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Since 1997

The IWJ Blog: Commentary on books, entertainment and writing

Geocache is First Fan-Voted Playable Word in Scrabble

Merriam Webster's Official Scrabble Players Dictionary fifth edition

Geocache has become the first fan-voted playable word in Scrabble. It beat out 15 other nominated words. It will be included in the fifth edition of Merriam-Webster's Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, which is set for release on August, 2014. Some of the other words Geocache beat include zen, bitcoin, cosplay and ew.

Jonathan Berkowitz, vice president of marketing at Hasbro, said in a statement, "Scrabble fans are passionate about the words they get to play in the game, so we were thrilled to get them involved in selecting a new word to be added to The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary. We had a lot of fun following the showdown on Facebook and are looking forward to adding geocache as a legal, playable word."

Photo: Merriam-Webster

Posted on April 13, 2014

Waterstone's Founder Says Ebook Revolution is Over

Waterstone's founder Tim Waterstone says that the ebook revolution is over. The Guardian reports that Waterstone, who founded the British bookstore chain in 1982, gave an impassioned speech about the future of books at Oxford Literary Festival.

Waterstone told the panel and audience that the printed word is alive and well. Waterstone said that he has read and heard about "more garbage about the strength of the e-book revolution than anything else I've known." He argues that the British people's love of printed books will never wane and that ebook sales will eventually decline. He predicted that printed books would always be around.

He told the crowd, "The e-books have developed a share of the market, of course they have, but every indication certainly from America shows the share is already in decline. The indications are that it will do exactly the same in the UK." He was referring to a report by the Association of American Publishers which showed that as of November, 2013, hardcover book sales were up by 11.5%, where as ebook sales were up by 4.8% over the prior year.

Lovers of printed books will be heartened by Waterstone's words. We agree that printed books will be around for years to come, but one cannot ignore the sea change in reading behavior that has accompanied the release of ereaders and tablets such as the Kindle, the Nook and the iPad.

Posted on April 2, 2014

National Book Award Judges Named for 2014

The National Book Foundation has named the judges for the 2014 National Book Awards. Five judges were selected for each of the four categories for which awards are given: fiction, nonfiction, poetry and young people's literature. On September 10th the judges will announced the longlist of books in each categories. The finalists will be named on October 15th and the awards will be named on October 15th.

The fiction judging panel consists of author Geraldine Brooks (March), bookseller Sheryl Cotleur, author Michael Gorra (Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece), author Adam Johnson (The Orphan Master's Son, and author Lily Tuck (The News from Paraguay.)

The Poetry panel consists of Eileen Myles (The Importance of Being Iceland), Katie Peterson (This One Tree), Rowan Ricardo Phillips (The Ground), Robert Polito (Hollywood & God), and Paisley Rekdal (The Night My Mother Met Bruce Lee).

You can see the bios of all the judges here.

Posted on April 1, 2014

Longlist for 2014 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction Announced

The longlist for the 2014 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction has been announced. The prize was formerly known as the Orange Prize. The list will next be reduced to six and a winner will be announced on June 4, 2014. The winner will receive a check for 30,000 pounds and a limited edition bronze called Bessie. This year's judges include Helen Fraser, Mary Beard, Denise Mina, Caitlin Moran and Sophie Raworth.

Helen Fraser, Chair of Judge, said in a statement, "The judges feel that this is a fantastic selection of books of the highest quality intensely readable, gripping, intelligent and surprising that you would want to press on your friends, and the judges have been doing just that. There was a great deal of talent and exciting writing in the books that were submitted this year and we hope that between now and the announcement of the shortlist on 7th April many readers will want to share the enjoyment we have had with these 20 terrific novels."

