Tag Archives: Savannah J Foley

What Oprah Likes: Anathema or Must-Have?

16 May

by Savannah J. Foley

~~~

I recently saw someone online who could be classified as a ‘hipster’, ranting about how he would never read anything on Oprah’s book list, and looked down on those who do.

Now, we all know the stereotype: Suburban housewife who loves soap operas and celebrity gossip shows, crying when she watches Lifetime and breathlessly waiting for the next book in Oprah’s book club to be announced so she can meet up with her fellow soccer moms for ‘book club’ and complain about how they haven’t had time to read that week’s chapter.

But that stereotype isn’t true for a lot of readers. So why, when I was writing my review of  A MOUNTAIN OF CRUMBS, did I choose to decline to mention that Oprah had listed it as one of ’10 to Watch For’ in her magazine, O, in February 2010?

Is an endorsement from the queen of daytime television a prize or an albatross?

Let’s take a look at other books Oprah has recommended:

  • The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck
  • Night, by Elie Wiesel
  • Middlesex, by Jeffrey Euginedes
  • A Million Little Pieces, by James Frey
  • The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison

What’s so special about these five books? I’ve read them. I enjoyed them. The Bluest Eye is even one of my most favorite books of all time.

So… do I lose my street cred for this? (Do writers even have street cred?)

What if I told you that she’d also recommended The Hunger Games, in a list of books to steal from your teenager? Along with The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Number the Stars, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and Hatchet?

The woman has an eye for good quality fiction, no doubt about it. So the argument isn’t ‘why would you read any of the crappy books on Oprah’s list’ but rather ‘why would you read something that’s so popular Oprah endorses it?’

In essence, why are you so mainstream?

‘Mainstream’ has a negative connotation. It means ‘everyone’s doing it.’ It’s popular. It’s easily accessible.

It’s… bad?

Recently I was reading in the New Yorker -Oh, side note: I get the New Yorker. Does that make me pretentious? Or is it such a popular magazine that it makes me mainstream? Does it matter that I got a wicked deal on my subscription, $25 for one magazine a week for the whole year, or I never would have signed up? Does it matter if that matters?

Anyway, I was reading an article in the New Yorker explaining the phenomenon of hipsters, and the author gave a definition/origin I hadn’t heard before: Hipsterism came about when individuals made an effort to partake of a culture that wasn’t mass-manufactured, that felt more organically developed and authentic.

And, you know, I get that attitude. Don’t create me a product line to tell me what I’m going to be into next. I’d much rather figure out what I’m into on my own.

But then the hipster movement turned into a quest to find things that no one else knew about; to be ‘into’ something before every other alternative-seeker was into it, because at that point the product would be mass-manufactured and become ‘mainstream’.

But books aren’t mass-manufactured. Not in terms of ideas. A team of executives doesn’t get together and get market data for their target consumer and pay a team of engineers a lot of money to design an appealing product (unless you work for James Frey). No, each book starts out as a love project, a spark of inspiration in the writer’s mind. Are there trend-chasers? Sure. But you can tell which books chased a trend, can’t you? No one’s going to put them on a Top 10 list.

So I’m not sure that books should fit into a hipster’s worldview on mainstreamism. Oprah didn’t design the books to appeal to her audience; she selected beautiful, humanity-filled, enriching works of art.

So nobody should feel ashamed to be reading something on Oprah’s list. Personally, when I see a book with an Oprah’s choice sticker, I get an immediate impression about the book: it’s good.

But why take pride in reading only Oprah’s choices, or reading only Oprah’s non-choices? Just read what you like, and if you have a source that weeds out a lot of flak for you, more power to you.

What do you think? Should who else likes books that you like affect your opinion of a book?

~~~

Savannah J. Foley is the author of the Nameless (originally known as Woman’s World) series on Fictionpress and is signed with the Bradford Literary Agency. Her website is www.savannahjfoley.com, but she updates more frequently on her livejournal. She is currently working on editing Nameless to go out on submissions. You can read an excerpt from Nameless here.

