Friday, July 31, 2009

Those Magazine Articles Were Meant For Me To Find

Okay, interesting story that once again suggests that something wants to me to do certain things. Thank goodness they always involve reading somehow and not mopping the kitchen floor (which hasn't been done in a very long time) or washing windows.

I recently subscribed to Publishers Marketplace, and I'm getting that Publishers Lunch e-mail newsletter thing they do every day. That's how I came to learn last weekend that the August issue of Gourmet carried an article about Margaret K. McElderry, as in Marget K. McElderry Books, the imprint at Simon & Shuster. I tried to find the article on-line, couldn't, and thought nothing more about it.

Until, that is, I went to the library on Tuesday. In order to get to the YA section, I had to pass the periodical racks (which is all we have now because of overcrowding) and what is staring, right at me, but the Gourmets! And I now have the August issue with the article, Lobster Lessons by McElderry's grand-niece-in-law (in my family we've discussed just how far you should go with the official naming of in-law relationships), Aleksandra Crapanzano.

Lobster Lessons would make a lovely movie, one of those "small films" I used to watch on weekends while all the guys were off camping and the testosterone level around here had dropped a notch or two. Crapanzano is a screenwriter and maybe she'll think so, too, and rework this material.

And by the way, the very night I read the Gourmet piece I reached the point in Minders of Make-Believe at which Margaret K. McElderry enters the picture.

So there you have one magazine story. Here's the next one:

One of my faithful readers suggested I look up some work by Erika Dreifus who has written an e-book on markets for essayists. As a result, I found Dreifus' blog, Practicing Writing, where she often writes about markets. Her July 24th post, however, mentioned The Atlantic's Summer Fiction Issue. That's nice, I thought. I've read that other summers. And I thought nothing more about it.

Until, yesterday, that is, when I was on one of the marathon hunting and gathering expeditions I go on every three or four months. I was walking through Barnes & Noble on my way to Panera to refuel for the next five hours of collecting sheets and lamps and towels, when what do I see but a magazine rack on which there is one last copy of The Atlantic Summer Fiction issue.

One last copy. It was so clearly meant for me.

So far, all I've finished reading is an essay by Tim O'Brien called Telling Tails. It is fantastic. Just wonderful.

I love it when it is clear that I am meant to do something, and I'm actually able to figure out what that something is and do it. No. No. What I mean is that I love it when it is clear that I am meant to read something, and I'm actually able to figure out what that something is and read it.

Note: In case you noticed this post hopping around the blog, I had trouble uploading it yesterday.

More On That New Frog And Toad

Oz and Ends has a more detailed response to the news about a new Frog and Toad.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Subject For A Children's Book?

I've been watching bits and pieces of Le Tour de France these last couple of weeks while riding a stationary bike or walking on a treadmill. And now it's over! What will I do? Last night the TV station that had been running Le Tour was carrying something called cage fighting. Let's just say it didn't call to me.

Le Tour will play a part in the 365 Story Project, which led me to wonder if there are any children's books on the subject. I wasn't able to find any. What do you think of the idea of a middle grade novel about kids in a town that wants to be a stop on the tour?

I don't know France, and I don't know competitive biking, but I'd read that.

Training Report: I've had the two best work days I've had in months. Maybe in many months.

Why Don't We Go After The Adult Market?

While I was at that Margo Lanagan talk, I learned that Tender Morsels was published as an adult book in Australia. There will be a YA edition down under, but it isn't out yet. There are also adult and YA editions of the book in England.

England also did an adult and kid version of the Harry Potter books.

I think adult readers would be very interested in Tender Morsels. I think they'd be interested in Octavian Nothing, too. Same with The Book Thief. Fortunately, we live in a free country here in the U.S. of A., so they can read them if they want to.

But they'll never want to if they don't know about them. Sure these books are famous in kidlit circles. But most adult readers are not part of our circle. They have to know these books exist. I hate to say it, but they need to be marketed to.

I know I'm a lone voice on the subject of adults and picture books and will probably remain so. But, come on! They market YA to adults in other countries. I'm not suggesting something revolutionary.

Or do we Americans figure adults over here bought Harry Potter and Twilight without anyone having to make a special effort so we just aren't going to?

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Bears Are So Much Better Than Fairies. And Dragons.

I should have hated Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan. It's set in one of these fantasy worlds where everyone has made-up sounding names (possibly because they are). It seems as if it might be an allegory, which try my patience. And the characters address each other in contrived ways, referring to mams and babbies and suchlike. (Oops. It's catching.)

