Janice P. Nimura: Daughters of the Samurai

October 6, 2015 by  
Filed under Non-Fiction, WritersCast


978-0-393-07799-5 – W.W. Norton – Hardcover – 336 pages – $26.95 (ebooks available at lower prices, paperback edition to be published in May 2016)

Janice Nimura’s Daughters of the Samurai is a wonderful book about an extraordinary and little known episode in modern Japanese history. In 1871, soon after the Japanese civil war that led to the modernization of the country, the Japanese government decided to send five young girls to the United States to educated. They were sent along with a delegation of diplomats and civil servants, with a very specific mission to be educated in modern Western ways and then to return to help create new generation of men and women to lead Japan. While each of these young girls had been raised in very traditional samurai households, they were all displaced from their families and clans. Three of the girls stayed the course, while the other two girls went home.

On their arrival in San Francisco, and later, traveling across the country, the Japanese girls became significant public celebrities, written about by newspapers across everywhere. It’s incredible to imagine what it must have been like for the girls as well as for the American public, who had never seen anyone from Japan before.

Sutematsu Yamakawa, Shige Nagai, and Ume Tsuda all were raised in middle class or upper middle class homes in the United States and grew up in many ways as typical American schoolgirls, despite their obvious differences from their American friends and family members. Within the families and then in the various schools and colleges they attended, they developed lifelong friendships and connections, and after their ten year sojourn was completed, they returned home to Japan almost as foreigners.

They had started their sojourn in America in radically cross-cultural environments and experiences, then learned a completely new culture, only to return home as yet again out-of-place foreigners, this time in the culture they actually came from. Their unusual experience gave them an incredibly unusual perspective on Japanese culture. As adult women living in a still male dominated society struggling with the tension between modernity and tradition, they each determined to revolutionize women’s education and lead their country forward. Ume Tsuda, in particular, made a significant impact on Japanese education that continues into the modern era.

It’s impossible not to be captivated by these incredible women and their life stories, both in the United States and in Japan. Nimura’s narrative is fascinating and compelling; she brings to life what was once an obscure piece of history, and through the lens of these interesting women, a period in both American and Japanese history of great change in every aspect of culture.

After reading Daughters of the Samurai, it’s impossible not to want to share the story with anyone who will listen. I am fortunate that I was able to talk about it with the author herself.  This is a book I am happy to recommend to readers.

Janice Nimura graduated from Yale and then moved to Japan with her new husband, where she lived for three years, became proficient in Japanese, and later earned a Masters degree from Columbia in East Asian Studies, specializing in 19th century Japanese history. At one point she stumbled across a book written by Alice Mabel Bacon (originally from New Haven) called A Japanese Interior, which is about Bacon’s visit to Japan in the 1880s. Alice Bacon’s story captured Nimura’s imagination. She learned about Sutematsu Yamakawa Oyama, Bacon’s foster sister and Vassar’s first Japanese graduate; Ume Tsuda, whose pioneering women’s English school Alice helped to launch; and Shige Nagai Uriu, the third of the little girls who arrived with the Iwakura Mission in 1872 and grew up in America, and then took up the challenge of researching and writing about this amazing episode in modern Japanese and American history.

Author website here.Janice Nimura31subBENFEY-facebookJumbo

Mia Alvar: In the Country (Stories)

September 30, 2015 by  
Filed under Fiction, WritersCast

alvar_11-10978-0-385-35281-9 – Alfred A. Knopf – Hardcover – $26.95 – 356 pages. Ebook versions available at lower prices.

Mia Alvar is a young writer who was born in Manila. She grew up first in Bahrein and then her parents came to America, so from her pre-teen years onward, she was raised and now lives in New York City. She went to Harvard and got an MFA at Columbia.

These bare facts don’t tell you much, but the stories collected in her first book, In the Country, most of which are well written and compelling, dig deeply into the Philippine diaspora experience. There are many different characters, different settings from Manila to Bahrein to America. Narrative voice changes depending on who Alvar wants you best to understand. There are a couple of interconnected stories, but otherwise, each piece stands alone, and as all good short stories, they are worlds unto themselves.

I liked each of the nine stories, and was struck by Alvar’s love for her characters and sympathetic to their predicaments and foibles. Each of the stories is fine, but I do have a favorite and will wonder if listeners who take the time to read this book will agree that the strongest story here is The Virgin of Monte Ramon.

