What is JacketFlap

  • JacketFlap connects you to the work of more than 200,000 authors, illustrators, publishers and other creators of books for Children and Young Adults. The site is updated daily with information about every book, author, illustrator, and publisher in the children's / young adult book industry. Members include published authors and illustrators, librarians, agents, editors, publicists, booksellers, publishers and fans.
    Join now (it's free).

Sort Blog Posts

Sort Posts by:

  • in
    from   

Suggest a Blog

Enter a Blog's Feed URL below and click Submit:

Most Commented Posts

In the past 7 days

Recent Comments

MyJacketFlap Blogs

  • Login or Register for free to create your own customized page of blog posts from your favorite blogs. You can also add blogs by clicking the "Add to MyJacketFlap" links next to the blog name in each post.

Blog Posts by Tag

In the past 30 days

Blog Posts by Date

Click days in this calendar to see posts by day or month
new posts in all blogs
Viewing Blog: Carolrhoda Books Blog, Most Recent at Top
Results 1 - 25 of 339
Visit This Blog | Login to Add to MyJacketFlap
Blog Banner
The regular musings of Carolrhoda editorial director Andrew Karre and guests.
Statistics for Carolrhoda Books Blog

Number of Readers that added this blog to their MyJacketFlap: 4
1. “I am a pretty, pretty woman. But I’ll cut you.”

I have a fantasy where I’m able to employ certain authors as editors. I’ve worked with several whose strong taste and advice-giving chops would make them into formidable editors—or at least into editors whose work I’d like to read.

Tessa Gratton, at large editor? Where do I sign? I’m sure E. K. Johnston and Dot Hutchison would concur. (The emails I got from Tess about Dot’s debut will never leave my possession.)

John Hornor Jacobs would definitely be on that list too. And alas, for now, the list is a fantasy. Fortunately, though, John’s extremely entertaining (and sound) thoughts on character are available for the price of a click. A taste:

My responsibilities to my characters are (1) I should be fearless in the depiction of their character. This has very little to do with appearance, garb, physical description. I doubt any reader has one whit of interest as to the exact shade of red lipstick some ingénue wears – they care about her capacity for emotion and action. For love or betrayal. That is the essence of her character and consequently, the essence of that part of my own subconscious from which I conjured her.

Pretty neat trick, that.

I am a pretty, pretty woman. But I’ll cut you.

So click.

0 Comments on “I am a pretty, pretty woman. But I’ll cut you.” as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
2. Hiring an editor

This Gun for Hire (1942) Poster

Lots of smart people have gone over the famous Hugh Howey AuthorEarnings.com Report, revealing its many statistical and analytical shortcomings. I have nothing to add on those fronts (hell, I didn’t even read the whole piece). Read Shatzkin and others for detailed rebuttal and commentary.

There is one item in the Report and in Shatzkin I would like to address. (And if it has been addressed elsewhere, I’d be glad to know of it.)

Here’s the item in Hugh Howey’s Report:

image

And Mike Shatzkin actually echoes Howey’s position:

image

Allow me to say this plainly: When an author chooses, hires, and pays an editor, the author is creating incentives that are meaningfully different than the ones present in a “traditional” publishing deal.

To put it another way, if you want financial advice, you may hire a fee-based financial advisor or solicit the services of a commission-based advisor. And maybe if you’re very wealthy or your money is very interesting, advisors will pursue you. People feel strongly about both models, but no sensible person would claim they are interchangeable.

Or, perhaps an analogy closer to home: authors have long been counseled (rightly) that they should never “hire” an agent, that they should never pay reading fees, etc. to agents. Donald Maass gets tremendous criticism from many quarters from being an agent who also sells and promotes his own writing advice books. There is among authors a strong—and I’d argue healthy—awareness of the different incentives in each model where agenting is concerned.

Why, then, are so many people so quick to say “hiring” an editor is an acceptable substitute for the present model? The incentives are so clearly different.

It is not presently possible to hire me as an editor. I choose the manuscripts I want to edit, compete for them in the marketplace, and when I win them, I am accountable not to the author  but to my employer, the publisher, to make from that manuscript a book that the publisher can sell in quantities sufficient to meet certain performance goals. My incentive is to do this more often than not so I can continue to have a job.

I am not a short-sighted idiot or a sociopath or glutton for punishment, so I want very much for my authors to enjoy working with me and to find the experience rewarding and to be happy in the end. Authors are the fountainheads of my personal satisfaction in doing my job—my emotional incentive, if you will. But that doesn’t mean I want them to sign my paychecks. My primary incentive—my financial incentive—does not not come from the author. When it comes time to say what I believe will make a book successful, the pressure comes not from my relationship with the author but from my relationship with my employer—who is, pleasantly, fairly removed from the day to day work of editing. No one editorial decision has me thinking about my livelihood, thank goodness.

