Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “websites”

Transformational Fiction Workshop

I have expounded in previous blog posts what motivates me to write in the political fiction genre and why I love the term Transformational FictionThis coming Sunday, April 10th, between 10am-1pm, I will be teaching a workshop for the California Writers Club entitled: Fiction As A Vehicle For Social Change: Using the Novel for a Better World.

There are many ways today to reach out and influence people. Traditional media has been supplemented by websites, blogs, non-profit promotion, and traditional activism. But most of these options are often no longer than 5-minute sound bites, or an afternoon of flurry.

The novel has long held the ability to create powerful images and characters that stay with the reader long after they read the final page. What if the novel can precipitate a transformational change not just within the story, but in how it impacts the reader? What if the emotional connection between reader and plot, or reader and fictional character, can motivate the reader to fight social injustice?


I am now in the middle of writing my fifth politically focused novel (The Accidental Activist is the third). Each novel features a character who experiences a transformational process, emerging with a stronger consciousness and a desire to help make a difference.

I am interested in your answers to the following questions:

1. What novels have helped make you the person you are?

2. What characters (and from which novels) have stayed with you a long time after you read the last page?

I appreciate your answers. If you are interested in participating in the workshop, or have any questions about it, please contact Barbara Ruffner at:  bdonruff at lmi dot net.


Finally, one last question. Do you think novels can really help change the world we live in? ——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

 

 

 

The Future of Blogging

There have recently been a few articles suggesting that the blogosphere is in decline. Perhaps it is part of the five-minute attention span that seems to be evolving – been there, done that – a desire to master something, even if only superficially, and then move on.

An article in the New York Times by Verne G. Kopytoff (02/20/11) recently suggested as much citing statistics illustrating that the younger generation is moving on to Twitter and embracing the ever-expanding capability of Facebook.

At a recent meeting of bloggers, one experienced person explained how there are about 250-300 million blogs out there and how we need to strive to break into the top 0.5% of rankings. My first reactions was: Wow! I’m competing with 300 million others for your attention, never mind all the other media platforms that we turn to – websites, Twitter, e-groups, Facebook, etc.

Then I thought about it. Many blogs are set up and then discarded when the writer discovers that only his mother is really interested in what he ate yesterday, or that it is actually hard work to consistently provide content and implant all the links, tags etc. Then again, many blogs were the offshoots for future blogs. Left Coast Voices is my second blog. That means I am responsible for at least 1 of the 300 million blogs out there.

I don’t believe that blogging is the right medium for everyone. Furthermore, I don’t see it competing with Twitter or Facebook as they are so very different in content. Actually, most mediums leverage Facebook to get the word out about whatever else they are doing. There is an automatic thread from this blog that feeds onto my Facebook page.

Blogs are more active than most websites (I know there are exceptions), but I see my website as the place people go to research me and my books. My blog is a daily offering of news, organizations and people who I feel it is important to promote. Occasionally it is about my successes and failures, just so my mother knows what’s going on.

As such, I think blogs are here to stay. I think the shrinking statistics that Mr. Kopytoff offered in his NY Times article only offer so much information. Anyone can create a blog, but only a few will be disciplined/motivated/consistent enough to continue blogging.

And it is okay for someone to discover that Facebook or Twitter offers a better platform for whatever they are trying to achieve. It is legitimate for high-school students to experiment with blogging and then give it up . I salute them for trying.


I believe we are still in the early days of social network platforms. New ideas will emerge and millions will experiment with them. Only a small percentage will continue to exploit and develop them. As long as we don’t put too much credence in statistics, I am fine with this.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

 

Independent Bookstores – Looking for Ways to Survive

Last month, more than 500 independent bookstore owners got together for a conference to discuss creative ways of generating more income. Julie Bosman covered the event in the New York Times.

What was clear was a consensus that just selling books wasn’t going to be enough. Even the giants, Borders and Barnes & Noble are struggling. There were optimistic voices:“We know now that in the world of physical book selling, bigness is no longer viewed as an asset,” said Mitchell Kaplan, owner of Books & Books, which has independent stores in South Florida, Westhampton Beach and the Cayman Islands. “It’s about selection and service and ambiance. Now we’re finding a situation where the marketplace is getting back to reality.”

But there were also calls for changing the rules. “We have to figure out how we stay in the game,” said Beth Puffer, the director of the Bank Street Bookstore in Manhattan. “You have to rethink your whole business model, because the old ways really aren’t going to cut it anymore.”

There was a lot of focus on taking the bookstore to the customer and harnessing websites, social media, and even selling e-books.

Matt Norcross, the owner of McLean & Eakin Booksellers in Petoskey, Mich., led a workshop on creating a store Web site and market both tree and e-books. The chosen host seems to be Google, perhaps seeking a bigger ally to fight Amazon.com. So far, they seem to be struggling to get their names out there on the web.

Naftali Rottenstreich, who is an  owner of Red Fox Books in Glens Falls, N.Y., said it it would be a huge challenge to accustom customers to the idea of buying books online through the independent bookstores.

“The mindset right now is, that’s Amazon or that’s Barnes and Noble.com,” he said. “There’s a transformation that has to take place, and I think it will happen in time.”

The idea is difficult. Their customers are willing to pay more for the privilege of perusing in an intimate environment, with staff that are familiar or them. The online idea loses all of this.

Other ideas include adding wine bars, cafes, and selling other products such as toys, baked goods or gourmet products.

Last October, I heard a lot of fear at the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association conference. While I am sure there was fear aplenty at this conference, there seems to be a strong desire to adapt and survive.

Do we really want our Main Streets devoid of a bookstore? What does this say about our values and what message is it passing on to our children? Or is Main Street even going to be relevant to the next generation’s buying experiences?

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

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