Here I blog about writing, editing, reading, books, submissions, freelancing, getting published (and rejected), journalism, revisions, life after the MFA, teaching writing, and living the writer's life. Welcome. BUT -- if you are a writer: Write first, read blogs second.




Friday, February 7, 2014

Friday Fridge Clean-Out: Links for Writers - February 7, 2014 Edition

> When Ann Patchett is asked a slew of personal questions during an interview about her new book of personal essays, is that on point, or off topic? And is it gender-related? Laura Harrington weighs in on "The Sorry State of Author Interviews" at Beyond the Margins.

> Submittable seems to be the submission service of choice for literary journals, writing contests, anthologies and other writing-based projects (I use it as both a writer and editor, and have always been pleased). Now, an Indiegogo campaign is underway for a possible future competitor, Submittrs. 

> A new service, Book the Writer, is scheduling certain authors for book club appearances--for a fee. So far, just in the NY metro area. Yay or nay? 

> Women writers of a certain age have been reacting to Fay Weldon's essay in the New York Times' Book Review, about bias against older female characters in fiction, and the publishing industry's focus on author images. Lisa Robinson Bailey has a few things to say at Thoughts Like Birds.

> The Fearless Fifteeners is a place for authors whose middle grade or young adult novel will debut in 2015.

> Ah, the EM dash, just about my favorite form of punctuation. C.S. Lakin explains.

> Sublime: Sonya Huber, with an especially insightful, spot-on second person essay, "Your Book is Taking a Long Time to Write."  I especially love: " You open the file of the draft, which is now named with the book’s fourth or fifth title, which is sometimes named “final” or “new final” or “newest” or appended with a number like 6 or 8." And: "You are dragging your fingers slowly in the water with this book as the canoe of your instinct skimming across the surface. You will get there when it is right."

> Humor is an art, but there's logic to it as well, which Teddy Wayne explains in "Dissecting a Frog: Writing a Humor Piece," over at the New York Times' Draft blog.

> The Positive Writer presents its list of 25 writing blogs to check out.

> Literary Manhattan explores many of the city's resources and places that appeal to book lovers, writers, readers. 

>  Fun:  The Why Not 100 -"Rankings of Everything Literary." And, ahhhh..."18 Bookstores Every Book Lover Must Visit At Least Once."  I've been to only three of them--so far.

Have a great weekend!

Image: G&A Sattler/Flickr Creative Commons

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Of Tennis and Reading: Love

My son wants to join the tennis team this spring, so to get back in shape, he's signed on for a series of weekly two-hour evening lessons. And I cannot wait, because at the huge tennis bubble, there is lousy cell reception, and from what I can deduce, no wifi.

I found out for myself, the minute he went through from the viewing area to the courts and I pulled out my phone to let my husband know where we were. I soon noticed: no one on phones--not bored parents, not teenagers awaiting rides or their turn on the courts, not younger kids hanging about while siblings swung rackets, not employees. Even the television was on a low volume.

Bliss.

That was last week, and I was grateful to pass the time mostly talking with another mom, something that doesn't happen so often beyond the middle school years. I wandered around the building a bit, but there's nothing much to explore -- a small tennis shop, a gym surprisingly empty and quiet, a closed hair salon.

This week, I have something else in mind: I'm going to read. Maybe for two hours. And no one will email, ding, ring, tweet, or message me. Well, they might, but I won't know; not unless I make the long walk back to the dark, cold parking lot – and I'm not that much in love with technology.

I might write some too, given as I always have a notebook in my purse, but I've been craving a long reading stretch, somewhere away from the background buzz of undone household chores, unedited client pages, to-be-commented-on student papers—and the cooking and laundry (always the cooking and laundry!). I remember having these almost enforced unfilled time blocks more frequently when my sons were younger and there was more time spent on sports fields and car pool lines, in church basements, indoor soccer bubbles, and waiting areas. Now, they are hard to come by naturally, harder still to schedule.

I'm not sure yet what I'll bring besides a few unread sections of the print Sunday New York Times, though the choices are plentiful. On my desk are a poetry collection and an ARC of a memoir, both to be read in advance of interviewing the authors (sounds like work but mostly pure pleasure), an anthology of short essays I've been dipping into, a novella I've been meaning to reread, and fat new novel, beckoning.

The best part is that the lessons will go on for weeks and start just early enough in the evening that my husband won't be home yet, so I'll be chauffeuring. Now, let's hope no one at the tennis center decides it will be a good idea to rectify the signal "problem".

