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Game of Thrones…and Our Decline in Reading

Jon Snow Is Dead

Last week, season 5 of HBO’s acclaimed adaptation of George Martin’s Game of Thrones fantasy series came to its usual main-character-killing-end.    Say it ain’t so, Sir Jon Snow!  Predictably, this set of a week-long (and continuing) news reports and pundit pontifications on the shocking revelation (with spoiler alerts) that yet another beloved character from the popular series was killed off.  Terms like “shocking,” “devastating,” “unpredictable,” and other “did that just really happen?” complaints filled the blogosphere and pseudo news outlets.  Yet, the one takeaway from it all is the harsh reminder that fewer and fewer folks read anymore.  Let’s face it, the character of Jon Snow dies in the books (albeit an event that is debated).

And yes, while Martin’s A Dance with Dragons (in which Snow meets his fate) sold in the hundreds of thousands, such figures pale in comparison with the average gross audience of the TV series of nearly 20 million per episode.  True, the TV series has deviated at times from some of the plot twists of the books, but in general, much like Jon Snow’s proud papa or stepmom, the fate of these characters is already written down in black and white…in a little thing we like to call…a book.

Now some of the millions of viewers, myself included, likely came upon the TV series and then went out and read the series (others I bet have been doing the same with the Walking Dead comic book series) but the simple abundance of media stories detailing the shocking unforeseen fallout of Snow’s demise can’t help but make me realize how reading is continually losing out to other forms of media/storytelling.

Going back a decade or so, did you find yourself surrounded by colleagues who were confessing their astonishment that “I can’t believe the killed off Voldemort?”  You simply didn’t hear someone ask out loud or in print, “Who would have thought Gollum would die in the end?“  Seriously, anecdotal or not, the best of my recollection is that most folks read the likes of the Harry Potter series or Lord of the Rings before taking the story in visually.  At the very least, few internet media outlets were reacting with such shock when such characters met their demise on screen.

And we’re not talking about a film/TV adaption of exactly a difficult or obscure literary read.  So our advice to those eagerly awaiting the next season, or another film adaption of a work based on a book, let us let you in on a little secret: if you want to get a jump start on everyone and be in-the-know before all your friends, read the book.

Show Our Failbetter Fictioneers Some Love

2014 storySouth Million Writers AwardThe storySouth Million Writers Award is now open for reader and editor nominations! So failbetter fans, give our writers a little love by nominating their deserving stories at:

Nominations will be accepted through 15 August 2014.

Donald Antrim – MacArthur Fellow 2013

Congrats to a writer we’ve always loved, and are honored to have as an fb alum — Mr. Donald Antrim — winner of a 2013 MacArthur Foundation genius grant, a coveted accolade that earns them $625,000 and a spot in cultural history…and I lifetime worth of pancakes.

Love By Drowning – Q&A with C.E. Poverman

Front Coverfb alum Buzz Poverman’s latest novel, Love By Drowning, was just published….the seeds of which we help sew here at failbetter.  We had the great pleasure of publishing several excerpts of the book in its most earliest stages — and are happy to see the project come to fruition.  We’re grateful to Buzz for letting us show his work, and even more happy that he recently took a moment to answer a few questions for us.



I wrote Love by Drowning day and night for five years.  It was like a blast furnace.  Whatever I fed it, it took it and melted it down.  I went on like this, and I was just exhausted and consumed.  When I finished, the book was 680 pages.  Over the next few years, different people read it and made suggestions and each time I dug back into the manuscript.  This is just a few sentences, what I’m explaining, but each time I returned to the world of the book, often for weeks or months, it was a kind of crisis of confidence; can I cut this?  Am I doing the best thing here?  Eventually, the book came to be the length it is now—440 pages in manuscript, the novel as it is being published.  Looking back, I feel good, almost lucky, about the path its editing and revision have taken.


Four parts of the novel were published by , and this would come to have a major impact on the book and its ultimate form.  Caitlin Johnson, Andrew Day and Thom Didato read the opening, MARLIN, and pointed out where the piece took off for them and how it could reach this place faster.  With very little back and forth, I made the adjustments and everyone was happy.