In the world of for hire-editors, the incentives and accountability are much . . . cozier. Or, if you prefer (and I do), you could say the incentives appear hopelessly entangled, painfully acute, and way too close for comfort. I do not want someone who is trying to do the hard work of writing a novel with me looking over her shoulder thinking about whether she’s getting good value for my fee. I don’t want “he who pays the piper calls the tune” in any author’s mind as he works on my edits. I don’t want to think about my mortgage when I suggest an author needs to scrap tens of thousands of words. I don’t want the temptation to flatter a writer whose manuscript I don’t believe will sell because he will make a good reference.

I could go on, but I think I’ve made myself clear. For-hire editing is different from the model that’s evolved in traditional publishing. Maybe it’s actually better for reasons that remain opaque to me in my vast inexperience of it. Maybe for-hire editing is the way I’ll have to go one day (may that day be very, very far off). But don’t let anyone get away with telling you it’s the same.

[Update: I will happily attach a civil rebuttal, critique, or commentary to this from a freelance editor who wants to address the question of incentives and editing. Just stick it in the comments and I’ll copy it into the main post.]

0 Comments on Hiring an editor as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
3. If I had a million dollars…

…to spend to help the ALA Youth Media Awards, I’d probably spend it like I’m about to describe. You see, I love the awards—the whole slate of them. They’re a fantastic but underutilized resource for anyone who loves books. And I want to see them reach their maximum audience. So here’s how I’d start: I’d endow a fund to finance a permanent YMA Civilian Publicity Strike Force. Here’s how it would work:

The three governing principles:

1. I would begin by stating that my goal is that the whole awards list becomes well known as the premier discovery tool for people who want to buy high quality books. The Whole List—all the Youth Media Awards--will be important even if the Newbery and Caldecott remain supreme. People on the street buying books for children in their lives should see the YMAs as guide that has value to them across a huge spectrum of needs—not just those addressed by the big two.

2. Nothing about how the awards are chosen changes. New awards are added or modified as they would naturally be

3. The one slight exception to 2 is the date of Midwinter. If Midwinter needs to move into the holiday shopping window, the ALA should at least consider that.

Given those three principles, the strike force might consider the following as first steps:

1. Every single honoree and committee member is a trained and promoted public ambassador for the list in their community—in the media, in the retail, and in libraries. If a news outlet in Topeka, Kansas wants to do a story about the Caldecott book, they should at least be aware that the a Printz honoree or the chair of the Stonewall committee lives in their city—and that those awards were chosen with equal care. There are a lot more news-worthy early morning phone call stories than are presently reported.  Hell, you could even deputize editors in this aspect.

2. The strike force will help the Newbery and Caldecott honorees to lend some of their celebrity to winners of the awards that are now less well known.

3. The strike force will disseminate the list of awards in forms and through channels that are accessible to regular readers. Apps, shareable videos, whatever.

4. The strike force will reach out to retailers large and small who could use the awards lists to help their customers discover books.

5. The strike force will annually make non-binding recommendations to the various award committees about how they might optimize the way the awards are announced, how annotations are written, and when speeches and celebrations are held. However, the strike force will remain forever mute on the subject of selection criteria.

OK, that’s what I’d do with that million bucks I could give to the ALA. You?

0 Comments on If I had a million dollars… as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
4. Simple New Year’s resolutions for authors

  1. Backup your work.
  2. I don’t care what else you resolve. See 1.

I have very few good habits, but computer backup and regular review of my backup schemes is one of them.

Here’s what I do these days:

  1. I’m on a Mac at home, so I backup to an external drive on the desk with Time Machine. Easy. This is in case of disk corruption or some other failure. I’m sure there’s some PC equivalent.
  2. My wife is a freelance writer and editor, so all her working stuff is in a folder that lives in my Dropbox folder, and that syncs to the cloud and to my work machine. In practice, this should mean her most recent working files plus a decent version history are effectively impossible to lose accidentally and are easy to retrieve from several sources.
  3. I use Backblaze to backup the whole Mac to the cloud (including things like photos, etc. that don’t go to Dropbox). There are lots of options for this service, of course, but Backblaze works well for me.

Annual cost for all my backup schemes is around $100.

If you’re a writer, you owe it to yourself to do number 2 at least. Do it right now. Dropbox’s free storage allotment will be more than sufficient for many years’ worth of manuscripts, and thus for no money at all you can have good, basic protection from lost files. Just move your manuscripts (your intricate folder structure or the mess of files in your Documents folder—however you work) into your Dropbox folder and leave it there. If you’ve got multiple machines, you’ll also have easy access to your files from anywhere.

(Yes, of course there is a tale of authorial woe behind this post.)

