May 2 2013

I’ve been rejected. Yay!

Thing the First
Yesterday I received a rejection on the poetry collection I sent to Toad Lily Press.

My response: “Well, that’s disappointing. But thank god.”

To which my mom was quite astonished and I proceeded to enthusiastically explain to her about the importance of SASEs, how not putting one with your submission could very well mean having your submission thrown out without having it read, how I had spent the last several weeks flailing, because I was sure I had forgotten to include said SASE with my submission.

So, um, yeah, HUGE relief that I didn’t make the idiotic mistake of forgetting to include a SASE, so much so that it soothed the sting of the rejection quite a bit.

No, seriously, I can’t tell you how stoked I am that I included the SASE.

Thing the Second
Looking over my 2013 goals this week reminded me that I wanted to try to get to 12 spoke work/open mics/author readings this year, and thus far I hadn’t. In general, I just want to be engaged with live performances, from spoken word to stage plays to music, all of which inspires me in different ways.

So, I started looking around for what’s in the area and found that Poetic Justice Wednesdays was going on at the Fahrenheit Bar in San Jose. I dropped in (after convincing my sister she had no choice but to join me) and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I was impressed by the skill of the poets and musicians who presented, their lips tumbling truths into the microphone. It’s the kind of impressive performances that intimidate me a bit, because I don’t feel good enough to do the same. But I’ll get myself up there someday soon.

 

Cross-posted to my livejournal. You are welcome to comment either her or there.


Oct 19 2012

Congrats to Aunt Lute for their 30th Anniversary!

Aunt Lute Celebrates 30 years: Unsung Voices — They publish books by women authors “not being represented by mainstream publishing.” I had the pleasure of interning with the company for one summer, and I’m thrilled to know they are still thriving.

One of my favorite books ever is Her, by Cherry Muhanji a story of queer African American women set in Detroit in the late ’50s/60s. Such a beautifully written and moving novel. I participated in proofreading the second edition and have reread the book a couple of times since then for the sheer pleasure of it.

Here’s to 30 more years of Aunt Lute!

[Cross-posted to my livejournal.]

Sep 18 2012

popping in

I have been pretty much off the internets for a while now, barely keeping up with any of the social stuff and definitely have not been keeping up with any of my blogs (with the exception of the occasional book review). I don’t know if that’s going to change anytime soon, but in the meantime, I thought I’d pop in and point to a couple of great posts I read by Justine Larbalestier.

Please, Please, Please, Give Your Protag Friends, a Sibling, Parents

I often hear beginning writers complain that they’re not sure what happens with their protagonist next. That they’re stuck. Often part of the problem is that their book does not have enough relationships in it. They’ve left out the parents, made their protag an only child with no friends. The only other characters are the love interest and the villian. And none of the characters are coming to life because they’re only in the book for one reason: to be the Love Interest, to be the Villian, to be the Protagonist.

There has to be more. You get the more by complicating things. Let’s say the protag’s best friend is the villian’s sister. Already that gives both the protag and the villian another dimension: their relationship with their BFF/sister. Both characters suddenly became a lot more interesting.

I’m rather fond of the relationships in books myself, not just the romantic ones, but all relationships of the main character to family and friends and the world around them. It’s a part of what make them complete. It’s one of the reasons I loved The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder so much. It was full of relationships, most notably for me, the relationship with her mom, because so many YA books leave parents out of the equation all together. I definitely try to think about relationships in my own stories, not just romatic ones, but the entire spectrum.

And those romantic relationships that are most interesting to me are not the first-love, getting-to-know-you variety, though I don’t mind seeing that in the beginning. I find it more interesting to see how a relationship grows past initially lust and lovey dovey feelings to something more deep and complex, the state of a relationship after the newness wears off, which is also something you don’t see much in YA especially, but also a lot of fiction in general. I would like to see a lot more variety of relationships and kinds of romatic relationships in books.

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Racism in the Books We Write

It is almost impossible to avoid writing work that can be read as racist. If you’re writing about people, you’re writing about identity, and a huge part of identity is race.

We are all seen through the lens of race. We all see through the lens of race.1 Whether we’re conscious of it or not. If you’re a writer you really need to be conscious of it. Because if you don’t think you are writing about race, you can wind up writing things visible to your readers that are not visible to you.

Often that is a not good thing.

She goes on to explain how her own books have both helped and harmed readers regardless of her own intentions. I recommend reading the entire post.

[Cross-posted to my livejournal.]

Jul 25 2012

Messing around on wattpad and a review of The Waking Moon by TJ McGuinn

So, I found out via twitter that Margaret Atwood has joined and has been promoting this site called wattpad. Essentially, its a way for writers to post stories online and connect with readers. Normally I wouldn’t look twice at this kind of site, in part, because its a self publishing venue in which there is no way to earn money (it’s completely free all around), but I figured since Margaret Atwood and has posted some of her poems, it lends the site some credibility and so I would check it out.

