Friday, December 30, 2011

Feature and Follow Friday #2: New Year's Resolution

For those pretty new to this book blog hop, like me, Feature & Follow Friday is hosted by Rachel of Parajunkee and Alison of Alison Can Read. The directions for participation are explained on each of their blogs, so check it out!

Question of the Week: The New Year is here -- and everyone wants to know your New Years Blogging Resolution! What are you going to try to revise, revamp and redo for 2012 on your blog?


 I am morally opposed to New Year's resolutions, so this question is tough. Okay, not morally opposed, but really not into them. But, I'm going to rationalize answering this question by focusing on the fact that it's about my blog, not about me.


Actually, it's a good question to ask yourself as a blogger. I'm very new to blogging--started in October--so the easy answer is to keep toddling along, doing what I'm doing, and trying to stay with it. I do have a few future goals that move beyond my usual routine:

1. I've learnt so many nuts and bolts things that I didn't know before, like a rudimentary understanding of the html involved in embedding comments and pictures. So one goal will be to keep learning more about the innards of blogging. 


2. I'd like to connect more with other bloggers. It's easy for me to feel like I'm sending out time capsules or something (even though I have a small, lovely group of people who read and comment; many thanks to them). Communicating with other bloggers, doing blog hops and tours and all that jazz, helps me feel like there's some kind of community involved. It's funny, because I know everybody and their uncle's dog has a blog. But I still feel like I'm making this unmapped journey. Since it's my first time doing anything like this, it is unmapped in a way. But it's good to remind myself that everything I'm doing has been done before. 

 3. My biggest goal is to serialize a story on my blog, and present portions once a week. I love the concept of serialization, going back to Dickens and Wilkie Collins and their contemporaries. But I feel like I have a lot of writing projects going on, and that doing a serial is beyond me at this point.  So, I'll make this one a long-term goal.


I'll stop with these three fairly long-winded goals, and go check out everybody else's resolutions!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Speed Pinterest: Writing Trick or Procrastination?

(Image courtesy of Brooklyn Museum)
Writing has been an effort lately. I'm still getting in my goal word count per day, but it's tough. My mind is resistant; nothing is flowing. It feels like a struggle. I'm used to days like these. I know that I'll pass through this period, and I'll move into the flow, where writing feels exhilarating.

I've got various tricks for getting through the tough patches.  Write or Die is my savior. Without it, I'm not sure I could meet my word count on the bad days. But sometimes it's not enough just to push yourself.  I feel like I need to free up my mind, and make it move in a different current.

Randomly, I decided to wander over to Pinterest. I joined a little while ago, but haven't done anything with it. Tonight, I decided to create a free association board. I picked a random concept: the color green, which is my favorite. Then, I gave myself a time limit of ten minutes or so, and pinned all the images I liked that related to "green."

I've found before that doing something totally unrelated can help loosen things up creatively. Clearly this isn't a revolutionary concept or anything, but I often forget that talking a walk can be way more productive than sitting at the computer and flipping back and forth between a gossip site and a nearly empty page. Right now, it's cold. I hate the cold. I don't want to take a walk. But I think Pinterest might be like a mental walk; a way to engage another part of my brain so that the writing part can get its shit together.

So: green. The board I made is not much more than a bunch of loosely related pretty pictures. There is also the distinct possibility that I'm rationalizing a new way to procrastinate. But I'm going to give it a fair chance as an exercise in free association. I'm so tempted to add a purpose to it; to collect a bunch of images that relate to my WIP and use them for inspiration. But for now, I'm going to use my flash Pinterest boards for play.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

YA Highway: Road Trip Wednesday #5

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered.

This Week's Topic
We're combining today's RTW with Highwayer Sarah Enni's End-of-the-Year blog carnival, and asking:
What were your top five favorite books of 2011?

I'm lucky if I remember my top five favorite things in a given week, so a year's time span is a little tough for me. Luckily, I can aid my memory by looking back at my orders on Amazon, and at my reading history on my library account. Side note--I've only been a member of this particular library for a few months, and it's the first I've ever used that had the feature of recording your reading. I know there are privacy concerns about libraries recording the reading habits of patrons. But having the ability to do so for myself rocks. 

