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Shelf Awareness children’s editor Jennifer M. Brown, Caldecott Medal-winning artist Brian Floca, and Caldecott Medal recipient Jerry Pinkney sat on this year’s judging panel. See the complete list below.
Here’s more from the press release: “Since 1952, the Book Review has convened an independent panel of three judges from the world of children’s literature to select picture books on the basis of artistic merit. Each year, judges choose from among thousands of picture books for what is the only annual award of its kind. Lists of past winners of the Best Illustrated Children’s Book Award can be found on NYTimes.com/Books, along with a slide show of this year’s winners.”
Brent Taylor is a literary agent at TriadaUS Literary Agency, Inc. Prior to joining Uwe Stender's team in 2014, Brent completed a handful of internships in publishing, most recently at The Bent Agency. For more information on what he represents and how to submit to him, visit his Publishers Marketplace page, the TriadaUS website, or find him on Twitter.
1. Welcome, Brent! Tell me, what are some of your favorite authors/books and why do you love them?
I have so many favorite books, so how about I instead tell you about what I've been reading lately and why I liked it.
HOOK'S REVENGE by Heidi Schulz. I loved the classic middle grade voice in this one, but more importantly, the witty and whimsical punch the all-knowing narrator gave to the story. I am eagerly anticipating the second installment in this series.
SERVANTS OF THE STORM by Delilah S. Dawson. I'm a big fan of all of Delilah's books, because they're incredibly written, but this one in particular struck me with its conventional approach to crafting unconventional relationships among the characters. The friendship in this novel is an interesting one, as well as the protagonist's relationship with her mother, her peers, the villain(s)! On top of all that, the southern gothic setting and the horror elements of the story just sucked me right in.
NOT THAT KIND OF GIRL by Lena Dunham. It's Lena Dunham! Besides that, I'm the biggest sucker for coming-of-age themes and summer-before-college stories, and Lena wove some poignant stories along those lines in this book.
2. Those are some great choices. Let's talk about books-yet-to-be. What is on your wish list?
I represent all across the board (for more info, see my Publishers Marketplace page), but I'm dying for a great middle grade fantasy and young adult contemporary.
3. Are you an editorial agent?
I don't know an agent in this day and age that doesn't work with their authors in some sort of editorial capacity, big or small, before sending the work(s) out. There are of course exceptions to this, and it's dependent on many factors.
If the client is a debut novelist, I most often do at least one round of semi-major revisions and perhaps a few rounds of line edits. Some projects come across your desk and need only very light work, though, so I do believe that it's more important to remain flexible, and willing to tailor your job to the individual needs of the client.
Am I an "editorial" agent? Sometimes. Strategic and instinctive agent? Always.
Stress seems to be everywhere we turn. Much of the daily news is stressful, whether it pertains to the recent Ebola outbreak in western Africa (and its subsequent entry into the United States), beheadings by the radical Islamic group called ISIS, or the economic doldrums that continue to plague much of the developed world. Moreover, we all experience frequent stress in our daily lives. Stress can come from your job, your family, a romantic relationship, personal attacks by way of social media, or, if you’re a student, your school performance. Counselors, psychotherapists, even self-help books and other materials may help us cope with stress, but these sources don’t usually give us very much information about what is actually happening to our brain and our body when we’re stressed.
If we think about it for a moment, it becomes clear that stress is not a recent phenomenon brought about by the features of contemporary western societies. Our hominid ancestors who evolved on the African savanna were surely stressed in the course of meeting their basic biological needs of finding food and water, acquiring shelter, and keeping safe from predators. Moreover, the principal brain and endocrine (i.e. hormonal) systems that underlie the cognitive, behavioral, and physiological responses to stress are found throughout the animal kingdom, indicating that these systems arose much earlier in evolutionary history than the appearance of the first hominids. So just what are these systems and how do they work?
A lot of research has focused on the hormonal systems that are turned on during stress. These responses are easier to access than brain responses, since researchers usually need only to obtain samples of the person’s blood, saliva, or urine to determine whether her endocrine system is showing a normal stress response or perhaps is functioning abnormally due to the effects of previous stress exposure. There are two parts to the endocrine stress response, both involving the adrenal glands. The inner part of the adrenal gland, called the adrenal medulla, rapidly secretes the hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine (also called adrenalin and noradrenalin) in response to a stressor. These hormones help prepare the person for rapid physical action by elevating heart rate and blood pressure, mobilizing sugar from the liver for instant energy, and increasing blood flow to the skeletal muscles. The outer part of the adrenal gland, called the adrenal cortex, is also activated by stressors but a bit more slowly. This part of the gland secretes glucocorticoids such as cortisol, which not only works in conjunction with epinephrine and norepinephrine but also affects inflammation, immune function, and brain activity.
For many years, researchers focused on how stress, especially chronic stress, can damage the adult brain and body. More recently, however, it has become clear that stress may be particularly destructive during development. We now know, for example, that repeated childhood maltreatment and abuse increase the child’s vulnerability to a later onset of clinical depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. But stress can exert deleterious effects even earlier in development, namely during the prenatal period. Although the fetal adrenal glands begin to function before birth, it seems likely that stress is transmitted to the fetus mainly through maternal hormones such as cortisol. The placenta breaks down much of the mother’s cortisol before it reaches the fetus, but some of the hormone manages to get through. One example that shows how prenatal stress can adversely affect offspring development stems from a terrible ice storm that hit Québec Province in Canada in January of 1998. Three million people lost electrical power for up to 40 days, resulting in significant privation. David Laplante and colleagues at Douglas Hospital of McGill University later studied 89 five-and-a-half-year-old children whose mothers had been pregnant with them during the power outage. Children whose mothers endured the greatest hardship as a result of the storm scored noticeably lower in verbal IQ scores and in a vocabulary test than children whose mother experienced low or moderate hardship.
