Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Great Day

Today was a great work day for me. How great was it? I was so into revising the first month of the 365 Story Project (even though I never got past April in the first draft) that I wasn't even tempted to blow off a half hour or so reading a terrific book (yeah, I'm reading a good book, too), which is something I'm all too likely to do, sad to say. Today was the best day of work I've had since the middle of August, when I experienced my best week of work since April.

Unfortunately, the next four and a half to five days will be committed to family, and that's assuming none of our elders go off the rails. However, one should never regret the past or dread the future, just experience the present. And this present moment is quite satisfactory.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I Should Try To Crash This Thing

The New England Independent Booksellers Association's 36th Annual Trade Show will be held this Thursday through Saturday at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, Connecticut. That site is twenty-two minutes from my house. Twenty-two freaking minutes.

Among the children's authors who will be signing: Janet Lawler, who I just mentioned earlier today; Pegi Deitz Shea, who I actually know; and Angie Sage. Shannon Hale, Shaun Tan, and Mo Willems will be speaking at a dinner.

I could try to crash this thing, and then write an article about the experience. Except, of course, on Thursday and Friday I have to get ready for weekend guests who are arriving Friday afternoon. I'm not even going to be able to work, forget about breaking into professional conferences.

Talk about a missed opportunity.

Thanks to ShelfTalker for this news.

Hey, I just had a thought. The weather is supposed to be bad this weekend, and my sister and I have been concerned about what to do with my cousins from Canuckistan. We were thinking of taking them to a vineyard, but they've been to vineyards in France and, well, Connecticut vineyards might not measure up. They've traveled a lot, but I bet they've never crashed a trade show!

Christmas In Prehistoric Times


I'm sure I've mentioned before that a lot of book trailers leave me cold. However, this one for Tyrannoclaus by Janet Lawler with illustrations by John Shroades should draw a few readers in.

It's really very simple--just a voice over reading the text with stills of the illustrations to look at. No hype. No sales schtick. Just a taste of a clever concept and lovely illustrations.

I'll remember this book.

Oh, look! Janet Lawler will be at the Connecticut Children's Book Fair this year! So will I.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

And No One Said "Ayeah"


I don't think I've ever discussed an adult novel here that didn't have crossover potential for YA. I don't think All That I Have by Castle Freeman, Jr. has much of that, what with its middle-aged characters dealing with work and marriage. What it does have that might be of interest to kidlit people is a powerful voice.

Voice is adored in children's literature, particularly in YA. Thus we in kidlit worship at the feet of the first-person narrator, because that's the quick and dirty way to a strong voice. Unfortunately, a great many first-person child and YA narrators sound alike. You've got your small town eccentric kids, your mouthy types, your tortured adventure heroes, your Georgia Nicholson wannabes, and this year's Holden Caulfield. And now we're developing a pool of books with an autistic voice.

How many times have you read a blurb about an author being a fresh new voice, then read the book and realized that you'd heard this character somewhere before?

I don't know if voice is as important to readers and reviewers of adult fiction. I probably don't read enough adult fiction to be able to hazard a guess. But Lucian Wing, the first-person narrator of All That I Have, does have a marvelous voice. His voice sounds as if it was created for him, a particular person who happens to be a product of a particular culture. He doesn't sound as if his voice was created to make him sound like a kind of character, say, the philosopher rubes you often see in books set in rural places, particularly Vermont, the setting for All That I Have.

I grew up around ain't and used it myself as a child. It annoys the hell out of me to see it in print now. It's a four-letter word and grating a lot of the time. Language does define character, but too often ain't seems as if it's supposed to be making a STATEMENT about a character and not a good one. It sounds perfectly natural coming out of Lucian's mouth, though. He's a good man who just happens to talk this way.

I guess what I'm thinking here--and saying--is that in All That I Have voice and character are integrated better than they are in a lot of books. The voice is the way it is because of who Lucian is. I'm wondering now, what came first, Lucian or his voice?

