Tag Archives: reading

Forced Smiles For Reading

12 Sep

By Sammy Bina

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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.

~~~

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.

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Interview with Tara Hudson, author of HEREAFTER

4 Jul

by Susan Dennard

You all may recall my gushing recommendation of Tara Hudson’s Hereafter a few weeks back. Well, I am now absolutely ecstatic to share my recent interview with her!

Born and raised in Oklahoma, Tara Hudson graduated with a degree in law, mostly because she believed all the horror stories about English majors and their careers in the food-service industry. Luckily, she soon remembered how much she loved telling ghost stories, particularly to her girlfriends who liked visiting abandoned cemeteries as much as she did. Tara currently lives in Oklahoma with her husband, son, and a menagerie of ill-behaved pets.

Let’s get started, shall we?

So, Tara, when did you first start writing HEREAFTER? Was there any sort of inspiring moment behind it (like dreams of sparkly vampires—ha!)?

I actually remember the exact date I started writing HEREAFTER – April 14, 2009 – because I still have the email that I sent my best girlfriends, asking them to read the first chapter. But my inspiring moment, or event, happened in 2000, when I drew “first straw” to present a short story in my college Fiction Writing Workshop. I always had a fascination with old cemeteries (their history, their eerie sense of watchfulness), so I wrote a story about the type of person who might wake up in one. That early story haunted me, and almost ten years later, it grew into HEREAFTER.

Wow! That’s…impressive–I love that it’s been an idea boiling in your mind for so long. And I gotta say, you pull of the cemetery-creep-factor really well! When you set out to actually write it, were you a plotter or pantster?

I was a plotter, especially for HEREAFTER. I wrote the entire original manuscript based off of an outline, that set out a chapter-by-chapter sequence of events. But with ARISE, the second book in the Hereafter Trilogy, I totally pants-ed it. And you know what? The spontaneity worked, because I think ARISE blows HEREAFTER out of the water!

GASP! Oh my gosh, Tara, now you’ve got me drooling for ARISE. If the author thinks it’s great, it must be fan-freaking-tab-ulous! Plus, how awesome is that title–ARISE!? Now, tell us about your agent. Who is she and how did you win her heart?

My agent is the fantastic Catherine Drayton of InkWell Management. She was my dream agent – she represents Markus Zusak and Becca Fitzpatrick, for pete’s sake! – and I didn’t think I had a snowball’s chance of landing representation with her. But she read my entire manuscript over the course of one weekend and liked it. She didn’t offer me representation right away because she wanted me to do some revising. Lucky for me, only two days after I started revisions, Catherine received a call from HarperCollins looking for something along the same lines as HEREAFTER. With my permission, Catherine pitched my manuscript and Harper loved it. Of course, I wasn’t surprised when my new editor – the equally legendary Barbara Lalicki – wanted the exact same revisions Catherine had suggested!

Wow. My jaw is kinda on the floor with that story… HEREAFTER is (as I have told everyone) amazing, but to hear the concept was so high that editors wanted it just like that… Well, go Tara! So now that you’re all published (wee!), what are you working on now?

Right now, I’m winding down revisions for ARISE and starting my outline for ELEGY, the final book in the Hereafter Trilogy. I’m also vacillating between two new projects – another YA paranormal and a YA fantasy – both of which I kind of love.

Awesome! I can’t lie that I’m really excited to hear you’re working on new projects–it’s my purely selfish desire to read them!! Finally, do you have any big words of writerly advice?

You can do this.

I get how that might sound trite, or like something your mother would say. But when I was writing HEREAFTER, I had a really demanding day job. Then, after I sold HEREAFTER and began revising it, I still had that day job as well as a brand new pregnancy. Then, after HEREAFTER was finished and I was under an intense deadline to write ARISE, I had the intense day job and a brand new baby.

And you know what? I did it. With all those life responsibilities, I wrote two books of which I’m extremely proud. So whatever you’re struggling with while trying to write or query or submit or revise, you CAN do this, mostly because you love it that much.

We can do it! I’ve been terrified of tackling my own book 2, and I gotta say: you’ve made me feel better, Tara. This is wonderful advice and so, so true.

Thank you for taking the time out of your very busy life to answer my questions, and I can’t wait to see your other books in stores. (No seriously, if there’s anyway you can hook me up with an ARC for ARISE… ::nudge, nudge::)

Now, for those of you Americans out there, Happy Fourth of July! Go out and read Hereafter–you won’t regret it!