While natural disasters like the Québec ice storm afford researchers the opportunity to investigate some of the deleterious effects of prenatal stress exposure, there are many limitations of such studies because the stress cannot be controlled experimentally and there are additional confounding variables such as differing postnatal experiences among the participants. To overcome some of these limitations and additionally permit a more detailed examination of behavioral, endocrine, and brain function than normally available with human participants, models of stress (including prenatal stress) have been developed for studying nonhuman primates such as rhesus monkeys. Offspring of rhesus monkeys exposed during mid-to-late pregnancy either to repeated mild stress or to pharmacological stimulation of cortisol release show behavioral and brain abnormalities that are still present at least several years later.
The implication of both the human and primate research is clear. We must pay closer attention to the well-being of pregnant women in order to minimize whatever life stresses can be controlled. By so doing, we can help newborn children begin life with better prospects for their future mental and physical health.
One of my favorite graphic novels this year was the awfully ambitious (and awfully good) The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents . . . MacBeth. Any book that uses that much ketchup in its plotting has my instant love. So when the folks at First Second asked if I wanted to present the cover reveal for the next book in the Stratford Zoo series, you can bet I said yep.
Good readers will remember which play was alluded to on the last page of the last book. And here she is!
Author Ian Lendler puts it this way:
“When I travel to schools and ask if anyone has heard of Shakespeare, about half the students will raise their hands. They sort of vaguely know that he’s famous for some reason. But when I ask if anyone has heard of Romeo and Juliet, without fail, every hand in the room is raised. Everyone knows this story.
It has worked its way so deeply into world culture (not just Western culture, mind you), that it is easily the most adapted play in Shakespeare’s canon. Off the top of my head, the Romeo and Juliet story has been set in the world of Miami mafias, kung-fu street cops, a military school, ninjas, immigrants in the Bronx, L.A. high schools, alley cats, and garden gnomes. And why?
Because if you can’t root for two crazy kids in the throes of crazy love then your heart is made of stone. I fully confess that while I was writing this book, I found myself rooting for this cocky rooster and plucky bear to beat the odds. Unfortunately, Shakespeare had different plans for them.”
Artist Zack Giallongo concurs:
“I think what I love most about this book is the physical contrast between Romeo and Juliet. One is a small, wiry, brightly-colored bird. The other is a large, solid, earth-tone mammal. And yet, both are equally appealing, not only to one another, but to the readers. It’s clear, though, that despite the physical disparity, both have the same desires, the same wants, and the same problems. Both have parents that are louts, both have aggressive (and pompous) agents in the form of Tibbs and Mercutio, and both feel misunderstood. And isn’t that what we all feel from time to time? I hope that I got these feelings that Ian wrote into the book across with my drawings, and that we can understand one another, even if we’re a bear and a rooster.”
Looking forward to it, guys! Keep up the good work. Fingers crossed you do Tempest next. I’d love to see the animal that gets to play Caliban.
1. Congratulations on the success of ‘My Husband’s Other Women’. Can you tell us a little about yourself and your journey as a writer?
Thank you for showing interest in “My Husband’s Other Women.” It is appreciated.
I was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. I took a short hiatus from Dallas to attend college. Upon completion of my undergraduate degree, I returned to Dallas. I have Master of Arts Degree in counseling and a PhD in Education. I am a late starter to the writing profession. I have always enjoyed fiction and creating stories but only recently decided to put it down on paper. Once I completed my first novel, I sent the manuscript out to some of the larger publishing companies. Needless to say, I did not hear back from any. I was extremely grateful when I was introduced to Royalty Publishing House. The company owners, Niyah Moore and Porscha Sterling, were excited about the manuscript. Together we put in the work to bring this debut novel to lovers of women’s fiction.
2. Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
I do not have a special time to write. When idea’s spring into my brain I make notes. I could be riding in the car or standing in line at the grocery store. In the past, I would make outlines of what I wanted to happen, but I stopped because I’d never stick to the outline. You could say that I let my characters develop themselves as I am writing. It gives them more of an authentic feel as opposed to sticking to a premade script.
3. Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
The most challenging part of writing for me is being concerned with how the editor views my knowledge of structure in preparing the manuscript. I know that may be weird, but the other parts of writing come very easy for me. I believe that my love of writing causes little stress throughout the process.
4. Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Absolutely! I learned that I love happy endings. I also love developing characters. It is one of the best things in the world to get to decide the outcome of what’s happening.
5. Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?
My advice for other authors is to first entertain yourself with your writing. If you by chance entertain others in the process, well that’s just icing on the cake!
Vikram Narayan is the founder of BookBuzzr Book Marketing Technologies. Vikram is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University. Prior to starting BookBuzzr, Vikram founded another software company that has been successfully serving clients from all over the world since 2001. When he is not dreaming up ways to help authors accelerate their earnings and book sales, Vikram spends his time playing the guitar, practicing Aikido and spending time with his family._________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Where kissing is concerned, there is an entire categorization of this most human of impulses that necessitates taking into account setting, relationship health and the emotional context in which the kiss occurs. A relationship’s condition might be predicted and its trajectory timeline plotted by observing and understanding how the couple kiss. For instance, viewed through the lens of a couple’s dynamic, a peck on the cheek can convey cold, hard rejection or simply signify that a loving couple are pressed for time.
A kiss communicates a myriad of meanings, its reception and perception can alter dramatically depending on the couple’s state of mind. A wife suffering from depression may interpret her husband’s kiss entirely differently should her symptoms be alleviated. Similarly, a jealous, insecure lover may receive his girlfriend’s kiss of greeting utterly at odds to how she intends it to be perceived.
