Archive for the ‘authors’ Category

guest blogger: jenny martin, librarian extrodinaire

Monday, September 14th, 2009

bookstack2When Jen asked me to post about advice I’ve gleaned from writers’ groups, I wasn’t sure what suggestions to give. After all, as a writer, I’m a novice. I have zero expertise to offer on the mechanics of writing.

But I am a librarian. As such, it’s my job to read widely and well. I’d like to think I’m acquainted with the transaction between reader and book. Perhaps an examination of this exchange could be helpful. After mulling over the helpful hints offered at AQ and writer’s workshop, I’m struck by a single question.

What happens when I read a good story?

Reading is an interactive experience, an emotional communion between the reader and the tale. If a story reaches me, touching my intellect and psyche in a meaningful way, I consume the story.

Or does the story consume me?

After reading a really good book, I absorb the emotional core of the plot and carry it with me. Although I may never read it again, it never leaves my subconscious. Like a talisman, I examine the tale each time I devour something new. I compare its characters, its setting and its message against those inside the novel in my hands.

A good story haunts the outposts of the soul.

If this is true, what implications does it have for the writer?

Simply put, if the writer’s setting, characters, themes and plot do not spark an emotional connection, the story dies. It is not carried on, it is not absorbed, and it does not take root in the consciousness of the reader. The story slips away, a vapor. It’s lost.

If your story is does not yet live in the heart of its reader, do not lose faith. Return to your characters. Reach inside of them and extract the essence of that which makes them real and vibrant. Close your eyes and experience the story through their eyes. Transfigure this experience until it fits comfortably on the page.

Then, with any luck, your story will either break the reader’s heart or heal it.

About the blogger:

Jenny Martin is a school librarian in the DFW area. She holds a Masters Degree in Library Science from the University of North Texas. She also reviews books and writes YA.

spotlight: aq connect

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

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Agent Query Connect is a website billed as “the internet’s most interactive social networking community for the publishing industry”.  I don’t know for a fact that it’s the MOST interactive blah blah…but it is very helpful indeed.  And best of all, IT’S FREE.

My favorite groups:

AQ Connect – Query Critique Corner- when you put your query up here people from all over will swoop in to give you advice.  Some of it is very helpful and some of it requires a thick skin.  But if you didn’t have a thick skin you wouldn’t be putting your writing out for all to see…right?  Take it with a grain of salt.  Use what sounds right for you and matches what the helpful literary agents say they want in a query.  Remember, some of the people commenting are just as novice as you, so don’t take everything to heart.  (Oh, and paste your query into the body of your discussion.  Many people don’t want to open attachments for obvious reasons.)

First Page Critique – Put your first page up and see how many people would like to keep reading.

First Chapter(s) Critique - Same as above, only you have slightly longer to hook a reader.

The five most popular groups:

AQ Connect – Query Critique Corner

First Page Critique

AQ Connect – Agent Updates

First Chapter(s) Critique

AQ Connect – New Member Shout-Out!

I spent quite a bit of time last week on AQ Connect polishing my query which was so covered in soot, it was really hard to know it was a query at all.  In other words, I learned a whole heckuva lot about query writing.  This is not to say that I’m an expert or that I can’t learn any more.  I’ve lived long enough to know that you never know everything about even one subject.  More on queries later this week…

all the time in the world

Monday, September 7th, 2009

ALLtheTimeintheWorld“I glanced out of the window at the poor peasants who could not or would not shell out the sixteen dollars to tour Elvis’ earthly digs.  They stared back at our privileged group.  As I watched their envious faces, I considered tossing a few coins to see if they would scramble for them.  Then I decided not to think quite that hard about the peasants.

“Let them eat mashed banana sandwiches,” I decided, in tribute to Elvis’ favorite lunch fare.  I smiled smugly at the onlookers as I gave them my best royal wave…”

Excerpt from All the Time in the World by Richard Leigh Penn.  Quoted with permission.

Shortest Summary: The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy minus space travel meets your 10th grade history book.

Longer Summary: Wanna see Elvis at the Louisiana Hayride?  Meet Lincoln, Booth, battle the Clanton Gang in the old west, make movies in the 1930′s, seek and destroy Jack the Ripper?  Seems highly unlikely, right?  It sure is for most of us, but for Brian Willard it’s reality.  The man is a travel agent who hasn’t been many places up until the point when we join him at the beginning of the story –he’s checking out Elvis’ Caddy at Graceland.

