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Forced by some reductive power to declare a single favorite essay, mine would be "The Death of the Moth" by Virginia Woolf. It is a marvel of concision, and yet it contains the universe. It is an essay both personal and cosmic, material and spiritual.
Whenever I teach writing, I use "The Death of the Moth" as an example of the interplay of form and content. (While I have seldom met a pairing I didn't want to deconstruct, the form/content binary is one I continue to find useful. Yes, the separation is problematic — what, in language, is content without form or form without content? — but I also find it a valuable way to talk about concepts that are otherwise invisible or easily muddled.) Usually, I take one sentence, scrawl it out on the board, and pick it apart. It's not always the same sentence, but recently I've been using this one:
Yet, because he was so small, and so simple a form of the energy that was rolling in at the open window and driving its way through so many narrow and intricate corridors in my own brain and in those of other human beings, there was something marvellous as well as pathetic about him.
The first thing to do is break the sentence apart. Here's one way:
because he was so small, and so simple a form of the energy that was rolling in at the open window and driving its way through so many narrow and intricate corridors in my own brain and in those of other human beings,
there was something marvellous as well as pathetic about him.
One thing we can do is try to paraphrase the basic meaning of the sentence, to get at what it says and does before we tackle the how.
It says that there was something marvelous and something pathetic about the dying moth. It doesn't only say that, of course, but that gives us a starting point. All right. How does it say what it says?
The first word sets the sentence up in opposition to what has come immediately before it. The second word prepares us for answers to a question we don't necessarily know yet.
And now we can't avoid questions of form. The sentence is complex and, especially on a first reading, beguiling. It is possible that this sentence is difficult because Virginia Woolf is a bad writer, or she was half-asleep when she wrote it, or some other flaw. After all, this essay was not published in Woolf's lifetime. Maybe she thought it was a dud.
This is where, in class, I bring in Peter Elbow's believing/doubting game. In academia, we're used to playing the doubting game. We seek out flaws, weaknesses, troubles. But if we switch our frame of thinking, new insights are possible. Let's assume, for instance, that we are not smarter than the writer. Let's assume that the writer was vastly more skilled and intelligent than us. Let's assume that there are no flaws. Such an assumption (game) forces us to seek the reasons, rather than condemnations, for what perplexes us.
(As I said above, this is my favorite essay. Woolf is one of my favorite writers. I completely believe she was more skilled and intelligent than I. I have to force myself into the doubting game with Woolf, because all I want to do is believe, believe, believe. But I'm talking pedagogy here. My students typically find the essay boring and pointless, and they think Woolf writes difficult sentences to annoy them. I like to find ways to circumvent those feelings other than screaming, "Stop being an arrogant and defensive reader!")
If we look back to how I broke the sentence up above, we can see that it can break into three major parts: the introductory word (a transition that positions the sentence in relationship to other sentences), the because section, and the final statement. We know what the introductory word does, but what about the middle section? What does it do, particularly in relationship to the final statement?
The middle section elongates or prolongs. It keeps us away from the final statement. It's important, then, to look at how it does that: not with a randomly long statement, but with phrases connected with the word and. (Here, I often read the middle section aloud at least once, dramatically emphasizing the word and at the start of each section. The and between narrow and intricate can be a little confusing, as it's connecting something different from the other ands, but that's why I don't separate it out visually. I've sometimes thought of replacing the word with an ampersand.)
Each of these ands serves to push us away from the final statement one more time.
Thus, the sentence does to us what the moth is doing: it fends off, for as long as it can, finality. The moth's struggle is replicated in the sentence's structure.
Part of the wonder of "The Death of the Moth" is that it achieves so much in so few words. It does so by uniting form and content in a specific way. Over and over, the essay replicates in its structures what it is "about". Again and again, Woolf forces the reader to consider scope. We move from the very tiny to the cosmic. The cosmic is shown to contain the microscopic, the microscopic to contain the cosmic. Life is strange and death is strange, and the two are also, like form and content, inseparable.
It's not known when Woolf wrote the essay. It's tempting to read it as something she wrote late in life, as she struggled against her fears and depression as World War II began. But the insights of the essay are more universal than that, and the struggle the speaker identifies with is one that Woolf expressed through much of her life. (In the sixth volume of The Essays of Virginia Woolf, Stuart N. Clarke writes that "it might have been composed in September 1927", but it's also just as likely that it might not have been.) The essay captures not only the scope and scale of existence, but it also represents many of the recurring ideas in Woolf's writing.
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I've been commissioned to do a SketchCrawl event in Manchester at the end of the month, for SCBWI - that's the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. If you are trying to get started as a writer or illustrator of children's books, it's an organisation that is well worth joining. They have regional groups all over the country and put on lots of events to advise and inspire.
SketchCrawling is an idea I introduced to SCBWI back in 2010, when I was keynote speaker at the 10th anniversary conference. I talked about it in my speech, because sketching is a key part of how I keep my love of what I do alive, despite it having been my job for 30 years now.
Because SCBWI represents authors as well as illustrators, the SketchCrawl event later this month in the Science Museumwill not just be for sketching, but writing too - creating on-the-spot responses to what we see. There will be plenty to inspire and I'm sure the exhibits will be evocative enough to get the authors fired up.
If you fancy giving it a go, as a writer or a sketcher, it's open to non-members too. Drop Anna Violet an email to book your place.
We all want to write vibrant, lively, realistic characters that leap to life from the page. We want our characters well-rounded and interesting. We want our characters to each have their own “voice.”
In pursuit of this worthy goal of creating a realistic character, we write lengthy character histories, we write journal entries from the point of view of our character, and we fill in character worksheets.
Yet sometimes we do all of these things – we endow our character with personality, background, depth, and breadth – and still, our beta readers say they just don’t “connect” with the character.
In other words, they didn’t care about the character.
How do you take your well-rounded character and carry him over that giant chasm that separates “realistic” from “relatable”? How do you give him the traits that will make a reader stay up all night with him, anxiously turning page after page just to know if he achieves his goal?
The answer is simple:
To be relatable, a character needs to be vulnerable.
Obviously, the concept of creating vulnerability isn’t a well-guarded secret in the writing world. If you’ve watched your share of Disney animated features, you know that almost no Disney character is entitled to grow up with both parents. (Of course, this truism isn’t limited to Disney – Harry Potter, Bruce Wayne, Peter Parker, Luke Skywalker, and Katniss Everdeen have all lost at least one parent.)