So if the mind can translate the meaning of a kiss to fit with its reading of the world, what can a kiss between a couple tell us? Does this intimate act mark out territory and ownership, a hands-off-he’s-mine nod to those around? Perhaps an unspoken negotiation of power between a couple that covers a whole range of feelings and intentions; how does a kiss-and-make-up kiss differ from a flirtatious kiss or an apologetic one? What of a furtive kiss; an adulterous kiss; a hungry kiss; a brutal kiss? How does a first kiss distinguish itself from a final kiss? When the husband complains to his wife that after 15 years of marriage, “we don’t kiss like we used to”, is he yearning for the adolescent ‘snog’ of his youth?
Engulfed by techno culture, where every text message ends with a ‘X’, couples must carve out space in their busy schedules to merely glimpse one another over the edge of their laptops. There isn’t psychic space for such an old-fashioned concept as a simple kiss. In a time-impoverished, stress-burdened world, we need our kisses to communicate more. Kisses should be able to multi-task. It would be an extravagance in the 21st-century for a kiss not to mean anything.
And there’s the cultural context of kissing to consider. Do you go French, Latin or Eskimo? Add to this each family’s own customs, classifications and codes around how to kiss. For a couple, these differences necessitate accepting the way that your parents embraced may strike your new partner as odd, even perverse. For the northern lass whose family offer to ‘brew up’ instead of a warm embrace, the European preamble of two or three kisses at the breakfast table between her southern softie of a husband and his family, can seem baffling.
The context of a kiss between a couple correlates to the store of positive feeling they have between them; the amount of love in the bank of their relationship. Take 1: a kiss on the way out in the morning can be a reminder of the intimacy that has just been. Take 2: in an acrimonious coupling, this same gesture perhaps signposts a dash for freedom, a “thank God I don’t have to see you for 11 hours”. The kiss on the way back in through the front door can be a chance to reconnect after a day spent operating in different spheres or, less benignly, to assuage and disguise feelings of guilt at not wanting to be back at all.
While on the subject of lip-to-lip contact, the place where a kiss lands expresses meaning. The peck on the forehead may herald a relationship where one partner distances themselves as a parental figure. A forensic ritualized pattern of kisses destined for the cheeks carries a different message to the gentle nip on the earlobe. Lips, cheek, neck, it seems all receptors convey significance to both kisser and ‘kissee’ and could indicate relationship dynamics such as a conservative-rebellious pairing or a babes-in-the-wood coupling.
Like Emperor Tiberius, who banned kissing because he thought it helped spread fungal disease, Bert Bacarach asks, ‘What do you get when you kiss a guy? You get enough germs to catch pneumonia…’ Conceivably the nature of kissing and the unhygienic potential it carries is the ultimate symbol of trust between two lovers and raises the question of whether kissing is a prelude or an end in itself, ergo the long-suffering wife who doesn’t like kissing anymore “because I know what it’ll lead to…”
The twenty-first century has witnessed the proliferation of orthodontistry with its penchant for full mental braces. Modern mouths are habitually adorned with lip and tongue piercings as fetish wear or armour. Is this straying away from what a kiss means or a consideration of how modern mores can begin to create a new language around this oldest of greetings? There is an entire generation maturing whose first kiss was accompanied by the clashing of metal, casting a distinct shadow over their ideas around later couple intimacy.
Throughout history, from Judas to Marilyn Monroe, a kiss has communicated submission, domination, status, sexual desire, affection, friendship, betrayal, sealed a pact of peace or the giving of life. There is public kissing and private kissing. Kissing signposts good or bad manners. It is both a conscious and unconscious coded communication and can betray the instigator’s character; from the inhibited introvert to the narcissistic exhibitionist. The 16th-century theologian Erasmus described kissing as ‘a most attractive custom’. Rodin immortalized doomed, illicit lovers in his marble sculpture, and Chekhov wrote of the transformative power of a mistaken kiss. The history and meaning of the kiss evolves and shifts and yet remains steadfastly the same: a distinctly human, intimate and complex gesture, instantly recognizable despite its infinite variety of uses. I’ve a feeling Sam’s ‘You must remember this, a kiss is just a kiss’ may never sound quite the same again.
Headline image credit: Conquered with a kiss, by .craig. CC-BY-NC-2.0 via Flickr.
What in this galaxy is waterphone? You’ve might have not seen one, but if you’ve watched a horror or science fiction movie, chances are you’ve heard the eerie sounds of the waterphone. With Halloween around the corner and a spooky soundtrack required, I toured through Grove Music Online to learn more about the monolithic, acoustic instrument.
1. The waterphone was invented in 1967 and patented in 1975 by Richard A. Waters. It was manufactured individually to order by him (formerly under the company name Multi-Media in Sebastopol, California) so each was unique.
2. The Standard model is a stainless steel bowl resonator containing water. The dome-shaped top opens into a vertical unstopped, cylindrical tube that serves as a handle. Around the edge of the resonator are attached between 25 and 55 nearly vertical bronze rods, which (depending on the model) are tuned in equal or unequal 12-note or microtonal systems.
3. Various sizes have been produced; the earliest (‘Standard’) had a resonator 17.8 cm in diameter. Current models (‘Whaler’, ‘Bass’, and ‘MegaBass’) are constructed from flat, stainless steel pans.
4. The rods can be struck with sticks or Superball mallets or rubbed by a bow or the hands.
5. The movement of water in the resonator produces timbre changes and glissandi.
6. It has been played in a wide variety of musics, including rock and jazz, and featured in the compositions of Tan Dun and Sofia Gubaidulina.
7. It is an important element in the Gravity Adjusters Expansion Band founded by Waters in 1967.
8. It has been featured in many horror and science fiction film and television soundtracks, such as Poltergeist and The Matrix.
Knock, knock! What would you do if you found a box at your door? It’s not just any box though, it’s a spooky box! This small package could be filled with anything. There could be old bones or slithery snakes. When reading this book you will be presented with multiple items that could be contained in this mysterious black box. The narrator invites participation by eventually asking readers to open the box by lifting a page flap to discover what’s hiding inside.