But I didn't hate Tender Morsels. Not at all. Reading Tender Morsels is an experience. It's a dense, meaty book, chuck full of stuff, and it took me close to a week to get through it. All the time I was reading it, I felt I was being exposed to something very unique, that I was most fortunate to have stumbled upon this title.

And there were no fairies or dragons! The bears, on the other hand, were quite riveting.

And to think I'd been looking at this book at my library for months and would never have picked it up (it being a fantasy), if not for the Brits getting all in a lather over it.

If you missed Meg Rosoff's take on Tender Morsels back in April when she was serving as a judge for the Battle of the Kids' Books, check it out. "I knew almost immediately that I was reading something utterly astonishing."

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Truly A Life In Books

The Guardian has a terrific article on Penelope Lively, the only author to win both the Carnegie Medal and the Booker Prize--for Moon Tiger, which I loved.

Interview With Holly Black

Lee Wind had an interesting interview with Holly Black up at I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I read? last week. Instead of asking her to describe a "typical" work day, he asked her to describe a "perfect writing day." The difference is subtle, but I think meaningful because, as Black said, perfect writing days almost never happen. He also asked her to describe the difference between how she approaches writing middle grade vs. YA fiction. A good question, which she answered by saying that she tries to remember what it was like to be at the appropriate age herself.

The answer was interesting to me, anyway, because I don't think I do that. I think that, for the most part, I identify with young people of the appropriate age whom I've known as an adult.

In addition to speaking at next month's SCBWI Summer Conference, Holly Black will be appearing this fall at the Connecticut Children's Book Fair.

Friday, July 24, 2009

I'm Not Big On Photo Covers, Anyway.

Just days ago I made the decision to stop stalking...I mean following... Justine Larbalestier by way of her blog. I'm always adjusting my blog reading. I find that business of the twenty-four hour day problematic as far as doing all the things I want to do. So I had to give up some daily visits to lit blogs to add author blogs like Justine's, then I had to give up some daily visits to author blogs to add agent/editor/and general writing blogs.

Plus in my experience all one-sided Internet relationships run their course. First I drifted away from Jane Yolen. Now I'm drifting away from Justine.

However, no sooner do I start to drift, than all hell broke loose down under regarding the cover of Justine's new book, Liar. Actually, all hell broke loose all over the Internet.

Holy Moses.

The new blog Pimp My Novel has a couple of posts on book covers, Judging a Book By Its Cover and Better Late Than Never.

Training Report: Went to the Connecticut Science Center today. Someone is going to go to a science museum in the 365 Story Project.


A New Frog And Toad

I read once that the Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel are the finest I Can Read books ever written. You'll get no argument from me.

The discovery of an early Frog and Toad book is wonderful news. Even if this frog and toad are not exactly the Frog and Toad we've known these thirty years or so, readers who love them will appreciate the opportunity to see how they evolved.

Perhaps this book will show us Frog and Toad in a tadpole stage.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

This May Explain The Fascination With Holmes

For years I've been wondering about and speculating about whether or not kids today are interested in Sherlock Holmes. The author of The Return of Conan at Guys Lit Wire offers a theory.

"Conan the Barbarian in one of those iconic characters--like Sherlock Holmes or Dorothy Gale--that people think they know without bothering to read the actual stories they appeared in."

This has inspired another line of speculation on my part. Perhaps Holmes has become a mere celebrity these days, famous for being famous. Therefore, we don't have to worry about tossing him into a book or movie because people will know about him because...he's famous.

Thanks to Oz and Ends for the link.

Training Report: Don't ask.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Upcoming Connecticut Events

Fish Tales, Tugs & Sails is coming up this Saturday in New London. (New London is very close to Groton.) This is a "nautical-themed family event promoting literacy and the environment." Among the authors appearing are two I know--Dana Meachen Rau and Mary Newell DePalma--and one I've heard speak--Jeanine Behr Getz.

I have family stuff going on Saturday, the kind of family stuff that involves setting tables and washing vast quantities of dishes. I will be thinking of New London, especially if the weather is good.

Then for two months a consortium of eastern Connecticut libraries will be inviting local authors to showcase their books. They're calling this series The Connecticut Authors Trail.


My Trip To See Margo Lanagan Was Meant To Be

I drove down to a library about forty minutes from here last night to hear Margo Lanagan speak. (Look! She has a blog! I will have to read it for a while.) I am halfway through Tender Morsels and liking it a great deal. I just happened to have picked it up from the library before I heard she was going to be speaking nearby. I know when I'm being sent a message from the...whatever...and I definitely pay attention.

