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THE SONG OF ORPHEUS
by Tracy Barrett
I’ve published twenty middle-grade and young-adult books with Random House, Macmillan, Oxford University Press, and others. My first book came out in 1993, when self-publishing was difficult to do, expensive, and mostly looked down on as a way that clueless wannabe authors would get sub-par books printed, only to have unsold copies mildew in the writer’s garage.
Now, of course, that has changed. Self-publishing—now usually called “indie publishing”—is less expensive and easier to do than it used to be (although doing it well still isn’t cheap, and indie publishing isn’t without new challenges), and the advent of print on demand and eBooks means you don’t have to stockpile.
Many still look down on indie-published books, and that’s understandable. It’s possible to self-publish a dreadful story with no editing and a garish cover. Of course, plenty of traditionally-published books are bad too. But the lack of gatekeepers means that the percentage of awful books is higher among the indies than the traditionals. Still, every day there are more and more beautifully written, interesting, well-edited, and attractive indie books. A tiny fraction of them become bestsellers and a few are even made into movies.
So when one of my manuscripts received careful consideration by several major publishers, only to be rejected for vague reasons each time, I decided to give indie publishing a whirl.
The result is The Song of Orpheus: The Greatest Greek Myths You Never Heard
, which came out in July. My target reader for this collection of little-known myths is the kid who loves Greek myths but is tired of reading the same ones over and over. The research was challenging and enjoyable, and I loved discovering stories that I thought middle-schoolers would like. Rewriting them to keep true to the originals while sounding fresh to today’s readers was great fun.
But there are many facets to a published book. It’s not enough for it to be well written. To be successful—and for the author to be able to take pride in it—the book must also be well edited, copy edited, and designed, with an attractive cover and formatting. It has to be made available to readers and promoted effectively.
I’m a professional in only one of those areas: writing. I used to copy edit, but I know better than to copy edit my own work, and similarly, I’m not about to trust my own judgment of my writing. My very editorial agent had made me go through several revisions before she submitted it, and then, as I said, it received positive attention at some good houses. So I was comfortable that I wasn’t deluding myself about its quality. But what to do about the rest of the book-production process?
Fortunately, my agent, Lara Perkins, came to the rescue. Her agency (Andrea Brown Literary Agency
) was one of the pioneers of “agency-assisted self-publishing,” and she steered me to a copy editor, a cover artist, a designer, and a formatter, who all did stellar jobs. She also handled getting the ISBN, dealing with Amazon, and lots of other aspects of publication, some of which are ongoing. I found a publicist
on my own, after getting Lara’s input.
What’s in it for Lara? She collects her standard commission after I’ve earned back what I spent on everything but the publicist and other expenses I’ve run into after publication. (This is another reason I was confident that this was a marketable project; Lara’s not about to spend all that time on a book that she didn’t think would sell!)
I had complete control over every step. Lara presented me with options for each of the services she helped me find, and I consulted directly with Joe Cepeda, the brilliant illustrator who did the cover. For this reason, I’m not going to say how much all this cost—you can spend a lot less than I did, or a lot more. Expect to go into four figures, up to five, for high-quality work.
Is this expensive? Yes, it is. But it’s a business, just as a KFC franchise is a business. And considering that a KFC franchise costs between $1,250,000 and $2,530,000, I feel like my much, much smaller investment was money well spent.
One of my added expenses was getting a review from Kirkus Reviews. You have to pay for their review of an indie book, but this doesn’t guarantee it will be a favorable one. They allow you to choose whether or not to publish their opinion, and rumor says that at least 90% of the time, the author chooses not to do so—Kirkus is notoriously tough! This was another financial risk, but it paid off: While I was writing this post, Orpheus received a glowing review
! Tracy's fave work spot - notice the light bulb.
Claudia Mills' newest book Write This down was released on September 27th. In a recent essay, she shares some of her processes and revision decisions as she worked through drafts to published copy.
The workshop was over. We stood there on the gravel road between the cabins we'd lived in, worked in, worked through. We stood there post-portraits, post-jazz hands, post-laughter, post-tears, and there were questions, still.
Mostly: How do we carry forward what has happened here? How do we write our stories through? Find the time? The calm? The self assurance?
I will write to you, I said, I promised. I will try, for myself, to remember how.
Often my life is not my own. There is no calm, no well of time, I do not see myself in any mirror. I can go on like that because I must go on like that, but then: I miss the words, I physically miss them. I feel an empty spin inside my soul until I can't help it anymore. I rise early to claim a sentence for myself.
