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I’d love to say that I write my books sitting in a quiet room, gazing out over a shady wooded glade while birds sing in the trees and rabbits hope across the grass providing endless inspiration for my musings. However, I’m a single mum with a full time job living in the burbs - so time to sit and muse, let alone a shady wooded glade or even a room with peace and quiet are all not too likely to come by.
The truth is, my son is the inspiration behind all of my Alex, Dragon and Spider books - and the ideas for them come while we're out and about, exploring the world and generally having fun together. All my books so far are inspired by real people, their lives, their stories, their problems - even, sometimes, my own. So I write most of my books on the move, in my head - transferring them into my phone or onto scraps of paper as time permits - while driving from childcare to work, making breakfast and packed lunches or cooking. Then, in lunch breaks or in an evening in the half hour between finishing tidying, while Alex is in bed, before tiredness overcomes me, I type them onto my computer.
I’m a very lucky writer in many ways. My stories come as images and, therefore, often when I do site down to write, lines have been bouncing around my head all day, so it doesn’t take me long. The quickest I have ever written something was half an hour (including typing it up) and the longest was 3 hours. Re-reads and edits sometimes take longer than writing something in the first place. I’ve also spent an hour editing a story before, only to find, by the end, that I'd changed everything back to what I’d initially written!
So I sit on my couch, surrounded by kids toys strewn across the floor and piles of ironing (which is what I really should be spending my time sorting) and type my tales - seeing before me fairies, dragons and spiders having adventures and fun, rather than the list of unfinished chores and household jobs that is my reality…and I've got to admit - I much prefer the fantasy. The chores are always still there in the morning, while my imaginings might have wandered away to a completely different planet, never to be seen again!!
A big thank you to Natalie Finnigan, our fantastic international guest blogger here on Storywraps.
Natalie Finnigan was born in Suffolk, England and re-discovered her love for writing rhymes after the birth of her son, Alex, in 2010. Now writing the Alex, Dragon & Spider series, Natalie has also written some Bespoke rhyming story books.
I've been re-reading 'The Time Machine' and today feels very much like I've taken a trip back in time.
Today I scanned the negatives of the photos I took of my NYC apartment at 161 W. 78th Street back when I went to Parsons in the last century. It was so cool to recognize and revisit everything in that room. It was just like being a time traveler - I wondered at the objects I'd forgotten and remembered.
Some of the circled treasures are: my radio and toaster (that I'd hauled from Utah to Seattle and now to NYC). My cup hanging from a wire (to keep the roaches off), the mini-stove (sitting on top of the mini fridge), my tea kettle and my illustration in progress.
Everything but the bed was scrounged off the streets. You'd never guess how attached one can become to an old second hand toaster and radio.
I self published a book of short stories a few years back. (It seemed like a good idea at the time.) It got a few good reviews, everyone I knew bought it and a few strangers took a risk and bought it as well. Hooray me.
Fast forward and I would like to submit some of these stories for consideration in contests or to lit presses / online magazines etc. (Not all of them, some of them were very bad... I can see that now... but a few of them are things I am proud of.)
My problem is that they fall under the "already published" label since my little self published book has an ISBN and is available for purchase on Amazon etc.
I guess my question goes beyond a bit of "What can I do/"... to "Do I have to leave these little gems behind me for good? Can I rework them so that they are just new and different enough to count as "not previously published"? How much rework would that be?"
I'm frustrated and feeling very foolish. Any help you could provide would be wonderful.
Don't feel frustrated, and don't feel foolish. You haven't done anything stupid or wrong. You've written and published stories that people liked. Hint: that is A Very Good Thing.
However, if you want to give these stories a second shot at finding readers, well, that's a bit more troublesome.
The rules for contests and lit mags are pretty specific. Not previously published means just that. You'd be hard-pressed to rework a short story enough to make it something other than what it is now. And you don't want to enter, get published and then find out you're on the wrong side of previously published. You very much do NOT want your name associated with that brouhaha.
Thankfully book publishing is not quite so rigid. Collections of previously published stories are common. Some of your stories (the good ones) could be the basis for an anthology.
And some anthologies don't require new material. Look for those to send your stories to. This is more common in genre fiction than lit fic, but you didn't say what kind of stories you published.
This morning I have a bundle of awesomeness for you to win. Candlewick Press wants to celebrate, and they are inviting you to enter for a chance to win this incredible bundle of their young adult books that received a nod from Time Magazine’s by landing on their Top 100 YA books of all-time.
