Friday Links Return: Writing Inspiration for Year’s End

Friday Links return! Writing inspiration appears in many forms, and today I offer up some ideas to keep you productive through the end of 2017. During my blog hiatus, I held onto some links that I wanted to share when I started blogging again. That means these links span more than just the past week. But whether you typically get your writing inspiration from reading a great book or an article on craft, these links have something for you.

This Week’s Links:

Micheal Ondaatje opens archive to reveal his writing methods. –  Author Michael Ondaatje has donated his papers to the Harry Ransom Center in Texas.

The 21st-Century Fantasy Trilogy that Changed the Game.The New York Times looks at the writing of N.K. Jemisin, and how it created a new way of looking at epic fantasy.

Go Local: Marketing Books to Targeted Communities. – Jane Friedman advises writers to start where they are when they market their books.

28 Exciting New Books You Need to Read This Fall. – Check out this great list to find new titles to pad your TBR pile.

Shelf Life: Novelist Hanya Yanagihara on living with 12,000 books. – Dream of your own home library? Hanya Yanagihara shows us how it’s done.

You Did What? The Dos and Don’ts of Workshop Etiquette. – Take a look at these tips on how to attend a writing workshop with grace.

13 Upcoming YA Books by Latinx Authors to Start Getting Excited About Right Now – Great new books either out now or soon to be released that will add diversity to your TBR pile.

10 Gritty Crime Novels that Will Take You to the 1970s NYC of The Deuce. – Film and television producers seem fascinated by the 1970s, as evidenced by the new HBO series, The Deuce. These books give a different take on the gritty era.

Other Writing Inspiration:

With the season’s changing, it’s the perfect time to observe what that means where you live. Whether it’s fall or spring in your part of the world, grab a notebook and pen and go people watching one afternoon. What happens to the weather, wardrobes, behavior, the pace of life? This transitional time of year makes for interesting stories. Go take notes.

Friday Links: Out with the Old, In with the New

It’s the last Friday of 2016, so I’ve a selection of forward-looking links for you to help you get started on those new year’s goals. You have been thinking about your goals for 2017, right? If not, check out my tips from Wednesday’s post to help you get started.

I think we call all agree this was an extremely eventful, and in some ways traumatic, year. This past week’s celebrity deaths hit particularly hard; I feel like my childhood is being stripped from me in enormous chunks. But I still plan to kick off 2017 with as much enthusiasm and determination as I can muster. Only we can create a world that helps cushion us from the inevitable heartbreaks of life — one where people can reach for their dreams and live in health, safety, and a measure of achievement. It may feel far off sometimes, but that’s no excuse not to keep pushing in the right direction.

On that note, I offer you some inspiration for the coming year. Best of luck with whatever you strive to accomplish. Happy writing!

Writer’s Digest Shop Sale – There are some great markdowns at the moment on books and webinars to help you with all your writing goals.

Submission Strategies: Advice from a Literary Magazine Editor – Some tips to get your work past those gatekeepers.

67 Best SEO Tips for Bloggers – Strategies for getting more traffic to your blog and website.

The State of Flash Fiction – A look at this very short form of storytelling and how it’s role is developing in the marketplace.

10 Overlooked Books by Women in 2016 – Catch these before the new crop of titles makes your TBR pile fall over.

Anticipated Books of 2017 – Bookriot.com shares the titles they’re looking forward to next year on the All the Books podcast.

Creative Live – Online courses across a wide range of creative fields, including inspiration for writing, marketing and PR, social media, web design, branding, freelancing, and much more. They also have some great sales going on at the moment.

 

Friday Links: Facets of the Writing Life

TGIF! The weekend has arrived, and I hope it’s brought some time off for all of you to read, write, and sneak in a bit of relaxation. People seem to be anxious to acknowledge the end of summer, but officially we still have a few weeks to go, and even unofficially we have another week until the long Labor Day weekend. So I say make the most of it.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit this week of all the facets of the writer’s life. Even the act of writing itself varies enormously from person to person, by what they write, how often, level of commitment, etc. So it’s probably no surprise that several of this week’s links revolve around the lives of writers, including how they live, how they work, where they work, and so on. I think I’ve found a balance of serious, informational, and humorous, and there should be something here for everyone. Enjoy, and happy writing!