Book Recommendation: A Mountain of Crumbs, by Elena Gorokhova

13 May

by Savannah J. Foley

~~~

A MOUNTAIN OF CRUMBS is everything a memoir should be… beautiful, insightful, and transportive. It tells the story of young Elena growing up in Soviet Russia, her fascination with the west, and her efforts to create opportunities for herself despite a culture irrevocably entangled in The Game, called vranyo:

“My parents play it at work, and my older sister Marina plays it at school. We all pretend to do something, and those who watch us pretend that they are seriously watching us and don’t know we are only pretending.”

AMOC takes the reader into the heart of Soviet Russia and plunks you down just before the author herself is born, so that we get a feel for her resilient, military doctor mother, and the struggles she endured to not only marry a husband who wouldn’t eventually die in the war, but care for her village which had no birthing center -until her mother wrote to Stalin himself for permission to set one up in her own apartment.

Like mother, like daughter. Elena was strong growing up, despite several mishaps that intimately portray what life was actual like in that place and time. That was what I loved best about this memoir; not only is it a story, but it’s an immersion and an explanation, a psychological peek into a culture far removed from my own.

Though Elena has lived in the United States for decades now, she still channels the perspective of her childhood and adolescence perfectly. She is the gateway, the translator, showing us something completely different while explaining it in ways we can relate to.

As an example of this different perspective, when Elena is a teenager she works for a tour agency that takes visiting foreigners on carefully structured and scripted tours of her city. The Russia the foreigners see is not the one that actually exists; with guards on street corners and lines for toilet paper beneath signs praising the Socialist Party.

One boy tries to give her a gift to thank her for her help during his visit, but from the gift shop he selects a beautiful silver bracelet. In the boy’s eyes he is giving her something pretty and special; a gift he would give a girl back home. A gift a girl back home would be delighted with.

But to Elena, the bracelet is a symbol of the freedoms he has that she does not. As a tour guide, she is allowed to enter the gift shop with her charges, but she may not purchase anything from it. No Russian can; the gift shop is part of the tour’s facade. It was created to show foreigners that Russians have nice things, but it’s all a sham, part of the vranyo. Besides, what good would a silver bracelet do Elena? She’d rather have a book, or a new pair of pantyhose. Those are the status symbols of her culture, not beautiful bracelets no one is even allowed to buy.

It’s not just the different perspective that I loved, however. Elena’s work is poetic, especially in the beginning as she describes the yellow waters on the shore of her family’s summer home, or the vivid imaginings her young mind produces as a result to every threat: Her father’s near-death on a fishing trip, monsters threatening from every dark corner, and the scents and textures of her grandmother’s garden. This was my favorite passage from the book:

“The o‘s in the Russian word for whirlpool, vodovorot, rolled down his tongue like a handful of peas.”

Billy Collins former U.S. Poet Laureate, of whom I’m a huge fan, even agreed to blurb this book, saying, it is “the Russian equivalent of Angela’s Ashes.”

The only thing I didn’t like about this book was that it ended! We follow Elena through to her marriage to an American in order to get a passport (a mutual decision), but shortly afterwards the book ends. I can’t wait for the sequel to be written so we can see how she reacts to America.

If you enjoy memoirs (like me!), or if you’re curious about Soviet Russia (especially if you like Russian fairy tales and want a bigger insight into the culture that produced them), I highly recommend picking up A MOUNTAIN OF CRUMBS, from Simon and Schuster.

Elena Gorokhova is represented by Molly Friedrich, of the Friedrich Agency.

~~~

Savannah J. Foley is the author of the Nameless (originally known as Woman’s World) series on Fictionpress and is signed with the Bradford Literary Agency. Her website is www.savannahjfoley.com, but she updates more frequently on her livejournal. She is currently working on editing Nameless to go out on submissions. You can read an excerpt from Nameless here.

When Your S.O. Misinterprets Your Actions as a Writer

9 May

by Savannah J. Foley

~~~

The other day I was looking up character names in a baby names website (something we all do, I’m pretty sure), and I got to thinking about how what I was doing could be misinterpreted by my boyfriend. Afterwards, I came up with the following list of scenarios that a boyfriend unfamiliar with writers might encounter with his new writer girlfriend. It’s mostly silly, but maybe you’ll laugh at one or two. 🙂

~~~

1. You leave your computer up on a webpage of baby names.

Misinterpretation: OMG she’s pregnant! Or she wants to have my children and is already planning out their names. Is this a hint? Was I supposed to find this?!

What Really Happened: You were using the list of baby names to find the most awesome name ever for your new character.

2. You talk to yourself out loud, in different voices.

Misinterpretation: You just went into full-blown metal disorder mode, a la A Beautiful Mind.

What Really Happened: You were just plotting really hard and accidentally vocally acted out some of the characters you were working on. It’s normal, really.

3. He catches you mock-strangling, -stabbing, or -shooting an imaginary victim.

Misinterpretation: You’re homicidal and you’re practicing for killing him.

What Really Happened: You were -again- acting out a scene in your book to get a feel for the actions and emotions. Totally normal.

