Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Announcing Small Tales

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post wondering about short story journals and what made one better than another, and how one even discerned among them. I also tossed out the idea of starting one of my own, and wondered if anyone would be interested in helping. And four people were!

And thus, over the past few weeks, the Small Tales project was born.

I'm enormously excited about it, if only because it thrills me to do my own thing in an area where I don't see a lot of established rules. I've done this before--like spearheading the North American chapter of a particular group that didn't exist before, as an example.

So with that, I'm pleased to announce today that Small Tales is open to submissions of fiction up to 5000 words in length. For submission guidelines and instructions, please see the Small Tales blog.

The Details
My partners in crime on this are Linda Leszczuk, MC Howe, Vince Ferraro, and Mike Chen.

Small Tales will be published electronically, and will feature short stories up to 5000 words in length (excepting erotica and poetry). The idea is to present good fiction, laid out in easy to read style, in PDF or e-reader format.

Small Tales will be published in August 2011. We're really excited about putting together a collection of good fiction, and would love your submission.

Wondering?
For those of you wondering how on earth I would consider doing this as I am about 2 weeks away from giving birth (hopefully less, please God just one week, please), the answer is: um, well, would you willing to accept that I have tiger blood or something? :) I just think this is cool, so let's do it!


Questions? Concerns? Comments?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Mailbag!

My mailbox is overflowing with questions about life. Today I thought I would share some of the advice I've given out over the past year. *

Q: Dear Sierra,
I have a blog and I post nothing but wise writing advice on it all the time. But my comment rate isn’t very high, especially compared to other people’s. What am I doing wrong? Is it me? Is it because I’m kind of snarky?
- Wise But Unread

A: Dear Wise But Unread,
It could be a lot of things, but here are some suggestions. First, you need to comment back on people’s blogs a lot. Then they will come return the favor, and over time they will catch on to your brilliance. You might not like the idea of having to comment to get comments because it feels so...manufactured, but that’s just the way it is.

Second, it could be your voice, who knows? Are you bitchy or complainy? Is your advice good advice or is it condescending?

Third, you could always try saying you scored an agent, and have a book deal. Your blog follower and comment rate is sure to skyrocket as a result, and it will be at least a little while before anyone Googles the fake agent name and calls you out for being a liar liar pants on fire.

Q: Dear Sierra,
On Twitter, I seem to get followed by a lot of fellow writers, including published authors. I always try to follow writers back, because that helps create a cool tweeting community. But sometimes these writers are super annoying and tweet crap like “Duh” and “I just pooped a camel.” I feel really bad unfollowing them, even though they deserve it for tweeting such things. What should I do?
- Annoyed on Twitter but Unsure

A: Dear Annoyed,
Unfollow them. They won’t even know it. But your tweet stream will be a lot less clogged with fecal matter, won’t it?

Q: Dear Sierra,
A friend of mine has a blog on which he frequently talks about the book he is working on. He said three agents emailed him, inviting him to query when ready. How do I get that? Do YOU get that?
-Wondering about Blog-trolling Agents

A: Dear Wondering,
I don’t get that, but I also don’t talk about the SUPER AWESOME AMAZING hook of my novel, which is women’s fiction, and which is both funny and well-written while still being commercial, nor do I mention that I am a professional who is happy to work closely with editors and agents to edit or change what doesn’t work. I also don’t say how very cool my opening chapter and inciting incident is--drama, in like a lion, and world-disturbing, to be sure. I mean, I could say these things, but I don't.

You could try talking about your book on your blog, but my feeling is: keep your amazing hook to yourself and just work on finishing the best book you can.

Alternatively, you might try posting in your blog’s sidebar that making chocolate candies is a hobby of yours, but alas you can only send them to agents who contact you. Mention that you stuff the chocolate $20 bills. Good luck!

Q: Dear Sierra,
I’ve been writing novels for six years. I’ve written four, but only queried two. Neither query experience resulted in success for me, although I have to admit that I got closer than ever before to finding representation with the last one before giving up and writing a new book. My question is this: how much longer do I have to wait? I mean, sheesh! I’m already on the downhill side of my 30s (36)! I was hoping to be a published author before I turn 40!
- Tired of Waiting

A: Dear Tired,
Thirty-six is hardly 40, although for rounding purposes I would certainly call you 40. But not to your face. And when you answer surveys, you’re still firmly in the 29-39 range, so all is not lost!