This engaging picture book is perfect for Halloween celebrations since all the illustrations consist of only three colors: black, white, and a very light shade of orange. The suggestions for what could be in the box also reflect a Halloween theme with items like spiders and candy. This would be a wonderful story to spark creativity with either a large group or one-on-one. Children with wild imaginations will greatly enjoy this tale. So what do you think is hiding in the spooky box?
Have you ever written a scary story? In honor of the Halloween season, we are interviewing horror writers to learn about the craft of scaring readers.
Throughout his career, cartoonist Andi Watson has written and illustrated dozens of comics and graphic novels. Right now, Watson is working on a spooky children’s story called Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula. Check out the highlights from our interview below…
Q: How did you land your first book deal? A: Because I’m a cartoonist, my first opportunity of being published came through physically mailing my mini-comics to publishers. Six months after sending them out a company called Slave Labor Graphics agreed to publish me. This was a good two decades ago when publishers would look at unsolicited submissions without needing to sign legal disclaimers. Having said that, after experiencing something of the book publishing world, it’s still an awful lot easier to make contact with graphic novel publishers than it is in the traditional prose world. Putting work online and attending cons is a good way to make contacts. As in all areas of work, it helps to know people.
Before they were evicted from their homes and forcibly removed from their communities by the Israeli government in 2005, Jewish settlers in the Gaza Strip warned that their removal would only make things worse. They warned that the front line of violence between Israelis and Palestinians would move closer to those Israelis who lived inside the Green Line. They claimed their presence provided a buffer. They said God promised this Land to the Jewish people and that they should not abandon it. They said Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip, unlike many other places inside Israel, did not involve the destruction of Palestinian communities or the displacement of Palestinians. Israeli Jews living in Gaza predicted that life would become more dangerous for other Israelis if the government pulled out.
Indeed, that is exactly what has happened. In the southern part of Israel, previously quiet communities have found themselves at the forefront of violent conflict since the 2005 disengagement when Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza, removing its soldiers and citizens. Palestinian attacks on Israeli citizens, once aimed at the settlements in Gaza, have since turned to the communities inside the internationally recognized borders of Israel. Now, missiles are fired from Gaza into the southern towns of the Israeli periphery. While it might seem strange, this has also had some benefits for those communities. In support of those who live on the front lines, the government has reduced taxes in those towns. The train ride from some peripheral areas is now provided free of charge. People began purchasing inexpensive real estate and were able to easily commute to their jobs in center of the country. Towns like Sederot became targets of missile fire, but also began to prosper in ways they had not before. More recently, Palestinian missile fire has increased in number and in range, disrupting life for Israelis throughout the country.
The settlers might not have made public predictions about the lives of Palestinians in Gaza, but surely their situation has become markedly worse since the 2005 disengagement. So far, there have been three major military campaigns and intermittent exchanges of fire resulting in the deaths of thousands of Palestinians. The number of casualties and deaths, and the destruction of property has only increased for Gazans since the Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian territory. This might seem strange, but it was probably entirely predictable.
Such might have been the prediction of James Ron in Frontiers and Ghettos: State Violence in Serbia and Israel, for example, who compares state violence in Israel and Serbia. When a minority is contained within a nation-state, he explains, they may be subject to extensive policing, as has been the case for Palestinians in the West Bank, which he describes as similar to a “ghetto”, or what we might think of as a reservation, or a camp. The ghetto, he says, implies subordination and incorporation, and ghettos are policed but not destroyed.
But state violence increases when those considered outsiders or enemies of the nation are separated and on the “frontier” of the state. In the American West, for example, when the frontier was open and indigenous populations were unincorporated into the United States, they were targeted for dispossession and massacre. And, he explains, when Western powers recognized Bosnian independence in 1992, that helped transform Bosnia into a frontier, setting the stage for ethnic cleansing.
We might ask ourselves if the disengagement set up Gaza as such a frontier. If so, we might have anticipated the extreme violence that has since ensued. Then we are also left to wonder if the settlers were right. What if dismantling Jewish settlements is more dangerous for Palestinians than for Israelis?
Many of those who support the rights of Palestinians have been calling for an end to Israeli settlement and for dismantling existing settlements in Israeli Occupied Territories, in preparation for the establishment of two states for two peoples, side by side.
But what is gained if the ethno-national foundation of the nation-state necessarily leads to containment or removal of those who are not considered members of the nation? This was Hannah Arendt’s warning about the danger inherent in the nation-state formation that makes life precarious for those who are not considered part of the national group that has sovereignty. As Judith Butler so eloquently explains in Who Sings the Nation-State?: “The category of the stateless is reproduced not simply by the nation-state but by a certain operation of power that seeks to forcibly align nation with state, one that takes the hyphen, as it were, as a chain.”
If the danger lies in that hyphen as chain, then removing Jewish settlers, like demolishing Palestinian homes, is also part of a larger process of separation, a power that seeks to forcibly align a people with a territory. That separation might seem liberating; a stage on the way to independence. But partition does not necessarily lead to peace. In the case of Gaza, removing Israeli citizens might just have made it possible for increased violence. If it is true that war is only politics by other means, or politics only war, then we have to think further. The political terrain of Israel has changed. If, prior to the 2005 disengagement, there was a vibrant Left Wing opposed to settlement in the Occupied Territories, those voices have faded.
The political terrain has changed, but the foundations of the seemingly intractable conflict in Israel/Palestine have not. Those foundations lie in the normative episteme of nations and states that form the basis for international relations and liberal peacemaking. If Israel/Palestine is a struggle between two national groups for one piece of territory, then fighting for that hyphen as chain will continue and the violence, death and destruction will only increase. As evidenced in Patrick Wolfe’s Settler Colonialism and the Transformation of Anthropology: The Politics and Poetics of an Ethnographic Event. Writing Past Colonialism, if Israel/Palestine is a settler colonial polity, then the forces of separation required for two states should be understood as part of a foundational structure that requires elimination of the natives (Wolfe 1999). It matters little if one believes that Jews have a right to sovereignty in their homeland or if one believes the Palestinian struggle for liberation is justified. If liberation relies on the ethnic purification of territory there can be no winners.