N.K. Jemisin on Diversity in Science Fiction and Inspiration from Dreams – Jemisin, the first black writer to win the Hugo Award for a Novel, talks about her experiences writing The Fifth Season and with the award process.

How Instagram Became the New Oprah’s Book Club – An interesting look at the social media platform’s role in book marketing.

Five Reasons Why Writers Should Move to Columbus – Ohio, that is. For writers whose pockets won’t stretch to New York or LA.

In Order to Live: Story Structure on the Horoscopic Scale – An intricate look at all the ways writers attack story structure.

Tin House Is Accepting Unsolicited Submissions for 2017 – Details on the latest open reading period for the literary magazine.

The Spoils of Destruction – The story of Thomas Mann’s Pacific Palisades house, and its current uncertain fate.

On the Barbizon Hotel, and the Women Writers Who Lived There – A look at the famous New York City hotel where young, single women stayed when they came to make their fortune in the big city.

Antarctic Artists & Writers Program – A program that enables writers and other artists to visit Antarctica for creative purposes.

Friday Links: Short but Sweet Ideas for Writers and Readers

Happy Friday, everyone! I’m on the fly today so I’m keeping this short in more ways than one. Most of this week’s Friday Links offer up quick ideas for kicking your writing and/or career into high gear, bits of advice that have a major impact, and reads that tend to be on the shorter side. No matter how busy you are this weekend, there’s no reason why you can’t squeeze in a little inspiration. Wishing you a great one. Enjoy!

9 Tiny Letters for Writers and Readers – A list of newsletters on writing, reading, and book culture that pack a lot into a fairly short space.

‘The First This Time:’ A New Generation of Writers on Race in America – A look at the timely, important new collection edited by Jesmyn Ward.

BBC to broadcast lost Tolkien recordings – A new program on BBC 4 scheduled for Saturday, August 6th. Non-Brits can check out the BBC website for details on listening online.

11 Ways to Overcome Marketing Dread – Helpful tips on how to market your work, engage in social media, etc.

How to Build a Great Newsletter, According to 4 Freelancers – Wonderful advice that can easily be adapted by other kinds of writers.

10 Steps to a Successful Book Launch – More excellent marketing advice. For those publishing traditionally, keep in mind that you want to keep your editor and in-house PR person in the loop on your plans so you don’t duplicate your publisher’s efforts.

The Best Cities in the World for Book Lovers – Just in case you’re still plotting that summer vacation…

 

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.

 

Friday Links: A Few of Publishing’s Many Faces

Happy Friday, everyone! This week flew by, which means I’m looking at a busy weekend of things I didn’t quite manage to fit into my week. I hope you all had a good one and that your weekend looks a little bit more relaxing than mine.

For this week’s links, I have a few interesting looks at the publishing industry from very different angles — writers new and experienced, a long-time reviewer, technical innovators, and more, along with a few other fun odds and ends. Together I hope they form an intriguing mosaic and illustrate the way that there is no single story when it comes to this industry. You have to find the journey and the space that works for you.

Have a wonderful weekend, and happy writing!

Moneyball for Book Publishers: A Detailed Look at How We Read – How e-books report back to publishers, and what they might do with the data.

24 Things No One Tells You about Book Publishing – Author Curtis Sittenfeld on her publishing experience.

The Rumpus Interview with Jessa Crispin – Crispin, the long-time publisher of Bookslut (which I am sad to say will be shutting down in May after 14 years), discusses her two recent books and her take on the publishing industry.

The Literary Fiction Drinking Game – From the pages of McSweeney’s. Because it was there, and I was amused.

A Fairytale for all Aspiring Writers – Amazon.com interviews Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, author of The Nest, about her “overnight” success.

2015 RT Award Winners – Romantic Times announces this year’s winners of their Reviewers’ Choice and Career Achievement Awards.

How to Beat Writer’s Block – An interesting article that might help you shake your story loose.

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.

Writers and the Social Media Dance

Social media can be both a blessing and a curse for writers, especially those who feel ill at ease when it comes to tackling new technology. But even as it morphs and changes, with new platforms rising to prominence and others becoming less popular, as an overall concept, it is undoubtedly here to stay. And as more and more of the burden of self-promotion falls on a writer’s shoulders, social media remains one of the most important means of getting the word out about new releases, book giveaways, readings, and other bookish events.

