Archive | September, 2010

QOTW: Favorite Banned Book

30 Sep

CHAT TONIGHT!

We will be hosting a chat tonight at 9 EST. The topic will be ‘getting to know the LTWF girls’, in honor of the fact that we are accepting applications for membership!

You can visit the chat through this link.

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Saturday marked the beginning of Banned Book Week. Here at LTWF we’re dedicating the whole week to awareness about banned books. We’ve got a lineup of fantastic articles, culminating in our announcement of our banned books-inspired book of the month for October on Friday. This coming Saturday we will post pictures of ourselves with our favorite banned books, and pictures that our readers send us. One lucky reader will even get a giveaway prize!

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This week, in honor of our Banned Books celebration, we thought we’d answer the question: What is your favorite Banned Book, and how has it affected your life?

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My favorite banned book is BELOVED, by Toni Morrison. For me it beats out all the others (even Harry Potter!) because of how much it influenced me as a writer. I think the first copy I ever read was from my teacher’s personal library in high school. I didn’t know much about other writers at that time (though I was calling myself one), and Toni’s forward to the book was part of what convinced me that I was an actual writer, not just crazy. She described the idea for the story coming to her as she stared across her backyard: an imaginary woman climbed up out of the river and leaned against her gazebo. ‘Nice hat.’

The personal way that Toni interacted with her characters really resonated with me as a young writer. When I read the actual book itself, I fell in love. BELOVED is rich and spooky, with characters more complicated and human than any others I’ve ever read. I get why it’s banned: it takes a shockingly realistic look at the trials of real life, and the spiritual emptiness that came for many former slaves. It has abuse, rape, adultery, infanticide, explicit sexuality, and shows various types of segregation and discrimination. And guess what? It was based on a true story.

I can’t understand why anyone would want to cover up such a beautiful story that takes a hard and honest look at life post-slavery. The writing is magnificent, and inspired me to take my own to a new level. There were so many fragments stuck out at me, but the one I want to leave you with is this:

“She cannot be lost because no one is looking for her, and even if they were, how can they call her if they don’t know her name?”

-The Writer Condensing Three Books Into One

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I got TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD as a birthday present sometime in late elementary school or maybe early middle school. I can’t remember who gave it to me, but I remember loving it from the very first read. I adored Scout and somehow, identified with her immensely though we were very different. I loved Atticus and Jim.

To be honest, I didn’t catch much of the political or racial themes of the book. It’s kind of like how I read ANIMAL FARM when I was eleven and then when someone remarked in eighth grade about how the book commented on socialism in Russia, I gave them a look like they were crazy. All I’d gotten from the book was a weird but interesting story about…well, animals on a farm.

Does my younger self’s utter lack of understanding of the some of the main themes of these books mean I wasn’t ready for them? That my librarian and whoever gave me TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD should have told me to wait a few years? I don’t really think so. In fact, I would have loved it if, instead of preventing me from reading these books completely, someone had been open to discussing them with me afterward. That, I think, would have done a lot more good.

Either way, I have since gone back and reread both books, and I’m really glad to have had two experiences with each–the more innocent, simpler version of my childhood, and the one I glean now after having grown up a little more.

edit:  Wow–I completely forgot that NORTHERN LIGHTS/THE GOLDEN COMPASS is banned/controversial in some places. You all know how much I love that book!

-The Writer Who Just Signed With An Agent!

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My favourite banned book, and this is somewhat cliched, is probably FIGHT CLUB by Chuck Palahniuk. This book was the first thing I’ve read which I considered truly subversive — and no, I hadn’t seen the movie — and I’d read a lot of rather edgy realistic fiction before reading this. The central concept of FIGHT CLUB, a bunch of guys getting together and bashing each other up in an attempt to find some kind of spirituality, is disturbing.  At the same time, on some levels, it’s also an interesting exploration of the emptiness and dislocation that can occur in a modern world.

I can see why the book’s been banned. But at the same time, I think that we need books like this that are provocative and gritty. FIGHT CLUB made an impact on me as both a reader and writer — as a reader, it made me seek out other books to challenge and unsettle me, and as a writer it made me appreciate minimalism and the power of a dark, entrancing voice. More importantly, I think, reading banned books that are subversive like FIGHT CLUB, gave me the confidence to unflinchingly explore any subject matter in my own novels.

-The Newest LTWF Contributor Out on Submissions

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I’m going to go with THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK on this one. You can tell how much I’ve read it because my battered copy is missing the back cover, and the pages are stained from me eating while I poured over it. I don’t usually dog-tag pages, but these ones are folded over, passages are underlined, and I have notes in the margins. I even have a copy in German, and one in Italian; that’s how much I love this book.

I first read THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK in fifth grade. Even then, I felt a powerful pull to the book, and it’s stuck with me ever since. People claim that it’s “sexually offensive,” and that the nature of the book is just depressing, but I disagree completely. I always thought Anne’s words were uplifting and hopeful. Despite the horrible things going on around her, she still believed in the inherent good in people. That’s a message I’d think we’d want our kids to understand and take to heart.

My high school actually did this as a play, and it is my most treasured memory from those years. Some of my favorite lines, the ones I often repeat in order to ground myself, seemed even more profound coming from someone’s mouth. It’s amazing to me that one girl could embody so much hope in times of utter despair, and I will never forget the lessons this book taught me.

-The Writer Working on Three Novels At Once

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I think you might have guessed that my choice would be LOLITA.  I can’t remember much of how I first encountered the book; I can’t even remember how old I was when I read it the first time.  The thing I do remember is how stunned I was that any book, no matter how brilliantly written, could make me empathize with a character as treacherous and selfish as Humbert Humbert.  It was my first experience with an “unreliable narrator,” and LOLITA made me see for the first time that even the vilest villain sees himself as sympathetic.  That experience, combined with Nabokov’s incredible prose, the sharp descriptions of the beautiful and the grotesque found in the many suburban American towns through which the main characters traveled, and the irony (and even humor) that can be found in every chapter, gave me my earliest ideas that maybe one day I might want to be a writer.

-The Writer on Submissions

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What Banned Book has affected your life the most?

