Friday Links: Reading and Writing into Summer

Happy Friday! I’m in a summer mood today, even though it’s technically a few weeks off yet. Of course, given my natural tendencies, that just means I want to eat more fruit and ice cream and go read in a nice deck chair this weekend. We’ll see if I can manage some of that. Chances are good the ice cream at least will make the to-do list. And possibly a second viewing of Wonder Woman, which I saw last night and was excellent.

This past week has been typically tense, but I really don’t feel like hashing through it, so I’m just going to move right on to the links portion of our program. There’s a bit of an adventure theme going on, though possibly more arm-chair adventure than the actual sort, but it feels appropriate as we kick off this season of travel and summer reads, at least in this hemisphere. Wherever you live, I hope you find some enjoyment and inspiration from today’s collection of links. Enjoy, and happy writing!

John Grisham Is Launching a Podcast – The author plans to record interviews with various authors when he’s on tour for his latest book this summer.

Nomadic Bookseller Travels All Over France with His Tiny Library on Wheels – This is my kind of tiny house! Technically it’s a bookstore, not a library (librairie is bookstore in French).

10 Things I Did Right as a Debut Novelist – Excellent things to keep in mind, even before you have a book deal.

Denis Johnson Reads the Notes from the Margins – A nice remembrance of the author who passed away last week.

Hydrate Yourself with Sweet Bookish Tumblers and Water Bottles – A fun collection of book-themed travel mugs and bottles to get you ready for the beach, that road trip, or just lying out in your backyard with a great read.

How to Copyright a Book: A Comprehensive Guide – A handy, informative review of when, why, and how you need to tackle this issue, with thanks to Yvonne Shiau for sending me the link.

A Modern Gay Take on ‘Pride and Prejudice’ Is Heading Your Way – A reimagining set in Virginia between two men, now streaming through various online vendors.

At a Sword Fight with a Modern-Day Swashbuckler (in a Harlem Basement) – Fun look at a longsword enthusiast in present-day New York City.

Friday Links from North of the Border

Greetings from beautiful Surrey, British Columbia, Canada! I’m in conference mode, hence the somewhat late post today. I intended to schedule something last night but it just never happened, so I’m sneaking in between pitches and dinner to leave you a few goodies for your weekend entertainment. I hope you find them interesting and inspiring. Happy writing!

12 Awesome Things You Probably Didn’t Know about the British Library – For curiosity’s sake or for adventure/travel plans.

Excellent Nonfiction about Girls for Tween and Teen Readers – Great list, whether you’re shopping for the teen reader in your life or for a bit of industry research.

Interview with a Gatekeeper: Algonquin’s Elisabeth Scharlatt – One editor/publisher opens up about the industry.

Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon – Read all day on October 22nd! Sorry for the late announcement but there’s still time to join in if you want.

17 Short Story Competitions to Enter Before the End of the Year – Pretty much what it says.

What the Deuce: The Curse Words of Charles Dickens – A look at how the author got around the censorship of his time.

Friday Links: Reading and Writing to Pack Your Weekend

Happy Friday, all! I’m currently winging my way to Seattle for the Emerald City Writers’ Conference this weekend, but I’ve got some links for you to keep you busy in my absence. And if you’re going to be at the conference, please say hello! I always love putting faces to names. Have a wonderful weekend whatever you have planned, and don’t forget to schedule some writing time. The end of the year is coming up fast, so tackle those goals while you can. Enjoy!

Literistic – A monthly mailing list of contests, deadlines, and places to submit your work. There’s an extensive version for a small fee, and shorter version for free.

20 Reasons Why You Should Read Literary Magazines – Pretty much what it sounds like, but the list name checks some terrific publications, so if you’re looking to expand your horizons it could be a good source.

Bookselling in the 21st Century: On the Difficulty of Recommending Books – More tales from the booksellers’ trenches.

We Need to Talk About Money: Practicality’s Place in a Writing Education – An interesting look at just where writers should acquire their business acumen.

Celebrated Writers on the Creative Benefits of Keeping a Diary – For anyone who might be wondering or just plain curious.

131 YA books for Your October to December Radar – A wrap up of the YA titles being released through year’s end.

Who Nominates Writers for the Nobel Prize? – For anyone wondering how Bob Dylan ended up this year’s prize winner in literature.

2016 AWP Conference & Book Fair: A Quick Roundup

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.

