Fiction vs. Non-Fiction

I've read many articles and blogs full of desperation and discouragement by fiction writers. Why are they in so much despair, even if they've been published? I don't see the same attitude in businesspeople who write non-fiction books.

After much thought, this is what I've concluded: fiction writers want to do it for a living so they're incredibly disheartened when they can't achieve that, but businesspeople see their book as just one aspect of their professional life. A savvy non-fiction writer enters the process knowing that the book is their calling card more than their gravy train, but fiction writers see it as a step to a fully creative life. And what makes it worse is that non-fiction is easier to write and there are plenty of opportunities to publish it, but fiction is difficult to write and even more difficult to get published.

The goals are different: a fiction writer wants to be what he or she creates, but a non-fiction writer is more than what he or she creates.



I just came across A Superficial Guide to New York written by a New Zealander. He warns that his advice is "Based on one visit, this is not to be taken seriously."

What's interesting about it is not only the differences between American and New Zealand(er?--don't know the adjective) English, but also his impressions of New York. Here's some good advice that would never occur to American English speakers:

"You may not be understood if you have a good Niu Zilnd accent. You are in good company; by my reckoning, every third local speaks English as a second language. Speak slowly, loudly, say your Rs. You may be worried about faking an American accent being perceived as taking the piss - in fact, it's an effective way to communicate."


Busy no more

I've been busy lately, adding a guest spot to the Metrofiction site, and it's finally done. Our first guest is Arthur Chrenkoff.

I've also just finished translating a history of Kraftwerk from Portuguese into English. That Portuguese link is to a cool online grammar test. The Kraftwerk translation is going to be posted at a Kraftwerk fan site early next month (hopefully). The guys who run the site seem really friendly.

Lately, I've been interested in studying French. I can read it okay, but my writing is lame, so I've been checking out this French site for help.


Macao is more Portuguese with China

I read an interesting article in the New York Times about the popularity of studying Portuguese in Macao.

"Five years ago, when Portugal surrendered this 10-square-mile enclave to China, most people predicted that its language would disappear here in a blink of an eye. The Portuguese had done little to promote their language here since their merchants first stepped ashore around 1553. By the time they left, only about 2 percent of Macao's 450,000 people spoke the language of Lisbon, with the other 98 percent speaking Cantonese and other languages.

But in a surprising turnaround, enrollments for private Portuguese classes have tripled, to 1,000, since 2002. That prompted public schools here to offer Portuguese this fall, drawing more than 5,000 students."

To promote tourism, Macao has been rehabbing the island. "Far from shrinking from Macao's colonial past, city leaders have restored and illuminated such colonial landmarks as churches, forts, hospitals, theaters, museums, an observatory and the governor's palace. Rare for a modern Asian city, the historic preservation has been so extensive that Macao is expected to win recognition next year from Unesco as a world heritage site."

China wants to also open business to Brazil and Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa. Manuel F. Moreira de Almeida, who runs a bookstore there, said, "Portuguese has gone from a colonial hangover to a business opportunity."

So if you want to study Portuguese in China, Macao is the place to do it.



Someone just sent me a link to a Chinese learning site where there's lots of helpful information for people who are struggling through Chinese.

It made me think about a couple of similarities between Japanese and Chinese. One similarity is that they both use counters. For instance, in English we would just use numbers that precede an item. But in Chinese and Japanese, they use counters, such as "ge" (Chinese) and "hon" (Japanese) and a whole lot of other counters that baffle non-native speakers.

Another similarity is the word that comes at the end of questions. Chinese uses "ma" and Japanese uses "ka." I'm sure Korean is similar as well, but I've never studied it. However, I know that Korean has a similar structure as Japanese.

My problem right now is that my reading ability in Japanese is pretty lame, and both my spoken and reading ability of Chinese is non-existent. And if I ever go to Taiwan, I may not be able to get around by speaking, just by winging the reading of the Chinese characters.