0 Comments on Simple New Year’s resolutions for authors as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
5. This is a call

Unagented debut authors of YA fiction, I will open the submission window for one week in January. I will look at any debut YA attached to an email dated between 1/6/2014 and 1/12/2014.
Some specifics:

  • I consider a debut to be a first book-length work in any category. So, if you've published a picture book, a MG novel, a work of narrative nonfiction, etc, you're not eligible for this call. Similarly, self-published books are books as far as I'm concerned. If it had an ISBN and appeared for sale anywhere, it's your debut.
  • Please take a look at what I’ve published in the past. I’m not going to set any sub-genre specifications, but you might draw some conclusions based on what Lab has done before. It’s a small list.
  • I'm open to submissions from any country, as long as the book is in English. 
  • No “New Adult.”
Warning: Ask anyone. I’m slow as hell with these, and thus I do not require any sort of exclusivity.
Submission specifics are here: http://carolrhoda.blogspot.com/2007/11/solicted-submissions.html

0 Comments on This is a call as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
6. So this happened

Sex&Viol_MorrisSeal

We are all so very, very proud of Carrie. (And we hope her pinky feels better soon.)

I obviously have a well-established soft spot for the YALSA's Morris Award, but the award really is a fantastic standard bearer for all that YA can be and for how healthy and exciting the genre is. The Morris should the high-road rebuttal of choice for every stupid HuffPo/Slate/whoeverthehell piece about how YA is just sparkly vampires, dystopias, and John Green (though it is all those things too).

Congratulations to all the nominees! I look forward to reading them all.

0 Comments on So this happened as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
7. #heretherebedragons

To win an advance copy of The Story of Owen by E.K. Johnston plus any other Carolrhoda Lab title of your choosing, please do the following:

1. Follow @ek_johnston on Twitter.

2. Comment below or tweet about a book where everyone’s conveniently forgotten the important role played by dragons: “Nobody remembers the dragons in [name of book] because [pithy reason]. #heretherebedragons”

For example: “Nobody remembers the dragons in Dune because everybody wants to be a Freeman riding a sandworm not a Harkonnen on a dragon. #heretherebedragons.”

If you’re confused, go here. It might help.

We’ll pick our favorites on Monday morning.

image

0 Comments on #heretherebedragons as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
8. A Call for Middle-Grade Fiction Submissions

Imagine you’re a young child, waiting patiently as Halloween morning turns to Halloween night. You’ve waited patiently all month, in fact, eager to sport a brand-new Oscar the Grouch costume around your Saint Paul neighborhood. Although you didn’t make the outfit and didn’t purchase it, you maintain a sense of ownership over the duds in the way that only a kid can. And then the snow starts to fall.

You can still go trick-or-treating, of course. But your costume’s material is too thin for this change in conditions, and instead you’ll walk the streets as a pirate. (Apparently your family had a plastic eye patch around the house even though neither you nor your brother expected to use it.) Once outside, every look from a nearby homeowner is a reminder not only that you are not wearing an Oscar the Grouch costume but also that an eye patch alone does not make for much of a pirate outfit.

Two decades later: You cancelled your membership at a nearby health club at the end of March. This spring will be all about outdoor running—the post-work jogs around Lake of the Isles you’ve missed these last few months. Minnesota weather soon makes your deft-if-slightly-optimistic financial maneuver look like plain arrogance. Rain and sleet come down, like, every day during April, the death throes of a wet winter. Susceptible to head colds in these kind of conditions, you stay inside your studio apartment, watching old Sopranos episodes. The first weekend in May, as the summer movie season’s earliest blockbusters debut, fallen snow lines the gutters of Minneapolis.

If you are me, you do not need to imagine these embarrassments, because they happened to you (me). So this year, I’m taking precautions. Whether the Minnesota winter runs from December to February or from Halloween through the next six months, I intend to have plenty of reading material. Specifically, I’d like to switch my screensaver to ‘fireplace’ and curl up among middle-grade novel proposals. Hot cocoa, a cable-knit sweater, and tightly written, idiosyncratic work for readers in upper-elementary- or middle school. Before winter taketh away whatever it’s going to taketh away, please giveth your submissions to me.

I’m making a stockade of manuscripts that adopt surprising perspectives, that make lateral moves, that aren’t afraid to scare readers a little. Books with empathy or a sharp wit or both. And crucially, books that can transport a reader, whether or not he or she is holed up in an office, trying to remember what sunlight feels like. Manuscripts are welcome through the end of November.

--Greg Hunter, Associate Editor at Lerner Books/Carolrhoda

0 Comments on A Call for Middle-Grade Fiction Submissions as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
9. Think of the children!

It gives me great hope to know that while too many adults are clutching their pearls and worrying about the hypothetical innocence of hypothetical and painfully simplistic children, actual kids are doing complicated and  interesting things like this.