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Banning Backfires

29 Sep

Saturday marked the beginning of Banned Book Week. Here at LTWF we’re dedicating the whole week to awareness about banned books. We’ve got a lineup of fantastic articles, culminating in our announcement of our banned books-inspired book of the month for October on Friday. This coming Saturday we will post pictures of ourselves with our favorite banned books, and pictures that our readers send us. One lucky reader will even get a giveaway prize!

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by Jenn Fitzgerald

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There were only ever two books my mom told me I was too young to read (this was in middle school). They were The Hunt for Red October and Dragonsdawn. So, of course I immediately snuck them off the bookshelf and read them when she wasn’t home. Later, when I was admitting that I’d just finished The Hunt for Red October, I asked her why she’d told me not to read it. She said it was because she thought they were too difficult to understand and too violent. I’d thought it was because they dropped f-bombs, and hadn’t registered the violence as being worse than anything else I’d read. Either way, it had backfired.

That’s the thing—making something forbidden only serves to make it more interesting. You tell a kid: “Hey, you should read this Tom Clancy novel,” they’re probably going to ignore you. But, if you tell them: “Hey, you really shouldn’t read this Tom Clancy novel,” you’re probably going to have to pry it away from them.

Kids are not as innocent or stupid as their parents like to pretend and the books they read in school are usually far milder than PG-13 movies and pop music (Seriously, Lady Gaga, disco stick?). I can understand parents not wanting their children to read a book they find inappropriate, but they don’t have the right to make that determination for someone else’s children. In the end, they are probably only ensuring that more people read whatever it is they find objectionable.

The same motivation holds true for adults. Who hasn’t clicked on a link they were warned against? For example, don’t click this, it’s bad for you.

When people are sheltered from controversial ideas and opinions are suppressed, everyone loses. We lose serious, thoughtful debates and discussions of the real issues that affect people’s lives. Books deal with these topics and often force us to talk about them when otherwise we’d ignore them. I found a quote that expresses this idea more eloquently than I can:

“The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.”

-John Stewart Mill

We have to allow dissident opinions and controversial works, in libraries, schools and daily life. I’m sure there are plenty of books we can agree it would be ridiculous to ban, like the Harry Potter series. And as long as we continue to fight for these books we will preserve our right to read them. But, we have to extend the right not to be banned even to the things we don’t agree with or find offensive. Otherwise, how will we refute them?

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Jennifer Fitzgerald is the author of a middle grade fantasy novel, PRISCILLA THE EVIL, which she is currently querying. She is also is a Ph.D student in archaeology, focusing on East Asia. You can visit her blog here or follow her on Twitter.

Banned Books, Metaphors, and Cultural Identity

28 Sep

Saturday marked the beginning of Banned Book Week. Here at LTWF we’re dedicating the whole week to awareness about banned books. We’ve got a lineup of fantastic articles, culminating in our announcement of our banned books-inspired book of the month for October on Friday. This coming Saturday we will post pictures of ourselves with our favorite banned books, and pictures that our readers send us. One lucky reader will even get a giveaway prize!

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What I learned from Azar Nafisi’s

READING LOLITA IN TEHRAN

by Julie Eshbaugh

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Oppressive regimes, such as those in power in North Korea, China, and Iran, ban books.  This is a fact of which most literate citizens of the world are aware.  However, as a woman who has had the benefit of living all her life in the West, I was rather ignorant of the impact a seemingly apolitical book might have on those living in a society where the free exchange of ideas was suppressed as a dangerous evil.  I learned quite a bit about the power of what I and many of my friends might consider an “innocent” book – Fitzgerald’s THE GREAT GATSBY, for instance – and how access to such a book might feed the minds and fuel the souls of the many people who are subjects of governments that fear ideas.

 

Before I discuss Professor Nafisi’s memoir, let me say that I am not ignorant to the fact that my own society is home to many people who would limit my access to ideas they do not approve of.  Here in the United States, a professor in Missouri, as most readers of this blog are well aware, is campaigning to limit access to Laurie Halse Anderson’s SPEAK, out of his misguided apprehension that it will corrupt the morals of young people.  I realize that the citizens of no country can let their guard down and assume that the flow of ideas is truly “free.”  We must all be vigilant.  I have, however, recently been enlightened by Professor Nafisi to the ways in which different books can take on widely different meanings in different cultures.  I have learned that a book that might be challenged in the United States because of its sexual content –Nabokov’s LOLITA, for instance – might contain a widely different message when read by women living under the repression of a government that would deny them not only the right to read the book LOLITA, but the right to read any book at all.

Azar Nafisi was a professor of literature at the University of Tehran at the time of Iran’s Islamic Revolution.  She was expelled from her position at the university in 1995 for refusing to wear the veil.  In 1997, she left Iran for the United States.  But during the two intervening years, Professor Nafisi taught clandestine classes in literature for a small group of students that met on Thursday mornings in her home.  The theme of the class was the relationship between fiction and reality.  They read Persian classical literature, as well as Western classics such as PRIDE & PREJUDICE, MADAME BOVARY, and THE GREAT GATSBY.  But LOLITA was the book that perhaps best demonstrates what the students and teacher came to discover in those intimate classes.

Why LOLITA?  Why LOLITA in Tehran?  Professor Nafisi endeavors to answer this question by quoting from Nabakov’s masterpiece.  This is from the scene where Humbert arrives at Lolita’s summer camp to bring her home.  Her mother has recently been killed in an accident that was, in a way, indirectly caused by Humbert himself.

“Let me retain for a moment that scene in all its trivial and fateful detail: hag Holmes writing out a receipt, scratching her head… photographs of girl-children; some gaudy moth or butterfly, still alive, safely pinned to the wall (‘nature study’); the framed diploma of the camp’s dietician; my trembling hands…”

To many a Western reader, this brief description within this seemingly minor scene might go unnoticed.  But to Professor Nafisi and her students, it holds the key to the book.

Consider the butterfly, or is it a moth?  Humbert couldn’t care less.  The true nature of this creature, pinned to a wall, still alive, matters not at all.  He is indifferent to it, just as he is indifferent to Lolita’s mother’s death, and to Lolita’s own nightly sobs in the arms of her rapist and jailer, because, as Humbert says himself, “she had absolutely nowhere else to go.”

