We were so blown away by the response to Recovering the Classics at ALA 2015 that we have big news:
We’re bringing the covers to all 50 states, and we need your help! We’re calling the campaign 50×50. The idea is to build a community of book-lovers across the country by exhibiting at least 50 covers in libraries, book festivals, galleries, schools, and other places of your imagination in all 50 states.
You can become involved by volunteering to organize an event of your own! We’re already getting started with some great folks in North Carolina, Massachusetts, Illinois, Ohio and other states. And we’re planning a Kickstarter in the fall to help bring down the costs for exhibitors.
So we had all these amazing people coming to CODEX — passionate people from around the country with a great mix of backgrounds: engineers, designers, literary journal editors and librarians. But how exactly do you get them working together to tackle the challenges of reading, publishing, libraries?
Some people came in with a team, or a project already in mind. But what about all the others?
We were superlucky to connect with Erik Olesund, who teaches at the Institute of Design at Stanford (also known as the Stanford d.school). He volunteered to start our hackathon by holding a design thinking and innovation workshop. Whew.
First, he gave us a very specific shopping list:
25 packs of 3×3 inches Post-It notes
50 black Sharpies
5 packs of large 8×6 Post-It notes.
Total bill: $77.45
Some of our folks from the literary world were a bit nervous about coming to a hackathon, since they weren’t programmers and had never “hacked” before. Did they have to prepare? We assured them that their perspectives were actually critical to making great projects.
A successful hackathon is often less about the technical expertise coming in, and more the ideation and collaboration, Olesund had explained to us. In the design process, Olesund said there are two main components in helping great ideas flourish.
A diverse set of expertise is actually a group’s advantage, said Olesund, as people specialized in different skillsets are working together to come up with the best solution (check! CODEX had that, by using travel stipends to curate the crowd).
“A developer and a publisher see the world through very different lenses,” he said. “So having someone who is very different from you look at a problem that you care about is something extremely helpful.” Another component is to have a very open mind to ideas. “So even though you might have like 50 years of experience…right now you’re going to say yes to let all the ideas to allow people to be really creative and generative,” Olesund said.
During the 45-minute session, any awkward getting-to-know-one-another feeling quickly dissipated as the room began bustling with people actively engaging with one another. One of the key exercises Olesund did was pairing people off, and then having them shoot down each other’s ideas, followed by a session where they built off their ideas, no matter how crazy. The results — and energy levels — were incredibly different. It was a subtle lesson that helped set the tone for the weekend.As a result, the brainstorming session helped folks generate hundreds of ideas.
Adina Talve-Goodman, the managing editor at One Story, found the entire design workshop inspiring, and familiar. “I recognized a lot of the techniques and exercises used during the Stanford design process from when I used to do improv and theater,” said Talve-Goodman. Her group, which included a systems designer from IDEO, ended up creating Close Reader, a platform that allows writers to workshop remotely with each other.
Colorful Post-it notes containing ideas of all capacities quickly found its way up on the walls. From there, hackers with similar ideas congregated together. These new-formed groups then had the opportunity to select the best ideas, refine them and move forward with them.
“The Stanford design process really helped bring together a lot of interesting ideas and teams,” said Ted Benson, a MIT PhD who is founder at Cloudstitch, who participated in the session. “It was also nice to have that process kick off the hackathon, because when we all demoed our projects the following afternoon, everyone was already familiar with the people and ideas for each team.”
While hacking includes sketching out concepts and creating experiences to test initial assumptions, “hacking is a broadly defined term,” he said.
To kick off our CODEX Hackathon on Friday evening, we threw a soirée and pop-up gallery at GitHub headquarters where almost 200 literary, library and tech folk mingled together before getting together the next day to hack.
GitHub’s headquarters is a beautifully decorated warehouse in SoMa, one of the most stunning offices in San Francisco. The first floor resembles a bar more than an office. That night — thanks to work Kathy Jaller, Craig Reyes and Rachel Myers — we transformed the space into a gallery.
Thanks to publishers and literary goods folks, we had a schwag table filled with T-shirts, totes, socks and pouches from Out of Print and temporary tattoos from Litographs. We had open bar with literary cocktails and a buffet that included yummy dumplings from Shanghai Dumpling King (highly recommended for catered events)
And this being a publishing soiree, of course we had a literary cocktail menu.
Tequila Mockingbird: Z Blanco Tequila, Grapefruit Juice, Topo Chico, Salt
Catcher in the Rye: Bulleit Rye, Angostura Bitters, Fine White Sugar
Vermouth the Bell Tolls: Dry Gin, Sweet Vermouth, Dry Vermouth, Shake, Served Up
MargaritaAtwood: 3 Caballos Blanco, Cointreau, Fresh Lime Juice, Salt, Served Up
With a lovely menu.
Best of all, Margaret Atwood retweeted the literary cocktail menu!
as part of Obamas eBook initiative for low-income kids.
Here is our cameo.
