Friday Links: The Plague Edition

I opened Twitter this morning to a post that included a photo of Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year. In the midst of concerns about COVID-19, we turn to eighteenth-century fiction. Or maybe it’s just a reflection of who’s on my Twitter feed. Bookish people like books. Even when the news threatens us with a pandemic.

I’m not making light of the concerns about coronavirus. I find it just as alarming as everyone else. But it’s also depressing to hear about the cancelation of the London Book Fair, and to get emails about vendors supplying employees with laptops so they can work remotely. Friends are backing out of plans to avoid public transportation. Companies are suspending work-related travel.

You’ve all heard the advice. Wash your hands well and often, don’t touch your face, etc. But I’m here to offer up some ideas to keep you entertained while you’re avoiding that crowded movie theater or your local happy hour this weekend. Because staying home means more time to write, and to read. (You knew that’s what I was going to say, right?)

I’ve got some terrific lists of books to check out, plus some general writing advice and industry gossip this week. So plump up the sofa cushions, grab your laptop or e-reader, and enjoy. Happy writing!

This Week’s Links:

20 New Books to Read in March. – A ton of wonderful-sounding titles hitting shelves this month, so check a few of these out.

8 YA Sci-Fi and Fantasy Novels to Pick Up This March. – More fun reads, specifically for fans of YA SFF.

Top 10 Writing and Grammar Mistakes that Even Published Writers Make. – Excellent list of things to check for when you do that last pass on your manuscript.

Aaron Sorkin on How He Would Write the Democratic Primary for ‘The West Wing.’ – Less about politics and more about Sorkin’s approach to writing in general. There’s a particularly interesting bit on what interests him in terms of writing conflict.

Are Novelist Obliged to Tell the Story of Their Private Life? – Interesting read in the age of #MeToo and #OwnVoices.

52 Books for 52 Places. – Intended as a tie-in for the NYT article on places to travel, it’s also a great list for some armchair traveling if you don’t want to leave the house.

10-1/2 Commandments of Writing. – A good refresher of some basic things to keep in mind while you’re hermitting away with your work-in-progress.

When Did Reading Books Become So Competitive? – A look at the age of reading challenges and bookish social media.

Announcing the 2020 Women’s Prize Longlist. – The 16 books that made the long list for this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction.

Friday Links: Happy Valentine’s Day Edition

Valentine’s Day puts me in a quandry. In my heart I consider it a retail holiday, designed to sell chocolates, flowers, cards, and fancy dinners. But I also represent quite a few romance writers, and I love a good love story. So there you have it. Whichever way your belief system lands, wishing you a lovely day. And hopefully some good chocolate and an even better book.

In light of the holiday, I did find some suitably romantic links. And a bunch of other stuff, too, for those of you frowning at me. I think it’s a good roundup with something for everyone, so I hope you get inspired to write something great. If you’re more in the mood to curl up with a good read this weekend, I’ve got you covered, as well.

Happy writing, happy reading, and a very happy Valentine’s Day to all. Enjoy!

This Week’s Links:

Celebrating Valentines with Our Favorite SFF Ships. – The folks at Tor/Forge share a few romances from SFF land.

17 Books that Will Make You Believe in Love. – BuzzFeed has you covered.

23 YA Romance Novels that Are Better than a Candlelit Dinner. – BuzzFeed again, but for the young adult crowd (and those who like to read about them).

Quiz: Find the Perfect Shakespeare Quote for Your Valentine. – What it says on the box. Fun for those of you who like to handwrite your cards.

Voices of Change. – A talk with authors Tomi Adeyemi, Akwaeke Emezi, Elizabeth Acevedo, Angie Thomas, and Nic Stone about the (slowly) diversifying landscape of young adult fiction.

RWA 2020: No Ending in Sight, Just Hollow Women. – A thorough update from the folks at Smart Bitches about the mess at Romance Writers of America.

Season of the Witch: The Rise of Queer Magic in YA SFF. – A look at how more diverse young adult fiction is queer without relying on coming-stories, particularly in the SFF realm.

How Obama’s Reading Shaped His Writing. – A bookseller looks at President Obama’s relationship to bookstores and writing.

Shelf Life: Anne Enright on the Five Books that Made Her. – The Booker Prize-winning author talks about the books she believes helped make her a writer.

Futurescapes Workshop: Masterclass

I’m excited to be teaching at the Futurescapes Workshop in Utah again this year. The workshop itself is full, but masterclasses have been opened up to the public. If you’re in the Provo area, I’ll be teaching my First Pages class on Sunday, February 16th. Find full registration details HERE. Class runs from 9am to 10:30am at the Provo Marriott Hotel and Convention Center.