4. Your browser history shows searches for “the perfect murder” and “poisons without antidotes.”

Misinterpretation: Surely this time you’re out to get him.

What Really Happened: Nope. Still figuring out plot details for your murder mystery subplot.

5. You stock up on chocolate.

Misinterpretation: You’re PMSing.

What Really Happened: Not this time. You hit a tricky part in your manuscript, and need some chocolate to get through it. Or you submitted something and are anxiously awaiting a reply.

6. You stop showering and suddenly avoid spending time with your S.O.

Misinterpretation: You’re trying to convince him to break up with you because you’re too chicken to do it yourself.

What Really Happened: You’re working hard on a deadline and literally forgot to shower/spend every waking minute working on your project.

7. You suddenly start spending more time “at the library” or “at a coffee shop.”

Misinterpretation: You’re cheating on him!

What Really Happened: You were just trying to give him some space since apparently your every action means you’re insane and trying to cause harm. This was your way of getting out of the house and having the time/space to, once again, focus on your project.

8. You start visiting thrift stores and “alternate fashion” stores.

Misinterpretation: You’re becoming a dirty hippie. You’re an artsy person, it had to happen sometime, right? This would also explain the no-showering thing.

What Really Happened: You’re researching styles of a particular decade.

9. You ask his cop uncle a lot of complex and detailed questions about law enforcement.

Misinterpretation: You’re considering a career change into law enforcement.

What Really Happened: Absolutely not! It’s just research! It’s ALWAYS research!

10. You change your degree from English or Creative Writing to something more mainstream, like Business & Management, or Computer Sciences.

Misinterpretation: Surely this time it’s a sign of giving up the dream, right?

What Really Happened: No, you just realized you don’t have to have the degree to be able to write well, so what’s the point? Might as well have a backup.

11. He catches you practicing your smile and posing in the mirror.

Misinterpretation: You’re an imaginative person, and so therefore you were pretending to be a movie star, for research, right?

What Really Happened: Actually you were just practicing for your author shot.

12. You sneak into your room on tiptoe, not making a sound.

Misinterpretation: He’s with the program now. He concludes you’re pretending to be a cat. For research. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

What Really Happened: …Actually, you were trying to see if your leftover toys from childhood move and talk when you’re not in the room. What? Writers never truly lose their inner child! Plus you saw Toy Story 3 recently, and, well… it was worth a shot.

~~~

Savannah J. Foley is the author of the Nameless (originally known as Woman’s World) series on Fictionpress and is signed with the Bradford Literary Agency. Her website is www.savannahjfoley.com, but she updates more frequently on her livejournal. She is currently working on editing Nameless to go out on submissions. You can read an excerpt from Nameless here.

Fandom – Lady Gaga Parody of Paparazzi

5 May

by Savannah J. Foley

~~~

Firstly, it’s been a weird week. Bin Laden was killed, Prince William and Kate Middleton got married, and north Alabama was ravaged by tornadoes. It’s weird to think that the area I live in is now considered a ‘Disaster Zone.’ My family and I are fine, but we were without power for 5 days (except for the three where I skipped town and went to Disney World, lol). At one point during the storm I was huddled in the bathtub with my cat and my laptop, which really shows you my priorities. But I was NOT going to let my stories get destroyed; if they went I was going too.

Anyway, the power outage was not only sad and stinky, but agonizing because I’m in the middle of revisions on Nameless. I was also in the middle of working on a special side project, which I am pleased to be able to share with you today. It’s a parody of the Lady Gaga song Paparazzi called Fandom. The parody is about a writer’s fandom and their dedication to the writer’s work. I wrote the lyrics and -eep!- sung the song. Hopefully it’s not too terrible.

For a long time I have thought about writing and singing songs for writers – songs about inspiration, editing, writer’s block, etc. However, I lack the vocal talent and I don’t play any instruments, so that project has pretty much been postponed indefinitely. Parodying is my way of reaching out, of bonding both with the original creator and my intended audience (in my imagination). Let’s just say that a lot of my car rides are dedicated to singing and coming up with parody lyrics about writing 🙂

I hope you enjoy this, and also that I don’t make your ears bleed.

…I’m only half-joking.

