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BIG NEWS ANNOUNCEMENT!

2 Dec

By

All The Ladies At LTWF

~~~

So, for a while now, the ladies of LTWF have wanted to find a way to take this site to the next level. Since LTWF started in fall 2009, we’ve grown and grown and grown, both in terms of our wonderful community and in terms of our own personal development. It has been exciting and exhilarating and one of the greatest experiences of our lives.

But a few months ago, we asked each other: what if we changed things up a bit? What would we have to do to take LTWF as it stands and make it into something bigger—something even more awesome?

So we talked. And talked. And talked. Many skype chats, google documents, and email chains later, we all agreed:

In order to grow, we had to undergo a major transformation. We’d have to take the best parts of LTWF and shape them into something new.

And to do that, we’d have to leave LTWF behind.

Not the community, not our contributors, not the openness of the site, but two things:

Our name, and our “Fictionpress authors only” background. Both of those things are closely tied—our LTWF name CAME from the FP website. And now that we’re no longer keeping our ranks closed to the FP community, it made little sense to hold onto the name.

So, today is the last day of Let The Words Flow.

Or, LTWF as LTWF. After today, we’ll be closing down the site until January 9th, so we can have time to organize, to recharge, and to make sure our new site is in order.

And on January 9th, we’ll be launching…

We’ll have our own domain name, a brand new look, and some new, amazing members. We’ll have a new structure, new content, and a new focus. All of us in LTWF will be there—and even though our wordpress site will no longer be active, we promise that none of the closeness and intimacy will be lost in the transition.

We are so, so phenomenally excited for the change to Pub Crawl. We’ll be spending our launch week introducing our new members, who are all fabulous, warm, and talented people. And we’ll be doing a MONTH of giveaways (from ARCs to critiques to agent pitches) when we launch in January.

So, this is our last post on this site. And, in honor of that, we thought we’d do one final Question of the Week—one that we hope you guys will participate in as well.

But before we get to that…

Thank you all so much for your support, for your enthusiasm, for embracing us—for making this into a community that we’re proud to be a part of. For making LTWF into a home for aspiring and published writers. For celebrating with us, commiserating with us, for laughing and crying with us. Thank you for two years of memories—two years that have changed all of us in every possible way.

Thank you—thank you from the bottom of our hearts. It has truly been an honor.

And to quickly announce Wednesday’s GIVEAWAY winner:

Kulsuma!

Email us at letthewordsflowblog (at) gmail (dot) com!

~~

What has Let The Words Flow meant to you?

~~

 I don’t think there are enough words to describe exactly what LTWF has meant to me. I’ve tried to write this at least six or seven times, but I couldn’t seem to fit in everything I wanted to say. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that, try as I might, there is just no way to properly express how I feel about this place, these ladies, and all of you.

LTWF scooped me up a year and a half ago, just as I was beginning my internship. It was my first real publishing job, and they’ve since guided me to where I am now. I’ve learned so much about this industry and writing because of them, and I could not be more grateful for their help and insight. Not only did they keep me focused on my career, they’ve helped me hone my writing skills, and I can safely say I’m a better writer because of these ladies.

But more than that, LTWF has meant unconditional friendship from some really incredible people. They’ve been there to support me in all of my crazy schemes, from numerous writing projects to graduating to moving to New York. LTWF has meant late-night skype dates, far too many inside jokes, and weird emails that never fail to make my day. These ladies have become some of my closest friends, and I’m so excited to move forward with them. As amazing as LTWF has been, Pub Crawl is going to be even better!

LTWF, I raise my glass to you.

–Sammy Bina

~~

 What has LTWF meant to me…wow… That’s such a hard answer to condense into words. All I can say is that joining LTWF was without a doubt the best thing that happened to me in the last year. Better than getting an agent and better than getting a book deal. Like Kat said, it’s so much more than just a writing blog… These girls and you readers are my best and dearest friends, and I wouldn’t know any of you if it weren’t for LTWF. How can that not mean the world to me?

I don’t want to get too sentimental because then I might start crying, and no one wants that (I am quite literally the world ugliest crier). So I’ll do this instead:

Once upon a time, there was a girl who had no idea what she was doing. When she saw her favorite blog was taking applications, she said, “What the hey? Worst thing that happens is that I don’t get in.” But she did get in…and she found something she had never expected–never even believed possible from “just a blog”.

She found community, support, and fun. She met new people through comments and chats. She learned lots and lots and lots from the other LTWF-ladies and she learned even more from the LTWF-readers.

And the days passed and the blog posts piled up and she thought, “Surely I should be sick of this by now? Surely after a year, this whole blogging thing would feel stale…?” But it didn’t…and then she realized why: LTWF is a community of writers and readers. Pub Crawl will be a community of writers and readers. These are people who live their lives around STORIES. And there are always new stories to experience and always new stories to share. How can that ever get “stale”?

And so, the girl set out to write the next post, to make the next friend, and to tell the next story…

See you on the flip side!!

–Susan Dennard

~~

 The last time we talked about what LTWF meant to us, my answer was pretty long. And all I can think of is, how do I top what I said last time? How do I not repeat myself?