It seems that every writer who publishes a collection of short stories, no matter how brilliant and powerful the stories may be, will be expected to be working on a novel. I can’t understand why being a great short story writer is not more respected in literary culture. So I feel the need to encourage writers to be comfortable continuing to work in short form if that is what they want to do. Nonetheless, Mia is indeed working on a novel and I expect it will be as good as her stories are. I just hope she will not leave behind the short form in which she excels.

Mia is smart and self possessed, and has alot of good things to say about writing and other things; our talk together was rewarding for me and I hope as well for you.

I think this author is going to be an important writer, so recommend you find this book and buy it.

I have to mention that this is a beautifully produced book, props to Knopf for continuing to make books you want to hold in your hands and read. And I also must mention that the book’s cover, which completely captures the ethos of the book, it is terrific work that both captures and equals the writing inside the book.

Author website here.JCkMunBB

David Wilk talks with Lise Quintana of Lithomobilus

Lise Quintana headshotsmallPublishing Talks began as a series of conversations with book industry professionals and others involved in media and technology about the future of publishing, books, and culture. As we continue to experience disruption and change in all media businesses, I’ve been talking with some of the people involved in our industry about how publishing might evolve as our culture is affected by technology and the larger context of civilization and economics.

I’ve now expanded the series to include conversations that go beyond the future of publishing. I’ve talked with editors and publishers who have been innovators and leaders in independent publishing in the past and into the present, and will continue to explore the ebb and flow of writing, books, and publishing in all sorts of forms and formats, as change continues to be the one constant we can count on.

It’s my hope that these conversations can help us understand the outlines of what is happening in publishing and writing, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

As many listeners here know, I have an ongoing interest in experiments in technology that expand the writing experience for creators and of course then the reading experience as well. Honestly, while we have seen many attempts, thus far, not very many have captured the greater imagination of writers or readers.

The latest undertaking I have run across is Lithomobilus, founded by writer Lise Quintana, whose “online writing software gives authors the power to expand upon their existing works, create new works with built-in expansion opportunities, and craft amazing nonlinear works….Readers can then download the reader software and enjoy the first e-book reading experience that values words without slavishly following the format of a printed book.”

I’m ready to see what happens and I thought it would be fun to talk to Lise to find out more.

Creating compelling “interactive” fiction and new forms of storytelling is a hugely challenging undertaking. I found a comprehensive review of Lithomobilus by Emily Short, who knows a lot about new narrative forms, her blog is well worth reading. “There’s a core problem of interactive fiction design here: if you design a narrative where the intention is that the reader will read as much as she’s curious about and then stop, but you don’t communicate that she’s allowed to do that, she’ll continue exploring the story space past the point where she’s started to feel bored and then blame the author for that boredom. This is genuinely not easy to resolve, and it’s at the heart of what Lithomobilus appears to be trying to do: to offer stories that aren’t consumed completely, but yield more and more content in response to a reader’s desire, inexhaustibly, never saying that your experience is complete.”

I like Lise Quintana’s own piece of writing in the Lithomobilus app, it’s called The Strangely-Browne Episode, and even though it’s likely meant as a demonstration of the app’s capabilities, it is an engaging story. I know there are many who doubt that there is a “need” for new technology to create interactive reading experiences. It seems possible that even if it’s “better” storytelling, it may not be a mainstream sort of thing – recumbent bicycles come to mind here. They are demonstrably better riding devices than traditional bikes, but they will never be popular with more than a minority of riders, they take time to learn to ride, they look weird and they cost more. I think similar factors are at play with writing that tries to harness new technologies to tell stories differently. Too hard for most readers to learn, interactivity changes the reading experience from what is expected, and “costs” more time and effort than readers are willing to give. But for those who do want “something more”, apps like Lithomobilus do provide an opportunity that may be worth the effort to engage.img_0151

Lise’s publishing effort is called Zoetic Press, which publishes using the Lithomobilus app platform. She is Lise the CEO and founder of Narrative Technologies, which uses interactive and hypertext narrative tools to publish new kinds of literature.  Quintana was formerly the editor-in-chief of Lunch Ticket, a literary journal of Antioch University Los Angeles. Previously she worked as a writer and project manager at various hardware and software companies in Silicon Valley. Quintana is on the Board of Trustees for Antioch University Los Angeles and formerly on the Board of Directors for Friends of the Santa Cruz Public Library.