TIME MAGAZINE ANNOUNCES TOP 100 YOUNG ADULT AND CHILDREN’S BOOKS OF ALL-TIME
CANDLEWICK PRESS EARNS 10 “BEST OF” NODS IN THE DISTINGUISHED RANKINGS
One of the most prominent news magazines in the U.S., TIME magazine, has declared we are living in a “golden age” of children’s and young adult books. A claim supported by ongoing sales reports that books for young readers and teens continue to dominate the bestseller charts and lead industry growth as they find wide audiences beyond their intended age demographics.
With the assistance of industry experts, reviewers, and major literacy non-profits, TIME has compiled a list to honor the all-time classics, both old and new.
Candlewick Press, a leading independent children’s book publisher based near Boston, Massachusetts, is proud to announce ten titles from its publishing list have been selected for inclusion – all remarkable works of writing and illustrating – that have established themselves as enduring favorites via critical and commercial success. Both National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Kate DiCamillo, and celebrated novelist, Patrick Ness, have the remarkable achievement of having two of their works selected. Candlewick’s titles include:
Kate DiCamillo takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the depths of the ocean to the net of a fisherman, from the bedside of an ailing child to the bustling streets of Memphis. Along the way, we are shown a miracle — that even a heart of the most breakable kind can learn to love, to lose, and to love again.
Rob, sickly and devastated by the death of his mother, moves to a hotel with his father for a new start. But after he comes across a caged tiger in the woods outside the motel, the unexpected find helps him overcome his sadness and open up to a new friend.
An unforgettable debut novel that follows an antisocial cinephile as she meets a quick-witted artist who’s savvy enough to see through her sci-fi disguise.
$8.99 US /$10.00 CAN
ISBNS: 9780763627966 Pbk * 9780763654283 E-book
* Celebrating 10th anniversary in February 2015
ABOUT CANDLEWICK PRESS Candlewick Press is an independent, employee-owned publisher based in Somerville, Massachusetts. For over twenty years, Candlewick has published outstanding children’s books for readers of all ages, including books by award-winning authors and illustrators such as the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Kate DiCamillo, M. T. Anderson, Jon Klassen, and Laura Amy Schlitz; the widely acclaimed Judy Moody, Mercy Watson, and ’Ology series; and favorites such as Guess How Much I Love You, Where’s Waldo?, and Maisy. Candlewick is part of the Walker Books Group, together with Walker Books UK in London and Walker Books Australia, based in Sydney and Auckland. Visit Candlewick online at www.candlewick.com
Not as if I haven't been saying that myself (well, sort of), right here, and in the Inquirer, and in my books. But huzzah. This is the New York Times speaking, not just some homegrown booster.
I am taking particular pleasure in this because I have had the privilege of working with some of the people who are making the radical difference. Let's put Brandywine Realty Trust high on that radical difference list, and Brandywine CEO Jerry Sweeney himself, who has quietly and collaboratively helped engineer a renaissance along the Schuylkill River Banks (through the Schuylkill River Development Corporation, which he chairs), in University City, and in the downtown nexus. Let's talk about outdoor artists like Jane Golden and Isaiah Zagar. Let's look at my alma mater and employer, the University of Pennsylvania, which keeps the greening coming.
In naming Philadelphia right after Milan and Cuba on its list, the New York Times, in its January 9, 2015 story, said this:
The making of an urban outdoor oasis.
A series of projects has transformed Philadelphia into a hive of outdoor urban activity. Dilworth Park, formerly a hideous slab of concrete adjoining City Hall, reopened this past autumn as a green, pedestrian-friendly public space with a winter ice-skating rink (and a cafe by the indefatigable chef Jose Garces). Public art installations, mini "parklets" and open-air beer gardens have become common sights. The Delaware River waterfront was reworked for summer 2014 with the Spruce Street Harbor Park (complete with hammocks, lanterns and floating bar) becoming a new fixture, following the renovation of the Race Street Pier, completed in 2011, and offers free yoga classes on a bi-level strip of high-design decking and grass. The city’s other river, the Schuylkill, has its own new boardwalk. To top it off, this spring, Philadelphia will get its first bike share program, making this mostly flat city even more friendly for those on two wheels.Nell McShane Wulfhart
Winner, winner chicken dinner is not perhaps the most appropriate response for a vegan to make to anything. And especially not in response to reviewing a vegan cookbook. But that’s the phrase that sprang to mind when I cracked open Sue Quinn’s Easy Vegan, which arrived as a review copy from Murdoch Books. My other […]
BURBANK, Calif.--Carol Ann Susi's death last November left a hole in The Big Bang Theory, even though viewers had never seen her.
