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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Guest Post: Wayne Josephson + Contest

Today I have a guest post from Wayne Josephson about Readable Classics, his newest line of books.

Being a high school student myself, I commonly hear people bemoaning their having to read the classics (and smiling about their use of SparkNotes and CliffNotes). As a lover of literature, I find this sad, because the classics are classics for a reason. Hopefully Wayne and his Readable Classics can help these students fall in love with some of the "dry" classics.

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When I was in high school, I was assigned Moby Dick and The Scarlet Letter in English. I glazed over them, slammed the books in frustration, read CliffNotes instead, and got C’s on the exams.

Last year, history repeated itself when my 10th grade son was assigned The Scarlet Letter. He moaned and groaned and went online to SparkNotes. It was time to break the cycle.

Since I was now a published author, I decided to gently edit The Scarlet Letter to flow more smoothly and make it less frustrating. It still felt like the original because, essentially, it still was the original, retaining Nathaniel Hawthorne’s voice—I just made it more readable.

My son read my version alongside the original, chapter by chapter, and was able to understand and appreciate it. He got an A on the exam.

But something happened to me. I realized that I absolutely loved The Scarlet Letter. It was stunning, powerful, and beautiful. I finally realized why it has been continuously published for 150 years—the book is important. Hester Prynne was the very first female hero in American literature. Prior to that, they had all been men. That is unimaginable today.

I noticed that Nathaniel Hawthorne had dedicated his book to Herman Melville. I did some research and learned that they were best friends. Likewise, Melville dedicated Moby Dick to Hawthorne.

I decided to take the plunge and tackle my nemesis, the White Whale. As I gently edited Moby Dick, plowing through the murky, arcane language, I discovered that it was much more than a whale tale—it was an amazing, often humorous, satire about life, death, and religion.

I knew I had to share my excitement with others, so I published these two books.

Readable Classics was born.

The reviews on Amazon are glowing—even the literary purists like them. And students are ecstatic.

I gently edited Pride and Prejudice, the first novel to challenge the ridiculous notion that women were second-class citizens. As a result, I fell in love with Jane Austen. I recently published a mashup, Emma and the Vampires, with the intent of introducing Jane Austen to young adult readers in a friendly way, laced with Twilight-type vampires.

Then I edited Jane Eyre. It is the best book I have ever read, hands down. It was the first English novel in which a woman was the hero. Women couldn’t publish books in 1847, so Charlotte Bronte mailed one chapter a week to the London Sunday paper under a man’s pseudonym, Currer Bell. It was an instant sensation.

Jane Eyre is the spellbinding journey of a poor orphan girl who overcomes cruelty, loneliness, starvation, and heartbreak on her quest to find independence as a woman. It is the story of every woman who struggles for equality and dignity in a society that wants to deny her those rights—as true in Victorian England as it is today. It is one of the most important books ever written, and compulsively readable. You simply cannot put it down.

I have just published The Odyssey—the first novel ever written, 2800 years ago, a timeless story of intrigue and adventure. And I am currently working on The Red Badge of Courage—the first novel to portray war as ugly and violent and real, not dreamy and idealistic.

So many firsts—the classics have become classics because they are, in many ways, the first of their kind. They have opened up a whole new world to me, and I am grateful that I am finally able to understand and appreciate these great works of literature.

My work is challenging, enjoyable and satisfying. But the best part about writing Readable Classics? Students and adults have told me that my books have helped them overcome their fear of the classics. And that is the most rewarding part of all.

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Thank you for stopping by, Wayne!

For those of you who, like Wayne and his son, have found reading the classics to be more of a battle than an enjoyable experience, Wayne has generously offered to giveaway one of his Readable Classics. The winner of this contest will be able to pick any one of Wayne's books: Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, The Scarlet Letter, Moby Dick, or The Odyssey.

To enter, simply fill out this form by Sunday, December 19th. This contest is open to US residents only.

Good luck!

3 comments:

  1. I never heard of Readable Classics, but it sounds genius! Thanks for the contest! I may go get one of these, even if I don't win, for school!

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  2. Now, if only he will tackle Shakespeare... =)

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  3. I'm all for anything that makes the classics more accessible to readers. Great interview!

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