As I left home last night to head toward the coast, a family member said, "Hope you'll be able to understand her," since he was aware that Lanagan is from Australia. I felt that she sounded far more like Emma Thompson than Crocodile Dundee. I brought my camera just in case I got the nerve to take pictures. I didn't. Particularly since I couldn't have done it in a subtle way, since there were only twelve of us (counting the librarian) in the audience.

I was, and continue to be, appalled. This woman is an internationally known award-winning author and justifiably so. What the hell was going on in Groton last night? Was the fleet coming in or something? (That's a Connecticut joke because we all know the sub base is down there.) I've spoken to crowds so small I would have been grateful if they'd reached a dozen. I usually speak to crowds so small I would be grateful if they reached a dozen. But this was Margo Lanagan, who just had a Printz Honor Book talked up at the ALA Conference! There was a dessert reception and you had to pay for tickets and everything!

Okay, they only had cookies and lemonade at the Groton Library...but it was free!

It's going to take me a while to get over this.

Anyway, as a general rule, I enjoy hearing authors speak, but I don't care to listen to readings. I need to see the printed word before me. (I am definitely a visual learner--I have to take notes after taekwondo class so I can read them later in order to retain anything about what just happened.) But Lanagan's readings last night made me want to read Black Juice.

Black Juice is a book of short stories, and you know that I tend to dwell on short stories.

Training Report: Still more on the 365 Story Project! And I updated my Amazon blog for the first time in a month, since there is now a remote chance that some reader will find it.


Monday, July 20, 2009

If You're A Fiction Writer, You Should Be Able To Do This

I just stumbled upon17 Reasons Manuscripts are Rejected last week. I particularly liked No. 1 "The writer uses the phrase ‘fiction novel’" and No. 14 about tone and attitude. "Reid says she gets a lot of queries from writers who don’t like agents, and those writers are often open about their dislike. She suggests not revealing that you dislike agents."

I would love to see some of those queries.

Training Report: Finally got back to work on the 365 Story Project! Well, barely. It's a start, at least.


Could We Use Some More Books On This Guy?

Vermont and New York are celebrating the 400th anniversary of Samuel de Champlain's arrival on the lake they share. When I heard about this I, of course, immediately thought, Historical' books...

I didn't find a lot. Champlain by Christopher Moore looked the most appealing, though the leveled reader Samuel de Champlain by Elizabeth MacLeod might be interesting because it's for such young readers.

It's not a picture book, though. I was hoping for a picture book.

And Champlain married a twelve-year-old girl who was nearly thirty years younger than he was. Doesn't that situation just scream for a really mature, disturbing YA novel?


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Fairy Land

Back in April I posted A Hiking Story With Fairies, but I had no pictures to illustrate it. Today I went back to the Fairy Circles, an area within a park within a state forest. This place is such a fixture that it's actually included on the trail maps.

What you're looking at here is a picture of a fairy house with little fairy outbuildings and another picture of a fairy mailbox.

Then there is my own personal favorite, Fairy Cobra guarding a fairy dwelling. (Hope you can see it.)

We're in the midst of monsoon season here in southern New England, and though it had stopped raining around 8:30 this morning, the park was steamy and jungle-like. The Fairy Circles weren't quite as adorable as I remember them being back in April. In fact, one of the people with me said, "This just gets creepier and creepier," as we walked among them. One family member who has worked in an after school child care center told us that kids she worked with would build little fairy structures like the ones we were looking at and pretend that they, themselves, were the fairies living in them.

But they'd fail to tell anyone else that these were their fairy homes and the little domiciles would end up being destroyed. Sobbing, chest-beating, and tearing of hair ensued.

I bet those kids will grow up to hate fairies.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Inciting Revolt?

A couple of days ago, The Hartford Courant carried a mini-article (originally from The Washington Post) called Let The Kids Decide. The piece's author cited Richard Allington of the University of Tennessee and stated that children should be allowed to read whatever they want in the summer.

The juiciest tidbit: "Adults rarely pick books kids want to read. (In a study of books that librarians selected for awards and books that chilren selected as best books over a 30-year period, the overlap was only 4 percent.)"


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Those Pesky Picture Books For Adults

I went to the library on Tuesday for a much needed book stock-up. Ms. Eileen, the children's and YA librarian, was helping me find a picture book I'd seen mentioned on our library's blog when she started talking about beautiful picture books that adults love but kids not so much. She brought up the subject. I didn't.

She said there are beautiful picture book biographies, some of which she's not buying because the kids in the local grade school can't use them for reports. "They come in with a page requirement," she explained. The kids have to read biographies that are longer than these picture books, which remain on the shelves.

