Books for Bibliophile #1 – Bei Vollmond by Antoine Guilloppé

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ISBN 978-3868733945, currently out of print, Publisher Knesebeck

From Rabbit-Hutch to bookshelf

Although there are plenty of bunnies inhabiting the literary landscape out there (just think about Peter Rabbit, Hazel from Watership Down, the White Rabbit of Alice in Wonderland fame and the netherlands’ very own Miffy), I fear that these cotton-tailed characters might not be into collecting arty children’s book, except perhaps Peter and Miffy.

Sorry for the jabbering about bunny-ology, it’s just that I got the book from a small independent bookshop in Münster (Germany) called Hasenstall (if they got their name to honour the literary heritage of all the bunnies out there?), which translates to Rabbit-hutch in English. Back then I was hunting for children’s books because my partner had expressed the wish to learn German. By ensuring the constant growth of our library, but also focusing on his needs, I would buy him German children’s books. Cunning, indeed. We would sit down together and while he read to me, I would translate the content if necessary.  For everyone who is interested in the success of this project: James is now capable of saying “Karotte, köstlich”, in case conversational topics include the diet of wombats.

Bei Vollmond an aesthetic experience

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Originally published as Pleine Lune in France, late 2010, the German publisher Knesebeck later published the translation as Bei Vollmond (By Full Moon), in September 2011. The book is designed by Antoine Guilloppé, a renowned French children’s illustrator.  Unfortunately, the German edition now seems to be out of print, hence, if you are in Germany and you find this book on the shelf, you should probably invest your euros in it posthaste.

I keep on mentioning the German edition, I know.  Sadly the book has never been translated into English. Although the English book market has become more open to translated titles in recent years, there is still a lot of work to do.

The story of this children’s book is quickly told: Bei Vollmond takes its reader on a journey through the woods by full moon. A strange noise has caught the attention of the forest animals; some of them are determined to find out what has caused the noise, others are scared for the children who have ventured out in the night. Funnily enough only the bears are relaxed….

DSC_0255The concept of a full moon lit night has successfully been transferred to the page here; the book shows how the woods become a magical place during the night. The book itself is printed on heavyweight black and white paper and the pictures are carefully cut out of each page with a laser; the technique has a similar effect to the one known as Scherenschnitt in Germany.

This is a marvellous gift for any bibliophile out there. And if you can’t get hold of Bei Vollmond, you should try to get a copy of Ma Jungle (German: Tief im Dschungel) you can view a preview of the book down below.

How to not get an internship with a publisher

Stage 1  – Starting The Game

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Before the failure comes the success. I decided quite a while ago that I wanted to work for a publisher. When I got offered the position as a bookseller, I happily took it, mostly because I knew I could spend my days with books. But, there were rumours in the air that you also needed to have a little bit more than just “a passion for books” if you want to work for a publishing company. Important information: All the leaked information can be find on the internet! For example on the site of The Society Of Young Publishers.

A couple of weeks ago I saw an advert for an internship with one of my favourite publishers, who happen to be based in London, and so decided to put together a cover letter, update my CV and try my luck.

In my cover letter, I talked a little bit about my education – I ditched my History and German studies for various reasons – reasons that you will probably need to justify in an interview – and then decided to do a Creative Writing degree in London. In Germany I had also written for a music magazine called OX, conducting interviews with bands, translating them into English and reviewing graphic novels. I also have two pieces of my own work published, one in a book called “Freunde – Ein Sammelwerk” and the other one in an independent publication called HRVST – Death. Generally, I don’t talk too much about these things because they somehow just happened to me and I don’t see anything special in it, but then again – if you go for a job you don’t want to sell yourself short, eh?

Still, I was flattered when I received the invitation of an interview with said small publisher in London. It showed me that whatever I did, I did at least something right.

Stage 2 – Getting Used To The Gameplay

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Do I really need to spill the beans here? It goes without saying that you will prepare your job interview. Obviously you could argue that I didn’t do my preparation right, but I wrote and rewrote my pitches, practicing them over and over until I had learnt them off by heart. At least I can say that I was prepared.

Step One: (Re)search and Destroy

As we all know, it looks good to know a little bit about the company that you have applied for. Every publisher has their own internet presence these days; drive their traffic by starting your research here. Other weapons of choice: Google/Twitter/YouTube. The Bookseller was my extra power-up, here you find the latest news from the industry.

Next level up: Talk to your friends that either are in publishing or that have done internships with publishers. They might have some more tips on what to expect from the interview.

Think about what the brand identity of the publisher is, why do you want to work for this specific publisher and not for someone else? What distinguishes this publisher from other, similar ones?

Step Two: Do as they tell you

The publisher had asked me in their email to prepare a two minute pitch on why I would make a good intern for them and to talk about a book that they published and which I really liked. This obviously made an excellent excuse to add some more books into my own private library.

As I am not an English native, the prospect of not finding the right words during an interview is harrowing. Hence I tend to write down my answers and then rehearse them. Evidently this has some advantages/disadvantages. One of the advantages is that it helps me to deal with my nervousness. The biggest disadvantage lays in not appearing spontaneous anymore.