But to your real question: how long before you find success? Well, your track record should tell you that you’re doing something right: you’re learning with each novel you write, and you’re getting close. So you’re not a first-attempt, 22-year-old MFA wunderkind. I guess how long you have to wait is entirely dependent on your level of persistence and perseverance. Mine is level 100. What is yours?


*No one asked me these questions and I've given no advice. I mean, come on. I don't even get spam in my mailbox.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Google Reader Roundup

Sometimes I feel like I should expand my blog reading list to include a much wider dearth of blogs for you on the world-famous, fresh-as-hotdogs GRR, but the fact is, the blogs below are always good. Consistently entertaining and informative. And, also, my attention span and energy level has gone waaaaaaay down as my Braxton Hicks contractions have increased in regularity and strength. Quite frankly, I'm tired. But rest assured, the below links are still great ones, and as always carefully culled for your clicky pleasure.

  • Anne Allen has 7 dos and don'ts for new bloggers. You want to look at these. Anne gives wise advice. Except possibly for the one that says don't rant, because I did that on Monday this week. And um, Wednesday, too.
  • You know I love all things professional, so this guest post from Mary Demuth on Rachelle Gardener's blog on 7 ways to be professional hit right home.
  • John Gilstrap at The Kill Zone does a First Page critique, which are always great because he points out all the pitfalls so we can all avoid them.
  • Meghan Ward has 11 Twitter Tips, and yours truly is mentioned, and not as a bad example, either. Just saying.
  • Roni Loren has a nice updated rerun of a great post on what romance is, and the subgenres of it, and why you shouldn't be a snob about it.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Iodine rant

A note about comments:
First, I'd like to apologize to those of you who have had problems commenting on posts. The Intense Debate comment system is great because I can reply directly to posts (and you could too) and you'd be notified by e-mail if you did get a reply. And it encourages discussion. But some users couldn't see the comment system. So I changed a setting the other night, and then some people could use the old Blogger way of commenting, and some people could use the Intense Debate way. I could no longer see the Intense Debate comments. I don't know if this is a browser issue, but it is right annoying, so I uninstalled the little bugger. Intense Debate was great because it allowed a true discussion, which I love, so the disadvantage of not having it is that I have to hope you check back and see if I replied (or other people replied) to your comment. Blogger is horribly lax in developing threaded comments that encourage discussion--a complete mistake in the online world of engagement with others. So then I re-installed Intense Debate and screwed everything up and lost all my comments over the past few months. So please bear with me while I figure this out.

OK, on with the post.
Anyway, I find that the closer I get to my due date, the more ragey I seem to be. I have about 3 or 4 weeks to go. You have my apologies in advance for me degenerating and using the blog to rave like an incensed squirrel. And today I need to just say how annoyed I am by all the people who bought up iodine pills in an effort to stave off huge cancerous clouds of radiation that supposedly would creep over the US from Japan, no doubt starting another dust bowl and leaving a destructive wake in its path the likes of which haven't been seen since locust plagues and the 1993 mutant mice plague of Australia (link goes to YouTube video), and which won't be seen again until Charlie Sheen begins his gooby and completely noninteresting tour of mumblings.

Put simple, iodine pills do not protect you from thyroid cancer. Okay?

Please read this bulletin from Mary Shoman, the thyroid guru and information clearinghouse on all things thyroid, for specifics. In case you can't bear to part from my blog (and really, who can blame you a bit!), I have pasted below Mary's most relevant points. I have thyroid disease so I pay attention to these things.

  • All potassium iodide can do is protect the thyroid from one radioactive isotope -- radioactive iodine. It is NOT an "Armageddon pill" or a "radiation protector pill." When taken properly, potassium iodide can saturate the thyroid with iodine, and prevent it from absorbing radioactive iodine, which can prevent the increased risk of thyroid cancer associated with radiation exposure.
  • Now, about taking potassium iodide properly...It must be the proper form -- potassium iodide -- and it must be in the proper doses, and it must be taken at the proper time. That means, it must be taken in the hours before and after the radioactive plume is passing over your area. Not days before. Not days later. If you're taking potassium iodide now, and it's days before any radioactive fallout (if any) has reached you, then you are not only wasting your money, but you are potentially risking your health.
  • If you are not directly in the path of the radioactive plume, potassium iodide will not only not protect you from anything, but it MAY INCREASE your risk of developing thyroid problems.

