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: 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: The Visual Side of Book Publishing

Happy Friday! I hope you’ve all had a wonderful week and are ready for a weekend of reading and writing, or perhaps some creative time to spark your imagination and refill that well. A good chunk of the northeastern U.S. seems to be battening down for the first snow storm of the winter, and all I can say to that is it’s perfect weather for a cup of hot chocolate and a good book. Stay warm, or cool, wherever you are, and take a little time for yourself and your goals.

All of that said, I have a bit of an art theme going on this week for Friday Links. It wasn’t intentional, but sometimes these things just develop over the course of the week. Not all the links are art-related, of course, but I think you’ll see what I mean. It’s a bit of a different look at the world of publishing, so I hope you enjoy.

By the Cover: Meet Will Staehle, Freelance Designer – A look at the work of a freelance book designer, formerly the Art Director at HarperCollins.

A Brief History of Book Illustration – Pretty much what it says.

R.I.P: Select Literary Obituaries from 2015 – A good round-up, and for reference if you’re looking to see whose work you might have missed reading.

Whom Do You Write For? ‘Pandering’ Essay Sparks a Conversation – NPR conversation between Clare Vaye Watkins and Marlon James that follows up on Watkins’s somewhat controversial essay for Tin House. A very interesting look at the writing process, and the audience a writer considers inside their head while they work.

Meet Jill Weber, artist and book illustrator/designer. In this short video (intended as a promo for a recent class at Sketchbook Skool), she shares a tiny handmade book she created to tell the story of her garden. A charming look at one of the amazing, creative forms books can take.

Neil Gaiman in Conversation with Junot Díaz

Last November, Neil Gaiman sat down and had a long chat with author Junot Díaz, one of his final appearances before he takes 2016 off to be just a writer and a father to his new baby with wife Amanda Palmer. This interview kicks off with a great rundown of the history of Sandman, which is well worth watching whether you’re familiar with the comics series or not. If you prefer to just get right to Neil, you can jump to about the 6:30 mark, where the video moves to the interview venue. This is a longish interview — nearly an hour and a half — so be sure to carve out a bit of time to watch.

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.

Recapturing Momentum: Don’t Let Your New Year Slip Away

Remember that list of writing goals you made at the end of 2015? Is it already starting to feel like a long time ago? In reality, it was probably about two weeks, but time flies when you’re facing the realities of a new year. Your shiny goals tend to get put on the back burner when they come up against your boss’s goals for the new year, or your kid’s flu, or the realization that you have no idea where to put all those books you got with your Christmas gift cards. Whether it’s real life or procrastination or a little bit of both, old habits die hard, and the most stubborn is likely your own inclination to put other things before your own ambitions. But only you can make your writing a priority.

So, I’m here to poke you. Check out that list of goals. Choose something. And do a little bit of work on it today. Whether that means making a point of actually writing, researching an agent, finding a short story contest to enter, or submitting your work to an online magazine. Go for it. One thing, one little step. I dare you to make this year different.

Friday Links: Reading and Writing into the New Year

Happy Friday! I’m excited to resume Friday Links today. It felt strange having the holidays fall on Friday the last two weeks, but between blogging daily for the December Writing Challenge and also being in Connecticut visiting my parents, it was also nice to take a little breather.

This week, however, I have a great collection of links to start the year off with a bang. I hope you’ve all had a wonderful few days and that reentry hasn’t been too painful. Personally, I’ve been caught up in a whirlwind. It’s amazing what piles up even when most people aren’t working. So I’m going to get right to the good stuff, and then vanish back beneath my slowly shrinking avalanche of submissions and client projects and emails.

Wishing you a wonderful, productive week, filled with all things reading and writing!

24 in 48 Readathon – It’s back, and scheduled for January 16th and 17th. Frequent readers will be familiar with my discovery of readathons a year or so ago, and this is my favorite one. The aim is to spend 24 hours reading out of a 48-hour period, quite doable and still leaving time for sleeping and such. Scroll on the site for complete details and to sign up if you’re interested.

The New York Public Library Just Uploaded Nearly 200,000 Images You Can Use for Free – Rundown of the new public domain images that the library has digitized for everyone’s use. Great for use on blogs/websites, etc., but also just really fun and inspiring to browse.

52 Short Stories in 52 Weeks – 52 short prompts to use for short stories, the idea being to write one per week over the course of the year. Of course, we’re a week behind, but that’s no reason not to dive in anyway if you’re interested in a year-long writing challenge.

Did you know that no novels from Madagascar have been translated into English? – Until now. Nice short piece with a small excerpt.

Inspiration Tuesday: Michael Nobbs – Artist and writer Danny Gregory interviews artist Michael Nobbs on how he’s creative in very short spurts daily, and how much one can accomplish when those short spurts add up. (Video linked, not embedded, per request of creators.)

Most Anticipated: The Great First-Half 2016 Book Preview – The annual preview of books being released in the first half of the year. Mostly upmarket and literary, but a fabulous overview of upcoming titles regardless.

Opportunities for Writers: January and February 2016 – A list of contests, publishing opportunities, and other deadline-oriented goodies for writers.

 

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.

Best Laid Plans: Learning to Roll with the Punches

I’m supposed to be back in California today, but instead I’m sitting cross-legged on the bed in my room at my parents’ house in Connecticut. In a perfect example of a domino effect, my first flight out last night was delayed an hour and a half, which happened to be nearly the precise length of my layover before my second flight out to Los Angeles. When I went to the airline’s desk to get rebooked, I fell victim to a combination of holiday crowds and the economy, meaning there weren’t any available seats on any flights out of the New York/Connecticut area to LA until Friday morning. (Lots of people traveling, fewer total flights on the schedule.) Fortunately I didn’t have any major plans for the next few days, but I did have some things I intended to do, and now they’ve been… preempted.