The actress, 62, provided the raspy voice of Howard Wolowitz's nagging mother, and her absence will be addressed in an episode airing Jan. 29.
"We shot an episode last week that deals with the loss of Carol Ann," executive producer Chuck Lorre said in an interview, declining to specify exactly how. "It took us a couple of months to deal with that; we didn't know how to at first," he says. But executive producer Steven Molaro is "in charge of a beautiful script that takes account of the loss of Carol. We thought we handled it in a delicate and respectful way. We lost somebody in our family; it's not something you anticipate happening."
Xander's Panda Party. Linda Sue Park. Illustrated by Matt Phelan. 2013. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
Xander planned a panda party. Yes, a dandy whoop-de-do! But Xander was the only panda. Just one panda at the zoo. Xander sat and chewed bamboo. He changed his plans and point of view.
Premise/Plot: Readers meet Xander, a party-planning panda bear, who is struggling with his party plans. At first, he was planning a panda party. He then expands it to include all bears. But one thing after another after another leads him to include ALL the animals at the zoo.
My thoughts: I read this one because I needed an "X" title for my Alphabet Soup challenge. I can't say that I really "liked" Xander's Panda Party. I liked it in places. Some phrases seemed to have a just-right feel to them. For example, "He wasn't sure what he should do. He chewed a slew of new bamboo; he nibbled, gnawed, and thought things through" (11) But in other places, I thought the writing style (the word choice, the rhythm and/or rhyme) were off. For example, "And he planned a hearty party! 'Fur or hair or hide can come. All the mammals, every one!'" (12). It just wasn't consistently working for me. Because it worked for me some of the time, I wanted it to work for me all the time. That being said, it was a cute enough story about a panda making new friends. I liked that he won't be a lonely panda for long.
I liked the illustrations. I needed repeated readings to fully appreciate them perhaps. For example, readers know that there is just one panda at the zoo, but the illustrations show many, many pandas. The illustration reveals Xander's frantic pacing and rushing about, his emotional distress. (I'm thinking of page 15 and 19/20.) Amanda Salamander also makes frequent appearances, it took me a second reading to spot her on many of the spreads.
Text: 3 out of 5 Illustrations: 3 out of 5 Total: 6 out of 10
A couple of GurneyJourney blog readers shared some studio tips:
Doug Goodale says: "I recently built a lightweight sketch easel according to your specs and added some Velcro strips so it could hold a 1/4 sheet of watercolour paper. I had a plastic palette, so glued some rare earth magnets on the mixing surface to affix it to the easel."
Lawrence Roibal says: "Having had the privilege of being in the presence of the great Steve Assael painting from life, I witnessed how he utilizes the theory of the parallel palette without the expense. He would just fashion a makeshift palette right on his painting surface or utilize a clamp, and a simple masonite palette." ---- Thanks, Doug and Larry
Please, Mr. Panda. Steve Antony. 2015. [January 2015] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
First sentence: Would you like a doughnut? (panda) Give me the pink one. (penguin) No, you cannot have a doughnut. I have changed my mind. (panda) Would you like a doughnut? (panda) I want the blue one and the yellow one. (skunk?) No, you cannot have a doughnut. I have changed my mind. (panda)
If the book had not been described as a book about manners, I would have been puzzled by Steve Antony's Please, Mr. Panda. In my opinion, it is still a very strange book. My first impression of the story was NOT that the animals were lacking in manners and being rude to Mr. Panda. Far from it. I actually found Mr. Panda to be the rude one since he was ASKING animals, "Would you like a doughnut?" and then abruptly changing his mind and saying NO, YOU CAN'T HAVE ONE AFTER ALL. The description may say that Panda is patient and polite, but, that was not my impression. He came across as bored, disinterested, and disgusted. But apparently, that isn't the proper way to read Please, Mr. Panda. Readers are supposed to believe that it is the animals who say "Yes, I'd like a doughnut" who are being RUDE. At least according to Mr. Panda, no matter what else is said if you fail to include the word "Please" it means YOU are being unforgivably rude and justifies completely his subsequent actions. Perhaps further complicating the situation, I never could distinguish if Mr. Panda was offering free doughnuts he'd made OR if Mr. Panda had a job selling doughnuts. If selling doughnuts was his job, if it was his job to go around asking animals if they'd like a doughnut, he was TERRIBLE at it. Clearly Mr. Panda would be far, far happier at another job where he didn't have to interact with anyone at all. Since clearly he is not what I'd call a "people-person." If none of this was job-related, I'm still confused. Clearly, Mr. Panda hates doughnuts. And he probably hated making them just as much as he hates walking around trying to give them away. The question I have is WHY would he bother? Either way, I think Mr. Panda had a bad attitude and was extra-sensitive to "insults." It wasn't as if the animals were going: Hurry up, I want it NOW, NOW, NOW! Or whining WHY ARE THERE NO SPRINKLES?! I NEED SPRINKLES!!! Or THESE DOUGHNUTS ARE TOO SMALL. The animals didn't come across as demanding or whining or picky or complaining. If the book is teach the importance of saying Please and Thank You always, always, always, then a little exaggeration of the "rudeness" so it was less subtle and actually obvious may have been preferable. I think the animals in the story are just as puzzled as I was. They're probably thinking, WHAT WAS HIS PROBLEM, ANYWAY? Now that I've read the book three or four times, I can see that the ostrich was definitely rude and the whale was very, very tacky. But still am puzzled by the book as a whole.