Kevin Jack McEnroe: Our Town

September 7, 2015 by  
Filed under Fiction, WritersCast

Our Town Cover978-1-61902-528-8-1 – Hardcover – $25.00 – Counterpoint – 229 pages
ebook versions available at lower prices

I happened across this young, tattooed writer sitting in a publisher’s exhibit space at Book Expo earlier this year, and since it was Counterpoint, a publisher whose work I deeply respect, I shook his hand and took a copy of the book.

It took me a couple weeks before I started reading this novel, and then I was immediately captivated. Our Town is a great story, interestingly constructed, and really well written. The author plays with voice and perspective throughout, there are shifts in narrative viewpoints, and as it is telling a story through time about a number of different characters, all that prismatic dancing really worked for me.

This is McEnroe’s first novel, and there are inevitably some rough patches, and maybe even some missing pieces (I would have liked a bit more writing about the main characters’ children, for example). The novel traces the life of a minor Hollywood actress, Dorothy White, her husband Dale, and their children, Dylan and Clover. It’s a feat of imagination on the part of author McEnroe, to inhabit place, time and people whose lives he could never possibly have experienced in any direct way. I thought he captured that hazy, sometimes glowing world of Hollywood in the fifties and sixties quite brilliantly.

There is an incredible amount of sadness and pathos in this novel, unavoidably, as the lives that are traced here are broken in so many ways. These are people who are trying to be real but who are trapped in the imagery of pop culture, not strong enough themselves to find themselves in the trappings of fame and celebrity, unable to be self aware enough to become whole, or even close to whole. Their tragedies are inevitable by products of impossible aspirations.

McEnroe captures the desire, and the striving and the power of hope throughout. From what I can tell, he has his own demons to wrestle with, but as they motivate him to go deeper into his own understanding, his sure handed talent will serve him well. Our Town is a terrific novel – I resisted the hackneyed impulse to say “first novel” by the way – demonstrating that the author has a terrific set of writing skills and the promise of much more to come. Definitely a book to read and ruminate on.

Kevin Jack McEnroe lives and writes in Brooklyn, New York. He received his MFA from Columbia University.

“From Lou Reed to Joan Didion, the tale of the young and the not-so-young Hollywood starlet has been treated with a gimlet-eyed intelligence. What makes Kevin Jack McEnroe’s Our Town so striking is not just his fierce intelligence —although there is certainly that— but his masterful flexibility of tone. Written with both razor-keen irony and surprising, startling depth of sympathy, Our Town is magnificent.” —Matthew Specktor, author of American Dream Machine

McEnroe, Kevin (no credit given)

Lorna Landvik: Best to Laugh

August 3, 2015 by  
Filed under Fiction, WritersCast

9780816694532978-0-816698-97-4 – University of Minnesota Press – Paperback- 312 pages  - $16.95 (ebook editions available at lower prices)

I have been reading and enjoying Lorna Landvik’s wonderfully funny books for a long time. I can’t remember how I discovered her writing but am guessing it might be the fact that she is from Minnesota that got me to try out one of her early books. And then since her books so perfectly capture the Minnesota social landscape and ethos, I kept going and read most of her novels. I come by my Minnesota interest because part of my family is from Minnesota, and I lived in St. Paul for a few years in the seventies, and I maintain a strong interest in the North Country and especially its literary life (oh and their baseball team too — see my recent interview with former Minnesota Twin Jim Kaat).

I suspect Landvik gets typecast by many readers as a “women’s” writer – her books are rich with female characters and speak to and for women’s social ethos. And in a book business that lives and dies by book categorization, maybe she is typecast also because her books are funny, and have titles that sound like they come from a female centric universe (Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons, Your Oasis on Flame Lake, Patty Jane’s House of Curl). But it’s a mistake for any reader to overlook Landvik as there is a lot going on in these books. Landvik is certainly entertaining – her background as a stand up comedian and actor informs her writing and her stories. But comedians and comedic novelists are usually mining something deeper, and Landvik’s humor leverages a clear understanding of human nature and both our fallibility and the strength that allows us to live through pain and grief and the difficulties of daily life.