I hope we're clear.

Now. My mother and I had a conversation the other night that I thought you would find useful.

Me: I bet you're all freaked out about waves of radiation hitting the coast. [We both live on the coast of California; she lives quite bit further inland than I do.]

She: No.

Me: I am not worried. I shall tell you why.

She: Why?

Me: Because there are herds of healthy animals roaming the town of Chernobyl right now. They're all fine.

She: Yes, but they're radioactive. I heard it on the radio.

Me: But they're living healthy and happy lives. Who cares if they're radioactive.

She: You can't eat them.

[I should note that my mother and I have an ongoing discussion about the Carrington Effect, which is the massive electrical meltdown that will destroy all power grids in the US when a meteor hits us and causes a solar flare. The plan in that case is for Mr. Sierra and our whippersnappers and I to hop in the car and drive to my mother's house in the foothills of the mountains, where we will live off the land, hunting deer for food and, perhaps initially, raiding neighbor's garage full of canned goods that my mother saw once when he had the misfortune of opening his garage door as she was passing by.]

Me: You are concerned that eating them will be bad during the Carrington Effect.

She: Yes.

Me: If we eat them, we will glow--and that will be a bonus when there's no electricity to see by. By the way, have you printed instructions off the internet yet for cleaning and gutting a deer? We'll need them when our internet connection goes down.

She: No.

Me: Please get on that. You might also want to print directions on how to make a bow and arrow out of local foliage.

Moral of this post: Don't buy iodine pills. And eating Chernobyl animals is fine.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Google Reader Roundup

You should know that I have collated these at great personal discomfort. My stomach skin is ripping some new stretch marks as I type and it sucks. Those preggy books and web sites that indicate new stretch marks are itchy? Load of bollocks. They hurt. Because your skin is actually ripping. Not itchy. Hurt.

Now then.

  • Normally I wouldn’t include links to stories, but this one was surprising in the fine print at the bottom of the post.
  • A super interesting post complete with captured tweets that read like proofs on the concept of using social media to stop certain offensive words. Note: I have no comment about the use of the word discussed in the post, but I think the way the post was written and the point it proves was really interesting.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The rule of 10

A few weeks ago, Rachelle Gardener did a post about whether all good writers would be published. (Her short answer was no, not all good writers will be published, but those with some combination of persistence, a great book, and the right thing at the right time probably will.)

One of the comments her post got made a great point: rarely does a writer with ten finished manuscripts remain unpublished. It really caught my attention--and not just because now I can count on pounding out ten novels and be published, or you know, something like that. Let’s say for the sake of argument that a hypothetical author has ten viable manuscripts--that is, they have plot, are properly formed with good character arcs, are well edited and have received feedback, and they are aimed at the commercial fiction market. I'd think the chances are pretty good for being published, don't you? After all, if you've gotten to ten without being published, it might be time to take your blinders off and start listening to feedback as to why the novels suck.

I’m super interested in what the rest of you think about this. Too bad we don't have statistics on this--although someone might. If you have an agent, how many finished novels did it take to sign with an agent? If you're published, how many novels did it take until you were published?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Update: Toxic Critique Groups

In July 2010, I wrote a post called "Toxic Critique Groups." It was about my experience in my in-person critique group, and how nasty it had become for me. The post was somewhat viral; it got insane Twitter RTs (what Charlie Sheen might call "rinning") and remains one of my most popular posts. I can only assume this is because I was a heap of carnage on the writer highway, and lots of people rubbernecked.

The comments on that post were loving, supportive, and wonderful. I re-read them all again before writing this post, and was impressed again by the love from you fellow writers and bloggers. So first I want to say thank you for taking the time to post thoughtful comments that day.

Today's post is an update on what happened after that. One of the things I tried to focus on in the original post was my fear that a lot of writers experienced similar negative experiences, and gave up as a result--which is the most awful outcome I can imagine.

So you may find this surprising, but I remained in the group.

I wanted to make absolutely sure that I wasn't being overly sensitive, or that I wasn't missing something in the critiques--that I wasn't shutting out what I didn't want to hear because I had blinders on. After all, they were stabbing me deeply on a story that meant much to me personally. I would have hated to have failed to listen to the hard home truth--the Truth of the Unviable Novel, which is something very few people will tell you--and certainly not anyone who is nice.