And so I’ll keep things short and sweet (hopefully). LTWF has meant meeting amazing people, geeking out over books, and being part of an amazing community. To all the girls at LTWF: You’ve become some of my closest friends, and I’m forever grateful to be able to spam you with emails at ungodly hours, talk via Skype, and make delicious cookies (here’s looking at you for that last one, Biljana).

To all our readers: You have all been awesome, whether you’ve been the constant commenters, the silent creepers, or the ones who sent emails with suggestions / cool links. You’ve made LTWF worth it; worth all the late-night scrambling, hours and hours of blog post writing, and endless tweets. Without all of you, LTWF would’ve been nothing – and I hope you all move with us over to Pub Crawl in January. We’ll be bigger and better, but we’ll still be nothing without you. Cause in all honesty, LTWF has been a community of amazing people – and without people to talk to, us girls would just be talking to ourselves. So thank you!

–Vanessa Di Gregorio

~~

 What has Let the Words Flow meant to me? Others have used analogies to answer this (almost impossible to answer!) question, so I hope no one minds if I use one more.

When I was in college, there was a specific place on campus where I knew I could always find a friend or two. To my friends and me, this was “our spot,” and whether a half dozen of us were there or just two, it was always the place I felt welcome and understood. When I moved on from college, having a place like that was one of the things I missed the most. It had been so wonderful to know that – whether I had five minutes or five hours to hang out – I had a little sanctuary where I knew I would find people who really “got” me.

For me, Let the Words Flow has become a virtual version of that cozy spot on campus. I always know I will find friends at Let the Words Flow, whether those friends are the other bloggers or our fantastic readers. I know I will find wonderful conversation in the comments! I know that whenever I come to LTWF, I will find like-minded people who know what NaNoWriMo means, who don’t think I’m crazy because I have a two foot high stack of unread books beside my bed, and who will always encourage me to keep going toward my writing goals. Let the Words Flow has been a cozy sanctuary to me, and I feel so fortunate to have found it.

I look forward to Pub Crawl, in part because I know that this sanctuary will still be there, but also because I know it will be fresher and broader, and that I will meet even more wonderful writers and readers. Can’t wait!

–Julie Eshbaugh

~~

 The mentality of being a part of LTWF is incredibly hard to describe. It’s a group of friends, but it’s also a responsibility. We talk constantly, but we also work, and so I suppose it’s sort of like being in school 🙂 The ladies of LTWF are not only my friends, but my classmates, and they’ve given me an education I could never find in any college or university. I like to think I bring a little something to the table, but the truth is they have mostly been MY teachers. Being in LTWF changed my life in a big way. I had an agent but was still a hopeless noob. I didn’t know anything behind the scenes of the big, scary publishing world, and didn’t have the resources to learn. LTWF changed all that. It made my writing career an intimate and REAL part of my life, where before it had been a secret hope and dream.

LTWF was the only safe place I could retreat to during some of the most difficult times in my life. I am so eternally grateful to my friends here for their warmth and wisdom. We are SO excited to be adding our awesome new members and expanding our audience with a new website and brand. It is our hope that we can reach and assist more writers than ever before, and yet… and yet… I will definitely miss saying LTWF and how easily the acronym flows from under my fingers. This was the best time, you guys. Thank you so much for letting me be here.

–Savannah Foley

~~

 It really is hard to put into words. I can’t imagine life without these people. They listen to me rant, they laugh at my (stupid) jokes, they commiserate with me when frustrating things happen, and they support me to no end through griefs. In return I try to do the same. We share in our joys and sorrows. People throw around the word “family” but that’s truly what this feels like. Losing them would be like losing family.

And that’s not even touching on the sheer amount of information I’ve soaked up in the past few years, on writing, on editing, cutting, querying, the industry, not even close to covering the people I’ve met, the friends I’ve made over random online interactions…

It’s really gotten to a point where I can’t imagine my life without it. I don’t know where I’d be right now. Probably still angsting over whether it’s financially prudent to be a writer :P.

Thank god for these people and this community :). I’m really excited to continue this trend in PubCrawl! 😀

–Biljana Likic

~~

 It is insanely hard for me to describe what Let The Words Flow has meant to me in just a few paragraphs. It’d be hard to explain in a few PAGES.

When I started my road to publication, I had very, very few friends in publishing. In fact, I’m pretty sure that for a while, Mandy was my only friend I had that was agented and (soon to be) published. I used to read author blogs and twitter feeds and wish—with all my heart—that I had wonderful writer-friends, too. Sometimes, it felt like I was on the outside, watching this wonderful world through a window. Though it might not have seemed that way at the time, there were moments when I felt really, truly lonely.

LTWF changed all that. Ever since LTWF started, not one day has passed where I have ever felt alone. Since LTWF started, I have never felt like I was on the outside, looking in. Since LTWF started, I have always felt like I belonged.

I have had many, many friends in my life, but I can say—without a doubt—that the friends I have made in LTWF are the friends of my heart. The ones that I’m fairly certain I couldn’t live without. They make my world a far, far better place. They make me a better person.

So, more than learning about the industry, more than learning about writing, I’d say that LTWF has meant unbreakable and irrevocable friendship. And no matter what happens on the road ahead, I will be forever grateful for it.

