Friday Links

We’ve made it to Friday, once again. I hope you all had an excellent week, getting plenty of writing time in amongst all your other tasks. Any exciting plans for the weekend? I’m dropping by to help at a friend’s tag sale, and maybe tuning in to watch the Oscars on Sunday, depending how much work I can squeeze in between the two. And just maybe I’ll crack open a book with a cover.

But first, I bring you this week’s Friday Links. I hope they keep you entertained on this run up to the weekend, or give you something interesting to check out in the next few days. Have a terrific weekend, and happy writing!

U.S. Regulators Approve Random House Merger with Penguin – An update on the status of the merger between these two major houses.

2012 Nebula Award Nominees – A great list of this year’s finalists. Congrats to all!

How to Write While Managing a Full-Time Job – Some practical tips from Chuck Sambuchino.

A Special Post on LetterMo – One writer’s take on how Letter Month is helping her with her craft.

A Multiplicity of Voice: On the Polyphonic Novel – A great look at the form and some recent examples, at The Millions.

Friday Links

Happy Friday and happy February! Wow, this year sure is flying. Not sure where January got off to already. But I suspect I say something similar every year; I should be used to it by now.

However, it’s a good week for links, and I’m excited to share them with you all. This week marked the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s PRIDE AND PREJUDICE as well as 50 years since the death of Robert Frost. So I bring you a nice assortment of literary links, plus a couple just for laughs. Enjoy, and have a great weekend!

A Critic at Large: Jane’s World – Martin Amis writes about Ms Austen.

Niffenegger Scores Ballet Tie-in for New Novel – The author’s latest will have a ballet version performed by the London Royal Ballet.

The Sunday Rumpus Interview: Margaret Atwood – Wonderful interview with Atwood.

Second Annual Books Are for Lovers – Buy a loved one a book on Valentine’s Day from a brick-and-mortar store; or buy one for yourself!

Getting Away with Murder: The Millions Interviews Ursula K. LeGuin – On the occasion of the author’s new short story collections.

Rare Robert Frost Collection Surfaces 50 Years after His Death – Just donated to the State University of New York at Buffalo.

League of Extraordinary Pen Pals – In case you’re writing a letter a day this month.

A Month of Letters

LetterMo2013postcard-227x300Last February, author Mary Robinette Kowal launched A Month of Letters, the idea being that you write one real letter or put one item in the mail every day the post runs during the month of February. Between the short month and the holiday, there are only twenty-three days of U.S. mail in February (fewer if you live in a country where there is no Saturday mail service). The challenge invites people to take a bit more time to craft a letter than they would if they were shooting off an email, to get back to the thought process involved when you know the recipient won’t see your note for at least a few days. It gives people a chance to reconnect on a different level. Besides, who doesn’t love getting real mail? Something that’s neither a bill nor a flyer trying to sell something, but instead an actual bit of communication from a friend or loved one.

A Month of Letters was a huge success, and many of the correspondence that began that February has continued on over the year. With another February looming, it’s the perfect opportunity to dust off your pens and stationery and think about writing to someone. The challenge website offers all sorts of suggestions on how to get started, and how to find people to write to if you’re looking for some new pen pals. For those of you interested in participating but scratching your heads about what to write, I offer up a few ideas:

  • Valentine’s Day cards
  • Book recommendations to your fellow bookworms
  • Snippets of poems you’ve read or written
  • Epistolary stories or novels, with a new installment sent each week (especially wonderful to send to children, who might never have gotten a real letter in the mail)
  • Descriptions of strange dreams
  • Old photographs
  • Sketches
  • Homemade bookmarks
  • Humorous stories about your pets
  • Discussion of travel plans, either practical or the ultimate dream vacation

Your letters can be long and rambling or short notes that simply tell someone they are in your thoughts. Be creative with your subjects and with the medium you use. Write by hand or rely on your typewriter. There are no rules, beyond mailing something each day and replying to the letters you receive.

Creative Writing 101: The Letter-Writers’ Edition

It’s February 1st, the first day of the Month of Letters Challenge. Anyone hanging around with me here or on Twitter has probably figured out that I think this is a great idea on many levels. But I’m not here to chat up the wonders of getting personal mail. Instead, I’m here to offer ways in which you can participate in the challenge AND turn it into a writing exercise that flexes your creative muscles.

For as many writers who have embraced this idea, excited about the prospect of writing lovely missives to friends and family, and hearing their reactions to receiving something fun in their mailbox, I suspect there are just as many who have moaned at the idea of trying to write a letter each day in addition to squeezing in time for their work in progress. Yes, you could take the easy way out by sending pre-written cards, sticking to postcards, or simply printing out copies of favorite family recipes and mailing them off to your younger relatives (and hoping they’ll volunteer to cook something for the next holiday gathering). But how about looking at the challenge as something that will help stretch your mind and imagination, either through writing or by restocking your creative well?

A few ideas for writers:

~ Make your end-of-the-week letter a WIP mailing. Send off your week’s worth of writing to one of your readers in hard copy each Friday.

~ Do you write short stories? Are you interested in trying flash fiction? Attempt to write a few stories over the course of the month that are 1,000 words or less, and send them to friends with whom you typically share your work.

~ Any little kids in your life? How many have ever received mail other than a birthday card? Make one or two your pen pal, even if you live in the same household. Send cartoons, drawings, stickers, as well as little notes, and encourage them to respond. Take them shopping for cute note cards and teach them how to address an envelope properly.

~ Another idea for little kids: Be a secret admirer (though fill in their parents that you’re behind the notes, if the kids aren’t your own). Send little surprises and don’t sign them until the end of the month.

~ Children of your own? Write an ongoing bedtime story and send it out in letter format, with each letter ending in a cliffhanger. The segments don’t have to be long.

~ Older kids away at college? Send letters, care packages, things they forgot to pack up after winter break. (Word of warning: Don’t send to your college kid only; you’ll drive them crazy.)

~ Try writing one poem a week and sending it off to a friend or loved one.

~ Remember that Valentine’s Day falls in the middle of February. Send out cards to your mom, siblings, nieces and nephews, instead of just to your significant other. Stagger the cards in the mail and they’ll be good for a few days of the challenge.

~ Use one “letter” per week as an excuse NOT to write. Make it a break and do something creative that does not include words, and put that in the mail instead. Send a photograph, burn a CD for someone, bake cookies and send them off.

~ Consider writing a letter from the point of view of one of your characters. People used to write entire novels in the epistolary fashion. Give it a go on a small scale and see what you learn about your protagonist or your villain. Send the letter to your critique partner and get their feedback as to whether any of the revelations should be included in your plot. (Mary Robinette Kowal has already said she’ll be corresponding with people who wish to write her heroine, Jane.)

These are just a few thoughts to get you started. How else might you participate in the challenge and really exercise your writing chops? I’m curious to hear your ideas, so please share if you’d like. Happy writing!