Vulnerability gives a reader something to root for. Vulnerability opens a character up to empathy.
So if this rule of endowing a character with vulnerability is so simple, why aren’t all of our characters sympathetic, relatable heroes?
The reason may be that – like many concepts in writing – creating vulnerability in a character is much easier to understand than it is to execute. Here are a few things to consider when thinking about your character’s weaknesses:
Vulnerabilities should directly relate to your character’s goal and motivation. In the Hunger Games trilogy, Katniss’s loss of her father is more than just a personal loss – it sets in motion her strong desire to protect her family. It also influences the actions she is willing to take to obtain her goals. Having lost her father in a mining accident, setting off an explosion in a mine is not a tactic she can endorse.
Your reader will relate more to a character’s fears if they share those fears themselves.Harry Potter is thrown into an unfamiliar world and learns immediately that someone very powerful and evil wants to destroy him. Part of why readers find him so relatable is that we all fear the monster under the bed – the unseen thing that wants to harm us – and Voldemort embodies that perfectly.
A loss that creates both a weakness and a strength can be especially compelling. Luke Skywalker learns that his father was a great Jedi. Knowing this makes the fact that he never knew his father all the more painful. Yet Luke has this incredible legacy that empowers him. (And when Luke ultimately learns that his greatest nemesis is actually his father, this vulnerability gains a whole new level of uniqueness and complexity.)
What do you think about creating relatable characters? Do you have an approach to ensure that your characters have a balance of strengths and weaknesses? Please share your thoughts in the comments!
Julie Eshbaugh writes fiction for young adults. She is represented by Adams Literary. You can add Julie on Goodreads and follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.
Creativity doesn’t wait for that perfect moment. It fashions its own perfect moments out of ordinary ones.
Moments matter – Every single one of them. I try to use each one wisely.
This past weekend we lost 60 moments of sleep for daylight savings. Well, the humans did. I got those moments back in spades 60 times over.
Mom uses one hour of moments each day for work. And by work I mean she sits there and types on the computer and talks out loud to herself. Sometimes the Creativity visits her during that hour. I love visitors. I’m not sure I’ve ever met the Creativity Visitor, though. Maybe tomorrow…..
If the Creativity doesn’t visit at that exact work time, Mom still works. Each month, she makes a new story and fixes up an old story (or two or three) for her 12×12 Challenge. She also reads books about writing books, and reads books like the books she writes. Wait. What?
Writing time is not for blogs, not for Facebook, not for email, not for Words With Friends, and not even for TV.
It’s just working on stories in one way or another – writing them, reading them, fixing them, thinking about them, submitting them to agents and publishers, and giving me cuddles and treats…. (See what I did there?) If the Creativity doesn’t come – Oh well. Maybe tomorrow…..
...until FALLING INTO PLACE comes out and my head explodes. Wow. Like, I see the numbers and I have a vague concept that months/days/hours/seconds are divisions of time or something, but I can't actually wrap my head around the idea that this thing I made in my head is going to be...bound? On shelves? Available for purchase? In SIX MONTHS?!
I am terrified and excited and happy beyond words, and to celebrate, I'm going to do a love list, which is a non-exhaustive list of the things you love about a manuscript (inspired by my wonderful CP Mark O'Brien, who was inspired KK Hendin, who was inspired by Rachel, who was inspired by Stephanie Perkins).
I hadn’t checked the spam box on my e-mail account in years (I deleted spam mail, unseen, by pressing the trash icon), but the other day, I peeked into my spam box. I had two e-mails: one from an agent and one from an editor.
Eleven years ago, I had submitted a two-novel proposal to the agent. Now, she was cleaning her office and came across my submission. She must have looked into the current status of the novels (A Shadow in the Dark and Living It Up to Live It Down) because she congratulated me on their publication. She asked if my address on the return envelope was still current and if I wanted my proposal back. I had moved but I gave her my current address. My submission from years ago came back with handwritten comments in the margins. Overall, these comments were positive. One or two suggested further plot developments. This is helpful information to me, even though it came too late for these novels.
The second piece of mail in my spam box, from a magazine editor, requested me to resubmit a short story to her magazine even though someone on the staff had rejected it more than a year ago. I knew the magazine editor’s name and e-mail address was legitimate, so I resent the short story. A few days later, I received a paying contract.
Both incidents strike me as strange. I can’t believe many agents are contacting writers years later to return submissions or that editors are tracking them down to request manuscripts they’ve already rejected. Because I’m a believer in God and I haven’t been writing or submitting much in the past few years while working full-time, I see both incidents as encouragement from him that he believes in my writing.
I’m also left wondering how many other legitimate pieces of mail I may have deleted from my spam box, resulting in the loss of a sale or valuable contact. I’ve started skimming over my spam messages.
Hi, folks! I'm continuing my series for the month of March. In honor of Saint Patrick's Day, I'm calling this series: Lucky Serendipity. I have tripped across many moments in life that really direct the whole of my future. I call these moments: lucky serendipity. So here is the story of one of those moments. When I started out as a writer, I didn't really have any idea what I should write except for journals and "little stories" that only children would read (said my college creative writing teacher). I certainly had no clue how to become published. I had a Children's Literature teacher also tell me that I should write for children.
I wish I could say I took every one's advice and dove right into children's writing, but that is not my story. Instead, I went for unassertiveness, gullibility, dissatisfaction with the world as we know it, naivety, and a desire for spiritual meaning. I know, rut-ro and it was bad. But fear not, readers! An ad was placed in the newspaper, and it changed my life. It was a very smallish ad about a meeting for children's writers, a club called the SCBW.
This was perhaps the most spiritual thing that has ever happened to me, except for meeting the love my life.
At this point in history, I had three children, ages 0 to 2. Yes, I had been busy. I decided to go to this mysterious meeting. It was at the College Station Conference Center. The ad mentioned you should bring some pages to share, so off I went to my mother's day out, pages clutched in hand. A group of about twelve sat in a friendly circle. A smallish woman with bright blue eyes and blond hair cut in a bob led the group. Her first picture book was about to be published, and she chatted about the experience.
I listened in wide-eyed wonder. I had never been with a published writer as a colleague before. I read my bit and she had such great things to say: like rhyme needs to really rhyme and it's hard, like stare out the window a while each day before writing, like think about how the words roll around in your mouth --advice I have never forgotten.