First Pages: What Keeps Agents Reading

Grab your reader from the beginning. It’s great advice, but what does it mean in practice? And even more important, what does it mean in your manuscript? While it might be easy to recognize a fabulous beginning in a favorite novel, it can be difficult to determine what works in your own writing, especially after a few drafts where nothing seems to pop. Join me to learn what elements make for a compelling opening, what I look for in the first pages of a manuscript to keep me reading, and how to avoid the mistakes that most typically negate a fabulous first paragraph.

Because the workshop itself focuses on science fiction and fantasy writing, the masterclass does skew in that direction. However, the lessons taught apply to writing the opening for any novel. Hope to see some of you there!

Friday Links: Building a Career as a Writer

I tend to focus on the early days of becoming a writer, for obvious reasons. How to develop craft, how to query, whether you should go to conferences, etc. But today I’m stepping back a bit and considering the bigger picture. I don’t mean you should put the cart before the horse if you’re in the early stages of writing. Those initial steps are foundational and deserve your attention. But everyone daydreams about “someday,” and plenty of writers are further along in their process. So a number of today’s links consider what it means to build a career as a writer.

I’ve mixed a few odds and ends in, as well, so there’s something for everyone. I hope you all have a lovely weekend, and set aside some time to write or to curl up with a great read. Enjoy!

This Week’s Links:

Overcoming Writing Anxiety. – Different from writer’s block, this can hit at any stage of your career. Some good ideas here on how to combat the problem.

If You’re Looking to Write More in 2020, Rebecca Makkai Has Your Strangely Specific Prompts. – Pretty much what it sounds like. Author Rebecca Makkai is Tweeting daily prompts this year under the hashtag #366prompts. (We get an extra because it’s a leap year.)

Writing Excuses: Evolution of a Career. – The first episode of this season of the Writing Excuses podcast focuses on how writing careers evolve and all sorts of important questions that you might associate with that topic.

How and When Should a Writer Use a Pen Name or Pseudonym? – Some of the reasons why a writer might wish to write under a different or an additional name.

How Edith Wharton’s Novel of New York High Society Speaks to Class Divisions Today. – Author Jennifer Egan discusses The House of Mirth and the ways in which it still resonates.

“Why would I close the door to a queer person?” LGBTQ Fantasy Comes of Age. – A look at the crop of new fantasy novels that feature more gender-diverse casts.

Friday Links 2020: Kicking Off the New Year

Welcome to the first Friday Links for the new year! I’m still in vacation mode, so this week’s mostly a collection of book recs and some bookish culture, and one unfortunate mess. Plenty of time for more meaty content starting next week.

I hope you’re all enjoying the start of 2020, and that you’ve planned out some great reading and writing goals. I’ve put together a pretty ambitious to-do list, and I look forward to getting things going. More details as the year progresses. But it’s good to have positive things to focus on, especially when the world around us continues to resemble a dumpster fire. Time to create a wonderful new year with each new day.

Wishing you all a lovely weekend and an energetic, productive January. Happy writing!

This Week’s Links:

The Disappearance of John M. Ford. – An interesting look at the history of a once-popular science fiction author who fell into obscurity.

The Lives They Lived: Remembering Some of the Artists, Innovators, and Thinkers We Lost in the Past Year. – Obviously a mix of writers and other well-known individuals, but notable for the fact that it’s probably the only time you’ll find Harold Bloom, Toni Morrison, and Judith Krantz discussed on the same page.

The Romance Writers of America Racism Row Matters Because the Gatekeepers Are Watching. – One small piece of a huge, unfolding puzzle that officially exploded over the holidays. More on this separately once I’ve had a chance to actually assemble my thoughts into something coherent.

20 Books We’re Watching for in 2020. – A brief list but there are some excellent sounding titles here. Starting filling up that new year’s TBR list.

56 Books by Women and Nonbinary Writers of Color to Read in 2020. – Another great list of upcoming works to be on the lookout for.

2020 Preview: What Our Fiction Editor Will Be Reading This Year. – One last bunch of suggestions for your TBR list, this time from Kirkus Reviews.

Friday Links: The Edge of Vacation Edition

I’m about to hang up my out-of-office shingle for the holidays, so I’m sneaking these links in under the wire. As with last week, they don’t follow much of a pattern. They’re just things I’ve stumbled across and wanted to share with you all. I hope they inspire a bit of writing, some great reading, and maybe a little literary wanderlust. Wishing you a wonderful weekend. Don’t forget to get your words in!

This Week’s Links:

Our Favorite 50 Books of the Year. – Courtesy of LitHub. Because apparently I’m still a sucker for another bookish “best of” list.

History and SFF: Historical Sources and N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth Trilogy. – A look at how history can serve fiction when it comes to world building.