~~~

You can learn more about Tara Hudson on her website , blog, or twitter!

Susan Dennard is a writer, reader, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. She is repped by Sara Kendall of NCLit, and her debut, SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY, will be available from Harper Children’s in 2012. You can learn more about her on her blog or twitter.


Shadowed Summer: a book recommendation

17 Jun

by Susan Dennard

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(Note: this is a repost from my personal blog–this book is just too good to not spread around!)

Don’t judge this book by its cover. 😉

No really–we have to be honest: it’s not the most eye-catching cover ever made.  Ignore that because Saundra Mitchell’s Shadowed Summer IS one of the most entertaining ghost stories I’ve ever read. Ever.

Iris is ready for another hot, routine summer in her small Louisiana town, hanging around the Red Stripe grocery with her best friend, Collette, and traipsing through the cemetery telling each other spooky stories and pretending to cast spells. Except this summer, Iris doesn’t have to make up a story. This summer, one falls right in her lap.

Years ago, before Iris was born, a local boy named Elijah Landry disappeared. All that remained of him were whispers and hushed gossip in the church pews. Until this summer. A ghost begins to haunt Iris, and she’s certain it’s the ghost of Elijah. What really happened to him? And why, of all people, has he chosen Iris to come back to?

There are two things that make this novel strong–two things that pulled me in so deeply, I didn’t want the story to end.

1) Iris’s voice. She is Southern America at it’s finest, and the twang on those pages stayed in my head for days! The accent just slides off the page, and I felt like I was back home in Georgia. On top of that, Iris is such a likable heroine. She’s tough, but uncertain. She’s new to boys, but curious. She’s worried to learn the truth, but she’ll do whatever it takes to do the right thing.

2) The setting. Oh man, did rural Louisiana come to life for me! I could feel the humidity, hear the cicadas, imagine the cold sodas and boiling sweat. Maybe it was so vivid since that’s what I grew up with (well, no sodas…darn parents), but I really think Mitchell is also just an incredibly deft storyteller.

So, if you’re looking for a non-romance paranormal YA, a quick and absorbing read, or just something set in the South, don’t miss Shadowed Summer!

