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Strike Three, my science fiction novel due out in 2014, now has a cover! We're on version four. Let's see if I can share its progress with you. Hmm. I guess not. Anyway, the first cover was the earth and moon in sepia (one of my suggestions.) It can by found on Facebook and my writing blog and elsewhere.
Joy's writing blog: http://pagadan.wordpress.com/
1) Do you write books as a career, or are you currently still juggling your author time with a full or part time job?
As much as I hate to admit it, I still have a full time job. Working nights at a supermarket isn’t fun or interesting, but it does pay the bills. Having a five year old daughter who, at the minute, is more like a teenager doesn’t help my cause much either. But still, everyone has to start off somewhere. I’ve been working nights for nearly nine years now, so I guess the routine has become second nature, but you have to give up a lot of luxuries that some people may take for granted. You tend to lose time with family and friends, as more often than not, they have normal, day jobs.
One day, though, I will be able to call myself a ‘real’ author who writes for a living. Well, fingers crossed anyway!
2) Have you always wanted to be an author, or did some time or event in your life set you on the path?
I’m boring I’m afraid. I’m sure my clichéd answer will lose itself in the vaults of unoriginality, but I’ve always wanted to be an author for as long as I can remember. When I was seven, I wrote a collection of children’s stories, which all followed a group of animals. I even did lift up flaps and colourful drawings to go with them! I didn’t have an audience, but I used to read them to my baby sister. She spilled lemonade over the first one, Animals Hide and Seek. Thankfully, it wasn’t ruined and I have all three books stored away in my filing cabinet. I occasionally bring them out, blow away the dust, and chuckle away to myself at how awful they are. Still, children are allowed to dream … and do you know what? Adults are too.
3) Do you always write in the same genre, or do you sometimes like a change of theme? If you haven’t already, is there another genre you would like to write?
If you’d have asked me that question a year ago, then the answer would most certainly have been “yes, I always write in the same genre.” I love writing for teenagers. I think a lot of people turn their noses up at YA (young adult) books, but they are fun and exciting, yet serious and realistic too. In fact, I know a lot of people that turn their noses up at YA.
The very first story I wrote (full length) is a young adult fantasy novel and I’ve been trying to get that published quite recently. But out of nowhere, whilst I was recovering from an operation in early 2013, I started to write something entirely new. It built up and evolved, which later became an adult novella entitled The Caseworker’s Memoirs. I toured libraries and book groups with that book last year. I especially found that the over fifties loved it more.
Also in 2013, I came across a genre I hardly knew anything about. Dystopia, which is exactly what my upcoming novel, Here Lies Love is. Actually it is a NA (new adult) book too, which is an extension of YA. I think it is important to test yourself as a writer. Build up your repertoire and the possibilities are endless.
4) As a writer, what is the best thing that has happened to you, and what is that most exciting thing that could happen to you?
The best thing that has ever happened to me as a writer has ultimately got to be going on my library tour last year. It was exciting, nerve-wracking and scary, but enlightening too. I learned so much more about myself and what I was capable of. I had the opportunity to meet my readers in person, thank them, but also to listen to them. I’ve been on radio twice too, which again was an opportunity most people don’t have the chance to do.
The most exciting thing that could happen to me would be to be published traditionally, with a real publisher. It is something I have always dreamed of, apart from being a writer that is. It is still hard work, tough to get noticed, but everyone deserves an opportunity to fulfil their dreams. I’m hoping that my chance is just around the corner.
5) How do you view the promotion, book signings etc. Is it something you enjoy, or do you prefer the writing stage?
The days of the hermit-like writer, locked away in the study or the shed even, scribbling away, with sticky notes pinned in every free space, old coffee mugs with mould growing inside, are long gone. As an author, you really have to be a saleable commodity. Book signings, school visits, book fairs are all part of the process. Now, I was (and in some case still am) a nervous person, but having to get stuck in and get out there in the public eye was something that was both daunting, but valuable. I honestly believe that I have grown as a person, more confident in my approach. Of course there are times when the talks could have gone better, more involved, but then there are the times where you get a round of applause, people queuing up to have you sign their own copies.
Of course though, we are writers at heart and the writing is the most fun. You have no critics, no expectations. You can boldly go wherever the hell you want, whether it be in some fantastical enchanted forest, the war torn back alleys of occupied France, up the sky, underneath the ground …. The list goes on. Having the opportunity to tell someone’s story, really step into their shoes and decide their fate, is one job I wouldn’t trade for the world.
6) Could you tell us something about your published books, and let us know what they are about?