Some Western readers of LOLITA may find it to be a story of misplaced passion.  To others it may be a story of a little vixen who deserved what she got.  But to women living in Iran after the Islamic revolution, LOLITA is more than that.  It is the story of a man’s confiscation of a young girl’s life.

Nafisi writes,

“To reinvent her, Humbert must take from Lolita her own real history and replace it with his own, turning Lolita into a reincarnation of his lost, unfulfilled young love, Annabel Leigh… Yet (Lolita) does have a past.  Despite Humbert’s attempts to orphan Lolita by robbing her of her history, that past is still given to us in glimpses.  Nabokov’s art makes these orphaned glimmers all the more poignant in contrast to Humbert’s all-encompassing obsession with his own past… Like my students, Lolita’s past comes to her not so much as a loss but as a lack, and like my students, she becomes a figment in someone else’s dream.

“At some point, the truth of Iran’s past became as immaterial to those who appropriated it as the truth of Lolita’s is to Humbert.  It became immaterial in the same way that Lolita’s truth, her desires and life, must lose color before Humbert’s one obsession, his desire to turn a twelve-year-old unruly girl into his mistress.

“When I think of Lolita, I think of that half-alive butterfly pinned to the wall… Humbert fixes Lolita in the same manner that the butterfly is fixed; he wants her, a living breathing human being, to become stationary, to give up her life for the still life he offers her in return…

“That is how I read LOLITA.  Again and again as we discussed LOLITA in that class, our discussions were colored by my students’ personal sorrows and joys… And more and more I thought of that butterfly; what linked us so closely was this perverse intimacy of victim and jailer.”

LOLITA has always been one of my favorite books, but I have never seen it as a metaphor for the oppression of a totalitarian regime.  Not until now, that is.  Professor Nafisi’s memoir of the study of literature in a secret class in the Islamic Republic of Iran has opened my eyes, not only to the various possible interpretations of LOLITA, but to the innumerable ideas that can be contained in a single book.

Banned Book Week has made me feel, in turns, frustrated, angry, and, finally, motivated.  Motivated to be vigilant.  To guard against any threat to the free exchange of ideas.  And for this motivation, I owe a sincere debt of gratitude to Professor Azar Nafisi and her brave students in Iran.

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Julie Eshbaugh is represented by Natalie Fischer of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. You can follow her on LiveJournal here and on Twitter here.

 

The Right to Read

27 Sep

Saturday marked the beginning of Banned Book Week. Here at LTWF we’re dedicating the whole week to awareness about banned books. We’ve got a lineup of fantastic articles, culminating in our announcement of our banned books-inspired book of the month for October on Friday. This coming Saturday we will post pictures of ourselves with our favorite banned books, and pictures that our readers send us. One lucky reader will even get a giveaway prize!

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The Right to Read

by Savannah J. Foley

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When LTWF decided to honor banned books week by inviting readers to post pictures of themselves with their favorite banned book(s), I wanted to do a picture with every banned book I owned.

I went to my bookshelf, and grabbed the few I knew without a doubt were high on the banned books list… Beloved, The Bluest Eye, The Great Gatsby, Running With Scissors, and Harry Potter. Then, as I began to scan over my shelves again, I realized that a lot of titles had properties that were probably considered ‘inappropriate’. Curious, I pulled all my favorites from the shelves and googled their histories.

They had all been banned. Every single one.

Fight Club, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Gabriela Clove and Cinnamon, Giovanni’s Room, A Passage to India, The Good Earth, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Me Talk Pretty One Day, and Silence of the Lambs. I had been able to recognize which books were banned simply by identifying my favorites.

My favorite books are filled with sexuality, violence, family issues, infidelity, broken hearts, cultural schisms, prejudice, segregation, internal sadness and fleeting joy. They are filled, in essence, with humanity.

When someone says a book should be banned, they are saying that its content is inappropriate for existence, not just children. They are trying to cover up the fact that none of us are perfect, completely moral, and well-balanced people. When I was a young reader growing up, I was drawn to these types of books because they felt gritty, and significant. I read a lot of other happy, bland fiction, and I thought that was a more normal representation of people. Imagine my surprise when I grew up and learned that it was the darker, edgier books that more closely resembled reality.

Humans mess up. We fall down, and we struggle to get back up. We try to hold on to the good things, and sometimes we do, but sometimes we don’t. That doesn’t make life bad. That makes it a journey. And lying to kids about what they are and what they will be only sets them up for disappointment, dissatisfaction, and intolerance.

I’m white, financially secure, and straight. But my diverse reading experiences have given me an empathy and tolerance for people very different from me. I used to not like certain groups of people, but I realize now that was simply because I didn’t understand them. I didn’t understand they were human, too. Since then, I’ve tried to live by a quote: “You cannot fear that which you understand.”

Banning books is a display of fear. It’s a display of ignorance. It promotes false realities, an isolates people from their own emotions.

Now, I can understand why a parent would not want their sixth grader to read American Psycho. But it’s better to talk to your kids about what they’re reading, and help them make decisions about what they’d be comfortable with, rather than take away the choice from readers everywhere.

The problem with banned books is that one leads to another. We ban Nazi hate literature. Then the Marquis de Sade. Then American Psycho. Then Silence of the Lambs. Then Fight Club. Then Harry Potter. Then The Hunger Games. Then anything that anyone says has a value that could wake children from their innocent dream-world of perfect happiness and normality. But guess what? Children aren’t blissfully naïve little angels. They know that people aren’t perfect, starting with their parents and extending to the rest of the world.

Like many other bloggers have testified, reading ‘morally questionable’ books doesn’t make one a social deviant. It makes one wise. It make one empathetic. It lets you care about people you otherwise might hate, or ignore.

Don’t presume that you know what I need or want better than I do. Don’t you dare think that you can make decisions for me, my children, or my family. Keep your hands off my body, my eyes, my voice, my land, my possessions, my love, and my books.

Don’t ban ideas. Don’t ban humanity. Don’t ban freedon. Don’t ban books.