 

Writing in Public: Crafting a Professional Image

(c) Can Stock Photo/ Kesu
(c) Can Stock Photo/ Kesu

There’s a saying: Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Well, writers often work in comfy sweats or their pajamas, but the underlying concept still holds true. Writing is a business like any other, and even if you can do the job in solitude, you will eventually need to create a network of colleagues and readers in order to advance your career. You want to consider your public image long before people know who you are, because the things you say and do now — whether in the real world or online — set the scene for your future.

Presenting a professional image starts before you sign onto social media. It starts with determining the image you wish to portray in all facets of your writing career, and that’s something you should think about before you have a book deal. Your professional image affects how you interact with your critique partners — even if they’re your friends, the way you portray yourself in a query letter or at a writer’s conference, and how you handle both your successes and your failures.

Some aspects of being professional might seem obvious. We’ve all seen the writer on Twitter who phrases something poorly or offers up an unpopular opinion and finds themselves in a fast-escalating situation because they refuse to apologize or back out gracefully. There might be name-calling and other rude behavior that’s easily pegged as unprofessional. But what about the less obvious aspects of the job? Here are a few things to consider when you’re fashioning your own professional demeanor.

Treat writing as a job, not a hobby. If you reach the stage where you’re sending out queries, you need to present yourself in a professional, business-like manner.

  • Have your own email address using your own name. There’s no reason to use your joint family email account with your spouse’s name in the From: field. Save that for personal communications, and get yourself a gmail or yahoo address that’s just for you.
  • Do your research. Send submissions per an agency’s guidelines. Be sure they’re looking for the sort of material you’re querying. If you’re cutting and pasting your query letter, double check that you’ve updated both the email address and the name of the agent before you hit send. Don’t forget to proofread.
  • Be sure to follow up with an agent if you receive an offer of representation from someone else, and either thank them for their consideration or ask if they can decide on your material within a reasonable window (depending how soon you need to respond to your existing offer). Don’t leave an agent to read your work a few weeks down the line only to discover it’s no longer available for representation.
  • Keep in mind that a writing career can span decades and you are building a community. You may work with a person down the line who initially rejects you, so maintain good relationships even if you’re not teaming up right now.

Use common sense at public events. If you’re attending readings, conferences, lectures, or any other event where you’ll be representing yourself as a writer, keep your business hat on, even if you’re there with friends and being social.

  • If there’s alcohol, don’t over do it. You don’t want to lose control of your actions or what you’re saying.
  • Be prepared to network. Have business cards with you that include your website and email address, and keep a small notebook and a pen or pencil handy.
  • Be aware of any behavioral guidelines set down by the organizing body, and be sure you adhere to them.
  • Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself if harassed or put in a vulnerable position. Part of being professional is holding other professionals to the same standard.
(c) Can Stock Photo/ marish
(c) Can Stock Photo/ marish

Approach social media as if dealing with a group of gossipy teenagers. Understand that as nice and intelligent as everyone might seem, there will always be a few people out there looking to get the dirt, to start an argument simply to gain a higher profile, or just to be mean.

  • Keep the business details of your business to yourself. I don’t mean you shouldn’t announce when you’ve signed a book deal, but be careful not to discuss it before you know it’s finalized. If you’re unsure what’s safe to disclose, you’re better off not sharing it. But you can always talk to your agent or editor to find out when certain information — that you’ve sold the book, what your cover art looks like, your release date, etc. — can go public.
  • Never talk about the who/what/where while things are still in play. When your agent has your manuscript out on submission or is negotiating a deal, you should never discuss the process online: not which agents or which imprints or how you think it’s going. It’s tempting to get excited and want to provide updates, but editors can go online, too, and you don’t want to inadvertently weaken your agent’s ability to negotiate by giving away vital information. So keep it off your blog and Facebook and Twitter.

Remember that the internet rarely differentiates between your private and professional selves. Once you put yourself out there wearing your writer’s hat and people get to know you, it will become impossible to have personal moments online except in spaces you lock down. Take precautions to stay safe.