This one was originally published in the UK. I do like the illustrations well enough. But it was hard to like Mr. Panda.
Text: 3 out of 5 Illustrations: 3 out of 5 Total: 6 out of 10
What was your inspiration for writing PERFECT COUPLE?
When I was a senior in high school, we had a "who's who" election like this. I wanted to be selected Most Talented or something similar because I had already dipped a toe into painting, writing music, and writing short stories at that point. Instead, I was elected Most Academic. I was half expecting this because I did make good grades, and my brother had been valedictorian two years before...but I was disappointed that my classmates basically saw me as Most Nerdbait (in my own mind, anyway). I was also elected Most Likely to Succeed, which I was not expecting at all. I did not feel the least bit successful, so my classmates were seeing something that I didn't recognize in myself.
What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?
PERFECT COUPLE is #2 in the Superlatives series. If readers like this book, I think they'll enjoy BIGGEST FLIRTS (Superlatives #1), about Harper's friends Tia and Will, and MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED, about Harper's friend Kaye and the class bad boy, Sawyer. I've also written lots of other YA romances that readers can browse on my website,http://www.jennifer-echols.com.
What are you working on now? I've just turned in a proposal for a new YA romantic comedy. Cross your fingers for me! Now I'm working on a proposal for a darker YA. You can check my website, Facebook or Twitter for--I hope--my good news!
ABOUT THE BOOK
Perfect Couple by Jennifer Echols Hardcover Simon Pulse Released 1/13/2015
In this second book in The Superlatives trilogy from Endless Summer author Jennifer Echols, Harper and Brody think they’re an unlikely match—but the senior class says they belong together.
As yearbook photographer, Harper is responsible for those candid moments that make high school memorable. But her own life is anything but picture perfect. Her parents’ bitter divorce left her wondering what a loving relationship looks like. And ever since the senior class voted her and star quarterback Brody “Perfect Couple That Never Was,” her friends have been pushing her to ask Brody out.
Brody doesn’t lack female admirers, but Harper can't see herself with him. He’s confused about the match too. Yet they find themselves drawn together—first by curiosity about why the class paired them, then by an undeniable bond.
The trouble is, though they’re attracted to each other, they have a hard time getting along or even communicating well. If they’re the perfect couple, this shouldn’t be so difficult! Soon it becomes clear their class was wrong, and they throw in the towel. But they feel so changed from making the effort, they can’t forget each other. What if this match made in hell is the perfect couple after all?
Jennifer Echols was born in Atlanta and grew up in a small town on a beautiful lake in Alabama--a setting that has inspired many of her books. Her nine romantic novels for young adults have been published in seven languages and have won the National Readers' Choice Award, the Aspen Gold Readers' Choice Award, the Write Touch Readers' Award, the Beacon, and the Booksellers' Best Award. Her novel GOING TOO FAR was a finalist in the RITA and was nominated by the American Library Association as a Best Book for Young Adults. Simon & Schuster will debut her adult romance novels in 2013, with many more of her teen novels scheduled for the next few years. She lives in Birmingham with her husband and her son.
I haven't done a #Bloggiesta in a while and there are some things on this blog that could use some tuning-up and straightening up, and in the spirit of Spring Cleaning (because spring is only 61 days away as of today!) And, while I may be a little late to the sign-up Linky, it isn't too late to participate.
Here is what I plan on doing:
1- Backup blogs, this one and Randomly Reading
2- Update all my Pages
3- Make new banners for Twitter
4- Clean up labels (again)
5- Organize my blog folders on my hard drive where I keep ideas, information, photos, etc for future use.
5- Learn how to make an infographic with Valeria at A Touch of Book Madness, which is something I've been meaning to do.