Best to Laugh is Landvik’s most recent novel, published last year by the adventurous University of Minnesota Press. It’s her most autobiographical novel, for sure. Her main character in this book, Candy Pekkala is half Korean and half Norwegian (unlike Landvik). She goes to Hollywood to follow her dream to be a stand up comedian (as Landvik did). The book follows her adventures in La-La land as she falls in with her neighbors in Peyton Hall, a class LA building that houses a cast of interesting and compelling characters, who all become Candy’s family as she becomes the success she has aimed to become. The combination of “old Hollywood” and less romantic 70’s era Los Angeles makes for a terrific backdrop. And the characters are picture perfect. Candy, her friends and family are impossible to resist.

In real life, Landvik did work as a stand up comedian in Los Angeles, temping at places like Atlantic Records and the Playboy Mansion (writing film reviews for Hugh Hefner’s private VHS tape collection) while pursuing her showbiz dream. Despite her success as a comedian, Landvik eventually turned to writing, which she turned out to be pretty good at doing. She still likes to perform – her ‘Party in the Rec Room’ is performed once a year at the wonderful Bryant Lake Bowl theater in Minneapolis (yes, theater in a bowling alley!) This is an all-improvised show based on audience suggestion. Landvik describes it this way “While I enjoy a meaty, dramatic role, to me there’s nothing more satisfying than making a roomful of people snort beer up their noses as they laugh.”

You might find yourself doing the same while reading Best to Laugh.

Author website here. Author page, on Goodreads, worth a visit.Lorna LandvikLorna Landvik 2

David Wilk talks with Justo Hidalgo of 24symbols

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAI-AAAAJGU3OTczNDU2LTZjNzQtNDNlMi05NzI4LTVmZjllMjBkNDAxNgPublishing Talks began as a series of conversations with book industry professionals and others involved in media and technology about the future of publishing, books, and culture. As we continue to experience disruption and change in all media businesses, I’ve been talking with some of the people involved in our industry about how publishing might evolve as our culture is affected by technology and the larger context of civilization and economics.

I’ve now expanded the series to include conversations that go beyond the future of publishing. I’ve talked with editors and publishers who have been innovators and leaders in independent publishing in the past and into the present, and will continue to explore the ebb and flow of writing, books, and publishing in all sorts of forms and formats, as change continues to be the one constant we can count on.

It’s my hope that these conversations can help us understand the outlines of what is happening in publishing and writing, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

24symbols is a service to read and share digital books in the cloud, working in any reading device that has an internet connection, and that gives users access to an international and multi-publisher’s catalogue – essentially a subscription model that competes with other subscription services like Scribd, Oyster and Amazon to provide readers with easy access to ebooks for a low monthly fee (currently $8.95 US) and of course provides publishers with access to readers outside of the traditional “buy one copy” model that is still the predominant form of book commerce. The offering to readers is pretty clearly described here. Of course, in terms of competition, it’s not just the other subscription services they are up against, but mainly the hegemony of dedicated reading devices and apps where readers are so used to shopping for ebooks.

24symbols, based in Spain, and strongest in Europe, has over 200,000 titles (and growing fairly quickly), and is now making inroads into the US market. It seems to me that a diversity of business models and ultimately some different ways for readers to read digitally is going to be a necessary groundwork for the growth in e-reading that so many in publishing have thought would have arrived by now.

Justo Hidalgo is a co-founder of 24symbols, a technologist and book lover, and someone whose thinking and energy I have long admired. I wanted to find out more about this company, and its plans for the future, as well as Justo’s current thinking about ebooks and digital reading. This interview will not disappoint those who are interested in different perspectives on the current digital book environment. Justo provides a broad range of stimulating ideas here.

Aside from 24symbols, Justo also teaches Product Strategy and Innovation at the Master’s Degree program in Industrial Design of Nebrija University, and Technology for Managers at the Nebrija Business School in Madrid, Spain. Justo is member of the Internet Society and Board Member and Mentor at Tetuan Valley.

Justo holds a Ph.D. from the University of A Coruña, Spain and a B.S. in Computer Science by the Autonomous University of Madrid, Spain. He has received training in Product Management, Product Marketing, Innovation and Creativity in the universities of Stanford and University of California Berkeley.

Some of his work and thoughts can be viewed on Twitter (@justohidalgo), his blog (in Spanish) and here (in English).