Except: Days, weeks, months have gone by since I have written anything real. Except: The sentence that I write is obvious, flat. It is not art, and it is art I need, and so I turn to others. Just now Olivia Laing is sitting here. More Annie Dillard. Old James Baldwin. The first Ta-Nehisi Coates. I take what I need and my hour of me is up, but something, inside, stirs.
The next day I rise early again. I take out my flat sentence. I spin it around with a spoon. I work it until it holds some music for me, until it suggests what the next sentence might be. So now there are two sentences, maybe three, and for the next several days, in this earliest of hours, I read those sentences, I sink into their rhythms, I probably don't even know the story yet. But I've got me a song to sing through the rest of the day, when the client calls, or the work comes in, or I make a trip for oil or pepper. I've got me a song, a steadying place, and when the call I'm waiting for comes in late, or I'm put on hold, or the dinner simmers, there it is: my song.
The song is. I keep it close. It is a mystery, and it is something mine. That something alive, to return to.
We write our stories slow, from a centering place.
भारत पाक सीमा पर बढता तनाव भारत पाकिस्तान के बीच तनाव तो चल ही रहा था कि अचानक एक ब्रेकिंग न्यूज आने लगी कि हमारे सैनिको द्वारा सर्जिकल स्ट्राइक की गई … आखिर सर्जिकल स्ट्राइक क्या होती है .आईए जाने !! सर्जिकल स्ट्राइक क्या होती है ? सर्जिकल स्ट्राइक के बारे मे जानने के लिए ये भी […]
The post सर्जिकल स्ट्राइक appeared first on Monica Gupta.
The sixth item in A History of my Archive in 10 Objects is an earthenware figure, made during my Foundation Course at Bournville School of Art early in 1978.
|Old Man, earthenware figure, 31cm tall, 1978|
Bournville School of Art was located at Ruskin Hall in the beautiful surroundings of Bournville Village
, the famously idyllic workers' community built by the Cadbury brothers next to their chocolate factory. Opened in 1903, it was purpose built as an art school by a friend of John Ruskin, and stood in that role until it's controversial closure
in 2012. The suburb was deliberately created to mirror a pastural tudor village, the college overlooked the 'village' green. It was a very straightforward commute for me, as it lay on the same train from Four Oaks to Birmingham, just on the opposite side of the city. Every morning I'd get off the train and walk past the chocolate factory to Ruskin Hall, breathing the chocolate scented air - it was almost perfect, the only downside (from a student point of view) was the lack of a pub, the Quaker Cadbury brothers being of course abstainers.
There was also a secondary studio at Steelhouse in the middle of the city, used mainly for life drawing and painting.
The year I spent at Bournville School of Art was an incredibly rewarding experience, it opened my eyes to new artists and a more directly relevant graphic business, many of the tutors were working artists and designers as well as lecturers, so had direct experience of the creative business, it was an intense, exciting course that broadened my horizons, introducing me to life drawing, etching, photography ... and ceramics.
And so to this figure, the "little old man" as my mum always called him. It's a character from my doomed novel In Search of Summer Gold
, so in many ways a last gasp of my adolescent fantasising before the maelstrom of degree course. Standing 37cm tall he's quite heavy, with a detachable head. He used to hold a clay pipe in one hand, which has now broken off and lost.
Like many of the things studied at Foundation Course, this is regretably the only thing I made in ceramics, the course was all too short - focusing all my attention on illustration thereafter, I've never been anywhere near a kiln since. Similarly I've not made etchings either, which I greatly regret.
This figure would have been familiar to anyone who visited my parent's home, as it sat in their front room window looking out onto the world for decades, it was the first thing you noticed as you approached the house.
For that reason it conjures intense memories of the family home to me, every trip back from Japan I'd wander up the drive and there he'd be, my "little man", welcoming me back to the old place. He now sits in my studio, not looking through a window onto the world, but instead glaring reproachfully at my work table. He's telling me to get back to work....
By: Celine Aenlle-Rocha,
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, Theatre & Dance
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Why do some great Broadway shows fail, and mediocre ones thrive? How does the cast onstage manage to keep tabs on the audience without missing a beat or a line? Ken Bloom, author of Show and Tell: The New Book of Broadway Audiences, delves into the inner workings of the Broadway stage and the culture surrounding Broadway hips and flops.
The post Secrets and trivia from the Broadway stage appeared first on OUPblog.
By: Jennifer Thermes
Blog: Art, Words, Life
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abrams books for young readers
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"Letting her background in map illustration shine, Thermes (Little Author in the Big Woods
) follows the travels of Charles Darwin while concisely explaining the influence they had on his growing understanding of the interconnectedness of nature..."Read the full review here...