6- Joy at Joy's Book Blog has a really good idea on her #Bloggiesta To-Do List to check the loading time of her blog using Pingdom Tools recommended by The Redhead Riter. Thank you, Joy, for that great idea and the links.
This is a busy reading time of the year for me, so I thought I would keep things manageable.
What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?
The scene very early on in the book when Avery’s adventure begins was really hard for me—I must have rewritten it a thousand times. It has so many big questions: What would make a girl leave her home like Avery does? How does she decide something like that? What does family really mean, and how do you know who to trust?
And as for scenes I love, there are two, and I can only hint at them, because spoilers! First is an action scene that is completely over-the-top and terrifying and so much fun (the scene at Prada, if you’ve read the book), and when I wrote that was the first time I really felt like I had a handle on the feel of the book. The second is a kissing scene (that actually doesn’t have any kissing…you’ll have to read to see what I mean) ;) that came together fully-formed in my head and has hardly changed since, through the million revisions. I just knew it was something I hadn’t seen done in YA before, and it fit the characters so well and is both sweet and sexy and I love it.
What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?
I’ve heard CONSPIRACY called a YA DaVinci Code, and if you like that book and like YA, I think CONSPIRACY could definitely be your thing. I also think fans of the Mortal Instruments series will find in my book a similar mix of fast-paced action and romance and interpersonal drama woven into the world’s lore.
How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?
I like to say this is my first book and also my second and third and tenth. It is my first book—the first I wrote and queried—but I’ve rewritten it so many times on my own and with my agent and editor that it feels like I’ve written tons of books to get here. So from the outside, it might look like my journey to publication was really easy (and in a way it was—I know I’m lucky to have been published on my first try), it wasn’t like I sat down and wrote a perfect book the second I put my fingers to a keyboard. It took a lot of learning along the way, and it just so happened that I learned on the same book that’s going to be my debut novel.
Was there an AHA! moment along your road to publication where something suddenly sank in and you felt you had the key to writing a novel? What was it? I think I’m still waiting for that AHA! moment…
Seriously, though, I think the most important thing I’ve discovered about writing is that I will never quite have the key. It’s different from day to day or book to book and person to person. That was a freeing realization: Just because something worked for somebody else doesn’t mean it’ll work for me. Just because something worked for me yesterday doesn’t mean it’ll work today. And that’s okay. I have to leave myself open to doing whatever’s necessary at the moment to get the story on the page as best I can.
What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?
I have a coat closet at home that I’ve converted to a teeny-tiny office. We’re talking small—I can’t lean back more than a couple inches in my chair, and I can’t raise even my elbows out to the sides! But I love feeling cozy and isolated—it’s like my literal writing cave. <
I also like going to coffee shops, though. There’s something about writing around other people that’s inspiring sometimes. And I always listen to really loud music while I’m writing, and no music while I’m editing.
What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?
Don’t worry if you don’t get published immediately! I know my publishing story contradicts this, but especially if you’re new to writing, it’s really normal to write a few manuscripts before hitting on the one that’s going to get you an agent. I think it’s actually a good thing—sometimes I’ve wished I had more experience before I was published!
What are you working on now?
ABOUT THE BOOK
The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall Hardcover Putnam Juvenile Released 1/13/2015
To fight her destiny as the missing heir to a powerful and dangerous secret society, sixteen-year-old Avery West must solve an ancient puzzle in a deadly race across Europe. Forbidden love and code-breaking, masked balls and explosions, destiny and dark secrets collide in this romantic thriller, in the vein of a YA DaVinci Code.
Avery West's newfound family can shut down Prada at the Champs-Elysees when they want to shop in peace, and can just as easily order a bombing when they want to start a war.
They are part of a powerful and dangerous secret society called the Circle of Twelve, and Avery is their missing heir. If they discover who she is, some of them will want to use her as a pawn. Some will want her dead.
To thwart their plans, Avery must follow a trail of clues from the landmarks of Paris to the back alleys of Istanbul and through a web of ancient legends and lies. And unless she can stay one step ahead of beautiful, volatile Stellan, who knows she’s more than she seems, and can decide whether to trust mysterious, magnetic Jack, she may be doomed after all.
Maggie Hall indulges her obsession with distant lands and far-flung adventures as often as she can. She has played with baby tigers in Thailand, learned to make homemade pasta in Italy, and taken thousands of miles of trains through the vibrant countryside of India. In her past life, she was a bookstore events coordinator and marketing manager, and when she's not on the other side of the world, she lives with her husband and their cats in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she watches USC football, dabbles in graphic design, and blogs about young adult literature for YA Misfits.