My apologies to listeners, as there were some recording difficulties with this interview, and while our fantastic tech team has done a great job cleaning it up, there are still some low level background noises during some parts of the interview.24symbols

Martin Goldsmith: Alex’s Wake

July 6, 2015 by  
Filed under Non-Fiction, WritersCast

9780306823718978-0-306823-71-8 – DaCapo Press – paperback – 352 pages – $15.99 (ebook editions available at lower prices)

I seem to have an inordinate interest in books about the Holocaust, doubtless because I think about my unknown relatives who perished in Lithuania and Poland during WW II, and feel somehow that knowing what happened to other Jews in that awful time will help me imagine the story of what happened to my own relatives. It’s difficult not to wish that there were more accounts of heroic escapes from the Nazis and their allies in every country they occupied, but more often than not, the stories we do get to know are deeply sad, frustrating, or horrific.

Martin Goldsmith’s parents came to the United States in 1939 from Germany, having survived the Nazi regime only because they were classical musicians who played in the Kulturbund, a special group of Jewish musicians that entertained other Jews in Germany (that was the subject of Martin Goldsmith’s last book, THE INEXTINGUISHABLE SYMPHONY: A True Story of Music and Love in Nazi Germany).

This new book, Alex’s Wake, is principally the story of Goldsmith’s grandfather and uncle, who tried to escape Germany in 1939 on the ill-fated journey of the German luxury liner, the SS St. Louis, which took more than 900 Jewish refugees (at their own expense, paying high prices to the German steamship company) across the Atlantic, first to Havana and then, having been turned away by the Cubans, to the USA and Canada, which also refused the refugees entry to their countries. This meant that the ship had to sail back to Europe, where amazingly and after great effort, the refugees were accepted by England, Holland and France. Only those who went to England truly escaped, however, as soon after the Germans overran both France and Holland, and these forlorn, long suffering escapees were once again under the thrall of the Nazis, who now could kill European Jews without restraint.

Goldsmith’s father suffered lifelong guilt for not being able to rescue his father and brother (and one must imagine, also his mother and sister, whose stories are really not told here, but who also were murdered in the war). That guilt was ineffably passed on to the grandson, and this book is Martin’s attempt to expiate that guilt, and to understand as much as it is possible, the story of his family’s travails more than 70 years ago.

Goldsmith and his wife traveled to Europe, spending six weeks retracing the journey of his antecedents, Alex and Helmut Goldschmidt. That journey forms the structure of the book, around which is built the narrative of his family’s formerly happy and successful life in Germany, their struggles to escape the Nazis, the terrible journey of the SS St. Louis , and especially moving, the detailed tracking of Alex and Helmut’s terrible time in occupied France where their hopes were truly lost, and where, after great suffering, they were transported to Auschwitz and finally their deaths. Along the way, Goldsmith learns a great deal about his family’s life in Germany, meets many interesting people, and in fact helps to change the lives of others as well as his own.

This is a fine example of narrative nonfiction and while at times painful, well worth reading. Goldsmith’s improbable effort to expiate his family’s guilt and suffering brought forth forgiveness and a sort of transcendence both for himself and others involved in the story, and the book’s honesty and beauty in the face of pain enables us to overcome the sorrow that inevitably arises when experiencing a story of deeply felt pain and loss. He’s an engaging writer and memoirist, and a fine storyteller.

Martin Goldsmith has been a radio host for public radio and Sirius XM, where he now is director of classical music programming and appears on the Symphony Hall channel. Goldsmith has also sung with the Baltimore Opera Company and the Washington Opera. He has also acted in Washington-area theaters, including Arena Stage. His music reviews have appeared in the Washington Post and he is the author now of three books, including Alex’s Wake.

Website for the book is here. Alert – we had a really good conversation so this interview runs slightly long at almost 42 minutes.download (1)

David Wilk talks with Sherisse Hawkins from Beneath the Ink

32d90e3 HawkinsPublishing Talks began as a series of conversations with book industry professionals and others involved in media and technology about the future of publishing, books, and culture. As we continue to experience disruption and change in all media businesses, I’ve been talking with some of the people involved in our industry about how publishing might evolve as our culture is affected by technology and the larger context of civilization and economics.