(Off to consult the record).

Having refreshed my memory, here goes:

1. White Cat & Red Glove, by Holly Black. I'm torn about whether or not I should give each title its own spot, but really, as a part of the same series, they feel like part of the same reading experience. But they are awesome enough to each deserve their own spot! Just had to put that out there. 

 2. Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family Feuds, by Lyndall Gordon. This biography nicely straddles the line between an academic and a popular work. I learned so much about the craziness of Dickinson's family life. Apparently her brother was having an affair for decades with a woman who was friends with the whole family. The whole family was aware of the affair, and it had huge ramifications for them personally, and for the publication of Dickinson's work posthumously. Truly wild.

3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie. I know, I'm years late to the party on this one. But I loved it, of course, and it's definitely one of the top 5 of my year. 

4. Extras (Uglies Series) by Scott Westerfeld. Again, I'm like 4 years behind the curve on this one. But I just love the series, and somehow hadn't read Extras. The reputation economy idea hits that elusive sweet spot between imagining tech-related concepts that feel relevant today, and concepts that won't be dated almost immediately. 

5. Mortal Instruments Series, by Cassandra Clare. I'm cheating again by lumping together books from a series.  What I love about Mortal Instruments is that it's fun and engrossing. It's not high art, but so what?

I'm going to take a little detour of my own and make a list of the 5 worst books I read in 2011.

1. The Unauthorized Biography of Angelina Jolie, by Andrew Morton. I love trashy celebrity websites/magazines/books, but this one was a total disappointment. I learned nothing new, and half of what was supposed to be new seemed fishy. Bah. 

2. Introduction to Cataloging and Classification (Library and Information Science Text Series) by Arlene Taylor. I can't place all the blame on the author, but after reading this textbook for a course on cataloging and classification, I still have only the most basic grasp of these concepts.  I now view catalogers as the high priests of library science. Their mysterious rites are beyond me.

3.  The Wind Up Girl, by Paolo Bacigalupi. I liked the concept, and I really wanted to like the book. I couldn't get past the first forty or so pages. We just weren't a match.

4. The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, by Steven Pressfield. This book creeped me out. I liked the idea of inner inertia trying to win, but I felt like the book was trying to brainwash me somehow. I would be scared to meet the author, and tossed the book across the room after a few pseudo-chapters (seriously, the chapters are like a paragraph long).

5. Many Lives, Many Masters: The True Story of a Prominent Psychiatrist, His Young Patient, and the Past-Life Therapy That Changed Both Their Lives, by Brian L.Weiss. I only got a few sentences in before I pitched it aside. You can practically feel the author's narcissistic personality disorder oozing from the pages.  Seriously, if you have any interest in reincarnation, this is one book to avoid. It has killed many trees and given nothing in return.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New to Me: Michel Gondry "Swedes"

I love Michel Gondry. I want to have a little door in the wall that I can go through to live in his world (or maybe his brain) for brief amounts of time.  But the documentary about him, "I've Been Twelve Forever," that I watched in a Childhood & Film class (courtesy of John Cech) makes me suspect I couldn't handle extended periods with Gondry. 

I feel like if I were in a relationship with Gondry, somehow his constant eccentricity would be an irritating reminder of my own non-genius, and I'd retreat into a simmering fury over how he never remembered to pick up toilet paper or milk. But brief little snippets, like this "swede-ing" of "Taxi Driver," would be perfect. He lives in Brooklyn, so the corridor between our doors wouldn't even have to be that long.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Advent Calendar

YA Highway: Road Trip Wednesday #4

 Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered.

This Week's Topic:
Where do you buy most of your books? No one is judging!

The "A" Word

Independent bookstores are an endangered species.  Even mega-chains like Borders are closing down. But I have to confess: when I buy a book, I don’t do the responsible thing and support my local independent bookstore. I go to Amazon, and I judge myself for it.

Amazon first hooked me when they offered me free Prime shipping for a year. You can get anything delivered to you, within two days, with no charge. Instant gratification junkie that I am, I started buying everything from juice boxes to vinyl records.  But most of all, I bought books.

