March 24, was The Millions’ second birthday. In the year since my last “happy birthday” post, blogs have become firmly mainstream. It’s become difficult to find a person who asks the once common question, “What’s a blog?” The book blog world has become amazingly robust in the last year, meriting frequent mentions in the mainstream media and providing a real alternative to newspaper book coverage that manages, at best, to reach some of the readers some of the time. Based on the many emails I get, book blogs have become a venue of conversation (and a potential outlet for promotion) for authors and publishers. For those who bemoan the stagnation of the literary world – and all of the book bloggers seem to do it from time to time – we are in the midst of a shift, if not yet a revolution, in national (and international) literary discussion, which has migrated from book club meetings and bookstore aisles out into the open. I am regularly delighted when a Millions reader, and book lover, leaves a comment or sends me an email, thus entering the conversation. I also love the loose give and take among the several dozen book blogs and the way themes will propagate across the blog landscape one after another until there is a dense web of conversation floating among us in the ether. The best thing about this is it appears to be just the beginning. I have ten times as many regular visitors as I did at this time a year ago, and new book blogs appear almost weekly it seems, adding further depth to the discourse. When I started, I just figured it might be fun to write about books as a way to make use of all the time I spent surrounded by them at the bookstore. Everything that’s happened beyond that has been gravy. Thanks for two great years, Millions readers (and contributors)!
As previously discussed, I’m moving to Philadelphia this week, and then Mrs. Millions and I are heading to a wedding in LA, so don’t expect to hear much from me until about a week from now. However, I will be putting up any posts I get from contributors, so stay tuned.Also, recommendations on fun Philly stuff are still welcomed in the comments of the post linked above.
Though it passed unremarked (I was on vacation), Monday was the five-year anniversary of The Millions. This blog started as something quite inconsequential. At the outset of The Millions, I would have put the chances of me sticking with it through the end of 2003, let alone for five years, at somewhere south of 5%. Making it this far is pretty astonishing.Those of you who have been with us for a long time know that I soon settled on books as a topic, discovered other people who had blogs about books, and eventually was joined here by some incredible writers (and readers).I used to use these annual occasions to expound upon the state of literary discourse online. In years past, there seemed to be quite a bit of excitement as individuals – talented enthusiasts and seasoned pros alike – staked out some online territory and sent their musings about things literary into the electronic ether. When the world, both readers and the mainstream press, began to take notice, it was thrilling. Certainly, we had some notable moments this past year: we talked Harry Potter, The Millions landed on NPR, and our Year in Reading set the bar high for year-end roundups (and that’s just to name a few. Check out the Notable Posts on the sidebar for more.)Nonetheless, there isn’t as much to say about the state of litblogs anymore. As I’ve noted in the past, they really have become assimillated, if not into the mainstream of traditional book reviewing culture, then undoubtedly into the massive miasma of personal publishing all over the web, where anyone can find their favorite nook and where no one will any longer bat an eye at hundreds of cross-pollinated blogs discussing books and whatever else.For this reason, I wasn’t all that surprised to hear that the Litblog Co-op folded recently (Dan Green made the announcement). It was an idea of an earlier period (only three years ago, but things move fast these days), when there were a few independent bloggers writing about literary matters with each, to varying degrees, commanding a small but measurable and loyal audience. Pool our resources, the idea went, and we can make an impact. It started off well and garnered a good deal of press, but it was doomed from the beginning in many ways. It wasn’t built to scale as the community grew, and there was no way for the hundreds of new bloggers and thousands of new readers to take meaningful part in the experiment. Combine that with the inherent challenges of managing a leaderless, decentralized group and it’s a testament to the people involved that it lasted as long as it did.I bowed out from the LBC early last year, facing too many constraints on my time and needing to cut back. Still, the end of that experiment prompts me to take stock of The Millions. Though some folks in the bookish corner of the blogosphere shy away from it, and others criticize their colleagues’ ad placement but stop the presses for flashy pledge drives, I am unashamedly proud of The Millions for marching onwards towards being a legitimate literature and arts publication. In a time when many are fearful of the diminishing commercial viability of literature and the arts, it is heartening to see that The Millions has grown from a hobby into a business, albeit one that is still nascent and that is, because of the small sums involved, still very much a labor of love. While I harbor no delusions that The Millions will become a heavyweight of the blog world, the opportunity is there to keep making it better, and I find that exciting.Before I wrap this ramble up, I want to thank our readers. We very much enjoy writing for you, and we value your intelligence, curiosity, and feedback. Thanks for another great year at The Millions.(And thanks to Mrs. Millions for creating the nifty “5” graphic above as a birthday gift for The Millions.)Birthdays Past: An Historic Day; The Millions Turns Two; Thanks for Three Years from The Millions, Four Years of The Millions.