Well my adult book, The Caseworker’s Memoirs has been described by some reviewers as several stories in one, and although that is true, it is Malcolm’s story that gels everything together. He is recently widowed, having lost his wife only a few weeks before. He is losing touch with the world, locking himself away – even his daughter can’t get through to him. That is until, she gives him a leather bound notebook. As the days drag on, Malcolm starts to have these dreams, rediscovered memories about his former patients from when he was a psychologist. Malcolm had to treat these people with their numerous phobias, whether it be the fear of heights, the fear of time, homophobia, fear of terrorism … but he feels he has failed them.
It is a very enclosed story, one that pulls you in and makes you feel for Malcolm as you progress with him trying to find himself again. Or so I’ve been told anyway.
My upcoming novel, Here Lies Love, will be out in the spring and it follows the story of Abbey as she tries to escape the awful man she was sold to by her father. But as Abbey is quick to discover, the cold and lonely world outside is just as terrifying. She is haunted by the abuse she has suffered and having to survive by herself is asking too much. Only by confronting her father will she be able to move on with her life. I love the tagline for this book: ‘Would death be less painful than life?’
Author of Here Lies Love, The Black Petal & The Caseworker’s Memoirs
Great answers, Dan. Best of luck with your career as a writer!Add a Comment
Happy, happy, joy, joy!
Here is some recently published artwork, as seen in various magazines in the Highlights family!
First up is a Find It feature from the December 2013 issue of Highlights Hello magazine:
This one came in a cute envelope that had a little preview of the feature:
Next is a Look and Look Again feature from January 2014′s issue of Highlights High Five:
And finally (for now), here’s a rebus feature called “Family Band” that is in the February 2014 issue of Highlights:
Have I mentioned lately how much I love all the Highlights magazines?Add a Comment
Here are a few tips to help keep you on your writer's journey.
Children's BooksParenting Humor
Read Catherine Burr's blog about writing and books and the world of kindle.
Author newsletters have always seemed to me like SPAM. Couldn't imagine why anyone would want to receive one.
However Chris Barton makes an excellent case for them in a guest post at Cynsations. What made me take notice was his point about Facebook updates and blog posts being too much for some readers. I think it's very possible that readers are overwhelmed by them, deadened by all the words. So, yeah, maybe a good, professional, occasional newsletter would be more of more benefit to everyone.
A Seahorse Year, and I loved it. She wrote a new novel called Wonderland that I've been aching to read ever since Stacey and I talked—privately and then publicly—in Decatur, GA. I was already a huge fan, as readers of this blog know. I became a forever fan in Decatur. There are just some people who know more, see deeper, write better. Stacey, who teaches at Columbia, is one of them, and she brings no arrogance to the aura of her appreciable talent.
The other day, in class, I showed two portraits to my students, asked them to write a single sentence about each that told me what they saw. Capturing the physicality of another is hard stuff; we'd already determined that. Going beyond the obvious, tripping away from cliches, digging in. We want language to be equally alerting and clear. Wonderland is so alerting, so original, so improbable, so spring-water clear. I envy the readers who look forward to reading the novel for the first time. I envy the writers who will study it to shake loose new truths about structure, sentence, form.And why was I famous, anyway? Fact: I wasn't famous to everyone. I was famous only among certain people. The smart people, the people who pride themselves on being smart. Part of it—let's be honest—was the glamour of my pedigree, and the history to which that pedigree alluded. Everyone knew who my father was. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that everyone who loved my music also loved who my father was. You can't separate the dancer from the dance, and anyway, I never tried.
Stacey D'Erasmo, congratulations. This image, taken in Berlin of a young metal-working artist, is for you.Ezra, chatting, laughs his famously peculiar laugh, a kind of Aussie Woody Woodpecker sound. I can't see the stroke on him, the overdose. He looks to me so unmarked, or, more accurately, he is already so marked that I doubt I could tell the recent marks from the older ones. He is not a handsome man, never has been. His face, in the half-light, has an ursine, lumpy quality. What can be seen of his hairline plunges, Ben Franklin style, nearly to his ears; his fringe of hair is wispy, of indeterminate color, and coarse. His face is pitted with acne scars. His eyes are small, tend toward the red. His magic emanates in part from that, from his unregenerate ugliness. He looks like a creature of the night who can hold his own with creatures of the night.
I'm excited to announce that I'm going to be taking part in the 24-Hour Comics Marathon up in the Lakes District this October! It's part of the Lakes International Comics Festival, in Kendal, and loads of people who went last year said the festival was brilliant. Basically, a bunch of us will be drawing comics for 24 hours straight, including Dan Berry, Kristyna Baczynski, Fumio Obata, Jack Teagle, me... and there's a competition for ONE MORE PERSON! It's pretty cushy, they'll put you up for three nights in Kendal, they'll pay for food and travel... find out more here! The application deadline is 14 Feb.