It’s fair to say I was pissed off last night. But there’s nothing I can do about the situation, and it’s not like it’s a catastrophe. Sometimes, however, it’s difficult to keep an upbeat attitude when fate steps in and messes with your plans, and this is just as true when planning your career as it is when making travel arrangements.

Writing can be a frustrating business, no matter where you are in the process or how long you’ve been at it. Some days it might seem like all you’re asked to do is jump through hoops: Submitting to agents, submitting to editors, doing rounds of revisions, rewriting book proposals, mastering social media. It goes on and on, and in may cases what you do needs to be redone because it didn’t work the first time. Not all manuscripts get published, not all books sell well. Sometimes writers have to start over with a new editor or new publisher, or even a new pen name. It can get discouraging.

You need to get through it. If you want to be a published writer, you’re going to face rejection and frustration. It’s the nature of the business. There is no easy route or guarantee of success, whether you wish to publish traditionally or you give the self-publishing route a try. Either way, you will have to work hard, and there will be days you need to dust yourself off and try again. Occasionally, a bit of luck might rain down on you, and when it does, you should smile and be grateful, because most of the time, writing is a job. It’s an art, and it can be a joy, but it’s also a job, and every job, even the one you adore, has its difficult facets.

But here’s the thing. When you commit to writing, when you decide this is what you want, you become part of a larger world of people who love and appreciate storytelling and words and books. There are rewards along with the frustrations, and not all of them might be initially obvious. So remember you can do this. You just need to get your words down, one at a time, day after day. Write that first draft, then rewrite it again and again until the words sing and your characters pop off the page. Reach out to fellow writers for help and encouragement. Find people who understand your dream and let them give you emotional support. Allow yourself to suck because those lousy sentences and weak paragraphs give you something to revise, a place to start. And when disappointment or frustration strike, take a deep cleansing breath and ask yourself “what next?” because the only way to get to your destination is to keep moving forward. Word by word, sentence by sentence, chapter by chapter.

Now go write.

Finalizing Your Writing Goals for 2016

A couple of weeks back I suggested you start thinking about your writing goals, both your progress on those set for this year and what you might like to accomplish in the year ahead. Now that 2016 is only a few days away, it’s a great time to get out a notebook or open up a file on your computer and start really shaping and finalizing those goals for the new year.

Whether you’ve got mental notes or written ones regarding your wishes for your writing career, start jotting them down now. Make a list of every goal you have for your writing, from the small things to the truly out-there, oversized dreams. Don’t worry if they’re attainable in the next year. This exercise is just to get an idea of the scope of your ambitions, keeping in mind that some things will likely change in the years ahead.

Once you have a list, go through and note a reasonable time frame to complete each item. Is it something you can manage in a month? Will it take several months of concerted effort? Perhaps an entire year, plugging away a bit each day? Or is it something you’d like to tackle eventually but you know is a bit out of reach for the time being, whether because your skills haven’t quite reached the stage where you’re ready or because there are many things you need to accomplish to prepare for the goal?

Now it’s time to decide what goals you’d actually like to work on in 2016. You probably have a fair idea, if you’ve been thinking about it for the last couple of weeks. There are also going to be things that are prerequisites for others — such as finishing a book before you can submit it, or publishing something before you can achieve any sales goals. But you want to find a balance in your goals; some should be a true challenge that take a good part, if not all of the year, while others should be achievable in one-to-three-month blocks of time.

Once you’ve chosen one or two large goals and a handful of smaller ones, consider any factors that affect when you’ll be able to work on them and when you should work on them. Pencil in a potential time frame for each, such as all year, February/March, June — September, etc. Again, try to balance your schedule. Obviously year-long goals will be a constant, but try not to overlap too many small goals unless they tie together in some way that makes it necessary or you feel like you’ll have extra free time to work on them for some reason. And if a goal is large enough that it will carry into the following year, be sure to space out your efforts so that you make appropriate progress by the end of 2016.

Now that you have a rough idea of when you’ll be working on each goal, you want to come up with a couple of brief bullet points regarding the how. What do you need to do in order to achieve each goal? What steps must you take? What actions? Think about things that might distract you from your goals, and how you can avoid them. For example, if your goal is to write daily all year, but you know you get distracted by interruptions, think of ways to limit them, such as turning your phone off or activating the privacy setting, setting up an internet blocker during your writing time, or hanging a note on your door so your kids know not to interrupt unless there’s an emergency. If self-sabotage is an issue for you, come up with a little pep talk to give yourself when that devil on your shoulder is tempting you to play hooky. You want to determine both the route to your goal and how to dodge the common obstacles along the way.

Finally, break down any larger goals that have multiple steps so you have an idea of what sort of progress you’d like to make. Tackle one part of the goal each month or each quarter — whatever feels logical to you based on how intricate and challenging your project is to complete.

Use whatever system you like to organize your goals for the year. Some people simplify and just hang a list on their cork board or refrigerator, others keep detailed notes in a journal or a spread sheet. Goal deadlines and any projected completion dates should be put on your planner or calendar, including due dates for those smaller components that you’ve broken down from your larger goals, and you can set reminders in your phone if you’d like a periodic nudge to keep yourself on track. The important thing is to keep your goals accessible and to check in on them periodically in order to lessen the chance of veering off course. I recommend reviewing your progress at least at the end of each quarter of the year, at which point you can make small adjustments as necessary depending on how things are going.

Be sure to keep your original list of goals — the one that included your big, crazy dreams. It will give you a head start this time next year when you sit down to determine your goals for 2017. Good luck with setting your goals for the year ahead, and happy writing!