I am digging out from the overflow resulting from three weekends — in some cases long — spent at bookish events, so today I offer up Jeffrey Eugenides’s take on the first-time experience. Publishing a book, that is. It’s part of the ongoing series from The Paris Review. Enjoy!
TGIF! I’m currently in Las Vegas on the fringes of the RT Book Lovers Convention (meaning I’m not really attending, but I’m there in the background, holding a few meetings), but I cannot leave you without Friday Links! So here are this week’s goodies. Whatever your plans for the weekend, I hope you squeeze in a bit of time to write. After all, every word counts, even those that end up being part of what gets cut in a revision. The most difficult thing to fix is a blank page, so fill your pages with words and go from there. Enjoy!
Why You Should Write Something Pointless – Some helpful tips to take the pressure off.
9 Websites for Readers Who Think about Books All Day, Every Day – You probably know most of these, but just in case…
Shakespeare on a Stamp – In honor of the 400th anniversary of the death of the Bard, the Royal Mail has put the man on the stamp. Or at least his words.
We Want to Hear New Voices: Diversity in Sci-fi and Fantasy – An interview with Zen Cho and Andre Carrington on diversity in sff, with some great reading suggestions from both the speakers and the folks calling in.
Ploughshares Emerging Writer’s Contest – Deadline approaching May 15th, so check it out.
Ruth Sepetys at LA Times Festival of Books
Today I’m sharing this interview with young adult author Jason Reynolds from the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Reynolds spoke on a panel I attended and I thought he had some insightful and interesting things to say about young adult fiction and his own work, so I was delighted to find this PBS on-site interview available online.
Every April, The Los Angeles Times hosts their Festival of Books (note: their website is already gearing up for next year), a two-day extravaganza that features panel conversations on every publishing, writing, and bookish topic imaginable, author signings and interviews, awards, and a campus-full of stages and tents catering to everything from cookbooks to young adult fiction to literary magazines to local writing groups and organizations. And since writers and readers need to eat, there have also been a heck of a lot of food trucks in recent years. It’s a feast for the eyes, the brain, and the stomach, much of it outdoors, and really, what more could you ask for on a spring weekend?
This past weekend we might have asked for a little less rain, but the weather on Saturday was more drippy than anything, and the sun obligingly came out on Sunday. I try to attend most years, and was glad it was a bit cooler and maybe a touch less crowded than usual, though there were still plenty of people in attendance. I went to a number of panels and heard authors speak on their recent works, including young adult authors Nicola Yoon, Jason Reynolds, Ruta Sepetys, and Victoria Aveyard; romance authors Tessa Dare and Anne Girard; and upmarket authors Alexander Chee, Laila Lalami, Stewart O’Nan, Aimee Bender and more. I managed not to cart home any more books, but only because purchasing them at the festival meant carrying them around the USC campus the rest of the day. I certainly added a number of titles to my TBR list, and of course I’ve already read much of these authors’ work.
Anyone near LA or planning to travel in this direction should aim to come the weekend of the book festival. It’s a wonderful event every year and catnip for anyone who loves to read and write. But in the meantime, I’ll be posting a few videos over the next few days to share some of the interviews held with attending authors. Whether or not your read/write the genre in which these authors work, I think you’ll find they each have a great deal to share.
All hail the Comma Queen! Anyone who’s spent any time around me knows I have a bit of a grammar thing. I love when people use it properly, and its rampant misuse (as opposed to the occasional typo or error) makes me twitchy. So imagine my delight when The New Yorker‘s delightful Mary Norris turned out to be one of the speakers at AWP16. So for my final bit of love to that conference before I move on to the more recent LA Times Festival of Books, I offer up this excellent interview.
As previously mentioned, I recently spent three days wandering around the Los Angeles Convention Center with some 13,000+ writers, editors, agents, booksellers, librarians, and other assorted writing-related people for the 2016 AWP Conference and Book Fair. This isn’t the normal sort of conference I attend. Mostly I go places where they stick me on a panel or have me stand behind a podium and answer questions, and then at some point I will sit across a table from a parade of writers and listen to pitches or possibly critique first pages of their work. What made AWP16 so different and so much fun (not that I don’t enjoy my normal conference experience, because I do) was that this time around I was flying somewhat under the radar. I was an attendee rather than a participant, which meant I had the opportunity to go to panels and sit in the audience and listen to what other people had to say.
Over the course of three days I sat in on some 10-12 panels on a variety of subjects, including a session on visual narrative that looked at illuminated books, graphic novels, and participatory storytelling such as gaming apps; a panel of agents discussing equality and gender on the business side of publishing; the use of film techniques to engage readers in young adult literature; ideas for harnessing the social media skills of a group of writers to provide support and cross marketing; subjects that are (or are not) taboo in young adult fiction; and a discussion of the realms of real and unreal in writing. There were conversations with writers I knew and others I had just met, and hours spent wandering the floor of the main hall where hundreds of small presses, publishers, literary mags, MFA programs, poetry chapbook authors, PR people and others had set up their tables.