As a Writer

Writers post stories (either short stories or novels in serialized format or snippets or poetry), which readers can vote or comment on, and they can “fan” their favorite authors to find out when something new is posted.  According to the website, it has millions of readers every month. It also has an associated phone app and the option to promote your story on other sites (such as GoogleBooks, Sony eBookstore, and Scribd). All of which, suggests that there is an opportunity to connect with readers. You still have to find ways to promote your work on the site by chatting with readers and commenting on other works, and so forth, which is a lot of work in itself.

Though, I’m aiming to be professionally published, I can certainly see the appeal of instant gratification provided by self publishing your work (in any format). So, though I initially intended to join the site simply to read Margaret Atwood’s poems and to explore, I couldn’t help but post something of my own. The Poetry Project, as I’m calling it, will be a place where wattpad readers can suggest prompts that I will respond to with an original poem. I do have two poems completed (“Dreaming of Water on These Hot Sunny Days” and “The Butterfly Effect“), both of which you can read without being a member of wattpad. And I’m considering posting some of my Fay Fairburn stories on there, since I’ve already posted them on my blog, anyway.

I can already see that it’s a lot of work to get attention and move up in the stats (really based on popularity), which is fine — but it is something I also recognize as a distraction from doing the work to prepare and submit manuscripts for professional paid publishing, which is not so fine. I’ve been holding off on doing the final work to edit and submit some of the short stories I’ve written — there’s  fear involved of the I’m-not-good-enough variety — and I really need to make sure that happens. So, I’ll keep with wattpad for a while as a side project to see how it goes, but only under the provision that it doesn’t keep me from my main goals.

As a Reader

As to be expected, since there is no filter system (no editor selecting what appears and what needs more work), you get a lot of writing on the site that is not great (in fact a portion of it is really bad). You kind of having to skim through first pages and opening lines until you find something that’s worth reading. There are recommended stories and poems, which I tend to go to first, and various ways of searching to come up with unique reads, but there’s a ton of content on there to sort through to find something you like.

Despite that, I did find The Waking Moon, by TJ McGuinn. The book description: “Paulette’s life is in shambles. Her sister is dead, her mother is a drunk, and she’s been forced to transfer into a chaotic public school full of bullies. Things go from bad to worse when, one night while driving them home from dinner, her intoxicated mother hits and kills a teenage boy and is sent to jail. Now Paulette is truly alone. But when the teenage boy mysteriously comes back from the dead looking for Paulette, she finds herself face to face with the purest love on earth.

McGuinn presents a story with clean, crisp prose. I say this not just in comparison to the work on wattpad, but in comparison work published in general. It’s good clean writing that draws you into the story from sentence one. Paulette is an interesting character, who is understandably downcast, based on the various problems she has to face. Life is rough, but she’s not so despondent as to be depressing or boring. I was definitely on her side.

The character I absolutely fell in love with, though, was the one friend she made in high school, Rhodes. He’s quirky and fun, and sticks up for Paulie. He’s kind to Paulie and though he’s fallen for her, he doesn’t push her too hard. He does make mistakes (at one point, jealousy rears its head), but he’s quick to back off and apologize for him. He even manages to respectfully help her out of her clothes, when she’s injured, which is tough thing to do when it’s someone you’re crushing on. He’s a character that I wish was real, cause I would love to have him be my friend in real life.

The super-haught dead boy (whose name I can’t remember) is rather generic and bland in comparison to Rhodes, who has so much personality. In fact, I didn’t quite get why she falls for him, except that there is an immediate emotional connection based on common tragedy.

The story overall held my interest the entire way through, and I found myself crying by the end. Definitely worth reading, and I hope I get to read more work by McGuinn in the future.

Finding other works on wattpad that I liked as much is slow going. I have found some “good” stuff, and lots of “okay” stuff, but not much that falls into the “great” category. There is definitely some of that in there, though.

[Cross posted to my livejournal.]

Aug 30 2011

The end is not nigh

In “The death of books has been greatly exagerated,” Lloyd Shepherd looks at the anecdotal evidence many publishing doomsayers present and notes that it’s not as bad as it seems.

What does all this data add up to? Hardly an industry in its death throes, so one must ask why there are so many long faces about the place. Let’s not be naive. These are times of massive change, and change is never, ever comfortable. The retail sector worries publishers and authors alike; in the past year, publishers have lost Woolworth, Borders and British Bookshops as sales channels and, as Kate Pool from the Society of Authors says: “The increasing dominance of Amazon (as retailer, increasingly as publisher, as owner of the Kindle, etc) is potentially very worrying.”This, combined with the emergence of digital technology, creates enormous uncertainty. It’s a fact that the transition to digital devices will mean greater efficiencies and more focus on cost and, overall, a rather less generouspublishing industry than before; a rather colder-hearted, fiercer one. The old world is fading, the new world isn’t yet in focus. When newspapers and music faced this moment, there was a significant tendency to become hugely angry that the old world in which we were all so comfortable was being “swept away”. It’s almost impossible for someone who has spent decades working in a calm, creative environment not to be enraged by the sight of American technology companies tipping everything
on its head.

But let’s not overdo things. Let’s not lose sight of the data we have, and let’s not invent data when we only have anecdotes. And finally, let’s not forget the wonders this new world opens up.

It’s an interesting and reassuring read.

[Cross-posted to my livejournal.]