  • Consider maintaining a friends-and-family-only Facebook page separate from your author page, with security settings that keep anyone else from seeing your photos and vacation chatter. Only “friend” a small, select group of people. This will give you a place to engage with those you love without worrying about policing yourself.
  • Be careful about announcing easily identifiable information about yourself on the internet, such as landmarks near your house, your day job, or where your kids attend school. Most people are lovely and will respect your privacy, but stalkers do exist and you don’t need to be a best-selling author or hugely famous to have someone decide they want to follow you in real life.
  • If you will be traveling for personal reasons — as in, not a conference or book signing, etc. — wait until after the trip to share with your readers/fans. Don’t talk the trip up ahead of time, or announce where you’ll be.

And yes, the internet is forever. Or at least close enough. Things you say and regret, even if you delete them, have a habit of turning up when you least expect it.

  • Apologize if you say something that hurts other people. Whether you phrased something badly and it was misunderstood or you genuinely did not understand what you said was offensive, apologize, and state that you’ll do your best not to make the same mistake. Everyone’s human, and most people will understand if you’re genuinely contrite.
  • Realize that there will always be things that will cause an argument online, and pick your battles. Some issues will be more important to you and you will take a stand. Others will probably still be important but maybe less of a priority. Decide what is worth fighting for and what you’re willing to walk away from, in the interest of having time to write and live your life outside of social media.
  • Avoid knee-jerk reactions. If something gets you hot under to collar, take a breath or two before you respond. You may change your mind, or you may not, but decide how you’re going to respond (or if you’re going to respond) with a clear head.

 

Friday Links: On Taking Over the (Writing) World

Happy Friday, everyone! As January winds down, it’s a good time to take a quick look at some of those goals you set at the start of the year, just to make sure you’re still on track. I know it can be difficult once the holidays are over to keep your plans in mind, especially when your boss and your family have goals of their own that often involve you. Make it a habit to check in with yourself pretty regularly so you don’t forget that your goals are a priority, too.

And with those words of wisdom, I want to give everyone a heads up that this blog will soon be migrating to a designated URL — one of my goals for the new year (and long overdue). Everything will stay live here until I’m satisfied that the new site is up and running properly, with the links functioning and so on, and then there will be a forwarding message to take you to the new location. So don’t be surprised if things look a little different on a near-future visit.

But enough of all that. It’s time for Friday Links! If there’s a theme this week, it’s world domination — at least the world of books. I hope these encourage you to get out there and read and write great things, ignore the naysayers, and take risks with your career. The only one who can do it is you.

14 Secret Habits Every Book-Lover Is Guilty of Having – I know I am. Particularly the one about buying pretty new editions of books I already own.

Diversity Is Not Enough: Race, Power, Publishing – A look at how very white the publishing industry still is behind the scenes, and how that affects the diversity of books.

World’s First Free Online Course Dedicated to the Exploration of Literature and Mental Health – Sounds very interesting. Starts Monday, Feb. 1, so get a move on if you want to join.

CTRL-F, DELETE: Word-Trends, Sneaky Clichés, and Other Turns of Phrase You Should Immediately Delete from Your Manuscript – A look at recent trends in incorrect or overly frequent word usage.

What Was Lost? Why Writers Should Value Their Working Drafts – How digitalization has changed the writing — and rewriting — process and what that means for posterity.

Talking Black History and Love Stories with Romance Writing Pioneer Beverly Jenkins – A great interview looking at historical research, diversity in the romance genre, and how Beverly Jenkins got her start.

Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators – An intriguing theory, with a bit of a push for all of you putting off getting your words down.

Opportunities for Writers: February and March 2016 – A list of contests and calls for work with deadlines coming up in the next two months.

Friday Links: People and Places Behind the Books We Love

TGIF! It’s been a long, kind of sad week, what with the passing of first David Bowie and then Alan Rickman. The first made me teary; the latter made me cry into my coffee on and off all day. Both were hugely creative individuals who left us with so much to remember them by, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t left a hollow space now they’ve gone, as well.

But as I said, it’s Friday, and time to look forward to the weekend. It’s a long one here in the U.S., as Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which means I can both get work done and also participate in the 24 in 48 Readathon. (There’s still time to sign up if you want to join in!) But before the weekend can kick off, I’ve got this week’s Friday Links to share. Enjoy, and happy writing!

Robert Kilpatrick on The Feminine Future: Early Science Fiction by Women Writers – A thoughtful look and review over at the LA Review of Books.

New Map Explores the Streets of Fictional London – Fun map incorporating locations from over 600 books, plays, etc.