Shouldn't the character come first? And if it does, won't that help eliminate all the sameness in first-person narrators?

Something for us to think about.

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Writing Rah-Rahs

Book in a Week. This sounds good for those of us who can't stick with writing a novel for a month. (By way of Becky Levine)

Focus On One Writing Project Until You're Done (Procrastinating Writers). I actually do do this when I'm working on a big project, particularly if I've moved well along with it. I find that if I'm deeply involved with something, I'll continue to "work" on it even when I'm not working. By which I mean, if I've been working for weeks on something, at the end of the day while I'm doing something else, ideas will continue to come to me. I'll get ideas for the project while driving in the car. So, yes, I find that focusing on one writing project can be very helpful. More break-out experiences. More flow states.

On the other hand, if you spend two years on one project and then have trouble selling it, you may be sorry.

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One Of Those British Shortlists

The shortlist for the Booktrust Teenage Prize was announced earlier this week. Among the titles to make the cut: The Graveyard Book (It makes the cut for everything. I liked it, but, come on.) by Neil Gaiman and The Ant Colony by Jenny Valentine.

Valentine also wrote Me, the Missing, and the Dead, which I liked a great deal. Gaiman, of course, wrote everything else. Much of which I also liked.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

A Little Motivation For Me

When you work eight hours a day, as Jan Brett does, instead of the eight hours I think I managed this past week, your reward is a very serious second home.

Where's My Garlic?

Had just about all you can take of vampires? Take heart. We may be due for a few garlic years soon.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hey! What About That Robin Hood?

The Youngest Templar serial includes characters who adult readers will recognize as young Robin Hood and Maid Marian. Long before they appear, our young protagonist has a brief encounter with a man named John Little. "But you should call me Little John," he says. "Everyone else does."

Could anyone read that and not know who was being referred to?

I don't know. Are kids these days familiar with Robin Hood? There are have been lots of books on the traditional Robin Hood story over the last few decades, as well as some variations. A graphic novel was published in Australia this summer, and a Muppet Robin Hood comic sold out in one week earlier this year. (The publisher did a second printing.) You'd think some kids would have some familiarity with the story, though I don't think they need to recognize who the characters in The Youngest Templar are supposed to be in order to enjoy them.

I think Robin Hood has traditionally been treated as a children's story, unlike Sherlock Holmes who, nonetheless, turns up in a lot of kids' books. So kids may readily get Robin references. Or, as someone at Guys Lit Wire suggested, Robin Hood may be an iconic character "that people think they know without bothering to read the actual stories they appeared in."

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Plotting A Serial--How?


Every once in a while, I receive an arc from a certain editor. (Since this isn't a review site, every once in a while is about as often as I want to receive arcs.) I do get a little thrill when I find a package at the P.O. box, but when that package contains an arc as well as a paperback edition of an earlier book, I feel forewarned that what I'm looking at is a serial and that the editor is worried that I won't be able to figure out what's going on with the arc without having read another book first.

That was the case a few weeks ago when I found the arc for Trail of Fate the second volume in The Youngest Templar serial by Michael P. Spradlin waiting for me at the post office. The Youngest Templar is a hardcore serial set in the twelfth century. (I usually see serials set in fantasy worlds, so I thought the setting was interesting). The individual volumes are not traditional novels in the sense of a completed story line with a climax and resolution. In fact, the first book has no ending at all. The final words are "to be continued..." The second book has no beginning or ending, concluding with another "to be continued..."

Now, I've come to understand serials and that they are a different kind of reading experience, one that might be described as merging episodic television with reading. Though I must say that if I were really into a serial I would prefer to read it after the writer has completed the whole thing, the way many people prefer to watch a TV series on DVD rather than over the course of a television season.