I know it's a hardcore way of working, and I've visited 24-Comic Days, but never actually done the whole thing myself. But it's a great way of getting a whole comic finished in one focused attempt, with the encouragement of lots of other people all doing it together. I'm not banking on my comic being super-amazing, but sometimes they turn out very well. Check out this 24-comic Viviane Schwarz made, called Rabbit Stew.
Another cool thing is that Scott McCloud, the guy who came up with the 24-Hour Comic and 24-Hour Comics Day (and these excellent comics handbooks) is going to be at the festival!
17-19 Oct, mark your diaries; I hear it's worth a long trip to get there. You can follow the festival on Twitter at @comicartfest.
And one more bit of news: Today the postman brought me a copy of Oliver and the Seawigs in Japanese!!! It looks so fabulous! I couldn't stop touching it and looking at it.
Oh man, if we ever get to tour Japan, I want to get a dress made up in the colours of that slipcase.
It's published by Rironsha, and if you can't get it in a bookshop, it's available on Amazon.jp here.
Oh, and check out these cartoons a guy superimposes on fellow commuters' heads; it's pretty funny. (Link via Bridget Strevens-Marzo.)
Winsor McCay (c. 1867-1934) was famous for his contributions to comics (Little Nemo) and animation (Gertie the Dinosaur), but those achievements were related to his other career as a lightning sketch artist on the vaudeville stage.
Hi, folks! I'm continuing my series on Golden Advice. I like to spend the month of February digging into the wisdom that has come my way and that guides my art, my craft and my life. I find having some wise stuff in the soul helps me write stories with purpose.
Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for the most distinguished beginning reader is Greg Pizzoli's The Watermelon Seed. The book is Pizzoli's first and an impressive debut it is. A small crocodile whose favorite food is watermelon accidentally swallows a seed. This causes him undue anxiety as he imagines the seed growing inside him. He worries: "It's growing in my guts! Soon vines will come out of my ears!" Any child who's downed a wad of bubblegum or buzzing insect (it happens!) will relate to the little reptile's fears.
Holly Schindler's road to publication wasn't smooth. It took seven and a half years to sell her first book. She wrote the first draft of her first middle grade novel, THE JUNCTION OF LUCKY AND SUNSHINE, in 2005, after she hit what she calls "kind of a rough patch" in her pursuit of publication. "I had to ask myself what I was doing - if I was really going to keep at it," she told me.
Readers are glad that she did. Her first published work, the YA novel A Blue So Dark, was released in 2010. Then came another YA release, Playing Hurt. Holly describes her latest release, The Junction of Lucky and Sunshine, as a young girl’s journey toward becoming a folk artist: "Throughout the book, she has to stand up for her art. In some ways, I think the book is me making my own stand for my art, saying I wasn't going to back down from snagging a writing career."
She goes on to say: "And what words better describe a full-time writing gig than 'Lucky' and 'Sunshine?'"
In honor of her new book, which has been described as Beasts of the Southern Wild meets Because of Winn Dixie, Holly has set out on a blog tour. Lucky for me, she's stopping here at Bildungsroman today. Join us as we talk about writing, happiness, and - as Pam Beesly-Halpert of The Office would say - the beauty in ordinary things.
Little Willow: Just the title of the book makes me grin. What are some of your favorite words, words that make you smile when you hear them or say them?
Holly Schindler: Some of my favorite aspects of THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY are the “Auggie-isms,” or turns of phrases that run throughout the book. Auggie has a unique, poetic view of the world, and that becomes clear in her language. I talk about it in this vlog.
The main characters of your book are Auggie and her Grampa Gus. How did you pick their names? Is it easy or difficult for you to name your characters?
There's actually a connection between Auggie's and Gus's names - I'd hate to spoil it for readers by saying exactly what it is. It's an aspect of the book that made me chuckle every time I reread it. I don't labor over my characters' names [now] quite as much as I did in the beginning of my career. I think that early on in their careers, many authors try to honor their completely unique main character with a unique-sounding name. Really, though, it’s not the name that makes a reader connect with a character - it's who that character is. But that’s how it is in real life, too, when you make a new friend!
Have you ever made a sculpture out of recycled materials, like Auggie and Gus do?