The starting gun is set to go off for the race to 50,000 words. At an average of 1,667 words a day, NaNoWriMo participants don’t have time to waste if they’re to reach the finish line. Yet many writers do just that—waste time, and plenty of it. Distraction derails so many NaNoWriMo writers that blogging about their failure has turned into an act of mass distraction—just another activity that writers would rather do than actually write their novels.
Of course, distraction has always been the curse of the writer. The fear of filling the empty space with words that matter is enough to put even the most talented off their food. Even disciplinarian Ernest Hemingway defrosted the freezer to delay the inevitable pain of putting pen to paper. But we should especially pity contemporary writers because the 21st century has put distraction everywhere they lay their keyboards.
Our study of 1,500 writers across the U.S.—conducted anonymously to keep people honest—backs this up. Just about anything can get in the way of writing, from the Internet to pets to DVD box sets and even ice cream in November! While the need to distract may be caused by putting off the pain of creating quality work, there comes a point when the excuses have to end and the writing must begin. To begin with the best odds of writing 50,000 of your own words by November 30th, consider these survey results and tips:
Step away from the browser.
Our survey found that 52% of writers claimed to have not finished their masterpieces because they spent too much time browsing the Internet. Watching videos of parkour gone wrong or reading the daily headlines is preferable to creating beautiful prose … at least in the short term. Consider buying or renting an old-fashioned typewriter for a month and nailing shut the office door with the computer and Internet router on the other side. Alternatively, disconnect the internet with software, such as Stop Procrastinating, to write just like Hemingway. But make sure you defrost the freezer first.
Don’t feed the animals! Or they’ll distract you. 7% of respondents claimed pets posed a risk to undermining their writing, with cats jumping on laps being the chief culprits. Consider hiring a petsitter for part of the month if your cat is especially fond of sitting on your keyboard.
Food, glorious food. 17% of writers surveyed said they’d eaten their word-count reward before they’d reached their day’s writing goal “at least once” during the month. That’s fine a time or two, but the habit of rewarding yourself for a goal you haven’t yet met can quickly spiral into marathon snacking sessions and very little writing. If you’re going to reward yourself with treats, here are some best practices for ensuring you stick to the goal: Put your treat into a container locked with a timer so you can’t access until you’ve worked your time. Enlist a friend or family member to withhold your goodies until you’ve completed the day’s work. Or consider that the real reward is reaching your daily writing goal—nothing more, nothing less will really satisfy you.
Honey, I’m home! Partners, wives and husbands distracted 14% of respondents from laying down the lines. Netflix binges and leisurely cups of coffee were suggested as “creativity breaks”—a fancier term for “distractions.” If this sounds like something your significant other would do, there are solutions: Lock the door. Be clear about your goals. Set boundaries. And if those things fail, put a guard dog outside your writing room or have your partner sign a contract stating that he won’t disturb you while you’re writing—with a hefty fine to be paid if the contract is broken. Be creative about the fine; it doesn’t have to be financial. A massage every day for life would do nicely.
Work, party, work, party, work party … 22% of writers said they couldn’t summon up the creative muse because they were too tired from work or socializing. Try abstaining from partying for the month of November when possible (yes, we know it’s Thanksgiving) and look forward to celebrating with the mother of all parties on December 1st. If you’re tired from work, trying doing a half hour of exercise: it clears the mind and gives you energy to push through. Remember, it’s only for 30 days and it might just be worth it. You’re worth it!
Will Little is a writer and the creator of Stop Procrastinating, the app made by writers for writers to help beat procrastination. He also manages to write when his cat Moy isn’t sitting on his keyboard. Follow Will on Twitter at @stopprocras.
Editor’s Note: The following content is provided to Writer’s Digest by a writing community partner. This content is sponsored by American Writers & Artists Inc. www.awaionline.com.
By Rebecca Matter
I want to cover something very important this week, so I need you to do me a favor …
Spend a few minutes today visualizing what a profitable writing career means to you.
To me, and to most of the writers I know, it means having a writing business that meets your financial goals while working reasonable hours … having solid skills that clients value … and having plenty of clients who are willing to pay you very well for those skills. Or instead of writing for clients, it means selling your own written products to readers happy to pay you large sums of money.
It doesn’t matter which writing opportunity you choose, whether it’s copywriting, web writing, resume writing, travel writing, grant writing, or any of the other opportunities I shared last month when I gave you the 7 best-paying projects for writers in 2015 … whatever. They all hold tremendous value for freelance writers.
But to become a freelance writer in the first place, you have to know what you want your writing life to look like.
Once you have that down, you can move on to the second step: Choosing a path.
The goal here is to get clear on why you want the writer’s life so you can pick the perfect writing opportunity for you. So today, I’m going to share my simple but effective formula for helping you choose the best path for your writing career, based on your goals, so you can get launched as quickly as possible.
How will a Writing Career Change Your Life?
To get started, think about what attracts you most to the idea of making money as a freelance writer. After all, people come to this profession from a variety of backgrounds and for a ton of different reasons. And no single reason is better than any others.
Now, most people are attracted to the idea of being a well-paid freelance writer for the freedom of it all. Because yes, you get to be your own boss, you can work when and where you please, you set your own hours, and you pick your own projects.
But let’s take it one step farther. I want you to focus on the specifics of your individual situation. Think about what a successful writing career could do for you. Would it allow you to …
Quit your day job?
Supplement your current income?
Add to your retirement income?