And which shelves? Ms. Eileen said that shelving them is a problem. Do you put them in biography where they won't be used because they're too short? But if she puts them in with picture books, the picture book crowd won't know what to make of them because they have a lot of text for traditional picture books.

My suggestion, of course, was to place them in an adult area where adults can find them. Older children may feel embarrassed about reading picture books, but we adults are above all that, right? These books are beautiful and the subject matter is interesting--at least to grown-ups. They deserve to be published. But why do we have to insist they're for kids? What's wrong with publishing these things for adults?

If publishers were to create a category of picture books for adults, such books might become more desirable to older children--and to their teachers and parents who want them to read Big Kid books.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Is Social Networking Replacing Anything Or Just Doing Its Own Thing?

Becky Levine had an interesting post at her blog a couple of weeks ago on whether or not Facebook and Twitter will replace author websites and blogs. What was particularly interesting was that some of her commenters didn't seem that enthused for seeing that happen.

I am all about communication. Social networking sites like Facebook may be fine for socializing, but I don't see the kind of quick communication happening on Facebook pages that happens on a well-done website. When I want information on authors new to me, I want to immediately find links that will take me to a page describing their work, a link to a page describing their background, and a link to a page describing their appearances. I want neat, orderly information that I can get to quickly. If I don't find it, I leave.

Look at the difference between Meg Cabot's Facebook page and her website. Now, maybe if I signed up for Facebook, I could get more content about her. But I don't have to do anything to get a whole lot of content from her website. If I am a brand new Cabot reader who has been living in a cave for the last decade, I can find out about her books, I can read her bio, I can see what's new in her work life, and I can find out how to buy her books. If the information isn't actually on the homepage, a link is there that will take me to what I want to know. Her website can grab me and pull me in with facts, facts, facts.

I think part of the reason people want to move away from websites is that for most of us websites are difficult to create and maintain. You may need a computer guy to do it for you. Money will often change hands. Blogs are much easier. Companies provide a sort of template and usually don't even charge for it. But I've said it before and I'll say it again--blogs are not websites! They serve a different function! They are about personality. Websites are about information.

From what I understand, Facebook is pretty easy to use, too. But it still seems to serve a different function. It's called a social networking site. Social. Websites, on the other hand, are informational.

Twitter appears to try to merge the personality of a blog with the social networking of something like Facebook. That's fine if you like that sort of thing, but does Twitter offer the information traditionally found at websites? Can a reader of a 140 character tweet immediately find information about authors' books? If not, then Twitter isn't replacing websites. I can see why writers might like it because if you do have a following, you can remind them you exist all day long. But that means its function is different from a website's function.

Different is totally fine. Different doesn't mean replace, though.

Besides, some people think Twitter is for old people. I don't know why. Maybe the theory is the elderly have attention spans that will only hold up for 140 characters.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

But Development Is Hard. And Vast.

Editor A.Victoria Mixon guest blogs for Nathan Bransford with a post called Everything You Need To Know About Writing a Novel, in 1000 Words. She begins with a discussion of plot, I'm assuming because plot is so gawdawful.

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Will I Meet Margo Lanagan Next Week?

I picked up Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan at the library today. The library has had it since February, and I'm the first person to take it out. (We still use stamped sheets attached to the book covers, which I love because I like to see what kind of action the book has been seeing.) This is not a comment on Tender Morsels by any means. I can't tell you how many times big name YA books--often big name YA books that are very good--don't move much at our library. We're not what you'd call a literary town, as I may have mentioned before.

After I got home, I learned that Margo Lanagan will be appearing next week at the Groton Public Library. That's the Groton Public Library, Groton, Connecticut. And she'll be speaking from 7:00 to 8:30 PM.

That's actually doable for me. And you did notice that the event lasts less than three hours, right? Custom made for moi, whose attention hits the wall at the three-hour point. Probably before, if the truth be known.

Training Report: I had hoped to finish something and get it into the mail today, but I never finish things and get them into the mail when I think I will. In fact, I usually plan for that. It's been so long since I've finished anything and tried to mail it that I forgot, though.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

A Good Book To Give Kids Making Their First Train Trips

Jump the Cracks by Stacy DeKeyser has what I think is an intriguing premise--a fifteen-year-old girl on the train from Hartford to New York sees a toddler she believes to be in danger. So she takes him. What starts out as a responsible act turns into a sort of kidnapping. Victoria and her young charge end up on the lam, heading down the east coast while Victoria tries to negotiate the little one's safe return over the phone in calls to her own father who had been expecting to meet her at the station in New York and the police officer assigned to her case.