जीवन में स्वच्छता का महत्व हमारे जीवन में स्वच्छता का महत्व कितना है या कौन कितनी सफाई रखता है इसका भी पता नही पर मैने आज स्वच्छता में बहुत बडा योगदान दिया. अपने पर्स से कागज निकाल कर सडक पर नही फेंंका घर आकर डस्टबीन में ही फेंका. बस .. इतना ही … !! आप […]
The post जीवन में स्वच्छता का महत्व appeared first on Monica Gupta.
By: Erik Brooks,
Blog: E is for Erik
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Orla Kiely has done it again and created another wonderful licensing deal for her prints. This is time it is with UK retailer Halfords to produce a series of bicycles, bike accessories, and camping gear. Orla's designs now appear on everything from saddle covers, to tents and, enamel mugs. Branded under the Orla Kiely diffusion label 'Olive and Orange' (named after her labradoodle dog) there
By: Anna Shannon,
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, Health & Medicine
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, Genetics of Psychological Well-Being
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, Michael Pluess
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It is easy to observe that some people are happier than others. But trying to explain why people differ in their happiness is quite a different story. Is our happiness the result of how well things are going for us or does it simply reflect our personality? Of course, the discussion on the exact roles of nature (gene) versus nurture (experience) is not new at all. When it comes to how we feel, however, most of us may think that our happiness
The post Is happiness in our genes? appeared first on OUPblog.
The animation community has been creating fantastic cartoons and caricatures of this year's goofball presidential candidates.
The post How Animation Artists See Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton appeared first on Cartoon Brew.
Animation veteran Clay Kaytis joins a long list of animation directors who have jumped into live-action filmmaking.
The post ‘Angry Birds’ Co-Director Clay Kaytis Jumps Into Live-Action with ‘The Lunch Witch’ appeared first on Cartoon Brew.
I'm kind of done with meta picture books, but I will never be done with sloths, especially sloths named Mervin. Happily, Mervin the Sloth Is About to Do the Best Thing in the World is a really fantastically fun meta picture book. Colleen AF Venable, graphic novel designer for the excellent FirstSecond by day and graphic novelist by night, makes her picture book debut with the help of illustrator Ruth Chen.
Mervin the Sloth Is About to Do the Best Thing in the World begins with Mervin, center page, slowly moving to the right with each page turn, as the title drops in from the top of the book over the course of a few pages. A red panda, Mervin's friend, strolls onto the scene, taking excited notice of the falling title. More and more friends arrive, all speculating about the best thing in the world that Mervin is about to do. Flying? Digging? Gazelling (which is not even a word, as bird points out)? Is Mervin going to fight a shark? Turn into a robot? Do all our homework? Invent a time machine?
There will definitely be lots of laughs as you read this book out loud, which is a must. Mervin the Sloth Is About to Do the Best Thing in the World should not be read alone and when you get to the end of the book you will see just why...
Be sure to watch this brief video of Colleen and Ruth doing a stellar job reading their book out loud!
Soon to be on the shelves of my school library, Colleen's graphic novel series Guinea PI:
Source: Review Copy
Ah, the many moods of the polar bear post card project... When they go low, we go high!
We made a Play Doh pizza
(Forming spinach from the green)
And I cut out little slices
(Cutest ones I've ever seen).
Next we patted pancakes, rolled out snakes
And to our hearts' content,
We squished and squished with all our might;
(A perfect way to vent!).
Though the colors smushed together
(Not my choice, but what the hey)
We had lots of fun, the perfect
Then we stuffed the Play Doh in the cans
And covered them up tight
'Til another opportunity
Presents for such delight.
The Long Way Westward. Joan Sandin. 1989. 64 pages. [Source: Bought]
First sentence: "Look, Carl Erik," said Jonas, "the streets of America are not paved with gold."
Premise/plot: The Long Way Westward follows a Swedish immigrant family as they travel across parts of the United States to reach their new home in Minnesota. Their travel involves a lot of TRAINS. The immigrant experience of the late nineteenth century is captured quite well in this early chapter book.
My thoughts: It is so nice to have stumbled across historical fiction for the youngest of readers. Historical fiction was probably my first true genre to LOVE, LOVE, LOVE. And I think I would have really enjoyed this one if I'd read it as a kid. As an adult, I can still appreciate it and recommend it to teachers, parents, and grandparents to share with young readers in their lives.
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
Here's your chance to find out what all the different parts of a physical book are called.