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Savannah J. Foley is the author of the Antebellum (originally known as Woman’s World) series on Fictionpress. She has written five novels, owns her own freelance writing company, and is signed with the Bradford Literary Agency. Antebellum is currently out on submissions. Her website is www.savannahjfoley.com, but she updates more frequently on her livejournal.

Banned Books Week – Support a Challenged or Banned Author & Giveaway!

25 Sep

Today marks the beginning of banned books week, which runs until October 2nd. Lately, challenged books have been talked about all over the blogosphere and twittersphere – especially concerning YA titles. From Laurie Halse Anderson’s SPEAK being deemed pornographic, to Sarah Ockler’s TWENTY BOY SUMMER and Sherman Alexie’s THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN, there’s no doubt about it: we’ve seen quite a bit of censorship going on. (Heck, even the Merriam-Webster Dictionary has been banned from a school this year – no lie!). 

In this day and age, you’d think we would all be a little more open; you’d think that we would all respect the right for people to choose what they want to read. You’d think people claiming rape to be pornographic wouldn’t be taken seriously (I mean, really? That’s horrifying). It’s bad enough that there are issues of white washing on covers – now we’re going to try to censor books with minority protagonists? We’re going to ban books because it contains homosexuality? Because they look at the human condition and point out our flaws, our shortcomings, our problems?

The reasons people choose to challenge (and try to ban) books is numerous. And here at LTWF, we believe that books being banned is equivalent to them being burned. We should be able to freely choose the books we want to read, and the books we want our children to read. To ban a book is to take away the choice from someone else –someone who has the right to choose.

So if you agree with us, we’re asking that you join us in supporting banned books and their authors by purchasing (or by borrowing from your library to tote around in public) a banned or challenged book. And if you can, we’d love it if you could also show your support by sending us a picture of yourself with a banned book you have chosen – and next Saturday, we’ll post your pictures on the blog. We want to visually show our support for banned and challenged books – so please, go out and buy a book (or even if you already own it – chances are you do!), and take a picture. Own more than one banned book? Take a picture of yourself with all of them!

And If you’re on Twitter, join the #SpeakLoudly movement.

So just to help you out (for those who aren’t as aware of what books have been banned), here is a list of the Ten Most Challenged Books from 2009 according to the ALA:

1. “TTYL; TTFN; L8R, G8R (series), by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: Nudity, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs
2. “And Tango Makes Three” by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
Reasons: Homosexuality
3. “The Perks of Being A Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Anti-Family, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs, Suicide
4. “To Kill A Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee
Reasons: Racism, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group
5. Twilight (series) by Stephenie Meyer
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group
6. “Catcher in the Rye,” by J.D. Salinger
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group
7. “My Sister’s Keeper,” by Jodi Picoult
Reasons: Sexism, Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs, Suicide, Violence
8. “The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things,” by Carolyn Mackler
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group
9. “The Color Purple,” Alice Walker
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group
10. “The Chocolate War,” by Robert Cormier
Reasons: Nudity, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

(also check out the 200820072006, and 2005 lists and decade lists for the ’90s and ’00s)

The most frequently challenged authors of 2009:

Lauren Myracle, Alex Sanchez, P.C. Cast, Robert Cormier, Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, Stephen Chbosky, Chris Crutcher, Ellen Hopkins, Richelle Mead, John Steinbeck

And if that wasn’t frightening enough, take a look at the most frequently challenged authors of the 21st Century.

And want to know some of the more recently challenged books? Here is a list of all the challenged and banned books of 2009-2010.

So, tell everyone you know; help make others aware. Those of us against banning books can speak our minds just as loudly as those who are for it. We will not be silenced – we will Speak Loudly. So stand up, be proud, and tell people why book banning is just plain ridiculous.

~ The LTWF Team

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GIVEAWAY

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As we said in the article above, we are asking our readers to take a picture with their favorite banned book(s) and send it to us (letthewordsflowblog AT gmail DOT com). We will post your pictures (and our own) next Saturday, and choose one lucky reader who sent us a picture to receive a giveaway prize!

We are giving away this bracelet from Carolyn Forsman. OR, if you don’t want it/don’t wear jewelry, we will ship you one banned book of your choice!

Saturday Grab Bag: Mashup and Quotes and New This Month

25 Sep

New This Month!

Every now and then, we look at books being released this month that have caught our attention. Here are 5 books that have all been released this July that look intriguing.

~

I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett

It starts with whispers.

Then someone picks up a stone.

Finally, the fires begin.

When people turn on witches, the innocents suffer. . . .

Tiffany Aching has spent years studying with senior witches, and now she is on her own. As the witch of the Chalk, she performs the bits of witchcraft that aren t sparkly, aren t fun, don t involve any kind of wand, and that people seldom ever hear about: She does the unglamorous work of caring for the needy.

But someone or something is igniting fear, inculcating dark thoughts and angry murmurs against witches. Aided by her tiny blue allies, the Wee Free Men, Tiffany must find the source of this unrest and defeat the evil at its root before it takes her life. Because if Tiffany falls, the whole Chalk falls with her.

Chilling drama combines with laughout-loud humor and searing insight as beloved and bestselling author Terry Pratchett tells the high-stakes story of a young witch who stands in the gap between good and evil.

[Description from Goodreads]

Contributor Comments:

I adore Terry Pratchett and I’ve been steadily working my way through his books for a little over a year, so I’m always excited to see new ones come out. I haven’t started reading any of the Tiffany Aching series yet, but I mean to as soon as I’m less poor/they get them in the library. I’m hoping I can my little sister hooked on Pratchett’s YA books, and from there on to the rest of Discworld.

– Jenn Fitzgerald

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I’ve actually never picked up a Terry Pratchett book (for shame!) – but that title and that cover are just absolutely amazing! I’ve heard a lot of good things about this series, so this book’s title (and man, what a title!) might just be the push I need to pick up his stuff.

And did I mention how much I love that title?

– Vanessa Di Gregorio

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I love the concept of a branch of witches devoted to “the unglamorous work of caring for the needy.”  It’s being called dramatic and funny and insightful, and just the title alone makes it worth a look!

– Julie Eshbaugh

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Zombies vs. Unicorns edited by edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier

It’s a question as old as time itself: which is better, the zombie or the unicorn? In this anthology, edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier (unicorn and zombie, respectively), strong arguments are made for both sides in the form of short stories. Half of the stories portray the strengths–for good and evil–of unicorns and half show the good (and really, really bad-ass) side of zombies. Contributors include many bestselling teen autho

rs, including Cassandra Clare, Libba Bray, Maureen Johnson, Meg Cabot, Scott Westerfeld, and Margo Lanagan. This anthology will have everyone asking: Team Zombie or Team Unicorn?

The link to the original argument can be found here: http://promo.simonandschuster.com/zombiesvsunicorns/.

“I am extremely pleased to be working with Sim

on & Schuster to ensure the clear and final victory of the

majestic unicorn over the zombie. For too long, the zombie has dominated the public consciousness, but the reign of the unicorn is at hand!”

-Team Unicorn editor Holly Black

“I think that posterity will look upon this as the moment when the mythology of rainbow-farting unicorns was finally laid to rest, and zombies took their rightful place at the top of the food chain,”

-Team Zombie editor Justine Larbalestier

[Description from Goodreads]

Contributor Comments:

Team Zombie or Team Unicorn – I can’t decide!!! But you can bet I’ll be getting my hands on this book! I mean, really… the title says it all. And that cover is absolutely brilliant.

Hmmm, I see an awesome-title trend going on here! (Damn my weakness to awesome titles!)

– Vanessa Di Gregorio

~

Anything with a title like that deserves my attention, and with authors like Naomi Novik and Scott Westerfeld involved, I’ll probably get sucked into checking it out.

– Jennifer Fitzgerald

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Firelight by Sophie Jordan

With her rare ability to breathe fire, Jacinda is special even among the draki — the descendants of dragons who can shift between human and dragon forms. But when Jacinda’s rebelliousness leads her family to flee into the human world, she struggles to adapt, even as her draki spirit fades.

The one thing that revives it is Will, whose family hunts her kind. Jacinda can’t resist getting closer to him, even though she knows she’s risking not only her life but the draki’s most closely guarded secret.

[Description from Goodreads]

Contributor Comments:

I had this book in my hand at the store, but I decided to wait until my “to be read” pile gets a bit shorter before adding a new book to it.  It was tough setting it back on the shelf, since I know I will love it!  I read a few pages and I immediately connected with the prose.  I felt the concept of a world where creatures shape shift between human and dragon form was presented with credibility.  FIRELIGHT also explores the conflict between duty to one’s family and duty to oneself, which is a concept that always holds my attention.  Plus there’s no denying the cover art is AWESOME!

– Julie Eshbaugh

I read an ARC of FIRELIGHT and I absolutely adored it!!!!

I’m seriously dying to read Book 2!

Everyone grab a copy NOW.

– Sarah J. Maas

~~~

Wired by Robin Wasserman

The final book in the sci-fi trilogy Scott Westerfeld calls “spellbinding.”

It’s two months after the end of Crashed, and Lia is right back where she started: home, pretending to be the perfect daughter. But nothing’s the way it used to be. Lia has become the public face of the mechs, BioMax’s poster girl for the up-and-coming technology, devoting her life to convincing the world that she—and the others like her—deserve to exist. Then Jude resurfaces, and brings some scandalous information with him. Is BioMax really an ally to the mechs? Or are they using the technology for a great evil…and if so, can Auden really be a part of the plan? M

eanwhile, Lia also learns a shocking truth about the accident that resulted in her download…a truth that forces her to make a decision she can never reverse.

[Description from Simon & Schuster]

Contributor Comments:

How is it I never heard about this trilogy?  This dystopian story about a girl who ends up in a mechanical replica of a human body after surviving a terrible car accident has really grabbed my attention.  This is a future not outside the path current medical technology seems to be on, and having recently had a metal plate implanted in my own leg, I can’t help but wonder about a world where mechanical bodies might support human minds.  WIRED is the third in the trilogy, preceded by SKINNED and CRASHED.  It looks like that “to be read” pile is going to get even taller!

– Julie Eshbaugh

~~~

Losing Faith by Denise Jaden

When Brie’s sister, Faith, dies suddenly, Brie’s world falls apart. As she goes through the bizarre and devastating process of mourning the sister she never understood and barely even liked, everything in her life seems to spiral farther and farther off course. Her parents are a mess, her friends don’t know how to treat her, and her perfect boyfriend suddenly seems anything but.

As Brie settles into her new normal, she encounters more questions than closure: Certain facts about the way Faith died just don’t line up. Brie soon uncovers a dark and twisted secret about Faith’s final night…a secret that puts her own life in danger.

[Description from Goodreads]

Contributor Comments:

It might just be me, but I feel like there have been a great number of books lately about girls losing older sisters. So far, none have stayed in my mind and heart like THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE, but LOSING FAITH looks intriguing, and how can I say no to such a pretty cover? Also, I hear there’s something about cults in there, too…hm….

– Kat Zhang

~~~

Z by Michael Thomas Ford

Josh is by far the best zombie Torcher around. At least, he is in his virtual-reality zombie-hunting game. Zombies haven’t existed in the real world in more than fifteen years, and the battle to defeat the devastating zombie epidemic is now the stuff of history lessons. Or so it seems.

When Josh accepts a coveted invitation to join an underground gaming league in the dark, forgotten tunnels of the city, he soon realizes that hunting zombies is not all fun and games. Real blood is spilling, members of the team are disappearing, and the zombies in the game are acting strange. And then there’s the matter of a mysterious drug called Z…

This darkly thrilling teen novel will have readers holding their breath as they turn every page.

[Description from Goodreads]

Contributor Comments:

Look, it’s well documented that I’m a zombie fan (in a terrified, hiding in my closet with a crowbar kind of way). So I didn’t need much convincing that this book should immediately be purchased, but even if I weren’t such a zombophile, I’m pretty sure I’d be dying to get my hands on Z anyway.

The premise reminds me a lot of the movie Gamer (starring Gerard Butler, omg!), with the virtual games that moved into reality. Add to that a zombie Apocalypse 15 years earlier, the threat of re-emergence, and a drug called Z (True Blood anyone?), and I can just feel that this is going to be a page turner. It’s on it’s way to me right now 🙂

– Savannah J. Foley

~~~

Mashup:

Here are some great links on writing, the industry, and all things book related. Some are serious, and some are just downright hilarious. We highly recommend you read them!