Big Bad Detective Agency. Bruce Hale. 2015. Scholastic. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Once upon a time in Fairylandia, when magic was common and cheese was two shillings a pound, there lived a wolf named Wolfgang. Being a wolf, he was widely adored, called "cute" and "cuddly," and invited to all the best parties. Not. What makes you think Fairylandia is so different from anyplace else?
Premise/Plot: Wolfgang, the hero, is falsely accused of a crime. Of breaking into the homes of all three little pigs, of destroying property, of stealing. He didn't do it. And there isn't exactly any evidence that he did it. Except for the fact that he's a wolf, and everyone in the community can get away with blaming him whenever something goes a bit wrong. "The wolf did it!" is such a handy thing to be able to say. He's been given a chance to clear his name, however. He'll have one day to find another suspect, to find proof that someone else did the crime. He teams up, reluctantly, with the fourth little pig: Ferkel. Can these two unlikely amateur detectives solve the crime? Will Wolfgang prove his innocence and avoid being locked up?
My thoughts: I liked this one very much. It was fun and playful. The premise was just too much fun to resist. I liked the detecting in this one, loved getting all the clues, watching the team piece it all together.
So, it’s 2015, and one of my resolutions for the year is to VISIT YOU!
That is to say, I want to visit more schools this year. Talk with kids, connect with teachers, discuss how WE ARE ALL WRITERS.
Of course, I’m always willing to book a traditional school visit, but in addition to that, I’m doing what Deborah Wiles calls a “shoestring tour” this spring– hitting the road to share Seven Stories Up with kids, since it’s got a snappy new paperback cover, and I didn’t tour when it came out in hardcover.
This means that I’ll be doing some FREE one-session school visits, in the Southeast and Midatlantic. Ideally in places with bookstores that can help coordinate a few schools a day. I’ve already got some things lined up in Georgia, the Carolinas, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, and that’s plenty, but while I’m on the road I might as well pop in and say hello to YOU.
So if you think you might be interested, drop me an email, and we’ll see if we can’t make it work!
Please welcome another newbie to the Social Media team at Oxford University Press, Sonia Tsuruoka, who joined the gang in January 2015 as an OUPblog Deputy Editor and Social Media Marketing Assistant! She has been working at OUP since June 2014.
When did you start working at OUP?
I started as a social media intern the summer before my senior year of college. A year later, I hopped over to Online Marketing for a full-time job, where I grappled with all things HTML. Now, I’m back where I started (at the very same desk I had when I was an intern!), and couldn’t be happier.
What is your typical day like at OUP?
No day is exactly the same in social media, which is the beauty of it! Between handling standard editorial stuff for the OUPBlog, I could be doing anything from researching poetic rhetoric to hunting for Richard Dawkins gifs.
What is the strangest thing currently on or in your desk?
The best Secret Santa gift I have ever received.
What drew you to work for OUP in the first place?
A lot of people think the publishing industry draws bookworms like moths to a flame. My answer will probably not change that suspicion.
What’s your favourite book?
Moby Dick—I’m a huge Herman Melville enthusiast. I’ve even visited the New Bedford Whaling Museum, and I have a wooden box inscribed with “and the great flood gates of the wonder world swung open…then it collapsed, and the great sea shroud of the sea rolled on.”
What was your first blog post ever?
For my first post, I blogged about the politics of “slum tourism.” Then I wrote a retrospective on William Ernest Henley’s “Invictus.” I was a double major in Political Science and Writing Seminars, so I’m always bouncing back and forth between both worlds.
If you didn’t work in publishing, what would you be doing?
I’d have trouble deciding between political speechwriter, sleep-deprived English professor, and full-time Marilynne Robinson groupie.
What are you reading right now?
Right now, I’m working my way through books written by two professors I had the amazing privilege of working with in the Johns Hopkins’ Writing Seminars program—Return Fire by Glenn Blake and Sparks from a Nine-Pound Hammer by Steve Scafidi. Great people, and even better writers. There’s just something so arresting about the Southern poetic.
Open the book you’re currently reading and turn to page 78. Tell us the title of the book, and the third sentence on that page.
“There is a long bridge over these waters, and as you drive across, you can look to the south and see where the Old River and the Lost River become the Old and the Lost.” (Return Fire, Glenn Blake)
What is your favourite word?
It would be a toss-up between saudade and schadenfreude. There’s such loveliness outside the English language.
If you could trade places with any one person for a week, who would it be and why?
Bruce Springsteen. I think this is every native New Jerseyan’s dream.