That isn’t to say that my main source for books is Amazon. I’d say about ¾ of the books I read come from my public library, often through inter-library loan from another library in our consortium. If I bought every book that was read in my household, I’d go bankrupt.

I’m a fan of used bookstores and library book sales, and try to hit them up when I can. But when I want something specific, it’s just so easy to head to Amazon and know that it will be on my doorstep in two days.

Lately, I’ve been buying books via Kindle for PC. I thought I’d never get into reading books that weren’t on paper, but the instant gratification lured me in.  I’m buying more books than ever before.

It goes against my principles, but I’m hooked on Amazon. It’s like smoking or fast food: I know it’s bad for me and the world at large, but I enjoy it too much to quit.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Feature and Follow Friday #1

Friday's the day for Feature & Follow Friday, the book blog blog hop (say that three times fast!). For more info go visit the hosts, Parajunkee and Allison Can Read. I'm off to explore the vast universe of book blogs!

Advent Calendar


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

YA Highway: Road Trip Wednesday #3

Today's YA Highway Road Trip question is a good one! I think this one's bound to be controversial. 
This Week's Topic:

How far would you go to get published? We writers can form quite an attachment to our characters and stories. But we also know publishing is a business, and sometimes to make it in said business--to really build a career from it--we have to bend a bit. How far would you go to break into the publishing world?

(Image via YA Highway)
I would go as far as the casting couch. What's the literary equivalent of the casting couch? The query queue?  Kidding, kidding. But seriously, I would happily go as far as a "home run." I think the realities of the publishing world are such that a debut author (or any author who's not a blockbuster NYT bestseller list behemoth) doesn't have the luxury of writing a book and expecting it to be published without a single revision suggested.  

Being willing to work with an agent on revisions seems like a no-brainer. If you belong to a writing group, if you have beta readers, if you solicit feedback on your novel from ANYONE, then it only makes sense to be willing to take feedback from the person who's going to try to help turn your manuscript into a real live book.

But beyond that, it seems that it can be so challenging to get a novel past the editor's gates that one must be open to their revisions. The following chart and blog post shared with me by Phoebe North opened my eyes regarding how the process of getting a manuscript accepted by an editor works. (WARNING: Do not follow the links if you are having an especially discouraging writing day).

Nobody can expect to be a special snowflake and write in a bubble of purity that rejects any input from an agent or editor. If you want to be an independent agent, then the route of e-publishing is open.  For some, like Elle Lothlorien, this route is working really well. But if you want to go the conventional route, then you have to be flexible. 

Of course, there are situations where an author might be asked to make revisions that fundamentally alter something about the book that's truly important to him or her. If you're in that situation, I suppose you have to weigh how important it is to you to publish the manuscript in any form, versus sticking to your vision.  I may be a potential artistic sell-out, but I know that if I were in that position, I would make the fundamental alterations. 

You know the cliche about your book being like your baby? I think that being unwilling to alter your book is like having a child and confining him to the house for his entire life, so that he won't be contaminated by outside influences. At a certain point, a book becomes a joint endeavor, much like raising a child. If everything goes well, the kid goes off to kindergarten. Of course, you're not going to let your child go to a kindergarten where the teachers abuse him. If the manuscript changes suggested feel completely wrong, then I suppose you might have to withdraw it.  But if it's a normal kindergarten, and a normal revision situation, then you have to let them go out into the world without controlling every step.

All that being said, I think some of the "bases" presented here might not be helpful in getting you published.  In terms of jumping on a trend bandwagon, it's not going to work if it doesn't result in a good book. If you told me that the next big YA thing was Harlequin-style romances, I doubt I could write one, because I'm not really interested in that genre.  I've read a few, and enjoyed them for what they are, but I don't have any stories that I want to tell in that vein. It's hard enough to get a novel published that you've invested your heart and soul into. If you can't put that kind of passion into a manuscript, I doubt that it would be successful, even it's the hot new genre or trend.

One of the hardest things for me to accept as I've been querying my first novel and learning more about the publishing world is how subjective and market driven it is. It's a bitter pill, but pretending it's not there won't make it go away.

Advent Calendar