  • This Guy Thinks SPEAK is Pornography
  • – When all of us at LTWF heard about this, we were all sick to our stomachs. And very, very angry. For those of you who haven’t heard, read the above article. This isn’t a happy article, but it’s something people should be aware of.

  • SPEAKing Out
  • – This made all of us cry. It also has to do with the whole SPEAK issue. Very powerful – a must-read.

  • Watermelon
  • – And now, get ready to laugh! You know you’re a writer when…

  • On Word Counts and Novel Length
  • – A MUST-READ article on word counts by former literary agent and current Penguin business developer Collen Lindsay.

    ~~~

    Quotes:

    Prose is architecture, not interior decoration.
    — Ernest Hemingway

    ~

    Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.
    — Cyril Connolly

    ~

    Most of the basic material a writer works with is acquired before the age of fifteen.
    — Willa Cather

    ~

    We read to know we are not alone.
    — C.S. Lewis

    ~~~

    Interested in any of these new releases (or have you read them already)? Have you found any awesome quotes? Share them with us in the comments!


Two BIG Announcements!

24 Sep

As you guys might know, LTWF has been closed to new applicants for a while. However, as of now, we’re reopening for one or two new members and we’re really, really excited about it!

Unlike before, when we were open for an extended amount of time, this time we’ll only be open for a month. If you’d like to join us here behind the scenes, please send us an application to letthewordsflowblog AT gmail DOT com.

At this time, we request that all applicants either be at the querying stage or beyond (if you’re very close to querying, that’s okay, too) OR have some other experience in the publishing industry (be an intern, etc). Also, applicants need to have been on Fictionpress at some point.

Please include in the application:

1. A few paragraphs about yourself. No big deal–just let us know who you are!
2. An excerpt of your novel. Please send at least the first chapter, but you can send as much as you’d like. Heck, send the whole thing if you’re up to it! (you can attach this. No viruses, please!)
3. A sample blog post

  • Clarification: We meant a blog post like the ones we write here at LTWF. Basically, pretend you’re already a member and it’s time for you to write your first article (NOT your intro post, but your article). What would you write? Show us 🙂

4. If you have a blog or are on twitter, please let us know

We LTWF girls are pretty darn close, and we’re not only looking for someone to help us write articles and run the site, but we’re honestly looking for another writer to join our gazillion behind-the-scenes emails, chats, and skype calls 🙂 (no really–many of us talk every single day)

Our community is really important to us, and LTWF is a time commitment. You certainly don’t have to check in with us every day, but please consider whether you’d be able to post at least one article a month and have time to contribute to the QOTW posts.

Remember, the application period lasts one month. So get those emails in!

What’s exciting news number two? We’re having another live chat on Sept 30th at 9PM EST. The topic is just going to be getting to know us girls here at LTWF. If you have any questions about us or the site, come on over! Also, we’d love to get to know our readers a little more (and it would probably be pretty boring just to hear us talk for an hour!), so come let us know about you, too. Our last chat was FANTASTIC (it lasted 2 1/2 hours!!), so don’t miss this one!

If you have any questions about the application process, either let us know in the comments or come talk about it during our live chat!

PS Like we said before: guys are totally welcome to apply 🙂

QOTW: Do You Become Your Character?

24 Sep


This week, the question comes from Kairee-Anne, who asks:

Do you ever feel like you become your characters when and after you write about them?

~~~

This question really made me think about what’s happening in my head when I’m writing. Do I ever feel like I AM the character? No. I’m still me. But I guess the closest approximation of what’s happening is that I’m like a computer running a program. I don’t become the program, I simply use it for a while.

-The Writer Converting Three Books Into One!

~~~

I don’t think I ever feel like the characters I’m writing… but I do feel as though I begin to roleplay as them in my mind. And often I’ll find myself thinking, “What would Danae do?” or “How would Wen react?”.

-The Writer in Publishing Working On Her First Novel

 

 

 

~~~

I definitely slip into a different “persona” for each story. Each story has a different mood/color scheme/feel to it. I don’t really “become” my character (that would be an interesting situation for my friends and family!), but I get in their heads very deeply, which means it can be hard for me to work seriously on more than one big story at once. I’m too deeply entrenched in the voice for each of my books for me to switch easily. However, this only lasts for as long as I’m actively writing/editing!

Often, if I’m trying to gain insight on a character, though, I either write present tense summaries of their past or journal entries from their point of view 🙂

-The Writer Who Just Signed With An Agent!

~~~

I do “become” the character when I write to a certain extent. But usually only for the amount of time that I’m writing. Sometimes, though, a character’s emotion will stick with me and make me gloomy, happy, whatever. So, I don’t really become the character totally but there are elements of their experience that I take away.

-The Newest LTWF Contributor!

~~~

I don’t know if I become the character so much as I become the mood of the story. Does that even make sense? I can’t really become the characters, but whatever the mood of that particular story is, I can slip into fairly easily. And, like Vee, it will stick with me beyond the time I spend writing. And honestly, it’s probably good I don’t become my characters since it seems that, lately, a lot of them are killers :-p

The Writer Who’s Loving Her Internship

~~~

I’ve really struggled with this question, because my answer reveals an “Easter egg” that I hide in all my novels.  Without saying too much, let me just say this:  I have a name that I insert into every manuscript, and that character name is supposed to represent me.  Unfortunately, it’s not a perfect system.  My newest idea is a period piece, and since the name is contemporary, I’m going to have to tweak it, I guess, but I’ll try to keep it close enough that a very observant reader would catch it.  Also, all the characters that appear in the first draft don’t necessarily make it into the final draft, and I wouldn’t preserve a character I needed to eliminate just for the sake of keeping the name in the manuscript.  But I do always begin a story with a character who is meant to represent me in the world of the book.