Association of American Publishers Partners with United Negro College Fund to Enhance Diversity Recruiting Efforts in Publishing – A new plan to help diversify the publishing world from behind the scenes.

28 Authors on the Books that Changed Their Lives – Pretty much as written.

Alan Rickman’s Best Bookish Roles – I will forever love Colonel Brandon best.

The Time My Grown-Up Novel Was Marketed as Young Adult – A look at shifts in literary genres.

Not Just in Cafés: An L–Z of Places to Write – For those of you who like to write in public and with a little background noise.

The Struggle for Success: What Are You Willing to Do?

I read an interesting article over the weekend that talked about the difference between asking yourself what you want and asking yourself what pain and struggle you’re willing to endure in order to get it. The first question demands you respond with a result, and we all have very similar results on our wish lists: money, health, love, a nice home, wonderful trips for vacation, and so on. The second question demands you think about what level of effort you’re willing to put forth, what struggle is required, what pain you must endure in order to achieve your goal — and it makes you consider whether you want that thing enough to do the hard work necessary.

At the start of the new year, it’s natural to set goals. I’ve discussed them several times here on the blog leading up to the end of 2015, as well as the importance of planning out the steps you need to take in order to achieve those goals. But we rarely discuss what those steps entail.

Most things don’t come easily. It’s a cliché, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Whether you want to train to run a marathon or write a novel, you’re going to have to put in hours and hours of effort, and say no to the distractions that might mean putting in less of the time your goal demands. And the reality is that you’ll spend far more time in the lead up to your goal than you will enjoying the goal itself. A marathon requires hours of training and at least a few hours to run the day of the event, but the joy and excitement of crossing the finish line will be brief, and the bragging rights you earn will be temporary (unless you want to drive your friends and family crazy). Likewise, writing a novel and getting it published is a long, difficult road, often with frustrating set backs. At the end, you have a beautiful finished book in your hands, but then comes the concern about sales figures and writing the next book and the entire process starts all over again.

Writing, like certain other careers, has this strange illusion of glamour attached to it. But in truth it is a hard job, one that requires a great deal of time and patience, and that, in most cases, yields a very small financial reward. If you don’t enjoy the process at least part of the time, if your primary motivation is that end result, you might want to consider carefully whether you love writing, or if you love the fantasy of having written. I don’t want to discourage anyone who truly wishes to write; the world would be a smaller, sadder place without all the stories being written each year. But I also want people to find their truest dreams to follow, the ones that light them up every step of the way. Whether that is writing for you or some other thing you’ve yet to discover, I wish you a fascinating and successful journey.

Still here? Then go write.

Finding Your Tribe: A Writer’s Community

Writing is a solitary activity. Even writers who work with co-authors, or who break story ideas in a group as part of a television writing staff, must eventually sit down to face that blank page on their own. Beyond the act of getting down the words, however, dwells a wealth of opportunities for writers to interact, exchange ideas and experiences, and enjoy a community of people who understand precisely what it means to wrestle an idea into shape or struggle to ramp up the tension in a scene. Fellow writers read your work and offer constructive criticism, provide insight into where you might research an obscure facet of your story, and share knowledge about the submissions and/or publishing process. Other writers provide your network of both practical information and emotional support; in short, they are your tribe.

Whenever I attend a writing conference, it strikes me anew just how important it is for writers to escape the trap of working entirely in a void. Writers who know other writers also know more about the business, have a better grasp of the publishing process, and tend to have fewer typos and plot holes in their manuscripts. That’s not to say having a writing community means automatic publication and a swift path to bestsellerdom, but it does help writers avoid the more obvious pitfalls along the way, and provides some understanding shoulders on those days when frustration overwhelms determination.

But where do you find other writers? Writing isn’t the sort of career where you necessarily meet colleagues in your office, sitting one desk over. Most writers have other jobs to pay their bills, and not everyone who goes home to a second shift writing stories discusses their ambitions around their day-job’s water cooler. So where to start?

Writing conferences and conventions that revolve around genre writing make for obvious choices, and they come in a variety of sizes and for different budgets. Go prepared to both learn things and socialize. Many events offer an introductory session for first-time attendees, but even if they don’t, you can meet people simply by speaking with the person next to you in a workshop or at a meal. Ask what they write or what they’re currently reading. In a gathering of writers, you have built-in ice breakers. You can even arrange to meet people ahead of time through Twitter using the event hashtag.

