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Landing Gear

Landing Gear - API

30 October 2013 | Comments (0)

The digital development team at Random House Canada has created an API from an extract of my new novel, Landing Gear. Find it here: randomhouse.ca/landinggearapi

We offered the API (application programming interface) at Books in Browser’s first ever HackDay in San Francisco on Saturday 26 October. I’d very much like to offer the API to other developers who might want to engage with it, play with it, hack it, and see what happens. I’d very much also like to be involved with further hackdays for developers interesting in engaging with my novel via the API. 

Here’s a report on the San Francisco Hackday from Quill & Quire:

At the San Francisco conference Books in Browsers this past weekend, Governor General’s Literary Award–winning author Kate Pullinger and her publisher, Doubleday Canada, launched an experimental digital project. An excerpt of Pullinger’s forthcoming novel, Landing Gear, became raw material for the e-publishing event’s first “hackathon.”

In advance of the conference, Random House of Canada’s digital development team created an API (application programming interface) for an excerpt of the novel, which essentially means creating manipulable tags for its characters, locations, events, and timelines. “[The API] makes the text searchable and re-mixable, which opens it up to other developers coming in with ideas about new ways of interrogating the text other than simply reading it,” explains Pullinger.

Pullinger and Random House of Canada digital projects manager Meghan MacDonald were on hand at the conference to help with the experimental applications. One developer created a Twitter bot that could interact with one of the characters by tweeting his dialogue and collecting responses. Another invention, which MacDonald refers to as an “art project,” featured an iPad “mini-app” that animated a portion of Pullinger’s handwritten text.

Once the projects are complete, they will be posted at www.randomhouse.ca/LandingGearAPI, where the API will remain available for use.

Pullinger, who has been involved with digital storytelling for more than a decade, says, “This is the first time I’ve done anything that looks at the potential for the novel online, as opposed to a book or an ebook format.… I’ve never succeeded in interesting my book publishers in my digital work until now, so that’s tremendously exciting for me that Random House was willing to experiment.”

For her part, MacDonald says the Random House of Canada digital team has approached the online endeavour as research and development. “I don’t know what this project is going to look like in the future, but I think it’s important that we as [a] publisher are experimenting and trying new things.”

Landing Gear - copy editing

9 October 2013 | Comments (0)

I’m working on the copy-edit of my novel. The manuscript passed from the hands of my Canadian editor, Nita Pronovost, to the copy-editor, Shaun Oakey, at the beginning of September, and was sent back to me last week. Shaun has done a lovely and perceptive read-through of the ms, doing that thing that copy-editors do, saving me from myself.  Despite the fact I’ve been writing and publishing for more than two decades now, I seem to be as confused about commas and semi-colons as ever.  My American editor had already pointed out to me that the third part of the novel used the phrases “she laughed” and “Emily laughed” about a gazillion times - I was using those phrases so often, the novel could have been called Emily Laughed, if I was aiming for a post-modern take on repetition (I wasn’t). This time round, Shaun pointed out that I use the words “he paused” and “she paused” maybe not a gazillion but at least a billion times so, luckily, those have gone as well.  This is the final stage before the book is typeset: after that, any further changes become much more expensive and fiddly to do. So, the book - at least the book that will be typeset and published in various editions - really is nearly done now. Gulp.

The image you see above is of the cover for the Canadian edition - not so different from the American cover, which I’ve added below, but different enough to meet the demands of the Canadian market. Despite the fact that we live in an increasingly global economy, publishing remains strongly territorial: covers for the same book can differ widely from one country to the next, of course, but, perhaps more importantly - and more vexingly - success in one market is no guarantee of success in another. Strong sales in Canada or the UK do not always guarantee strong sales in the US, and vica versa. More on this later no doubt.

I’m off to the US and Canada next week, for a series of speaking engagements, university visits, and a conference. The events are detailed on the Events page of this website. At Books in Browsers in San Francisco I’ll be talking about the project that the Doubleday Random House Canada development team and I are working on with Landing Gear - creating an API version of an extract from the novel that will be offered to developers to play with at Books in Browsers first ever Publishing HackDay. I attended Books in Browsers for the first time last year, and found it a fantastically inspiring and exciting conference - small and intense, one of those rare conferences that enables you to push forward the way you are thinking about things, in my case, fiction and new developments in digital publishing.  I met Meghan MacDonald, a digital publisher from Random House Canada, for the first time at last year’s Books in Browsers, well before her company bought my novel, so it will be fun to be together at the conference once more, launching the API version of Landing Gear, which first occurred to me as a potential approach to publishing at that conference.  There are other novel-as-API projects out there, but ours might be one of the first to create a writable API - an interface that will allow readers to write back into my story.  So while the book itself - the typeset version - is nearly finished, our digital experiment with Landing Gear is only just beginning. More on that later too!

This Writer’s Life

25 June 2013 | Comments (2)

I’m off to Australia next week, to speak at the annual teachers’ conference, Brave New World AATE/ALEA, to spend a day visiting QUT – Queensland University of Technology - and to run a workshop for the Queensland Writer’s Centre.  As well as that, on Tuesday 9 July, I’m participating in a day-long live writing event, in collaboration with if:book Australia, and QUT, called Memory Makes Us.  We will be harvesting short and long term memories from the good people of Brisbane and anyone else anywhere in the world online via social media.  If you are in Brisbane, pop down to the State Library to say hello and lend us a memory or two.  If you are not in Brisbane, watch out for a flurry of activity online, centred around the hashtag of #memorymakesus. You’ll also be able to watch me write, live, via a url that we’ll be sending out on the day.  Live typing!  Live deleting!  Maybe even some live procrastination if you are really lucky.