DeKeyser shows a lot of control of her material and her plot. As I was reading, I'd think, Why doesn't Victoria do X? Sure enough, she did. Why doesn't Y happen? And it did. Victoria almost spends too much time dwelling on her dad's failings, but her angst over her parents' divorce and her father's absence from her life is motivation for some of her action.

A better adjusted teenager from an intact family might have left that poor little boy on the train.

For a long time Jump the Cracks walks a fine line between thriller and unique problem novel. Some readers might feel let down with the ending. Others will find themselves a step closer to experiencing adult mainstream fiction.

Jump the Cracks is published by Flux, which has a blog called Eye On Flux. That's got to be a play on Aeon Flux, don't ya think?

Training Report: I'm plugging away on agent research. I love research because it's like working but different. Here's something I didn't need to know about, though.

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Well, This Is A Revelation

I have only the vaguest idea what happens to my books after I've proofread the galleys. Here is an explanation of what my publisher's sales people do with them.

Interesting point--As a reader, I am not a fan of blurbs. As a general rule, I find that they have little or no relation to anything in the book, and they seem to me to just be an opportunity for the blurber to get some free marketing on the cover of the blurbee's book. However, this account makes it sound as if bookstore buyers may care about them.


But It Could Still Happen

Today I received a mailing from KidderLit with the first line from K. A. Applegate's Land of Loss (Everworld 2): "In the real world the Vikings never fought the Aztecs."

No, but it's not too late. They still can on...Deadliest Warrior! DW has already had a Viking fight a Samurai.

I have trouble watching more than a few minutes of these things because I just don't care who would win. But my computer guy says these shows are very techie and scientific.

Friday, July 10, 2009

"Serious Vampire/Faerie/Zombie Fatigue"

Yeah, we're all feeling it. Especially regarding faeries.

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Modeling Writing

In my former life as a professional mom, I was often perplexed by how little nonfiction of the essay and memoir variety my kids read in elementary school. This was a big problem in my mind because they were frequently asked to write essays and sometimes even about themselves. Yet as far as I could tell, they had nothing to model their writing upon. Connecticut had standardized testing before anyone had ever heard of No Child Left Behind, and the writing portion of those tests didn't involve novels, it involved multiple paragraph essays. The Gauthier kids' teachers scrambled to provide instruction, but how much easier it would have been for them "to get it" if they ever read examples of what it was they were supposed "to get."

I used to spend my time hunting for essays for my kids to read. By the time they were in sixth grade, I was passing them some of Joel Stein's Time Magazine essays. You know, his "self-focused humor column". Come on. He used thesis statements and topic sentences.

What I really wanted was Jon Scieszka's Knucklehead. But it wasn't available then. Scieszka's memoir of "Growing Up Scieszka" is filled with short, readable chapters about his life as a child. (I'm not going to make much of the fact that he was a boy child, because I think girls will enjoy this book, too.) And while I didn't notice much in the way of thesis statements and topic sentences, I did see a lot of material that could make child readers think, "Hey! I could do this! I could write about the strange books I have to read at school. I could write about my grandparents. I could write about Halloween, my siblings' injuries, things I've bought, games I've played" and about thirty-one other subjects since Scieszka includes thirty-eight chapters.

Coming up with material is hard for a lot of kids. Knucklehead could provide inspiration for some of them. After all, learning to write will come a whole lot easier if you have something to write about.

Training Report: You haven't seen one of these in a long time, have you? At the beginning of the week I found a journal to which I could submit the essay I spent so much time on this summer. And I submitted it.

Essays, which we were discussing in this post, anyway, are kind of problematic. You feel this overwhelming need to express yourself about something that has happened to you that you think has some connection to the greater world, to humankind, and then what do you do with it? It's not easy to find potential markets for some of these personal essays. For instance, earlier this week I did a rough draft of what might be called a flash essay about washing windows. What am I going to do with that?

A writer could, of course, write essays that publications are actually looking for. I just read today that Drunken Boat is looking for 1000 word or less "nonfiction perspectives from around the world on the effect of the global economic crisis." The writing prompt becomes more specific, and I'm sure someone could do a personal essay with it. But the phrase "global economic crisis" is freaking me out.

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A New Edition Of The Final Anne

Penguin Canada is publishing the final Anne of Green Gables with more than one hundred pages that were left out when it was originally published in 1974. The writing was completed in 1942.

And then not published for over thirty years. Hmmm. Were people not into Anne at that point? Was the book considered a lesser work? L.M. Montgomery died shortly after she completed it. Is it true that interest in authors plummets after their death?