But that aside, my question about serials is, as it was two and a half years ago, how do authors decide that they have so much story/plot that it requires more than one book to tell? Trail of Fate seemed a little padded to me. The bad guy from Keeper of the Grail was back, which made sense, but then another bad guy who was an awful lot like the first one appeared. And then we get a bad queen, too. A rather neat female character is introduced in book one and comes back in book two. Again, that made sense. But then a new female character who seemed a lot like the first one, in the sense of being a spunky, woman warrior type, shows up. It seemed as if they were just...taking up space in the plot. I felt as if I was killing time. If those characters and the events surrounding them had been left out, could the story have moved on in a faster and tighter fashion toward its finale--whatever that's going to be?

Plotting is a pain in the butt, anyway, and trying to do it over multiple volumes has got to be an ordeal. For instance, in the first book, Keeper of the Grail, the grail doesn't show up until the halfway point. And a couple of major characters come in even later. In a traditional book, those would be major flaws. However, when you're talking about a plot that's being stretched over several books, the halfway point of the first one is probably still early days.

But how does the author decide?

Given how much I hate plotting, I can't see myself writing a serial any time soon.

Trail of Fate will be published next month.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Now I Can Write Just One Page And Feel Good About It

I've been feeling so much better about work since I read Writing in the Age of Distraction by Cory Doctorow because he suggests setting modest daily goals, "usually a page or two." Ah, yes. A page or two. Or, mainly, a page.

You know what else made me feel good? Reading Roald Dahl's Widow, Liccy, Recalls Her Life With The Real BFG because she says he started work around "10-10:30ish." On a real good day, I start around 10:30ish.

Tuesdays are always a short day for me, so today I didn't start working until well after one. Maybe two, even. Twoish. But I wrote a very satisfactory page and came up with the ending for the story I've been plugging away at for a few weeks.

But I wouldn't be feeling anywhere near as good about that as I am, if I hadn't read those two articles.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Mary Pearson's Thoughts On YA

Mary Pearson (The Adoration of Jenna Fox) has a post at Tor.com called What YA Lit Is and Isn't. It doesn't definitively pin down the subject, but she has some interesting thoughts.

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Please, Suffragist

J.L. Bell of Oz and Ends is far more qualified than I to discuss The Man Who Made Oz. I have to point out, though, that in the first paragraph of page two, the author, Meghan O'Rourke, uses the term "suffragette" as in "Notably, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz offered a paean to strong women at a moment when suffragettes were agitating for the vote." That always gets my knickers in a twist because my History of Women professor said suffragette was offensive. Suffragist is the correct term. At least here in the United States.

And, yes, I did believe everything my professor told me.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Connecticut Kid Book Happenings

The Connecticut Book Awards were announced this afternoon. I was out in the state forest, so I don't know who won, but I can tell you who was nominated for children's writing and illustration.

For Writing:

Fly, Monarch! Fly! by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace

The Freedom Business by Marilyn Nelson

Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor

For Illustration:

Baseball Hour, Bill Thomson, illustrator

The Freedom Business, Deborah Dancy, illustrator

The Wolves Are Back, Wendell Minor, illustrator

And while I'm on the subject of Wendell Minor, he has an exhibit at The New Britain Museum of Fine Arts. It will be running through December 13.

Two Reasons To Enjoy An Interview

I've been talking about my obsession with Shirley Jackson for years and years and years. So imagine my delight when Blog of a Bookslut referred me to a podcast of an interview with Joyce Carol Oates in which she talks about Jackson.

In it Oates talks about Jackson's dislike for her Vermont neighbors. She may have used the word hatred. I've read about that before. Ah, sweet irony. As a teenager in Vermont, I was so attracted to Jackson, while she appears to have hated the people I come from.

I liked the interview with Oates for another reason. I've been hearing about her since I was in college, when I read Them. I've also read (and actually own) a book of her short stories. I can't say she's one of my obsessions, since I don't run out and read everything she writes. I've always liked reading about her, though, and it was terrific hearing her voice in this interview.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

One For The Grown-ups?


I enjoy reading about the nineteenth century, and I'm definitely interested in the science/religion conflict from that period. My interests as a history geek lean toward how people lived rather than wars, too. So Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith had a lot to offer me. As I read it, though, I wondered if it had a lot to offer younger readers.