This will be my second visit to Australia; I was at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival in 2011, again with if:book Australia.  On that visit, I took the tram from downtown Melbourne to the beach at St Kilda, but that was the extent of my exposure to the physical landscape of the great island-continent.  This time I will see a tiny bit more of the country, a small stretch of the coast north of Brisbane.  Here’s hoping I won’t be bitten by an enormous spider or attacked by a jellyfish or thumped to death by a kangaroo.  Hooray!

Apart from that, I’m seriously enjoying my new job at Bath Spa University – I figure I can still call it a new job, as I’ve been in it for less than a year.  I’ve been able to involve myself in a bunch of exciting things, including teaching undergraduates on the remarkably innovative Creative Writing and Publishing programme, teaching on the wonderful Creative Writing MA, and generally enthusing about things digital.  My colleagues have been hugely welcoming and I’m involved in a couple of new research projects as well as developing a cohort of Digital Writing PhDs, via the fee waiver studentships the university has created for October this year.

And my new novel, Landing Gear, is moving toward its May 2014 publication date.  I’m very excited to be working with Doubleday Random House in Canada, and Simon & Schuster in NY.  I’m working on a final edit of the manuscript, and am hoping to have a digital strategy worked out in collaboration with these publishers, working with ‘Flight Paths’ and other digital assets around the novel.  One of my goals is to get my backlist in working order, available as e-books as well as print editions, before that May 2014 publication date. 

In Canada, my publisher for many years, Kim McArthur, has ‘ceased trading’.  For the past year and a half all my Canadian publications, not to mention all of my Canadian royalties, have been in a state of limbo as McArthur & Co struggled to sort itself out financially.  I’m not going to say much about that here, apart from noting that, when it comes to publishers and their financial difficulties, writers are the first to lose.  Much has been made of the struggle to pay printers, to pay tax bills, to pay creditors; little is said about the fact that writers do not get paid.  McArthur published a host of terrific writers; the company’s demise is not good news for anyone. 

And so it goes.  Onward.  If you are interested in the digital transformation of reading, writing, and publishing, take a look at The Writing Platform; I’m Editor of this site which is just coming out of Beta – if you have any ideas for pieces you’d like to write on matters digital, get in touch with us.

Landing Gear - Doubleday Random House Canada and Touchstone, Simon & Schuster, US

19 April 2013 | Comments (0)

Hooray! My new novel, Landing Gear, is beginning to find its way in the world. In Canada, Doubleday Random House has bought it; at Doubleday I’m working with the wonderful Nita Pronovost. We had a great editorial session on the manuscript, and she sent me her copy of the edited manuscript through the post, pictured here with its ragged pages and detailed comments and suggestions in pencil. It is thrilling to work on a manuscript in this way, and wonderful to be given the actual hand-edited manuscript, and not a digital equivalent - the paper itself seems a thing of beauty to me, Nita’s editorial intelligence made physical on the page.

In the US, Touchstone, Simon & Schuster, who published The Mistress of Nothing, have bought Landing Gear. This is great news for me, and terrific to have that continuity. My new editor there is Heather Lazare. Heather and I met when I was in NY for TOC in February; she’s about to go off on maternity leave, so it is terrific to have her feedback on the novel before she heads off for a few months. I’ll do a new draft of the novel over the next month or so, though the changes at this stage will be minor.

The book will come out in both countries in May 2014. Traditional publishing still has a long lead time - if anything, it has got longer in recent years - and this is fine with me. I love this stage in the publishing process; I find working with editors very inspiring, and the business of deciding on covers, thinking about marketing, planning events, is also really interesting. Of course, Landing Gear has its digital companion pieces as well, and figuring out how to make the most of the already existing storyworld for the book - Flight Paths and my work-in-progress, Duel - will be part of the discussion over the next year.

Phew!

22 January 2013 | Comments (0)

My agent in Toronto loves the new book!  So, watch out all you publishing people, ‘Landing Gear’ is lifting off!  Hooray!

Not Writing

17 January 2013 | Comments (0)

It’s 2013 and cold and sunny and I’m in the middle of one of those all-too-frequent, and hideous, periods of my life: waiting for the verdict on a new book.  These days I’m waiting to hear back from a small collection of agents and publishers - one agent, two publishers.  Whatever they say, whatever decisions are made, it is likely to lead to a second phase of waiting (more publishers), and then, if all goes well, a third phase of waiting although that third phase is a good phase: if the deals get done, waiting for the book to be published.  The waiting might be interspersed with periods of writing - perhaps a re-write, or an in-depth edit or two - but, really, the major writing on ‘Landing Gear’ is done.

Truth be told, I’ve been enjoying this phase of not writing my book.  Not writing is a great place to be.  I finished the penultimate draft of ‘Landing Gear’ in September, shortly before I started my new post at Bath Spa University.  It’s been wonderful not writing while getting my feet under the table at Bath Spa.  I’m also busy with the launch of The Writing Platform (click on the link to go to our brand new holding page - hooray!), so not writing has been great for that as well.  And over the next three months I have trips to NYC, Boston, Milan, and Vancouver planned, so not writing works well for that too.  The great thing about not writing is that it means you don’t have a huge thing occupying two thirds of your brain, you don’t have a huge thing sitting there, half on your shoulder, half on your desk.

Of course, the reality is I’ve been writing a lot: a number of Inanimate Alice photo stories, an article for the Royal Society of Literature’s magazine, a bunch of presentations, a couple of proposals, a grant application. And I will be writing more articles, presentations, grant applications, ‘Inanimate Alice’ photo-stories. Plus there’s that new idea for my next book/web project…

Not writing won’t last.  So I might as well enjoy it.