Saturday, March 28, 2020

Does Danielle Steel Really Write for 20 to 22 Hours Per Day?!


Lena Dunham is writing Verified Strangers, a serial romance novel, that's being posted week-daily on Vogue’s website. Consequently, Dunham posted on Twitter that, for inspiration, she revisited a Danielle Steel Glamour profile (MAY 9, 2019). (In case you're wondering, Verified Strangers is more Cecily von Ziegesar than Vladimir Nabokov.)


Here are some relevant excerpts from Steel's Glamour profile:

The author has written 179 books [...] To pull it off, she works 20 to 22 hours a day. (A couple times a month, when she feels the crunch, she spends a full 24 hours at her desk.)

Steel is a creature of habit. She gets to her office—by 8:30 A.M., where she can often be found in her cashmere nightgown. In the morning she'll have one piece of toast and an iced decaf coffee (she gave up full-throated caffeine 25 years ago). After lunch and as the day wears on, she'll nibble on miniature bittersweet chocolate bars. "Dead or alive, rain or shine, I get to my desk and I do my work. Sometimes I'll finish a book in the morning, and by the end of the day, I've started another project," Steel says.

"I don't get to bed until I'm so tired I could sleep on the floor. If I have four hours, it's really a good night for me," Steel says.

For all her exhortations, Steels does sometimes fear that she's overemphasized work, wishing she'd "had a little more fun." Now every summer she takes a full week off in the South of France to be with her family. They’ll hang out on the beach; she catches up on her reading. (Steel can't read other books while working on her own, which means she can basically never read other books.) On the rare nights that she finishes work earlier than expected, she'll fit in about an hour or so of television, often Netflix [...]

I'm not saying that I don't believe that Steel writes for 20 to 22 hours per day, but I find that to be extremely hard to believe. 

The Paris Review related that Nabokov worked on his translation of Pushkin's Onegin for approximately 17 hours per day - for two months, but Nabokov shared that he was on the verge of a [nervous] breakdown: “I was … on the verge of a breakdown and not fit for company. For two months in Cambridge I did nothing (from 9 A.M. to 2 A.M.) but work on my commentaries to EO.” 

During the summer of 2010, after teaching a summer school course in Manhattan, I worked on my first novel for about ten hours per day. I did not almost have a nervous breakdown but, despite sleeping between 4 to 5 hours per night, I just couldn't squeeze any more writing time out of the day. 


I will say that Steel's eating habits (e.g., "one piece of toast and an iced decaf coffee") are consistent with her alleged work ethic but, per Stephen King and most writers, the fact that Steel doesn't read much is inconsistent with being a writer. 


I wouldn't be surprised if Steel works in a similar fashion to James Patterson who per a Vanity Fair profile (DECEMBER 10, 2014), which refers to Patterson as the "The Henry Ford of Books", Patterson has "an army of co-writers". 

Patterson writes outlines that he sends to co-authors. Upon receiving the manuscript, Patterson revises the MS before sending it to an editor. Consequently, Patterson is: "The planet’s best-selling author since 2001, James Patterson has more than 300 million copies of his books in print, [helped by] an army of co-writers [...]"



Antony Gormley's Abstract Sculpture: “[Brooklyn] New York Clearing”


I precariously took the downtown 4 to Brooklyn's Borough Hall and walked to Brooklyn Bridge Park's Pier 3 to see Antony Gormley's “New York Clearing”. 

Per Timein collaboration with K-pop's BTSGormley's abstract sculpture is "high-concept" modern public art that is: "[...] a single looping line of aluminum tubing — 18 kilometers worth, to be exact — spiraling in open-space, [with] larger-than-life scribbles that reach 50 feet high, like a gargantuan metal tumbleweed." 

Although, downtown Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn were desolate, like downtown Bronx, despite Cuomo's "New York State on PAUSE" executive order, Brooklyn Bridge Park was teeming with art aficionados, joggers, and Brooklynites on constitutionals.  

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Is Non-Fiction Fiction's Foundation?


When I started writing my first novel about 20 years ago, it was a revelation to me that I couldn't write the book out of thin air, because it's impossible. I had to use my life experiences as a foundation for my creativity.

I believe that this is what Thomas Harris, the author of Hannibal and The Silence of the Lambs, related when he shared:

"I don’t think I’ve ever made up anything. Everything has happened. Nothing’s made up. You don’t have to make anything up in this world."

Do you agree with Harris and me?