Have you read this? Have you read anything else by Saundra Mitchell?

~~~

Susan Dennard is a writer, reader, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. She is repped by Sara Kendall of NCLit, and her debut, SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY, will be available from Harper Children’s in 2012. You can learn more about her on her blog or twitter.

Book Recommendation: I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

18 Apr

Markus Zusak rose to prominence with the success of his lyrical and intensely emotional novel The Book Thief, and obviously, when Zusak shot to fame I was thrilled that a writer I had loved since I was twelve was getting some much deserved attention – but sometimes I feel like his other novels get ignored, when they’re also absolutely stellar.

In particular, I Am the Messenger is amazing, and spoke to my heart. I went back and read this book again, recently, and like The Book Thief, I Am the Messenger has prose that stuns with its vibrancy, humour and emotional depth. In a pitch-perfect voice, Zusak expertly twists together phrases that sit so well in the mouth of his average, slightly lower class suburban protagonist, giving them a zinging beauty. Every single scene is memorable, and there’s a profundity behind the words despite how casual and effortless it all seems.

Here’s a summary of The Messenger, snatched from goodreads:

Meet Ed Kennedy—underage cabdriver, pathetic cardplayer, and useless at romance. He lives in a shack with his coffee-addicted dog, the Doorman, and he’s hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence, until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery. That’s when the first Ace arrives. That’s when Ed becomes the messenger. . . .

Chosen to care, he makes his way through town helping and hurting (when necessary), until only one question remains: Who’s behind Ed’s mission?

Winner of the 2003 Children’s Book Council Book of the Year Award in Australia, I Am the Messenger is a cryptic journey filled with laughter, fists, and love.

The plot of  I Am the Messenger is creatively structured, around a set of heroic missions, in which Ed has to deliver certain messages. The book plunges to the depths of human suffering and the heights of redemption, never sugar-coating and never sliding and never sliding into melodrama. Without spoiling too much, we see families cracked wide open by abuse, and the way random acts of kindness can be everything to those experiencing poverty. It’s dark, this book, but funny, too, and at times it slips into an almost surreal quirkiness and self-reflectivity.

I Am the Messenger has one of the best endings I’ve read in YA. It fits perfectly, pushing through the page with resonance, inspiring the reader on to greater heights in their everyday life. You’d never notice it while reading, because the story is so entrancing, so expertly crafted, but this book is social commentary at its finest. Witty, and refreshingly bittersweet, rather than unrelentingly dark and nihilistic.

And now that I’ve raved for a while, I’ll leave you with the first few lines:

The gunman is useless.
I know it.
He knows it.
The whole bank knows it.

How can you resist an opener like that?

~~~

Vahini Naidoo is  a YA author and University student from Sydney Australia. Her currently untitled debut novel, a YA psychological thriller, is scheduled for release from Marshall Cavendish in Fall, 2012. She’s represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. You can visit Vahini over on her blog or twitter.

Revisiting Your Writing Resolutions

25 Jan

by Julie Eshbaugh

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We are quickly approaching the end of the first month of 2011, and I thought today would be a good day to look back at our writing resolutions, assess our progress, and consider any new goals we should be setting.

At the start of the new year, we here at Let the Words Flow made the following resolutions:

My writing resolution is to be a more patient writer.  Right now I try to force my writing too much.  My goal is to let my writing flow more naturally.

-Julie

Gah, just one resolution? There’s a million things I want to do better. I just finished Bird by Bird and it’s really inspired me. Mostly though, I want to experience more. Whether that means reading more or just getting out of the house, I want to open myself up to more possibilities for inspiration.

-Savannah

After all the cookies I’ve been eating, I want to make use of the gym that’s included with my ridiculous tuition… but a more writerly resolution is to focus on one writing project at a time instead of jumping between several.

-Jenn

Oh, New Year’s resolutions….:] As far as writing goes (though I suppose this applies to all aspects of my life), I resolve to start practicing what I preach and develop my patience. Things will happen. Things will come. Just need to work at it, not fuss over it

-Kat

I have so many resolutions this year, but I think I’ll agree with Kat and say that I’d like for 2011 to be the year I learn to be patient. I’ve got a lot of waiting ahead of me this year (with QUEEN OF GLASS coming out in 2012), so learning to be patient will be a pretty useful skill! And I’d also like to stop eating so many double stuff oreos.

-Sarah

My resolution is to find a balance: between keeping up with my client’s needs, answering submissions, completing conference talks, meeting deadlines, and promoting current releases, there is always a lot to do. My Hope for 2011 is to continue the juggling act. And not drop any balls.

-Mandy

My resolutions this year are pretty simple for once! I want to complete the 2011 Debut Author Challenge, and finish up the manuscript I’m working on. Nothing too exciting from me this coming year!