So I stayed. I stayed but I didn't submit again. I'd lost the nerve. But I watched carefully, and eventually I noticed the three original harsh critiquers were nasty with other people, too. I agonized over what to do, over when or how to speak up. I decided ultimately not to, although a few people in the group did know of my predicament.

It was very important for me to consider, too, that not everyone else in my group felt the way I did. My friend Meghan Ward, for example, who was in the group, did not experience what I did. And she did and does not feel the same way I did and do about some of the members, and that was important for me to hear.

So I stayed two months. Then I submitted a short story. It was met with a different attitude. Even the nastiest critiquer gave a good review--moreover, he actually tried. (He'd absolutely stopped trying with my earlier story, just turning in pat critiques with "Characterization is good" and little else.) This was progress, of sorts. But it wasn't enough.

Once my anger had cooled, I was able to really assess what I got out of the group. I realized that I had outgrown it, and their critiques, while good, were not the kind I wanted--even when they were nice. And I remembered what Anne Allen said to me in a comment on that original post: to run, not walk, from that group before the negativity infiltrated other stories and confidence.

So I left the group (this was around October 2010). Keeping up with submissions was becoming difficult for me anyway, because of my pregnancy and because of lingering resentment. The nasty critiquers refocused their nasty on another member, who called me one day in January with a tale of horror similar to my original one. That they'd fed off her flesh in their effort to put her down. And I knew my decision had been a good one. Even if I'd calmed down, and even if I'd received decent feedback on a story, there was still that capability and underlying negativity.

The turning point for me was probably when I got critiques back from a few trusted people online (you know who you are) and they were loving, while being truthful and real. These were the kind of critiques I wanted. I wanted real suggestions, without having to resort to bites. Probably that these readers were not full of ego or a lack of understanding about writing or publishing helped, too. These readers were generous to me. I'd love to make them sign a contract in blood saying they will always be my readers and critiquers. These are agented writers, some of whom have publishing deals. These are people who know.

So the thing I want to stress here is that I left the group only after I made absolutely sure I wasn't acting out of anger or righteous indignation. I don't miss the group--except Meghan, but we haven't stopped being in touch. At this point, I have a trusted circle of readers who provide feedback with reason. I'm really happy about that. It's kind of what I want and need now, as opposed to having my toes nipped by sharks.

I think if you ever have a negative experience like this surrounding your work, it pays to make sure you're not upset before you take action. Writing is so personal, and we get our dander up so easily when it comes to criticism. But if there are negative critiques--and as in the original post let me stress that negative does not mean "reviews you do not agree with" but rather reviews that cut you down as a writer, and offer no help as to how to fix the problem, but instead just focus on what a shite writer you are, the damage these can do is huge. No one needs to be discouraged. We can all learn. That's the best part of it all.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Google Reader Roundup

What happens when you are in your last month and a half of preggerancy is that you wake up at odd hours. This is amplified when you have other small children who don't give you a moment's peace. Scratch that, this happens whenever you have small children, preggers or not. So getting up at wide-eyed and happily at 5 am is not my style (ever. ever) but man, the blogosphere and twitterverse is alive at that time. I kind of loved it. As a result, the GRR this week is particularly rich soil.

  • 40 years of ebooks? How can that be? Check this great infographic on it.
  • I love this post from Harvey Weinstein on regretting when he passed on the rights to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, because of the voice that comes through in this post. Read it because it's interesting, but mainly read it for a great example of his voice.
  • Agent Rachelle Gardener vents about not being able to easily find a blogger's email address, which is something I completely agree with. You'll notice I put my address right over to the right, easily listed and seen. Rachelle says she often wants to contact a writer and ask them if they're represented, and what their plans are. I'd just like to say, I have freely listed my email there and not ever received an email from Rachelle asking my availability, but here it is again in case she wants it: sierra [at] sierragodfrey. com (obviously in this format to foil spammers). Looking forward to hearing from you, Rachelle.
  • Nathan Bransford explains some ebook realities and gives those of us who didn't understand who or what Amanda Hocking is a nice break down of the world of ebook success. (I'd read Hocking's post on this but didn't understand what was going on because it didn't actually say what was going on, it just assumed one knew, but I live under a rock and didn't hear. So thanks Nathan for breaking it down.)
  • Jody Hedlunds explores whether writers are the new growing segment of [book] readers--something I've long thought about because everyone says we should have blogs pre-publishing and "build platform" and yet few people mention that, in fact, our blog readers are fellow writers and very rarely our actual target audience. (But Jody says it nicer.)