Brian is chosen by “The Big Idea” because he is completely and utterly mediocre.  Since he’s an average joe, of average intellegence and abilities, and has nothing tying him down, he is chosen to get as much time travel experience as possible “just in case” something should happen that would cause a rift in time.  See, The Big Idea can’t physically change the flow of time, but a human can–somehow–the Big Idea’s not so sure on that one.  Brian stumbles through time periods and into situations that are frightening, exciting and sometimes very lovely.

Richard Penn’s work of commercial fiction is an exciting fast-paced read.  The story twists and turns but never loses its way as the protagonist matures from a silly bumbler into a more thoughtful man.

Get your copy of All the Time in the World.

**I normally write about young adult fiction, this is not YA.  That’s just an FYI. :)

the hunger games

Saturday, September 5th, 2009
Yeah, I know World Without End is not YA, but it makes a really good bookend

Yeah, I know World Without End is not YA, but it makes a really good bookend

If you read my blog regularly, you know that I read a lot of books.  A LOT.  For me to say that The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is the best book I’ve read in the last year…well, it is a big deal.  And it is, the best book I’ve read in AT LEAST the last year.  Lots of caps I know, but it’s worth it.  Think Lord of the Flies meets 1984 meets Survivor, yes, I said Survivor and I do mean the television show.

It is a heart-pounding, edge of your seat post-apocalyptic LOVE story.  Not strictly the kind of love between a man and a woman either.  All kinds of love.

I can’t wait to read Catching Fire, the second in Collins’ trilogy (the third book won’t be released for quite a while-boo).

For those who have read it, I vote for Peeta all the way.  I have a sneaking suspicion that Katniss and Gale are related (don’t hold me to it though).

fifteen for friday

Friday, September 4th, 2009

flu-like symptoms and super tweet edition

1. Ah, fever…chills how I hate thee.

2. What Ann Curry tweeted earlier: Here we go. Last week of August flu cases rose sharply. H1N1 is believed to be most of those cases. Wash your hands.”

3. Been working on my query all day for  this contest…

4. Another embarrassing video.  I love to humiliate myself…why?

5. Thanks to Jolyn Palliata for letting me beta read her awesome novel, Amber Eyes…watch out for this one.

6. Um, Danae (pronounced Dani) Ayusso is one of the most interesting people I have ever “met”.  She can write 10,000 words, send out 75 query letters–twitter and email all in ONE day…not kidding.  And she just got a request for a full!  Way to go Danae!

7. @johannaharness wants everyone to take a pic of their workspaces and tweet to #amwriting, she was so nice to say something positive about mine.

8. Am I trying to be the queen of links?  No, but you can call me the princess if you want.

9. OMK (kittens) I haven’t read a published book all week…weird.

10. Gonna remedy that with my 40% off coupon to Borders!

11. Not adding pics today…so sorry.

12. My oldest caught the video bug and started filming a 6 min. video for each of our pets.  They are surprisingly funny.

13. The animals aren’t as funny as my son’s comments.

14. What I want to read ASAP: The Hunger Games

15. Comment people–I get lonely. :)

to tweet or not to tweet….

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

twittbird

That is a question crossing a lot of minds these days.  My husband talked me into joining late last May.  He hasn’t made a comment SINCE May.  I, on the other hand have had 267 – one-hundred and forty characters or less comments.

Reasons NOT to Join Twitter:

1.  You may become addicted. Seriously, no kidding here.

2.  You start thinking and talking in 140 characters or less.  I’ve always been that way–but I can see how it would be problematic for some.  Hey, I think there are a couple of people I might invite to join. **scratching chin in a knowing way**

3.  It’s yet another place to regret what you’ve said.

4.  When the site is down, there is a possibility for adverse effects on your sanity.

5.  You have to learn a whole new jargon… hashtags (#), RT (re-tweet), DM (direct message), FF (follow Friday) and many, many more!

Reasons TO join Twitter

1.  You get to meet fantastic people that you otherwise would never meet.  I’ve met about five people who are really cool and helpful writers and they’re NICE on top of it all.

2.  There’s the possibility that someone famous will like what you say and repeat it to the masses, giving you credit, of course.

