Friday Links: Stories Only You Can Tell

This week I’m focused on the idea that there are stories only you can tell. Writers sometimes struggle to find their unique voice. But often the problem lies in trying to tell a story that has no personal connection.

Last weekend, at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference, I listened to a number of very different keynote speeches. Tetsuro Shigematsu shared tales of family, of his relationships with his sisters, his father, and how they influenced the stories he told. Amal El-Mohtar spoke of belonging, of the sense memory of scent and how a whiff of something familiar and beloved can draw you into a community. Mary Robinette Kowal spoke about mechanics and voice and that something else that draws you in–or rather her charming puppet did. Liza Palmer talked about being real on the page, and the importance of being real in life first. These writers, and many others over the course of the conference, dug deep into themselves to tap into their stories. They shared personal moments, and in doing so, chose specific details to make the narrative relatable.

When writing fiction, writers dig just as deeply into their psyches to make their stories sing. Every story you write is your own story, whether you mine true-life experiences or let your imagination roam. Find the bits that touch your heart, make you laugh or cry. The choices you make will reveal your unique voice, and will result in stories only you can tell.

This week’s collection of links is something of a hodgepodge, but I hope you will consider them in light of the above. Think about it while reading great books, while working on your current project, while going for a run. Enjoy, and happy writing.

This Week’s Links

I Talked to 150 Writers and Here’s the Best Advice They Had. – A great collection of tidbits from a wide selection of authors.

How a kid who didn’t read a book until he was 17 grew up to become a literary star. – Short interview with award-winning YA author Jason Reynolds.

13 new Halloween reads to chill, amuse, inform, and terrify. – Some books to add to your seasonal TBR pile this weekend.

23 Writing Competitions to Enter Before the End of the Year. – A varied list of competitions with upcoming deadlines.

50 Great Narrative Nonfiction Books. – Some wonderful nonfiction to break up that pile of novels you’re working on, inform, inspire, and entertain.

The original synopsis of Harry Potter that J.K. Rowling sent to publishers has been revealed. – A few caveats: Rowling probably sent this (or something similar) to agents, and ultimately her agent sent it to publishers. It’s just the first page, as visible in the new British Library exhibit. Finally, it is definitely the synopsis, not the pitch or query as was declared by BuzzFeed elsewhere. But it gives a great idea of the pacing and level of detail for a synopsis. I’d guess this runs about 2-3 pages total.

Cold War Noir: 10 Novels that Defined an Anxious Era. – Given current politics, these types of novels are once again all the rage.

Necessary Whimsy: Vampire Bunnies and Other Weird-But-Fun Halloween Reads. – For anyone looking for a little humor with their  horror this year.

Friday Links: A Little Halloween Gloom

Happy Friday, everyone! It feels like we just started October, yet here we are heading into the last weekend of the month. I hope you’ve all had a productive few weeks and have made progress on your goals for 2016. The end of the year is in sight, so now is the time to double down and make some good headway.

This week I have a rather abbreviated collection of links, mostly because I was traveling and then playing catch up and so there wasn’t a great deal of time for scouting out wonderful snippets. However, it’s a pretty diverse assortment — though overall a little gloomy and Halloween-appropriate — and I hope you find them interesting and inspiring. Sometimes the smallest tidbit can provide a new outlook or perspective. Plus I have not forgotten that NaNoWriMo kicks off starting Tuesday. If you’re participating this year, I wish you the best of luck. Enjoy, and happy writing!

The Lost Virtue of Cursive – A look at the art of handwriting and some thoughts about its present, and future.

Sheri S. Tepper’s Dystopias – In honor of the author, who passed away this week, a look back at her best known novels.

Anne Brontë, Anger, and the Resonance of Assault in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall – A look at this less known Brontë sister and the underpinnings of her best known novel.

Eight Horror Films about Writers – A little Halloween goodness for you all.

Marlon James: Why I’m Done Talking about Diversity – An intriguing perspective on the discussion of diversity in publishing and writing.

The Perks and Perils of Writing a 50,000 Word Novel in a Month – Some thoughts on NaNoWriMo.

Friday Links: A Diverse Collection for Black History Month

Happy Friday, everyone! I hope you’ve had a terrific week and are looking forward to an even better weekend. Personally, I’m looking forward to hunkering down with a good book, because I’ve had a couple of weeks that were pretty much full throttle. A little break is a good thing. Then next week I’ll be working for a few days out of The Knight Agency main office, getting some face-to-face time with my wonderful co-workers.

But plans aside, I’ve got some wonderful links for you this week. With Black History Month upon us, there are some excellent articles on black writers and increasing the diversity of the publishing industry. Of course, those are not things relegated just to February, but it’s an excellent excuse to step up our efforts to read and publish and call attention to more authors of color. And beyond that, I have the usual mishmash of reading recs, bookish goodness, and writing inspiration. There should be a little something for everyone, and I hope you discover something that sends you rushing off to get some writing of your own accomplished. Enjoy!

How Chris Jackson Is Building a Black Literary Movement – A great look at the efforts of one of the (unfortunately) few black editors in New York.

LA Celebrates Science Fiction Legend Octavia E. Butler with a Year of Events – A nice spotlight on this celebration that might inspire you to pick up one of Butler’s books if you haven’t, or revisit her work if you have.

Interview with a Bookstore: The Mysterious Bookshop – Peek inside the world’s oldest and largest mystery-specific bookstore.