Sarah J. Maas

~~

 Vahini Naidoo: A year ago, when we did a similar post, I said something to the effect that LTWF meant home to me. It meant community. It was, to stretch a thin analogy comparing books to babies yet further, the community required to raise my book babies. At the time, I meant that very, very sincerely, and I still think it’s true. LTWF is a home, a haven on the internet, but over the past few months I’ve come to realize that LTWF also means something else to me. This blog doesn’t just represent home, comfort and safety. This blog represents growth. This blog is about all of us, writers and readers, aspirers and dreamers, at different stages of progress coming together and learning and growing. This blog is an adventure, fun and exciting and awesome, and I have to say that you guys (both my fellow bloggers and readers) are the best companions a girl could hope for.

So that’s what LTWF is to me — a journey. One that I hope you’ll share with me, and the other LTWF ladies, as we transition into Pub Crawl.

–Vahini Naidoo

~~

 I cannot *believe* it’s been a year and a half since I first joined LTWF. On one hand, how did time pass that quickly?? On the other, what do you mean I haven’t known these girls half my life??

When I joined back in Spring of ’10, I didn’t even have my first draft of WHAT’S LEFT OF ME finished. My entire writing/publishing since then–finishing that first draft, revising, querying, agent offers, more revision, submissions, selling–is utterly tied to the girls here at LTWF. They were my first critique partners, the first people I told about anything exciting that happened. They taught me so much about writing and about publishing and made me believe harder than ever that getting publishing *now* was doable.

I also now count them among my closet friends, and that’s even more important to me.

Being a part of LTWF opened my eyes to the vast network of writers and readers on the internet. I’ve met so many awesome, amazing people through LTWF–and from all over the world! You guys have all been so fantastic, and I’m so glad to have met you.

So, what has LTWF meant to me? Friendship. Support. Links to crazy things on the internet. Skype chats after midnight–I could go on 🙂

Here’s to continuing all that as Pub Crawl!

–Kat Zhang

~~

To All Our Friends, Old And New:

Thanks For Everything.

Love Always,

The LTWF Girls

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Book Recommendation: Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares + GIVEAWAY!

28 Nov

DASH AND LILY’S BOOK OF DARES by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn
Published October 26th, 2010 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
272 Pages

With Christmas just around the corner, this seemed like an appropriate choice for a book recommendation. I read it about two weeks ago, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. In fact, I’ve already convinced three of my friends to read it, and lent it to a fourth.

There’s something magical about Christmas, and I think this book hits it right on the head. Christmas is full of endless possibilities. People are nicer, the world is brighter, and smiles are out in droves. Everything is over-the-top, from decorations to the amount of food we eat and the music we listen to. But nobody cares because it’s the holidays. Personally, Christmas is my absolute favorite time of year. How can you not be in a good mood?!

That warm, fuzzy feeling you get around the holidays is something you get while reading this book. And I don’t think it matters what time of year you read it — the feeling will still be there.

But! More about the book and less about my love for Christmas.

First of all, I think the plot is one of the most creative plots I’ve seen in a while. Sticking a red moleskine on a shelf in the Strand with clues that could maybe lead to romance is an amazing idea. The fact that Lily’s brother did it to keep her out of his hair is even better. (Also, I will freely admit to having gone to the Strand since reading this and checking to see if someone had dared to replicate the moleskine idea.) Everything was woven together so well, and those clues! Part of me wonders if I would’ve been able to decipher them, had it been me. The creativity that went into this is mind-blowing.

Also, collaborations can be tricky. I’ve seen plenty of submissions where the two authors’ styles just didn’t mesh. It was obvious who was writing for which character, and the flow was awkward because of it. David Levithan and Rachel Cohn’s voices blend seamlessly together. Even with each of them writing a different character, you’re never once pulled from the story because things don’t work well together. The pair also wrote NICK AND NORAH’S INFINITE PLAYLIST and NAOMI AND ELY’S NO LIST KISS, neither of which I’ve read, but both of which I intend to pick up.

Dash and Lily were fantastic characters. Dash is a little pretentious, but is still one of the most likable guys I’ve come across in fiction. Boomer is hilarious, and I can’t imagine the book without him. Lily’s cooky family made me wish they were a part of my own, and as a main character, I thought Lily was great. She’s so naive, and it’s fun to watch her get out and test the waters when her parents are gone. I don’t know if I’d be brave enough to go to some skeezy underground club on Christmas eve (By myself. In New York.), so she gets major props for that.

Now that I live in New York, the book had an extra ounce of charm because I knew where things were located. The Strand was one of the very first places I visited when I moved here, and I still pay homage at least once a month. Even if I don’t buy anything, it’s nice to be surrounded by that many books. (Supposedly there are 18 miles of books in that store. I want to know what kind of math they used to figure that out…) I’ve also made an effort to locate the rest of the places mentioned in the book. When a book motivates you that much, I feel like it has to be good.

So, if you’re in need of some extra holiday cheer (or just enjoy overdosing on Christmas), you need to get a copy of this book. I promise you’ll be smiling like an idiot by the time you’re done, and it’ll take a while before it wears off.

