Monday, March 25, 2013

A Winner -- and a new look at an old favorite

I'm happy to announce that according to the winner of the hardcover copy of Will Sparrow's Road by Karen Cushman is:

Kat Owens

Congratulations, Kat!  Expect an email from me asking for your mailing address.


I've been querying my second novel for about a month now and some of the very kind personal rejections I've received have said they prefer funny boy books for MG, as opposed to dark and serious contemporary stories. 

Ahem. So... I've written a lot of messy notes and character sketches and about 35 pages of a new middle grade novel. Yes, I'm attempting a humorous story this time. Go ahead, make all the jokes you want. I'll wait.


Yeah, I knew I needed lots of research. So for a month I've been re-reading every funny book on my shelves, from Diary of a Wimpy Kid (strangely, not as funny this time around) to Flush by Carl Hiaasen (he can be over-the-top funny), to Wendy Mass's books. I'm a big fan of Wendy Mass. So I re-read 11 Birthdays (paperback published 2010, hardcover 2009, from Scholastic, for ages 9 to 12). And I'm happy to report I enjoyed it just as much as the first time. 

Amanda and Leo, best friends who happen to share a birthday, have to repeat their 11th birthday until they get it right, a la Groundhog Day, the movie, or Help! I'm Trapped in the First Day of School by Todd Strasser. I love the town Wendy has created, Willow Falls, where unusual things sometimes take place. It's the real world, with a touch of magical realism. And this is exactly the sort of thing I'm going for.

I love this kind of research!
Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is the brainchild of Shannon Messenger. See her blog for the links, or visit my sidebar.

Monday, March 18, 2013

On Writing and Learning

“I think you should learn, of course, and some days you must learn a great deal. But you should also have days when you allow what is already in you to swell up inside of you until it touches everything. And you can feel it inside you. If you never take time out to let that happen, then you just accumulate facts, and they begin to rattle around inside you. You can make noise with them, but never really feel anything with them. It’s hollow.”  

          --  Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler in E.L.Konigsburg’s Newbery-award-winning novel, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler  (p.153 in the paperback version)

Of course, she wasn't talking to Claudia about writing, but I think the quote applies just as easily to what we do, as writers. The more I write, the more I need to learn about writing. And many people have suggested I buy this craft book or that one. Sometimes I do. There's a great deal to be learned from books like Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass or Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell or my favorite, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. 

But there comes a time when you need to stop all the studying and let it "swell up inside of you." Let all the advice simmer; let your own ideas marinate so you can feel something. What do you think? Have you learned something invaluable from a craft book? Do you depend on craft books or are you finding your own way?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Will Sparrow's Road by Karen Cushman -- and a giveaway!

First, I want to thank everyone who participated in the lively discussion on my last post. Even discounting my replies, that post generated more comments than any other post in my four years of blogging. Now for this week's recommendation:

Will Sparrow's Road by Karen Cushman (Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin, November 2012, for ages 10 and up)

Synopsis (from the book jacket): Will Sparrow, liar and thief, is running away -- from the father who sold him for beer, the innkeeper who threatened to sell him as a chimney sweep, from his whole sorry life. Barefoot and penniless, without family, friends, or boots, Will is determined to avoid capture and, of course, to find something to eat.

Some of the travelers he meets on the road have a kind word for him and a promise of better things to come, such as coins and juicy beef ribs. Eager to go along, Will repeatedly finds himself tricked by older and wiser tricksters.

Why I liked it: Will's a remarkable character, who at first cares for "no one but myself and nothing but my belly!" Writers who struggle with character growth should study this because Will grows and changes more than any protagonist I've come across recently. And if you're a fan of historical fiction, you'll love the story. The inimitable Karen Cushman infuses the novel with colorful personalities and plenty of Elizabethan flavor as Will travels from one market fair to another, along with an assortment of "Oddities" in search of a place to call home.

(My only trouble with this book was every time I read the name "Will Sparrow" I kept picturing Will Turner and Jack Sparrow. Guess I've watched "Pirates of the Caribbean" too many times!)

Now for the giveaway. Since I didn't receive an arc, I purchased a hardcover copy. And I'm eager to share it with one of you. To enter the giveaway you must be a follower and leave a comment on this post. International entries welcome. This giveaway will end at 10 pm EDT on Saturday, March 23, 2013. Winner will be chosen by and announced Monday, March 25. Good luck!

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is the brainchild of Shannon Messenger. See her blog for the links, or check out my sidebar.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Is it true? Is this the future of blogging?

In the December 4, 2012 issue of Shelf Awareness, in an article on YA authors and their social media platforms, Andrea Cremer (author of Nightshade and its sequels) admits she started out with a blog, but "now finds that medium too slow and relies primarily on Facebook and Twitter." 

She also says her "social media activity takes up three to four hours of her day." And that's without blogging!

Further evidence that blogging is losing its appeal: several of the authors I follow have essentially stopped blogging. The last time Maureen Johnson (Name of the Star) posted to her blog was five months ago. Yet you can find the Queen of Teen on Twitter nearly every waking hour of the day.  Laurie Halse Anderson also hasn't blogged for five months. Mike Jung (Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities) is another author with a Twitter empire. His last blog post was Feb 23, certainly recent enough. Yet the one before that was Oct 7, 2012!

What does this mean?

I think it means the future of blogging is Twitter and Facebook! The internet is changing our brains and the way we process information. People simply don't have the patience to read long blog posts anymore (Go on, admit it, you've skimmed more than one of my longer posts -- and yes, I've probably skimmed one or more of some other blogger's posts. Not yours! No!).  And it's possible that LinkedIn, Google+, Tumblr and especially Pinterest also vie for a portion of your allotted social media time. When does anyone have time to write or read books?

Wait until Facebook buys out Twitter and they'll be the same thing.  Then it will be one looming tower of babble.

What do you think?