3.  It’s a great way to advertise your blog, product, service.

4.  Everyone understands when you state that “you need to take a social networking break”.

5.  People share the coolest things they find online, commiserate with each other…basically communicate.

This is all considering that you do what I do and only follow people that you’ve checked out fairly well.  If they have a blog, look at it and see if they are compatible with your standards or you may end up with unwanted trash in your tweets.  If that does happen there’s hope, you can always unfollow them.

fifteen for friday 8/28/09

Friday, August 28th, 2009

Here it is!  The much awaited return of fifteen for friday!

first day of school09 0021.  School is in.

first day of school09 0042.  Yesterday I noticed three blooms on my flower.  Normally it only has two, and when I see another about to bloom I know that one flower will fall off before it gets a chance to open.  This is the first time there have been three blooms all at once actually attached to the plant.  I was pondering the reason why this made me so happy.  It has to be that it was unexpected and it involved a pretty lilac colored flower that has a perfect yellow circle in the middle.

3.  A BIG thank you to Jodi, Coy and Amy this week for reading and giving me invaluable feedback.  You guys are great!!!

4. Fun site of the week - www.mentalfloss.com

5.  As You Wish came out this week.  Don’t forget to pick up a copy.

6.  Finally read Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen.  I’m noticing that I like her books almost in copyright date order, favorites being the newest.  In other words, I really didn’t like Keeping the Moon so much.  But I’m looking forward to Along for the Ride, the only one I haven’t read yet and her newest.

first day of school09 0067.  The forget-me-nots have grown, but why aren’t they flowering?

8.  I feel like I’m forgetting something.

9.  Good Girls by Laura Ruby –Wow, very modern.  I guess kids these days are having to deal with the issues covered in this book–everything you do can be photographed and sent to everyone you know–yikes.

10.  the sweet, terrible, glorious year i truly, completely lost it by Lisa Shanahan–I really liked this book especially following the heaviness of Good Girls…not that the sweet… isn’t heavy in its own way.  But it has a lot of very funny moments and some outrageous ones.  Gemma’s older sister is getting married and decides her theme will be animals who mate for life.  Sis dresses Gemma up as a SWAN for her flower girl outfit.  The story is set in Australia and has a few quirky words and phrases, but it’s all very followable.  I was a little confused about “the tip” which I could only surmise was a piece of undesirable land that smelled awful.

11.  Girl in Development by Jordan Roter made me realize that the way I tend to write (casual writing, mind you) in “valley girl” may not be the best idea.  Yeah, it’s cute for a little while, but it’s looking more and more immature when I read it from someone else.  I was excited about this book and picked it up because of the blurbs on the back.  It was an okay read.

12.  The three books I picked up at the library all had a copyright date of 2006.  Is that weird or what?

13.  When will I wise up and make it FIVE for Friday?

14.  Random thought (I told you this might happen…no, I did…back in the beginning) is dim sum the same thing as dumplings and pot stickers?  I could look that up, I know…just killing numbers here.

15.  Could someone please please publish me please?! Thanks.

emerson said it best

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

CLOUDSDear to us are those who love us… but dearer are those who reject us as unworthy, for they add another life; they build a heaven before us whereof we had not dreamed, and thereby supply to us new powers out of the recesses of the spirit, and urge us to new and unattempted performances.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’m not sure I find the people who send me rejection letters “dear” but I do think they make me want to try harder and be better.  Here’s an excerpt from my latest rejection regarding my short story:

Thank you for submitting “In Desert Found” to (name removed). It was well received here, but after some thought we have decided not to accept it for publication.

There is a lot of potential for emotional response from the reader in this story idea.

The beginning starts too slowly and lacks conflict to hold attention. Consequently I did not sympathize with Kaylee. Internal monologue would help understand her feelings.

I hope you’ll consider us again, and I wish you the best success in placing this story elsewhere.