The Real Censorship in Children’s Books – Daniel José Older discusses the recent criticism and removal of a children’s books with inappropriate depictions of black characters in history, and the broader problem.

This Year I’m Going to Write that Book – Some writing inspiration for those dreamers who haven’t quite gotten around to doing (or finishing).

How a City in France Got the World’s First Short-Story Vending Machine – I love this idea, and I’d love to find them on random street corners or in transportation hubs. Fun way to discover new or new-to-you authors.

Elizabeth Jane Howard: Hilary Mantel on the Novelist She Tells Everyone to Read – A look at the British author best know for the Cazalet Chronicles.

Fighting Erasure – A look at the importance of understanding the context for the current diversity discussion, which of course is much broader than publishing’s small corner of the world.

150 Science-Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Books to Look Forward to in 2016: Part 1 – A great roundup organized by release month. If you scroll to the end of the page, you’ll find links to the second and third parts of the list.

Friday Links: Witches, Word Play, and Women as the Face of Evil

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TGIF! End of the week, on the cusp of Halloween, and nearly ready to turn the clocks back an hour here in most of the U.S. and a few other spots that are in sync with us. (Yes, that’s this weekend.) I wish I could say I was looking forward to an extra hour of reading, but like many people I suspect, I’m actually looking forward to an extra hour of sleep.

I’ve been in post-conference mode this week, trying to catch up on email and work reading, and feeling like my office is just a bit too quiet after spending a few days talking books and writing with so many wonderful people. Most of the time I enjoy working from home because I don’t have the temptation of lots of coworkers to talk to or to take breaks with, but it’s still lovely to have a chance to chat business and bookish obsessions with likeminded folk. It reminds me of all the things I enjoy about this industry and leaves me charged up to find great new manuscripts to help shepherd into the world.

But I’m happy to say I have a great collection of links this week, including the last of the Halloween-ish ones that keep grabbing my attention. I hope you find them fun and interesting, and maybe even inspirational, because a couple of these seem like excellent research material for a very cool project. Happy Halloween, everyone, and happy writing!

The Conspiracy Against a Good Night’s Sleep – Tobias Carroll on the things that scare us.

The Key of Hell: An 18th-Century Manual of Black Magic – A bit disturbing, but interesting nonetheless. The page includes further links to articles on magic etc.

Why Are Old Women often the Face of Evil in Fairy Tales and Folklore? – An intriguing (and slightly depressing) story from the folks at NPR.

Alex Mar’s Journey into the Occult – An interview regarding the author’s new book, Witches of America.

American Writers Museum Slated to Open in Chicago in 2017 – This will be the first U.S. museum to celebrate American writers, including authors of books and poetry, journalists, and prominent contributors to social media.

In the Sandbox of Words: On Puzzles and Novels – A look at the connection between wordplay and writing.

Really, Really Big Books: A Reading List – Some excellent fat books to check out if you’re looking for a doorstop for a chilly fall/winter night.

The Writer’s Guide to Essential Gear – Writer and artist Danny Gregory provides a helpful list of all the tools he uses for his writing.

Friday Links: Hauntings of All Sorts

Greetings from Surrey, B.C., Canada, where I’m attending the Surrey International Writers’ Conference. For those of you looking to attend an excellent, all-genre conference in the next year or two, I highly recommend this one. Great organizers, programming to meet a wide variety of interests and skill levels, and an excellent faculty-to-writer ratio.

Just because I’ve escaped to cooler climes (it’s actually autumn here!), doesn’t mean I have forgotten about Friday links. I’ve got a nice array this week, and I hope they leave you inspired and excited to read and/or write this weekend. Enjoy!

Get Booked Episode 4: Haunted by Horror – This is a relatively new podcast from the folks at Book Riot, where they recommend books in response to a few questions from readers, in this case with a great Halloween/horror theme.

How I Got Millayed – A lovely look at how the author became intrigued by the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay.

How Libraries Acquire Books – An interesting peek behind the process.

Margaret Atwood on Vampires, Gene-Splicing, and Talking Turnips – Because my going to Canada calls for an appropriately Canadian author link.

Stacy Schiff: By the Book – The author (most recently of The Witches, about the Salem witch trials) talks books, writers, and influences.

All Hallow’s Read: Share a Scary Book for Halloween

A couple of years ago, author Neil Gaiman proposed that in addition to giving out candy, dressing up, and attending costume parties, we give each other scary books for Halloween. He dubbed this concept All Hallow’s Read, and has since encouraged folks to join him each year in sharing the stories that keep us up at night.

For someone who loves books and reading, this is the cherry on top of the holiday. It’s a wonderful opportunity to encourage kids to read, or to share a book you love with your friends. Books don’t need to be new from the store; share your pre-read copies, or make a family pilgrimage to the library and choose books for each other. Or maybe try a scary-book swap with your friends, where you trade your Halloween-appropriate titles with each other for a new batch of leave-the-lights-on reads.

Looking for some inspiration? The All Hallow’s Read site has links to lists of book recommendations, and my own Seasonal Reading post has a few titles listed — be sure to check out the comments. You can also check out the Parents’ Guide to Scary Books for Young Readers over at The Millions if you’d like some ideas for kids’ titles. Or just browse the internet; scary book recommendations abound this time of year.

No one is suggesting that books replace candy or the other trappings of the holiday. But Halloween is as much about scary stories as it is funny outfits or caramel apples, and a book will last far longer than a sugar high.

Wishing you all a wonderful week, filled with tall tales and tasty treats!