Most obscure talent or hobby?
Totally random, but I can recite Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach” by heart. To this day I have no idea how this happened.
Candlewick Press just sent me a copy of THE COSMOBIOGRAPHY OF SUN RA by Chris Raschka and I think they might have another Caldecott on their hands. Not only is the cover visually stunning and intriguing (reminds me a bit of his Mysterious Thelonious, which I also love), the writing is superb. I adore the opening line,
"Sun Ra always said that he came from Saturn. Now, you know and I know that this is silly. No one comes from Saturn.
And yet. If he did come from Saturn, it would explain so much."
For most of my writing career, like most writers, I wrote alone. I rose early in the morning, made myself my mug of Swiss Miss hot chocolate, and scribbled away on the couch, longhand, for my trademark hour a day. Ten years ago, Snickers the cat joined me as a writing companion, but she is actually more of a purring companion, as her writing productivity seems close to nil.
But a year or so ago, Jeannie Mobley, author of fabulous historical fiction for young readers (Katarina's Wish, Searching for Silverheels) , invited me to a write-in at her house: a group of writers hanging out for the day and the night (we even had the opportunity to sleep over, which I seized), to write together. I got there early in the morning and started writing. I wrote for hours. We broke for a leisurely lunch of wonderful writerly conversation. And then I wrote for more hours. I wrote more in a day than I had ever written before. It was energizing and exhilarating. I was hooked on writing with others.
Now I have one friend with whom I make writing dates of the kind Natalie Goldberg talks about in Writing Down the Bones; Cat and I have written together up at Chautauqua, in the lobby of the historic Boulderado Hotel, and at her cozy house while her little boy was napping. I've been back to Jeannie's for at least one more write-in there. And yesterday I spent a delicious, deliriously happy day with a group of writers, including Jeannie, at the home of writer Jean Reidy, perhaps best known for her delightful picture books, Too Purpley, Too Princessy, Too Pickley.
Here's what I accomplished yesterday. In the car on the (long) way there, I brainstormed the pet aspects of my current work-in-progress, the fifth Franklin School Friends book, which involves a pet show; my passenger in our carpool was a pet expert who has raised a menagerie of animals - could anything be more perfect than that? At Jean's, I made extensive notes for the whole book, finally figuring out Cody's character arc and various complications of the plot. I wrote all of Chapter One. I wrote much of Chapter Two. Go, me!
Why am I able to be so much more productive at these write-ins than I am at home? Why do I, who can usually write only an hour a day (and who prefers to pace myself that way), write on without ceasing? The only reason can be that I'm surrounded by other writers who are pushing themselves beyond their usual limits, too. Creativity is in the air. There is also something about consciously dedicating an entire day in this way, deliberately marking it out as special.
Stimulating as a write-in is, I don't think I could do it every day. One a week maybe, but not more. But oh, the bliss of writing so much, so quickly, with such zest. Plus making new writer friends. Plus eating all the desserts writers always bring to share. Yesterday, at the home of the creator of Too Purpley, nothing was "too" anything. It was all completely, wonderfully right.
How are we to understand experiences of depression? First of all, it is important to be clear about what the problem consists of. If we don’t know what depression is like, why can’t we just ask someone who’s depressed? And, if we want others to know what our own experience of depression is like, why can’t we just tell them? In fact, most autobiographical accounts of depression state that the experience or some central aspect of it is difficult or even impossible to describe. Depression is not simply a matter of the intensification of certain familiar aspects of experience and the diminution of others, such as feeling more sad and less happy, or more tired and less energetic. First-person accounts of depression indicate that it involves something quite alien to what — for most people — is mundane, everyday experience. The depressed person finds herself in a ‘different world’, an isolated, alien realm, adrift from social reality. There is a radical departure from ‘everyday experience’, and this is not a localized experience that the person has within a pre-given world; it encompasses every aspect of her experience and thought – it is the shape of her world. It is the ‘world’ of depression that people so often struggle to convey.
My approach involves extracting insights from the phenomenological tradition of philosophy and applying them to the task of understanding depression experiences. That tradition includes philosophers such as Edmund Husserl, Edith Stein, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Jean-Paul Sartre, all of whom engage in ‘phenomenological’ reflection – that is, reflection upon the structure of human experience. Why turn to phenomenology? Well, these philosophers all claim that human experience incorporates something that is overlooked by most of those who have tried to describe it — what we might call a sense of ‘belonging to’ or ‘finding oneself in’ a world. This is something so deeply engrained, so fundamental to our lives, that it is generally overlooked. Whenever I reflect upon my experience of a chair, a table, a sound, an itch or a taste, and whenever I contrast my experience with yours, I continue to presuppose a world in which we are both situated, a shared realm in which it is possible to encounter things like chairs and to experience things like itches. This sense of being rooted in an interpersonal world does not involve perceiving a (very big) object or believing that some object exists. It’s something that is already in place when we do that, and therefore something that we seldom reflect upon.