If conferences are out of your budget or if travel poses difficulties, check out opportunities in your own town or nearby. Writers’ organizations, such as Romance Writers of America (RWA), have local chapters that meet monthly to discuss their members’ achievements, hear from guest speakers, and encourage each other to reach for their goals, and can offer a ready-made tribe of writers who work in your genre. Writing classes come in all sizes and shapes — from continuing education at the local university or high school to courses offered at the community center or YMCA — and give you the chance to meet other writers in the process. If you want to find a writing group, ask your librarian or at area bookstores to see if they have information about existing meetings, or go to MeetUp.com and see if they have a group near you.

The internet, of course, makes a wonderful resource for connecting with other writers. You don’t have to meet face-to-face in order to chat about writing with other likeminded individuals, and many writers work with critique partners or beta readers who live thousands of miles away by emailing back and forth, chatting online, making use of Skype, etc. Online classes can be less costly than those in real life, and many offer the opportunity to read and critique the work of your classmates. Some writers’ sites offer forums, such as this one at Writer’s Digest, where you can post questions, introduce yourself, and chat with other posters. Participate in the comments section of writers’ blogs — not solely to find critique partners, but to become part of the community at large by engaging and offering your own thoughts. Follow writers you admire on Twitter, as well as editors, publishing houses, and other industry accounts to learn more about the business as well as what’s happening in the wider writing community. Even if you don’t want to write a novel in a month, consider participating in NaNoWriMo and getting to know people through their local writing meet ups and extensive forums. Although not everyone will have professional aspirations, there will be plenty of published and hoping-to-publish writers in the mix. As with any social interaction, please use some caution when meeting online acquaintances for the first time in person and start off in a public place.

Building a writing community won’t happen overnight, but it’s worth making the investment of time and effort it takes to develop your personal tribe.

A few additional resources to check out:

 

Friday Links: Readathons, Reading Recs, and More

Happy Friday! I hope everyone’s had a good week and is raring to go for the weekend. I’m actually in the process of unpacking my schedule a bit, as I feel a potential cold creeping up on me and I absolutely do not have time to get sick. So rather than my current triple-booked weekend, I’m going to tone it down and do something logical, like sleep.

That doesn’t mean the rest of you can’t whoop it up on my behalf, however. One thing I was excited about for the weekend was Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon, which takes place tomorrow, October 17th, starting at 7am Central Time. Those of you who have been reading here for a while know I’ve fallen hard for the readathon concept. As someone who does tons of reading, but frequently can’t carve out time to read purely for pleasure, I adore the idea of setting aside a chunk of time just for that purpose, and a readathon gives me a ready excuse. I learned about this one just yesterday and was all set to put in my full 24-hours, but now I’m planning to be more sensible and just read part of the day. Anyone interested should definitely check it out, though, because it’s a fun way to plow through a bit of your TBR stack.

With that in mind, I’ve got some great bookish links for you this week, along with everything else, and given the time of year, some might just have a slightly spooky slant. There’s something for everyone, so check them out, and have a fabulous weekend!

Why Autumn Belongs to Ray Bradbury – A look at the prolific author and his love of all things October.

10 Female-Written Short Stories Everyone Should Read – A companion to the list of more general short fiction (though mostly by men) that made the rounds a while back. Great selections, including some with a definite Halloween flavor.

What Every Successful Novel Opening Must Do: Myth vs. Reality – A look at some commonly held beliefs about those first precious pages, and some ideas regarding exceptions to the rules.

Man Booker Winner’s Debut Novel Rejected Nearly 80 Times – Marlon James, who just won the Man Booker Prize for his book A Brief History of Seven Killings, talks about his long road to publication with an earlier work.

Why the Printed Book Will Last Another 500 Years – Don’t know if it’s true, but I’m crossing my fingers. Much as I love the convenience of reading on my iPad, I still prefer reading on paper. I’m a fan of books as objects just as much as for what’s between their covers.

Ursula K. LeGuin: Steering the Craft – On writing. The author discusses the new revised version of her classic writing guide, geared especially for the needs of the 21st century.

Should You Be Using a Pen Name? – Great discussion of the whys and the hows, with helpful supplementary links to additional resources.

2015 National Book Award Shortlists Announced – Pretty much what it says on the label. Some of these have been on my TBR for a while. Need to get reading…