And here's a link to the full Independent article.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Using Gen Z and Millennials Texting Acronyms in Formal Writing


While perusing the March 2020 issue of Cosmopolitan, I was surprised to notice that the issue was peppered with acronyms that are often used by generation z and millennials. I was forced to Google a number of acronyms, because I couldn't even determine the meaning of the acronyms from the context of the pieces. For example:

Carina Hsieh, the sex and relationship editor, shared: "I'm deep in writing a news story about the trend...perineum sunning. TD;DR: Tanning your b-hole has not health bennies (sorry!)."

TD;DR = too long; didn't read

Taylor Andrews wrote in her piece about where young women keep their debit cards: "[If you keep your debit card in your phone case] [y]ou were the first to use a vibrator in high school, so ofc you gave sexing advice to anyone who listened ... and also explained calc like a pro."

OFC = of course 

And in Hsieh's article about how to determine if you've angered a BFF, option A is: "Just walk away RTFN" 

RTFN: = right the f*ck now

I was familiar with a few of the acronyms, but I was shocked by the number of times I had to refer to Google. And TBH, à la Nabokov, I pepper my writing with (intermediate) French, but to stay relevant, should I pepper my writing with gen z acronyms too?

On a side not, some, like former model Nicole Weider, allege that Cosmopolitan became the largest selling magazine in the world by marketing to teens via using popular acronyms used by gen z and millennials. And by profiling teens or celebrities who are popular with teens while using sexually explicit language. 

For example, the March 2020 issue of Cosmopolitan profiles Lucy Hale. Hale is most famous for playing Aria Montgomery on Pretty Little Liars where she had an extended affair with her high school English teacher. And the text on the cover next to Hale reads: SO THIS SIGN IS the best at sex (WHEN THEY'RE NOT CRYING, THAT IS)

Friday, February 14, 2020

Why We Left New [Jersey] York Red Bulls


Every Major League Soccer (MLS) season, we've wonder why so many New Yorkers appear to snub the New York Red Bulls (NYRB) for the New York City Football Club (NYCFC). 

Since NYCFC arrived in The Bronx in 2013, we've been loyal fans of both teams. But it appears that we've been an anomaly, because most New Yorkers seem to consider the New Jersey based NYBR, a New Jersey team.

However, as of today, we've decided to abandon NYRB for the following reasons:
  1. NYRB transferred Kemar Lawrence, who was, arguably, the best defender in MLS
  2. NYRB traded Bradley Wright Phillips - unarguable one the best strikers in MLS history 
  3. And YouTube TV doesn't carry MSG

Update | 02.29.20: I just found out that the NYRB traded Luis Robles, unarguably the best goalkeeper in the history of the NYRB, to David Beckham's Inter Miami! Apparently, this happened in December. And unsurprisingly, Beckham named Robles the football club's captain.


Thursday, January 30, 2020

Reality TV Star + Influencer Rarely Equals Major Book Sales

Next Level Basic
by Stassi Schroeder of Bravo's Vanderpump Rules

As a writer, it's annoying to see huge advertisements in the Union Square Barnes & Noble window for books "written" by reality TV stars and social media influencers, because I strongly suspect that those "stars" and influencers wouldn't be published if they didn't (appear) to have large amounts of fans. 

But Julie McCarron's shared in her article "What’s an Influencer Worth to Books?" on Publishers Weekly that being a realty star or influencer doesn't always equal a large number of book sales - especially when some of the "influencers" have fake followers. 


A mini-scandal lit up Twitter last month when the Cut featured a tell-all essay by 27-year-old writer Natalie Beach. In the piece, Beach exposes her seven-year relationship with her friend Caroline Calloway, who scored an agent and a reputed $375,000 book deal for her memoir. Beach, who ghostwrote the book, says her former bestie bought Instagram followers after being told by literary professionals that “no one would buy a memoir from a girl with no claim to fame and no fan base.”

Platform has always been key when putting together a nonfiction book proposal. But back in the not-so-very-distant past—a mere dozen years ago!—publishers were throwing six figures and two-book deals at anyone who had a half-decent story and a clip in the local newspaper. These days, a huge following on social media, particularly Instagram, is a must for a book deal.

The moment agents or editors hear an author has a small following or no following, it’s over. Yes, there are exceptions. Still, worthy authors are overlooked every day—in favor of a young woman with a photo of macarons that went viral? Now her friend the ghostwriter has CAA shopping rights to her story? Which era is crazier?

The Kardashian/Jenner sisters have 500 million followers. So how come fewer than 500,000 viewers (18–49) tuned in to the latest episode of their show? Kim Kardashian’s book of selfies sold fewer than 40,000 copies, according to BookScan—yet she remains a powerful influencer. When are publishers going to concede that number of followers (fake or not) is only one key to book sales?

Naturally, some influencers produce books that are megabestsellers (usually with a lot of help). That is because they deserve a wide audience for whatever message they are sending. Ariana Grande, who has one of the biggest social media followings in the world, should get a huge deal... because she’s an incredible singer with a fantastic story to tell—not because of her follower count!

