Staring this summer, Zoetic Press will be producing a new podcast giving you insights into the inner workings of your favorite small presses.
The Moment of Everything
Grand Central Publishing, September 2014
Shelly King’s debut novel The Moment of Everything should be a welcome addition to the reading lists of fans of romance, geeks, independent bookstores or Silicon Valley culture.
The story, which largely unfolds on and around Castro Street in Mountain View, the heart of Silicon Valley, opens with Maggie, a woman laid off from the tech company she co-founded. Those of us who have lived and worked in Silicon Valley have all either been her or known her at some point in our careers, and Molly is hit hard by her inability to find another job. She turns to a haven that any reader will love – her local independent bookshop, the Dragonfly, run by her friend and landlord.
While browsing the stacks of the Dragonfly, she comes across a copy of Lady Chatterly’s Lover that’s been used as a means of communication between two people who have never met – notes scrawled on the books pages tell the story of a couple who express a similar longing, but a fear of bringing their relationship to fruition by actually meeting in person. Maggie translates her fascination with their relationship into a winning strategy to bring customers back to the struggling shop.
King’s novel brings a Southern sensibility, sauciness, and more than a dash of humor to some painful observations about the tribulations of independent bookstores, the vagaries of the Silicon Valley job market, and the perils of romantic relationships. Engaging and nicely paced, King’s novel is a pleasure, and although it is absolutely worth sticking into your bag for those times when you have a few minutes that you’d like to fill with possibility.
Today’s post is by Zachary Wood, a poet who’s been a finalist for the Larry Neal Awards, and has published poetry in BrickRhetoric, Aerie International, and Navigating the Maze.
Throughout her illustrious literary career, Toni Morrison has been asked, “why are all of your books about the struggles of African-Americans?” In an interview with The Guardian, Morrison explained, “I’m writing for Black people. I don’t have to apologize or consider myself limited because I don’t write about white people.” To be sure, Morrison is right; no one asks white writers why they don’t write about Black people. Yet I think the more salient question to consider is: how might we benefit from reading about the struggles of others?
To begin with, I think reading about the struggles of others helps us cultivate empathy. No matter what our experiences are, we can glimpse the challenges and crises our world faces every day on the news. Great literature offers us far more than can be captured in soundbites, news clips, and advertisements. Great literature gives us a platform from which we can explore all of what we see on the news in more depth. Literature by nature of the imagination and creativity it entails lends itself to interpretation, analysis, and critical reflection. In that sense, a compelling novel gives us an imaginative yet realistic and detailed account of the development of complex human characters that we can relate to and engaging stories which lead us to reflect on the complexities of the human experience. In this way, through reading about the struggles of others, we essentially broaden and deepen our understanding of the human condition.
In addition, we gain a deeper understanding of the world, of how other people are affected by realities that might be unfamiliar to us, and of why they hold the views that they do. With nuanced understanding and exposure to and consideration of the struggles of others, we might then be able to make more effective and rewarding our engagement with various issues of social relevance. For example, after reading The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, I understood it to be an education of the will. That is to say, reading The Bluest Eye was edifying and enriching for me in that it challenged me to question my assumptions about how standards of beauty operate in our society, particularly with regard to race and gender. Reading that book and many others by Toni Morrison deepened my knowledge, empathy, and understanding, which helped me to have more meaningful discussions with other people who share a mutual interest in her work.
Holistically, reading about the struggles of others challenges us to view the world from a different vantage point. It prompts us to question the relationship between our own experience and those of others. I believe that in the process, we gain wisdom and insight that foster critical thinking, empathy, and open-mindedness.
Zachary Wood is a sophomore at Williams College majoring in political science and philosophy. He would like to encourage everyone to check out the works of authors with whom they have very little in common, because he’d like to make the world a nicer place.
I was recently on a panel on narrative and technology at the Bay Area Book Festival. Before the panel, I met with the other participants (whom I hadn’t previously met) in the green room, and we started talking about our various projects.
Two of my fellow panelists had created some book apps that they had then written books for. The paper versions of the books were published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and were released long after the app versions came out. The problem, according to my fellow panelist, was getting people to download the app. It didn’t seem to matter that the text was compelling and the presentation interesting (although I have to admit, I can’t speak firsthand to either of those things), the number of downloads they got was dismal.
We here at Zoetic Press have experienced the same issue. The number of people who have downloaded our ereader is pretty dismal, and the people we’ve talked to have all said the same kinds of things: that we need more content, that they don’t have an iOS device, that we should bring our works out in print. Let me explain some things to you about Lithomobilus and why we’ve made the decisions we’ve made.
1. You should bring your works out in print. For those of you who have asked why we don’t bring out our works in print, you’re missing the point. The whole point of Lithomobilus is doing things with narrative that aren’t possible in print. We could absolutely bring out our works in print, but they wouldn’t have the features that make them Lithomobilus works.
2. Why is it only on Apple devices? You have to start development somewhere. For us, we looked at the US mobile device market. Currently, Apple has 70% of the market, so it made sense, since we are a US company dealing primarily in English-language literature, to tackle the largest market. Because adapting it for Android will primarily mean addressing the issue of screen sizes (there are a small number of screen sizes for Apple devices, but a nearly unlimited number of screen sizes for Android devices), we will be able to tackle that next. Sadly, for Kindle users, you can blame Amazon for us not coming to your Kindle. Kindle can only display books available in formats Amazon supports, and they will not open up their device to third-party books. It’s that simple.
3. You need more content. We know that. We would love for you to write something for us.
Bringing a new thing out into the world is tough, and I do want to thank all those of you who have stuck with us and believed in us. If you have any questions about our material, our platform, or anything else we’re doing, we’d love to answer them! You can always engage us on Facebook, where we will happily answer any questions you might have for us.
Lise Quintana is the publisher behind Zoetic Press. She is also the head of Narrative Technologies, where she is responsible for the design of the software, making payroll, and emptying the trash cans.