-Sammy

As I read through these, I noticed that they could be broken down into three neat categories:

1.)    Patience (Julie, Kat, and Sarah)

2.)   Self-Discipline (Jenn and Mandy)

3.)   Reading more (Savannah and Sammy)

Since I think it’s probably safe to assume that other writers are struggling with similar goals, I’ve decided to look at each of these three and discuss tricks and tactics to help make these goals more easily attainable for all of us.

~~~

Patience…

I’ve yet to meet a patient writer, so if being more patient is one of your 2011 resolutions, you are in GOOD COMPANY!  Here are a few suggestions to make patience more attainable:

~ Keep busy!  Nothing makes the time pass more slowly than watching your inbox.  Start a new project.  Try turning off your internet/email access for a half an hour while you write.  You will not only feel more patient, you will stay more focused on your writing.

~Accept the things that are out of your control.  Agents need time to consider submissions.  So do editors.  Even once you have that long-awaited book deal, you cannot control your release date.  Instead, focus on the things you can control.  Take your time with your current project rather than submitting it prematurely.

~Find a good listener.  If you have a writing buddy, turn to that person when you feel like the waiting involved in writing is getting to you.  Avoid voicing your frustrations on your blog or through your twitter account!

~~~

Self-Discipline…

As a writer, you answer to yourself on everything from what you write to when you write it.  Here are some tips for holding yourself accountable and staying on course:

~If you feel like Jenn and want to focus on one project instead of starting three more, try concentrating on the end result – that completed manuscript!  There is definitely a long, dry hike between the thrill of starting something new and the satisfaction of seeing it finished.  If you are tempted to start a new project because you’ve gotten bored with the routine of your current task, mix it up a bit.  Try writing sprints; write as many words as you can in a set amount of time – say ten minutes.  You will need to go back and edit, but you will see your word count growing and feel inspired to stick with it.  Word sprints are even more fun if you can do them with a writing buddy.

~Budget your time.  If you’re like Mandy and wear several hats every day, it’s important to realize that you can’t do everything at once.  Decide which responsibility is going to get your full attention for a particular period of time, and commit yourself to that task.  Worrying about ten tasks at once only makes you less effective at all of them.

~Set small goals that you can keep, so that you don’t feel like a failure as soon as you start.  If your goal is to “write every day,” accept the fact that 15 minutes before you go to bed may be all that you can spare at times.  Allow yourself to “succeed” by keeping your goals realistic.

~~~

Reading…

We can’t be good writers if we don’t read, but how often have you heard a writer say that they don’t have time to read because they are too busy writing?  Here are some thoughts to help you get your reading done:

~Read what you like.  If EVERYONE is talking about a particular book but you just can’t get into it, don’t force it.  Granted, I do believe that you should be familiar with what people in your target audience are reading, but there will be books you prefer to others.  Read the ones you enjoy.

~Discover new authors.  Sammy has encouraged us all here at LTWF to join her in the 2011 Debut Author Challenge.  Reading newly published authors is a great way to stay inspired (and to keep your eyes off that inbox!)

~Read for research and inspiration.  If you have a strong curiosity about Machu Picchu, don’t feel guilty reading an article about it in a travel magazine.  Machu Picchu might turn out to be the setting of your next novel.  Or maybe you want to read about genealogy, or sailing, or asteroids.  Give yourself permission to read about things that seem unrelated to your writing.  You never know what might spark the idea for your next WIP.

Are you succeeding with your writing resolutions?  Have you already abandoned them?  Have you re-imagined them?  Please share your experiences in the comments!

~~~

Julie Eshbaugh is represented by Natalie Fischer.  She is also a freelance editor. You can read her blog here and find her on Twitter here.

 

Taking Tips from the Movies and TV

24 Jan

by Susan Dennard

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One thing you’ve probably heard in your writing-career is that it’s important to read.  Perhaps people have told you how to “read like a writer” by analyzing characterization, scene, syntax, and all the other stuff that goes into a novel.

Well, reading can take time, and dissecting can take even more time.  But the same things you see in a book you can see in a movie.  The key is to watch a movie like a writer.  Seems obvious, right?

It occurred to me while I was watching The Walking Dead. You may or may not like the show (there is some definite Cheese Factor and plot unbelievability), but there are a few things I think the creators do really well that keep viewers coming back for more episodes.  And these things got me thinking…

There are a some common elements in all popular stories, and if you keep your eyes peeled, you can easily spot them and use them yourself!