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Are Kids Being Forced To Read This Thing?

Did we get this upset here in the U.S. over the publication of Tender Morsels, and I either slept through it or was out in the kitchen getting something to eat?

As I said before, I do believe that parents have a right to keep up on what their young ones are reading. I would even go so far as to say they have a responsibility to make themselves aware of what's being read by their offspring in their own homes. But that's in your own homes, people, not the whole country! Can you believe that a woman in England who wanted to read a book to her nine-year-old niece managed to get Random House to remove a "four-letter word" from it? That's got to be an urban legend, don't you think?

Describing Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging as "grim lit" seems a little over the top to me, too.

Taking responsibility for what your kids are reading means that you take responsibility for what your kids are reading. You let them know you object to it and why. You don't get the publishing industry to do it for you.

Two Levels Of Marketing

The Excelsior File has a post on the way the Horrid Henry books are marketed to boys. I had never heard of this series, but a lot of other people have. Check out the list of blog reviews at the end of Fuse #8's review.

A couple of us were just talking about book marketing folks embracing blogs in the comments to yesterday's post. Which is quite different from the kind of marketing David Elzey is talking about, by the way.

Someone could create two different marketing case studies on this one book.


Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Deserving Books

I don't know if the Virginia Quarterly Review blog post Does Every Book Deserve A Review? answers the question it raises in its title. So I will. Or I'll sort of answer it.

Certain books "deserve" a review whether or not they meet someone's standard for goodness, so to speak. They do not have to be wonderful to deserve a review. They deserve to be reviewed even if they can't be highly recommended.


1. Because the authors have a distinguished body of work. Even if they've written something that isn't up to their usual standards, their books should be of interest to the reading public--especially, if, say, the book is a miss because the authors were trying something new. The effort is worthy of being part of the literary discussion. Books written by people like M.T. Anderson, Neil Gaiman, and Lynne Rae Perkins deserve a review.

2. Because the authors have written books in the past that have had some kind of impact on popular culture. Whatever anyone thinks of Stephanie Meyer as a writer, her books have had a big impact on the reading public. Her next few books deserve a review.

3. Because the subject matter is significant in some way. This could mean being significant in a narrow field, even if not significant to the general public. Nature magazines will review significant environmental books, for instance, that general review publications might not. Same for history magazines, food magazines, and on and on.

4. Because the authors have tried to do something different--breaking out of a genre, breaking away from a fad, etc. For instance, somebody, sometime, somewhere is going to write the book that starts to lead readers away from rich-girl-gone-bad stories. That book deserves to be reviewed!

All these kinds of books deserve to be reviewed. Or perhaps a better way of putting it would be that they deserve to be discussed.

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A Little Talk About Magical Realism

The Spectacle had a post on magical realism back in February. I have read articles on magical realism that stated that it pertains only to works by Latin American authors like those agent Jennifer Matson mentions. However, I think of it just as she does--books "in which magical elements intrude, almost matter-of-factly, into a basically realistic setup, informing the novel’s various elements in a natural way rather than totally redirecting them. I also think of the magic as being very gentle and often surreal – nothing “high fantasy”".


Tuesday, July 07, 2009

New For Me

Graphic Novel Reporter is a site from the same folks that gave us and I think I like the layout of Graphic Novel Reporter better than the other two. Plus graphic novels get less attention at the sites I usually go to, so Graphic Novel Reporter had a lot more new content for me than the other sites do.


Has A Video Camera And Knows How To Use It

I've been vaguely aware of Tina Nichols Coury's blog, Tales from the Rushmore Kid, for a while. I find Tina a bit intimidating because 1. She can pull off this hat. I am 5'3" on my very best days. I gave up trying to wear hats long ago. 2. She has started using a video camera at her blog. Here is a very nicely done interview with Dutton editor Steve Meltzer.

Tina also does Writing Tips of the Day. Here's one with Jane Yolen, who used to be my on-line mentor. It was a very one-sided relationship since she didn't know about it. The writing tip she gave Tina was very interesting. Not the part about applying your butt to the chair. I've heard that before. I've probably read of Jane saying it before since she was, you know, my on-line mentor. No, I meant the story she told about her husband's explanation for why he was such a successful birder. It was so...metaphorical. Yes! Yes! You have to go where the words are--I mean the birds are!


Oh! Oh! Can I Read It?

I tried to read a book by Margo Lanagan once, found the style off-putting (I can't remember why or what book it was), and quit. But this article on the British response to Tender Morsels makes it sound intriguing. Though still fantasy. Hmmm.