By: Bowie Style,
Blog: print & pattern
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Designer Kelly Angelovic was thrilled to announce the launch of her new line of soulful paper goods, including greeting cards, notecards, thank you notes, and prints. Six years ago, Kelly opened the doors to her design studio in Boulder, Colorado realizing a long-held dream of working as a professional artist and illustrator. After licensing collaborations with Oopsy Daisy, Robert Kaufman,
Studio Ghibli's first co-production, "The Red Turtle," now has an American trailer.
The post Sony Classics Releases U.S. Trailer for Michael Dudok de Wit’s ‘The Red Turtle’ appeared first on Cartoon Brew.
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One of the greatest challenges faced by schools and universities today is preparing students for an unknown future. Our graduates will likely have multiple careers, work in new and emerging industries, grapple with technologies we can’t even imagine yet. And so we’re asking our staff to equip students with the skills they need to thrive in a potentially very different world to the one we live in now.
The post Into the unknown: professional development for future educators appeared first on OUPblog.
By: Kim Behrens,
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, Art & Architecture
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The Houses of Parliament in London is one of the most famous buildings in the world. A masterpiece of Victorian Gothic architecture which incorporates survivals from the medieval Palace of Westminster, it was made a World Heritage Site by UNESCO along with Westminster Abbey, and St Margaret’s Church, in 1987. With its restoration and renewal in the news, find out more about the background in this interactive timeline.
The post Rebuilding and restoring the Houses of Parliament [timeline] appeared first on OUPblog.
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for CynsationsChristian McKay Heidicker
is the first-time author of Cure for the Common Universe
(Simon & Schuster, 2016). From the promotional copy:Sixteen-year-old Jaxon is being committed to video game rehab...ten minutes after he met a girl. A living, breathing girl named Serena, who not only laughed at his jokes but actually kinda sorta seemed excited when she agreed to go out with him.
Jaxon's first date. Ever.
In rehab, he can't blast his way through galaxies to reach her. He can't slash through armies to kiss her sweet lips. Instead, he has just four days to earn one million points by learning real-life skills. And he'll do whatever it takes—lie, cheat, steal, even learn how to cross-stitch—in order to make it to his date.
If all else fails, Jaxon will have to bare his soul to the other teens in treatment, confront his mother's absence, and maybe admit that it's more than video games that stand in the way of a real connection.
Prepare to be cured. How did you approach the research process for your story? What resources did you turn to? What roadblocks did you run into? How did you overcome them? What was your greatest coup, and how did it inform your manuscript?
This all began when I told my agent, John Cusick
, that I’d write a YA book about a kid committed to video game rehab. His excitement was infectious, and I got that fluttery feeling of embarking on a new adventure. Of darkness unlit. Of stones unturned. Of all the little surprises that come with blindly slashing out with my pen and hoping for the bloody best.
That fluttery feeling vanished when I realized I hadn’t played video games for years, let alone had any clue what it was like to be addicted to them.
In order to survive as a freelance writer, my entire life had become carefully structured to eliminate time-wasters. I worked all possible hours, filled my downtime with reading, exercising, eating healthily, and not buying expensive things like the next generation of PlayStation or Xbox. I had become completely unversed in the world of video games and unhealthy amounts of playing.
I realized if I tried to write a book about video games, I’d out myself as a fraud. I’d make out-of-date gaming references, the community would eat me for breakfast, and I’d become next on Gamergate
’s death list. (Now that I know a thing or two, I can confidently say that many gaming references do not go out of fashion, and that being on Gamergate’s threat list is actually a good thing.)
Let’s face it. As novelists we’re all impostors. We don’t really remember what it’s like to have that first kiss. We’ve never reached to the back of the wardrobe and in place of fur felt pine needles. Our goal is to seem the least impostery as possible. To convince the reader that this stuff is legit.
|Christian's office & Lucifer Morningstar Birchaus (aka writer cat)|
Still, the idea was good. Video game rehab? I’d never seen that before, and that’s a rare thing in any medium. So I needed a plan. My plan was this: get addicted to video games.*
So out with work!
Sod off, schedules!
Be gone, exercise routines!
Forget healthy eating and gluten intolerance. Forget that coffee turns me into an absolute monster and dairy turns my insides into the Bog of Eternal Stench!
I bought myself a month and turned my life into that of a sixteen-year-old video game addict on summer vacation. I drank coffee from noon (when I woke up) until three in the morning when I went to sleep. (My character drinks energy drinks, but one can only go so far, dear reader.) I slept too much. I didn’t exercise. Sometimes I put whiskey in my morning coffee. I only read gaming news, but only if I really felt like it and only if I had to wait for a game to download.
