Friday, November 5, 2010

Guest Post + Giveaway: Wayne Josephson!

Wayne Josephson has the intriguing idea of rewriting some classic works of fiction for a younger and more modern audience. So far he has adapted The Scarlet Letter, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, and The Odyssey, with more to come in the near future. Today he is here to explain the beginnings of his Readable Classics project. Welcome, Wayne, to Steph Su Reads!

Readable Classics – Helping Teens Appreciate Great Literature

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.


Well, I certainly admire this daunting task you have taken on, Wayne! I'm glad to hear that more people have been appreciating the classics thanks to Readable Classics. Thank you for this guest post! Check out Wayne's author website for more information on his books.

Giveaway Opportunity

Wayne has kindly allowed me to host a giveaway! One lucky winner will get to choose from one of the five currently published Readable Classics. To enter, please fill out the form below. This giveaway is limited to US mailing addresses only and ends Friday, November 19, 2010. Good luck!


  1. Intersting. Sounds much better than those Abridged great books they put out.

  2. What a great idea! I hated Jane Eyre when I read it in high school but now I am going to go back and read it with Readable Classics!

  3. I learnt to enjoy the classics during and after high school. For me it was mostly a distinction between what I had to read and what I wanted to read. Russian classics were never in our high-school curriculum, so that's where my journey started ... Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy are still my favorites, and there is this fabulous book by Lermontov: A Hero of Our Time >:)

    Cold As Heaven

  4. I love this idea. I homeschool my 6th grader and she is NOT a reader (gasp!!) but I want her to know the classics. I realized that most of them were just plain hard to read. I have been reading them to her, but this will be a nice switch. I must check them out.

  5. Wow, what this guy does to these books are great! Although they are just as wonderful in their original condition it's cool to see someone making this hard literature easier to understand.

  6. I love the classics but remember having some difficulty with some of the books in high school. I think editing to make them more accessible to young people is a great idea. Definitely better than the books being cast aside as too boring or difficult to understand!

    Thank you for this awesome giveaway!

    ~ Amy


Hello! I'm so excited to read what you have to say. Due to high amounts of spam, I'm forced to disabled anonymous comments for the time being. Sorry for any inconvenience this causes, and I hope you can understand and still appreciate the content here!


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