I find it hard to believe, but today is the one year anniversary of The Millions, making this little Blog About Books a veritable ancient in the “blog world.” Authoring this blog has been a great experience for me. It turned me from an unmotivated, but ostensibly “aspiring” writer, into someone who writes for an audience every day and can now seriously contemplate life as a writer without much dread. If there’s any folks out there who are contemplating a similar sort of writing life, putting together a blog is a great way to get the kinks out, not to mention all the web skills you pick up along the way.When I first started The Millions it wasn’t even a blog about books, it was just a… blog. My buddy Derek had had a blog for a while and was really into it. It looked like fun and I was getting tired of trying to muster up the energy to write in my journal each day, so I decided to give it a try. My first post appears to have been about politics, and I think it was my last post about politics. I kind of meandered along like that for a while, writing intermittently about art lectures and rock and roll shows and things like that until one day in the shower, where I have most of my epiphanies, I had an epiphany. A Blog About Books. “I’ve decided to reinvent The Millions…”, I wrote. A manifesto soon followed. And it was followed again and again by more and more manifestos. And of course I went bookfinding and bookspotting. And occasionally people read the blog and they seemed to enjoy it and some of them even left comments or emailed me or asked me a book question. It’s been fun. I hope to keep doing it, too. I don’t have a lot of readers, 30 to 60 a day, and most of those are family members, but I’m pretty addicted to it. This year brings lots of busyness and lots of changes. I’m getting married, moving, and going back to school, but maybe I’ll find the time to make it to The Millions anniversary #2 on March 24th, 2005; you’ll have to keep reading to find out.The anniversary might be a good time to post another manifesto, and since I think I may have written a (small) one today in responding to an email from a reader, I might as well put it up here:I lean perhaps too much on the side of being uncritical about books. In fact, I prefer to allow the books I read to be a jumping off point for conversation or to talk about the experience of reading a particular book. I feel like that there is so much qualitative judgment being passed on books (…and music…and movies) that it tends to drown out the other stuff… so I haven’t wanted The Millions to add to the din of the review culture. Having said that, I think it IS important to pass qualitative judgment on books, but it is far more important to single out (and try to get people to read) the good ones instead of knocking down the bad ones. I also fear that my usual positivity makes me seem like a corporate shill for Amazon, but I’m hoping that most of my readers aren’t so cynical. I just happened to have all of this on my mind since it turns out that today is the one year anniversary of The Millions.Thanks to all you trusted fellow readers!
Stockbrokers and art gallery owners take off for half the summer. Maybe bloggers should too. Due to my impending wedding (T minus 4 days), and a busy schedule of traveling and moving (for the second time in three months), I will have to cut back on my blogging for the next month and a half or so, at least until we get settled in Chicago. In the meantime, expect approximately one post per week, and also a more relaxed attitude as befits the time of year. You should try it, too, and maybe we’ll run into each other among the gallery owners and stockbrokers in the Hamptons, on the Vineyard, or in the South of France.