Happy weekending loverlies!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

My writing journey thus far

On Monday, I popped off about why I never post on where I am in the publishing progress. Commenter JEM had a great point: maybe I could post on my writing journey thus far in general. It was a suggestion that smacked of good sense. Not just because it meant more posts all about moi, either (okay, that was mainly it), but because I realized I could talk about what I write and how I came to write it without talking about the specifics.

So, assuming you don't click right the heck away from here, and assuming I won't lose several Google followers over this, here is my story.

I have always written stories. And when I wasn't writing stories, I was thinking them up. I used to fill notebooks full of ongoing sagas when I was in school. This really started in middle school and I continued right into high school, often trading off story writing duty with a friend to create an awesomely fantastical series of our imagined adventures. These usually involved us, rich, living as roommates in a mansion (because, obvs, that's what you'd do if you're rich), with a load of hot celebrity men who all seemed to love us back instantly and unequivocally. It was great reading--to us. These notebooks we filled were highly guarded, but that didn't stop my friend Anita and I misplacing one of them one day in our junior year.

I remember opening my locker and feeling a hot flash of horror and shock as I realized the notebook wasn't there. The nearly complete notebook. Full of hideously embarrassing stories involving sex and adoration and madcap adventures. If it fell into anyone's hands, it would be over. When Anita got to school, I fell on her and asked her if she had it. But she didn't. We retraced our steps of the day before, terror squeezing our hearts, and finally decided we must have left it in our US History class. We ran there, and our teacher, a Mrs. Barkley, who ran her class with somewhat military style, was waiting.

"I expect you want this," she said. She handed over our yellow notebook, and we took it, cringing and red-faced. I prayed she'd been respectful and not read anything beyond our names; the stories were dense and comprehension was dubious, anyway.

And then I remembered that there was a story with HER in it as a character. It was about military petty officers, and we had her in it as a drill sergeant...God, it was really bad, actually. The idea was she came to visit us as adults in our mansion and...anyway, I've repressed much of this now, but what I do remember is her saying casually as we tried to scurry away, "Oh and girls, 'petty' is spelled with a 'y' and not an 'e.'"

She'd read it. She'd read the whole thing. God, God.

Apart from that hideously embarrassing incident, I wrote short stories throughout my twenties, although I never thought of them as short stories. I don't think I ever finished them. The only thing I knew was that all my life I have had to write stories with an urgency--I needed to get scenarios and characters out of my head and on paper, in order to articulate some feeling or passion I had inside me. Beyond this, I didn't give writing or stories much thought. I'm not sure why, except perhaps deep down I thought I couldn't pull it off.

Then, when I had my whippersnapper, everything changed. I spent his first year very much mired in being his mother, but then a switch was flipped at almost exactly a year. I needed me back. I needed my mind. I wanted my stories, my hopes, my yearnings back. Perhaps as a result, I had a vivid dream, one of my fantastical story-style dreams (the kind where you're in it but you're also kind of watching a movie and it's fantastic and there's a love interest and the dream sticks with you the next day and you sort of float along in a cloud of the feeling the dream produced). I wrote it down, and then I didn't want to stop where the dream had stopped. The story intrigued me. I wanted to find out what would happen to the characters. I wanted to capture the feeling the dream imparted to me, which dealt with themes of protectiveness and fraternity. So I kept writing, and as I did, I realized this was different. This story was stretching out, longer than I'd ever written anything, and I began to get excited.

I said, "What if I could publish this?"

I had no idea then of course that dreck is not published, and we mostly write dreck when we don't know any better. Well, I did, anyway. I had a lot to learn.

Eventually, I discovered that my dream novel was not only dreck, but poo-covered dreck. This came mostly when two people who read it for me were like "Ummmmmm....." and said they were suddenly busy when I asked them to read a second novel I'd written.

Never one to sit back, I started learning as much as I could, as fast as I could. I started this blog. I read. I followed agents and soaked up everything I could about anything to do with writing and publishing. I joined a writing group, which was one of the most nerve-wracking things I'd ever done. You had to submit a chapter to get in, see, and that chapter had to be deemed good enough by the group. I read the email trail in the group about me after I had submitted and joined them for one meeting, and they all said I was an "excellent writer." That meant more to me than any praise I've ever gotten for anything. I rode high on that for a long time.