The publisher describes it as being marketed to readers thirteen and up. I think most older teens will have moved on to adult biography, and I just don't know if a book about a nineteenth century marriage is going to be that fascinating for younger teens. The Darwins were already thirty when they married (after Charles's voyage on The Beagle, so that is only referred to in the past), and they move right along into a sickly middle age. (Particularly Charles.) Parental grief over the death of children as well as the passing of one elderly relative after another are probably of more interest to adults than kids. There are a few subtle references to sex from Darwin's notebooks and letters that may produce an "Eww" reaction. The material on how Darwin worked out his theory doesn't add a lot of plot or adventure because essentially the guy seems to have sat in his library and thought. For years. There's nothing wrong with that. In fact, it's damn good work, if you can get it. But it doesn't create much in the way of natural narrative drive.

Charles and Emma is very highly regarded, and that's just fine. But I kept wishing that it were either a kids' historical novel from the point of view of one of the Darwin children or an even more sophisticated adult work.

Hey, what was with so many members of this family being sick all the time, anyway? I know there's been some work done about women and sickness in the nineteenth century, and some of the children were picking up serious contagious diseases. But what about Charles?

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Now This Is What I Mean When I Say Mixed Reviews Are Important

For years I've been a promoter of true critical discussion in blogs rather than limiting posts to book recommendations. Today I found a perfect illustration for my argument at the Excelsior File. David Elzy did a post on Fartiste by Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer with illustrations by Boris Kulikov.

Elzy says right up front that "the book fails me due to a pair of fatal miscalculations." He then goes on to discuss them. However, in doing so he gives us a very good sense of the book's subject matter, which many readers will find...ah...fascinating. The book sounds so...mmm...intriguing...that many readers aren't going to be terribly concerned about the drawbacks Elzy points out. The book may very well be...engaging...enough that they'll seek it out, anyway.

But they can't do that if they've never heard of it. By making Fartiste part of the literary conversation at his blog, Elzy is doing both the book and his readers a favor.

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Yes, About That Book Advance

Back in April, an essayist for The New York Times claimed that 7 out of 10 titles do not earn back their advance. I believe, people, that that is seventy percent. How do publishers stay in business?

Coincidentally (or not, since the above link came from the same blog) I was just reading at Pimp My Novel that new romance writers might expect an advance in the area of $3,000. A debut writer of women's fiction might expect to see $5,000 to $7,500. An advance for historical fiction might be the same. Up to $8,000 for a children's book, depending on what you're writing.

And then, if that New York Times essay quoted above is accurate, most of those writers still won't sell enough books to repay those advances.

Mull that over.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

So How Do They Assign Points? By The Number Of Pages?

In her essay, Reading by the Numbers, in the August 27th New York Times Book Review,Susan Straight describes the...mmm...lop-sidedness?...of the Accelerated Reader point system.

I was feeling badly because my own books have only single digit AR points. Then I remembered that Straight says that Hamlet only gets a 7. One of my books did that well, and three did better. I beat Shakespeare!

The link came from The Spectacle.

Didn't Something Similar Happen In This Country With The Last Harry Potter?

I believe I recall reading of booksellers concerned about losing money on the last Harry Potter book because of situations like the one described in Dan Brown is going to be the ruin of us all.

Link from ArtsJournal.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Cecil Castellucci Is Writing Short Stories

Cynsations has a new interview with Cecil Castellucci of Boy Proof and Beige fame. Note that that Castellucci has started publishing non-YA short stories. You can read her Baby in the Basket.

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Bringing Pets To School

I met Nancy Poydar back in March. She has a new book out called Fish School. It's a picture book for ages 4 through 8.

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Hmmm. How Do You Suppose Amish Kids' Books Would Do?

The Wall Street Journal reports on "bonnet books" or Amish love stories in They're No Bodice Rippers, But Amish Romances Are Hot. As I was reading the article, I wondered if someone could become successful with Amish kids' books.

