Thursday, October 23, 2008

One Minute Book Reviews

Janice Harayda, the former book editor of The Cleveland Plain Dealer, is also a smart, funny person and a great writer. The author of Manhattan on the Rocks and the Accidental Bride, she also runs one of the best blogs on the planet, One Minute Book Reviews. I love talking with Janice and she was kind enough to answer my questions.

1. How did you get the idea for One-Minute Book Reviews? Although all the information is on your site, can you please replay it here because it is so innovative?
A lot of blogs deal with what reviewers call “bookchat” – publishing news, trends and gossip. But surprisingly focus mainly on reviews. Those that do tend to specialize in books in one category, such as mysteries or romance novels. I wanted to try to close the gap with smart daily online reviews that you could read in a minute or so and that covered all kinds of books. Why a minute? I love to read, but some days, I can’t find more than a minute to stay up-to-date on books. So I tried to create a site for people like me: book-lovers who never have as much time as they’d like to read.

2. Can you talk a bit about the Delete Key Awards for the year's worst writing in books?
Ever put down a book thinking, “How in the world did that get published?” The Delete Key Awards began after I’d read one too many of them. The awards recognize writing in books that’s almost comically bad, like a horror movie that makes you laugh even as you’re cringing at the fake blood spurting from a potted plant. It sounds bizarre, but I think winning a Delete Key Award actually boosts the sales of some “winners.” I get a lot of comments from readers that say things like, “That writing is so bad, it’s hilarious! I’m tempted to buy the book just for its entertainment value.”

3. Has any recipient ever come after you?
Not with a hatchet. But I’ve had a couple of e-mail messages from authors that made me wonder if critics can go into the federal Witness Protection Program.

4. I also love the Totally Unauthorized Reading Group Guides, which really are a smart alternative to the regular fare. Are there other new features you are planning for the site?
Yes, definitely. Video technology has improved so much lately that it’s become very easy to add video even to sites like mine that use a 100 percent free template. So I’m going to add video soon, especially to posts about children’s books, which I review every Saturday. You don’t need video clips for reviews of novels and many other kinds of books. But they would add a lot to reviews of many children’s picture books.

4. The praise and awards the site has generated are amazing. Did you ever expect this?

Never. I’m so low-tech, I have trouble when I visit friends and have to use a microwave with a few extra buttons. It never occurred to me that I could succeed with a new technology like blogging.

5. Tell us about your writing day, what happens and when? And what are you working on now?
I have a WordPress blog on, which doesn’t let you accept advertising, so my site doesn’t earn money and I support myself with freelance writing. My goal is to do the reading and writing for my blog at night and on weekends, then have my days free for rent-paying work. But it almost never works out that way. That’s partly because when you post every day, you don’t have enough time on nights and weekends to do seven or more posts. So you have to steal time wherever you can find it.

6. What should I have asked you that I didn’t?
Nothing. This was so much fun. Thank you!

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