The second novel was a novel of my heart, involving a lot of my experience in Greece. It was much better formed, actually had a plot (albeit a troubled one), and was more commercial. Alas, it too was dreck. Another beta reader said, "I think you may have to self-publish this," which was one of the worst things anyone ever said to me.

The third novel was one I loved deeply. I loved the concept and I loved the characters. Alas, there are problems with it that might not be solvable. But this third novel was miles and miles beyond the first two in terms of how I wrote it, crafted it, and revised it. This novel got good beta reader feedback, but my critique group went absolutely toxic over it. (I'll post an update on that someday.)

The fourth novel....I'm in revisions on. This one is miles and miles ahead of the third one. (I'm not even counting the first two because I wrote them with blinders on. The first one I wrote with blinders on in the pitch dark, while deaf.) The revision process is miles ahead. Everything about it is miles ahead, including some very key understandings on my part of character, truth, and storytelling. I'm sure I still have lots to learn. We'll see. No one has read it yet.

All of my stories have taken about a year to write, some more and some less, and each one is in the women's fiction genre. The genre has never been negotiable for me. I just love it. There is a lot to learn about the women's fiction genre, and that has been part of the process, too. I love stories about women who face changes or journeys and emerge changed or stronger or better--and they get the guy in the end, too. Oh, that part is key. They must get the guy, because that's the kind of story I like to tell.

Well, if you've stuck through this little ego-fest this far, then you might be moved to leave a comment. Questions? Anything need clarifying? I'm all ears :)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Why I don't post about my progress

Kristen Lippert-Martin suggested that I post why I don’t mention where I am in the whole submission/query/rejection process on my blog. This is a bit rich coming from Kristen, but it probably boils down to the same thing for both of us: I don’t think it’s professional. Edit: KLM has alerted me to my grievous mistake--it is actually Roni Loren who suggested this topic. Sorry! Sorry! Preggers brain!

This blog is many things--an outlet for my overflowing finger-mouthiness, a place for me to explore aspects of writing and get feedback and start a discussion, and a kind of public announcement page. But I’d be a fool if I thought agents and even future employers didn't ever look at it. Am I ever tempted to let my inner snark out here? Oh God, yes. My inner snark is so nasty that I have to keep her in a cage locked up in heavy gauge chain with a current on down in the basement. Fine, some of her leaks out now and then, but trust me, you only see a fingernail.

This post from Janet Reid kind of confirms all that. If you ever had any doubt as to whether agents look at this stuff and cringe, there you have it.

The way I see it, everyone submits and everyone is rejected. Sometimes the rejections sting despite my intention to spend no more time on them than it takes to file them away. But they're a universal experience for anyone who wants to get published. It’s so tempting to fire off a blog post venting about this, but the fact is, everyone’s story is different for different reasons. And all you know of me is what I tell you on this blog. As with any job, it is of the utmost importance to me to come across always as professional and appropriate.

Do I ever vent? Ha ha! I vent selectively to certain trusted people in private (you know who you are, and thank you)--those of you who’ve been by me and helped me out in the query process. They talk me down off the ledge if I need. And if they need it in return, I do it for them.

So that’s why I don’t mention where I am. There’s really only three things you need to know:
  1. I am not yet represented by an agent.
  2. I don’t yet have a book published or scheduled for publication. (When these two items change, you’ll know it because I’ll be posting the haloed and jubilant “I GOT THE CALL” post right here, and change allllll my bio info to include “I am represented by XX at XX Agency.” Trust me, I'll be obnoxious. )
  3. I am always working on a novel.
But--I do look forward to sharing what I've learned some day--and I'm learning a lot. If you have any questions please ask in the comments.

I do want to say one last thing--for those who you who do grouse about their progress, in no way is this a criticism of you or your blog. I just don't prefer it for myself. This post was not written with anyone else in mind, and in fact I think grousing posts have a place, because it does show the rest of us the universal experience.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Google Reader Roundup

  • Meghan Ward presents a nice list of commonly misused words. I really like these kinds of lists because I'm a pedantic (and hypocritical) grammarian -- I mess up frequently and not two weeks ago my dad corrected my grammar during a phone call, which pissed me off like nothing else. I'd just like to state here and now that any pedantry I have is a direct result of HIS pedantry.
  • Kristen Lippert-Martin breaks it doowwwwwwnnnn, down to Chinatown, for us in an exceedingly clever and amusing Query Rap.
  • Agent Elisabeth Weed talks about the art of the nudge when dealing with others in a professional capacity.
  • I was remiss in not posting a link to Linda Grimes' announcement of her two-book deal, especially when she has patiently and without fail commented on the GGR every week, but here instead is what she did to celebrate, and it involves pink hair dye. (And congrats again, Linda! I'm so thrilled for you.)
Happy weekending!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

You. Must. Read.