Travel the world?
Greatly impact a charity near and dear to your heart?
You also need to think about your timeline. For example, do you want to reach this goal as soon as possible, or are you flexible about it? Do you have a drop-dead deadline, maybe because you’ve already announced when you’re quitting your job? Or do you have a specific income goal to meet by a certain date?
It’s important to clarify what you want your writing career to do for you. Once you have your why figured out, it’s a lot easier to choose the path that’s most appropriate for your needs.
6 Proven Writing Paths for Writers
The next step is to consider all the different writing opportunities. Factor in your timeline and personal needs to determine which one is ideal for you.
For example, let’s say you’re looking to quit your day job as soon as possible …
Start by calculating how much money you’ll need in order to make that happen. If your number is high – such as six-figures – then you need to choose a writing opportunity that’s known to bring about higher-than-average incomes. You’ll also want something you can get into quickly.
In this case, I’d recommend copywriting or writing for the web. Grant writing is also a great option, and so is writing copy for the business-to-business market – especially if you want to get your writing career up-and-running as soon as possible.
Or, let’s say you just want to supplement your current salary or add to your retirement income …
A passive income stream might be the best way to go. If that’s the case, look into writing your own e-books or developing a Money Making Website.
If you’re not familiar, a Money Making Website is simply an information website that covers a topic you enjoy and is designed to attract web visitors. Once those visitors come to your site, you use a variety of methods to pull in passive revenue that doesn’t require you to sell anything and doesn’t demand regular monitoring … meaning once it’s set up, you’re free to spend your days as you please while doing very little website maintenance.
Maybe your goal for becoming a paid writer is just to have a little extra income on the side whenever needed, but with no regular commitment …
This could also be because your schedule is unpredictable, so you’d prefer shorter, quicker projects.
That’s where I’d recommend an easy business you can launch without having to spend too much time developing your skills, like resume writing or internet research. Both options are also things you can work on when you have the time or take an indefinite break from when needed.
Perhaps you enjoy the idea of the writer’s life, but you’re not interested in writing long-form copy …
If this sounds like you, social media marketing or video sales letters might be perfect for you. Both are writing opportunities that allow you to be creative, but you can do it with short posts and presentations – all of which pay quite well.
Another possibility is that you’d like to travel the world but need the means to do it …
In this case, travel writing is perfect for you. It’s not necessarily a writing opportunity that’ll make you rich, but it’s a proven way to score free travel deals. Often times, those free travel perks are at high-class resorts in dream-worthy destinations.
Or, it’s possible you just love writing and think it’d be great to make a little money on the side doing something you enjoy.
Consider getting into information-publishing. That way, you can write what you want when you want, whether its fiction, non-fiction, or informational publications, and you’ll be able to publish and market your work online.
All of these paths are proven writing opportunities that give you full freedom over your schedule and allow you to live life on your own terms.
If you’d like to explore more ways to make a living as a writer, as well as get a little more information on some of the opportunities I shared today, check out my free report “It’s True! You Can Make a Good Living as a Writer!” where I cover nine of the best opportunities in more detail.
And then before next week, give it some thought, choose your first path, and then join me next week to tackle the big question, “now what?”
I’ll give you some practical advice to help you start moving forward.
P.S. If you have any questions for me, or have a topic you’d like me to cover in a future issue, I invite you to contact me on Facebook, through AWAI or via my website, rebeccamatter.com.
2014 was a busy year—I released my first middle grade book, THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY, and my third young adult, FERAL. Both books actually started out in younger age categories: the first draft of THE JUNCTION was a picture book, and the first draft of FERAL was an MG. Having been through the process of changing manuscripts’ age categories, I’ve learned a few tricks for better understanding, at an early drafting stage, which category is right for a juvenile WIP:
1. Don’t forget your overarching concept. My MG, THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY, is about a young girl who becomes a folk artist; with her grandfather’s help, they turn their home into a folk art environment. My initial idea was to write a picture book—the illustrations, I imagined, would grow increasingly wilder as the property became covered in sculptures and whirligigs. Consistently, though, early editorial response was that the concept of folk art was just too advanced for the picture book readership—teaching me not to get so caught up in ideas external to the text that I lose sight of the main concept that the book is built around.
GIVEAWAY: Holly is excited to give away a free copy of either one of her two most recent novels to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Please note that comments may take a little while to appear; this is normal).
Column by Holly Schindler, author of the critically acclaimed A BLUE SO DARK (Booklist starred review, ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year silver medal recipient, IPPY Awards gold medal recipient) as well as PLAYING HURT (both YAs). Her debut MG, THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY, released in 2014, was called by Kirkus Reviews as “…a heartwarming and uplifting story…[that] shines…with vibrant themes of community, self-empowerment and artistic vision delivered with a satisfying verve.” FERAL is Schindler’s third YA and first psychological thriller. Publishers Weekly gave FERAL a starred review, stating, “Opening with back-to-back scenes of exquisitely imagined yet very real horror, Schindler’s third YA novel hearkens to the uncompromising demands of her debut, A BLUE SO DARK…This time, the focus is on women’s voices and the consequences they suffer for speaking…This is a story about reclaiming and healing, a process that is scary, imperfect, and carries no guarantees.” Find Holly online with her blog, on Twitter, or on Facebook.
2. Listen to your character’s voice. Auggie, the protagonist of JUNCTION, speaks in frequent simile and metaphor—her poetic worldview is the reason she’s able to become an artist using found items or “junk.” (Metaphors compare two dissimilar objects—which is much like the process of Auggie seeing a potential flower in a broken toaster or wind chimes in a rusted old car.) Many of the same poetic phrases from the original picture book are included in the final MG version—a sure sign that the book should have been MG all along.
3. Try your hand at description.FERAL was originally drafted as an MG mystery. During the revision process, the description began to take on a much darker tone—so much so, I began to suspect the book needed to be a YA.