~~~

Continuing the tradition of building up suspense for our Super Awesome Super Exciting News, we’ve also got another giveaway! You can leave a comment below for a chance to win a copy of Aya Tsintziras’s debut novel, PRETTY BONES.

Raine has a family, good grades, best friends, and a boyfriend who loves her. But then anorexia takes over, and her life spirals out of control. Her efforts to hide her condition are finished when she collapses at a school dance. Although she’s whisked away to treatment, Raine isn’t ready to accept who she really is and get the help she desperately needs. For Raine, coming-of-age means coming closer to death.

Sooz will be announcing the winner on Wednesday. Stay tuned for the rest of our giveaways!

On Handling Rejection

14 Nov

Fact: Everyone gets rejected at some point in their life.

Fact: Rejection stings.

Fact: Some people need to think before responding to said rejection.

Over the last few years, I’ve seen many a rejection letter. I’ve gotten them myself when querying, or applying for internships and jobs. I’ve also written them in regards to all sorts of submissions. And you know what? Neither is enjoyable. Nobody likes to open their email to find a pile of rejection letters that have stacked up over the course of a few hours’ sleep. Also not enjoyable? Having to tell someone their work isn’t right for you. I like to think I’m a nice person, so I really hate having to tell people their material isn’t good. You have to be honest, but as we all know, the truth can sometimes hurt, and nobody wants to be the one doing the hurting.

Here’s the thing, though. In my time working in publishing, I’ve seen many an author act before they took the time to think things through. It’s resulted in some incredibly embarrassing emails on their part, and frustration on mine. And every other intern/assistant/agent/editor out there, for that matter.

So here’s what I propose — some handy dandy step-by-step instructions on how to handle that rejection letter.

1. Open letter.

2. Read letter.

3. Re-read letter.

4. DO NOT RESPOND TO LETTER. I REPEAT: DO NOT RESPOND.

5. Take a deep breath.

6. Go do something else. Preferably something non-literary. Like mudding. Or watching mindless hours of television (British, preferably).

7. Re-read letter again.

8. DO NOT RESPOND.

9. Cross off magazine/journal/agent/editor from your list.

10. Move on.

If you didn’t catch my subtle hints, I’d suggest not responding to rejection letters. Make a note on your chart that someone passed and move on. The worst thing you can do is to write a response that’s mean-spirited, condescending, judgmental, and angry. You’re giving the person you queried yet another reason why they shouldn’t work with you, not to mention the fact that you’re giving yourself a bad name. People talk, and if you make a big deal out of one lousy rejection letter, it’s fairly likely that other people are going to hear about it and won’t be so interested in working with you. Publishing’s a relatively small community, and trust me, word gets around.