Here is the 2014 longlist:
  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - Americanah
  • Margaret Atwood - Maddaddam
  • Suzanne Berne - The Dogs of Littlefield
  • Fatima Bhutto - The Shadow of the Crescent Moon
  • Claire Cameron - The Bear
  • Lea Carpenter - Eleven Days
  • MJ Carter - The Strangler Vine
  • Eleanor Catton - The Luminaries
  • Deborah Kay Davies - Reasons She Goes to the Woods
  • Elizabeth Gilbert - The Signature of All Things
  • Hannah Kent - Burial Rites
  • Rachel Kushner - The Flamethrowers
  • Jhumpa Lahiri - The Lowland
  • Audrey Magee - The Undertaking
  • Eimear McBride - A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing
  • Charlotte Mendelson - Almost English
  • Anna Quindlen - Still Life With Bread Crumbs
  • Elizabeth Strout - The Burgess Boys
  • Donna Tartt - The Goldfinch
  • Evie Wyld - All the Birds, Singing
You can find more information about the prize at:

Posted on March 29, 2014

Charlie Chaplin's Novella, Footlights, is Published for the First Time

Footlights and The World of Limelight by David Robinson

Charlie Chaplin's novella is being published for the first time. Chaplin's novella, Footlights, is 34,000 words. BBC News reports that drafts of the novella were discovered in the Chaplin archive at the Cineteca di Bologna in Italy. The 1952 movie, Limelight, was adapted from the novella. Chaplin played a clown in the film who rescues a suicidal dancer, played by Claire Bloom.

Chaplin's novel is publish as part of the new book, Footlights and The World of Limelight by David Robinson. The book can be found here on and on

Photo: Cineteca di Bologna

Posted on February 28, 2014

The Folio Prize Announces Inaugural Shortlist

The inaugural shortlist of The Folio Prize has been announced. The Folio Prize, sponsored by The Folio Socity, is open to writers around the world. The prize is open to all works of fiction written in English and published in the UK. It carries a 40,000 pound cash prize. The stated goal of the prize is to "celebrate the best fiction of our time, regardless of form or genre, and to bring it to the attention of as many readers as possible." The Guardian says the prize was "born from frustration at the perceived shortcomings of the Man Booker."

Lavinia Greenlaw, Chair of the judges, said in a statement, "Our experience of reading 80 books over five months was full of surprises, challenges, frustrations, provocations, regrets and delights. The shortlist we've arrived at is one of which we're proud. Our deliberations were long and intense. We forgot about the authors and focused on the books. Only when we surfaced with our chosen eight in hand did we reflect on what they collectively represent: the art of fiction at full stretch and in all its forms, and the ingenious and dazzling results of form under exquisite pressure."

There are eight books in the shortlist. Here is the list:
  • Red Doc by Anne Carson (Random House/Jonathan Cape)
  • Schroder by Amity Gaige (Faber & Faber)
  • Last Friends by Jane Gardam (Little, Brown)
  • Benediction by Kent Haruf (Picador)
  • The Flame Throwers by Rachel Kushner (Random House/Harvill Secker)
  • A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride (Galley Beggar Press)
  • A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava (Maclehose Editions)
  • Tenth of December by George Saunders (Bloomsbury)
The winner will be announced on March 10th at a ceremony held at the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel.

Posted on February 27, 2014

Frank X Walker Wins NAACP Image Award for Poetry

Turn Me Loose The Unghosting of Medgar Evers by Frank X Walker

Frank X Walker is the winner of the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work - Poetry. Walker is currently the Kentucky Poet Laureate and an associate professor of English at the University of Kentucky. Walker won the award for his collection, Turn Me Loose: the Unghosting of Medgar Evers. Evers was involved in efforts to overturn segregation in Mississippi and active in the civil rights movement. The poems in the collection capture the emotion both before and after Evers' assassination in 1963.

Nikki Giovanni and Jammal May were among the other nominees. Here is the list of the five finalists:
  • Chasing Utopia: A Hybrid by Nikki Giovanni (HarperCollins, William Morrow)
  • Hum by Jamaal May (Alice James Books)
  • The Cineaste: Poems by A. Van Jordan (W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.)
  • The Collected Poems of Ai - Ai (W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.)
  • Turn Me Loose: The Unghosting of Medgar Evers by Frank X Walker (University of Georgia Press)
Image: University of Georgia Press

Posted on February 26, 2014

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