I know now that rather than working all the way through a draft, focusing primarily on plot development, it’s best to take some time to write several passages of solid description. What kind of details do you find yourself gravitating toward? Would you call your passages gritty or sweet? Simple or complicated? This will give you a better idea of whether your book is trending younger (MG) or older (YA).
4. Examine your character’s life experiences. We aren’t the same people at seventeen that we are at thirteen. In fact, when I got the inkling that FERAL needed to be a YA, I realized that my original protagonist would no longer work. I had to brainstorm a new, older main character. When I explored this new protagonist’s backstory, I discovered that she’d endured a brutal beating. That was when I knew that my theme (or overarching concept) would actually be recovering from violence—and the genre would be psychological thriller. All of this only confirmed my suspicion that the book needed to be YA.
Your own main character can help you early on, as well—long before the revision process. Brainstorm your character’s likes and dislikes, his or her attitudes. Of importance here is not only the attitudes themselves, but the reason(s) why your character has these views or beliefs. What experiences has this character had? And, of equal importance in juvenile lit, what has your character not yet done? This will give you a glimpse into how old your protagonist is (and, as a result, what age category your book should be).
I still believe in the power of successive rewrites; going over a book multiple times allows an author to include subplots and to tie together themes, making a book richer and stronger. But bumping a draft up (or down) to a new age category can result in a complete overhaul—it’s far better to nail the age category right from the start.
GIVEAWAY: Holly is excited to give away a free copy of either one of her two most recent novels to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Please note that comments may take a little while to appear; this is normal).
Anti-shifter sentiment is at an all-time high when Kayla’s transformation to werecat is captured on video and uploaded for the world to see. Suddenly she becomes a symbol of the werebeast threat and—along with fellow cat Yoshi, Lion-Possum Clyde, and human Aimee—a hunted fugitive. Meanwhile, a self-proclaimed weresnake has kidnapped the governor of Texas and hit the airwaves with a message of war. In retaliation, werepeople are targeted by law enforcement, threatened with a shift-suppressing vaccine, terrorized by corporate conspiracy, and enslaved by a top-secret, intelligent Cryptid species. Can Clyde rally his inner lion king to lead his friends—new and old—into battle against ruthless, media-savvy foes? A rousing blend of suspense, paranormal romance, humor, and high action. The explosive finale to the Feral series by New York Times best-selling author Cynthia Leitich Smith.
The idea of thousands and thousands of writers writing together as one beginning in just a couple of days is sublime.
Many of you will use the support of other writers to keep you writing. Others will take daily walks. Some will plot as you write. Others have detailed Plot Planners at the ready as you write, every word a joy. I give thanks for journey we travel together.
11/1 - 11/7 -- Write the Beginning 1/4 of your story 11/7 -- Write the End of the Beginning scene 11/8 -- 11/14 Write the 1st 1/2 of the Middle 11/14 -- Write the Recommitment scene 11/15 -- 11/21 Write the 2nd 1/2 of the Middle 11/21 -- Write the Crisis 11/22 -- 11/28 Write the End 1/4 11/27 -- Write the Climax 11/28 -- Write the Resolution 11/29 -- 11/30 Catch-up
(NOTE: For now, don't worry about your plot or if you're starting in the right place or any of the details. We'll get to that in December. For now, give yourself permission to completely give yourself to writing your story.)
Naveen is the Customer Support Executive and Social Media Manager at BookBuzzr. When he is not working or playing gta, he is working on finishing his graduation. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Email.
The Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown will present this year’s Penguin Annual Lecture. His talk will focus on “codes, science, and religion.”
Brown (pictured, via) will give his speech for both the Penguin Random House and Penguin Random House India teams. The Times of India reports that “this is the first time that the lecture is being organised in two cities.”
Brown will visit New York City on November 10th and Mumbai on November 12th. According to The Hindu: “The seven previous lectures have been delivered by journalist and writer Thomas Friedman in 2007, diplomat and writer Chris Patten in 2008, Nobel Prize—winning economist Amartya Sen in 2009, historian Ramachandra Guha in 2010, Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama in 2011, former President A P J Abdul Kalam in 2012 and megastar Amitabh Bachchan last year.”
Just like Will Ferrell’s character in “Stranger Than Fiction,” you might find “yourself”—or your namesake, your avatar—spinning through a tale told by Ian McEwan, Margaret Atwood, Julian Barnes, Ken Follett, Hanif Kureishi, Will Self, Alan Hollinghurst, Zadie Smith, Tracy Chevalier, Joanna Trollope, or another of the 17 authors participating in a fundraising event for the UK medical charity Freedom From Torture.
In this Literary Immortality Auction, participating authors have donated a character in a forthcoming work that will be named after auction winners.
Tracy Chevalier, author of the international bestseller The Girl with the Pearl Earring, said:
“I am holding open a place in my new novel for Mrs. (ideally a Mrs.) [your surname], a tough-talking landlady of a boarding house in 1850s Gold Rush-era San Francisco. The first thing she says to the hero is ‘No sick on my stairs. You vomit on my floors, you’re out.’ Is your name up to that?”
According the New York Times, Margaret Atwood is “offering the possibility of appearing either in the novel she is currently writing or in her retelling of Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest,’ to be published as a Vintage Books series in 2016.”
Bestselling author Ian McEwan (Atonement) said:
“Forget the promises of the world’s religions. This auction offers the genuine opportunity of an afterlife. More importantly, bidding in the Freedom from Torture auction will help support a crucial and noble cause. The rehabilitation of torture survivors cannot be accomplished without expertise, compassion, time—and your money.”
Freedom from Torture notes on its site: “Seekers of a literary afterlife can place their bids online from 6pm this evening,” so get going.
