Pop Goes the Library

Using Pop Culture to Make Libraries Better.

by Sophie Brookover, Liz Burns, Melissa Rabey, Susan Quinn, John Klima, Carlie Webber, Karen Corday, and Eli Neiburger. We're librarians. We're pop culture mavens. We're Pop Culture Librarians.

2006-11-14

Publishing and Spelling Bees

Earlier this year I sold an anthology to Bantam of stories based on spelling-bee winning words. It all came about in 2004 when autochthonous was the winning word for the Scripps National Spelling Bee. I had been following the bee semi-seriously for years, and more seriously after Spellbound came out. When I saw the word autochthonous, and the sentence given to the speller: "The autochthonous fauna of Australia includes the koala" (or something like that) I was flabbergasted.

You see, spelling bees started as a way to show your school's educational prowess (better spellers meant you had better teachers) and as a way to help standardize American spelling. Obviously these days, we've moved beyond that point. When I went and looked at the words for the past ten years, I had trouble finding ones I could pronounce, much less use in a sentence. I decided to issue a challenge to writers to send me submissions to my zine, Electric Velocipede using a spelling bee winning word as the basis for their story. I got quite a few entries, and two of them were quite good, and quite different from each other. (links to the stories appear below)

After the issue of the zine came out, the idea of stories based on spelling-bee winning words stuck in my head, so I started contacting more authors to see what they thought of the idea. A lot of them liked it. Many of them committed to writing a story should I sell the anthology. Then came this last January when I sat down next to Juliet Ulman for dinner after a reading from the KGB Fantastic Fiction Reading Series in Manhattan. She liked the idea and asked me to send a proposal to her. Shortly thereafter, she bought it. We titled the book Logorrhea (the winning word in the Spellbound movie) and it will be published next May in time for the National Spelling Bee.

So, fast-forward to last week: I was ordering books for the library when I decided to see if Logorrhea was listed in Baker & Taylor. Well, lo and behold, there is was. With an ISBN and everything. (it's 978-0-553-38433-8 [or 0-553-38433-3 for you pre-ISBN-13 phillistines]) And, it's available at Amazon.

I've been on the other side of things hundreds of times from my days working as an editor (and to a smaller extent with the zine these days). But this is the first time that I've been responsible for the content of a book that's being published. I'm somewhere between excited and a nervous wreck. And of course, you should all go out and pre-order your copies today. :)

Here is the final line-up:

Hal Duncan - "The Chiaroscurist"
Liz Williams - "Lyceum"
David Prill - "Vivisepulture"
Clare Dudman - "Eczema"
Alex Irvine - "Semaphore"
Marly Youmans - "The Smaragdine Knot"
Michael Moorcock - "A Portrait in Ivory"
Daniel Abraham - "The Cambist and Lord Iron: A Fairy Tale of Economics"
Michelle Richmond - "Logorrhea"
Anna Tambour - "Pococurante"
Tim Pratt - "From Around Here"
Elizabeth Hand - "Vignette"
Alan DeNiro - "Plight of the Sycophant"
Matthew Cheney - "The Last Elegy"
Jay Caselberg - "Eudaemonic"
Paolo Bacigalupi - "Softer"
Jay Lake - "Crossing the Seven"
Leslie What - "Tsuris"
Neil Williamson - "The Euonymist"
Theodora Goss - "Singing of Mount Abora"
Jeff VanderMeer - "Appoggiatura"

I've linked to the two stories that were originally published in my zine; you can read them in their entirety online. While the author list certainly bends towards science fiction and fantasy, the content of a majority of the stories is much more straightforward fiction. As soon as there's a final form of the cover, I'll give you all a look at it.

In the upcoming weeks I'll be posting about the publishing process and how you can use that knowledge to your and your patrons' benefit.

JK

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