-The Writer Out on Submissions

~~~

I’ve never felt like I was the character, though when I write emotional scenes, I try to pull up those emotions in myself and analyze them so I know how to show that my characters are feeling the same thing. When I’m writing first person narratives it often feels like the character is telling me the story and even when I slip into her head, I’m not her, I’m just poking around.

-The Writer Revising Between Queries

~~~

Oh, I definitely embrace my characters while I write about them. I mean, I’m obviously not going to go around assassinating people while I’m writing from Celaena’s POV in QUEEN OF GLASS, but I definitely channel her feelings, usually by acting out the scenes before/while I write them. I’ve always had a mirror either on or by my desk so I can study my expressions/movements. There’s one scene in QUEEN OF GLASS where Celaena is lying on the ground, half-dead–and you can bet good money that I spent about 30 minutes lying on the floor in front of my wall-sized/giant mirror, trying my best to put myself in her head. It sounds totally bonkers, I know.

Maybe I’m just unnaturally attached to my heroines, but if I have to write a particularly upsetting scene, I definitely feel their pain and anger. Those feelings can stay with me long after I’ve stopped writing for the day. I guess all of this craziness is just part of the fun of writing, right?

The Writer With Her First Book Deal

~~~~

Do YOU ever find yourself channeling your characters?

 

 


Your Ego is Not Your Friend – How to Take Criticism

23 Sep

or,

How to Avoid Hysterical Fits of Sobbing/Rage

by Vanessa Di Gregorio
~~~

Since Kat and Vahini both wrote wonderful articles about critique partner relationships and how to provide useful critiques respectively, I thought I would talk about – in further detail – how to deal with criticism (which Sarah talked about here; and how to get over yourself… which Sarah also talked about here). Because for me, the most difficult part about being a critique partner is being critiqued.

Not everyone reacts to critiques the same way. Some people get insulted; others become so sad and dejected that they lose all desire to even continue writing; and there are people who are indignant and think their critique partner has no idea what they’re talking about.

If you’re new to being critiqued, you’ll find yourself feeling INCREDIBLY nervous. Heck, even if you ARE used to receiving all kinds of criticism from others, you’ll probably still be a bit nervous about sharing your work with others.

Take me for example. Having been an art student, I’m used to receiving criticism – and art professors and fellow art students never hold back from telling you what they really think of your work. I’ve also taken a couple of creative writing courses and have had to share my work. So I should be used to receiving critiques, right?

HELL NO.

I mean, in a way I am; I’m much more apprehensive about myself, actually – and how I’ll end up responding. But I will always be nervous when I hand my work over to someone else for their opinion. I know myself. I get hurt as soon as I start seeing red everywhere. It’s just the type of person I am; though I know it’s silly of me, I want EVERYONE to be pleased with my work. Even though I know that it’s unrealistic.

I sometimes get so bummed out that I just sit in a slump at my desk, unwilling to continue working on my MS. Or I find myself looking for comfort food; ice cream and cookies and hot chocolate to devour as I sulk (and thereby also avoiding any and all writing). Or I scribble down angst-filled poetry. And other times I feel FURIOUS! I think, “How is my writing melodramatic?!? It is LYRICAL, dammit!”. Or, I think to myself, “Well, our styles of writing are SO different! Idiot.”

Harsh, I know. But I HAVE thought things like that; about people I respect and admire, close friends, and near-strangers. And chances are you’ll probably feel like that sometimes too. Sure, you’ll tell your critique partner, “Be honest! Tell me if something doesn’t work, if there’s something off. I want your real opinion! Don’t hold back!” – but once you see all the comments they’ve made, and read them pointing out all the flaws in your story, you’ll find yourself getting defensive. EVEN if you know you shouldn’t.

If you’re having this problem (and don’t worry – it’s only natural!), take a step back. Don’t respond right away. If your CP is using the track changes feature on Microsoft Word, don’t go through the entire MS in a fury rejecting all the changes your critique partner has made without even looking to see just what changes they’ve suggested.  It has actually happened to an editor I know – she just got on the wrong foot with the author, and he ended up even rejecting her corrections of spelling mistakes. So remember: your CP has done a WHOLE lot of work for you. They’re trying to help you improve. They WANT your MS to be the best it can be; they want you to get published.

So, here are 10 tips to help you throw your ego aside and take criticism from your critique partners – or anyone, really – gracefully.

1. As I said before, never respond right away. Don’t write a scathing email to the agent who has just rejected you and offered a few suggestions for improvement. That’s rude, and unprofessional, and you can bet that agent will never look at any of your future works. Likewise, don’t freak out at your critique partner if they think a character serves no purpose and should maybe be cut from your MS (or further developed, if you want to keep them). Read their critiques and do nothing – at least not right away. Let it sink in.

2. Take a step back. Wait a few hours; or better yet, wait a day or two. Distance yourself and try to be objective. Let their critiques sink in before you go back to reread your CP’s comments. And then read your work. Chances are, they might just have a point.

3. Don’t take it personally. It’s hard, but you’ll have to keep reminding yourself that they aren’t telling YOU that you lack personality – they’re saying your MC does. Find out why they’re saying that (and a good CP will give you reasons as to why your MC lacks the qualities of a great character). And even if they don’t give you reasons, you should always…

4. …ask. If you’re not quite understanding what they mean and need clarification, email them (when you’re NOT upset, of course). Or call them. Or meet up and talk about it over coffee (just don’t go if you think there’s a chance that you’ll throw your coffee in their face. Cause that’s a sign that you’re still pretty upset). Being good critique partners means that talking about one another’s work – in depth. Have a conversation.

5. Never confront your CP if you’re upset. Yes, I’m repeating myself – but this is important. Don’t tell them that they don’t get you or your work. They probably do. But they aren’t as emotionally invested in your work. It’s YOUR baby; your sweat and tears. And as a result, you’ll be blind to a lot of the problems – and get pretty upset when confronted with those issues. Especially if your CP has something to say about the one character, or one plot arc, that is your absolute favourite.

6. Read all the good things they have to say. A good critique partner will always mention what they really liked/enjoyed. They’ll highlight lines/paragraphs/bits of dialogue and say, “LOVE this!”. So if you find yourself getting upset, read only the good things they had to say. Chances are, you’ll start to feel better (not only about your work, but about yourself).