Step Three: Arm yourself with Questions

Having questions shows that you are interested. That’s what they tell you, so do it.

Questions I prepared: Zero. Instead I anticipated question in regards to the state of the German book market. What are the books that I would recommend to translate (for everyone out there who might have some influence on this – we could do with a new edition of Christoper Ransmayr’s The Terrors Of Ice And Darkness and what exactly happened to the translation of Kracht’s Imperium ?), which books I read from the current longlist of Deutscher Buchpreis (Answer: none! I could say that I am interested in reading Zwei Herren Am Strand and Vor Dem Fest. Which probably would have made really good answer as my research has shown me that my publisher recently acquired the rights for the last title.)

Questions that came up during the interview: plenty. For example I asked how long it takes to actually produce the book (18 month to two years) or how they discover books that they decide they want to translate (travel in your home country that has probably a more diverse book market than the UK and buy the books). I didn’t ask what my internship would entail, I had the feeling that this was already answered during the interview. A lot of it seems to be posting letters to publishers, writing emails, being responsible for social media content, drafting press releases etc. As this was a small publisher they told me that after a few weeks it becomes apparent where the intern fits in best and interns pro-activly create own little projects.

Stage Three – Meet The Boss

No one wants you to fail. Quite the opposite: the people that invited you are interested in meeting the person behind the CV. They want to see that you make a good fit for the company and that you are generally the person that you claim to be in your covering letter. What I found is that if you meet the right people, your interview will flow quite naturally and is actually a lot of fun.

If I would give myself a star rating, I probably performed three out of five. I have the tendency to be more lively when trying to overcome my nervousness. Which can mean that I sometimes appear to lack focus, which I believe was the case here. I couldn’t put the message across that I am the right person for this internship. My rehearsed speech was stiff and had the wrong focus, I could see that my interview partners were a little bit irritated. Bad no no: claiming you are an expert in literature but than introduce Peter Handke as a German author. Very bad, indeed.

While I could answer the question of what I believe my strengths are, I didn’t evidence my answer. Neither did I expect the ‘oldie’ of what my weaknesses are. Can you believe what I said? I am too chatty and lack confidence. Beginner’s mistake. Presumably they thought that I will sit in their office and talk talk talk until their ears are bleeding.

Stage Four – Game Over

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Okay so there is no surprise when I write that I didn’t get the internship. However, the email that came from the publisher was nice, although quite generic when it came to the “stronger candidate” bit. But hey, it’s hard to invent the rules for a game new. But I don’t want to moan, because the editor offered me the chance to write him with further questions in regards to how to get my foot in the door. I pinged back an email asking what I could do to raise my profile and if he could give me any further tips. Because next time I want to be the one who is the ‘stronger candidate’. I will repost the response if or when I will receive one.

What now? Well as in any game you can simply press reset and start all over again. That’s the beauty of it.

 



“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” – Samuel Beckett 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Moth: This Is A True Story edited by Catherine Burns – Book review

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ISBN 978-1846689895, Price £12.99, Publisher Serpent’s Tail

The thing with Neil

Neil Gaiman is like my mum. Both tend to be unavoidable. Let me explain: I am fairly new to Twitter and once I had created my account, I started to add authors, publishers and the like. When I open Twitter I see at least three tweets by Neil himself. I go on Facebook and see he shares status updates from his wife. At home, I can pick up his books and comics, at work people buy his writings. While I genuinely like his work of fiction, I have found that his recent omnipresence has a negative impact on my relationship to him. It all leads to a feeling of “Please, not you again!”.

When The Moth: This Is A True Story arrived in the bookshop and I saw that Neil Gaiman had written the foreword, I decided to give it a miss.  But the thing is, I can’t escape good marketing and the Guardian had this storytelling special where they published some stories from The Moth named:

  • How I accidentally shot and killed my best friend
  • A Mormon’s guide to dating
  • ‘I looked at my birth certificate. That was not my mother’s name.’
  • How I told my brother that I was now a woman …at my father’s funeral
  • ‘For the first time in my life, I found myself consumed by stage fright’
  • Why I am scared of telling stories…and why I love The Moth

And as you can see from the picture above, the whole thing did the trick. I just followed an impulse that told me I needed to buy the book. Why? I guess, because curiosity motivates the Kät.

What is The Moth?

The Moth is easily explained: it is a storytelling event where true stories are told to a live audience. Founded by George Dawes Green, The Moth intends to recreate the feeling of the warm summer evenings he had spent with friends on a porch in New York, telling stories to each other. The name of the event derives from the moths that were attracted to the light when he and his friends sat outside. So far, so idyllic. The event quickly became popular, moving to bigger venues and spreading to different cities. London’s first Moth event will be held on the 28th of August this year and guess who will be hosting the evening? Yes, indeed, Neil himself. The event is sold out which speaks for its popularity or  successful marketing or at least the curiosity it has sparked in some of us.

But is it any good?