Mostly, I played video games. I played a lot
of video games. I continued to play throughout the duration of writing the book, but in October 2012, I played so much it would have made the characters in my book quirk their eyebrows.
I was trying to get addicted. All of my dopamine release came from beating levels, leveling up characters, downloading DLCs. When I went to the bathroom, I brought my iPad with me and played Candy Crush. (Considering what my new and worsened diet was doing to my digestion, I played a lot of Candy Crush.)
I beat Dark Souls. I beat Sword & Sworcery. I played Starcraft and Hearthstone and Diablo III. I bought a Nintendo 3DS and played through all the Mario and Zelda games I’d missed out over all the years. (Definitely the highlight.) I got lost in world after world, and adulthood as I knew it became a faint haze around an ever-glowing screen.
And guess what? It was hard.
You’d think it would be easy doing as little as humanly possible, only filling one’s time with video games.
Video games are fun. Many are designed to keep you falling into them again and again, to captivate you enough to stick around for hours on end. But I had so carefully trained myself to not be that way so I could write.
During this indulgent month of October, I felt lazy. I felt sick. I felt jittery and uncomfortable in my skin and a little voice inside my head kept saying, “No, no, no. Stop doing nothing. You’re dying.”
I was disgusted with myself. I liked the games I was playing, but they didn’t bring the same satisfaction of selling a short story.
Like I said, it was really hard. But it was nothing compared to what I was going to embark on next.
I ended my month of terror with a bang. On Halloween night, at 11:56 p.m., I drank four shots of whiskey and became a vomiting sprinkler on my friends’ front lawn. (Apologies, Alan and Alan).
My girlfriend at the time drove me home and poured me into bed. I slept for thirteen hours. . . and when I awoke late afternoon on Nov. 1, I began something new. I didn’t put on the coffee pot. I didn’t boot up the PlayStation to see if any system updates needed downloading. I didn’t bring the iPad to the bathroom.
Instead, I entered Phase 2 of my research.
The character in my book was going to rehab, where all creature comforts would be taken away from him. And so I spent the entirety of November without sugar, caffeine, music, phone, books*, internet*, or of course, video games.
I called it my no-nothing November.
(Er, no stimulants, at least. But that isn’t quite as catchy.)
After surviving a two-day hangover unaided by stimulants of any sort, I crawled out of bed . . . and I went out into the world. I ran in the morning. I talked to people at coffee shops while sipping herbal tea. I took ukulele lessons. I learned how to cross-stitch. I cleaned Alan’s and Alan’s puke-covered lawn (just kidding I didn’t; I just realized this would have been a nice thing to have done (sorry again, Alans)). I studied life without my nose buried in a book.*
And mostly, I wrote. I wrote about a kid who had all of his comforts taken away and was forced to earn points through a sort of gamified therapy. I don’t know if any of this actually worked or not . . . I’m not sure if it really added anything to the book.
So, um, take that into consideration before flying off the rails for your own book.
*I use the term "addicted" lightly. Read Cure for the Common Universe
for a full explanation.
**The most difficult, by far.
***I also didn’t surf the internet, save my email—for emergencies and so I wasn’t fired from my job.
****Ug, this is starting to sound like some sort of new age instruction manual, which I swear it is not; I just wanted to see what it would be like to be the character in my book. As a contemporary fiction writer, how did you deal with the pervasiveness of rapidly changing technologies? Did you worry about dating your manuscript? Did you worry about it seeming inauthentic if you didn't address these factors? Why or why not?
Video games are the fastest growing medium in the world, so it’s pretty difficult to remain relevant when writing about current games. Fortunately, there’s a persistent spine in gaming (your Blizzards, your Nintendos, your Easter eggs). I tried to focus on those mainstays and accept the fact that no matter what I did I would probably piss off and please an equal number of gamers.
If I had attempted to copy the language of gamers verbatim, I would have set myself up for failure. (Although having a game-addicted roommate during the edits of this book definitely helped me sprinkle in some legit jargon.) That’s why I like to follow the Joss Whedon
rule of leading the charge on language instead of attempting to copy it.
For the dialogue, I ended up stealing a lot of hilarious lines from my friends—truly iconic things that I lifted straight out of real-life conversations and put into the text. During a rousing game of racquetball, a friend aced me, stuck his racquet in my face, and screamed, “Nobody puts princess in a castle!” A barista once mentioned how stepping on a LEGO was a lot more rage inducing than playing Grand Theft Auto. And a previous student told me about a—ahem—particular sensory combination involving Nutella. I blushed . . . and then I stole it.
I stole all of these with everyone’s permission, of course.
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By: Brian Bowes,
Blog: Studio Bowes Art
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