**Sorta spoilers below for The Walking Dead and Pride & Prejudice…  I try to be vague, but some things might be revealing.  Sorry.**

1) Within the first 15 minutes of the first episode of The Walking Dead, I was invested in the story and attached to the hero, Rick.  Why?  Because Rick showed immediately that he was 1) brave (he’s a cop), 2) devoted to his family, and 3) in a really crappy position (um, waking up from a coma to find the whole world has turned into zombies and your family is missing?  SO NOT A GOOD DAY).

Give your readers a reason to care about and respect your protagonist as soon as your story starts. Show your protagonist as the underdog, show your protagonist helping others, or show your protagonist putting on a big smile even those his heart aches, and your readers will have something to instantly latch onto and appreciate.  (Note: don’t go overboard — make it appropriate to the story.  No on likes a Mary Sue or a Mary Jane.)

2) As The Walking Dead episodes progressed, I kept my eyes peeled for other aspects that kept me interested.  The most obvious thing this show has is conflict — but not the kind you’d expect.  Yeah, there are zombies everywhere trying to eat Rick’s brains, but most of the show’s drama revolves around relationships. For example, Rick’s wife thought Rick was dead, so she started having an affair with Rick’s police partner — OOPS.

Conflict isn’t just about external plot; it’s also about tough decisions, strained friendships, blossoming love, disagreeing goals, self-defeating guilt, etc. Harrowing external events aren’t usually enough to keep a plot interesting.  The tension stays high when characters have to deal with conflict within themselves and amongst themselves.  Above all, it’s conflict that matters because it’s conflict we can relate to.

3) In one of the first episodes, one of the characters makes a Really Bad Decision — he leaves someone behind as zombie food when he could have saved the person.  In later episodes, it’s revealed Mr. Zombie Food managed to survive and is now at large in Atlanta.  As a viewer, I know Mr. Zombie Food is going to come back and be a Really Big Problem for the guy who made the Really Bad Decision.

Every decision has a consequence — usually bad or at least not what the character expects. Stories are more than just cause and effect, they’re decision and consequence.  Good decisions can have bad consequences, bad decisions can have good.  But if the consequences are immediately good, you’ve got a very short story.  The best-laid tales show an ever escalating series of decisions and consequences until the final showdown where things are all wrapped up (for better or for worse).

4) And that escalation leads me to my final point.  Life for the characters is bad — like really really bad — and it’s only getting worse as each episode progresses.  Every step forward leads to two steps back, and that leads to me tuning in every week!

The stakes keep rising and rising until the end. What began as one man’s quest is now several families (oh no!  there are more lives a stake!).  What seemed like it might be a solution (a cure for the virus) proves to be a giant death trap (oh no!  There is no cure!).  Every safe haven the characters think they’ve found proves to be a zombie wasteland (oh no!  there is no escape!).  If you can keep escalating the consequences of decisions (a là element #3) and also escalate what stands to be lost, you’ll have a real page turner on your hands.

Looking at Other Kinds of Film

Action TV isn’t the only place these rules can be found.  Throw Pride & Prejudice in your DVD player (faster than reading the book, remember?  But the book is AMAZING — I definitely recommend it), and you’ll see the same things happening!

Element #1: Elizabeth Bennett is the most clever daughter in a household of ninnies (she is a witty and endearing heroine); her family is bordering on poverty (she is a heroine in underdog circumstances); and she wants nothing more than for her sisters to find good marriages and be happy (she is a selfless and loving heroine).

Element #2: While there is some external conflict (illness, unwanted suitors, cruel Bingley sisters) much of the conflict stems from Elizabeth’s interactions with others and her own inner turmoil.  She doesn’t hit it off too well with Mr. Darcy (lots of lovely tension in those scenes!).  She has to deal with her horribly embarrassing mother in public settings (ugh, so much awkward conflict).  And eventually, she has to deal with her guilt/regret over how she treated Mr. Darcy (inner conflict).