The downsides of social media? It can take a lot of time, especially when you’re new to a platform and still trying to get the hang of how to use it. Even once you’re experienced, each form of social media has its own way of sucking you in and eating up hours that might be better spent in writing. Social media can also backfire spectacularly if you say or post the wrong thing; word spreads at monumental speeds online, and never faster than when you’ve put your foot in your mouth. Plus the internet is forever. Deleting a poorly phrased Tweet or taking down a blog post is very much like closing the barn door after the horse has headed for the hills, and in this case the horse loves to gossip.

But the upsides are equally obvious, and not the sort of things a writer can ignore. Social media lets you connect with readers, reviewers, and industry professionals. It lets you talk about your project and build excitement, show off great cover art, announce signings, and squeal publicly when your book hits a major milestone. But it also lets you engage in a community that knows where you’re coming from and what you’re up against, which means you can garner a great deal of knowledge by paying attention to other writers and their experiences through social media.

If social media intimidates you, or if you think you’re fine with just one corner of the internet — your blog, a simple Facebook page — there are still ways to interact that won’t leave you scratching your head in confusion or feeling completely overwhelmed. Here are a few simple tips for tackling new forms of social media and building your online presence:

Start small. Don’t try to master them all at once (though if you have a common name/pen name, you might consider signing up at the same time in order to make sure you can get a consistent handle on all the major platforms). Choose one and play around with it for a couple of months and see how it goes. Keep in mind where your ideal audience likes to hang out. Many YA authors have blogs through Tumblr, for instance. Do a little digging to see where you might want to begin.

Pay attention to how others use the platform, both the good and the bad. Follow a few writers you like on Twitter and see what percent of their Tweets are promotional and what proportion are chatty/sharing more general knowledge/helping out other writers, etc. See how often writers update their blogs or Facebook pages. What do writers share on their Goodreads page? Observe what works, and also what seems to annoy.

Remember your manners. Just because the other person is somewhere behind a far-away computer, doesn’t give you the right to be mean. Try to respond to others in the same way you would in person; the internet doesn’t need any more trolls.

Don’t repeat yourself across platforms. Once you’re engaging in several forms of social media, try not to post the same thing on all of them. Determine what each platform is good for in terms of your own goals, and then stick with those. Twitter might be great for chatting and driving traffic to your blog when you have a post, whereas you might use Facebook for contests/giveaways, and Instagram to post cover art and photos of your work space, books you’ve bought, etc. Keep the medium in mind, and remember that you want your fans to follow you on more than one platform. If they constantly see the same thing everywhere you post, they’ll be less likely to engage with you in multiple places.

Take advantage of the ability to schedule things ahead. Depending on the software you use, you can schedule posts for your blog ahead of time. A number of Twitter platforms, such as TweetDeck and HootSuite, allow you to schedule Tweets days in advance. Tumblr lets you set up a queue for posts. This way you can remain present in social media, even if you’re traveling or under deadline and can’t take the time to post live.

Remember that the key word is social. Yes, you want to share your news and promote your work, but first and foremost, you want to be a member of the social media community, whatever platform you’re using. Engage with people. Ask and answer questions. Comment. Share your excitement about non-career things, like that great movie you just saw or the new recipe you tried. Be a person, not a sales drone.

No doubt social media will continue to grow and change, as will how writers use it. But the sooner you become accustomed to using social media platforms in general, the easier you will find it to adapt with the technology. Start now, start small, and take it one step at a time. And for those of you already adept at using social media, keep your eyes open for the next big thing.

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.

Amy Stewart on Storytelling and Reinvention

Author Amy Stewart got her start writing about gardens with a twist, titles such as Wicked Gardens: The Weed that Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities and The Drunken Botanist. But during her research for the latter title, she came across a story so compelling that she just knew she had to turn it into a novel. The result, Girl Waits with Gun, is her first work of fiction and marks a huge shift in her writing career.

What’s the risk for a bestselling author to switch genres so completely? How did she get started writing about plants and bugs? Stewart answers these and many other questions about craft and the importance of storytelling in her recent interview with Jonathan Fields. This runs nearly an hour, so be sure to set aside some time to settle in for a nice long listen.