7. Be open to new ideas. Don’t automatically ignore what someone says because it’s not something you’ve ever thought of. Your CP is trying to push you to becoming an even better writer; and that means they’ll push your boundaries.

8. Embrace change/ have multiple drafts. I probably should’ve made this the first on the list. If you can’t bring yourself to revise your first draft because you think it is THE shit, you might not be ready for a critique partner. Your first draft WILL NOT be perfect. It will be flawed. If you understand that and are okay with the thought of changing your MS, then you’re ready to be critiqued.

9. Critique your fellow CP. Put yourself in their position. It’s not easy, now is it? You’ll probably feel terrible pointing out things that you feel don’t work. You’ll feel as though you might be overstepping your bounds by offering suggestions. And the last thing you want is for them to get really hurt by what you say. So try to understand both sides.

10. Don’t lose yourself. While you should never brush off someone’s critique, you should also remember that it’s okay to have differing opinions. You don’t HAVE to agree with everything they say. But if you do disagree, you should discuss it more in detail. And if you still feel that you’re right, get a second (or third) opinion.

So, think you have what it takes to be a critique partner (and take criticism yourself)? Then head on over to our Critique Partner page and find yourself a CP! And if you’re already a CP, remember to always give your reader credit. Be respectful, take a few deep breaths (and maybe eat some ice cream), and you’ll be on your way to earning the status of awesome-critique-partner (and maybe even earn this snazzy “Accepting Criticism” Writer Merit Badge):

~~~

Vanessa is a Sales Assistant at Kate Walker & Co., a book and gift sales agency located in Toronto. She is also enrolled in a publishing program. Currently, Vanessa is working on a YA fantasy novel and a Children’s non-fiction series.

Providing Useful Critique

22 Sep

by Vahini Naidoo

~~~

I’m going to be totally honest – when I first started critiquing other people’s work, I was bad at it. In fact, that’s an understatement. I was awful. I’d write stuff like, “This is good. Yeah…I feel pretty unhelpful”.

So, in order to spare anyone else the pain of knowing that they’re not critiquing well, and to spare any writers from critiques like my initial ones, I bring you a sort-of idiot’s guide to critiquing a manuscript.

Anyway, my biggest problem was that I’d regularly stop and ask myself this question: What right do I have to be critiquing so-and-so’s work?

The answer to this question is every right, so long as you’re a reader. Thinking that you don’t have the authority to critique is really counter-productive to providing helpful feedback, because you lose the confidence to truly make not of the mistakes you catch. When a scene is confusing, you assume that it’s your fault, not the writer’s and so on. In other words, you won’t be totally honest with the author because you’re limiting yourself.

And the first step towards critiquing a manuscript is a willingness and ability to be straight-up with the writer about what you think. Even if you don’t feel particularly qualified – and you are! – you have to deliver your critique with clarity and honesty .

My other problem? I never really tried to accommodate the writer’s needs.

My awesome fellow contributor, Kat, wrote a post on Monday about critique partner relationships. She mentioned that all of them are different.

My mistake was not recognising this, and just diving straight into reading a manuscript. Instead, I should have been asking the author what they were specifically looking to fix with this revision, or whether there was anything that they were worried about, or felt wasn’t quite working.

Often, people are quite specific. They’ll tell you that an agent told them that their prose isn’t quite shining, even though their premise is great – and that means you focus on the nitty gritty little stuff. Or they’ll tell you that they’re worried that their character arc isn’t coming full circle, or something, and you’ll know to focus on that.

It can be really helpful to dive into critiquing a manuscript and have some clear direction. So, if you can get that out of the author, that would be step number two.

But what if the author says something like, “Just looking for general stuff” or “Not really sure” or, worse still, “Everything”? Then what, huh?

You stare at your computer screen and burst into tears, obviously. Just kidding 🙂

If the writer doesn’t give you direction you have to follow through with the third step in any case. That is, you have to read the manuscript – I know, I know, I’m a genius.

It’s important to know, at this stage, to know what kind of critique you like to give. Do you like line by lines? Or do you like to make more general comments? I’ve found that if I try to give detailed line comments on more than a chapter, I often find myself unable to get through the manuscript. This is because I’m incredibly nitpicky, and detail-oriented and will often write 6000 words worth of comments on 3000 words.

I’m pretty sure that this kind of over-critiquing is not helpful to either the author, or the never-ending piles of homework lying in wait for me.

So that’s me, I don’t give line by line critiques, although you might. I focus on the macro stuff, and I tend to think that even if you do focus on the micro and give a line crit, you need to give the writer a sense of how the manuscript stacks up overall for the critique to be truly useful. After all, someone can have seriously awesome prose and be completely unable to plot.

One of the mistakes I often made when giving this overall critique to a writer, was not being thorough enough – I’d just forget to talk about entire aspects of a manuscript. For instance I’d say something about the characterisation, but the plot would totally slip my mind.

 In order to be more thorough, you should probably carefully think through the big elements of a novel. That is, character, plot, setting, and depending on the manuscript, theme. Thinking through those elements, and really asking yourself whether there was anywhere it could have been improved allows you to spot more potential areas for improvement.

Final tip? Sometimes you need to think about things for a while. I finished a mind blowing manuscript two weeks ago, and initially I couldn’t think of anything to say. The author was firing on all cylinders – she had characterisation, a great plot, a wonderful voice and prose that was both beautiful and evocative.

But I gave it a week, and reconsidered the manuscript. Then I sat down and wrote her a two page critique – the manuscript is still mind blowing, and is probably already publishable, but there were areas there that could be improved upon. I just needed time to see them.

Lastly, so that you can all SEE for yourselves that different readers work in different ways, and also get some shining examples of how to give good critiques, check out THE BETA PROJECT. It’s a blogosphere experiment where six blogging writers critique one brave author’s first page, and post it so that everyone can get a handle on different critiquing styles. Check out the critiques from  Cory , Kate, Meredith, Sarah, Windy and Raven.

 ~~~

Vahini Naidoo is a high schooler who eats instant noodles like she’s already in college. She writes contemporary YA novels and is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette at the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. You can find her over at her blog.