Response to Literature: A Recipe

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Following the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Sweetheart) principle, here is the simplest recipe you need to follow when responding to any piece of literature (regardless of age or academic level). Blessed with so many nicknames (book review, literary criticism, literary critical analysis, response to literature, analytical review, literary interpretation, and so on), there is, indeed, a worthwhile dissimilarity among all the aforementioned explorations, from the simplest (book review) to the most complex (literary critical analysis). Regardless of your preference for moniker, your job is to help a potential reader to get a glimpse into a piece of literary work before he/she decides to read it. You are the reviewer.

  • Needless to say, before you engage in response to literature, you must read that novel to the end of it.
  • Break your critique into three major parts: introduction, body, and conclusion.
  • Pull the audience in with gripping sentences in the introduction.
  •  Summarize the story within the first few paragraphs with beginning, middle, and ending; however, you should mesh the summary into your analysis (preferable).
  • From your notes (taken during the reading), identify any interesting situation that caused very strong reactions in you: What inspired you? Confused you? Surprised you?
  • Include and organize these reactions; discuss each major thought in each paragraph in the body of your review and link them to the events in the order they occur in the story.
  • Give insight and make judgment so the reader can determine your feeling about the story: like it, don’t like it, or lukewarm. Support each opinion.
  • Identify elements of literature and comment on them in your writing as they pertain to the story.
  • Identify those figurative expressions the author used in the story; comment on his/her style, ingenuity, creative playfulness, and such, as they pertain to the story.
  • Allow your voice to come through clearly; showcase your style.
  • Employ the six traits of writing: ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, and conventions.
  • Paint colorfully vivid pictures with figures of speech, action verbs, and descriptive adjectives.
  • Quote the author’s most salient and moving phrases/words.
  • Place a check beside the bulleted requirements above as you complete each one.
  • Edit and revise your work with the proofreading/copy-editing guidelines.
  • Pre-grade your work physically; before submitting it to an instructor or for publication, repair any defects that might impact negatively your grade or your reputation.

I look forward to reading your literary criticism, and criticism can be constructive. Thanks for stopping by today.

Nikki Giovanni Asks for a Major Motion Picture for MLK, Junior

As Kennesaw State University joins the rest of the nation to mark another deserved birthday celebration for Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior, it welcomed the world-renowned poet, Nikki Giovanni, as its keynote speaker. In her inaugural visit to KSU, Giovanni posed a question worthy of deep consideration.

“Why has there not been a major motion picture in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? Hollywood has made movies about drug dealers and criminals, Capone, Dillinger, and so on. You have to wonder why Martin has no movie in his honor,” the bold and critically acclaimed Giovanni demanded during the 2012 annual observance on Monday, January 16.

Forty-four years after his assassination, Martin Luther King, Jr., is yet to earn a big-screen, sole-title movie right as Malcolm X and numerous other black history makers and heavyweights.

In an unpredictable mixture of history lecture, entertainment, chastisement, and religious sermon, Giovanni kept up a stream of surprising influx that kept attendees laughing hilariously and continually. Without warning, she sent them bristling from her criticisms and feeling grateful for uncountable legacies at the same time.

A distinguished professor of English at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University-Virginia Tech–since 1987, Giovanni sneaked in another title to numerous others (mother, writer, poet, commentator, and activist), that of a comedienne, as she caused riotous laughter to erupt smoothly and repeatedly.

The “Princess of Black Poetry” recanted childhood stories of her grandmother’s link to Civil Rights legends such as Rosa Parks, E.D. Nixon (who bailed Parks out of jail), and MLK, Jr. She reminded us of a very painful fact: “We lost Martin too early. He was just 39.” Ironically, Giovanni’s writing career was born in the year of Martin Luther King’s assassination.

Giovanni recited a very moving tribute to “the incomparable Martin” from her poetry collection, Acolyte.

In the Spirit of Martin,” demanded “the world to see what they did to my boy.” It traveled through civil rights cities and envisioned a present-day Martin, “the voice of his people,” wearing a tattoo and with braided hair.

One of Oprah Winfrey’s twenty-five “Living Legends,” Giovanni uplifted the mixed-race audience by urging Caucasian female writers and historians to tell the story of the frontier woman whose courage in the face of insurmountable danger has not begun to be told yet.

Georgia’s third largest university, Kennesaw State honored the woman who came to honor Martin Luther King, Jr., with a medley of orchestrated events such as songs by the KSU Gospel Choir, a rendition of the “Black National Anthem,” and remarks by President Daniel S. Papp.

The Sensory Self of Discovery

All who create things hope for discovery, whether they are musicians, sculptors, writers, or singers. The essential question is, what does it look like? Which one is better: self-publishing self-discovery or being unearthed by traditional publishing? Which one carries a lesser burden?

We hope to recognize it when it comes, if it is truly true, but some discoveries wear cloaks of deception, as many authors can attest. Regardless, we all want it and hope that it is truly honest when it arrives to carry us away in a romantic carriage of success.

What used to be the yardstick established by traditional publishing houses is no longer the norm: millions of book sales and bulging bank account with the illusive money from an advance of potential earnings, the key word being potential.

It is always intrinsically rewarding when a publisher recognizes a talented writer and trusts, on a hunch, the lilting words of potential sales so much so that a huge advance is proffered in hopes that the novel will deliver. The borrowed or loaned money equates credit, but the writer, as worried as he is about the huge debt hanging precariously above, wills the book to deliver, even as he or she squanders the money anyway.

Conversely, in the current exhilarating circumstances introduced by self-publishing and e-book sales, talent identification of self is sweeter when the writer gets to keep all or most of the rewards of his creation and labor. There is no advance payment looming over the head of the writer who discovers himself or herself. Yes, discovery is internal and is even more uplifting. After Amazon (or the e-book-reader maker) takes its hefty cut, the remaining amount belongs to the author entirely.