The Digital Public Library of America: Their network of librarians will volunteer with the New York Public Library to help make sure popular books reach the most appropriate audience. DPLA, in conjunction with Recovering the Classicsare also add age-appropriate public domain titles whose text and cover art has been redesigned by leading graphic designers and artists
There are 100 notable stories that are first selected by the series editor, Heidi Pitlor, from submissions across the country each year (in print!). Then they are further whittled down by the series editor. So we’re surprised and excited that so many of our stories made it in.
We are thrilled to announce at the TOC conference in New York that Plympton is joining forces with DailyLit, the oldest and largest digital distributor of daily serialized fiction. Chosen as the #1 book website by the Sunday Times in London, DailyLit has been delivering great books and series in short installments directly to readers’ inboxes since 2006. Hundreds of thousands of readers have received over 50 million installments through DailyLit.
This combination of DailyLit’s worldwide distribution platform together with Plympton’s original serial fiction presents a unique and exciting opportunity in cutting-edge publishing. The DailyLit library ranges from classics like Pride and Prejudice and Moby Dick to modern treasures by writers like Jhumpa Lahiri and Margaret Atwood. Our ambition is to commission and add to that library.
DailyLit was founded by Susan Danziger, formerly of Random House, and her husband, Albert Wenger, a partner at Union Square Ventures whose birthday is this week. The initial idea behind DailyLit was to integrate quality reading into people’s busy, daily lives — through “byte-sized ebooks” as The New York Times put it — a notion that is even more pertinent today.
We’re super-excited to note that Plympton’s own Yael Goldstein Love has been announced as part of the selection panel for the Twitter Fiction Festival. We’ve seen a sneak peak of some of the submissions, and they are good!
Reminder, the festival runs from November 28-December 2, 2012.
With the submission deadline for our Twitter Fiction Festival coming up on Thursday, now’s a good time to introduce you to the people who will help us decide what to showcase. They come from all across the writing world, and we’re thrilled to have their input.
Ben Marcus’ most recent book is The Flame Alphabet. His stories have appeared in Harper’s, Conjunctions, The New Yorker, and The Paris Review. He teaches at Columbia University.
Emily Raboteau is the author of the critically acclaimed novel, The Professor’s Daughter, and the forthcoming Searching for Zion: The Quest for Home in the African Diaspora. Her fiction and essays have regularly appeared in the Best American series. Raboteau also teaches creative writing at City College, in Harlem. Her website is www.emilyraboteau.com.
Lee Ellis (@lhe2103) is the Assistant Fiction Editor at The New Yorker. For the magazine he has edited Michael Ondaatje, Paul La Farge, and William Gibson, among others. He is the recipient of The Henfield Award at Columbia University, where he completed his MFA in fiction.
Meg Waite Clayton (@megwclayton) is the nationally bestselling author of four novels:The Four Ms. Bradwells, The Wednesday Sisters, the Bellwether Prize finalist The Language of Light, and the forthcoming The Wednesday Daughters. Find out more atwww.megwaiteclayton.com.
Ryan Chapman (@chapmanchapman) is the marketing director for The Penguin Press. His recent campaigns have been for books like Zadie Smith’s NW, Nate Silver’s The Signal and The Noise, and Thomas Pynchon’s work in e-book format.
Sean McDonald (@neverrockfila) is Executive Editor of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Teju Cole (@tejucole) is currently Distinguished Writer in Residence at Bard College. His novel Open City won the PEN/Hemingway Award. “Small fates,” his Twitter storytelling project, has been featured in the New Yorker and other magazines.
Yael Goldstein Love (@ygoldlove) is the Co-Founder and Editorial Director of Plympton, a publishing house devoted to serialized fiction. Her first novel, Overture(paperback title: The Passion of Tasha Darsky) was published by Doubleday in 2007. She graduated from Harvard University with an honors degree in Philosophy.
Looking at the incredible array of submissions from around the world thus far, our panelists certainly have their work cut out for them. In addition to the stories they elect to spotlight, we hope to hear from many other voices sharing their stories throughout the Festival with the #twitterfiction hashtag. There’s still time to get your submission in front of the panel — if you have a big idea that could revolutionize storytelling on Twitter, submit it here!
Plympton will be taking part, somehow, in the Twitter Fiction Festival (11/28-12/2). As we’ve mentioned before. Anyone can apply: published, not published, self-published.
They really want to push Twitter as a creative platform for storytelling. What does that mean? Well we are just beginning to brainstorm. If you want to join in, sign up below for our twitterfiction[at]plympton.com discussion email list, or jump in on our Google doc.
Need inspiration? A great example discussed was Pulitzer Prize-winner Jennifer Egan’s short story Black Box, which was published both on Twitter and in the magazine this past May. As Deborah Treisman, fiction editor of The New Yorker, explained at the #twitterfiction NYPL event: Egan spent over a year on it, with an intent to be published on Twitter, even though she was not herself a Twitter user. The 8,500 word story was parceled out between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. for 10 days. It was an example of “tune in” fiction.”