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Friday, May 20, 2011

My Gratitude Journal: Family

Every Friday I try to blog about the blessings that make me most grateful for the creative life. Today I'm thankful for family who understand.

I'm blessed that my dear husband, Roger, is also a writer. While he focuses on the real (he's a newspaper reporter and columnist), he does understand the writer's mind and he's sympathetic to the voices that chatter in my head all day, sometimes screaming at me until I pay attention. Good thing, that!

Our youngest son, Paul, is also a fiction writer. He and I can meet to talk plots, characters, or to ask each other "What's wrong here?" when we stumble on a particular difficult block.

Other family members are also sympathetic, but I'm especially grateful today for these two, who make my writing life so much easier and richer. Thanks, Guys!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

What Maggie Thinks of "Sorority Chicks"

In my work in progress, MAGGIE RISING, practical Maggie is working her way through Chico State as a psychic reader. In the early pages of the manuscript, she is asked to do a reading for a girl she quickly sizes up as a party girl/sorority chick. Here's her comment:

"Although I am not cynical in general, I have more than enough cynicism for empty-headed party girls, especially sorority chicks. They give a bad name to the other women at my school – studious, respectable women like me.

"Let me hurry to add that Chico State – that’s California State University, Chico -- has some cool sororities, ones that encourage the girls to work and study hard. The good sororities will even help their members with tutors and study sessions when necessary so they can earn good grades, actually learn something, and set themselves up for great careers in the future – or, if they choose, to be happy wives and mothers raising great kids who will become the leaders of the future, etc., etc. So it’s not that I’m necessarily down on the whole Greek system, either.

"The trick is, there are other sororities, groups of virtually fratricidal “sisters” that seem to exist for no better purpose than providing easy sex for the guys in the corresponding fraternities and stabbing each other in the back. The gullible little bottle-blonde who now sat across the table in my parlor belonged to one of those sororities and I hoped to be able to pull off this reading without her ever figuring out how much I was laughing at her. Given the wide-eyed look on her face, that shouldn’t be too difficult."

Hmmm... Wonder where Maggie gets that attitude? Tee-hee.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Two Great Blogs You May Want to Know

If you're a new, beginning writer, you may not yet be ready for this, but if you're a working writer who has a completed manuscript or two and you're trying to "make it" in publishing, let me recommend a fascinating blog.

THE PASSIVE VOICE, by David P. Vandagriff, finds the best writing news on the web and posts it, usually without comment (hence, the passivity)every weekday. One recent blog covered "How to Read a Book Contract," creating Facebook fan pages for authors, and 25 things you need to know when self-publishing, among other great pieces.

I'm learning from David's posts and I suspect most working writers will appreciate the news he finds. Keep it up, David! I'll keep looking to you to do the hard work on behalf of all of us!

What if you're not so well established and are still working on that first manuscript, polishing the tools of your craft? Then let me point you toward Elana Johnson's author blog. Elana's first book (a dystopian young adult novel I pre-ordered weeks ago; sounds fascinating!) is due out next month and she's just sold the sequel to Simon & Schuster. She's a great person and sharp writer with lots of fine hints on her blog. Check her out!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

English is a Most Confusing Tongue!

The English language must be one of the more difficult for non-native speakers to learn as a second tongue. Consider, for example, our idioms. Why is it that we ride IN a car, but ON a bus? Why ON a ship, but IN a kayak – many of which are made so you can’t get inside them? Perhaps it’s the same reason we park in driveways and drive on parkways?

If idiom isn’t confusing enough, look at our spelling. Through, dough, and enough all end in “ough,” yet just listen to how they sound! Then there are the words with multiple different uses. We can park our car in a parking lot. If the engine falls out, we may choose to visit a new car lot to replace it. We can order paper (or on Ebay, even clothing) by the lot, and when it comes, we can have a lot of trouble with it.

And that’s just a start!

I love our language, enjoy words and have fun with writing in this quirky, unpredictable tongue of ours, but I’m glad I learned it as a native language. Coming to it as an adult would probably be too much for this old brain to handle.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Getting Started as a Commercial Novelist

You know you have talent. You have the drive and the will. You love the people who talk to you all day long in the privacy of your own head, but you’d prefer to share their quirky visions of the world with a larger audience. Yet you know no one in publishing and have no idea where to start. Where do you turn?
I was in exactly that position when I decided to become a novelist more than 20 years ago. Let me give you a few clues that may help you to avoid some of my pitfalls:

1.            Read industry blogs and web sites. Yes, I know. You’re a busy person. You have work, family, responsibilities, and in addition to all that, you’re trying to write the next great romance (or mystery, or what-have-you) and there is simply no time in your life for following author blogs. Make some! The tips you can learn from watching what other writers have done successfully are well worth your time investment. You must believe that; after all, you’re here!  ;-D
Some agents and publishers also offer great tips on how to approach them with queries, proposals, etc., so read those as well. Look them up under “author’s representatives.”
2.            Attend writers’ conferences.  Wow, talk about no time for that! And no money, either. Do you really want to spend most of your year’s vacation and several hundred dollars on going to some out-of-the-way place to hear writers talk about their craft? Absolutely you do! You can learn more in a 2-3 day conference than in a year of figuring it out for yourself. Besides, where else do the New York professionals you long to meet come to you? Go! By all means, go!
3.            Network! When you pick up a great tip from someone’s blog or meet a helpful writer (editor, agent) at a conference, send an email and let them know what their advice has meant. Stay in touch. The old adage that it’s more who you know than what may be more important in publishing than anywhere.
Those are a few good tips on your way to breaking in. Get going and have a great career.

Do you have any great tips to share for getting started? Any exemplary stories about how networking has served your career? Please send an email and share