I don’t publish books for teenagers, but I’m honored when they read the books I publish.

(Hat tip to Steve Brezenoff for the video.)

0 Comments on Think of the children! as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
10. The state of book challenges

Once upon a time, people who challenged books actually had to read. More than half a century ago, in order to be offended by Leopold Bloom sitting on his privy, one first had to read the fifth chapter of Ulysses, which (spoiler alert) does not feature a sentence remotely like “Leopold Bloom took a shit” though it does feature several paragraphs a thousand times more evocative of Leopold Bloom taking a shit. And if you got to the part with sex and managed to be offended, you were philistine but an unquestionably literate one.

No more.  

Now academics count swear words and calculate rates of profanity per hour. Now the metaphoric triumph of hope over  cruelty is deemed obscene because of words utterly divorced from their syntax to say nothing of their context. This is a worldview that does not acknowledge the existence of sentences, much less of thoughts. This is a worldview that sees isolated words as volatile pseudo-magical catalysts for reptile-brain behavior.

This is the post-literate world of book challengers (a world that’s too geographically close to my own for comfort), and that shit can go straight to fucking hell.

0 Comments on The state of book challenges as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
11. Mixing memory and desire

504: How I Got Into CollegeOne of the things that makes YA fiction so intensely interesting to me is the problem of memory. Something about adolescence is uniquely illusive and distorting to our powers of recall. Overcoming that distortion and slipperiness is, I think, one of the  most daunting challenges of any fiction about teenage experience that’s even remotely autobiographical.

I find this story from the most recent This American Life to be a perfect example of the phenomenon. Often, the stories we tell in adulthood about what was meaningful in adolescence are a wishful line of best fit between childhood and adulthood. Young- adult fiction, it seems to me, should concern itself with the present-moment scatter of data points rather than the hindsight trend line.

0 Comments on Mixing memory and desire as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
12. Mixing memory and desire

504: How I Got Into CollegeOne of the things that makes YA fiction so intensely interesting to me is the problem of memory. Something about adolescence is uniquely illusive and distorting to our powers of recall. Overcoming that distortion and slipperiness is, I think, one of the  most daunting challenges of any fiction about teenage experience that’s even remotely autobiographical.

I find this story from the most recent This American Life to be a perfect example of the phenomenon. Often, the stories we tell in adulthood about what was meaningful in adolescence are a wishful line of best fit between childhood and adulthood. Young- adult fiction, it seems to me, should concern itself with the present-moment scatter of data points rather than the hindsight trend line.

0 Comments on Mixing memory and desire as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
13. FYI (if you write about teenagers and their “orgies”)

I have nothing to add to the chorus of scorn, contempt, and slight regard that’s risen up against a notorious bit of parental concern-trolling. Many authors, publishing pros, and librarians of my acquaintance have been eloquent and amusing on the subject already.

There is one sentence in the post, though, that sticks with me (stuck with Ms. Hall too, I guess. The italics are her own) as an echo of something bigger and older:

“[M]en of integrity don’t linger over pictures of scantily clad high-school girls.”

This is a real thing, this moral logic. It’s a real old thing too, of course. And, more often than not, it asserts itself in adolescence. Here, let James Joyce write you a portrait:

As he crossed the square, walking homeward, the light laughter of a girl reached his burning ear. The frail gay sound smote his heart more strongly than a trumpet blast, and, not daring to lift his eyes, he turned aside and gazed, as he walked, into the shadow of the tangled shrubs. Shame rose from his smitten heart and flooded his whole being. The image of Emma appeared before him, and under her eyes the flood of shame rushed forth anew from his heart. If she knew to what his mind had subjected her or how his brute-like lust had torn and trampled upon her innocence! Was that boyish love? Was that chivalry? Was that poetry? The sordid details of his orgies stank under his very nostrils.

If there is a silver lining to the nonsensical and damaging moral logic of Hall’s post, you may find it in the perfection of Joyce’s portrait of young Stephen Dedalus (it only took a girl’s laugh to lay waste to his integrity).

So, what’s the “Dear writers” in all this (because the open letter is now the official medium of those who have concerns)? If I may borrow a phrase from Ms. Hall’s moral universe: “Hate the sin, but don’t forget to love—that is, to write about in a curious and clear-eyed way—the sinner.” Let Jezebel and Twitter continue to tear the post to shreds in the court of public opinion. Meanwhile, please, for the love of YA literature, make sure you’re pillaging every single thing you can from this superb evidence of an evolutionary step in the teenage condition. Don’t let scorn be the last word. This blog post is a gift.  