I went home and re-budgeted the food so I could pay the fee to join the group. For months, I never missed a meeting. The SCBW leader was so kind to me. She sent me a note, thanking me for voluteering, and she added that a day would come that she would say: she knew me when. She challenged me: Write every day. Voice is all about the words. Write you best work and send it in.
I sent in my first story to a publisher during this time and received a signed rejection! 1995, baby. She told me it would take ten years to really get things going. (My first publication would land in 2006.)
A day came that I learned that I was moving to some place called Kirkland, Washington, this leader encouraged me to get involved with SCBWI (there was a name change). She told me to look up Peggy King Anderson and take every class she offered. She had it on good authority that Peggy was a great teacher. (Peggy is beyond great.)
This wonderful leader kept in touch over the years and would always remember me and my writing every time we happened to meet. She still invites me over for writerly shindigs now that I'm back in College Station after my almost fifteen year jaunt.
So who was this paragon leader, and who placed the life-changing ad? Kathi Appelt.
I know I'm just one of hundreds that have a story just like this. Lucky serendipity had struck. Lucky me. I will be back next week with more lucky serendipity.
This week's doodle: this is a sketch from a project I worked on in those early days -- The Wild Jamboree. I hated that black background but loved the hippos and the bush babies.
Here is a quote from the wonderful Kathi.
They say that lightning never strikes in the same place twice, but the same is not true for courage. As it turns out, when courage strikes, it almost always begets more courage. Kathi Appelt, The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp Add a Comment
Today I had the privilege of being a reader at a local elementary school. I got to read one of my favorite books, The Bee Bully, and talk to the kids about being an author. The energetic kindergartners made me feel very welcome and I really enjoyed spending some time with them. We talked a little bit about what it means to be a bully and how important reading is.
Three reasons why reading is important to young children:
1). Reading exercises our brains. That’s right, our brains need a workout too. Reading strengthens brain connections and can even create new ones so pick up a book and help your brain exercise.
2). Reading improves concentration. Kids have to focus when they read which can sometimes be a difficult task. The more you read the longer you can extend that concentration time which will continue to improve.
3). Reading helps develop imagination. When you read your brain translates what is read to pictures. Did you know you can create a movie in your head while you read? We become engrossed in the story and we can connect with the characters. We can sympathize with how a character feels and reflect on how we would feel in that same situation.
So much has changed since my last readergirlz update! The theme of that change? Follow the creative river of life instead of forcing it into what I think it should be. This began with a return to my true love - writing middle grade fiction - in my books After the River the Sun(2013 Atheneum) and Eva of the Farm(2012 Atheneum). Following are three more examples of following life’s river.
One: On a solo trip to Italy, I abandoned forever my futile attempts to keep a perfect writer’s journal. (You know--those perfect journals with things pasted in them, immaculate, designed.)
Instead I began keeping a “Word Mess” - a notebook where I scrawl images, rough dashes of poems, bursts of emotions and wisps of thought. The Word Mess is full of cross-outs, arrows, and smudged erasures. A perfect swamp of disorder. What liberation! I fell in love with that most basic of writer’s tools - the pencil.
Two: I started a blog series called 7:30 BELLS. Every Tuesday I post about what made me feel alive that week--what makes the bells ring. The discipline of have a regular “column” keeps my eyes open.Follow the series.
Three: On a hike with my husband, I picked up a stick dabbed with moss. “Look,” I said, “It’s a fairy wand.” He asked, “Are you really going to carry that for the entire hike?” I said, “Yes! ” Now I am making fantastic sculptures out of wood, stone, and moss. (I can use a drill press! I have a toolbox full of tools I love - chisels, gouges, rasps. Maybe one day I will sell these sculptures. Maybe not. That doesn’t matter.
Because the most powerful thing I’ve learned in the past five years is that outcome doesn’t matter- making, creating, living does. When you let go of where you think your life should lead, and follow the river instead, wonders await.
Stay tuned for what’s around the next bend. I know I am.
A couple of weekends ago I was in New York City at the SCBWI winter conference. (If you don't know about SCBWI, I will happily explain it to you.) One of the most memorable talks for me was Kate Messner's examination of the power of failure.
We writers are certainly familiar with failure. How many rejections have you received? How many revisions have you had to make? How many published books failed to sell out? It happens.
encouraged us to do is to change our perception about failure. Instead of looking at failure as a negative, she suggested we look at it as the fastest and best way to achieve our goals. In fact, she said, we should be trying to fail as often as possible.
Okay, I know it sounds counter intuitive. Shouldn't we be aiming for success, after all?
Here's an example she gave. A study divided a group of artists into two groups. Let's say they were making pottery. The first group was told they would be graded on achieving one really excellent pot. They did not have to worry about how many pots they made--just one really good one and they'd ace the class. The second group was told to produce as many pots as they could--the more they made, the higher their grade. Quality was irrelevant.
At the end of the study, a panel examined the pottery samples to determine the best ones produced by both groups together. What the observers found was that the group that made many, many pots also produced the best pots. Why? Failure. They produced one pot after another after another. And they learned things. What worked. What techniques produced a stable pot. How to make the pot symmetrical. And so on.
This pretty much applies to any endeavor really. I know dozens of writers who are so concerned about producing the perfect manuscript, that they never produce another. I knew a man in a workshop I attended who had been working the same novel over and over for 20 years.
When I wrote my first novel, I was guilty of this. It took me about ten years of working on it (granted, sporadically, as I was also raising children) to get it "good enough" to start submitting. It got a few positive rejections. Failure.
Since then, I have written several more novels and half a dozen more in my brain. Once I let go of that one needs-to-be-perfect manuscript, I was able to forge ahead and produce many more, all of which are infinitely better than that first one. In fact, (surprise, surprise) each one is better than the last. What if I just kept writing as many as I could and never stopped. I'd produce a lot of failures. But I'd also produce a few really good books.
I liken this to shooting darts at a dartboard. The more darts you throw, the more likely your chance of hitting a bulls-eye. Right?
So as you start this new week, look for ways to fail. Embrace it. Do it some more. And learn.
