Tuesday, October 26, 2010

On Line Writing Groups

How many screenwriters does it take to change a light bulb?
Answer: Ten.
1st draft. Hero changes light bulb.
2nd draft. Villain changes light bulb.
3rd draft. Hero stops villain from changing light bulb. Villain falls to death.
4th draft. Lose the light bulb.
5th draft. Light bulb back in. Fluorescent instead of tungsten.
6th draft. Villain breaks bulb, uses it to kill hero's mentor.
7th draft. Fluorescent not working. Back to tungsten.
8th draft. Hero forces villain to eat light bulb.
9th draft. Hero laments loss of light bulb. Doesn't change it.
10th draft. Hero changes light bulb.

I am a big proponent of finding a writers or critique group -- it has a two fold benefit. First, it is key in helping the craft of writing - there is nothing better than having supportive colleagues review your work and provide constructing criticism. Second a writers group also provides a wonderful place to be with other writers who understand, emotionally, the writing process. My own critique group is invaluable -- I credit them with helping me hone my writing skills and getting me to where I am today.Writers groups can meet in the real world, as mine did, or can be virtual as well. I've also worked with writers, exchanging manuscripts via email, and that to can be very helpful.  

Two months ago, a new online writing community, based in the UK, was launched. Called Quillant, its aims, as shared by found Chris is to -

"recreate the classic writing group over the web. It is a different type of site for writers; it is about developing your work-in-progress with like-minded others and working together towards your aims."

"You create a profile in which you state the type of writer you are -– novelist, poet, playwright, 
etc. -– and the genres that you work in. Quilliant.com matches you with similar writers and you form a writing group together. You work collaboratively, exchanging feedback on your work line by line.   

I'm all for collaboration, and with technology, perhaps we can do more of it!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Old Truths are Todays Truths

St. Francis de Sales is the patron saint of writers. 
Prayer for Writers (taken from Saintly Support: A Prayer for Every Problem)
May the Lord guide me and all those who write for a living. Through your prayers, St. Frances de Sales, I ask for your intercession as I attempt to bring the written word to the world. Let us pray that God takes me in the palm of His hand and inspires my creativity and inspires my success. St. Francis de Sales, you understand the dedication required in this profession. Pray for God to inspire and allow ideas to flow. In His name, let my words reflect my faith for others to read. Amen. 
We writers can be our own worst critic - we worry ad nauseum about our writing style, our characters, our plotting technique (or lack thereof); we wonder what our agent thinks of the current manuscript on his/her desk, we worry about getting that first or subsequent book published... the concerns are endless, especially these days, in tough economic times. Success seems harder and harder to attain, obstacle seem insurmountable -- but that's human nature I guess. Then you think back to the good old days when things seemed easier... or did they? 
Reading an article by Jennie Nash, in the Huffington Post put things in perspective. In her article, The Making of a Novel: 8 Enduring Truths About Publishing, she talks about a book she's been reading, DEAR GENIUS: THE LETTERS OF URSULA NORDTROM, Nordstom being he children's book editor at Harper's in the 50's & 60's, responsible for some of the world's most enduring children's books -- think the LITTLE BEAR books, Maurice Sendak's masterpieces, Louise Fitzhugh's HARRIET THE SPY and many others. In it she sees 8 Truths that were evident then, as they are today:
  1. The creative process takes time. Nordstrom's authors started books and stopped them, came up with ideas and abandoned them, turned one idea into another as they searched for the best stories to tell and the best shape for their stories. There are not overnight successes.
  2. Writers need critics. It's hard to imagine that a book like WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE was ever anything less than perfect, but Nordstrom picked apart all her writers' stories, questioning every word of the story and every line of art. She was ruthless. And it worked.
  3. Deadlines loom. Nordstrom is forever writing her authors to ask, "Where are your pages?"
  4. The sales people matter. Nordstrom travels to Boston and Los Angeles, among other places, to attend sales conferences and pitch the books she's working on. She talks about what illustrations to put in the catalog to capture the sales' people's attention, and how to present the stories in the best light.
  5. The competition is at your heels. We think of today's marketplace as being wildly competitive, but it wasn't so different back in the day. Nordstrom would go to great lengths to prevent her writers or illustrators taking a contract from a competitive house, and she seemed to hate it when a competitive house came out with a book she considered great.
  6. It's good to win awards. Nordstrom had many Newbrry and Caldecott winners, and there was always much rejoicing because awards almost always mean bigger sales. Nordstrom often spoke about wanting to help her writers and illustrators make enough money to stop doing their day jobs.
  7. Books need champions. Nordstrom helped usher a book to publication that included the first-ever homeoerotic scene between teenage boys. (She was a staunch believer that books should never speak down to children -- it's very inspiring.) She wrote several letters to leading psychologists in order to get a quote that would lend the book credibility.
  8. Making books is satisfying work. What comes through Nordstrom letters is, above all, a sense of absolute joy. She obviously loved her work in a very profound way -- and that love is still the only good reason to do it.