I’ve been teaching fiction writing out of my apartment for over a year now. Seven people show up to my place once a week to eat some gourmet cheese, drink some wine (or sparkling water), and talk about fiction writing. It’s been terrific to explore craft topics with such a diverse group of Angelenos; my students range in age from 24 to 57, and, when they’re not writers, they are painters, actors, therapists, vineyard owners, producers, nannies, midwives, and so on. I always try to balance the intensity of our critique sessions (because they are intense – this ain’t no touchy-feely love fest) with discussions of published work (for how can you write if you don’t read?) and writing exercises (which are either loved or hated, depending on the student). Teaching inspires and challenges me, and it keeps me writing – for how could I present myself as a voice of authority if I weren’t committed to the art form?This November, I’m trying my hand at a weekend seminar, called Introduction to Fiction Writing. It’s designed for new writers, but I plan for it to be useful to more experienced writers as well, those who want to revisit technique and gather new material. If you’re an L.A. reader of The Millions, perhaps you’ll join me?Here’s the course description:In this seminar, we will explore the major tenets of fiction writing, including characterization, narrative voice, prose style, point of view, scene and summary, dialogue, and structure. Over the course of the seminar, we will continually return to certain questions: How can we use language to capture the uncapturable? How can a bunch of words on the page move us, make us understand what it means to be human? How can form and technique help us to improve as writers? In an attempt to answer these questions, we will look to published fiction for guidance, and dive into various writing exercises. Students will leave the seminar with the beginnings of several promising projects, as well as the skills to follow through with them.When: Saturday 11/17 and Sunday 11/18, 10:30-12:30 and 1:30-3:30 pm each day7 student maximum enrollmentThe course will take place in Los FelizCourse fee: $110Email me at [email protected] for more information.
I can’t believe it’s been three years, but it’s true. I started The Millions three years ago today (though it didn’t become a Blog About Books until a little later.) Want to see what it looked like? Ugly! In the intervening years I’ve tried to make the blog a little nicer to look at and a little easier to read. I’m still having fun though, and I wouldn’t have kept it up for this long (I’ve never kept anything up this long!), if it weren’t for you guys. So thank you. Thank you to my contributors who keep this place from being too monotonous. Thank you to all those folks in the publishing industry who work hard to get good books out there to the people and who are kind enough to occasionally send me books they think I might like. Thank you to writers and aspiring writers for creating things for us to read (and for visiting The Millions sometimes). Thanks to my fellow book bloggers – if it weren’t for you guys, this would be a pretty dull hobby. Thanks most of all to the readers of this blog and the readers of books. I’ve greatly enjoyed our ongoing, virtual conversation.All those thank yous. One of the nice things about having a blog is that you can publicly pretend you’ve just won an Oscar any time you feel like it.Finally, I just want to harken back to my so-called manifesto from way back when, when I laid out why I think it’s important for us to discuss what we read. It’s still my goal for the blog today: “Given that you and I will only be able to read a finite number of books in our lifetimes, then we should try, as much as possible, to devote ourselves to reading only the ones that are worth reading, while bearing in mind that for every vapid, uninspiring book we read, we are bumping from our lifetime reading list a book that might give us a profound sort of joy.”Keep reading good books!
The Millions (virtual) back office is looking for some help again. The site continues to grow, and that means we have an opportunity to add another book-loving person to our team.
We are looking for someone who can help us with a few specific things. The new Millions intern will contribute to our “Curiosities” link blog and will help man (or wo-man) our Twitter feed, Facebook page, and Tumblr. Through those avenues, the intern we seek will have an audience of hundreds of thousands and will be introducing The Millions to new readers every day.
In return for a very modest time commitment, our intern will also join a great group of creative thinkers and have the opportunity to get their work edited by the working writers among us and potentially see their pieces published at The Millions. As is the case with our crew of regulars, our intern will be compensated for the pieces he or she publishes on the site. Several past interns have also transitioned into other roles on our staff.