Upon first impression of Fumio Obata’s new graphic novel, Just So Happens, I was struck with a lot of similar impressions that arose whilst reading a related, albeit a hastily associated work, Glyn Dillon’s Nao of Brown. Sure, both recount stories about a Japanese woman who now call London home and likewise are authored by men who have a history of working in animation, but these correlations are as redundant as clumping their narratives into the category of ‘graphic novels’, or even as mere examples of international comics. Where Just So Happens splits from its resemblance to The Nao of Brown is in how it emerges as an end product that investigates cultural identity within globalization in a way that fruitfully hones its roots in not only Japan but also as largely influenced by European visual history. Yumiko takes the lead in the story and upon returning home for her father’s abrupt funeral, finds herself immersed in a confrontation of personal cultural difference, manifesting in reality as well as in the mystic esthetics of Noh theatre. Just So Happens is a unique graphic undertaking in the concept of transcultural works. Obata visually and thematically blends Japanese and European visual culture to compose a tale that is dynamic in its hybridity, and thereby conceives a poignant graphic narrative that exposes cultural identity as a process of constant change.
Obata’s style has appropriately been described as a melting pot of manga elements and the ligne-claire method characteristic of Bande Dessinee cartoonists. This designation rings true in regards to the luminous, illustrative skill that Obata delivers in the pages of Just So Happens. Page after page is remarkably filled with expressive simplicity and detail in his characters, consistently matched with that of his backgrounds. Obata’s equal attention to every element of the page’s content is wholly evident—it’s often the intricate, surreal landscapes of Japanese mountains that are the most captivating in their delicacy. Even the mishmash of his characters’ soft outline uniformity with the rich washes in their backdrop work synchronously in creating scenes that induce a dreamlike, Murakami-esque imagery, regardless of whether the portrayed place is in Japan, London, or the in-between fantasy world in Yumiko’s mind. Obata’s aesthetic influence is seemingly more grounded in the craft of Franco-Belgian comics, and while it permeates throughout the work, it is Obata’s subtle, figurative infusion of classical Noh theater that creates an interplay amidst these two styles, splicing together the nostalgic and historical implications of these nation-specific art forms.
From the get go, Yumiko’s struggle to negotiate her Japanese heritage and current British inhabitancy is an almost too recognizable conflict—the works of Gene Yang and Adrian Tomine have similarly delved into examining inner struggles of cosmopolitan identity. Yuminko doesn’t stand out right away as an exceptional character to express this dilemma. At first, she represents a hodgepodge of the stereotypes of assimilation: the icy, emotionally-guarded Japanese woman dating a British man, repelled at the sight of other Japanese people passing by. The adamant rejection of her culture is clear to almost everyone but herself. What drew me in to Obata’s handling of Yumiko’s character was how he addressed her national dismissal without being too overtly affectional. Yumiko’s subconcious friction unravels within her mind, enacted by a mirror of her stoic psyche, the stone-faced Noh performer.
Yumiko’s first interaction with Noh theater is captured in a flashback as she comes across a performance during a summer stroll. The Noh performer thus becomes a reoccurring phantom and is rendered in some of the book’s lushest brushstrokes, its enduring image absorbs Yumiko’s subconscious along with the pages it penetrates. The Noh performer and Obata’s adaptation of its dramatic makeup is saturated in the core of Just So Happens, revealing the work as a versed reinterpretation of both Japanese and European imagery. Obata’s choice coloring echoes the naturalistic pigments of Noh masks, hence capturing the distinctive Noh quality of the profound beauty that exists in the transcendental world, including the mournful elegance involved in the sadness over death. Yumiko’s own detached remorse is reflected in her disorientation with the ambiguous effect of the Noh mask, and as the story carries on, she discovers the expressionless face is not based in a cold indifference, instead the mask embodies a paradox of concealment and revelation. The Noh theater is traditionally based in the stage as a complex metaphysical realm, where the spectators and actors create meaning through joint effort. Yumiko ultimately appeases her inner-torment by surpassing her inactive role as bystander, in both Japan and London, by willingly engaging a fundamental aesthetic rule of Noh, the hana (flower), in which a perfect balance of performance and reception is achieved.
“And during the process al the natural traits are simplified. Thus turning…’self’ becomes an obstacle…”
The turning point of the book is Yumiko’s crucial confrontation with the Noh specter, as she enters the spirit world that Noh is aimed to represent. It is here she settles the inner crisis of her own private struggle, unmasking the cultural chaos latent within, in an operatic climax as the pavilion’s pillars crumbles away. This controlled frenzy is rendered spectacularly, equivalently simulating a visualization of the space in Noh drama. The panels where Yumiko envisions this imaginary space are the most spectacular twinkles in the otherwise calm color washes, notably the flaming, bold use of reds, blacks, and white when Yumiko finally lets emotion pierce her disconnected psyche.
Where Just So Happens falters as a whole is the ellipses-heavy, facile text. My main complaint is the choice in font—the chunky lettering clashes compared to his gesturely brushwork style, and I wish he didn’t fill so many balloons with onomatopoeia since there are some points where he colors in sound effects to create their own background of flying letters and marks. Without diving too deep into the long-debated argument over whether or not the text and image need to work congruously in order to be an effective piece, I solidly accept the weakness of Obata’s dialogue alongside the splendor in his art. I don’t believe Obata intended the story to be taken too seriously, and if anything the simplistic, conversational dialogue is interspersed nicely within his larger panels, allowing the flowing nature of his art to slow down the reader’s eye, to take in his backgrounds in a contemplative course of time.
Set for release stateside later this month by Jonathan Cape with a French translation coming in April, Just So Happens is a memorable addition the growing indie graphic novel body. Fumio Obata accomplishes a compelling graphic narrative that rebuffs the unsatisfactory national/international binary that classifies comics as belonging to a single visual framework, demonstrating the rich and diverse international heritage emerging from unrecognized creators. The incorporation of the strong bandes desinees visual style and the Noh theater aesthetics is an understated and intelligent choice for choreographing a vibrant display of emotional composition. The graphic novel’s simplistic narrative is the backbone to the engrossingly dreamy landscapes and Obata swings the pendulum from reality to dream masterfully, allowing his stylistic magic to spew from the page.
For more information on Fumio Obata and Just So Happens, check out his charismatic and engaging blog.
The other night, I asked Twitter what I should write about for my post this month, and someone said she wanted to hear about the pressures and problems of being a published author — as opposed to tips on how to get published.
