Little Brown Editor Alvina Ling spoke to the Large group about the differences between literary and commercial fiction.
Monday, September 27, 2010
Little Brown Editor Alvina Ling spoke to the Large group about the differences between literary and commercial fiction.
Monday, July 12, 2010
Monday, May 24, 2010
The other day a critique buddy of mine shared her excitement about her plans to attend her first SCBWI Summer Conference in LA this year. She's got a completed novel manuscript that's caught positive attention from editors at regional conferences. She has an active blog that's frequented by writers from across the nation. And she's known and loved by many people in her local SCBWI region. But after saying how glad she is to be going to the big conference filled with "actual, really famous authors," she added, "my plan is to just listen and learn and try to look like I fit in."
Why is it that it is so hard for us writers to ever feel that we've done enough and achieved enough, to "belong" in this profession?
Is it the fact that you can go into any coffee shop, in any town, in almost any country, and find at least 3 or 4 people who purport to be `writers,' there?
Is it because there's not necessarily a degree that's required for this profession? (Although we know that more and more writers are getting MFA's -- still many are not).
Is it because most everyone in the world has toyed with the idea of writing their own autobiography, or perhaps a few stories for their grandchildren, and therefore people don't belive you're "a real writer" until you've published at leaste a couple of books and been able to quit your day job and move away from civilization into a log cabin in the woods to write. (An unlikely scenario for most of us).
Probably it's partly the fault of all of these things. But perhaps it's also caused by our own lack of believing.
At any SCBWI event we attend we find experienced authors who have published multiple books, but who still stand there welcoming the newer ones of us with open arms. It is not that we "can't" belong, but rather that we think we're not qualified YET....
But, I think, that writing is like any other profession. We start out on the bottom rung of the ladder, or the bottom branch of the tree, and we work our way up, one educational achievement, or "failure," or "success" at a time."
So, it's not so much that "we're in," or "we're out," but rather that we're all on different branches of the tree -- we're all at different spots in the journey. And just because we haven't reached the big nest of best selling authors at the top of the tree, it doesnt' mean we're not in the tree. We're climbing upwards, towards the nest, bit by bit.
So look at those wonderful multi-published authors waving down at you from the top of that tree. And then look below you at the branches you've already passed in your climb.
Check out the branches. Some you've climbed past already. Some are the ones you're reaching for now. But if you're serious about your writing, wherever you are in the tree, you belong here. Happy climbing! Don't let the sap and the tree ants get in your way.
Can you say I have...
- become an active member of a critique group
- been writing, revising, and submitting my work to agents and/or editors
- gotten at least 5 rejections, and I'm still climbing, dude...
- attended one or more children's writing conferences
- placed high in a writing or illustrating contest.
- gotten published in magazines with short fiction, non-fiction, or illustrations
- gotten positive feedback from editors/agents/or more experienced authors at conferences
- gotten a positive rejection from an editor or agent
- had an editor or agent request my full manuscript -- whether they decided to buy it or not.
- started a writing blog or website and maintained it
- established a regular schedule for my writing time
- "got" an agent or an editor
- sold a book!!!
- did a public reading or book signing
- spoke at a conference or taught classes for newer writers
- published more books!!!
- tried writing in a new genre and found success there.
- Add your own other branches here.... There are many.
Did you find you've climbed more branches in your journey than you thought you had?
Wherever you and I are on this journey, we do belong here. We doubt ourselves and we have questions. That's normal, they say. But don't lose track of the branch above you.
Let's you and I enjoy the view as we keep climing rung to rung up the Writer's Tree.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
We mingled and munched and made plans for the future.
We spent time brainstorming titles and ideas, chatting over cheese and wine, and checking out the books of several published SCBWI members who were present. It was a great time of networking and learning -- and John even got us out of our seats to get our creative juices flowing with a little bit of theatre. Check it out!
Who says writers can't act? They didn't even practice ahead of time!
It was a great Schmooze! Thanks to all who came to join us. Kudos to those who came all the way from Fayetteville, Durham, Goldsboro -- and the Raleighites. And huge thanks to John Claude Bemis for sharing his creative process with us, and leading us in great activities to stimulate our own creative brains!
Friday, April 9, 2010
Friday, April 2, 2010
There is so much great info. for YA writers out there on various blogs.
- Some agents and editors share what types of submissions they're looking for.
- Some folks interview other professionals about their individual writing techniques, and tips.
- Some people give away fun stuff or hold writing contests!
But honestly -- how many of us have the time to sort through them all for the good stuff? We've got to really focus on putting most of our time into our own writing.
Luckily, my friend, YA writer Beverley BevenFlorez, has come to our rescue! In her weekly Friday post called "The Writer's Well," Beverly compiles a short summary of some of the most helpful blog posts out there in YA/Kid Lit Blog Land for that week. All the rest of us have to do is skim down, find the ones that look the most interesting to us, and click on the links, and EUREKA! -- the info. is at our finger tips. And it only took half a second!
Check it out a Beverley's blog today!
Thanks Beverley. Great idea!
Monday, March 15, 2010
It was horrible.
To our minds -- and to our peers -- the red markings meant: "This isn't good enough. You screwed up," or perhaps even, "Can't you get this right, yet? What are you, stupid?"
But now, I'm all grown up. And five years into this task of joining the writing profession, I always hand my manuscripts to my critique buddies accompanied by a RED PEN. It's true!