No sculptures, but I’ve been going to auctions since I was a little girl - first with my folks, and these days, with my brother, an antiques dealer. I've always loved the one-of-a-kind items that can be found in farm auctions -- stools made out of Coke crates, dresser boxes made out of barn wood, feedsack dresses. But as an antiques dealer, my brother often has to reinvent items he buys at auction that turn out to be less than he hoped, in order to turn a profit. Together, we've restrung broken jewelry, used yellowed book pages to create a door wreath, even turned a broken mandolin into wall art. I also love going to flea markets to find out how shop owners have reinvented broken items. One of my favorite recent finds is a necklace made out of an old salt shaker. I love the creativity it takes to reinvent old items.
I know you enjoy music, as I do, but do you like wind chimes?
Of course! Just as long as they're not near me when I'm trying to sleep. Music revs me rather than relaxes me, so I sometimes find it hard to sleep to the radio - I think wind chimes have the same effect!
You've written both drama and comedy, for kids and teens, stories about youth in very different situations. What, if anything, do you feel is the connective tissue or common thread(s) between your books?
I'd have to say realism. Whether it's a tragedy, a light moment, a love story, or a mystery, all my books are realistic fiction. That's not to say I don't love to read a good fantasy - or that I would never delve into that genre. But so far, they've all been realistic.
What can you tell me about your next novel, Feral?
Feral, my third YA novel, will be released by HarperCollins later this year. This will be my first psychological thriller. (Note: Holly invites anyone who wants to be a part of her next blog tour to email her at writehollyschindler (at) yahoo (dot) com)
Who or what helps you the most during revisions?
My mom's always been my first reader - and she reads along with me during mad-dash rewrite deadlines, which really keeps the whole process on track.
When you were little, you liked to write comments in the books you read. If you were to pick up a reader's well-worn copy of a book you wrote, what would you hope to find scribbled in the margins?
First, I'd just love the fact that the book was well-worn. But I'd also love to find passages that were marked just because the reader liked them. That's one of my favorite things to do on Goodreads - check out the passages and quotes that readers pulled from my books as favorite lines.
Holly also wanted to share this with readers:
I recently created a site specifically for young readers: Holly Schindler's Middles. I'm especially excited about this site. I adored getting to interact with the YA readership online - usually through Twitter or Facebook, but I had to create a site where I could interact with the MG readership. I'm devoting a page on the site to reviews from young readers themselves!
You can also visit Holly at hollyschindler.com
Check out THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY Trailer on YouTube.
The next stop on the tour will be My Favorite Pastime tomorrow, Sunday, February 9th.
I first interviewed Holly Schindler in 2010. The interview was included in the back of her book A Blue So Dark as a bonus feature. Click here to read the full-length interview!
The other day, reading Mental Multivitamin, I discovered there is a sequel of sorts to 84, Charing Cross Road, which is one of my favorite books. On certain days, it is my favorite book, and certainly it is one I return to ever more frequently, as time goes on.
Now, why it hadn’t occurred to me—obsessive googler and binge-reader that I am—to hunt up the rest of Helene Hanff’s books, given my really almost aching love for 84, Apple of My Eye, and Letter from New York (a book that shaped New York City for me before I met it in person)—why this uncharacteristic lack of ferreting-out on my part, I cannot say. Except perhaps that sometimes a kind of obliviousness is my brain’s way of making good things last…I’m far too prone toward immediate gratification when it comes to books, especially older ones by deceased authors, books I can blithely justify snapping up for a penny + $3.99 shipping on Amazon Prime, and clutch in my greedy hands two days later.
(I have this deal with myself: used books only if the author is no longer living. My way of supporting my comrades in the trenches, and also of keeping my floors from collapsing under the weight of all the books I would spend the grocery money on if I didn’t make up rules for myself.)
Anyway, there it was at MM: The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street, a string of quotes (I love how Ms. M-mv does that), Helene Hanff’s diary account of her long-dreamed-of trip to London, two years after Frank Doel’s death. 48 hours later, it was mine, formerly the property of Salt Lake County Library System, Whitmore Library. Seems to be a first edition, published in 1973.
I love Helene Hanff. Not just her writing, but her, the person, the crackling, opinionated, piercingly observant New Yorker who toiled over Ellery Queen scripts and her own never-to-be-produced plays, and who, for twenty years, fired off missives exploding with personality to a mild-tempered, unfailingly polite bookstore employee who died before she could get to England to meet him. It’s Frank’s wife, Nora, and daughter, Sheila, who meet Helene at the airport in the beginning of Duchess. They, too, had come to know and love her over those twenty years.
I love her like an aunt; perhaps I project a little of my beloved Aunt Genia onto her, hear certain tart remarks in Genia’s voice. Their lives were nothing alike, and Aunt Genia never lived in New York, but they share an unabashedness of opinion and a vast generosity of spirit. My aunt died in 1995, Miss Hanff in 1997, and I miss them both. But Helene I get to revisit endlessly. WHAT KIND OF A PEPYS’ DIARY DO YOU CALL THIS? pops into my head at unexpected intervals, and I laugh out loud, sometimes while standing in line at the post office or pushing a cart through Target.