0 Comments on FYI (if you write about teenagers and their “orgies”) as of 9/6/2013 3:47:00 PM
Add a Comment
14. FYI (if you write about teenagers and their “orgies”)

I have nothing to add to the chorus of scorn, contempt, and slight regard that’s risen up against a notorious bit of parental concern-trolling. Many authors, publishing pros, and librarians of my acquaintance have been eloquent and amusing on the subject already.

There is one sentence in the post, though, that sticks with me (stuck with Ms. Hall too, I guess. The italics are her own) as an echo of something bigger and older:

“[M]en of integrity don’t linger over pictures of scantily clad high-school girls.”

This is a real thing, this moral logic. It’s a real old thing too, of course. And, more often than not, it asserts itself in adolescence. Here, let James Joyce write you a portrait:

As he crossed the square, walking homeward, the light laughter of a girl reached his burning ear. The frail gay sound smote his heart more strongly than a trumpet blast, and, not daring to lift his eyes, he turned aside and gazed, as he walked, into the shadow of the tangled shrubs. Shame rose from his smitten heart and flooded his whole being. The image of Emma appeared before him, and under her eyes the flood of shame rushed forth anew from his heart. If she knew to what his mind had subjected her or how his brute-like lust had torn and trampled upon her innocence! Was that boyish love? Was that chivalry? Was that poetry? The sordid details of his orgies stank under his very nostrils.

If there is a silver lining to the nonsensical and damaging moral logic of Hall’s post, you may find it in the perfection of Joyce’s portrait of young Stephen Dedalus (it only took a girl’s laugh to lay waste to his integrity).

So, what’s the “Dear writers” in all this (because the open letter is now the official medium of those who have concerns)? If I may borrow a phrase from Ms. Hall’s moral universe: “Hate the sin, but don’t forget to love—that is, to write about in a curious and clear-eyed way—the sinner.” Let Jezebel and Twitter continue to tear the post to shreds in the court of public opinion. Meanwhile, please, for the love of YA literature, make sure you’re pillaging every single thing you can from this superb evidence of an evolutionary step in the teenage condition. Don’t let scorn be the last word. This blog post is a gift.  

0 Comments on FYI (if you write about teenagers and their “orgies”) as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
15. “Childhood is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.”

(With apologies to Stephen Dedalus)

File:President George H.W. Bush holds Jessica McClure in the Roosevelt Room at the White House (1989-07-19).jpg

(I feel like I have to write something in this space, lest the universe explode.)

Miley Cyrus may be the best example going at the moment of a child who became public property (and if you don’t believe people are still possessive of her, why on earth do they feel compelled to explain what she does to their teen and tween daughters in terms of their daughters’ self-esteem and self-image?), but she is certainly not the first. She may, however, be doing an exceptionally good job of taking her self back. Are you going to tell her it’s not “her party”?

Teenage celebrity is part of what I believe makes the cultural phenomenon of teenageness so deeply fascinating. It’s why Sarah Aronson’s Believe was a manuscript I knew wanted to publish after I’d read five pages.

"I was fascinated by this thoughtful, twisty, and convincing story about faith in the media age. Halfway through, I felt so deeply for Janine that I found myself looking at my own hands and wondering what I'd do if I were her."

—Nancy Werlin, New York Times
bestselling author of Impossible and The Rules of Survival

0 Comments on “Childhood is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.” as of 8/27/2013 9:30:00 AM
Add a Comment
16. “Childhood is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.”

(With apologies to Stephen Dedalus)

File:President George H.W. Bush holds Jessica McClure in the Roosevelt Room at the White House (1989-07-19).jpg

(I feel like I have to write something in this space, lest the universe explode.)

Miley Cyrus may be the best example going at the moment of a child who became public property (and if you don’t believe people are still possessive of her, why on earth do they feel compelled to explain what she does to their teen and tween daughters in terms of their daughters’ self-esteem and self-image?), but she is certainly not the first. She may, however, be doing an exceptionally good job of taking her self back. Are you going to tell her it’s not “her party”?

Teenage celebrity is part of what I believe makes the cultural phenomenon of teenageness so deeply fascinating. It’s why Sarah Aronson’s Believe was a manuscript I knew wanted to publish after I’d read five pages.

"I was fascinated by this thoughtful, twisty, and convincing story about faith in the media age. Halfway through, I felt so deeply for Janine that I found myself looking at my own hands and wondering what I'd do if I were her."

—Nancy Werlin, New York Times
bestselling author of Impossible and The Rules of Survival

0 Comments on “Childhood is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.” as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
17. The sub-genres

“an agent told me that publishers are no longer looking for paranormal or dystopian, but now want contemporary realism. True?”

I’ve heard a few responses on Twitter and Facebook since the PW piece that made me want to revisit something I wrote earlier on subgenres in YA. It’s from 2010, but I don’t think my feelings have changed much. Here’s the piece: “The Rise of the Subs.”