Element #3: Every decision Elizabeth makes leads the story in different directions and has resounding consequences.  She learns the truth about Mr. Wickham, but chooses not to reveal his shady history.  As a result, her sister Lydia runs off with him.  She dislikes Mr. Darcy because of his snobbishness, and as a result rejects a marriage proposal that would have elevated her family to prosperity.

Element #4: Elizabeth’s sisters need to make good marriages in order to provide for the rest of the family, but one by one, their options disappear.  Jane loses Mr. Bingley; Elizabeth rejects Mr. Collins; Elizabeth’s mother embarrasses the family at every turn and lowers any chance that the Bennett girls will attract good husbands; Elizabeth rejects Mr. Darcy; Lydia shames the family by running off like harlot.  You have to turn the page to find out how it will all work out for the Bennett sisters, and most importantly, to find out how it will work out for Elizabeth.

Applying it to Your Stories

When I set out to write The Spirit-Hunters, I laid out all my favorite novels, movies, and shows and I figured out what elements I liked best, why I liked those best, and how I could use them in my story.

Now it’s your turn to do the same!  Grab your favorite films and TV shows, and pay close attention!  I bet you’ll notice elements 1-4 in play, and what you need to look out for is how the elements are executed.  Maybe the hero is introduced right after he got fired from work (element #1), or maybe every episode shows the heroine dealing with dark secrets (element #2).  Whatever the use, is there some way you can infuse it into your own story?  And are there other things you see and want to use in your writing (maybe a spine-chilling ghost or a passionate love scene)?

Good story-telling is good story-telling, no matter if the medium is film or prose or smoke circles, so why not learn from the people who’ve already done and done it well?

~~~~

Susan Dennard is a writer, reader, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. She is repped by Sara Kendall of NCLit, and her debut, The Spirit-Hunters, will be available from Harper Children’s in 2012. You can learn more about her writing process, crazy life-thoughts, and crippling cookie-addiction on her blog or twitter.

Saturday Grab Bag: Mashup and What We’re Reading

9 Oct

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!

  • Adult Literary Fiction Can Bite Me: A YA Manifesto
  • – YA lovers rejoice!! There are people (even librarians!) sticking their necks out for Young Adult books. This is one hilarious argument – with some very valid points! Only problem? Plot A sounds WAY better than Plot B!

  • Take Yourself Seriously if You Want to Get Published
  • – “The bottom line is that the person who is blabbering and whining on to a room full of strangers at a workshop or on a writing forum online is the one who is telling everyone else how insecure they are” – Great post on the right attitude needed to get published.

  • Quick Revision Checklist
  • – An awesome (and quick!) revision checklist (which has some great things to look out for – highly recommended!)

  • I Will Be Your Friend, But I Will Not Be Your Fan: A Rant About How Authors Use Social Media For Self-Promotion
  • – People say taking marketing and promotion into your own hands as an author is a great thing. But here is an interesting take on why authors shouldn’t self-promote (with some very valid points).

  • Hunger Games – Banned Book at School?
  • – Banned Books Week has come and gone (and again, thanks to everyone who participated in it!), but sadly, the call for banning still continues. I guess it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that someone would want to ban The Hunger Games, but calling it “filth” and claiming it desensitizes children to violence is absolutely ridiculous (and totally wrong).

  • Will Tweet For A Book Deal
  • – An article on why aspiring writers (or especially witty, funny, in-the-know people) should stay on Twitter (and how it can lead to landing an agent/book deal).

  • Alice Kuipers Writing App
  • – For all you writers on the go, here is an app (for the iPhone or the iTouch) full of writing tips – all at your fingertips! Pretty damn cool if you ask us (and written by author Alice Kuipers!).

  • How NOT To Get Published
  • – You’ve heard of and have read the horror stories about the road to publishing and its mishaps – but if you want to make a fool of yourself, here’s a list of ways to NOT get published. Very funny, and very true!

  • Pitch Session
  • – Natalie. M. Fischer, literary agent extraordinaire, talks about her pet peeves when it comes to face to face pitches (at conferences) – and also adds what she likes. Very helpful and insightful post!

 

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Biljana and June showing some love for Mandy! ❤

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Quotes:

“My breakthrough with the first book came through persistence, because a lot of publishers turned it down!”
— J.K. Rowling