Then I wondered about mixing in vampires with the Amish love stories. Because vampires always make everything better.

It Even Has An Abbreviation

I learned about deus ex machina back when I was taking a classic mythology class in college. I picked up sometime thereafter its significance in writing today. (Frowned upon, for your information.) Then for years and years no one knew what I was talking about when I brought it up. How did you manage to bring that up, Gail, you may ask. When complaining about the endings of books or movies, of course.

One of the Gauthier boys finally learned about it sometime during his education. I nearly wept.

The Spectacle has a post called Deus Ex Machina and Foreshadowing: Advice for Writers that will explain the whole thing to you. Note that commenters use DEM for deus ex machina. I'm going to do that from now on, too.

Oh, That Was A Good Misreading

Check out Three People Detained at the Castle at Boston 1775.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Book That Keeps Going And Going And Going

Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes is often used as an example of the significance of the Newbery Medal. Forbes' novel won the Newbery in 1943 and has never been out of print. The year before, she won the Pulitzer Prize for Paul Revere and the World He Lived In. Unlike Johnny Tremain, that book has not remained in print continuously for the last sixty-plus years, though it is available now.

So which is the more powerful award in terms of generating long-term sales and providing for some literary immortality, the Newbery or the Pulitzer?

This all came to mind because J.L.Bell is in the midst of a three-day Tremainathon at Boston 1775. Yesterday, he covered the path to publication. Today, he told the story of the deleted scene. And tomorrow...the misread document!

Seriously, we history geeks go all tingly for a misread document.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Day Of Work!

Today was my first full day of work since the middle of August. I hoped that as a result of this past month's chaos I would learn to concentrate more fully when I had the chance. But no way! I killed most of the morning on exercise, Internet reading, some phone talk, and e-mailing family and friends just like I always do.

I did manage to write a couple of pages, which is supposed to be good. And I sent an e-mail to a journal to make sure that a submission had been rejected, which it turns out it had. So that's done. And I did a little research on some new journals I might want to submit to. And I read some Short-Short Sighted columns on writing flash fiction, which made me think that I should totally revise the potato chip hospital story I've been working on.

So that's an afternoon of work, right?

Speaking of flash fiction, take a look at this flash story called Doofus about a second grader who can't tie his own shoes. What makes it an adult story? Would child readers like it? Could it work as a cross-over?

Answer in a thousand words or less.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

When A Culture Publishes Hundreds Of Thousands Of Books A Year, You Can Understand How People Might Run Out Of Ideas

According to How to Revive Another Author's Characters there is a "booming trend to sequels to other people's work." Including, but not limited to, a new Winnie the Pooh book and a sequel to The Little Princess. (Internet research suggests that should be A Little Princess, though I wouldn't know, myself, because as a general rule I try to avoid books with the word "princess" in the title. Not always, but if I can.) Also, Arthur Conan Doyle's estate has supposedly approved a series of books on the young Sherlock Holmes.

I would have thought Sherlock Holmes was a character who had pretty much been wrung dry. I was going to make the assumption that books about a young Sherlock Holmes would be directed toward child readers, but maybe I shouldn't.

From ArtsJournal.

Ah, Those AAUW Luncheons!

I've done a couple of American Association of University Women lunches in the past, so I took notice when I received a notice about another one coming up here in Connecticut. The AAUW's New London branch and Bank Square Books will be holding a Book Author Luncheon on Saturday, October 17, at 11:30 a.m. at the Mystic Hilton in Mystic, Connecticut.

Ann Haywood Leal, whose middle grade novel Also Known As Harper was published by Macmillan in May, will be among the authors speaking that day.

A good time will be had by all, I am sure. I enjoyed myself at the ones I went to, anyway.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Thanks, Tanita

Tanita S. Davis referred me to an article by Cory Doctorow called Writing in the Age of Distraction. I'm very easily distracted, so, of course, I couldn't resist reading this piece.