Several years later I sent Thom Didato the next section, which was simply entitled, VAL.  It was much longer—maybe 35 pages.  Thom asked that it be broken into three sections, each to be given a title so that he could publish them in succession.  I looked at how and where he had made his breaks and thought they made real sense.  I went back into each section to see if titles would emerge, and in doing so I found that each time three or four good possibilities would surface, and when I came back to them a day or two later, I knew which one was right.  I realized that this process gave me another opportunity to rethink and clarify the narrative.  This is a variation on what you do when you write anything—a sentence, a paragraph, a scene, a story.  You find out where it’s going, and then, once you know, you write and rewrite toward that place, refining it until you hit the exact note you hear.  Going back to break the narrative into sections and put in titles allowed me to reenter that process one more time in a comprehensive way in what was a long novel.  It allowed me to find a method for re-inventing, reinvigorating and renewing the reader’s focus.  And so, when I came to do the final editing, I applied this process to the rest of the book.  I looked for places where I could make breaks and title those sections, and this forced me to think harder about the book as a whole and what it was about and how it took its steps in getting there.  I never would have done this if Thom hadn’t made that initial request.  It became instrumental to the final form of the novel.


While acknowledging the changing world we’re living in, I would like to see the role of editors restored to the extent that they help a writer realize his/her work.  Let me illustrate by speaking directly from my own experience.  I’ve mentioned the effect of failbetter’s editors on the parts of Love by Drowning which they edited.  In addition, there were others.  Dan Green, who had formerly been an editor at Simon and Schuster, and who for some time was my agent on the novel, was very helpful in making broad editorial suggestions; he helped me shape and cut the manuscript down.  In addition, I’m grateful to the work of Kit Duane, the editor who accepted the novel at El León and then spent months line editing the entire manuscript with me.  She was patient and astute and helped bring the book into its final fine focus; in my acknowledgements, I thank her for being an angel on my shoulder, which is exactly how I came to feel her presence.  I would like to see the restoration of editors to that role: angel on the shoulder.  It will make writers and books better.

Happy Ho Days!

fbtatooWe’re taking a few well-deserved weeks off at the end of the year, but already have a bunch ‘O new works set to be published in the New Year.   In the meantime, if you are still looking for possible gift ideas, might we suggest this…

You Likes Us…You Really Like Us!

NewPagesLogoOrangeBlackWell gee golly gosh….We just got a nice little review on New Pages.  More importantly, they seem to like  what Ann Tashi Slater, Noha Al-Badry and Kara Candito have to say in our latest issue.  Of course,  we’re always happy to provide our readers with some damn good reads and have a bunch more in store.  But for now, we’ll bask in the limelight and say this.

We’re Back!

were-backGet ready folks!  Fall is here and guess who is back?  That’s right failbetter fans, we’re back baby!  Our fall 2012 issue is unfolding as we speak.  Sure, some folks might not be so excited about the news.  And others still may mock the point of it all.  But we’re thrilled (just like this guy) and we hope you are too.  Sure, we could make this personal, but really, this is all we’ve got to say.  After all, if you are reading this , it is kinda self-evident. So….We’ll let the new issue speak for itself.  Go check out Girl X.  And feel free to listen to our snazzy non-official theme song for the issue as well.

We’re Taking The Month Off — August

hand drawn cartoon characters - swimsuits and tanning 2392097Folks -

We here at failbetter need a break from the heat…and the computer.  Thus, we’re taking the month of August off.  Rest assured we’ll be back in September with new works and exciting things for your viewing pleasure.  Until then, power tan.

This Friday in Chicago: Food, wine, easy parking…


..and the landscapes of Megan Williamson. All of this and more can be yours, at a show opening this Friday, April 13, from 6 to 9, at Chicago’s Gallery 1837. The particulars:

Gallery 1837
1837 W. Grand Ave.
Chicago 60622

Valeri Larko, master of the urban fringe

We added the “master” part – the bit about the urban fringe comes from the “artist’s statement” page of Valeri’s snazzy new website. If you enjoyed the paintings we featured last spring, the site’s very much worth checking out. As will be, no doubt, the two shows she has coming up, and the work she has up for sale on Folio Leaf. The details, straight from Valeri:

My brand new and totally improved website is up and running and includes recent paintings added to the New York Series Galleries.

New York show

My paintings will be included in a two-person exhibition at the J. Cacciola Gallery in Chelsea this summer. Save the date:

Opening Reception
Thursday June 28 from 6-8 pm

J. Cacciola Gallery
537 West 23rd Street
New York, NY 10011

Milan show

If you’re visiting Italy this summer and are in the Milan area, please stop by the Barbara Frigerio Gallery. My paintings will be included in a summer group exhibition in June.

Barbara Frigerio Gallery
Via Fatebenefratelli 13
20121 Milano

Folio Leaf

Last but not least: Several of my oils on prepared paper can be found on Folio Leaf, a website that features works on paper.

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