~~~

What We’re Reading:

Savannah: Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

Kat: Lessons From a Dead Girl by Jo Knowles

Julie: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Vanessa: Rereading The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley

Sammy: Lady Lazarus by Michelle Lang

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Share any interesting links/quotes you’ve come across. Reading an interesting book? Let us know that too in the comments!

And also, THANK YOU to everyone for the blogoversary congratulations – you are THE BEST!


The Smell of a Good E-Book

9 Sep

by Savannah J. Foley

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A few months ago I was given a Nook. I would never have purchased one of my own accord, but now that I had one, I had to face my own stereotypes about e-books and e-readers, and have since become a convert.

There’s still a strong debate going over whether e-readers have come to destroy the world as we know it. Writers and readers get up in arms about this topic quite easily, so today I thought we’d explore some e-reader stereotypes, and what I’ve discovered since owning one:

Stereotype 1: I could never use an E-Reader because I love the way books feel and smell.

Eh, I don’t mind as much as I thought I would. I love books, too -the smell the, feel, the wing-like sound they make when you flip them with your thumb… I love them, honestly, but I think roughly the same argument about e-books could be applied to music: People didn’t want to switch from Vinyl to Cassettes, and from Cassettes to CDs, and from CDs to virtual albums. But now we listen to our music online, on our laptops, on our iPods… you can download individual songs without ever seeing what the album looked like. It’s the same with e-books: the data is the same.

Did virtual music kill physical album releases? No. Will e-readers kill physical book sales? I doubt it. (See this article for elaboration)

Stereotype 2: I like being able to flip through books in the bookstore before I decide to buy them.

If you’ve ever previewed a book on Amazon, you know that’s a cop-out excuse. But, the cool thing about the Nook at least, is that if you go to a Barnes & Noble you can sample books using the store’s own network. The only disadvantage is you can’t scan through pages quickly like you can with an actual book.

Stereotype 3: If I buy into e-readers, then I’m a traitor to the cause.

This is the most prevalent stereotype I’ve seen. I feel like writers are afraid that if they embrace e-readers they’ll be labeled either hipsters or traitors, and I think this stems from unfair prejudices about e-readers.

We’re human. Often, we fear change. E-readers came along, and they’re the first evolution of book formats in centuries. Music has certainly undergone some rapid changes, but books have remained the same until now. I think it’s natural that we would feel some apprehension and nostalgia. I remember when e-readers were first introduced, everyone was in a hysteria, asking, are books dead? Is the publishing industry failing? Will self-publishers ruin us all? Writers are going through the same trials that musicians started going through in the 90’s. But the music industry isn’t dead, and neither is the literary one; we’re just evolving.

E-books are a fact. Digital rights are being worked into publishing contracts. Digital books aren’t going away. This resistance will fade in a few years, just as resistance against iPods and DVDs flagged.

And, let’s think to the future… do you think the evolution of book formats is going to stop here? Hell no! In a few decades we’ll have foldable virtual devices. We’ll be able to flip holographic pages at the same speeds as analog. If you truly object to not being able to touch the page you’re reading, just give it ten years and a virtual option will be available to you.

Conclusion:

You don’t know until you’ve tried it. You can talk about theory and preferences and what you feel like now, but until you’ve spent some time with an e-reader you just don’t know how you’re going to like it. I remember when I got my first cell phone, I was disgusted. What do I need a cell phone for? Then, what do I need texting for? Email on my phone? Internet browser? I didn’t know what I was missing until I had it.