I am going to go out on a limb here and say that I'm sympathetic toward parents who want to be aware of what their kids are reading. I'm not saying no teenager in a community should be able to read Book A because one mom doesn't want her own child to read it. But I don't think it's unreasonable for parents to want to find a way to take responsibility for what their children are exposed to in their own homes. How they should do that is up in the air.

You do remember, of course, that I was that mother who handed her teenage son books and said, "Gee, I hope there's not too much sex in this," as a way to get him to read them. He never complained.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Book Equivalents Of Jackson And Fawcett?

I've been hearing a lot of commentary about how we're never going to see another Michael Jackson or even a Farrah Fawcett because our culture is now so fragmented that no one person will be able to attract the following that they did. By "fragmented" I assume the commentators mean that we have far more options for entertainment than we did when Fawcett reigned supreme on one of the only three TV networks available, for instance. All of America doesn't focus its attention on just a few things these days.

I don't think that's the case with books, though.

Personally, I think this kind of fragmentation would be a good thing for the book world, particularly for readers. It's good to have options. As a reader, I like to cast a large net. But while our culture may be fragmenting in terms of providing lots of options other than reading so that, we are told, fewer people read, I don't know if we're seeing fragmenting in publishing, itself. If anything, just the opposite. The hunt for bestsellers is all about unifying attention onto just a few titles.

In the last decade in publishing we've had Harry Potter, Twilight, and The DaVinci Code. Our culture is pretty unified when it comes to reading.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Getting Through The Holiday Weekend

I've only had time to scan some blogs this weekend. What has caught my eye:

You're On Your Own, Kid at The Spectacle. By way of Tanita at Finding Wonderland.

A really good interview with Chris Barton at Cynsations. Note, in particular, his answers to the following questions: "What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?" "What about children's nonfiction appeals to you?" and "What advice do you have for those interested in writing a picture book biography?" Note, also, his problem with writing about the science involved with his book and how he stopped the narrative twice trying to describe it. This is important, people! The paragraph in which he talks about the significance of "just showing up"--Very important.

Liz at A Chair, a Fireplace & A Tea Cozy has a post on Scott Westerfeld's new book coming out this fall.

I keep going back to Don't Get It Right, Get It Written at Procrastinating Writers, hoping to find time to read it and follow the links. The basic advice is well known. My question, though, is how can you get to the end if your beginning no longer supports it, if the characters must be changed in order for them to become what, after a couple of months of work, you now know they must be? Oh, woe.

Fortunately, the older relative I've been helping out the last couple of weeks can no longer stand the sight of me. She used the word "nag." So I'm hoping that I'll be able to address some of those last questions of mine starting this next week.

Friday, July 03, 2009

A Post-Holden World?

Last week I mentioned a New York Times article, Get a Life, Holden Caulfield, in which Jennifer Schuessler claimed that today's teenagers may not be as taken with Holden as their elders were. She said, "What once seemed like courageous truth-telling now strikes many of them as “weird,” “whiny” and “immature.”"

This week, I was reading Jon Meacham's column in Newsweek, Love Books? You're in the Right Place, which introduces the magazine's special issue on books. (I am a long, long way from finishing that, by the way.) Meacham said, "Many young people go through a Walden phase, believing that Thoreau and, in "Self-Reliance," Emerson saw through to the realities of life, past the "phoniness" that so obsessed Holden Caulfield."


All of a sudden, I experienced one of those flashes of insights that come upon me periodically and I thought, Phoniness is the key to why Holden Caulfield may be leaving today's kids cold.

Back in the fifties, when Catcher in the Rye was published, and the sixties and seventies and maybe even in the eighties, Holden's insight that the world was full of phonies may have been a revelation for young people. Not so much now. Young people today have grown up watching movie and TV special effects, reading about plastic surgery, and hearing about one crooked politician after another. (Just in my state, alone, we had at least three high-profile elected figures in prison at the same time. We've got two more right now whose ethics are questionable.) Today's young people aren't going to be wandering around all despondent over the phoniness of it all because, what with the famous twenty-four hour news cycle and classroom current events, they were never under any illusion about what was going on around them.

Remember Quiz Show? It was a very good movie about the game show scandals of the 1950s. I don't recall it doing particularly well in the theaters. My theory was that in 1994, when it was released, the movie-going public, which had grown up in a post-game show scandal world, had a hard time imagining a time when anyone believed that TV wasn't fixed in one way or another. They couldn't accept the basic premise of the movie, that all of America believed what was happening on TV and was distressed to find out that it was faked.

That's how I think kids today may be regarding Catcher in the Rye. Having grown up in a post-Holden world, they have trouble believing he didn't know better.