Most stories in this book are between six and eight pages long. Seldom is a story longer. At the centre of each story is the storyteller, the unavoidable I. All I’s in the book have great stories to tell, that goes without question. They come from diverse backgrounds and it goes to show that every single one of us has the potential to tell a good story.

I loved to read about the exorcism of depression, in fact I was telling everyone that I worked with how funny this little story was, trying to recap it in each tiny step. I was in tears over Adam Gopnik’s use of LOL, tears of joy mind you.  You will find accounts from astronauts, a doctor who cures Mother Theresa, the story about an African American woman that works as a carer for a Klansman and the account of a professional poker player gaining her confidence in an big-stakes international match to name but a few. All stories have different themes that are life affirming, challenging and often have a confessional character.

As with all collections, it goes without saying that some of the stories interested me more than others. If you read too many of them in a row, you might think that the stories are just evidencing the ‘coolness’ of the authors and are a little bit too self-indulgent. Only a few of the stories deal with failure, failure doesn’t seem like a big option.

It is worth keeping in mind that these stories are meant to be told live, some of the stories clearly lose drive on the page. If you want to compare how the written and oral versions differ from each other, it is worth searching the actual footage of the story on YouTube. You might be lucky and able to find it. There are a few on there.

Final verdict – The Moth a treasure trove

I would recommend reading the book in small portions. You can easily dip in and out, it’s excellent for commutes and in-between waits as the text in front of you doesn’t require too much attention, but is still enjoyable to read. As mentioned before, each story is short so that you don’t need to drag yourself through the text when you don’t like a particular story. Another positive is that it’s quite an inspirational read. My synapses made leaps of joy and I promised myself to take some more notes during the reading sessions. As someone who is interested in writing, I think it is a treasure trove when it comes to weird little characteristics and side stories that could enrich my own writing.  Which just evidences the well known fact again, that life tells the best stories.

 

 

 

 

Bookshop plunder – Haul #1 in June

 

The Haul #1

 

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  • We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
  • The Invention Of The Jewish people by Shlomo Sand
  • The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf
  • Tender Is The Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Intuition Pumps And Other Tools For Thinking by Daniel Dennett
  • Orientalism by Edward Said
  • Julius Caesar by W. Shakespeare
  • Origami All You Need To Know by Ashley Wood
  • Under The Banner Of Heaven by Jon Krakauer

Let’s start at the top of the pile.  I may never read half of them but the feeling that I could do makes me a happier person.

This week the longlist for next year’s Booker Prize was announced.  Shame on me, I hadn’t read a single title from it (I’m still waiting for the publication of the new David Mitchell and Ali Smith). In an attempt to change this, I read the first few pages of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler and as you can see, I must have enjoyed it. I am now 100 pages in and all I want to do is – finish it. Expect a review of it at a later date. So far I would say I am loving it.

Perhaps one of the most controversial books in this pile: The Invention Of The Jewish People by Shlomo Sand. I guess, I am curious what all the fuss is about.

Right under it we find Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth. – You probably know that I work in a bookshop, right? And what do we do all day in a bookshop? We certainly don’t read books – there’s no time, but on our breaks we often talk about them. This book was recommended by a colleague of mine. We were talking about beauty ideals and I had confessed that for years I hated my eyebrows. Compared to other people’s, mine seemed odd; never growing in a beautiful curve but always with a tendency to grow together. Can you imagine what a life changing event it was when I found out that those other girls’ brows were plucked and not natural?  Anyway, my colleague and I went on debating feminism (and yes, I call myself a feminist but unfortunately I still seem to care about my eyebrows and the shape they come in).  To cut a long story short, my colleague said I would have to read this book and it would change everything.  Big promises here, I hope it delivers.

The next one is a classic – Tender Is The Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The book is from  Ealing Oxfam and has a beautiful 70’s porn-style cover. But it will do. I read The great Gatsby two years ago and was impressed by the lyricalness of the prose. It’s time to gain a similar reading pleasure, I hope this can deliver…

Don’t ask me how Intuition Pumps And Other Tools For Thinking written by Dennett ended up in this pile. It was free, so I took it.

Orientalism is one of those texts you hear about because you study. Or studied. With all the islamophobic tendencies in society today, it’s probably a good thing to arm yourself with some counter arguments. Purchased. I had a photocopied version of this back in Germany but never read it.

So I went to the Globe today to see Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar . Preparation is key.

Another free book – this time about Origami. I like Origami although I am far from being good at it. It always was my dream to sit in a boring lecture and fold the most complicated paper models. Never happened before, but now it might.

This is that strange case where someone mentions a book to you and you think “perhaps” and then the book suddenly appears everywhere. At one point you will give in and accept fate – you have to buy it. Happened with Krakauer’s book Under the banner of heaven. I really liked Into Thin Air, fingers crossed this will be equally as good.

 

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This week I also bought the new issues of Saga and Revival. I love Saga, I started by buying the tradebacks but I am so intrigued with the story that I cannot wait for the next trade to come out. It is that good! When it comes to Revival I am a little bit behind, I still need to catch up with the story line and #17 & #18 are missing.