources from a shared pool of cards. The card mix changes every game, which means there’s no one solid winning strategy. There are several Dominion expansions, but start with the base set and go from there.
How did the last good book you read end up in your hands, and why did you read it?
I’m reading the serial novel The Human Division by John Scalzi right now (four episodes yet to go). I’m counting it even though I’m technically not finished with the book yet. It ended up in my hands because I’m a massive Scalzi fan and this is his return to his best-known fictional universe.
How did you get started with your career?
I hated grad school and wanted out. That’s the short answer. The longer answer is that I was in Victoria, BC, working on the first year of a doctorate I realized very quickly that I didn’t want. Plus, being in Canada for the winter made me miss Texas. I’d been thinking about shifting from academia into editorial work of some sort for a while, and when Steve Jackson Games posted a job opening looking for a marketing writer, I used that to wedge my foot in the door.
Do you read blogs? What are some of your favorites?
I do! As you might guess, one of my favorites is John Scalzi’s Whatever. Another is Wil Wheaton Dot Net. I’ve been very lucky to get to know Wil over the last 10 years or so; in fact, the second time I ever met him was at the Powell’s annex, when he did a reading from his first book. If we’re allowing webcomics as blogs, I’m addicted to xkcd and his new “What If?” feature, where he answers outlandish questions using actual physics.