36 Hours in King’s Cross London. – A peek at the area around the famous train station, for Harry Potter fans, Anglophiles, and armchair travelers of all sorts.

Walking through the House Where Louisa May Alcott Wrote Little Women. – More March-family madness in anticipation of the release of the latest film version of the classic story.

Books off the Beaten Path: 15 Small Press Reads If You Want Something Different. – Pretty much what it says on the label. A nice cross section of titles from a some smaller publishers.

Friday Links: The Black Friday Edition

Some of you probably spent your morning shopping, whether fighting crowds in stores or seeking deals online. I slept in, then treated myself to a lazy breakfast on the couch, with eggs and leftover biscuits from dinner last night. I’m not one for deep-deal diving in the days after Thanksgiving. Instead, I use these few days off to gear up for the last push of the year, and to prep for holiday travel. But I do have this week’s Friday Links for all of you, and whatever your schedule, I hope you find a moment to enjoy them.

Feet up in rainbow socks next to mug of coffee and an open paperback book.

A quick reminder for you: The 2019 December Writing Challenge kicks off on Sunday. I’ll be back tomorrow with the full rules of the challenge for those of you unfamiliar with them. Meanwhile, enjoy your leftovers, read a good book, finish up your NaNoWriMo project, or grab a nice nap. And happy writing!

This Week’s Links:

Pete Hamill ‘Ain’t Done Yet.’ – An interesting profile of the journalist and novelist as he works on what might be his final project.

You Can Book Harry Potter’s Childhood Home on Airbnb. – The home featured in the Harry Potter films as the house in Godric’s Hollow can be rented for as little as $150 per night.

The Best Sci-Fi and Fantasty Defies Easy Genre Categorization. – A discussion of the place held by these commercial labels and what they mean for the writer who wants to blur the lines.

Shannon Pufahl: Queering the Western. – For writers and readers interested in diversifying the literary landscape, as well as those intrigued by America’s national myth of the wild west.

The Slightly Foxed Podcast. – The podcast associated with the UK literary quarterly of the same name. Wonderful listening for anyone seeking slightly less-well-known titles to add to their TBR piles, interested in bits of literary trivia, or who counts themself an anglophile. Produced once a month, with a little over a year of back episodes currently available.

Pippi Longstocking Musical in Works to Celebrate 75th Anniversary. – Set for this coming summer in Stockholm, for any fans out there planning vacation travel. Fingers crossed it lands in a few more places in the future.

Books for the Holiday Rom-Com Fan. – An assortment of titles, both new and older, sure to fit your holiday mood.

Friday Links: Inspiration and Influence

We discuss inspiration a lot when talking about what we write. We want to read, to fill the well, to take in new ideas. Things inspire you to go in a particular direction with your work-in-progress. Sometimes it’s a snippet of conversation or a bit of reading, other times it’s more nebulous. Colors in the trees. A flashy outfit on a woman across the street. A moment of fear when it looks like something terrible might happen.

Girl_on_mountain_stretching_at_sunset

But past influences? I think we mostly discuss those in relation to published writers, asking them to look back at who they’ve read and what they’ve experienced that made them a writer. It’s harder to think about it in the moment, to look at your half-formed manuscript and recognize the pieces of your past that form the roots. It’s something to consider, next time you hit a wall or find your momentum slowing. Think about where you’re going, but also about where you’ve been. Ask what brought you there. It might help you figure out what comes next.

Along those lines, I offer up this week’s Friday Links, with plenty of inspiration and maybe a few looks at influence, too. I hope they give you a push in the right direction. Wishing you a wonderful weekend and productive writing!

This Week’s Links:

Five Books about Artists and the Magic of Creativity. – Maggie Stiefvater discusses the natural melding of art and magic and how that comes across in books.

The Second Shelf. – A peek into the world of A.N. Devers’s wonderful second-hand bookshop, located in London, where books by women get a second life in a market that is traditionally dominated by male writers.

Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of November. – Some great new titles topping the list per Amazon.

How to Unlearn Everything: When it Comes to Writing the ‘Other,’ What Questions Are We not Asking? – Alexander Chee looks at the importance of including diverse characters versus what it means to let a person tell their own story.

Explore the List of 100 Novels that Shaped Our World. – The BBC shares a broad list of titles voted on by a collection of writers, critics, etc., focusing not on what books are “best,” but on what works had the most influence on them and their surroundings.

Philip Pullman On Children’s Literature and the Critics Who Distain It. – The author looks at the what the label “children’s literature” actually means, and why these books are no less worthy of an adult’s attention than any other type of writing.

How to Review a Novel. – Advice on the process, but also something interesting for fiction writers to consider. Reviewers and pleasure readers can have very different perspectives.