Publishing has always been a moving target, an ever-evolving industry that changes shape at the rate of storm clouds. But some trends trumpet more loudly than others. I heard a lot of discussion and debate about diversity in all of its permutations, from the need for more diverse people working in publishing to the importance of championing varied characters in books as well as a spectrum of writers to tell their stories. There were in-depth looks at ways to promote work in this age of social media and a steady increase in competing forms of entertainment, and thoughts on how to harness some of the new forms of technology to tell stories in fresh, exciting ways. But there were also still people lugging tote bags filled with newly acquired books — paperback and hardcover alike. There were halls filled with enchanted listeners as writers read from their latest releases. I saw many aspiring writers bent over notebooks, frantically scribbling notes on advice from the pros. Some things remain forever the same.
There’s no graceful way for me to share every nugget of information I absorbed in those three days. Instead, I offer up a few links to sites and books that I heard about that might provide some inspiration or at least food for thought.
In terms of visual narrative:
Bats of the Republic by Zach Dodson – an illuminated novel that includes hand-drawn maps, letters, and other items that join with the text to tell the story.
A Life in Books: The Rise and Fall of Bleu Mobley by Warren Lehrer – an illuminated novel that features 101 books ostensibly authored by the title character.
PRY novella by Tender Claws – a novella and an app that allows reader interactions designed to put you in the narrator’s experience/thoughts.
In terms of the changing face of publishing:
Literary Publishing in the 21st Century – essays by a variety of writers, editors, etc. on the future of the industry, including the effects of technology, the fight for diversity, and more.
VIDA: Women in Literary Arts – home of the famed VIDA count, which holds magazines accountable for their diversity (now newly expanded to include race, gender, ethnicity, sexual identity, and ability).
In terms of marketing:
Tall Poppy Writers – a marketing collective started by a group of women’s fiction authors and now somewhat more broad in its scope, the purpose of which was to share social media knowledge and talents and to support each other’s book launches and careers.
Anyone interested in AWP’s annual conference and/or membership in the organization should check out their site: Association of Writers & Writing Programs.
TGIF! I hope you’ve all had a wonderful, productive week, and that you have some excellent weekend plans. I’m off to the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books both tomorrow and Sunday. We’re anticipating some rain on both days, so I hope that doesn’t discourage people from attending. It’s a fabulous event every year and I’m always quite disappointed when something comes up to keep me from going.
I do intend to get a post up over the weekend detailing my AWP adventures from last week, so if you’re hanging around the internet, be sure to stop by. Otherwise, I wish you lots of good reading and/or writing time, and I’ll leave you with this week’s collection of Friday Links of things to aspire to or that might just inspire you. Enjoy!
James Triptree, Jr. Literary Award 2015 Winners – Great roundup that includes the long list folks, etc.
Pacemaker: A Word Count Planner for Writers and Students – Pretty much as described. Great for setting goals and tracking your progress.
10 Contemporary Baseball Books for the New Season – A fun list in honor of the return of baseball.
10 Mistakes (Almost) Every Rookie Writer Makes – Some good tips and things to keep in mind.
Conquering Six Enemies of Deep Point of View – Wonderful checklist of questions to apply to your work.
Kelly Link Interview – AWP16
At the end of last week, I attended the 2016 AWP Conference & Book Fair, which was held here in Los Angeles. I’m still working on gathering my thoughts for a post about my own experiences, which were myriad and diverse, but in the meantime I thought I’d post this fascinating interview — one of many that took place over the course of the conference — with author Ruth Ozeki. She speaks about her novel A Tale for the Time Being, reflecting on the spark for the book and the ways in which world events affected her narrative. Such an interesting discussion — I hope you find it inspiring.
Everyone has an off day. One where the writing won’t come, the words won’t cooperate. One where you can’t even get to your writing because your kid has the measles or your boss slams you with a project that keeps you working overtime all week, and the only thing you truly want to do once you finally get a break is to fall down on your couch with a pint of ice cream and a spoon and something cheesy on TV. And that’s fine. It’s human. Just remember that the writing will be there the day after, and you will get up and go write.
For anyone struggling today, or just in case you want a bit of poetry in honor of National Poetry Month, I’ll leave you with the wondrous Maya Angelou and her words of wisdom.
Welcome to April! I must say, April 1st — April Fool’s Day — is one of my least favorite days of the year, because when it comes to pranks, I rarely see them coming, and so I tend to walk through this day with my shoulders hunched around my ears in anticipation of something annoying happening. Today, however, I’ll be wandering the Los Angeles Convention Center with thousands of writers, editors, agents, and other publishing types, and so I’m hoping that everyone will be too preoccupied with the bookish goodness going on to worry about fooling anyone.
So without further ado, I bring you this week’s Friday Links, no jokes or pranks included. May they inspire you on your way to writing greatness. Have a terrific weekend, and happy writing!
From Idea to Novel – Some award-winning novelists share how they deal with the blank page.
34 Compelling First Lines of Famous Books – Fun graphics highlighting some terrific book openers.
What Literary Discourse Offers in an Age of Extremism – Thoughtful look at why we should talk about writing and books when the world is going to hell in a hand basket.
On the 13 Words that Made Me a Writer – Fantasy author Sofia Samatar talks about making the turn from reader to writer.
The Forgotten Secret Language of Gay Men – In the mid-twentieth century, when homosexuality was still illegal in Britain, gay men apparently spoke a secret language to communicate in safety. Interesting on both linguistic and cultural levels.
Ta-Nehisi Coates on Creative Breakthroughs: