Friday, October 29, 2010

Fiction Friday: HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Will you read anything scary this weekend? Better still, what does SCARY mean to you in the first place?

Do you fear vampires, zombies or maybe unicorns (heehee)? Do harsh realities, such as the lives of hoarders, make your throat close? Do you have an irrational fear such as my dad (nightmares about butterflies)? Are you a hypochondriac (that's mine!), afraid to fly, uncomfortable in small spaces...?

And, if you're writing a novel right now, what fills your main character's nightmares?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wordy Wednesday: Celebration

This past week, our critique group celebrated the publication of Conrad Wesselhoeft's novel, ADIOS, NIRVANA. And, if you want to understand why there's a Red Bull and some amazing, spirit-infused grapes in the foreground of the picture, you'll have to read his book :)

Anyhow, it was a very happy occasion. But I think my favorite part of the evening was that as we were all leaving, stuffed and smiling, everyone commented how excited they were to get back to critiquing each others' work next time. It is my great joy to spend time in the company of such a compulsive group of writers!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Back-to-Business Monday: IT'S ABOUT THE BOOKS, RIGHT?

It's a fine line we 21st century writers walk between writing great work to go between the covers of our books AND writing, almost constantly, as part of our efforts to reach out to our readership through websites, blogs, Twitter, Facebook and so on. So many words, so little time.

Every week (and sometimes almost daily), I have conversations with authors struggling to find balance between producing their best work and promoting what's already published (not just on line but through bookstore appearances, author visits, conferences and other types of in-person promotion) so that they'll continue to have opportunities to write. I always have the greatest sympathy for this conundrum--I struggle with it myself. And I so wish I had a magic formula to help authors choose which types of promotion are worth the time and angst and which are not.

Right now, for me, I feel strongly pulled toward writing (over promotion). This always happens when I'm revising something that really excites me. You know, when you find yourself driving along the road or standing in the shower and all of a sudden you think, "Of course, and then the mc HAS GOT TO do/say/think..." and you've got to pull over quick or wrap yourself in a towel to write your idea out, dripping wet or running late to whatever's next in your real world.

To this end, I'll close today by pointing you to my lovely friend Molly's blog to read about her November event, the Golden Coffee Cup. Molly has a knack for spreading good writing karma and for those of you who are "all about the book" like me right now, you might want to head on over and join in the golden fun!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Fiction Friday: ON MY NIGHTSTAND...

...sits THE GHOSTWRITER by Philip Roth, MOCKINGJAY by Suzanne Collins (yep, still haven't finished it), and THE HAUNTING OF CHARLES DICKENS by Lewis Buzbee (arc). Those are just the newest ones. I'm not going to waste your time with any title on whose cover I can write my name in the dust.

Number of manuscripts I need to read for work between now and December? 6.

Odds of my finishing the books on my nightstand before Christmas? LOW (best I can do--not so great at math)

Now, I'm a fast reader and often go through several books in a week. However, I have not given myself any sort of real writing break since I began revisions on AUDITION this summer. I don't really want to though, occasionally, I wonder if I'm burning myself out. Problem is that there are only so many hours in the day and I'm lately giving most of them to writing. Thinking about getting back onto a strict regimen of reading at least one non-work title per week to kind of force myself to look away from my manuscript every once in awhile.

Can you read while you're doing intense revisions? Do you worry about writing burnout? Should I try to get back into a reading regimen? Are my questions bugging you yet...?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Browsing through the Library of Congress website last night, I came across POETRY 180, a lovely project initiated by the former Poet Laureate Billy Collins. It's a list of poems for American high schools but, honestly, just take a look as it's a gorgeous poetry roster any reader or writer will enjoy. 

Also, for your viewing pleasure, and related only insofar as he's a beautiful creature, one of my favorite animals at the Central Park Zoo in NYC (took this photo last summer):

Monday, October 18, 2010

Back-to-Business Monday: POSTING PARANOIA

Okay, I just deleted a very useful and practical post about authors who take too long to reply to emails from their publishers.  It even had suggestions for professional ways of managing email/logistical correspondence if it isn't your strong suit.  However, as we all know, nothing ever really disappears from the internet and it occurred to me that my helpful words might be misconstrued as the angry rant of a marketing person.  Truthfully, this is not the case.  I save all my real tears for my novels :)
However, after having wasted the better part of an hour composing, proofing, and deleting, I realized that what I was learning was that I have a pretty solid case of posting paranoia.  In fiction, we work to quell the "inner critic" but in blogging, a sober second thought before hitting the "publish post" button is probably a good idea.  Because, as bloggers, we develop our own online personas and they have to be in keeping with who we are, what we want to talk about and, hopefully, our offline objectives as well.
Have you recognized any boundaries of your blogging comfort zone?  Could you describe your blogger persona in fifteen words or less?  And, do you ever have posting paranoia?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Fiction Friday: FIRST PERSON

Ah, the great YA-first-person debate! Writers, bloggers, critics and every possible combination thereof have opined on the popularity of first person in YA literature. In last weekend's Wall Street Journal, Meghan Cox Gurdon reviewed and compared three first-person YA's in her "Children's Books Chronicle."

POV has been weighing on my mind particularly since ms I am revising is currently in third-person, past tense, but having some rocky moments. So this morning at Barnes & Noble, as I procrastinated about settling down for my writing time, I decided to read every first page on the YA new releases shelf (really one of my more epic avoidance efforts, still, an exercise both enlightening and fun). As I read, I discovered that, not just many but THE VAST MAJORITY of new YA novels begin, more-or-less, in the "I."

My upcoming novel is written in first person (also in verse) so I'm not throwing any stones here. But, as I read, I noticed that Leila Sales' charming debut, MOSTLY GOOD GIRLS is in first person, along with NYT best-sellers Gale Forman's IF I STAY, Ellen Hopkins' CRANK, and Stephenie Meyers' TWILIGHT. Perhaps its the pervasiveness of this POV that has, of late, lead a few literary heavy hitters to throw punches at the old "I." As a YA-writer, it's made me insecure.

However, the great gods of procrastination pointed my feet toward literary fiction where...guess what? Living-writer- legend Philip Roth's AMERICAN PASTORAL, Ernest Hemingway's THE SUN ALSO RISES, Arthur Conan Doyle's ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, Joshua Ferris's satire THEN WE CAME TO THE END, the framing chapters of Isaac Asimov's I, ROBOT, and F. Scott Fitzgerald's THE GREAT GATSBY all sit happily on the shelves, snuggling first person narrators inside their jackets. So, is the "I" a YA trend?

Happily, I was able to pull myself away from the stacks and get back to wrestling with my mansucript before all that deep thought made me need to nap :) However, I remain at a point of intense conflict, currently writing in third person, past tense but feeling like my character wants to speak for herself--you know, back to the "I." No conclusions here. Just observations...and questions.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wordy Wednesday: A BLOG BY ANY OTHER NAME...

Should I change the subtitle of my blog?  The main title even?

When I started blogging about three years ago, I just wanted to discuss my journey as person (mom, choreographer, teacher, chauffeur, laundry goddess, pretty good cook, lousy housekeeper) and a writer.  Slowly, the blog morphed into a place where I shared my knowledge of book marketing and love of children's and YA literature though I was still a writer-on-the side.  Now, I am counting the months until I can see my work in print.  The blog is evolving again into a place where part of the story is about me as an author (wow!!!).  And, though I still write in stolen moments and, often, with a preschooler tugging at my arm, I don't quite feel like a writer-on-the-side anymore.

So, do I rename the blog after myself (feels a bit egotistical yet, perhaps, rather practical)?  Do I incorporate my name into the subtitle (though it might be tricky to do so and still have main title make sense)?  Or do I leave well enough alone?


Does not like decision-making.

Especially on Wednesdays.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Back-to-Business Monday: Okay, after much delay...

My headshot.  Actually, two headshots as I still can't choose between happy-writer and serious-writer.  In fact, I have a very tough time looking at pictures of myself in general.  But here they are and I am going to make myself choose one because, revisions complete, this week I'm going to get started on a little bit of promotional work.  My first goal is to get the website into some kind of shape by December.

I'm starting to prepare by compiling everything I want to include, both ideas and images.  I am also thinking about organizational issues such as how/if the blog should link to website, whether the focus should be on the book or more generally on me as a writer, etc.

In terms of visual elements, besides the headshot, I'd like to include some photographs of me as a kid, dancing, acting, etc.  I went through my parents' photo albums this past summer and finally had the snaps I borrowed converted to jpeg files--I'll share some soon. 