It’s my hope that these conversations can help us understand the outlines of what is happening in publishing and writing, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

Sherisse Hawkins is co-founder with Alex Milewski of Beneath the Ink, a Boulder, Colorado based ebook technology company. Beneath the Ink is working on what is likely the next phase in ebook development evolution, which is the provision of tools that enable authors and publishers to easily create ebooks with interactive content and multimedia resources. As Sherisse says in our interview, the story must and will remain the core of the book, but there are many types of books where the reading experience can be meaningfully expanded with the addition of expanded content.

This concept is not new of course, but what differentiates Beneath the Ink is the way their technology integrates the additional material to enable the reader to choose whether to engage or not, and making sure the presence of the option is not distracting to the reader. Their proprietary technology creates what they call “binks,” which contain the media content within the book file, as opposed to simply being a link out to the open web (which is, of course, also always enabled in epubs and mobi files). Another other key offering is to make it easy for creators to manage their own ebook media production process simply and easily.

I think it makes sense to enable this sort of feature in the digital reading experience. Not all readers want to “go deeper” or be taken out of the main text. But many others do. In a way it’s like having enhanced footnotes – and many of us do enjoy a good footnote to enhance our understanding of the text at hand. Fiction is another matter and is likely going to be a much greater challenge both for writers and for readers. But again, there are plenty of readers who do enjoy taking side trips from the main text, perhaps to better understand a character or a place inside a novel.

Beneath the Ink creates the tools for expanded reading experiences; of course, it remains to be seen how they are used and deployed by creators, and appreciated by readers. Aside from Binks, Beneath the Ink now has a new product called PageDip, which enables the one-click creation and has also created the option for users to offer their ebooks as hosted WebBooks, essentially untethering the reading experience from devices and apps, something that many in the ebook development world have been promoting for a number of years.

Beneath the Ink appeared on Shark Tank April 17, 2015!  heavy.com did an interview with Sherisse about her appearance.

I like what this company is doing and have done some experimenting with their technology for my clients. I wanted to talk to Sherisse about her vision for the future of digital publishing and also to learn more about her experiences in creating technology and offering it to the publishing community. Beneath the Ink has done a great deal of research into the ways that readers prefer to interact with digital content and Sherisse and her team have developed their software accordingly. Her insights into the ways that digital reading is evolving are very worthwhile to hear.

Sherisse is the former VP of software development at Time Warner cable and was a Senior Electrical Engineer in the Walt Disney Imagineering Show and Ride division, responsible for the design, development, and installation of attractions in four major Disney theme parks. She received a BS degree in Engineering from the University of Arizona, and earned a Masters in Engineering Management from the University of Colorado. Alex Milewski is the other co-founder of Beneath The Ink. His background is in web and mobile application development using Javascript, PHP, CSS3, HTML5 and many other programming languages. Beneath the Ink is based in Boulder, Colorado.Beneath the Ink logo

Jim Kaat: If These Walls Could Talk: New York Yankees

June 14, 2015 by  
Filed under Non-Fiction, WritersCast

9781629370248978-1-62937-024-8 – Paperback – Triumph Books – $14.95  - written with Greg Jennings, foreword by David Cone (ebook editions available at lower prices).

Doing this podcast has been great fun for me. I’ve gotten to read some wonderful books, and have met and talked to well over 200 interesting and intelligent writers. Now I can add having a conversation with one of my favorite baseball pitchers to the rewards of being a literary podcaster not long after having the honor of interviewing a Man Booker award winning author (Anne Enright).

Jim Kaat was a Major League pitcher from 1959-83 with the Washington Senators (1959-60), Minnesota Twins (1961-73), Chicago White Sox (1973-75), Philadelphia Phillies (1976-79), New York Yankees (1979-80) and St. Louis Cardinals (1980-1983).

Kaat was an amazingly durable left-handed pitcher, winning 283 games against 237 losses, with an ERA of only 3.45 (that’s average runs allowed over nine innings) and 2,461 strikeouts in 4,530 innings. Kaat had his best year in 1966 while with the Twins, going 25-13 with a 2.75 ERA and 205 strikeouts in 304 innings over 41 starts. Jim was a three-time All-Star and a winner of 16 Rawlings Gold Glove Awards for best fielder at his position, 12 of which ran consecutively from 1962-73. Both Gold Glove marks were long-standing records for pitchers until being eclipsed by Greg Maddux (13 consecutive from 1990-2002, 18 overall).