84, Charing Cross Road, about which I’ve written before, was her first really successful published work, and its success was a tremendous surprise to her. People wrote and called her from all over the world; when she was hospitalized shortly before her London trip, strangers sent flowers and presents. In London at last, she was continually receiving invitations from perfect strangers who’d read and loved her book, and were so happy she was visiting their city. I keep crying, living these days with her, and then she’ll say something acid and I’m howling. Oh, I love her.
Something else I didn’t know about her until this week (when my google reflex did kick in at last, and I read all her obituaries) was that she considered herself uneducated. She uses that very word in Duchess. It’s astonishing she should have felt that way. She ran out of money after a year of college, that’s why; but there can’t have been many of her generation who were better read than she; she devoured and re-devoured books, the entire canon practically (except fiction; she far preferred essays and history) and knew chunks of them by heart, and all through her books she cross-references like crazy. She was a walking Wikipedia.
Now, reading Duchess of Bloomsbury Street, I find that’s exactly how her education happened: like a long, looping chain of links.
But Oxford I have to see. There’s one suite of freshman’s rooms at Trinity College which John Donne, John Henry Newman, and Arther Quiller-Couch all lived in, in various long-gone eras. Whatever I know about writing English those three men taught me, and before I die I want to stand in their freshman’s rooms and call their names blessed.
Q (Quiller-Couch) was all by himself my college education. I went down to the public library one day when I was 17 looking for books on the art of writing, and found five books of lectures which Q had delivered to his students of writing at Cambridge.
“Just what I need!” I congratulated myself. I hurried home with the first volume and started reading got to page 3 and hit a snag:
Q was lecturing to young men educated at Eton and Harrow. He therefore assumed that his students—including me—had read Paradise Lost as a matter of course and would understand his analysis of the “Invocation to Light” in book 9. So I said, “Wait here,” and went down to the library and got Paradise Lost and took it home and started reading it and got to page 3 when I hit a snag:
Milton assumed I’d read the Christian version of Isaiah and the New Testament and had learned all about Lucifer and the War in Heaven, and since I’d been reared in Judaism I hadn’t. So I said, “Wait here,” and borrowed a Christian Bible and read about Lucifer and so forth, and then went back to Milton and read Paradise Lost, and then finally got back to Q, page 3. On page 4 or 5, I discovered that the point of the sentence at the top of the page was in Latin and the long quotation at the bottom of the page was in Greek. So I advertised in the Saturday Review for somebody to teach me Latin and Greek, and went back to Q meanwhile, and discovered he assumed I not only knew all the plays of Shakespeare, and Boswell’s Johnson, but also the Second Book of Esdras, which is not in the Old Testament and is not in the New Testament, it’s in the Apocrypha, which is a set of books nobody had ever thought to tell me existed.
So what with one thing and another and an average of three “Wait here’s” a week, it took me eleven years to get through Q’s five books of lectures.
The original rabbit-trailer. My hero. Q’s “five books of lectures” can be had for nothing, nowadays, along with probably all of the works he references. If I start now, I’ll be as educated as Helene by 2025.
(Oh heavens. That number just gave me the vapors. That’s officially the future, man.)
Helene Hanff eventually wrote a book about her autodidacticism called Q’s Legacy. Needless to say, it’ll be here by Tuesday.Add a Comment
|Purchase the novel here|
Many might disagree, but I would argue that this is perhaps one of the most important children’s books written in my lifetime. Here’s an excerpt in which I discuss how this book interacts with Peter Pan:
It has been observed that I am somewhat obsessive about JM Barrie’s Peter Pan. More than once, people have asked me what I think about Pan adaptations and sequels written by contemporary writers. My usual response is that I think those writers could better use their time creating their own characters to discuss similar themes. Spinelli has done just that. The fugitive shadow of Peter Pan skitters all throughout Hokey Pokey without ever once needing to be mentioned. To every person hoping to write an “updated” version of Oz, or Wonderland, or Grimm’s Fairy Tales, I would direct them to this book.
The best response to this post came from Tom Angleberger who objected that he didn’t actually think this was a book for kids (Betsy Bird wondered as much in her excellent review … which is what prompted me to pick up the book in the first place). It’s an interesting question, and one that I suspect I’ll be chewing on for a long time.
You can click here to read my full review … better yet, just read Spinelli’s book. Because it’s AWESOME.
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