It’s a good topic, but before I get to the real meat of the discussion, I’d like to preface it with what looks like it’s going to be part one of ???:
This is something I talk about frequently, but in private, in small, safe places with people who I know won’t say, “I’d give anything to have your problems” or, “Well, at least you’re published.” As if that makes the struggles any less challenging or real. Believe me, I remember what it’s like to want someone else’s problems–what I saw as desierable problems–and I know how blessed and fortunate I am to be able to have writing as a career! It’s very rarely an easy career, though.
And the truth is, it’s a lot simpler to talk about challenges I’ve been through, like hundreds of rejections, or writing seventeen novels before INCARNATE was picked up. It’s not always comfortable talking about those things, because I remember the anguish and struggle of being in the middle of all that. But I believe it’s important to talk about them, especially now that I’ve come out on the other side of them, because they’re encouraging stories for others in those same places. It shows them that I survived, and they can, too.
Now that I’m published, it’s a bit different. After all, this is something I want to keep doing, struggles and all. This is the career I wanted. There’s not really another side where I talk about the difficulties but tell people I made it through. And looking at publishing as if it’s one huge thing that will (hopefully) last the rest of my life, that’s pretty overwhelming. It’s much more manageable to break problems into smaller bits and look at them individually.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of good things about being published. Too many to name. (This is probably another reason why authors rarely talk about how difficult it can be — they don’t want to come off as ungrateful. I certainly don’t!) But it’s not all sunshine and flowers once that first contract is signed. For me, writing actually got a lot more difficult.
Which, at this point, is another post, because this one will soon get unwieldy . . .
(But, with that in mind, I want you to know something: I am surviving. And you can, too.)
Jodi Meadows lives and writes in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, with her husband, a Kippy*, and an alarming number of ferrets. She is a confessed book addict, and has wanted to be a writer ever since she decided against becoming an astronaut. She is the author of the INCARNATE Trilogy (HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen). *A Kippy is a cat.
Last Wednesday I talked about writing in small spurts, and the irony of that was I was fast drafting last week and I wrote 51,000 words in four days. That's a new record for me. I even broke my daily word count record, hitting a new high of 18K in a single day. It was…well, insane. I did finish my draft and I was happy about that, but I was exhausted. It's crazy to think that sitting and typing would be so tiring, but it is! So I rewarded myself with a reading day on Monday. I lounged around and read Divergent. (Great book, by the way, and I'll be reviewing it later this month.) I learned something from my crazy week of writing pretty much non-stop. Writers need rewards. And we deserve them too. So don't forget to reward yourself for your hard work. How will you reward yourself this week?Add a Comment
Happy Monday! Here's my mishmash of thoughts: 1. Finishing the draft of Up in Flames Yesterday I finished the first draft of the third book in the Birth of the Phoenix series. It felt so good to be drafting, and reaching the end is bittersweet. 2. Many Sides of Medusa Blog Hop March 15th-30th Heather Lyons and I are hosting a blog hop to show you Medusa as we see her in our YA and NA books: The Touch of Death series and The Deep End of the Sea. There will be door prizes and a giveaway for two gift cards and tons of awesome SWAG. Want to participate? Sign up in the form below.
Loading... 3. Reading My reward for finishing the draft of Up in Flames is to finish reading Divergent. Yes, I know I'm behind in my TBR pile. I want to read it before I see the movie though. 4. The "S" word. I'm so over winter. Who's with me? 5. Pot of Gold Giveaway Darkly Delicious YA and Book Nerd Tours As a member of the Darkly Delicious YA blog, I'm part of this awesome giveaway. 3 winners get Amazon gift cards and one grand prize winner gets a Kindle Fire preloaded with great YA and NA books!
Today is Dr. Seuss’s birthday. He would’ve been 109 years old. He is the Best Doctor Ever on account of no needles, no looking into ears with a flashlight, no sticks stuck into forbidden places, and no touching of my bits and pieces.
Waiting for the Doctor. Hoping for the Best.
Mom also loves Dr. Seuss for a million other reasons – his wild imagination, his silly rhyming, his crazy stories, and the fact that his first book was rejected 27 times before anybody said they liked it. Misery loves company.
Mom’s #1 favorite Dr. Seuss book is The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins from 1938.
Normally, Mom and I steer clear of anything that smacks of numbers, but counting those hats is so much fun and so suspenseful that we can’t resist it. Also, a hundred years ago, Mom’s 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Nelson read that story to her class and Mom and her friends giggled and counted and were afraid for poor little Bartholomew not being able to take his hat off for the king.
As of Dr. Seuss’s birthday, Mom is up to date on her 12×12 Challenge. She has written 2 new stories in the past 2 months. Now it’s a new month and time to start a new story.
In which direction should she go?
Direction? Up, of course.
King of the Hill of Filth
What will be original?
Original? It doesn’t get any more original than an old dog learning a new trick.
With writing being a solitary business, it’s always a pleasure to be in the company of other writers for lunches, retreats and more. Yet one remarkable “meeting place” is almost invisible because it happens between the pages of an anthology.
Most of the anthology collections I’ve been involved with have been for youngish children, so the stories are sweet, despite the necessary brief but “moderate peril”. I enjoy writing a tale that an adult will share with a child or two on a lazy day, or making a comforting story for a child to read alone.
Sometimes I imagine the anthology as a small wrapped gift, a quiet thing hidden among the louder, larger presents, ready to be enjoyed by the readers when the moment is right.
Other writers contribute to anthologies of horror, or wacky humour or even gross-out-boy stories. Not me, not so far, although if asked, I’d always try. My author briefs evolve into furry or feathery creatures and maybe a child or two, with happiness at the end. I am an invisible writer. Aimed at the seasonal market, all the readers remember about the look of the book is the heart-warming picture on the cover. Just as heart-warming is the knowledge that – somewhere – another half-dozen or so unseen writers are working away their own versions. I won’t know who they are.
(However, I do know that, like me, they accept the fact that anthology fees are rather small, and they enjoy writing something more than nothing. And, also, that any editor, no matter how kindly analytic is likely to move on once the anthology iss done, leaving one feeling slightly adrift. Will anyone remember me for next time? Will the next brief get stuck somewhere, as it has done? And so on.)
Only when I get my own copy of those anthologies do I learn who the other story writers are, and see familiar names in the company. I do recommend this gentle word- partying within the pages.