British English Spotted

I was reading a post at a Rush message board, and the British English shone through.

"Not often do I have something truly new to say on the subject of this favourite rock band of mine, but here goes. It was marvellous, and far from wishing to spoil anyone's fun and tell you which songs they played..."

And then later, he used "ye."

I guess sometimes there's no need to hear the British accent, just read the words.

Martha Stewart Wants to Write a Prison Book

This is interesting: New York magazine has reported that Martha is pitching a book that she would write about her prison life.

In a previous column, the magazine said that “Stewart could easily receive over $5 million for the tome.”

Which confirms publishing reality: you need a marketable book.


Hating Shatner?

I read an editorial in the Chicago Tribune by Mark Sidel, who teaches law at the University of Iowa, about a hoax that William Shatner played on a small Iowa town called Riverside. Riverside has declared itself the "hometown" of Capt. Kirk, because he's "from" Iowa.

Sidel said that Shatner "should not have capitalized upon his favorite-son status and manipulated a small town to make a profit from a hoax."

I found another article that contained a negative comment:

"They don’t understand that we opened our hearts to them," said angry resident Barb Simon. "Already on the news I hear them laughing. We’re the ones that will show up on TV."

So now I'm wondering if they all hate Shatner now, and if Shatner cares.


Nihongo Noryoku Shiken

The Japanese Language Proficiency Test is fast approaching, and once again, I've wimped out on taking it. I passed level three a long time ago, but level two seems much more difficult--there's a huge jump between them. I've even studied for level two and have books and other study materials to help me study for it, but I'm so afraid of not passing it.

Or maybe I'm just lazy. Right now I'm enjoying reading and speaking Japanese twice a week in my classes, and I walk away satisfied and very happy. So I accept that as progress. It's too late to start intensively training for the December test date, but I should set a goal, finally, to take the test next year. I think I'll do that, and make this blog part of my accountability plan.

If you're one of those folks who's taking the test, check out The Kanji Site to keep you from going crazy from all those characters.

Updates: There's a helpful study guide for the test.

Popjisyo and Rikai help with online reading, kanji, and vocabulary.

Also see info about bilingual books about Japan to assist with your reading skills.

The ALC site has an online Japanese dictionary and publishes helpful books, including 500 Essential Japanese Expressions.

Yookoso has grammar and kanji lists that can be emailed to you every day.

See lists of Words from Japanese Newspapers in kanji, hiragana, and katakana.

Also check out the vocabulary lists for the test.

Read manga, listen to audio files, and read examples at an excellent Giongo and Gitaigo site.

Get online Kanji flashcards.

Other sites: Katango and JLPT Kanji Project (thanks to Kikoubun).


Love for Shatner

I'm not a Captain Kirk fan nor much of a Star Trek fan (except for Voyager), but I've been reading Get A Life by William Shatner to find out what those fan conventions are like. While I'm not crazy about the writing style (it reads like a speech rather than the written word), it's interesting.

I especially found the description of the fans' response to his appearance on stage rather moving:

"Though I've been through this drill literally hundreds of times now, with every convention entrance, I'm floored all over again. There's booming applause, and a guaranteed standing ovation, but I've actually gotten used to that. What I've never gotten used to, and what I've never come close to experiencing outside of a Star Trek convention, is the palpable wave of love that invariably roars forward from these audiences...A convention ovation is unmatched, and probably best described as a loud, long percussive 'I love you'."

I can't imagine doing something that so many people appreciate that much. It's probably pretty much non-existent in most jobs.


Dawna's accent

I was watching The Life Laundry and was listening to Dawna Walter's accent. It sounded like she was American, but part of her sentences, especially the end of them, sounded British.

So I tried to figure it out: perhaps she was raised in the US, particularly New York because her accent sounds New York-y, but her parents were British. Or maybe she was a Brit who spent a lot of time living in the US. Or she could be an American living in England, and has picked up a bit of that accent. Well, the answer is the last one: she's lived in England for more than a decade.