Kaat’s career spanned four decades and seven U.S. Presidential administrations, and at the time of his retirement in 1983, his 25 years of Major League service were a record. Since then, only Nolan Ryan (27) and Tommy John (26) have logged more seasons.

After all those years of playing baseball at a really high level, Jim went on to become a talented and skilled baseball announcer. He worked first in the minor leagues but showing a natural skill as an observer of the game, he quickly moved up to the big leagues, broadcasting first for the Minnesota Twins and later many years for the New York Yankees. After he retired from his second career, he made another comeback and is still working today as an announcer for the MLB network. For his broadcasting work, Kaat won an Emmy in 2006 for “On-Camera Achievement” after being nominated for two Emmys the previous year for “Outstanding Live Sports Coverage.”

If These Walls Could Talk is an enjoyable collection of anecdotes and stories, organized loosely around the positions on a baseball team. It’s mostly about the Yankees, and New York fans will love this book, of course. But there is much more in this book than Yankees stories – in it, Kaat tells his own story in his natural and appealing manner. Anyone who appreciates baseball will find these stories told from the perspective of a 60 year veteran of the game to be compelling and engrossing.

It was great fun for me to have the chance to talk to one of my heroes, Jim, “Kitty” Kaat. Thanks Triumph Books for publishing this fun book. And to those Hall of Fame voters on the Golden Era committee – please vote Jim Kaat into the Baseball Hall of Fame – he deserves to be there!seconds-blog480jim_kaat_63jim_kaat

David Wilk talks with Lyndee Prickitt about We Are Angry

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERALyndee Prickitt’s powerful and engaging storytelling project, We Are Angry, fits readily into both the categories of interviews I am doing here – she’s both the author of the (book) project as well as the primary publishing impressario who put together an innovative form of digital storytelling. But the interview does need to go into just one category, so I have chosen to call it a Publishing Talks interview.  Publishing Talks began as a series of conversations with book industry professionals and others involved in media and technology about the future of publishing, books, and culture; Lyndee Prickett’s work is an important addition to that conversation.

We Are Angry is a fictional response to the very real and difficult issues of rape and abuse of women in modern India.

From the We Are Angry website:

“After the brutal December 16, 2012 gang-rape in New Delhi, many people in India and beyond felt a need to express their anger, fears and concerns about why this was happening. Women and men took to the streets to put a voice to their anger. Social media swelled with introspection and pontification. Anonymous mourners created real life and online commemorations. Movie stars satirized and campaigned. Artists painted street walls and canvasses. Actors staged plays in local parks and international cultural festivals. Screenwriters wrote movies. Singers sang.

The conversation across the nation changed. Women and their rights was not just a matter for earnest do-gooders and NGOs, but the topic du jour and the inspiration for a panoply of expression for weeks and months. And then the din quietened. People tired of talking about how women, at home and abroad, have been and should be treated.

We Are Angry is an effort to keep the conversation alive – fusing traditional fictional text storytelling with other media, bolstered by real news content and annotations, and showcasing a range of art and expression from a team of people who want to harness their anger and work creatively for change.”

Lyndee Prickitt is a multimedia writer and journalist. She created her company, Digital Fables, to tell stories using the web as a platform. After working with Reuters and the BBC for more than 15 years, she wrote and produced the award winning digital short-story, Weareangry.net. Though a native Texan, Prickitt lives in New Delhi with her Indian husband and their daughter.

We Are Angry was nominated for a Webby, won the Transmedia Story of the Year from Digital Book World, and was a runner up in the New Media Writing Prize. The Guardian newspaper called it “devastatingly powerful.”

There has been a great deal of discussion within the international ebook community about whether digital storytelling will migrate away from devices and out to the web. What Lyndee Prickitt has done with We Are Angry is a powerful example of how this can be done. When you land on the site, you are immediately offered two options, one to “read” and the other to “experience” the story. I suspect most readers choose first to experience the story.

I really like what she says on the We Are Angry site about this project:

“We are living in mixed media times and yet rarely do we find the media coalescing in a truly integrated and artistic way, a way that could take storytelling – especially issue-based storytelling – to another level, not replacing books or the linear text experience, but offering another construct.

We Are Angry is an attempt, a humble first attempt, at doing this: creating 360 degree digital fiction.”

Listen to this interview, then visit the website and experience the story for yourself. Let me know what you think about it.

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