A Roundup of 2019’s Major Science Fiction and Fantasy Award Winners. – Pad out your TBR list with some of these amazing award-winning novels.

Friday Links: Year’s End Review

I’m squeezing my year’s end review in with Friday Links today because, in many ways, I’ve already started to tally up 2018. I discussed book lists for the year, plus some of my own favorites, which leaves some thoughts on the year overall.

year's end review over coffee

It’s been a lovely year for book deals and for reading wonderful new books by my clients. On the submissions front, I fared a little worse, having a hard time getting through all the projects coming across my desk. One of my first goals for 2019 involves catching up there and continuing to work our new query system. But goals call for a different post.

Outside my little book bubble, the world continues to rage and distract, from politics to tragedies to the loss of various public figures whom we’ll miss. Put this way, it sounds much calmer than if I go into specifics, so I won’t. We all know the chaos brewing. May we find a saner middle road in the year ahead. I hope to post a much more positive year’s end review come next December.

On the personal side of things, good and bad news seemed to take turns. This year saw close friends moving away and others coming to visit. My parents continued to get older, as people do. I managed some great travel for work and pleasure, and met a few new people I’m excited to know better. It all seems to balance out.

This week’s links reflect my year’s end review mindset in many ways, some looking back while others look forward. It’s an eclectic mix, so I hope you find them interesting and inspirational. Don’t forget to keep writing daily if you’re participating in the December Writing Challenge. Just a few days left! Have a great weekend.

This Week’s Links:

The World of Nora Ephron: A Reading List. – In honor of the 20-year anniversary of You’ve Got Mail, a lovely look at Ephron’s approach to filmaking and writing. Great suggested reading list, especially if you’ve never read any of her work.

10 Books by Debut Authors to Watch in 2019. – A wonderful list that includes the debut women’s fiction by my client Erin Bartels.

Tired of Series? Try These 10 Standalone Fantasy Novels. – I love a good series, but committing to yet another one can make me twitch. Some great recs for anyone who feels the same.

Megan Abbott’s Work Diary: ‘My Psychiatrist Notes How Tired I Look, Which Is Great’. – A peek inside the busy life of a successful author.

28 Young Adult Books Coming Out in 2019 That Will Seriously Get You Pumped for the New Year. – Pretty much what it says on the wrapper.

12 of the Best Romance Novels, According to the Author of The Proposal. – Jasmine Guillory shares some of her favorite reads from the past year.

From Dragon Riders to Winter Slumberers: Winter’s 10 Hottest Sci-Fi & Fantasy Reads. – A roundup with something for everyone.

A Guide to Short Story Contests in 2019. – Start marking your calendar now.

Friday Links: Vacation Land Edition

Greetings from vacation land! I’m oficially off this week, though unofficially still doing a few things here and there. My travels involve driving to see friends for the day and wandering around Los Angeles’s prettier sites, rather than jetting off to some hot spot. But even while vacationing, I think about writing and reading. I work in publishing for a reason, after all. So the blog marches on. Now that I’m getting back in the swing of posting, I don’t want to spoil my streak.

blogging-in-vacation-land

That said, this week’s links are on the sparse side. I have spent very little time online this week (see: vacation land) and so did not discover the usual wealth of tidbits to share. But I’m excited for the ones I found, so I hope you find them inspirational and informative.

Also, if you didn’t see it earlier this week, I posted my thoughts on marginalia and whether or not taking notes in the margins as you read a book can make you a better writer. I got inspired by Austin Kleon’s post on Reading with a Pencil. so check out Kleon’s thoughts and then see my take on the subject. Please feel free to comment about your own experiences with making notes while reading. I’m curious as to how many people still use marginalia as a way to engage with their books. And if you’re an e-reader, those electronic notes you can take on Kindles count, too (though I’m not sure Kleon would agree with me). I’ll respond to more comments on that post once I’m officially back to work.

I plan to do some housekeeping here in coming weeks, both in terms of agenting and more general information. Longtime readers probably know this blog is only partly work related. It houses writing and publishing tips, book talk, and so on. But I also keep my public face here, in many respects, and I might do more of that in the future. Meanwhile, I bring you links from vacation land. Wishing you a wonderful weekend and some good writing time. Enjoy!

This week’s links:

Tin House Is Accepting Unsolicited Submissions for 2019. – Guidelines for submitting to the literary magazine.

How to Write a Traditionally Published Book: A Behind the Scenes Look. – One writer shares her experience building a writing career.

All the New Fantasy Books Coming Out in September. – Tor offers a great list of books to add to that TBR pile.

Francine Prose: It’s Harder than it Looks to Write Clearly. – The writer offers advice on saying what you mean in a readable way.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: I Became Black in America. – The author discusses feminism, race, and perception in Nigeria and the U.S.