I love it!  My very first non-form rejection!  Notice the change in font indicating the move from form to non-form, isn’t it bee-utiful?  Okay, okay it really sucks that they didn’t like the story and yes I am a little embarrassed to share my lack of skills–but it just felt like the thing to do.  And now that I’m done lamenting the rejection I’ve been urged to a new and unattempted performance…aka more editing!

oh yeah i did

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

interviewer & ee

The self-interview is a rare occurrence.  If thought through fully, one would hardly see the benefit of asking one’s self questions and then answering them…oneself.  Half the stuff I get done wouldn’t if I thought things through fully, (and I don’t get all that much done, kids) so, anyway…what was my point?  Oh yes, instead of waiting to become published and then, of course, famous for my ah-mahzing skillz, or instead of waiting to receive a “25 random things about me” note on Facebook–I’m going ahead and giving myself the third degree.  Just so you know, I’m no pushover interviewer.  Tough questions will be asked, we’ll just have to wait and see if they are answered.  I skipped all the hellos and how-de-doos and included only the meat of the interview:

Q:  I see that you’ve been posting on your blog a lot less lately.  Is there a reason for this?

A:  Not a good one.

Q:  Right.  K.  Your public has noticed that you can’t seem to keep your blog on one subject or another…one day it’s about your kids, the next about some writerly thing.  Why is this?

A:  My kids aren’t loony enough to write about every day and I don’t actually know much writer stuff so I just write what I know, ya know?

Q:  How many freakin’ pets do you have anyway?

A:  Wow, that was really out of the blue… ah, wasn’t expecting that one.  Let’s see.  2 dogs (Sam and Lola–and no they were not named after Denise Richard’s children.  That’s just a happy coincidence),  3 cats (Cally, Lil Kat and P.J.), and 2 turtles (Squirty and Toothbrush).  That makes 7 in all.

Q:  Why the heck would you name a pet Toothbrush?

A:  I’m sorry, that’s just a little too personal.

Q:  Moving on then.  Why do you use so very very many ellipses, parentheses, and em dashes?

A:  Why not I always say!  Plus it’s how I talk…gotta get that rhythm right.

Q:  What do you hope to accomplish with this self-interview?

A:  To kill some time.  Ha ha, honestly I’m bored.

Q:  That is so interesting.  Have you ever thought about renting a personality?

A:  It’s way cheaper than buying, that’s for sure.  And then you can try as many out as you want without committing.

Q:  That was an insult.

A:  That wasn’t a question.

Q:  Okay, this interview is over.  I don’t think we’re going to actually find anything out about this person.

A:  That wasn’t a question either.

read-o-rama

Monday, August 17th, 2009

Read a B-U-N-C-H this weekend.

thatsummer-thumb1. That Summer – Sarah Dessen – Nice jump back into Sarah-land after This Lullaby.  Love the summer setting.  I was trying to think back to my last perfect summer before “everything changed”.  I didn’t have a summer like that.  I was always looking forward and never longed for the past, but this book made me want to.  Oh, me and my never-ending teen angst!  Just call me JenX…get it?! hahaha! deenie

2.  Deenie – Judy Blume – I just felt like revisiting this old “classic” when I saw it at the library.  It amazed me how Blume can get that voice in my head to take on a Jersey accent.  It takes serious talent to get a reader to hear a character’s voice and it’s not like any other they’ve ever heard.

justlisten-thumb3.  Just Listen – Sarah Dessen – This book is now my all-time favorite Dessen novel.  Reading it made me want to write a book report about it.  I am not one who usually gets that urge…but there was so much here to learn I just wanted to take it all apart and dissect each individual piece.  For example, the Greene’s beautiful glass house.  People driving by think they can see everything that’s going on inside, but there are parts that are hidden from the street.  Beautiful Annabel is “the girl who has everything” and people think they know what’s going on with her, but those hidden spaces remain that way until she can turn on the light and open the doors to let othersdreamland-thumb in.  Oh, and Greene…her last name, “the grass is always greener…” and there’s so much more! –It was also nice to see Remy and Dexter from This Lullaby make a cameo.

4.  Dreamland – Sarah Dessen – First Caitlin is invisible, and when she finally gets a chance to be seen, she makes the worst choices.  I guess some people might read the book and think that they would never let anyone abuse them like that.  But as an older (though not much wiser) person I could see how a laundry list of bad choices and of not knowing who you really are could lead to that kind of situation.

New Dessen ranking:                 Still need to read: Keeping the Moon and Along For the Ride

1. Just Listen

2. Someone Like You

3. Lock and Key

4. The Truth About Forever

5. That Summer

6. Dreamland

7. This Lullaby