The only time it’s really acceptable to respond is to send a quick note thanking the person for their time, especially if you met them in person, they gave personalized feedback, or you were referred to them by someone else (ie: one of their clients). Aside from that, it’s best to just move on. A lot of agents have interns who handle their email, so chances are they may not see that response you send anyway. Unless it falls under the category of majorly unprofessional, in which case I can guarantee they’ll see it.

So, when it comes to professionalism, the bottom line is you need to maintain it at all times. Even when you’d rather not, it’s always best to think before you speak.

~~~

A former agency intern and lit mag manager, Sammy Bina is now the literary assistant at N.S. Bienstock in New York City. In her free time she’s busy rewriting her YA novel DON’T MAKE A SCENE. She tweets a bunch and has a new blog, which you can visit here.

Book Recommendation: Lola and the Boy Next Door

26 Oct

LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR by Stephanie Perkins
Published 9/29/2011 by Dutton
338 Pages

I’d been eagerly awaiting the companion novel to Stephanie Perkins’ ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS (one of my favorite books of all time), but when the release day finally rolled around, I completely forgot! To be fair, I don’t know what day it is on a very frequent basis. Luckily, I had Twitter to remind me. I was a few days late in picking up my copy, but I managed to snag one from a book store while passing through Grand Central.

Now, I feel like there’s an expectation that second things — second books, second movies — rarely live up to the first. (Pirates of the Caribbean, I’m looking at you.) I wasn’t worried about LOLA, and my non-concerns were confirmed when reviews started popping up online saying how wonderful it was. It’s taken me a while to get to it, but I spent the last two days devouring it, and I can happily say that LOLA is just as wonderful as ANNA.

First of all, how adorable is that cover? I love the colors, the fact that Cricket is wearing pinstripes and rubberband bracelets, that they’re sitting on a window ledge, and Lola’s wig. There are so many details I didn’t even notice until I’d finished the book and actually took some time to study the image. It’s absolutely perfect.

Like ANNA, there are so many things to love about this book. Lola’s wardrobe is incredible, and I kind of wish I’d been brave enough as a teen to pull off the ensembles she wore. Her dads are adorable, and having never been to San Francisco, I felt as if I’d gone on vacation after I turned the last page. I had that same feeling when I finished ANNA — as if I’d just returned from a vacation in Paris — which is testament to the research and details Stephanie weaves into her stories. It’s really some of the best I’ve seen (read?).

And Cricket… can we just all bask in the incredible love interests Stephanie creates? I am still head-over-heels in love with St. Clair, but Cricket is JUST as lovable. There isn’t a single point where I doubted his sincerity, and there were definitely times where I just wanted to hug him for being so wonderful.

The best part of the book, though, was the message: When it’s right, love is easy. Sure, there will still be problems, but they can be worked out. Imperfections make you perfect for someone else, and together you make each other better. Lola reminded Cricket of his gift, and he’s the reason she’s confident in herself. I love that, like Anna and St. Clair, their relationship took time. It was charming in its realism, and even the situation with Calliope was relatable. Plus, who doesn’t love figure skating? Let’s be real.

If you loved ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS, then I can guarantee you’ll love LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR. My heart swells just thinking about it.

~~~

A former agency intern and lit mag manager, Sammy Bina is now the literary assistant at N.S. Bienstock in New York City. In her free time she’s busy working on two YA novels, and contemplating a third. She tweets a bunch and has a new blog, which you can visit here.

Book Recommendation: Unbearable Lightness

12 Oct


UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS: A STORY OF LOSS AND GAIN by Portia de Rossi
Published November 2nd, 2010 by Simon & Schuster
272 Pages

Everyone, women and men alike, worry about their weight. Whether you’re naturally slim, or admittedly overweight, it’s something we all think about. How we can lose another pound or, in some cases, how to gain one. Portia de Rossi’s memoir is for anyone who’s ever worried what the world thought of them, or stared in a mirror and wondered if they were good enough, whether they were pretty/handsome enough. It’s a book everyone can relate to.

I think sometimes we forget that celebrities have problems. We see them on TV portraying a fictional person, or at an award show where they’re made up and dressed in clothes most of us could never afford. From our vantage point, they lead perfect lives. But this book reminds us that they’re human, too. That the pressure they feel to portray these people is real, and that, like the rest of us, they worry about what they wear, or how they look. If they’ll fit in.