Posting to our “Curiosities” link blog
Posting to our Twitter account
Posting to our Facebook page
Posting to our Tumblr
Posting to our G+ page
Coming up with new ideas for fun ways to utilize the above
Here’s what we’re looking for:
A voracious reader – Our ideal candidate will be well-read and have a solid knowledge of contemporary fiction.
A social media superstar– Again, Twitter, Facebook, (Tumblr, blogging, etc.)
Experience with WordPress is a huge bonus.
Experience with Photoshop would be enticing, but is by no means required.
More details: This isn’t going to be anything close to a full-time gig. We’re thinking 5-10 hours a week realistically, plus as much time as you want to spend writing for us. We think the internship would be a great fit for a college or grad student, but are certainly open to hearing from non-students of any age whose schedules will allow them to do this. We’re looking for a one-year commitment, though we can be flexible on the duration. The Millions has no dedicated office, so this is a remote position and can be done from anywhere in the world.
The position is unpaid, but any long-form pieces that you write for the site and are approved for publication will be compensated using the same system we use to compensate our regular writers. And there will most probably be some free books here and there and also opportunities to attend interesting literary events.
Why should you do this? The Millions is read by hundreds of thousands of people every month. Our readership is a laundry list of influential, brilliant folks in the publishing and media industries as well as in academia, not to mention the most engaged, avid readers of literary work that you’ll find anywhere. Aside from learning about how a site like The Millions operates, you’ll have an opportunity to write for all these people, and you’ll get experience running a Twitter account with 175,000 followers.
How to Apply:
Please send the following to [email protected]
Three sample Curiosities, using the format we use on the site
If applicable and you are willing to share, we would like to see the following: Twitter account(s) you use; any Facebook pages you’ve had the opportunity to run for schools, publications, companies, etc.; your Tumblr(s) (Essentially, show us that you have experience using these, even if it’s just your own sparsely followed, but very entertaining Twitter account.)
In addition, show us the other cool stuff you are responsible for online, your blog, etc.
The deadline is one week from today: 4/23.
We look forward to hearing from you!
For the first time ever, The Millions is hiring a paid part-time social media manager. This person will helm our Twitter feed, Facebook page, and Tumblr, and help shape the social media presence of the site. This is an exciting opportunity to get in front of a laundry list of influential, brilliant folks in publishing, media, and academia, not to mention the most engaged, avid readers of literary work that you’ll find anywhere.
We are looking for someone who can spend a minimum of five hours per week, apportioned any way you see fit. (You will ideally have the flexibility to participate in “Make a book a dad book” hashtag games on Twitter from time to time.) The basic responsibilities are:
Posting to our Twitter account, Facebook page, and Tumblr
Curating our “Curiosities” link roundup
Brainstorming with editor and publisher about how to get our essays and criticism onto readers’ screens
A voracious reader with a solid knowledge of contemporary fiction
A culture vulture and up to date on the literary/arts issues of the day
A social media superstar who voluntarily spends a lot of time online
An engaging writer both under and over 140 characters
Very organized, responsive, and able to make the most of your time with not a lot of oversight
Reasonably technologically savvy (experience with Tweetdeck or other social media management tools required; experience with WordPress and email marketing platforms nice to have)
$500 per month. After six months there will be possibility of expanding the position and renegotiating this rate. The Millions has no dedicated office, so this is a remote position and can be done from anywhere in the world.
People of color are strongly encouraged to apply. Please send the following materials to [email protected]:
Three sample Curiosities, using the format we use on the site
Twitter account(s) you use; any Facebook pages you’ve had the opportunity to run for schools, publications, companies, etc.; your Tumblr, blog, etc. (Essentially, show us that you have experience using these tools, even if it’s just your own sparsely followed, but very entertaining Twitter account.)
The deadline is Friday, August 5. We look forward to hearing from you!
Image credit: Flickr, brizzlebornandbred