Monday, October 18, 2010

eBook Evolution Continues

NuroMedia released the first handheld ebook reader, the Rocket, which allowed ebooks to be downloaded from a PC via a serial cable.
According to the  technology gurus at GigaOm, the line between what we call a "book" and something that's just a really long chunk of published text—what you might call the "not quite a book" category—continues to blur in the electronic publishing world.
Borders has released, right on the heels of the Kindles Singles program, a service that allows bloggers or anyone else with an idea to publish what is effectively an e-book and get it distributed through all the major e-book platforms. They are doing this in partnership with Bookbrewer, a subsidiary of Boulder, Colo.-based startup FeedBrewer, Inc., which creates multi-platform publishing solutions for mobile devices. 
The service allows writers to upload their content, then publish an e-book in the open ePub format that can be downloaded for the iPad, the Kindle, the Kobo, or any other e-reader. The service has two tiers. One costs $89.99 and gives authors an ISBN, the universal book-tracking number used in the publishing industry. The advanced, $199.99 package also gives authors a master ePub file they can share or upload wherever they wish. Aaah, the changing landscape of publishing continues to morph...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Salman Rushdie's Inner Child

Salman Rushdie was awarded the British knighthood in 2007 for his services to literature.

I love Salman Rushdie's earlier works, especially the THE MOORS LAST SIGH. I can't help but envy the way he concocts sentences, each lush with imagery, touching all the senses, transporting you within the pages of his stories. But after SATANIC VERSES, something happened. Well, of course having a fatwa hanging over your head can wreak havoc with any writers creativity... THE GROUND BENEATH HER FEET, FURY, and SHALIMAR THE CLOWN didn't quite light up the page as his other works did.

This month Sir Salman comes out with his second book for children, twenty years after his first. He wrote LUKA AND THE FIRE OF LIFE for Milan, his 13-year-old son by his third wife Elizabeth West. The book is a companion volume to HAROUN AND THE SEA OF STORIES, written in the dark early days of the fatwa – for Zafar, the son he had with his first wife Clarissa Luard. The book (according the the Guardian) follows the formula of an old-fashioned quest, the young hero must complete a dangerous journey and has all sorts of adventures on the way. I haven't read it yet, but my fingers are crossed the old Salman is back...

Monday, October 11, 2010

HUGE Debut Book Giveaway!

Five book clubs around the country can win a prize pack of three to six sets of books written by the authors from the Class of 2K10. Each pack includes TEN copies of each book, and in some packs one of the books will be signed by the author. The contest is open to all book clubs associated with a nonprofit institution, a school, or a library. To enter, just comment on this entry, specifying which of the prize packs you are interested in and which nonprofit you are affiliated with. The giveaway will end on November 11, 2010. 



