Friday Links: Looking Back to Write Your Way Forward

Another Friday has crept up on us. It’s been a pretty intense week, filled with political strife and a few bombshells here in the U.S. I, for one, am looking forward to the weekend and stepping away from all forms of media for a bit, even though I know that might lead to a more startling Monday when I tune back in. But for my own sanity, I know I need to take a breather. And so I plan to do some personal reading, go for a run or two, and tomorrow I get to hang out with a client who is down with her family from Northern California for a few of days.

This week’s links are a kind of eclectic bunch, though I feel like some personal nostalgia inadvertently made itself known. I don’t plan these things; it’s just the sorts of links I happened to stumble upon. Nostalgia can be a good writing tool, as long as you don’t allow it to overtake your ability to be critical of your ideas. Regardless, I hope you find something intriguing in this lot and that you’re inspired to take a bit of time to yourself over the weekend to read a great book and/or work on your current writing project. Enjoy, and happy writing!

The True Story Behind Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and Her Mixed-Up Files – An interesting look at what was one of my favorite books growing up, and how it came to be.

A 17th-Century Alleged Witch Inspired Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ – A look into some of Atwood’s thought process on her famous novel.

On the Horror of Getting It Wrong in Print – One writer shares her reactions to learning her errors have gone to press.

More Thoughts about World Building and Food – Lincoln Michel goes deeper into his thoughts on the notion of world building, with a link to his earlier piece included.

The Political Murakami on Life in a Dark Time – How Murakami views the worlld post-9/11, and how that dark viewpoint influences his writing.

6 Tiny Letters for Readers and Writers – I’m a fan of the Tiny Letters – those subscriptions on a theme (or not) that show up randomly when their author decides to share some thoughts – and this round up offers a few intriguing ones.

5 Things to Include on Your Author Website if You’re Not Yet Published – Handy tips for populating that blank author site.

Friday Links: Writing Advice to Escape the Doldrums

Happy Friday the 13th! Does anyone truly get spooked when that day and date collide? I’ve always wondered. One of these days I need to look more closely into the origins of the superstition. I do know that in some countries, 13 is considered a lucky number. Funny how differently these things develop depending on where you are.

In my book, Fridays are a good thing pretty much across the board, though this week I anticipate burning a bit of midnight oil to finish up some things I swore wouldn’t creep into the weekend. Earlier this week I had my phone and internet upgraded, and of course that meant no service plus a technician on the premises for a good chuck of a day. It never ceases to amaze me what a few lost hours of work time can do to my schedule. But on the upside, I now have speedier internet, and my computer no longer groans when I go to download email with enormous manuscripts attached.

But enough chatter; I have Friday links to share. This week I seem to have a backlog of links I’ve been meaning to post previous weeks along with some new things I discovered, so in the interest of closing tabs, I’m just going to throw them down and let you all go to town. Plenty to entertain and inspire here, especially if you’re feeling like you need a bit of a pep talk. Enjoy, and happy writing!

Colum McCann’s Letter to a Young Writer – Some lovely words of advice to keep you plugging along, no matter your age or stage of writing career.

How Do You Write for Teenagers? – Looking to write YA? Here are some words of wisdom from writers in the know.

I Hate Women’s Fiction and I’ll Tell You Why – An impassioned and intelligent look at the distinction between works of fiction about women written by women, and those written by men.

Sometimes Writer’s Block Is Really Depression – An honest, personal account from author Mary Robinette Kowal.

Why We Read (and Write) Short Stories – An interesting analysis by skilled short-story writer Lorrie Moore.

The Rachel Connection: Why Rachel Fershleiser Is a Wizard of New York’s Literary Community – The woman behind bookish Tumblr.

How to Build Your Own Self-Hosted Author Website in 30 Minutes – Clear step-by-step instructions from author Joanna Penn.

To Question and Be Questioned: The Millions Interviews Azar Nafisi – An interview with the author of Reading Lolita in Tehran and The Republic of Imagination: A Life in Books.

6 Things You Should Never Write About for NaNoWriMo – A list of things to avoid when diving into NaNoWriMo, or, in the case of most of them, any writing project at all.

Friday Links: Messing with Shakespeare and Other Rewrites

TGIF! I hope you’ve all had a terrific week, and that you have some excellent weekend plans lined up. I’ll be a the Writer’s Conference of Los Angeles tomorrow, and then Sunday I’ve got some more work ahead of me, but I’m also looking forward to a few hours with my TBR pile.

But first, I have links for you! I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about what makes a story. How much can you change or subtract from a work without making it into something new? If I were to give a thousand writers the same prompt, they’d come up with a thousand different stories. We go to the movies and see adaptations of novels all the time. There’s a recent resurgence of transforming fairy tales into modern novels and movies, giving the old stories a twist or simply updating them for a current (or future) setting. I’ve read a few articles about translating works, and the importance of adhering to not just the writer’s original story but the mood and feel of the language if possible, so the reader-in-translation has as much of the intended experience as can be managed.