Doctorow gives some advice on how to keep working. His most interesting thought is not to worry about writing more than a page or two a day. (A massive undertaking for me these past few months.) But another eye catcher was his suggestion that writers not do research.

What he meant was Don't do research right now. Keep writing and do the research later. I cannot tell you how many times I've come to a complete stop in order to research some minor point, sometimes even e-mailing people for information. And then I ended up not using any of the material I found.

So, yeah, I think he's onto something with putting off research.

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This Might Be Brilliant!

Has anyone else noticed how much time I'm spending at Procrastinating Writers? What does it all mean?

I was there just now where I found this post on un-schedules. What I like about this is that it gives you an idea of where you have time. Or it lets you know that you actually do have time.

Then when you find the bits and pieces of time, you can try using the Write Everyday tool to do something with it.

Today for the first time since the middle of August I actually did have a couple of hours to myself. I spent part of that time eating a bowl of ice cream and reading In the Shadow of Gotham. Then I e-mailed an editor who is on vacation, checked to see when I sent out a couple of submissions, and...wait for it...wait for it...wrote a paragraph!

So, anyway, I expect to have some un-scheduled time tomorrow, so there's some hope of doing a little work then, too. Except, if I know I have un-scheduled time, isn't that almost like scheduling un-scheduled time?

Well, nonetheless, if I really want to get back to work, this un-scheduling thing might help.

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Good vs. Evil In Fantasy

Joni Sensel raised an interesting question last month over at The Spectacle. Is it true that all great fantasy is about good vs. evil?

I immediately thought of my body count post from a few days back. Two of those three series that culminated in a book with extended battles were, I believe, heavily into good vs. evil. I think the most sophisticated of the three, in my humble opinion, was the one written for the youngest age group, The Underland Chronicles. In those books there is no obvious evil doer. Author Suzanne Collins has been very clear in interviews and public appearances that she was (and is) interested in war. That is entirely different from good vs. evil.

Good vs. evil is compelling, but it can also be simplistic.

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Monday, September 07, 2009

I Didn't Pay For This Link

In Who Will Write the Future? in the Denver Post, writer David Milofsky reports that Google and Yahoo are negotiating with newspaper publishers regarding paying for newspaper content that they link to on their own news pages. Milofsky than speculates about what this could mean for litblogs:

"More to the point, litblogs, like other Internet sites, pay nothing for the privilege of linking to the publications on their websites. If Google is thinking about paying for the news it reprints, why not what some have called a paywall for litblogs?"

Hmmm. I'm not sure how I feel about this. If a litblogger isn't making money from her blog, doesn't some fair use copyright thing apply?

Elsewhere in his article, Milofsky says, "...no one has demonstrated that litblog readers are a significant part of the book-buying public."

An interesting point.

Link from ArtsJournal.

Another Five Minutes! Huzzah!

I spent Labor Day spreading cheer and good will as well as low-salt lasagna, Splenda peach cobbler, and an entire Labor Day-type lunch for four other people. In short, I did not write.

Until just now. I went back to Write Everyday at Procrastinating Writers and did another five minutes on the potato chip story. Oh, my gosh. I am so stoked. I wrote five minutes! And I wrote five minutes Saturday night! On the same project! I've written ten minutes!

I know. That is tragically lame.

Check out Tanita's comment to this post. She writes about an article she read that claimed most writers only work about twenty minutes a day. In my experience, that's about right.

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Saturday, September 05, 2009

Wow. The Little House Books Had A Political Impact? Who Knew?

It took me a month to finally read Wilder Women in The New Yorker, but, boy, is it worth reading. Judith Thurman goes into detail regarding those rumors I'd been hearing for years that Laura Ingalls Wilder's daughter, Rose, was involved in the writing of the Little House books, and then she gets into the mother and daughter's politics!

But, then, it seems to me that everyone was political back in the 1930's and '40's. I shouldn't have been surprised.

I Guess You Could Say This Sort Of Worked.