The Carnival of Lost Souls by Laura Quimby
Under the Green Hill by Laura L. Sullivan
The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams by Rhonda Hayter



Fairview Felines: A Newspaper Mystery by Michele Corriel
Island Sting by Bonnie J. Doerr
Leaving Gee's Bend by Irene Latham
The Reinvention of Edison Thomas by Jacqueline Houtman
Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai


13 To Life by Shannon Delany
Freaksville by Kitty Keswick
Mistwood by Leah Cypess

Past Midnight by Mara Purnhagen
Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready
Under My Skin by Judith Graves


Change of Heart by Shari Maurer
Faithful by Janet Fox
Losing Faith by Denise Jaden
The Tension of Opposites by Kristina McBride



Of All the Stupid Things by Alexandra Diaz
Party by Tom Leveen
Three Rivers Rising by Jame Richards
The Secret Year by Jennifer R. Hubbard
Split by Swati Avasthi

  1. You must be a book club affiliated with a nonprofit, school, or library, and located in the continental United States.
  2. To enter, leave a comment to this entry (http://community.livejournal.com/classof2k10/27411.html). Specify which of the prize packs you are interested in – you may choose from only one, to all five, as we will be holding 5 separate drawings.  (However, no club will win more than one prize pack.)
  3. Leave an email address where you can be reached should you win.
  4. If the email address is a not an institution address, please specify which nonprofit, school, or library you are affiliated with.
  5. If you are not sure whether you qualify, just leave the relevant information in the comment.
  If there are any additional questions, please contact Leah Cypess at LCypess@gmail.com.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

San Francisco Litquake

Litquake (October 1-9, 2010), San Francisco’s literary festival showcases hundreds of Bay Area writers for a week of readings, discussions, films, cross-media happenings and more
I spent an amazing hour with authors and poets in front of 250 awesome middle grade students earlier this week, at the San Francisco Main Library. I was asked to present at Kidquake, which is a part of San Francisco's annual Literary Festival called Litquake. Kidquake is festival-within-a-festival and was launched in 2004 as organizers decided theyneeded more of a children’s component to the event. 
Along with me was a talented husband wife team, Jon Voelkel and  Pamela Craik Voelkel who gave an exciting and informative look at their hot new book MIDDLEWORLD, a fast paced adventure story about archaeology and Mayan mythology. The three students from the Creative Writing Department at the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts (SOTA) were unbelievably talented -- just 15-17 years old, their poetry was moving, smart and deeply insightful. They went on to give poetry workshops to many of the students. It reminded me that I loved writing poetry in middle school -- it's wonderful way to have kids connect with themselves by putting thought to paper.
The kids asked amazing questions and were fun to meet!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Cybils are Now Open!

The Cybils Awards, or Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards, are a series of book awards given by children's and young adult book bloggers. Co-founded by Kelly Herold and Anne Boles Levy in 2006, the awards were created to address an apparent gap between children's book awards perceived as too elitist and other awards that did not seem selective enough.
Books are nominated by the public in nine genres of children's and young adult literature: Easy Readers & Short Chapter Books, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Fiction Picture Books, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade Novels, Non-Fiction Middle Grade/Young Adult Books, Non-Fiction Picture Books, Poetry, and Young Adult Novels. Nominees go through two rounds of panel-based judging before a winner is announced in each category. Finalists and winners are selected on the basis of literary merit and kid appeal.
Panelists are volunteers and must be active bloggers with extensive experience in children's or young adult literature, either as readers and enthusiasts or as authors, librarians, booksellers, teachers, or others with verifiable investment in the world of children's literature. Anyone can submit a book, just follow the simple rules:

* Anybody may nominate a children's or young adult book published October 16 of the preceding year -  October 15 of the contest year.
* Books must be written in English or they may be bilingual.
* Only one book may be nominated per person, per category.
* Nominations open October 1 and close October 15 of the contest year.
* Books should exemplify award criteria of literary merit and "kid appeal."
* Audiobooks currently are not part of the awards.

(Yes, SHOOTING KABUL was nominated by Amanda Snow)