Now, I never watched Ally McBeal as a kid. In fact, I didn’t even know who Portia de Rossi was until I started watching Ellen. She’d occasionally come on the show, and I liked her. Then, one day, I was watching an episode in which Portia was there to promote her new book. Interest piqued, I turned the volume up. She talked about her struggle with eating disorders and her fear of coming out. How her first marriage crumbled, and slowly, how everything else did too. Half the audience was crying, and there I was, sitting alone on my couch on a day I stayed home sick, sniffling and wiping tears away with the rest of them.

A week ago, a copy of Portia’s book fell into my lap, courtesy of one of my coworkers. I’ve spent the last few days with my nose buried in its pages while on the train, and while I cover reception for an hour every afternoon. It’s pretty impossible to put down, and not just because of the subject matter. Besides that, it’s well written to boot, and Portia wrote the entire thing herself. It’s raw, haunting, and in the end, full of hope.

What really gets you, though, are the details. The chipped bowl she’d eat out of so she knew exactly how much food was there. The fact that she ate with chopsticks so that the tuna lasted longer. The whole book is full of these heartbreaking moments, and it just sucks you in further and further. UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS is by far one of the best things I’ve read in a long time. I’ll probably be passing it off as a gift this Christmas, and I definitely need to get my own copy. I’d be proud to have this book on my shelf, and I think you guys would be too.

~~~

A former agency intern and lit mag manager, Sammy Bina is now the literary assistant at N.S. Bienstock in New York City. In her free time she’s busy working on two YA novels, and contemplating a third. She tweets a bunch and has a new blog, which you can visit here.

Forced Smiles For Reading

12 Sep

By Sammy Bina

~~~

Remember in high school when you were forced to read books you didn’t like? (HEART OF DARKNESS was a thorn in my side, from 11th grade to my super-senior year of college.) For a while you could get away with using Sparknotes or No Fear Shakespeare, but eventually you’d get stuck in that one class where the teacher was smart enough to quiz you on bizarrely random facts that you only would’ve picked up on if you’d actually sat down and read the book cover to cover (and sometimes, not even then!).

No matter what, at some point in your life, you’ve had to read something you really didn’t want to. It was painful. You’d rather listen to someone drag their nails across a chalkboard than read that book again. I’ve had a few of those pass through my hands over the past 23 years (not that I came out of the womb with a book in my hands, but you know what I mean), and no matter what, it doesn’t get easier. I’ve been required to read HEART OF DARKNESS six times since 11th grade, and you know what? By the last time, I couldn’t even force myself to get past the first page.

Over the years, I’ve done a lot of reading — some of it’s been amazing, some of it’s been okay, and some of it has been downright terrible. But there’s something to be said about books you don’t like, and that is the fact that they’re a great learning tool.

Now, hear me out. I’m not telling you to go reread your least favorite book a million times. I am, however, asking you to reconsider it. I was never a huge fan of FRANKENSTEIN, so we’ll go with that one for this demonstration. I had to read it for a Romanticism literature class in college, and I was beyond thrilled. I’d always wanted to read it, and loved the old black and white movie. As it turned out, however, I wasn’t a huge fan of the book. I’ve never been one for epistolary novels (novels told in letter format), so that was the first strike against it. I also didn’t appreciate the framing aspect of the novel, in that it was essentially a story within a story within a story.

But you know what? As much as I disliked that book, I read the entire thing. And I was glad that I did. First, I’d added another classic to my repertoire (which is still sorely lacking, I’ll admit). Second, I’d gained some insight into gothic culture (not always relevant, but at least interesting). Third, it made me a better reader. It made me a better thinker. I really had to sit down and think about the reasons I didn’t like the story, and what I thought could have been done to improve it. Obviously those changes will never be made, since Shelley is dead, I didn’t write it, and the book is a classic, but still. It forced me to consider other alternatives than the ones presented to me. It also made me appreciate other classics that I liked a lot better. As a writer, it helped me understand what kinds of things work in storytelling, and what would be better left untouched.

Sometimes, when we read, we have to paste a smile on our face. Maybe you’re reading something terrible for class, or a friend’s manuscript that isn’t your cup of tea. Maybe it’s a magazine article you disagree with, or an advice column giving out bad advice. Whatever it is, it’s best to go into it with an open mind. And even once you know you don’t like it, keep going. There is bound to be at least one thing you can take away from whatever it is that you’re reading, and you can always apply that to your own writing. With FRANKENSTEIN, I may not have liked the framing, but I could see why it worked. Though I would have preferred an actual novel, rather than letters, I think I now understand (or at least appreciate) why Shelley chose to present the narrative that way. No, I’ll never do those things in my own writing, but I’ve learned to accept — maybe even like, in rare cases — epistolary novels. So while I am still finding myself reading things I don’t always like, I’ve grown as a reader, as well as a writer. And I think that, in the end, is a worthwhile lesson to be had.