Depression, I suggest, involves a shift in one’s sense of belonging to the world. We can further understand the nature of this once we acknowledge the role that possibilities play in our experience. When I get up in the morning, feel very tired, stop at a café on the way to work, and then look at a cup of coffee sitting in front of me, what do I ‘experience’? On one account, what I ‘see’ is just what is ‘present’, an object of a certain type. But it’s important to recognize that my experience of the cup is also permeated by possibilities of various kinds. I see it as something that I could drink from, as something that is practically accessible and practically significant. Indeed, it appears more than just significant – it is immediately enticing. Rather than, ‘you could drink me’, it says ‘drink me now’. Many aspects of our situation appear significant to us in some way or other, meaning that they harbor the potentiality for change of a kind that matters. We can better appreciate what experiences of depression consist of once we construe them in terms of shifts in the kinds of possibility that the person has access to. Whereas the non-depressed person might find one thing practically significant and another thing not significant, the depressed person might be unable to find anything practically significant. It is not that she doesn’t find anything significant, but that she cannot. And the absence is very much there, part of the experience – something is missing, painfully lacking, and nothing appears quite as it should do. In fact, many first-person accounts of depression explicitly refer to a loss of possibility. Here are some representative responses to a questionnaire study that I conducted with colleagues two years ago, with help from the mental health charity SANE:
“I remember a time when I was very young – 6 or less years old. The world seemed so large and full of possibilities. It seemed brighter and prettier. Now I feel that the world is small. That I could go anywhere and do anything and nothing for me would change.”
“It is impossible to feel that things will ever be different (even though I know I have been depressed before and come out of it). This feeling means I don’t care about anything. I feel like nothing is worth anything.”
“The world holds no possibilities for me when I’m depressed. Every avenue I consider exploring seems shut off.”
“When I’m not depressed, other possibilities exist. Maybe I won’t fail, maybe life isn’t completely pointless, maybe they do care about me, maybe I do have some good qualities. When depressed, these possibilities simply do not exist.”
By emphasizing the experience of possibility, we can understand a great deal. Suppose the depressed person inhabits an experiential world from which the possibility of anything ever changing for the better is absent; nothing offers the potential for positive change and nothing draws the person in, solicits action. This lack permeates every aspect of her experience. Her situation seems strangely timeless, as no future could differ from the present in any consequential way. Action seems difficult, impossible or futile, because there is no sense of any possibility for significant change. Her body feels somehow heavy and inert, as it is not drawn in by situations, solicited to act. She is cut off from other people, who no longer offer the possibility of significant kinds of interpersonal connection. Others might seem somehow elsewhere, far away, given that they are immersed in shared goal-directed activities that no longer appear as intelligible possibilities for the depressed person. We can thus see how the kind of ‘hopelessness’ or ‘despair’ that is central to so many experiences of depression differs in important respects from more mundane feelings that might be described in similar ways. I might lose hope in a certain project, but I retain the capacity for hope — I can still hope for other things. Some depression experiences, in contrast, involve erosion of the capacity for hope. There is no sense that anything of worth could be achieved or that anything good could ever happen — the attitude of hope has ceased to be intelligible; the person cannot hope.
Of course, it should also be conceded that depression is a heterogeneous, complicated, multi-faceted phenomenon; no single approach or perspective will yield a comprehensive understanding. Even so, I think phenomenological research has an important role to play in solving a major part of the puzzle, thus feeding into a broader understanding of depression and informing our response to it.
Heading image: Depression. Public Domain via Pixabay.
Stan Lee Travels Back to 1946 in New Marvel's Agent Carter Photos
Get your first look at Stan Lee in an upcoming episode of 'Marvel's Agent Carter'!
Last week, we told you about Stan Lee's upcoming cameo in the fourth episode of "Marvel's Agent Carter," but now we've got your first behind-the-scenes look at the legendary writer on the set of the series!
1 of 2 Stan Lee & Dominic Cooper (Howard Stark) on set of Marvel's Agent Carter
Stan "The Man" drops by "Marvel's Agent Carter" in the all-new episode premiering Tuesday, January 27 at 9:00 p.m. ET on ABC, but while you wait for his signature cameo catch a new episode this Tuesday!