However, talent recognition by thousands, nay, millions of adoring fans, is also even more vindicating because these readers are garnered by the writer directly. Anyone who has not been living under a rock for the past couple of years has heard and seen the ubiquitous news about self-published e-books taking the industry by storm. Statistics abound prolifically.

What discovery is not:

According to Deirdre Donahue of USA Today, “…When 25 publishers passed on buying his thriller Riptide, Michael Prescott thought his career was dead…” Being passed off sounds like the end of the publishing road, but as any persevering writer will attest, someone has to believe in a writer’s work, eventually, if the writer is waiting on traditional publishing houses. Time, acceptance, and several factors are the foe.

What does it look like?

Whether it is through royalty-paying, traditional publishers or through self-publishing, the point is that all authors should be able to make money on their work without having to jump through all sorts of hoops imposed by the system, so says J.A. Konrath, who is considered the guru of the self-publishing movement.

“I am a guy who had his butt kicked by the (traditional-publishing) industry for 20 years, and now I’m showing other authors what they can do so they don’t have to go through the same thing,” he continues. “Traditional book publishers are just serving drinks on the Titanic. It’s a huge win for readers, who now have easier access to more writers from around the world,” he adds.

Discovery looks like peaks in sales on a graph, a peak that keeps rising and rising until it goes off the chart regardless of the platform used to monitor the exchange of book for money. Peaks in sales are born by authorpreneurs who have used the ever permissible and pervasive outlets to pitch their novels like Brittany Geragotelis who used Wattpad to propel herself to stardom with over one million followers.

According to the Association of American Publishers, e-books grew from 0.6% of the total trade market share in 2008 to 6.4% in 2010, the most recent figures available. Total net revenue for 2010 was $878 million with 114 million e-books sold. In adult fiction, e-books are now 13.6% of the market.

What does it sound like?

In this revolutionary period of unraveling breakneck technological advances in the book-making and book-reading industries, discovery sounds like pages turning maddeningly fast by an avid reader who cannot put the book or the e-reading device down. It sounds like the adamant voice of a devoted follower demanding when the next book will be out after devouring the maiden novel of an inventive writer. This is an encouragement for the author to get back to work fast and continue cooking and concocting while the embers are still red and flaming.

What does it smell like?

It smells like crisp and newly minted dollar bills earned by newly printed pages (or not, if it is uploaded into an e-reader). According to the USA Today article cited above, author Michael Prescott says he earned more than $300,000 before taxes last year (2011) by selling more than 800,000 copies of his self-published e-books.

Konrath has seen his income from his self-published e-book sales go from $1,400 in April 2009 to $68,000 in April 2011.

These two authors might be the tip of the success iceberg, but imagine both for yourself, freshly minted money and freshly printed pages vying for a smelling contest. That I should be so lucky to smell both!

What does it feel like?

Discovery feels like touching the soft and fluffy clouds in the sky, the summit. Getting that nod feels like the coolest, smoothest 100% silk, like satin, and 800 percale thread count, the most luxurious sensation a person could ever touch. It is that much peaceful and calming—reaching that elevation of success, self-measured or not. It is sensational, the key word being sense (of self, that is).

What does discovery taste like?

It tastes like food on the table. Quoting the quotable Konrath,Any writer who puts food on the table with their writing is successful. It doesn’t matter if it is a box of Mac and Cheese, or caviar and champagne. Taking your career into your own hands, giving it your best shot, striving to do better… that’s the American Dream, baby.”

Konrath is especially thrilled for the thousands and thousands of authors who are now making ends meet because they achieved their goals and self-published their e-books. “Your ebooks will continue to earn money, forever. Be proud. You are a success,” he encourages.

“It’s a gold rush out there,” Prescott joins the chorus of e-book songs of praise. “Forty acres and a mule. It’s the best time for an independent writer to get out there. It’s a whole new world. You’re eliminating the middleman.”

The Queen of Free Hounds Happenings Around Town

In case you have not heard, I am the Queen of Free. I love free things: air, water, concerts, movies, healthy food, books, and so on. As long as I do not have to work unnecessarily hard for it, (and realizing that some things do come with a price–purportedly free), I am all the more enthusiastic for it.

In search of an attempt to brand myself, I will start with the official title, Queen of Free,” and I will try to locate free intellectually rewarding, journalistically uplifting, financially informative and gifting, and therapeutically relaxing things (for the mind and the body) in and around ATL. I realize that trying to pry free things from companies and organizations in our current economic upheaval will be as difficult as trying to squeeze a drop of water from a basket of dry laundry, but I am going to try my hardest.

With the Christmas season showing us its back, some songs are still fresh in my head. One particular song’s chants repeat: “Do you hear what I hear?” and “Do you know what I know?”

What I heard and what I know is that the one and only true Princess of Black Poetry, Ms. Nikki Giovanni, is coming to Kennesaw State University in the flesh! She is not charging me a dime for her billion-dollar presence.

Are you ready for The Next Boom? Attend this free event and get a free e-book. In case you were not counting, I used the word “free” twice in one sentence.

While you are at the Georgia State University’s site, look up another free event, Bill Kahnweiler’s cutting-edge research on non-profit. As you know, non-profit seems to be the only branch of our economy that appears more stable than most.

There are some other important happenings around town, but they involve you reaching into your purse or wallet.

Georgia Writers’ Association workshop on 1/14/2012:

Atlanta SoCon12 on February 3 – 4, 2012, will undoubtedly offer insightful takeaways for everyone – from small business owners and journalists to CEOs and marketing professionals.

Phenomenal Women’s Conference: March 23, 2012, at Kennesaw State University.