On Monday, August 31, I worked for about twenty minutes. This was very big news because it was the first time I'd worked in over two weeks. The closest thing to working I've done since then was making some notes for one of my 365 Story Project characters. This happened yesterday while I was reading a yoga article in a hospital cafeteria while waiting for some radioactive material to make its way to a family member's foot so she could have a bone scan.

So when I stumbled upon Write Everyday, a tool at Procrastinating Writers, I thought I would give it a try. It's supposed to allow you to set a clock for a specific number of minutes and then write until an alarm goes off. The first time I tried it, I did something wrong. I started a short story I've been thinking about (on the subject of buying potato chips in a hospital cafeteria, if you must know), so that's a good thing. But it never counted down the number of minutes or did anything at all.

When I reset it and tried again, it did work, even giving me a writing prompt. I hate writing prompts, as it turns out, but I do like the idea of time writing. So I may try this again and just ignore the prompt and go back to my potato chip story. Which I have now started even though it's Saturday night, and I never work on Saturday nights.

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Friday, September 04, 2009

Oh, Burn!

This Entertainment Weekly review of Catching Fire actually makes me want to read the book much more than all these starred ones.

Thanks to Susan at Chicken Spaghetti for letting me know about it.

Hey, I've Met Her

Cynsations has an interview with Jo Knowles. I'm only a little over a week late on that one.

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Thursday, September 03, 2009

Final Books With Body Counts

I finished The Last Olympian today. I'm seeing a pattern with the concluding volumes of serial fantasy thrillers:

Gregor and the Code of Claw--Fight, fight, fight. Die, die, die.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows--Fiiiiight, fight, fight, fight. Die! Die! Diiiiiiiiie!

The Last Olympian--Fight...Fight...Fight. Fight, fight, fight. Die...Die. die, die, die.

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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

But My Kids Are Brilliant!

I wouldn't have a career if not for my children. Their experiences growing up and my experiences raising them were the springboards for much of my early fiction. How exactly life gets worked into fiction is difficult for me to explain. It's a mystery.

When I read Is it ever ok to tar your kid in print? at Salon earlier today, I worried about what the author, Amy Benfer, would think about me. "Is it ever OK to write about your family members?" she asks at one point. She also talks about "debating the ethical line of what is and what is not fair game in writing about one's children."

I cringed.

She was talking about a memoir, thank goodness, while to date I've stuck to fiction. And as a fiction writer, have I ever really written about my children? Sure Will and Rob Denis in My Life Among the Aliens and Club Earth were named for my sons (as well as their great-great aunt Anna Denis). And sure we really had a birthday party with an Olympic Games theme, and we really went out to watch the Perseid Showers, and we really ate a lot of bran muffins here back in the day, and we really did a lot of the things that happen in those books.

But we did them without aliens! No aliens! That's why I wasn't writing about the real Will and Rob! Once I brought the aliens in to the story, the books were totally not about anyone I knew!

Hmmm. Perhaps if Julie Myerson, the writer who inspired Is it ever ok to tar your kid in print? had written fiction instead of a memoir and included aliens, she would have missed out on all the controversy.

Assuming that would be a good thing.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Never Start A Story With Weather?

Storytellersunplugged did a post on Beginnings in which the posters included a list of "strange rules regarding beginnings." The third one was "Never Start a Story with Weather."

I sat there thinking, Ah...what?

Then I recalled the most famous weather-related first line ever written. "It was a dark and stormy night." Hmmm. That's thought-provoking.


At about the same time that Storytellersunplugged was posting on Beginnings, The Spectacle did one on Famous First Lines. I was impressed by the number of first lines by famous writers that began with the verb "to be." "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen" from George Orwell's 1984. "There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it." C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

My graduate school career was limited to one class (which I did ace, just so you know), and the only thing I learned during it was never to start a sentence--particularly an important first sentence--with the verb "to be."

Perhaps if I become a famous writer, I'll be able to get away with it.

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