-Savannah

~~~

~~~

We are the fans
We’re making a stand
Got my blog on, it’s true
We’re all supporting you

It’s so magical
Your words are fantastical

At your release day
You’ll be amazed at our sway
A million sold overnight
You’ll cry at the sight

We’re your devotees
As long as you make books to read
Cause you know that baby we

[Chorus] We’re your biggest fans
And we all support your work in tandem
Fa-an, Fa-a-andom
You’ll be a best seller
Your success will not be random
Fa-an,-Fa-a-andom
Promise I’ll be true
Go to your signings until I meet you
Don’t know if you know
So I’m sending out this memorandum
Fa-an, Fa-a-andom

I’ll be that fan
Converting woman and man
Make them buy all your books
Cause you’re words have me hooked

In between release dates
You know that I can hardly wait

We’d kill for your ARCs
We drew you tons of fan art
From your work can’t be apart
You know in all of our hearts

We’re your devotees
And we love all your trilogies
Cause you know that baby we

[Chorus]

Waiting
In line at the bookstore
Flip through
Your latest hardcover
Can’t stop
Until we’re done
Your books are all
So! Much! Fun!

[Chorus]

~~~

Savannah J. Foley is the author of the Nameless (originally known as Woman’s World) series on Fictionpress and is signed with the Bradford Literary Agency. Her website is www.savannahjfoley.com, but she updates more frequently on her livejournal. She is currently working on editing Nameless to go out on submissions. You can read an excerpt from Nameless here.

Book Cook Episode 1: A Novel Creation

21 Apr

by Savannah J. Foley

~~~

Hey guys, today I thought I’d do something a little different and post this cooking show parody I call Book Cook; where we show you how to ‘cook’ a concept. Today I’m baking a novel. Watch to see how it’s done 🙂

PS: The video/audio quality isn’t the greatest, but I just got a new Macbook so the next one will be awesome!

[youtube.com/watch?v=uVq1RIDyi5M]

~~~

If you could cook a concept, what would you make?

~~~

Savannah J. Foley is the author of the Nameless (originally known as Woman’s World) series on Fictionpress and is signed with the Bradford Literary Agency. Her website is www.savannahjfoley.com, but she updates more frequently on her livejournal. She is currently working on editing Nameless to go out on submissions. You can read an excerpt from Nameless here.