Photo by HoriaVarlan/Flckr Creative Commons

Monday, February 3, 2014

Guest Blogger Jennifer Walkup on 11 Ways Publishing a Book is Like Having Kids

 I met Jennifer Walkup for the first time at a gathering at The Writers Circle in northern New Jersey, where we both teach, and was immediately drawn to her warm humor and generous spirit. She is the author of Second Verse, a young adult romantic thriller (Luminis Books 2013), winner of the Gold 2013 Moonbeam Children's Book Award for Teen Mystery. Jennifer's work has also appeared in Genre Wars Anthology, and Gloom Cupboard, and she serves as fiction editor for The Meadowland Review.  A fellow New Jersey resident, she lives with her husband and two sons, and is at work on her next book.


Please welcome Jennifer Walkup.

There are two things I blog about most – having babies and writing books, which happen to also be the two most wonderful and difficult things I’ve done in my life. Here are the top 11 ways I have discovered that having a baby and being a parent, and writing and publishing a book, are eerily similar.

1. You're never done. Almost as soon as you give birth, everyone asks when they can expect the next one. You’re barely home from the hospital and Dear Aunt Martha is peering over her glasses asking when the little bundle will have a sibling. Same for books and readers. At every book signing, at least one person asks about the next book. I do love that people are interested in my books and my babies, but can I breathe?  Anyway, it takes me a bit longer to write a book than have a baby – but I am most certainly always at work on my next (book that is)!

2. You think you're done for good.  Speaking of doing it again – there’s something curious about both books and babies. After delivering either one, it’s nearly impossible to imagine going through it all again. By the time I’m on my last draft of a book, I’m looking forward to a break, letting my mind rest. I’m also usually exhausted and swearing I can’t go through this process again. But then, soon enough, there I am, opening a blank document. Same goes for babies. I am a classic example of this. My older son wasn’t even two before I starting yearning for another. And as for writing, I can’t stop. At this moment, my latest draft of the Second Verse sequel is out with my trusted beta readers for one last critique before turning it over to my editor. This was going to be my take-a-break-from-writing time. But guess what I did this weekend? Yep, 5k words on a new novel. I can’t help it, it’s what I love!

3.  It hurts. Childbirth and parenting – both are painful. Writing can be too. Critique hurts, rejection hurts, reading through and revising each and every draft can be cumbersome and painful. BUT! There is good news indeed; the pain, in both cases, is always, always worth every second.

4.  Work, work, work.  The amount of work required to get books or children into presentable shape is intense. Whether you’re a two draft writer or a ten draft writer, it takes lots of practice, skill and incredibly hard work to make a book a book. Same goes for kids, they don’t come out knowing how to function and behave. And figuring both out is often trial by fire – flying without a net.

5. And more work. Books and babies = Sleepless night and lots of coffee.

6.  Everyone's a critic. Ah yes, book critics are a necessary part of the publishing process, and sometimes if the right critic likes a book enough, it can help launch or revive an author's career. As for parenting critics, there are plenty of those too, though not nearly as useful!

7.  But not everyone is an expert.  There are way too many writing and publishing experts out there telling you how to do it better or do it “right.” While there is often value in such advice, too much can easily be overwhelming and stifling (and a lot of it is sometimes downright wrong). With both writing and parenting, you sometimes need to just trust your intuition.

8. You will never be the same again. For better and for worse, birthing a baby or birthing a book will leave you a changed person. Both are incredible accomplishments that take a lot out of you, and give a lot back as well. Life changers, through and through.

9.  Comparing yours to theirs is futile.  Some other author, some other parent always seems to be doing it better or with more ease. Comparisons are lethal and dangerous. Don't do it. Seriously. This is some of the best advice I was ever given in life and I try and stick to it. Keep your nose to the ground and work hard, learn as much as you can, hone your craft, find your path and soak in all the knowledge. But don’t compare your book to someone else’s, or your parenting path to another's. Some people get huge advances, some people get an agent on the first try, and others write five or 10 books before they break out, or self publish, or land an offer from a small press. Some kids walk and talk early and some don’t. It’s okay, just live your life.

10.  The fruit of your labor: pretty fabulous!  While the work is hard and relentless, it is beyond rewarding. For me, writing books is very much like raising my kids—it's what fills me up and puts life in my days, what make me whole.

11. Do your job well and poof, you're invisible. Making it look easy is the goal. If you do a good job with either parenting or writing, you end up with a smooth and seamless finished product – one that seems to have sprung into perfect form with  hardly any work on your part at all. Right.

You can follow Jennifer on Twitterconnect on Facebook, or Goodreads.