New Authors, Listening Readers

In the two years I have been writing on-line, the real benefit has been meeting those who write far better than I ever will, in any style or genre. I don’t yearn for them to achieve Fame or Status or Celebrity, and yet, I do often wish that more people could read their writing.

On one site, we are able to email links to the stories we’ve enjoyed, and thus assist in growing the reading audience. This means we can share with our friends who are also able to connect to the internet. We can also print off a paper copy of a story and share it, but then we get into the murky territory of intellectual property rights and possible copyright infringement.

Libraries have always been treasure troves: books and magazines were joined by new media as they came into existence. Innovative librarians found ways to transform libraries from storehouses to portals, offering Internet access and digital downloads. The limitation to all this, in my opinion, is the dividing line between published and non-published material in the formal, traditional sense.

Enter the new website Sniplits. This innovative on-line service connects new, aspiring, talented — and dedicated — writers the chance to be heard. Yes: writers can be heard, not read. Sniplits offers the literate listener the chance to download smaller works to fill those times when a full novel is too much. Their own description is of stories to fill up a coffee break, a lunch hour, a trip to the dentist, or just a short drive. Certainly, an audiobook would allow listening to a few paragraphs, a page, or a chapter — whatever fits the timeframe — but this would just be a portion of the whole work. Sniplits offers a complete work, and subscribers to their site can browse by length of time for a work as easily as by genre or author.

Best of all, any writer may submit their work. It is the chance for new writers to find their audience, by way of filling the niche in their daily schedule. My poetic friend, who presents herself as a Little Fluffy Cat, has recently been accepted as an author at Sniplits. For a nominal fee listeners can download her original story The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and they are then free to store that story on an iPod, their computer, iPhone, or any other compatible device, and even share the story with up to 10 friends.

Sniplits fills several niches this way: the reader’s need for a story, the author’s need for an audience. I’m wondering if libraries — where authors can sometimes come to read their works, and often come to write them — might someday be able to offer this same service.

Book Review: Stick by Steve Breen

Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Steve Breen has created one of the most charming, delightful frog adventures since Mercer Mayer’s series featuring the Boy and His Frog.

In Stick, we meet an independent young frog who decides to catch lunch on his own.  Unfortunately, his aim is a little off and instead of a sweet little mosquito, he finds himself attached to a powerhouse dragonfly.  Off they go on a series of hilarious adventures with priceless, perfect visual jokes.

Not one image is wasted: every detail is involved in the storytelling, which promises that little readers will not soon tire of exploring this book — there is always some delightful new detail to discover.

The text is minimal, since the perfection of the illustrations leaves little needed.  By far, the quality of the illustrations is superior to many books geared to youngsters, which guarantees that anyone who picks up this book will enjoy it thoroughly, regardless of age.
Stick
written and illustrated by Steve Breen
New York : Dial Books For Young Readers, 2006.
ISBN 9780803731240.

Book Review: Sergio Ruzzier’s The Room of Wonders

Pius Pelosi, the rat and hero of The Room of Wonders, collects many delightful things he discovers in the course of his daily routine:  shiny keys, leaves, feathers, driftwood, and “shiny bits of glass shaped and smoothed by the ocean.”

Pius’s friends love to come by to admire his delightful collection, on display in his Room of Wonders.  They love the beauty of some objects, the whimsical shapes, and even the stories Pius can tell about so many of these found objects.  If there is no story to tell, sometimes the item can inspire Pius to make up a clever tale.

Among the countless treasures in Pius’ collection, however, there is a small, grey, entirely unremarkable pebble.  Of all the amazing wonders in Pius’s storeroom, this grey pebble is an outstanding misfit.  Its only feature, its only claim to importance, is that it was the very first item Pius ever collected.  He cannot explain to anyone the importance of this one pebble or why it holds a place among so many treasures.  It has no interesting story about discovery or location, nor can Pius invent a story on its behalf.

Eventually, outshone by the magnificence of everything else in the Room of Wonders, the pebble loses its glamour even in Pius’s eyes, and he tosses it into the river.  But soon thereafter, every other treasure in the room of wonders becomes equally disinteresting.  Item after item is given away or discarded, until the room is empty… and so is Pius’s life.

Pius spends his days in a now-wonderless room, and on his daily routine he no longer spots the treasures that might once have caught his eye.  Something is missing, not just around Pius, but within him as well… until the day a small, unremarkable pebble catches his eye.  It reminds him of his old one, and he begins once again to wonder:  where did it come from?  How did it get here?  And this pebble comes home with Pius.

In Pius, Ruzzier has created a sweetly familiar character in which we can see both parent and child in shared delight at the world around them.  Through the eyes of children, every thing appears new and marvelous, and all things are free from the dullness of familiarity.  Throughout our lives, we fill our own Rooms of Wonder without realizing it.  In fact, I have my very own rock collection, scattered throughout my house on windowsills, in bowls, and clustered under my computer monitor.  And every so-often, as I dust them off, I think to myself, “Why on earth am I keeping this?”

The Room of Wonders holds the answer.  Ruzzier’s soft color drawings illuminate and charmingly express this story that quietly blossoms inside each reader, as we come to realize that the wonder was really never in the room, but within Pius’s soul.

The Room of Wonders

Author: Sergio Ruzzier
New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
First edition, ©2006
ISBN: 0374363439