In the PW profile, the interviewer asked me for my thoughts on two much-discussed YA “subgenres” (my term): paranormal and dystopian.

“What does make sense to Karre is the evergreen popularity of dystopian and paranormal YA fiction. Such stories, he argues, provide a prism through which to explore the realities of being a teenager.”

This is absolutely how I see these two subgenres—how I see any subgenre that’s consistently functional in YA. What I don’t intend in my answer is a comment on the market’s taste for these things in any given moment. Do I even need to say that the market doesn’t give a shit what I think about how YA works as art or rhetoric? Yes, paranormal and dystopian will always hold a certain natural attraction for  authors who make teenagers their subjects because, I believe, the set pieces, commonplaces, and building blocks of these subgenres resonate so very well with adolescent experience. This does not mean that the business of publishing won’t create peaks and valleys in the market popularity of these subgenres. Dystopian is evergreen in YA—you can find landmark examples across the decades. This doesn’t mean, though, that in any given year, every third dystopian manuscript on submission will sell in a five-publisher auction for six-figures. The market for manuscripts is a speculative economic market—with all the attendant inefficiencies, irrationalities,  and blind spots—not a literary salon.

Finally, I’d forgotten that I quoted Elaine Marie Alphin* in my post about subgenres, and I was so glad to re-read her thoughts. I don’t think I have anything to match this in terms of perceptiveness and wisdom:

[…] genres can benefit writers unexpectedly. But I think genres can also do writers a disservice sometimes. I've recently finished a novel about the need to protect words and books from being twisted and misrepresented. It takes place in our world, perhaps a few years in the future, and I thought of it as sort of a foray into science fiction, or speculative fiction (a term I prefer). But with the current interest in dystopian literature, it's being called dystopian. And editors have rather specific ideas about what they want to see as dystopian. So when they read my manuscript, thinking dystopian, they have problems with it not fitting neatly into the dystopian template they have in their mind.

This is good insight for writers, but as an editor, I will take it as a mandate from an author I respect and admire.

*As some of you may know, Elaine suffered a serious stroke two years ago, and though she survived, she has not yet recovered the ability to communicate verbally. I worked on one book with Elaine, and had many illuminating conversations with her. Re-discovering her post is one of many available reminders that she was a wise writer and her voice is much missed.

0 Comments on The sub-genres as of 8/22/2013 11:02:00 AM
Add a Comment
18. The sub-genres

“an agent told me that publishers are no longer looking for paranormal or dystopian, but now want contemporary realism. True?”

I’ve heard a few responses on Twitter and Facebook since the PW piece that made me want to revisit something I wrote earlier on subgenres in YA. It’s from 2010, but I don’t think my feelings have changed much. Here’s the piece: “The Rise of the Subs.”

In the PW profile, the interviewer asked me for my thoughts on two much-discussed YA “subgenres” (my term): paranormal and dystopian.

“What does make sense to Karre is the evergreen popularity of dystopian and paranormal YA fiction. Such stories, he argues, provide a prism through which to explore the realities of being a teenager.”

This is absolutely how I see these two subgenres—how I see any subgenre that’s consistently functional in YA. What I don’t intend in my answer is a comment on the market’s taste for these things in any given moment. Do I even need to say that the market doesn’t give a shit what I think about how YA works as art or rhetoric? Yes, paranormal and dystopian will always hold a certain natural attraction for  authors who make teenagers their subjects because, I believe, the set pieces, commonplaces, and building blocks of these subgenres resonate so very well with adolescent experience. This does not mean that the business of publishing won’t create peaks and valleys in the market popularity of these subgenres. Dystopian is evergreen in YA—you can find landmark examples across the decades. This doesn’t mean, though, that in any given year, every third dystopian manuscript on submission will sell in a five-publisher auction for six-figures. The market for manuscripts is a speculative economic market—with all the attendant inefficiencies, irrationalities,  and blind spots—not a literary salon.

Finally, I’d forgotten that I quoted Elaine Marie Alphin* in my post about subgenres, and I was so glad to re-read her thoughts. I don’t think I have anything to match this in terms of perceptiveness and wisdom:

[…] genres can benefit writers unexpectedly. But I think genres can also do writers a disservice sometimes. I've recently finished a novel about the need to protect words and books from being twisted and misrepresented. It takes place in our world, perhaps a few years in the future, and I thought of it as sort of a foray into science fiction, or speculative fiction (a term I prefer). But with the current interest in dystopian literature, it's being called dystopian. And editors have rather specific ideas about what they want to see as dystopian. So when they read my manuscript, thinking dystopian, they have problems with it not fitting neatly into the dystopian template they have in their mind.

This is good insight for writers, but as an editor, I will take it as a mandate from an author I respect and admire.

