Reviews, rants, and tidbits from an overpassionate novelist

Archive for July, 2009

The Printz Award

The Printz Award first caught my eye on the cover of White Darkness (Geraldine McCaughrean) in the media center at my high school. The more I learn about the literary nature of the books that receive them, the more I think it may be a main marker of this “Literary Little League” the wall street journal mentioned. That article, by the way, is here. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204261704574275941028138178.html

The more I learned about the Printz Award and the kinds of books that receive it, the more I like it. I’m very interested in reading the list of winners, including the 2009 winner, Jellicoe Road (Melina Marchetta). Perhaps this would be a good study for me, and even help me develop yet another dream, another goal.

More about the Michael L. Printz Award here:

http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/yalsa/booklistsawards/printzaward/Printz.cfm

STUDIES OF STORYTELLING

I have a very unique way of battling writer’s block. When I can’t seem to make a story fit together, I go back and review the first fundamentals of storytelling I ever learned…by watching Disney movies.

Yes, this works! I’ve told quite a few other writers about it who’ve seen where I’m coming from. Classic stories told in ways that have caused people to love them all their lives. If you’re shooting to be a bestseller (though maybe not a Pulitzer), why not pay a little attention?

I’ve started making a study of storytelling in everything I watch. As an 18-year-old, I believe I am still entitled to my share of anime and That’s 70’s Show, not to mention movies with friends. I always try to pay attention to character development, narration as the way the story unfolds, the effects of setting and time. I suppose I can attribute it to my teacher Mr. Ford, who invented a class called Film & Fiction in the Fort Mill school district and taught students to appreciate film as art. It was one of the best classes I’ve ever taken.

Writing isn’t the only form of storytelling out there. It’s not even the most popular anymore. There is lots of room for writers to take advantage.

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PUNCTUATION IS LIKE SEX

This is taken from a worksheet I received at the SWA Conference last month, and I just had to share. Cheryl Norman’s Novel Writing Class, as you can imagine, was hilarious.

Punctuation is like Sex:

  1. Commas are not like kisses. They should not be scattered freely among your beloved words.
  2. Like spouses, exclamation marks should ideally come one per person, per lifetime. (Except in YA, I personally believe.)
  3. Parenthetical asides are like secrets between friends–not a good idea.

THE TOP 7 DOWNFALLS OF WRITERS

Again, I made this list with the help of a workshop I received in Cheryl Norman’s Novel Writing Class at the Southeastern Writer’s Workshop.

The Top 7 Downfalls of Writers:

  1. Lack of self-discipline
  2. Failing to use biological time positively (Ex. Are you a morning person? A night person?)
  3. Creating distractions/giving in to them
  4. Failing to finish individual pieces of work
  5. Failing to set goals that are high enough
  6. Not honoring one’s own unique material and VOICE
  7. Failing to acknowledge the duality within the creative person (Ex. Extend yourself! See what you can do.)

BREAKING INTO THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY

As my blog readers know, I attended the Southeastern Writer’s Conference last month and got a bit of a shock. Miss Stephanie and–godforbid–Edward flipping Cullen did far more for me than I ever could have dreamed.

The industry is in a sad condition right now. That is undeniable. Agent in Residence Mollie Glick gave a speech about her job as a literary agent and revealed that a large part of it is keeping up with editors. Not only are editors moving and shuffling around between publishers and houses these days, they’re dropping like flies. Entire branches and houses are getting cut off.

It’s dark.

Apparently, Borders booksellers has nearly gone bankrupt several times within the past year and have survived by a miracle. (I’m very interested in this situation and there may be a post about it soon.) Without a doubt, the disappearance of a major booksellers would be disastrous to the industry. E-books would probably take off, boosting the printed word toward an obsolete state.

How do you break in when things are this bad? Where is the hope?

  1. Okay. Competition is high. It’s always been high. Relatively, it’s not that much of a difference.
  2. One market is still booming. One genre is easier than ever to break into. Respect for it is growing, and its popularity is wonderful. This is the Young Adult market, especially Fantasy. My market.

Four people–Emily Sue Harvey, Cheryl Norman, Mollie Glick, and Holly McClure–all remarked on how well the YA market is doing at the conference last month. About a week after it ended, I was in a bookstore, and I asked an employee if she was familiar with the YA section and if she could tell me what was selling best. She pointed to a few titles, naming one I’d never heard of (which made it all the more beneficial to me). “Anything to do with vampires, witches, or fairies. Actually,” she said, pausing, “that’s most of what we get coming through here right now.”

I almost cried.

If you’re a young adult fantasy writer, now is the time to step up and shoot for it. Despite the economic downturn, we are the ones who have been empowered. And it’s probably all thanks to Miss Stephanie Meyer and Mr. Edward Cullen!

EVER FEEL LIKE YOU’VE SEEN A GHOST?

I was packing up to leave a relative’s house today, and I looked under the bed to find an old journal. I cannot believe I’ve seen it again. I thought I never would.

This is a journal that carried me through some of the hardest decisions and transitions I’ve yet faced. Some of the best and worst moments of my life.

I can hardly believe it. Just when I’d been thinking about it again too. Then again, I’m a little disappointed. I thought I’d left it in a hotel in Tennessee or it fell out of the car at some stop between Texas and South Carolina. I hoped I’d lost it so it could fall into the hands of someone who needed it. I was, after all, a detailing of a pretty spiritual journey; it was a prayer journal.

Turns out it just collected dust bunnies. Sigh. But I’m glad to have it back!

* THE WHITE DARKNESS BY GERALDINE McCAUGHREAN – FIRST IMPRESSIONS *

whitedarkness_web

I love it. Sym’s voice is one of the best I’ve read. The themes, patterns, and writing are all lovely and fitting for a YA audience. It even received the Printz Award–a high-level YA contest–in 2008.

And get this:  When I asked for this book at Barnes & Noble here in Texas, I was told that the store didn’t carry it. Nor did any of the stores close by. Looks like the major bookstores know of it, but no more.

Why?

I guess Sym is hard to relate to. The reader finds out that she’s unusual so quickly, it takes us a few chapters for us to relate to her. I think the complete click with her doesn’t come until the end. Perhaps Ms. McCaughrean could have done something about the narration of this book to bring the horrific moments that haunt the end home closer to the beginning.

That, however, is the only criticism I can make. I love the themes that flow so naturally through this book, the patterns. The end is glorious. Just thinking about a certain moment–and if you read it you’ll know which one–still gives me goosebumps.

Love & Peace!

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