You see, when we start in this profession, and join our first critique group, all our fears from fourth grade still stick with us, I think. We hand our manuscripts to our new crit buddies with trembling hands, and a bit of nervous nausea. We stash a first-aid kid of band-aid's and emotional salve (chocolate) in our book bags -- just in case these critters say something negative about our work and it makes us want to jump off a bridge in dispair. We look for gentle comments like: "You know, I think this chapter is really wonderful, and probably ready for publication right now...except that perhaps just one or two of your sentences, if even that, out of the whole book, are a bit convoluted and long. That's all. Easy to fix. And really - I could be wrong about that. I love it!"
Of course, we know they're lying...ehem. They're being nice to us so we don't run off crying.
If the plot is shabby, or the sentences are too long, or my grammar is off, or my dialogue is `too adult,' I want to know it. And truthfully, we don't always notice these things in our own writing the way that we notice them in other people's. So mark it up, my friends. I can take it!
(Of course, handing out cookies when you hand us back our manuscripts with those red markings is never a bad idea either. Remember that great old red-coolaid and all those cookies we enjoyed in elementary school? There was a reason for that.)
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Those of us writing for children and teens hold a secret underlying hope. Even if we're writing
fantasies about elves and fauns, sci-fi's about robots and aliens, or humorous middle grade boy books about disgusting things people rarely discuss, we secretly hope that our stories will reach children, teens, (and even the adults who often read YA,) at the deepest places of their minds and hearts. We want our books to strike emotional chords that will cause our stories to live within our readers forever. Mwa Ha ha!
That's why I'm always so thrilled to see the many children's and teen books that are moving forward into the wider world of pop culture these days. In the past two years alone we've seen hugely successful movies based on the Twilight books, the Narnia books, Harry Potter #6, and many others. What excites me about this continuing trend is that these stories did not come straight from screenwriters, or other people on the cutting edge of the fast-paced new technology loved by teens. Nope -- these tales were first published in paperback books -- novels and middle grades typed by authors at coffee shops while their own kids were off at school. The books have been so well loved by so many kids, teens and adults that they've found their place in popular culture through film, and music, t-shirts, and toys..
This trend seems to affirm the idea that books aren't on their way out. They're on their way up. And so of course we all want our books to be wonderful enough for Barnes and Noble and Amazon, but equally so for Paramount, Dreamworks, Disney, and Mattel...
And just as we support our fellow writers by attending their book signings and speaking engagements in book-stores around the area, it seems to me we should applaud this pop-culture trend, and celebrate our fellow writers' success in film, song, and theatre as well.
Four current opportunities to attend showings of Kid's and YA lit in Pop Culture in NC include (click the blue links):
The Hundred Dresses: A play, at the Raleigh Little Theatre (March 12-28, 2010)
1st written in 1944 by Eleanor Estes, this book for 9-12 year olds was one of my top 10 favorites in elementary school. It's the story of an impoverished little girl from Poland who lives in the U.S. and gets picked on at school b/c of her poverty -- also because she tells all her classmates that she has "100 dresses" in her closet at home, though she wears the same one to school every day. "The Hundred Dresses" is a story of bullying, poverty, and creativity in which two girls
who have picked on poor Wanda Petronski learn the hard way that their words really hurt a creative little girl who really did have 100 dresses in her closet -- colorful dresses, on paper, that she'd drawn. Sweet Wanda leaves them for the girls when she moves.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, The Movie -- In Theaters now.
This YA novel by Rick Riordan features Percy Jackson, the confused son of a single mother,
who doesn't know the father who abandoned his family when Percy was a baby is actually the Greek God Perseus. But when an argument between the Ancient Greek gods puts the world at risk, Percy finds out quickly who he is, where is power lies, and how much trouble he's about to get into on his mission to prevent a war between his powerful, immortal "aunts and uncles."
Alice in Wonderland: The Updated Movie - In Theaters soon.
Alice and the Red Queen face off in a war that has all of Wonderland up in arms.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid, In Theaters soon.
In this, the first of Jeff Kinney's comic novel series, a Middle school student, Greg Heffley, takes readers through an academic year's worth of drama.
Saturday, February 6, 2010
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
So this is my plan. From February until April I plan to donate 1 cent to Room to Read for every 2 words I write on my current novel. This won’t amount to a lot of money, because frankly, it’s a tough economy right now and I’m not J.K. Rowling. : ) But it only takes $2,500 for Room to Read to build a children’s library in Africa or South East Asia. Every penny adds up.
10,000 words@ 1 cent per every 2 words = $50.00
10,000 words @ 1 cent per every 5 words = $20.00
Get 5 friends to sponsor you and that turn into $250.00 or $100.00 And you’re off to a great start!
Get 10 friends to sponsor you, and you’re off and running!
20,000 words @1 cent per every 5 words = $40.00
With 5 friends to sponsor you that turns into $500.00 or $200.00. Not too shabby, even in a bad economy!
Can’t think of five friends to sponsor you? That's not a barrier. Sponsor yourself. You’ll be getting lots of writing done, while changing the world one children’s book at a time.
And hey, if you write 500 word picture books, : ), get your friends to sponsor you for 5 or 10 cents a word. We can all play at this game, to help build kids a library. : )
You can download the widget THERMOMETER that will track the money as it comes in. You can place a "thermometer" on your website or blog (like the one on mine,) so that your blog readers can see our progress and join up as well. (If you have trouble downloading the thermometer, let me know). And remember, the thermometer will probably remain low until the end of April, when hopefully all your sponsors will pay you, and then it should shoot up. I’ve started us off with $25.00. Let’s see where we can take it from here!
Please let me know if you’re taking this challenge. And please make a note about it on your blog to spread the word.
Let's make all our words, whether beautiful or "really first-drafty," be worth at least a half-penny!