All this of course is a lead in to the recent declaration by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival that they’ll be getting 36 playwrights to rework the plays of Shakespeare into more modern, understandable language, an announcement that resulted in quite a backlash in both traditional and social media. What makes those plays Shakespeare’s work? Is it the story or the language? After all, many of those tales were reworked from old myths and history and other source material.

This week also saw the tenth anniversary of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight, and the release of a new gender-switched version of the book. Many fans are excited about this, but I can’t really say I am all that worked up over the chance to read about Edward and Bella as Edythe and Beau. Does it really make it a fresh story? Someone else will have to decide.

But enough rattling on. I hope I’ve given you a few things to ponder. In the meantime, enjoy the links below, and have a wonderful, productive weekend. Happy writing!

Why We (Mostly) Stopped Messing with Shakespeare’s Language – A review of the history of rewriting the Bard, and why it’s not necessary.

Twilight Surprise – Announcing Stephenie Meyer’s gender-swapped rewrite.

A New Chapter in the World’s Oldest Story – Researchers discovered twenty additional lines to The Epic of Gilgamesh, a small piece of good news in the turmoil taking place in Iraq and Syria.

Before You Launch Your Author Website: How to Avoid Long-Term Mistakes – A few excellent tips.

Fantasy Calendar Generator – Creating a fantasy world for your novel? Use this fabulous calendar to help keep your world-building consistent.

The Writer I Was: Six Authors Look Back on their First Novels The Millions interviews six now-established authors on what it was like for them starting out.

The Uses of Orphans – Why orphans make such wonderful protagonists, and a look at a few of the more popular orphans in literature.

Friday Links

Lots of links today, ranging from writing tips to new book releases. I hope you all find something here to entertain you.

But links aside, I want you all to go do something this weekend that you’ve been putting off. Some fun outing or adventure that you think about but are always too busy for. I lost a dear friend recently. He was just 41, and left behind a wife and 17-month-old little boy. Life is so very short, and we have no idea what’s in store for us. I realize people say this all the time, but I’m adding my voice to the chorus. Make time for yourself this weekend. Seize your life.

Broca’s Area Style Guide: The ’10 Mistakes’ List – A great check list of things to work on while polishing your writing.

Fiction Affliction: October’s Releases in Fantasy and in Urban Fantasy – A nice round up of new books in the fantasy/urban fantasy genres, courtesy of Tor.

Drawing Verse – A lovely profile of poet Bianca Stone, who is also an artist producing “poetry comics.”

How to Write a Better About Page for Your Website – Geared toward entrepreneurial sites, but applicable to anyone with an about page who markets themselves and/or their work.

On Cultivating Instinct as an Ink-slinging, Story-spinning Pen-monkey Type – Tips from Chuck Wendig. Just read.

The Joy of Book Subscriptions

Michael Dirda has written a new book on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and in anticipation of its release in November, The Paris Review Blog has posted this wonderful excerpt, A Doyle Man. I’m a fan of Holmes and Watson, to be sure, but what I loved most about the excerpt was Dirda’s memories of obtaining his first “grown up book,” The Hound of the Baskervilles, purchased when he was in fifth grade from the monthly order form that was handed out in his classroom. This brought back fond memories of elementary school and the Scholastic Book Club, a newsprint catalog of a few pages that our teacher handed out periodically through the school year. The colorful pages were filled with little pictures of book covers accompanied by brief blurbs and prices–generally less than a couple of dollars–with an order form in the back. I would pore over that catalog and choose as many books as I thought I could get away with and, lucky child that I was, my mother rarely told me no. The books themselves were mostly early readers–I think I was in second or third grade at the time–but I know I still have a few of them to this day, stashed in a box with other childhood treasures at my parents’ house. There’s a biography of Helen Keller, complete with the braille alphabet raised on the back cover, and a book called King of the Dollhouse, about a little girl who discovers a miniature king has moved into her dollhouse with his tiny offspring.

The truth is, my mother could have as easily purchased those books for me from the bookstore, or I could have borrowed them from the library. But there was something about the act of picking and choosing from a limited selection in that catalog, then waiting for everyone’s books to be delivered to the classroom weeks later that really felt special, akin to getting a real letter addressed to you in the mail. There was an element of surprise, even if you remembered what you’d ordered, and that sense of anticipation, never knowing exactly what day the order would come through.

As an adult, I see ripples of this effect still. Things like the Book of the Month Club, or Harlequin’s category subscriptions, give readers that same little thrill of someone choosing the month’s books for you. There’s no obligation to purchase them, of course, but being a member, having the opportunity to get something new to read in your mailbox–it’s a throwback to childhood for many of us.