Recently, at a trendy store in Los Angeles, I attended a well-publicized book signing by the latest Bachelorette contestant (1.2 million followers). She breezed in late and sold 10 books. So how about it, agents and editors? I know a lot of fascinating people with stories to share—well-written ones, too. They just don’t have a lot of Instagram followers. Want to see?


Monday, December 30, 2019

How To Be A Student of Aesthetics


Walter Pater writes in the preface to The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry that the aim of the true student of aesthetics is to define beauty. 

And that to see the object (e.g., poetry, literature, pictures, etc.) as it really is is the aim of all true criticism. And one does this by asking the following questions:

"What is this [object of art] to me?"
"What effect does it really produce on me?"
"Does it give me pleasure?" and if so, what sort or degree of pleasure?"
"How is my nature modified by its presence, and under its influence?"

Consequently, the abstract definition of beauty will be of no interest to the student of aesthetics.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Instagram Face: Full Lips & Big Buttocks ARE Attractive


Jia Tolentino relates in her New Yorker piece "THE AGE OF INSTAGRAM FACE: How social media, FaceTune, and plastic surgery created a single, cyborgian look" that in the last decade there has been a: 

[...] gradual emergence, among professionally beautiful women, of a single, cyborgian face. It’s a young face, of course, with poreless skin and plump, high cheekbones. It has catlike eyes and long, cartoonish lashes; it has a small, neat nose and full, lush lips. 

A class of celebrity plastic surgeons has emerged on Instagram, posting time-lapse videos of injection procedures and before-and-after photos, which receive hundreds of thousands of views and likes. 

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, Americans received more than seven million neurotoxin injections in 2018, and more than two and a half million filler injections. That year, Americans spent $16.5 billion on cosmetic surgery; ninety-two per cent of these procedures were performed on women. 

Thanks to injectables, cosmetic procedures are no longer just for people who want huge changes, or who are deep in battle with the aging process—they’re for millennials, or even, in rarefied cases, members of Gen Z. Kylie Jenner, who was born in 1997, spoke on her reality-TV show “Life of Kylie” about wanting to get lip fillers after a boy commented on her small lips when she was fifteen.

1900 William H. West Minstrel Show Poster

But what is additionally (extremely) interesting about these developments is that not too long ago, having "
lush lips" was proclaimed to be unattractive and was used to racially stereotype African Americans. But thanks to the Kardashians, non-whites are free to openly admit that full lips and buttocks are actually attractive.


Kylie Jenner Lip Fillers | Before and After

Coincidentally, this weekend's edition of the metro (New York City edition) included an article on the spike in lip injections around the holidays.


Friday, November 22, 2019

Kjaerholm's PK80 Leather Benches at the MoMA


Whenever we go to the MoMA, in addition to the abstract art, we're drawn to the benches. Not only to take a rest upon, but, for years, we've been trying to determine if the benches are upholstered in leather. And it turns out that they are! 

Here's what is posted on Modern Design Interior about the leather benches:

Poul Kjaerholm PK80 Bench: a modernist masterpiece™ by Stardust.com™. The distinctive minimalist PK80 Bench was designed by Poul Kjaerholm (Danish spelling is Poul Kjærholm) in 1957 and is produced by Fritz Hansen in Denmark. In typically Scandinavian fashion, Poul Kjaerholm opted for steel as his primary furniture construction material but combined it with wood and leather to give it an understated luxurious elegance. 

Poul Kjaerholm's PK80 is a sculpture by itself, but with an understated, subtle quality that makes it ideally suited for accompanying art. PK80 was specified by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York where it is used as a museum bench. Claude Monet's Water Lilies (1914-26) and Jackson Pollock's One: Number 31 (1951), look absolutely stunning when observed from the equally iconic PK80 bench.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Does Good Writing Equal Poor Speaking?

Caroline Wright's speaking writing

Vladimir Nabokov shared in the foreword to Strong Opinions: "I think like a genius, I write like a distinguished author, and I speak like a child." 

Thus, Nabokov considered himself a good writer but a poor speaker. So much so, that his lectures and interviews were pre-written. Nabokov shared:

"Throughout my academic ascent in America from lean lecturer to Full Professor, I have never delivered to my audience one scrap of information not prepared in typescript beforehand and not held under my eyes on the bright-lit lectern."

"The interviewer's questions have to be sent to me in writing, answered by me in writing, and reproduced verbatim. Such are the three absolute conditions."

We suspect that Nabokov is not an anomaly in this regard. What about you? As your writing improved, did you seen a decline in your speaking ability?