However – and this is a loud “however”, with the sound of trumpets – there’s an anthology coming out in March and this time I do know the people involved. As the collection is for older readers too, I was able to step outside of my “sweet story” corner and reveal a few more story muscles as well.
What is this trumpeted anthology? DAUGHTERS OF TIME.
Some History Girls bloggers have been working on this collection for the last year. We’ve had big and small meetings. We’ve maundered over works-in-progress and muttered secretly ogether about deadlines – “Have you finished yet? Well, almost, but. . .” along with darker worries and collisions. In the end all went well.
We all know our Editor in person this time too: Mary Hoffman herself guided the project valiantly along. As well as being an astounding author, Mary was the originator of our blog home - the History Girls - and is a Book Maven in deed as well as name.
Now, with March beginning tomorrow, I’m waiting for the large package. (Soon, please?) Because all of us History Girls will be meeting on those pages. True, there have even been DAUGHTERS OF TIME events. This week some “Daughters” met at Aphra Benn’s tomb in Westminster Abbey to place a bouquet. Other “Daughters” will be at the Oxford Literature Festival at the end of March. It’s a very good anthology to celebrate.
However, there’s still that itch of mystery. I do know all the authors already. I even know the subject of most of the stories.
As a taster, there’s BOUDICA by Katherine Roberts, AETHELFED by Sue Purkiss, ELEANOR OF AQUITAINE by Adele Geras, JULIAN OF NORWICH BY Kath Langrish, LADY JANE GREY by Mary Hoffman, ELIZABETH STUART by Diane Hofmeyr, APHRA BEHN by Marie-Louise Jensen, MARY ANNING by Joan Lennon. MARY SEACOLE by Catherine Johnson. EMILY DAVISON by Celia Rees. AMY KOHNSON by Anne Rooney, and the GREENHAM WOMEN by Leslie Wilson. (Me, I'm MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT.)
So what I haven’t done yet is the best, the important, the most interesting bit. I haven’t yet read the collection.I don’t how the stories are told, or how these fictional moments have been imagined, or how these writers have written finally their stories. That's all to come.
So the author party I am looking forward to right now is reading everyone’s stories! That’s the best meeting, the best celebration for all anthologies, especially for welcoming the DAUGHTERS OF TIME.
DAUGHTERS OF TIME is published by Templar. March 2014
Last weekend I took a major step forward towards my dream of publishing children's books. I attended the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Annual Conference in New York. This post includes highlights from the keynotes and breakout sessions.
Really. I’m not dead. I just ate a piece of cake. I’ve just been AWOL from blogging for a while. I’ve been held prisoner by the Dust Bunny regime in my home. They declared war because I’ve started back with my FlyLady routine. The bunnies claim I am “messing with the natural order” of things […]
I've started work on the first draft of A Dinosaur Ate my Homework - the second book in my middle grade time travel adventure series. It's going well so far, though between preparing college lessons and finishing the third Snowy adventure, the going is slow.
Here's a little snippet from what I wrote today:
For one glorious moment, I knew it couldn’t be real. The Sentinel’s defense system enhances subliminal fear in anything that gets too close. Sure, in my nightmares, the dinosaurs don’t usually come within drooling distance, but it wouldn’t be the first time a ship-triggered illusion scared the crap out of me. My relief lasted as long as it took for the T-Rex to exhale.
This giraffe fashionista was sent in by Katia Bulbenko. Katia is an artist, illustrator and art teacher living and working near New York City, on the Jersey side of the Hudson. A member of the SCBWI, her work was recently selected for the New Jersey Library Association’s Books for Kids poster. Congratulations! Katia!
Big Red and Wolfie (PB) by Bev Baird Langill
“Look at those nice juicy pigs. Won’t granny be happy.”
Turning around, Red screeched when she saw Wolfie glaring at her.
“Why are you spying on me?”
“I’m not! I caught you spying on our new neighbours.”
“Just checking them out.”
“Not for a meal, I hope?”
“Of course not!”
Red left quickly and ran home, arriving there, huffing and puffing.
“Granny, we’ve got new neighbours – three plump, juicy pigs.”
“Wonderful. What I wouldn’t give for a nice roast of pork.”
“We need to meet them. I want you to take over some nice treats. That will fatten them up even
“What a great idea Granny. I’ll go over now.”
Granny packed a basket with cakes and cookies, while Red put on her cloak. She had a bit of
trouble doing it up around her neck.
Here is what Allison had to say:
BIG RED AND WOLFIE by Bev Baird Langill
The idea of combining the “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Three Little Pigs tales here was interesting. That said, given the storyline wasn’t straightforward, I thought it could use a few more lines to set the scene, before jumping into the dialogue. At times it wasn’t immediately clear who was talking, so I might also suggest using attribution, if even just selectively. Or, if the story is meant to communicate some of its humor visually, I would suggest including art notes. In some ways, this felt like the middle of a story. I could make assumptions about Granny, Wolfie, and Red based on what they said, but I wasn’t feeling as invested as I could be.
There are a number of fairy tale-inspired picture books out in the market, so for us to consider one, it needs to be spot-on – and stand out from the crowd in a really dynamic, specific way. In this case, unfortunately, I would probably choose not to move forward.
Rule Breaker – a Middle Grade Novella By Angela Larson and Zander Mowat
The book made this sound a lot easier. I’m in the hall that leads to the cafeteria, leaning on a bent knee and peering around the corner with a mirror in my hand. This is surveillance, Chapter One of Detective Derk’s Spy Manual for the Disgruntled. I’ve been on surveillance all week. It’s Friday. My hand is going numb while I wait. I’m debating if it’s worth skipping lunch again, when my target, my jerk brother Roger Adams, turns the corner.
He strolls down the hall in his ‘too important to walk any faster’ mode and pulls a coin from his pocket. By the time he gets to the vending machine my arm starts to shake. I’m concentrating hard to keep the mirror focused on him.
He puts a quarter in the machine, presses a button and I hear the candy fall to the door. This is crazy – I know he doesn’t have any money. Then I see the trick. I blink. Is this for real?
He pulls a string – its tied to the quarter!
A second later, he’s pulled the quarter up and out, has the stolen snack in his hand, and he is about to walk away.
My body jolts to fast-forward as I turn the corner and launch at him. “That’s not very cool – Stealing from the school!” Not waiting for an answer, I snatch the coin on the string out of his hand.