Last week, Tawna Fenske had a terrific post in which she said the secret to writing a great book is reading. Everything. All the time.

I happen to agree completely, but Tawna's post came at a time when someone on an RWA loop I belong to had just asked the question of how a writer finds time to read. Some of the responses to the original query were along the lines of "Oh God, yes, how do you find time? I haven't read in years! And my TBR pile is the size of a gigantic dung heap!"

My response is this: Sorry? What is this "no time to read" thing you speak of? Sounds like "I'd love to write a novel, but I have no time," or "Where do you find the time to do all that writing?"

I didn't want to offend anyone on my loop --- and I sure hope if any of them read this post, they see that I speak from a place of passion on this subject and that I'm not making fun of anyone. But I'll make no apologies for it, either. If you don't read, why are you writing? I really believe they go hand in hand, and the passion must exist for both in order to work. How can you learn if you don't read? What is wrong with you that you don't read? What has become of you that you don't have books stashed in every crack of the house, waiting for you? Bathroom? Yes! Five books waiting for me. Car? Yes! Books stashed in the driver's side door in case I have to sit parked somewhere for more than a minute. Bedside table? Funny you should ask! Beside cabinet? Can barely open door for amount of books crammed in there. Bookshelves? Of course. Several overflowing. Living room? God, yes.

I've even got books stashed on my whippersnapper's bookshelf.

And when the baby is born in April, I have a basket prepared for the nursing chair filled with books to read. Breastfeeding: not just for the health and well-being of the baby. Breastfeeding = reading time.

Where you find the time to read is in the same place you find it to write, or send email, or watch Glee. I don't watch Glee. I'm too busy writing or reading. I'm not saying that to sound superior. I have small children and I have to choose wisely with my free, non-kid time, and I freaking love reading so much that I think I love it even more than writing. Yes, there, I've said it. So I'm going to spend that time reading and writing. I read everywhere I can. It annoys some people, but it's the way it is. My mom still gets annoyed at me for reading at the dinner table.

If that rant isn't clear enough for why writers should be ashamed if they're not reading, let me tell you this story. As some of you know, I lived on the Greek island of Santorini when I was 9, 10, and 11. This was 1985-1987 or so.The island then was much less developed and while it catered to English-speaking tourists, it was far more rural than it is today and its offerings for reading material tended not to be in English.

My spoken Greek was rather on the cobbled side and I wouldn't be able to read Greek until I was 12 (and not well enough then to read fiction). I hungered so badly for reading material. So, so badly. The fourth grade school textbooks my mother had brought with me to home school me while we were on the island? Consumed and devoured within two months. (Except for the math one. Duh.) Spicy romances left behind in hotels by tourists? Scooped up by me. The hoteliers knew me, I'd stop by regularly and ask for leftover books. Completely inappropriate books for adults read by my mother's ex-pat friends, such as Jackie Collins' The World is Full of Married Men? Stolen and read by me.

One shop in Fira sold English-language items, mainly newspapers for ex-pats in Athens. They also sold, inexplicably since there couldn't have been much of a clientele for them except ME, some comics in English. I read it all. I had to have my dad send care packages of books, something he resented doing but did it anyway because he loved me. The win: I got books. The con: I didn't get to choose them. I didn't care. I still devoured every word, including the rather strange Culture Club fan book he sent.

One of the most hideous regrets in life was the day we left Greece and I left behind most of my books, on the assumption that we'd be back to claim them. I held this against my mother for a long time and begged her to get my books when she returned (she did eventually return, but did not get my books.) I don't know where they are now. It hurts my heart to think about it. At least I have the memory of them. And at least I have plenty of new books to read stashed in every crevice of my possessions.

I tell you this story to illustrate what it's like not to have things to read.

Do you read? What's your take? If you're not a reader, I hope you comment anyway and say why. I won't bite you for it. Promise. (I might pick up a book and whack you over the head with it, though, no promises.)