I have a standing order with Powell’s Books for the Indiespensable subscription. Every six weeks I get a box in the mail with the current new book–always announced ahead of time, and always a new release in a lovely binding that’s been autographed–and a surprise. Understanding the fun inherent in getting a present, Powell’s has organized their subscription to include some special something in addition to the book you knowingly purchase. Sometimes it’s a treat, like chocolate or coffee; sometimes a great mug or a Powell’s tote bag; often it’s another book, an ARC of something yet to be released. It almost doesn’t matter. Half the joy is in the anticipation, like opening a box of Cracker Jack and searching for the toy surprise.

Other web sites have similar book clubs. The Rumpus has a fiction club and a poetry club, where subscribers get new books before they are released and have the chance to discuss them with the author and other club members in a moderated discussion online. These virtual book clubs take the more conventional book club concept–typically a gathering of friends in someone’s home or some other meeting place to chat about a previously chosen title–and raise it to another level, not only choosing the book, but providing readers with an easy means of acquisition.

How many of you belong to a book club where someone else chooses the books you read? Or a subscription of this sort, where you choose from a small assortment of titles recommended for the month? How many of you remember ordering books in school as a kid? And for those readers outside the U.S., is this an American phenomenon, or do other countries have these sorts of book subscriptions as well?

Food Stories

In addition to my love of all things books and writing, I’m a foodie. Yes, one of those. And this year, in an effort to find more balance in my life (and on my scale), I’ve been cooking a lot more than usual, and trying to eat out less. I have the requisite leaning tower of cookbooks–because they combine food and books, so how could that be wrong?–and subscriptions to a few too many food magazines, but I’ll admit to having a particular weakness for food blogs. Not all of them, mind you. I like the chatty food bloggers. The ones who give you background and bits of their lives, right along with their favorite casserole or their mother’s secret salad dressing recipe. In this, as with everything, I want story.

So today I shall share some of my favorite food blogs with you, in hopes that you will go cook up something delicious the next time you feel the need to take a break from your writing (or reading). Yes, I’m enabling your procrastination. Bad agent. But as I told a client recently, everyone deserves a study break from time to time, and since everyone also needs to eat, this couldn’t be more perfect. Happy writing, and happy snacking!

Tea and Cookies – A wonderful blog by Tara Austen Weaver, a writer living in Seattle. In addition to sharing wonderful food, she posts gorgeous photos and chats about all aspects of her life, from writing to her garden to her adorable nieces.

Smitten Kitchen – Delicious recipes cooked up in a tiny Manhattan kitchen by Deb Perelman, who peppers her entries with funny stories about her cookbook-in-progress, her toddler, and her opinions on food in general.

101 Cookbooks – Blogger/photographer/cookbook author Heidi Swanson started this blog as an excuse to start cooking from her utterly enormous collection of cookbooks, but she also shares gorgeous travel photos, favorite things and more. The recipes are pretty uniformly vegetarian and very healthy.

The Wednesday Chef – Luisa Weiss originally blogged from New York, and has since moved to Berlin, making this a wonderful combination of food blog and travel tales.

Some Kitchen Stories – The ultimate in food stories. Photographer Nicole and writer Judi met while working together in Chicago. Although they went their separate ways professionally, they put together this website in their free time. Judi writes actual short stories–little tidbits–around the recipes, and Nicole provides the food photos.

Pre-holiday Links

Happy Wednesday, interwebs! I bring you links, because I’m planning to actually take the Labor Day weekend off (gasp!) and I’m on a tear right now to get a bunch of things finished before I officially unplug. So I offer you a list of things to check out, and bid you a fond adieu. Maybe I’ll pop in over the next few days, but more likely not, so enjoy the holiday weekend if you’re here in the States, and the weekend in general if you’re not.

How a Book Is Made: From the Middle Ages to Today – Fun videos on book making at all different points in history.

America First? – Interesting story on American reading habits and how little foreign fiction we consume.

The 5 Types of Blogs: Which One Suits You Best? – Inspirational for anyone looking to start a blog or revamp one.

101 of the Best Fiction-Writing Tips – A list of tips and advice to keep in mind when writing fiction, including sources.

Southern GothicThe Paris Review blog on Southern Gothic literature. Great for planning some different, spooky fall reads leading up to Halloween (which is just two months away!).

Further Migrations

Those of you who frequent Live Journal are most likely aware that the site has been down for the last two days and change due to ongoing DDoS attacks. Makes me very happy I chose to finally move my blog over here to WordPress.

I’m not the only one to have taken the plunge. My fellow agent (and author) Lucienne Diver has moved her agent/author blog to WordPress as well, and can now be found chatting about books and publishing here.

In addition, my client, fantasy author Helen Keeble, has moved to a new home. Her site is still a work in progress, but she has some links up to some of her amazing short fiction. Additional material–including details on her debut YA fantasy forthcoming from HarperTeen (Fall 2012), the extremely witty FANG GIRL (formerly NO SUCKER, for those of you who recall me discussing its sale)–will be coming soon. Helen’s new website is here.