Mistaken Newbie Writer Beliefs

7 Apr

by Savannah J. Foley

~~~

I have been a noob. Or, as I have often seen it called, a ‘huge, flailing noob.’ Now, I’m still pretty new to the writing business in general, despite having written over six complete manuscripts, having an agent for two years, and of course being a part of this blog. I don’t have a publishing deal, and obviously I’m not an old veteran, but there’s a difference between ‘new to the industry’ and ‘noob to the industry’, and I have definitely been a noob. Noob is unaware there even IS an industry.

I see a lot of mistaken beliefs out here on the internet, so despite the fact that I’m not the world’s greatest expert on writing and the writing business, I was hoping to use today’s post to clarify some of the most common mistaken beliefs,  in an effort at educating all those ‘huge, flailing’ noobs out there:

Mistaken Newbie Belief #1: I am God’s Gift to Publishing

Sigh. I’m guilty of this one. Without a peer group of writers at a young age, I thought I was probably the best, youngest writer of all time (OF ALL TIME!). Clearly that was not so. But it’s something I see over and over: new writers think they’re the best ever. And they lack the perspective to see that their writing actually needs a lot of work.

So if you think  you’re probably, like, at LEAST in the top 10 greatest writers of all time, you might want to step back and reconsider.

Mistaken Newbie Belief #2: My Work Will Be Stolen

I see this on the internet a LOT, and I experienced it first hand during the meet-ups for NaNoWriMo.

Listen very closely: No professional in the industry is going to steal your work. Seriously. Agents and editors are SWIMMING in writing. They have editing and agenting to do; they’re not going to steal your work and pass it off as their own. Then they’d actually be responsible for revisions and promoting and detailed analysis of characterization, and I promise you that they all believe that’s a job best left up to the writer.

Now, will people plagiarize your work if you post it online? Absolutely sometimes. Some of our own LTWF members have been plagiarized by users taking their stories and posting it somewhere else under a different name. Whether or not to post your work online is a big debate, with lots of good points on both sides, but again I say that editors and agents are extremely unlikely to try and pass your work off as their own, so don’t be afraid to query. Not for that reason, anyway.

Mistaken Newbie Belief #3: I Have to Copyright My Work

This ties right into what I said above. It’s a common misconception that you have to manually copyright your work or else it doesn’t belong to you. I even wrote an article about an encounter with a young writer who believed she had to mail her manuscript to herself before attempting to get it published.

(Confession: I emailed Nameless to myself. It was like 5 years ago, shut up).

The truth? Once you create something, you own it. You hold the legal copyright for it, whether you put that obnoxious little (c) sign by it or not (Pro tip: do NOT put the copyright sign in your query letter or anywhere on your manuscript when you query. It screams ‘noob’).

Mistaken Newbie Belief #4: The Bigger the Book the More Publishers Will Love It/The More Genres I Combine the Better

Who hasn’t fallen in love with the phrase ‘sweeping epic’? Who hasn’t once thought ‘omg my SciFi/Detective/Romance/Literary novel is going to be a game-changer!

The truth is that, though there are very minor exceptions, you need to stick to the word count acceptable for your genre, you need to actually HAVE a genre (something I still guiltily struggle with to this day), and the likelihood that your book combining two opposing genres will be a game-changer is about nil.

Here’s the thing about books that combine genres: No one knows where to put them on the bookshelf at the bookstore. And that’s a huge problem for agents, editors, and booksellers. If they can’t figure out how to market you, they won’t buy you. Period.

Mistaken Newbie Belief #5: My Book Will Appeal to Everyone

Could literally everyone who is literate read your book and probably not hate it? Yes. But that doesn’t make the world your audience. An audience is the people you target with your books, and the demographic that will most enjoy them. It’s not the diverse types of people who would, if waiting in a doctor’s office, pick up your book off the coffee table and be able to pass the time with it while they wait. Figure out your audience.

Mistaken Newbie Belief #6: Publishing is Dead/Publishing is Out to Get Me/I’ve Been Blacklisted/I’m Too Good for Traditional Publishing

I’m not an agent. I don’t see nearly the number of queries and complaints that agents do. But I see a few. In my experience, people who claim that the industry doesn’t understand them/isn’t worthy of them/won’t take the time to see that they’re sitting on a gold mine, are… bad writers.

Yeah, I said it. If no one will take your work, maybe it’s not that Publishing is a Good Ol’ Boys club, maybe it’s that your work isn’t ready yet. Keep trying.

Mistaken Newbie Belief #7: I Don’t Need an Agent

Yes you do. Yes, you do. YES, you DO. And this article by an Editor explains why better than I ever will.

Mistaken Newbie Belief #9: My Book Would Be A Great Movie

You should never write a book because you want/hope to see it turned into a movie one day. Writing a book about a story is a great way to NOT get it turned into a movie. Movie rights are complicated, and just because your book gets ‘optioned’ doesn’t mean a movie will ever get made, or that the people who optioned it ever have any intention of seeing it get made. Yes, I’ve heard stories about people who option books just so the movie WON’T ever have an opportunity to get made!

In short, have a great idea for a movie? Write a film script, not a book.

Mistaken Newbie Belief #10: It’s Going To Be Easy/My Book Will Be Out Next Month

Sure, there’s always that one person who writes a book in six months, signs an agent in month seven and sells in month eight. But is any of this easy? No, it’s just fast. Even on this ridiculously short schedule, the book could still take two years to come out.

Personally, I’ve had my agent for over two years, with no sales. Lots of writers (more than you think) sign with an agent for one book, it doesn’t sell, they write another, and that one sells. And it takes years.

Other people query for years to no success. Others don’t even get to the querying stage; they labor for decades on their novel until they feel ready. But even those people who have ‘miracle’ publishing stories still have to put in the time and effort into making a marketable product. They put in  hours over revisions, they brainstorm every spare minute, and they keep up with their day job at the same time. Fast it may be, but easy it is not.

~~~

Any other Mistaken Beliefs you see frequently out there on the internetz? Do share in the comments!

~~~

Savannah J. Foley is the author of the Nameless (originally known as Woman’s World) series on Fictionpress and is signed with the Bradford Literary Agency. Her website is www.savannahjfoley.com, but she updates more frequently on her livejournal. She is currently working on editing Nameless to go out on submissions. You can read an excerpt from Nameless here.

A Fan Letter to YOU

8 Mar

by Savannah J. Foley

~~~

I’m a rock star.

You probably know my story already (because I’m always talking about it, *facepalm*), but let’s make it explicitly clear: Let The Words Flow is a blog whose contributors were previous FictionPress writers, and that includes me. I enjoyed a pretty successful life at FP, and retain some of my fans from that time to this day. I’ve received a decent amount of fan mail, and I gotta be honest, anonymous readers are the people who have said the nicest things to me, ever.