In the next few weeks, I'll be asking some author friends about their web-site creation experience and will share what I learn.  For now...serious or happy?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Fiction Friday: Apologies

Forgot to publish my post last night.  Then, this morning, had an amazing chat with my editor.  Now, no time to polish and post my Fiction Friday entry as I've got just a couple of things to polish on AUDITION.  I just keep getting more and more excited about this book.  My editor has helped me to make it SO MUCH BETTER.  It's been an absolute joy and pleasure working with her.  It's been hard work, mind you, but I really feel like we're together in our effort to make this the best book it can be and her thoughts and observations are so useful.  Anyhow, no more swooning.  Just a quick "catch you next week" and wishing you a happy Friday.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wordy Wednesday: Blog-xaustion

Ever have one of those days when you think the best writing you've done is in a comment on someone else's blog?  When the thought of sharing anymore on your own blog makes you want to nap?  When you realize you haven't posted or linked anything on Facebook in weeks and you don't really care?

Now, I write all of my blog posts the night before they post so, in the interest of accuracy, I'll say that YESTERDAY was one of those days for me.  I think it's the end of a sort of honeymoon phase after having my agent sell my first book.  I was in a frenzy of reaching out, wanting to meet all those other amazing writers (especially fledgling ones like myself) in the blogosphere and to test the virtual marketing waters.  What I've realized is that I am just one person and a mom-of-four, choreographer/teacher, and nearly-professional chauffeur at that.  Years ago, when I started this blog (long before book deal), I titled it Writer-on-the-Side because that what I was and, no matter how much I rail against it, there are just too many (adorable) people in my world for me to be just a writer, even now.

I try not to get too frustrated about this but it has, at this point, led to a bit of blog exhaustion.  Funny, I love to cook, too, but having to do it every night for my huge family makes even that pleasure feel old sometimes.  I think the exhaustion is also partly because I'm in heavy revision mode (no NOT for AUDITION, for the new MS).  And I'm not sorry.  Honestly, now that I've got a book coming out I just want to keep working, writing and revising more material.  And writing time, as always, is precious and limited.

BUT, as a person who adores deadlines (compulsive rule follower--c'est moi), I do enjoy the discipline of the M-W-F post schedule and all there is to learn out there in the cyberverse.  So, I'm going to keep chugging a long.  It might not be pretty all the time, but every writer knows that's just how it goes.

Monday, October 4, 2010

THE HONORARIUM QUESTION #4: School/Library Appearances & Bookstores

Okay, let's admit it, not every bookstore signing makes you feel like a rock star. Weak turnout can happen for a variety of reasons and you've all heard the stories so I'm not going to enumerate them here. BUT school and library appearances can be a BIG HELP in making bookstore appearances more successful.

If you've got a bookstore signing lined up, on your own or with help from your publisher, offer to visit nearby schools and libraries so that, when you arrive at the bookstore in the evening, you've built buzz amongst area readers and educators. When you're at the schools, tell them about something special that'll be happening at the bookstore (give-away, secret, food) to give them incentive to come back for more.

HOW do you get school gigs near a local bookstore? Check with the bookstore to see if they have relationships with local schools (clear with your publicity department first, if applicable). Be aware that if your book signing has been planned and funded by your publisher, it's generally considered proper etiquette to comp stops at nearby schools. If you are coordinating bookstore visits on your own (and paying on your own dime) it's a bit of a different story but, since you'll be in town anyway, I'd advise a reduced, flat fee without travel or expense charges.

In general, when you've got to travel to an appearance, it's great to try to maximize the marketing value of all that time and trouble. I know authors who aggressively pursue school visits to coincide with book signings, and authors who always ask host schools if they know another school that might be interested in a second day (especially if the visit requires notable travel). As with all marketing, it's best to keep your publisher in the loop and to be sensitive to your own limits in terms of how much marketing you can manage (or stomach) and still be doing your best writing.

I hope these honorarium posts have been helpful. Now I'm back to my own ms :)

Friday, October 1, 2010


After studiously avoiding all reviews (not just spoilers) until my kids finished reading our household copy and finally passed it along to me (at one point we actually had two copies but we shared one with a neighbor--long story), tonight I begin reading MOCKINGJAY.  My kids are going a bit nuts waiting for me to finish so we can have a long talk about the book and the series.  I must admit that, while it was hard to wait, I am always nervous about the end of trilogies and part of me was almost content waiting.  Still, I've baked my walnut brownies and bought a box of my favorite tea and the plan is not to come up for air until I get to the last page--hopefully by Sunday.  Hope you're planning on some reading fun this weekend!