“Dude, take a chill pill, before your head explodes,” says Roger as he rolls his eyes. This is part of Roger’s classic cosmic-cool act. He goes around saying all these…
Here is what Allison had to say:
RULE BREAKER by Angela Larson and Zander Mowat
I thought this was a great first line. It grabbed me immediately, and told me a lot about the situation and character in just a few words. I didn’t mind jumping into the middle of a scene because each line told me something interesting and important – how the character looks, how he fits into his environment, and what his goal is. I wanted to know why he was following “the target,” and what made him look to a book for advice. I might even suggest extending his watch, and not revealing who the target is just yet, to maintain suspense for a few more paragraphs. In any case, I would definitely keep reading.
That said, a few things in the following paragraphs struck me as outdated, in a way, and I found that a little distracting. Are any vending machines still only a quarter? Do kids still say “take a chill pill”? These wouldn’t have stopped me from reading, because I was taken by the plot, but they took me out of the story momentarily, so I might suggest rethinking them. On a similar note, the specific phrasing coming from the main character – especially his exclamation about stealing from the school (and the fact that that line rhymes, almost like a slogan), made him seem less like a cool spy and more like an annoying little brother. And if he is, so be it! But if that’s not one of his main traits as a character, I might similarly rework that line.
Overall, minor quibbles aside, I would be interested in seeing where this story was going.
(Side note – I wasn’t familiar with the category of “middle grade novella.” There is certainly a range, from chapter books up to more complex MG, but I haven’t heard of something in MG being described as a novella, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.)
Sarah Phillips Pellet – THE KITCHEN TROLL – Middle Grade
Stephen didn’t brush his teeth in the morning. It was about all he could do to get out of bed, pull on his jeans and sweatshirt, eat breakfast, grab his backpack, and walk to school. Who had time to brush their teeth?
The problem was though, Stephen didn’t find the time to do other little things he should’ve been doing, too. Things like weeding the garden, taking out the trash, and sorting the recyclables, they got in the way of the time he liked to spend playing basketball with his friends or drawing in the garden shed where nobody would disturb him. Or find out that he liked to draw.
Stephen didn’t give these things too much thought in the morning. He didn’t think much of anything apart from moving his spoon to his mouth to take a bite of cereal. Th-wap! His father slammed his sketch pad onto the kitchen table. Little bits of dirt scuttled out from its pages and flew across the table as if they knew was what coming next and wanted to get out of the way. The pencil slid out of its spiral cage and rolled onto the floor. Two giant hands came crashing down onto the table with such force that Stephen’s spoon jumped out of his cereal bowl and catapulted soggy Cheerios onto his lap.
“What is this?” his father demanded, his lip curled in a snarl.
Stephen blinked several times. “I dunno,” he lied.
“Oh really?” said his father, flipping the sketch pad over to reveal a sign Stephen had penned which read, “NO TRESPASSING! Property of Stephen Dennison!!!” with each exclamation point drawn in 3-D: one with diagonal stripes, another with polka dots, and the last one with lightning bolts.
Here is what Allison had to say:
THE KITCHEN TROLL
I liked this opening – it tells you what kind of kid Stephen is, and that this isn’t a one-off situation. That said, my first question was, why does Stephen eat cereal, instead of an even quicker breakfast? Sitting at the table and pouring cereal and milk sounds like it takes more effort than, say, eating a granola bar on the way out the door. Just something to consider.
I enjoyed the imagery of the third paragraph, especially the line “Little bits of dirt scuttled out from its pages and flew across the table as if they knew was what coming next and wanted to get out of the way.” Since this is a clever line, I might suggest simplifying the other sentences in that paragraph – otherwise, it’s easy to get a bit caught on up things like “spiral cage” and “catapulted soggy Cheerios,” and lose track of the story.
The “No Trespassing” sign seemed to make the sketchpad more noticeable than if Stephen had written something misleading like “Biology Homework” on it, so I wondered what his thought process was there. I also found that his father’s anger about the artwork felt familiar – it’s a storyline I’ve read before. I wanted to know more about why, in Stephen’s particular situation, it would be bad if people knew he liked to draw – and how deep his passion for drawing is. I might suggest having his dad discover a very particular piece of artwork that conveys more of the story (is this where the kitchen troll from the title comes in?). There also seems to be a disconnect between this scene and the opening describing Stephen, so I would want to know how he caused this situation to happen (did he accidentally leave the sketchbook out?).
Overall, I would probably read a few more pages to find out if the questions above were answered, but would need another hook to keep me interested past that.
First he stubbed his big toe, and then bumped his head
James spilled juice on the rug, stepped on the cat
When practicing swings, broke a plant with his bat.
The dog chewed his shoe, ran off with his sock
Their chase through the kitchen made furniture rock –
Knocked over sugar and spilled all the tea!
James escaped from the house to hide in a tree…
He scrambled up fast which made his foot slip
He looked down and saw that his pants had a rip.
What would he do? Dad must surely be mad!
The messes and mayhem made James seem so bad.
Would Dad be angry and make a loud roar?
Banish James to his room and then lock the door?
Here is what Allison had to say:
OUT ON A LIMB
Rhyming text in picture books is interesting – in the best cases, it can enhance the lyrical quality of the book, making it an incredibly fun read-aloud. But in other cases, it can feel a little forced. Unfortunately, the second one happens much more often when I’m reading submissions, so I always approach rhyming stories with a bit of apprehension. Add to that the difficulty of translating text that rhymes, and you can see how we might have especially high standards when we consider acquiring this type of book!
In this case, I thought the rhyme was fun, but a few of the lines felt like a bit of a stretch – like they were rearranged to support the end rhyme, rather than the plot. I also wondered in the emphasis was on the right words – in following the story (and picturing it illustrated), I wanted to highlight certain words or beats that were the most visual or meaningful – and those didn’t always match with the natural beat of the end rhyme.
I also found the plot to be a little bit quiet. The story of a klutzy child – or one who can’t please his dad – isn’t new, so I was looking for other ways this story would stand out. I found that I was remembering the sing-song quality more than certain aspects of the story, so wondered if this would be better served written without the rhyme. I would need to read the rest to see if this could turn into a stand-out story, but I predict it might be a pass.