*As some of you may know, Elaine suffered a serious stroke two years ago, and though she survived, she has not yet recovered the ability to communicate verbally. I worked on one book with Elaine, and had many illuminating conversations with her. Re-discovering her post is one of many available reminders that she was a wise writer and her voice is much missed.

0 Comments on The sub-genres as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
19. PDF Proof Without (Much) Pain

Paper proofs are becoming less common, and many authors can expect to see all their proofs in PDF. This is a good thing for a whole host of reasons, but PDFs remain a somewhat mysterious thing for many outside of the graphic design and layout fields.  I’m going to to try to demystify a few PDF features in hopes of making proof changes easier for all concerned.

First things first, let’s use Acrobat Reader so we’re all on the same page. If you’re using a PDF markup application like PDF Pen or you’re rocking proper Acrobat, then this post isn’t for you. You’re already ahead of the curve. However, if you’re on a Mac and you’re relying on Preview, the following will be more helpful if you install Reader too. (It’s free.) If you’re on a PC, you’re probably using Reader, but if you’re defaulting to some other third-party free PDF software, you might want to switch to Reader for purposes of this demo.

A couple things to note: Reader is not a great tool. Marking PDFs with Reader is not nearly as easy as, say, making changes in a Word doc. Selection always feels a little imprecise and adding things like paragraph breaks and style changes require precise comments—you can’t just insert them. But if you use all the tool’s capabilities, you can make life easier.

Second, all of this assumes the person who prepared the PDF has enabled all the comment and annotation features. We say “comment-enabled PDF” around here, and that’s basically the default setting for PDFs we create. But other houses may do things differently. If you don’t have the full palette of annotation tools when you hit Comment in Reader, you might want to ask your editor or the designer to make you a comment-enabled PDF.

Ok, on with the show.

(Note, I did this on a PC with Windows 7, but it’s not too different on a Mac.)

0 Comments on PDF Proof Without (Much) Pain as of 8/9/2013 10:14:00 AM
Add a Comment
20. A Way It Could Be

How about a bit of utopianism for Monday morning? Maybe with skateboarding?

image

Here’s the deal. If you spend an hour with this 11-video oral history of skateboarding photography by photographer Andrew Norton, the minimum benefit you’ll derive is an hour spent with some extremely elegant and captivating photographs, described by their creators. And if you grew up in the 80s and 90s, you’ll probably see something you once had taped to a locker or a Trapper Keeper. That’s worth an hour right there, even if you didn’t ever skate.

If you’re in the YA racket, though, I think this series offers even more: a vision of how to make art (and money—all of these guys are making a living) that appeals predominantly to young people—particularly teenagers—without being explicitly concerned with what those young people want, what’s right/appropriate/appealing “for” them, etc.

These artists are literally and figuratively subject focused. They’re trying to great work with the creative material at hand, and even though that material is incredibly fluid and dynamic, the quality of the work over the thirty-plus years covered in these videos is uniformly high. What a concept.

Watch these videos with this analogy held loosely in your mind: Skateboard photographer is to skateboarder as author is to character. 

(Photo of Chris Senn links to an ESPN piece on photographer Bryce Kaknights.)

0 Comments on A Way It Could Be as of 8/12/2013 10:22:00 AM
Add a Comment
21. Poetical intersections

I can’t quite explain how this works, but there comes a point in a lot of books I work on where poetry asserts itself on the author or me or both of us at once. I don’t know exactly when it happens or what causes what, but I know a book is in good shape when I’m trying to justify three pages of epigraphs to myself (I’ve never yet let it go quite that far).

Some recent examples:

  • The Freak Observer: “Stars at Tallapoosa” by Wallace Stevens
  • Catch & Release: “The Song of Wandering Aengus” by W. B. Yeats
  • A Wounded Name: “The Hosting of the Sidhe” by W. B. Yeats.
  • Anything by Wallace Stevens in any conversation of five minutes or more with Andrew Smith. (See his “Green Screen” in Losing It.)
  • No Crystal Stair: “Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes.

And I’m sure there are others I’m forgetting.

One marvelous example is top of mind this morning (because of some good news), and that’s Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian. We did cram two poems onto the epigraph page. The first is a bit of Larkin’s masterpiece “This Be the Verse,” which is joyous little ditty everyone should memorize. But much more amazing in its resonance is a poem Carrie had associated with the book from early days, a poem called “The Lake” by Michael Hettich. It’s a magnificent piece, and it does a subtle dance with Carrie’s book  that pleases me every time I think of it. You can read it all in the front of Sex & Violence or in The Sun Magazine.