Getting fan mail is like it’s your birthday and you got that one present you’ve always, always wanted but never realistically thought you’d get. Your face instantly brightens into a huge grin, you get the urge to squee and jump up and down, and for an instant all your hard work is worth it, for real. Yes, you knew that the hours spent editing and tweaking and brainstorming meant something, but when you get a fan letter it’s like the universe took a moment to show up and say ‘I definitely agree.’ It’s complete and utter validation.

In short, it’s awesome.

I was very, very lucky to have the experience I did, and I know that not a lot of young writers have it. So, if you’ve never gotten a fan letter before, or if you haven’t had one in a couple years, today is your day.

I’m writing a fan letter to you.

I’m a stalker.

I know that LTWF has devoted readers who visit us every day. You guys read, comment thoughtfully, and engage us in discussions and, occasionally, fangirl-like squeeing. We really, really appreciate you guys.

And we stalk you.

Ha, you thought it would be the other way around, didn’t you? We’re the ones posting, we’re in ‘the public eye’ so to say, and so you’d think we’d be out living our fabulous lives, blogging generously, and not really paying much attention to those peons who comment on our articles, right? Or maybe that’s just how I think of everyone who runs a successful blog… Anyway, the truth is that we’re interested in you. We look you up. We visit your blogs, read your work, and, yes, talk about you. Probably me in particular.

I kind of have a reputation behind the scenes… I’m known as the Stalker. Curious about someone? Bam, I can hand over their blog, second blog, Facebook, Twitter, myspace, FP account, etc. Yeah it’s mostly googling and a little basic detective work, but you get the point. I’m curious. I’m a voyeur. I’m a writer.

So, I can safely say that I know you. A little, anyway. I know about your struggles in school, your worries about editing, about never writing again, about being a fraud, your family trouble, your stress about finals, your stress about picking colleges, your stress about finding a job, your worry that being a writer is so hard and takes so long and you’re going to be poor and anonymous and your stupid characters won’t just tell you what they want, etc.

I know. I’ve been there. I know how hard it is to get it done, and how insecure you feel after. I know what it’s like to struggle silently, unable to really talk about your work with family or friends because they just won’t get it. It’s why you hang out here.

Yes, I know you. And I think you deserve a fan letter of your very own. So here it is, an amalgam of my responses to the stuff I’ve seen on your blogs, your Twitters, and your FictionPress account.

You’re a rock star.

Dear Writer,

I hope you don’t think I’m a total stalker [though I kind of just admitted to you above that I am], but I just wanted to say that I’ve seen you around online, and the other day I happened across your blog where you had a sample chapter of your current novel posted. And I loved it. I couldn’t help writing you to tell you about it.

Seriously, you are SO talented! I kind of had my mouth open in shock that someone so young could have such a powerful grasp on what makes a great story. I was so upset when I got to the end of your sample because I wanted to read MORE right then! I can’t wait until this gets published and I can have a copy of my own.

Honestly, I think I stumbled across your work a few years ago, and I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but you have improved so much in the past few years. If you ever think your writing is crap, just remember how far you’ve come, and that you’ll only continue to develop. I could really tell you’ve been working hard at getting better at your craft; it shines through in the realistic way your characters interact, and how strong their voices are. I couldn’t stop thinking about your MC after I was done -I was still thinking about them the next day!

I also saw on your blog that you’re going through some tough times, trying to make some big decisions that might have an effect on your writing life. I don’t know you personally, and of course you’ll make the right choice for you, but I just wanted to say that you should definitely not give up on writing, ever. Even if you have to go to school and work at the same time, it’s clear that your heart is in writing, and I know you’ll find a way to make it work someday. You have to. You’re obviously meant to do this.

Just wanted to let you know that I’m cheering for you, and I’ll be first in line when you get a book deal 🙂

Never give up!

Love,

Savannah

~~~

Seriously, if there’s something you’ve been meaning to say to a writer or blogger, professional or not, just say it. If they’re in a slump you will instantly kick them out of it, if they’re having a bad day you will instantly brighten it, and if they’ve been doubting themselves you will instantly cure them. And then they’ll make more of the stuff you like to read. 😛

~~~

Savannah J. Foley is the author of the Nameless (originally known as Woman’s World) series on Fictionpress and is signed with the Bradford Literary Agency. Nameless  is currently out on submissions. Her website is www.savannahjfoley.com, but she updates more frequently on her livejournal. You can read an excerpt from Nameless here.