The Fault in Our Stars author John Green has become an advocate for the “We Need Diverse Books” organization. In the video embedded above, John Green talks about why he feels that diversity children’s and young adult stories are necessary.
Green credits two books written by African-American authors, Zora Neal Hurston’sTheir Eyes Were Watching God and Toni Morrison’sSong of Solomon, for influencing him to appreciate literature. What do you think?
This series is called “Successful Queries” and I’m posting actual query letter examples that succeeded in getting writers signed with agents. In addition to posting these query letter samples, we will also get to hear thoughts from the writer’s literary agent as to why the letter worked.
The 70th installment in this series is with agent Kate Testerman (KT Literary) for Rebecca Petruck‘s middle grade novel, STEERING TOWARD NOVEL (Abrams/Amulet, May 13, 2014). The book was chosen as a American Booksellers Association Indies Introduce New Voices selection as well as a Spring 2014 Kids’ Indie Next List selection. It was among Vanity Fair’s Hollywood’s “10 Books We’d Like to See Made Into Films.”
I’ve been “attending” WriteOnCon the last few days and appreciated your frank and funny advice about query letters. I hope you will be interested in my middle grade novel, STEERING TOWARD NORMAL.
STEERING TOWARD NORMAL is a 56,000-word coming-of-age story set in the world of 4-H steer competitions. (I’m from Minnesota–we know cows.) It begins when eighth-graders Diggy Lawson and Wayne Schley discover they have the same father. STEERING TOWARD NORMAL is the tale of how the boys go from being related to being brothers.
Diggy’s life may not be typical, but he’s content. He hangs out with Pop and the county’s farmers, raises steers to compete, and daydreams about July Johnston, high school senior and girl of his dreams. Hardly anyone teases him anymore about how his mom abandoned him on Pop’s doorstep and skipped town on a tractor.
Then Wayne gets dumped at Pop’s, too. Suddenly, Diggy has a half brother messing things up. Wayne rattles Diggy’s easy relationship with Pop, threatens his chances at the state fair, and horns in on his girl. Diggy believes family is everything, but he’s pretty sure Wayne doesn’t count.
The first ten pages of STEERING TOWARD NORMAL won first place in the SCBWI Carolinas Writing Contest, judged by Sarah Shumway, Senior Editor at Katherine Tegan Books.
I am a graduate of the Creative Writing MFA program at UNC Wilmington, editor of the SCBWI Carolinas quarterly newsletter, and member of the NC Writer’s Network. My work has appeared in Our State magazine.
My professional background is in PR and marketing, having promoted new fiction and nonfiction authors with [redacted] and marketed magazines online for [redacted]. Additionally, I was president of my 4-H chapter in fifth grade. This is a multiple submission.
I look forward to hearing from you about BLUE MOO.
Commentary from Kate Testerman
Rebecca got off to a great start by referencing a conference where I’d spoken, and her query showed she’d taken my advice to heart. The first paragraph of the book’s description does a great job of setting the story in a specific place (with a fun parenthetical that shows the author’s sense of humor). The hook line of “BLUE MOO is the tale of how the boys go from being related to being brothers” is something we’re still using to describe the story, many steps later on the publishing road.
Rebecca goes deeper in the next two paragraphs, showing me what Diggy’s life had been, and how it changes when Wayne comes to live with him and Pop. The line “Diggy believes family is everything, but he’s pretty sure Wayne doesn’t count” is an almost perfect example of the voice that so hooked me on my first reading of the partial, through my reading of the full, and why I offered representation.
Of course, it didn’t hurt that Rebecca had won a writing contest with this material, judged by an editor I knew and respected, and was a member of the SCBWI, as well as a past member of 4-H herself!
As with all great queries, though, this one also touched a personal note for me, as my husband was a 4-H member and farm boy in his youth, and reading about these two boys helped me better understand his childhood.
The following photographs were taken at the Hellfire Caves in July of this year. I originally shared them on my family history blog, but they are perfect for Halloween, so I hope you won’t mind me sharing them again here.
Located in West Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, the Hellfire Caves have a notorious history and are reputed to conceal many mysteries. They are actually a man-made network of tunnels carved out of the chalk and flint of West Wycombe Hill commissioned by Sir Francis Dashwood.
The caves and the terrible deeds that supposedly went on there were discussed at great length when I was a little girl. Mutterings of dark deeds, devil worship and debauchery were not intended for my small ears – but I heard, and I remembered! So an opportunity to visit was not to be turned down.
I felt a little disappointed when we first arrived there were just too many people making too much noise. But, as the saying goes ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ and ghostly noises sound so much better when you are deep underground. As we got further into the tunnels, much of the chatter and squeals died away, and then it began to feel a little cold and distinctly creepy. I was, however, unprepared for some of the images picked up by my camera. I would hate to be alone down there, especially if the lights went out!
The first three photographs are exactly what we saw;
The two photographs that follow have not been changed or altered in any way. The camera settings were completely untouched during our visit. These were taken in a particularly dark part of the caves, so I've no idea why they are so much brighter than all the rest.
I make no claims about what they might show – I leave that to you. Suffice to say I find them very creepy!
Terry and I didn't notice a thing while in the caves, thank goodness! We would have left in a hurry had we seen this!
The ghost hunting team from the TV programme Most Haunted carried out an over-night vigil within the caves during December 2003. They spent the night without lights and members of the team said the caves were the darkest place they had ever visited. During the night, they had many paranormal experiences, seeing orbs of light and hearing noises. Without prior knowledge of the mysterious Hellfire caves Derek Achora, the medium, felt the presence of a young girl dressed in white, and of females dressed in nuns' habits. “Ladies of the night” were said to have worn such attire to disguise themselves whilst entertaining members of the Hellfire Club in the caves.
Lionsgate has unveiled the final trailer for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One. The video embedded above features a “burning” message from rebel Katniss Everdeen to the villainous President Snow—what do you think?