0 Comments on Poetical intersections as of 8/19/2013 11:50:00 AM
Add a Comment
22. “But I Dig Friction”

PW was very generous to ask me for my opinions, and that was a lot of fun. I do, however, want to add one thing to the record (and this is certainly not an oversight on Claire’s part): I think having strong opinions about why and how you do the books you do is very important to good editorial practice. It’s the main thing that separates a mostly objective practice like proofreading or copyediting from the vastly more subjective and variable practice of acquisitions and developmental editing. An editor should believe strongly in something.

But the purpose of those opinions is to serve as starting points for a conversation with the author. Philosophies are guidelines not laws. It’s true that I’m not interested in the present YA orthodoxy (YA is books for teenagers), but by the same token, I’m not interested in seeing my philosophy become the new orthodoxy. Let’s celebrate heterodoxy and apostasy. I want testing, dispute, and contradiction. In my work, I’m most interested in the friction between ideas and how that friction can bring new heat to a manuscript.

My opinions are not my authors’. When I edit, I hope to advance my opinions and to be pushed back, forward, up, down, or sideways by the author—and arrive somewhere interesting as a result. 

0 Comments on “But I Dig Friction” as of 8/21/2013 9:52:00 AM
Add a Comment
23. “But I Dig Friction”

PW was very generous to ask me for my opinions, and that was a lot of fun. I do, however, want to add one thing to the record (and this is certainly not an oversight on Claire’s part): I think having strong opinions about why and how you do the books you do is very important to good editorial practice. It’s the main thing that separates a mostly objective practice like proofreading or copyediting from the vastly more subjective and variable practice of acquisitions and developmental editing. An editor should believe strongly in something.

But the purpose of those opinions is to serve as starting points for a conversation with the author. Philosophies are guidelines not laws. It’s true that I’m not interested in the present YA orthodoxy (YA is books for teenagers), but by the same token, I’m not interested in seeing my philosophy become the new orthodoxy. Let’s celebrate heterodoxy and apostasy. I want testing, dispute, and contradiction. In my work, I’m most interested in the friction between ideas and how that friction can bring new heat to a manuscript.

My opinions are not my authors’. When I edit, I hope to advance my opinions and to be pushed back, forward, up, down, or sideways by the author—and arrive somewhere interesting as a result. 

0 Comments on “But I Dig Friction” as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
24. Poetical intersections

I can’t quite explain how this works, but there comes a point in a lot of books I work on where poetry asserts itself on the author or me or both of us at once. I don’t know exactly when it happens or what causes what, but I know a book is in good shape when I’m trying to justify three pages of epigraphs to myself (I’ve never yet let it go quite that far).

Some recent examples:

  • The Freak Observer: “Stars at Tallapoosa” by Wallace Stevens
  • Catch & Release: “The Song of Wandering Aengus” by W. B. Yeats
  • A Wounded Name: “The Hosting of the Sidhe” by W. B. Yeats.
  • Anything by Wallace Stevens in any conversation of five minutes or more with Andrew Smith. (See his “Green Screen” in Losing It.)
  • No Crystal Stair: “Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes.

And I’m sure there are others I’m forgetting.

One marvelous example is top of mind this morning (because of some good news), and that’s Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian. We did cram two poems onto the epigraph page. The first is a bit of Larkin’s masterpiece “This Be the Verse,” which is joyous little ditty everyone should memorize. But much more amazing in its resonance is a poem Carrie had associated with the book from early days, a poem called “The Lake” by Michael Hettich. It’s a magnificent piece, and it does a subtle dance with Carrie’s book  that pleases me every time I think of it. You can read it all in the front of Sex & Violence or in The Sun Magazine.

0 Comments on Poetical intersections as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
25. A Way It Could Be

How about a bit of utopianism for Monday morning? Maybe with skateboarding?

image

Here’s the deal. If you spend an hour with this 11-video oral history of skateboarding photography by photographer Andrew Norton, the minimum benefit you’ll derive is an hour spent with some extremely elegant and captivating photographs, described by their creators. And if you grew up in the 80s and 90s, you’ll probably see something you once had taped to a locker or a Trapper Keeper. That’s worth an hour right there, even if you didn’t ever skate.

If you’re in the YA racket, though, I think this series offers even more: a vision of how to make art (and money—all of these guys are making a living) that appeals predominantly to young people—particularly teenagers—without being explicitly concerned with what those young people want, what’s right/appropriate/appealing “for” them, etc.

These artists are literally and figuratively subject focused. They’re trying to great work with the creative material at hand, and even though that material is incredibly fluid and dynamic, the quality of the work over the thirty-plus years covered in these videos is uniformly high. What a concept.

Watch these videos with this analogy held loosely in your mind: Skateboard photographer is to skateboarder as author is to character. 

(Photo of Chris Senn links to an ESPN piece on photographer Bryce Kaknights.)

0 Comments on A Way It Could Be as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment

View Next 25 Posts