Sassy Does Not Equal Strong

1 Mar

by Savannah J. Foley

~~~

I confess to you guys so much I might as well be a Catholic school girl and you guys are my priest. Well, get into your confession box because I’ve got another one: I hate sassy characters.

I don’t know when the myth that strong female character = sassy began, but I’m here to stop it.

First let’s define sassy so that we’re on the same page:

Dictionary.com: fresh, impertinent, impudent, overbold, saucy

Merriam-Webster: impudent, vigorous, lively

Of these words, I’d like to pull out saucy and impertinent. When I think ‘sassy’, I think of someone who is really sarcastic to the point of rudeness. She is primarily defined by her ‘attitude’, and her mouth is always turned up in a smirk. She rolls her eyes a lot. She had demeaning nicknames for authority figures. In real life we’d call her a raging brat, but she seems to get a pass in the world of fiction.

I get that there might have been a point in time where girls weren’t usually sassy, so to see a sassy character come along and kick butt was unusual, and enjoyable. But in today’s society no one’s keeping girls down (as much), and sassy, to me, comes off as unnecessary. Cynical, sarcastic MC who goes off on long, internal asides dedicated to hyperbole about a hypothetical outcome of her current situation? Boring and exhausting. I cringe. I’ve just seen it so much, and I don’t find it interesting any more.

But maybe that’s just me. I’ve never really been one for sarcasm, so maybe it’s a matter of personal taste. Here’s my real problem: Sassy automatically gets a pass as a ‘strong female character’. If your girl talks back to an authority figure, BAM! Sassy! Vocal! Strong!

Therefore, I think that a lot of young writers might lean towards sassy characters in an effort to shortcut their way into a ‘strong character.’ But strength doesn’t lie in the causticity of a verbal sting. Strong characters are always developed through their actions.

You’re probably heard of Active vs. Passive characters. Active characters propel the story, while passive characters are pushed through the story by external events. If your character smarts off while getting dragged around against her will by another character, she’s being passive (even if her mouth isn’t).

I googled to get an accurate picture of what everyone else thought were strong heroines, and I came up with the following list of books that star strong heroines:

The Secret Garden

The Bean Tree

Clan of the Cave Bear

Jane Eyre

Memoirs of a Geisha

True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle

Ella Enchanted

Sabriel

Island of the Blue Dolphins

A Wrinkle in Time

Does anyone see any ‘sassy’ characters? And yet these are all very popular books with very strong heroines.

I’m not saying sassy can’t be done right. But sass (and its sister sarcasm) are like very powerful seasonings – they can make a dish, but too much can break it. And most of all, beyond her sassy personality, your heroine should be active in creating her own destiny. Then she can make a few snide remarks about it 😉

Happy writing!

~~~

Savannah J. Foley is the author of the Nameless (originally known as Woman’s World) series on Fictionpress and is signed with the Bradford Literary Agency. Nameless  is currently out on submissions. Her website is www.savannahjfoley.com, but she updates more frequently on her livejournal. You can read an excerpt from Nameless here.

Revisiting Jealousy

11 Jan

by Savannah J. Foley

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Almost a year ago I wrote a post called FictionPress and Jealousy, in which I talked about the negative feelings that sometimes result from comparing yourself to other writers. A few months later, Sarah wrote a post called The Writing Community’s Kryoptonite…AKA Jealousy, in which she talked about how jealousy harms not only the jealousee but the jealouser. (Yeah, you love it when I make up words.) Yesterday Susan Dennard wrote a post about ‘keeping your eyes on your own paper’ when comparing yourself to other writers.

Now, I don’t want you guys to think I’m a big green monster all the time, but jealousy has reared its ugly head for me again here recently, and since it’s the new year I figured it’s time to get it all out there and let it go.

For Christmas I received Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. You’ve probably heard of it; it’s a great memoir/writing instructions book, like Stephen King’s On Writing. Anne devoted a whole chapter to jealousy, including real-life examples, and I think what puzzled me most is her reaction to jealousy (indeed, her reaction to a lot of writing-related problems). Anne recommended removing the person who causes you to be jealous from your life.

Now, in her situation I can understand. Anne had a friend who was already pretty well off who then landed a six-figure book deal. Meanwhile, Anne’s husband was out of a job and she was barely making ends meet, and the friend would call to talk about her book deal and how exciting and scary it was, making statements like, ‘I guess God is just giving me money this year.’ And Anne is right there nodding along and saying ‘yup’ because if she says anything else she’ll just scream or cry.

Anne felt the problem was with her, until she realized that her friend knew that Anne’s family was in financial trouble, and still called to discuss the 6-figures she’d be receiving shortly. Anne didn’t feel the woman was bragging, but it was still really insensitive.

Solution: Distance self from friend.

But is that right? Can you really go through life weeding out people who make you feel bad, especially for something so slippery as their own good fortune?