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Sammy Bina is the literary assistant at N.S. Bienstock in New York City. In her free time she’s busy overhauling her adult dystopian novel, THE AGE OF NEVER GROWING OLD, for the YA market. She tweets a bunch and has a new blog, which you can visit here.

Industry Trends

31 Aug

By Sammy Bina

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We live in a crazy time. The publishing industry is constantly changing, adapting to its readers and the technology they use. But where are things now, and where are they going? I had the opportunity to attend a lecture at NYU last night that covered exactly that. Libby Jordan, president of Misubu Inc., and Jay Ehrlich, executive director of online editorial for Women’s Health, put into words all the things I’ve wanted to tell you guys. And then some! (For the record, I’ve been drinking a lot of coffee lately. My brain’s a little bit whack. I apologize.)

Libby really delved into current industry trends. Did you guys know there’s been a triple-digit growth in self-publishing in the last few years? And to accommodate all these new writers and their audience, 3000 new publishers were registered in 2010 alone (95% of which were created strictly to serve  self-published authors). Crazy, right?

Nowadays we have sites like smashwords.com, lulu.com, authorhouse.com, and createspace.com that are there to help people who think they have a story to tell (another fun fact for you guys: 81% of the population wants to write a book). If you want to write a book, and you don’t want to spend the time looking for an agent, and consequently an editor, you’ve got loads of options. Some are better than others, so like any other major venture, you need to do your research. But the option is out there if you want it.

And how about that Amazon, ey? They recently announced that they, too, were planning to dive into the world of publishing. Which only makes sense when you consider the fact that they are responsible for roughly 80-90% of all print sales, and that they sell more ebooks than they do every form of print combined.

But with these new and expanding markets, there’s also some major competition. As a seasoned publisher, Libby spent some time talking to us about marketing, and what she’s found that works. And this information is relevant for any of you — published, or hoping to!

The first thing she told us was to remember that you can’t be wrong. Things change so quickly that you need to be willing to try new things. Best case scenario, you stumble upon something great. Worst? You don’t do whatever you did again. But there are proven methods…

– Sampling. More and more authors are posting the first chapter of their novels online, free of charge. The beauty of this is that we all like to try things before we buy them (For example, shoes!). And who doesn’t love free things? Sampling also creates buzz. Say you read the first chapter of someone’s novel online five months before the book came out. In those coming months, you tell a bunch of your writer friends about this great book you heard about, and they, in turn, check out the sample and then tell their friends. Everybody wins!

– Net galleys. Netgalley.com is definitely worth checking out, especially if you’re a book blogger. Once you sign up, you can download galleys (ARCs) of upcoming books. It’s another great way to create buzz for books that are coming out.

– Promoted tweets and facebook ads. Annoying at times, but worth their wait in gold. Both of these offer extensive analysis on the people clicking on your link. If you want to know that your key demographic is 14-year-old girls from Alabama, you can. So if you want to promote your book, twitter and facebook are great tools to utilize.

I tend to reiterate this a lot, but the more involved I get in publishing, the more useful twitter becomes. So this is just another service announcement telling you that, if you want to network, twitter is a great tool.

So many people these days are worried about publishing and where it’s going. Are books dying? The answer, my friends, is no! I truly believe there will always be print books. However, the shift toward digital publishing is obvious, and it’s moving fast. I think we all need to accept the fact that ebooks are here to stay, and in a big way. But publishing will continue to provide jobs, along with books (in multiple forms) to those who are looking. Libby and Jay especially noted SEO writing, video editing, design, coding, and social media as jobs that are definitely on the up and up.

But what about you guys? How are you feeling about the publishing industry as it continues to change?

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Sammy Bina is the literary assistant at N.S. Bienstock in New York City. In her free time she’s busy overhauling her adult dystopian novel, THE AGE OF NEVER GROWING OLD, for the YA market. She tweets a bunch and blogs every once and a while.

The Low-Down on Literary Magazines

8 Aug

By Sammy Bina

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The first thing you’re going to be told at orientation, whether it’s for high school or college, is to get involved. Sure, you get sick of hearing it after a while, but in retrospect, it was pretty solid advice. I did theatre in high school, but in college I was looking for something a little more English-y — it’s what I majored in, after all. Lucky for me,  the professor teaching my summer creative writing workshop was in charge of our university’s literary magazine and encouraged me to apply.