And it’s not like I’ve thrown out all my physical books. I still have boxes and boxes of books, and I probably will forever. I like having physical books on my bookshelves. There’s just some stories that I want for my personal library, physically beside me while I write. But when I’m running around town, I want my little Nook device in my purse, not taking up much space, and ready to whip out at a moment’s notice.

Additional Benefits of the E-Reader:

  • If you drop your book in a lake, it’s gone forever. If you drop your e-reader in a lake, you can re-download the books onto another e-reader.
  • I can take my whole library with me in my purse.
  • I can download a new book and be reading it within two minutes. I don’t have to go to a bookstore or wait for one to ship something to me. I see it, I want it, I click it, I read it. That simple.
  • E-books are cheaper (generally; see this article for the reason why some stay so expensive). I buy books I never would have normally, because the price is so good.
  • Lots of e-books are free. I can read classics and public domain books for free. Sometimes bookstores even give away new books for free as a way of generating interest.
  • You can customize your text and font on an e-reader. I can make it any size and style I want; whatever helps me improve my reading experience.

Drawbacks of the E-Reader:

  • I wanted to loan my mom The Hunger Games… only to realize I had it on my Nook. So I either have to loan the entire device to her (not gonna happen), or wait until e-readers are standard enough that everyone has one.
  • Flipping pages. Boy, do I love to flip pages and search for stuff. But that’s a really slow process on the Nook.
  • You have to charge it. Once I left my charger at work over the weekend… by Sunday I was sitting on my couch staring at a wall because I’d run the battery into the ground.

What are your thoughts on e-readers and our future?

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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.

The Consequences of Not Reading

31 Aug

By Savannah J. Foley

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Where writing is concerned, I didn’t make a good transition from teenager to adult. When I was in high school, I read two books a day and spent all evening entertaining myself with writing. After I graduated, the mix of a full-time job and occasional night classes left me with no access to free books, and little budget to purchase them. (True, I could have gotten a library pass, but for some reason public libraries freak me out. I know, it’s totally unbecoming a writer, but I can’t help it.)

As a result, I’ve read very few books over the past three years, but I didn’t understand the consequences of this until recently.

A few months ago, I was gifted with an e-reader (I blogged about it here). E-books are fairly cheap, and I thought that this was my opportunity to get back on the reading bandwagon, but I slacked off. Then, a few weeks ago, I had to fly to New York for a family reunion, and brought my trusty Nook along with me so I could read on the plane. There, with a newly-purchased, digital copy of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (which I highly recommend), I came to a horrifying realization: I had forgotten how to teleport.

Words on the virtual page weren’t translating directly into images. I wasn’t immersing in the world, or story. Instead, I was very conscious of how individual words looked, and kept getting distracted by noises around me, or the feel of my seatbelt or armrest. I thought, ‘this must be how people who don’t like to read feel!’ I could never understand before why people in my English classes would complain about hating to read. Not being able to mentally teleport into the book was surprisingly un-fun. I just wasn’t getting into it.

So, I buckled down and made myself keep reading. I was so thankful when my mental teleportation device came back. I resolved that whatever else, I must keep reading.

Since then, I’ve kept my Nook with me everywhere. I read on my lunchbreak, at stoplights, while cooking dinner, etc. I got through the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, and read Stephen King’s It, which was a life-long goal of mine.

And I noticed a change in my mental behavior. I found myself daydreaming more, going off in tangents inside my head that had to do with stories. I composed poetry to myself as I was going to sleep. When I sat down to write, I felt like I had ideas in me ready to pluck, instead of being an empty container. In short, my creative juices were flowing again.

This was a hard-learned lesson, but a valuable one: As a writer, you MUST keep reading in order to stay inspired. Your mind is like a lake; you must have inspiration flowing through in order to not go stagnant.

I thought I could survive as a writer without reading, but I was wrong. Don’t make my same mistake.

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“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” – Joseph Addison

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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.