What about when one of your good friends has something awesome happen to them, and even though you’ve helped them reach their goal, you still find yourself turning green in the face? What about when you see some random person on the internet who’s #1 on the NYT best-sellers list with their first book and they’ve only been writing for a few years? Or you see some stranger’s announcement on Twitter that they signed a 10-book deal and Oprah’s already scheduled a viewing with them?

You can’t just ignore or block out everyone who makes you feel jealous, especially if they’re your friends. Therefore we are back at square one: How do we stop feeling jealous, or, how do we manage our jealousy?

Personal confession time. Recently a friend of mine had something really awesome happen to them. Like, super awesome. My first reaction was shock, followed by a brief spurt of excitement, but then as the details came rolling in of how super-fantastic, once-in-a-lifetime, omg-you-can’t-be-serious this news was, something far more sinister bloomed within me: shaking, raging, can’t-breathe jealousy.

I felt like I’d been leveled with a hammer. One part of me wanted to cry and yell and say really nasty things, and the other part knew this was completely ridiculous and I should be excited for my friend, and why wasn’t I like other people who felt secure in my own good fortune to the point where I didn’t envy anyone else?

To try and get over it, I took my dog for a walk to clear my head. I thought, you know, being out in nature and whatever would calm me down and make me realize that I was awesome enough that I didn’t have to be jealous of anyone. But it didn’t happen.

Instead this acid-pit kept threatening to erupt in me. I couldn’t catch my breath. I hated what I was feeling; I didn’t WANT to be that horrible, jealous friend who couldn’t just be happy for the success of others. How was my friend’s success harming me? How was her happiness detracting from me in any way?

It wasn’t. But my feelings persisted. They persisted for weeks. I tried not to tell anyone because we attach such a stigma to jealousy, but I did share a bit of my disappointment with my boyfriend. Okay, a lot of my disappointment. To the point that when a friend of mine landed her first book deal and I shared the news via IM, his first reaction was, “I’m sorry, Savannah.”

I sat there looking at the screen, horrified. “No, no,” I typed. “This is great! I’m not upset.”

How could I be wanting-to-die jealous of one friend, but excited for another? Why couldn’t I talk myself out of my negative feelings? It made me realize some fundamental facts about jealousy:

Jealousy is not logical. It stems from our own insecurities, which are as varied and changing as we are. I can’t predict when news is going to make me smile in joy or frown in anger. I can only withstand the onslaught.

Jealousy is not easily banished. There’s no quick fix for jealousy. There’s no inspirational quote, yoga pose, chocolate bar, spoken word, reassuring hug or anything that is going to fix it. Only time.

Jealousy does not mean there’s something wrong with you. Despite how I disagreed with Anne about some points and philosophies in her book, I am grateful that she showed me how everyone is jealous at some time. No one is so spiritually secure that they’re never jealous. For some reason I thought that professional writers never get insecure, despite being told that over and over again. For some reason Anne made me ‘get it’.

Jealousy made me scared. I was terrified one of my friends was going to find out, and then I’d be ostracized for daring to feel inadequate. I didn’t want my negative feelings to be a burden on anyone, so I kept them inside. But my feelings were aching to be released. I found myself making passive-aggressive comments, hinting at my unhappiness but not daring to make it fully known. What I really needed to do is have a positive conversation about my negative emotions. I needed to talk with a friend about it, someone I could trust to not let me devolve into gossiping about my friend with the good news. Someone who could say ‘yeah me too, lol, we’re so lame, now let’s move on.’

The thing about jealousy is that you get over it eventually. My jealousy-levels are way lower than they were a few weeks ago. I’m not totally zen about it yet, but I’m hoping that one day I won’t care anymore.

In the meantime, I’m going to go about my business and accept that I don’t have to feel happy and satisfied all the time. I’m going to use my jealousy as inspiration to work harder so I too can be successful.

What about you guys? Anything making you crazy with envy lately? Let’s get it out of our systems and move on already!

~~~

Also, just an FYI that the book I’m working on had a name change. Previously known as Woman’s World, then  Antebellum, the new title I’m working with is Nameless. You can read a sample chapter here.

Savannah J. Foley is the author of the Nameless (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. Nameless  is currently out on submissions. Her website is www.savannahjfoley.com, but she updates more frequently on her livejournal.

Happy Holidays from LTWF – With a song!

24 Dec

We know many of you will be busy or traveling over this weekend, so we thought we’d leave you with an inspiring, holiday-themed song parody, sung by Susan, with lyrics by Savannah!