I’m convinced it was one of the best decisions I ever made. And for a plethora of reasons! {Clears throat.} Let me list them for you now.

1. I’d just transferred, and besides friends from high school, I didn’t know anyone. The people I ended up working with have become some of my closest friends. We all shared a common interest, but came from all walks of life. While the majority of the staff were English majors, we also had people studying languages, nursing, law, and art. The diversity of the staff meant a greater diversity in what we published. Something I might have overlooked because it wasn’t my cup of tea was snatched up by someone else, and in turn convinced me it was worth reading. It allowed us to put together really great issues semester after semester, ranging from zombie stories to ones about bizarre circuses, Jesus, and math. If we’d all liked the same things, the journal would’ve gotten real boring, real fast.

2. I learned to better articulate my thoughts on reading and writing. Which, you know, is always a good skill to have. Once a week the staff would get together to discuss what we’d read. Sure, there were some weeks where you just didn’t have time to get to anything, but most of the time you needed to be prepared to argue for or against a story. If half the staff thought a piece was too cliche, but you really loved it, you needed to be ready to defend it and explain why that cliche worked. I was extremely hesitant to voice my opinion at first, but eventually I learned that if I didn’t, stories I liked disappeared. So not only did I learn to articulate myself, I also gained a healthy dose of confidence.

3. It really prepared me for entry level publishing jobs. Most of these positions require you to do a lot of reading, as well as writing reports and handling general office work. By working for a literary magazine, you learn great time management skills because you have to keep up with the readings. We got hundreds of submissions every semester, and it’s difficult to catch up once you fall behind. On top of reading 3 to 5 stories a week (and even more during contest season), I also took care of the office. Mail, phones, planning release parties, you name it, I did it. I’m a freakishly organized person anyway, but if you want to learn organizational skills, become an office manager of a lit magazine. You’ll learn fast.

4. I was exposed to some really great writing. We’ve talked about this before, but I’d just like to reiterate this point. By opening yourself up to new genres and types of writing (ie: flash fiction, short stories, poetry, etc.), you’re doing yourself a huge favor. I admit, I still can’t write a decent short story, but I’ve certainly grown to appreciate them. When I go to Barnes & Noble, I actually seek out collections of short stories (if you haven’t checked out Anthony Doerr’s work, you totally should). The added bonus of working for a lit magazine is that sometimes you’re able to bring authors in to do readings, and while reading their work on the page is fantastic, seeing them in person is even better. Exposure, guys. It’s a great thing.

5. You learn to handle disappointment with grace. This is probably one of the biggest lessons I took away from my time at the Madison Review. No matter how much you love a story, sometimes you’re the only one. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, it won’t be published. I’ve sat through meetings where we were trying to decide on the final issue, and people stormed out crying because their favorite pieces weren’t chosen. In this business, you’re going to experience ups and downs, and it’s important to take things in stride. Maybe your story didn’t get chosen, but there’s always next semester. Glass half full, people!

Now, most large universities will have a lit magazine. In fact, you may have heard of some of them: The Madison Review (obligatory plug!), Ploughshares (Emerson), The Columbia Review (Columbia University), and The Iowa Review (University of Iowa). Some smaller schools put out magazines as well, but if they don’t, consider working for the paper. You’ll learn the same lessons, all of which are extremely beneficial. And if anything, you’ll gain a whole bunch of friends who love literature and writing just as much as you! And isn’t that what we all want?

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Sammy recently graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Creative Writing. She just moved to New York City, where she hopes to find a job in publishing. Her free time is spent editing her YA dystopian, SILENCE, and you can find her on twitter, or follow her blog.

Saturday Grab Bag

6 Aug

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!

Curious minds want to know: what are you guys reading this week?

Saturday Grab Bag

30 Jul

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!

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What We’re Reading

Sammy: TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee

Sarah: VANISH by Sophie Jordan

Savannah: A DANCE OF DRAGONS by G. R. R. Martin

Susan: THE BODY FINDER by Kimberly Derting

Mandy: THOU SHALT NOT ROADTRIP by Antony John

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Early August Debuts

CLEOPATRA’S MOON by Vicky Alvear Shecter (8/1)

THE NEAR WITCH by Victoria Schwab (8/2)

DARK PARTIES by Sara Grant (8/3)

HOOKED by Catherine Greenman (8/9)

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What are you guys reading? Excited for any upcoming novels? Let us know in the comments!