On top of that, Holden Caulfield inspired a long line of imitators. Kids may have already read books about angstie teenagers before they get to Catcher in the Rye, thus making the original seem derivative. Sad and unfair, but that's how I felt about the book when I first read it when I was in my thirties. Catcher may suffer as a result of its success.

I'm not a Catcher in the Rye expert, by any means. But I'm wondering how much it deals with the society of its time, versus books that deal with relationships between people. Societies may change over time more obviously than people do, so a book rooted in its social world risks becoming dated more quickly than one that relies on a relationship between characters.

Just a guess.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Read It And Weep

In a recent Glimmer Train Bulletin piece called Making Stories Out of Stories, author Randolph Thomas does an excellent job describing the excruciating torment that is writing. I'm impressed he was able to explain how his story evolved. By the time I've finished a writing project, I usually have only the vaguest idea how it happened.


I've Got My Boys

Work on the 365 Story Project has pretty much ground to a halt for three reasons:

One, the amount of time I've been spending with unhealthy family members these last two weeks. Yesterday I spent the day with a shut-in (and a laptop, but...), not the post-op patient I've been seeing nearly every day. Seriously, the older infirm relatives in the Gauthier family are piling up like cordwood!

Two, I had done over a hundred segments for the project and had no physical description for my main characters, not even in my head.

Three, I was concerned that even for an episodic story I ought to have something plot-like, if not a real plot.

Well, problem two is well on its way to being resolved. A couple of weeks ago, our sabumnim announced that for the summer our morning adult taekwondo class was going to turn into a morning family taekwondo class. That meant, of course, kids! As it turns out, it meant a great many kids and not many adults, since "family" appears to be being interpreted very loosely in this case. Nonetheless, after my very first family class I had my Tanner. I'll be able to modify him to create his older brother, Tristan, so that's a twofer. Today I found my Bodhi.

This week's classes were among the most brutal I can remember with both jump kick practice and sparring. If they're kicking up the intensity a notch to burn off the young'uns' energy, I'm going to have a very rough summer.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Trying To Manage Time

Teaching Authors has a post up called "Ideal" Life vs. "Real" Life: Where Does the Time Go?". It's about writing and time management.

Get ready for a laugh--I once taught a workshop on time management for secretaries and administrative assistants. This was decades ago, when I'd been working for an agency that did management development and personnel management training for state and municipal employees. My bosses did time management programs for managers. Those programs focused on delegating work as a way to manage your time. You don't have time to do something? Get someone else to do it! Problem solved!

Why anyone thought I was qualified to teach time management I no longer recall. And note that the people I was teaching the time management workshop for were at the bottom of the executive chain. They were the people work was delegated to. Delegating wasn't an option for them. What I focused on was using "forms." Creating templates (pre word processing) for anything you possibly could so that you didn't have to come up with a new letter, memo, etc., for every single occasion. My plan was to save as much time as possible by cutting down on decision making and avoiding having to reinvent the wheel.

I only taught the workshop once.

I still think that you can save time with routines--do the same thing at the same time on a regular basis so that you don't have to spend a lot of time thinking about what you're going to do. Send the same letter to as many people as possible. That sort of thing.

It doesn't help a whole lot with managing writing time, though.

In her post on time management at Teaching Authors, Carmela Martino says that she procrastinates because of perfectionism. That's a classic problem for writers, one that is sometimes referred to as an inner editor. When I first heard about inner editors, I thought the idea was laughable, some kind of touchy feely, navel gazing thing. (That was before I started dabbling in zen, of course.) Then, after struggling with some of my later books and finding myself reading anything, absolutely anything, so I could avoid working, I began to suspect that perhaps my problem was, indeed, that I had been invaded by an inner editor. My weak ego couldn't face the knowledge that the manuscript I was working on was going to need draft after draft after draft. It was just too soul-sucking. I could make myself feel better by reading--something someone else had written. It's good to get some in-depth knowledge about politicians, isn't it? There was always a chance that reading would lead me to come up with some brilliant idea. It wasn't really wasting time.

Hmmm. Perhaps there's medication for that?

My latest time management twist involves looking over a writing project in the middle of my morning workout. (I have little problem working out for close to an hour in the morning. Why should I? When I'm working out, I don't have to work! You'd think writers would be the most fit group on the planet because exercise is such a fine procrastination device.) Then, while I'm on the treadmill or whatever, the material I've just looked over is in the back of my mind, and I often come up with some satisfying tweak for it. This is what is known as forcing a breakout experience, by the way.