Thank you Allison for taking the time out of your busy schedule to share your expertise with us. If you sign up for the NJSCBWI Conference at the end of June you will get to meet Allison in person. Please leave a little note for Allison if you enjoyed the post and her comments. Thanks!
Poetry today is pretty much whatever you want it to be. There are different forms (sonnets, odes, ballads, free verse, found poetry) but generally, poetry has become something of a blanket term that can include nearly anything rhythmical or lyrical.
In Sicily in the 1200s , that wasn’t quite the case.
Thirteenth century southern Italy saw the incredible growth of a small community of poets that ended up shaping the history of Western poetry. The invention of the sonnet is credited to the Sicilian poet Giacomo da Lentini in the 1200s. Then the form was developed by the likes of Dante and his contemporaries, perfected by Petrarch, brought to England, and made its way into Shakespeare’s works. Think about all those Shakespeare sonnets you love that wouldn’t have been possible without the form’s inception during the game-changing poetic boom in the court of Frederick II.
The Sicilian school is responsible for the rise of poetry as something that is read, rather than sung with an instrumental accompaniment. Until then, poetry had been nearly inseparable from music, with the French troubadours and jongleurs using their musical talent in conjunction with repetitive lyrics to entertain their audience. The Sicilians didn’t really care about the music, or maybe they didn’t have that kind of talent. They cared more about the manipulation of the language, and the perfection of a lyrical way of posing a question and finding the answer at the end. The poems are really very stunning. They’re masterfully written and flawless.
Well, flawless except for one little thing aptly called Sicilian rhyme.
Sometimes, they’d do this thing where the rhyme would be imperfect. Like rhyming the word grudge with bridge instead of judge, for example. And it was incredibly common. So common that by the time the Sicilian school fell and the 14th century stilnovismo replaced it in importance up in Tuscany (where copies of the Sicilian poems were numerous due to their extreme popularity) people thought it was just something they did.
And it was fascinating. For years, people looked at rhymes like tutto / sotto and gire / gaudere and wondered at how a school so important in establishing the groundwork for contemporary poetry was able to stomach such graceless half-rhymes. The imperfections began to inspire awe in students all over Europe until this flaw became a misunderstood but thereby endlessly mysterious feature. Sicilian rhyme even began to creep its way into the works of greats like Dante, who’s notorious for never using a word without a motive:
Questi parea che contra me venisse
con la test’alta e con rabbiosa fame,
sì che parea che l’aere ne tremesse.
(Dante – Divina Commedia – Inf. I, vv. 48-50)
God, what depth! What thrilling poetic license! To think; you don’t have to be perfect! You can actually use a mistake to slam a point home! You can use flaws to bring out the beauty of your verse!
I mean, Sicilian imperfect rhyme is something invented by the experts. It was honed during the decades of the development of the modern wordsmith. No way it was actually something totally made up by people reading Tuscan copies of Sicilian poems riddled with scribal error.
Scribal error… The two most dreaded words of any paleographer, nay, historian, nay, lover of words of any kind.
Yes, my friends, Sicilian rhyme is a false construct. It was created by accident through copy blunders, something you may have even guessed if you kept the title of this article in mind while reading (spoiler alert, by the way). Why would the Sicilian school be so careless as to fill their poetry with imperfect rhyme? The real culprit was…
In the Middles Ages, Italian in Sicily and Italian in Tuscany were practically different languages. As their dialects developed, Latin vowel sounds morphed differently. The letters i and u in Sicily were more often e and o respectively in Tuscany, so that the words luci and cruci in Sicilian were luce and croce in Tuscan. So the example above, gire / gaudere,was originally gire / gaudire. A perfect rhyme.
How close these vowels are linguistically meant that Tuscan scribes copying Sicilian manuscripts made mistakes. Poetry back then wasn’t written line by line; it was all one big block. You couldn’t compare line endings as easily as you can with how poetry is written now, so things slipped past them. That, coupled with the fact that original Sicilian manuscripts didn’t exist anymore (today we only have one full manuscript extant, and some fragments) meant that the Tuscan copies sucked as points of reference. Still, where scribes failed to notice the errors, any poet reading them immediately caught the differences, but the Sicilian reputation was so rock solid they were interpreted not as mistakes, but as genially unique twists the old masters refined in the court of Frederick II.
And we didn’t even realize until a century ago. It took us nearly 700 years to figure it out.
Sicilian rhyme is human error falsely mediated by imposed poetic license. History is truly created by historians, and poetry by its readers. It is the epitome of the anxieties revolving around the study of manuscripts.
But damn it all if it isn’t the most fascinating piece of linguistic trivia you’ve learned all week.
Biljana Likic is working on her fantasy WIPs and in her fourth year of university, where she can’t wait till she’s out so she’ll finally have all the time in the world to write. You can follow her on Twitter.
HUGE thanks to the wonderful people at YA Highway, who not only hosted my cover reveal, but managed to put it together in, like, two freaking hours. If that's not a superpower, I don't know what is. And also to the amazing, AMAZING team at Greenwillow who designed this breathtaking cover. Can we just sit here for a minute and marvel at how amazeballs they are? Because HOLY CRAP THAT COVER.
AND ALSO ginormous thanks to my agent, who played fairy godmother/therapist/shoulder-to-whine-on/superhero/buttsaver this week (and every other week).
NOW GO LOOK AT THAT COVER. GO GO GO GO GO GO GO GO GO GO GO!!!!!!!! ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...
AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH IT'S SO PRETTY I'M GONNA DIE!!!!!
Seriously, though. I love everything about it. I love the physics equations in the background, even though I've spent the last few weeks staring at them and realizing that I forgot everything I learned in physics. I love the car falling and the road and the words. I love my name (DO YOU SEE MY NAME IN THE CORNER THERE BECAUSE OH MY GOD MY NAME IS ON A BOOK). And I love love love love LOVE the hand, because it's THE IMAGINARY FRIEND'S HAND!!!! AHHHHHHHH!!!!
Okay. Okay. So it's actually kind of funny that I'm having my reveal today, because it's exactly one day after the anniversary of my book. That's right. FALLING INTO PLACE sold on February 28, 2013. And in another one hundred and ninety-three days (that's ONE HUNDRED AND NINETY-THREE, 19FREAKING3) days, you'll be able to go to your bookstore and, like, TOUCH IT. AND HOLD IT. AND READ IT.
The life-changing, panic-inducing, holy-hell-it's-happening text from my agent.