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One of the most exciting things about being an author is connecting with readers. It’s incredible to me to realize there are people out there waiting for my next book. And it’s especially dear to know some of you come here regularly to listen in on the things I have to say.
As you probably know, the best way to launch a book into the world is to send it out with lots of love. What’s the best sort of love a reader can offer? Word of mouth, hands down. Word of mouth comes in the form of casual conversations, recommendations, blog posts, and reviews on sites like Amazon or Goodreads. It’s simply one reader talking to another.
Want to have a hand in a word of mouth campaign? I have ten advance reader copies of BLUE BIRDS to give away. I’d love if you’d consider writing a blog post to run the second week of January about one of the following things:
- Friendship: how your friend(s) have influenced you, the role childhood friendships have played in your life, or any other friendship-related idea
- Pivotal Moments: An instance when you experienced a world completely different from anything you’d ever known before, a time you stepped outside your own culture, or any other life-changing idea
- Review: an honest look at what you think of BLUE BIRDS (Just because you read here doesn’t mean you have to like it! Every opinion is a valid one.)
To participate, leave a comment below. While I’ll only have ARCs for the first ten commenters, if you’d still like to participate, I have a lovely little thank you I’ll send along to all who choose to blog.
Thanks, friends! I’ll be in touch with more specific details soon.
The post Are You A Blogger? Let’s Talk about BLUE BIRDS! appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.
It was so, so lovely to talk a few weeks ago with Sarah and Beth Anne of Brilliant Business Moms. They sought me out after reading this guest post at Modern Mrs. Darcy. Here are a few of the things you can expect in the podcast:
01:15 – Roald Dahl, the Oregon Trail, and My Journey
04:24 – The Most Honest Thing I’ve Ever Written
07:48 – What about Mr. Chapman?
09:59 – The Apprentice Stage
13:34 – Maniacal Optimism
16:54 – Why a Traditional Publisher?
19:29 – How to Get Published
22:50 – Finding an Agent
24:59 – Advice for Apprentice Authors
29:31 – Does a Web Presence Matter?
31:02 – A Day in the Life
34:34 – How Much Does an Author Make?
38:56 – Resources for Aspiring Authors
44:30 – What My Boys Think About Having an Author for a Mom
The podcast is live! Click through to have a listen.
The post A Podcast with Brilliant Business Moms appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.
A nice surprise package arrived this afternoon. I was trying to work out what it could be, as I wasn't expecting anything big and flat. I had completely forgotten about the American editorial commission I took on at the beginning of the summer, via my US agent: I haven't worked in editorial for years, though it was where I learnt my trade, back in the late '80s. On publication day, they always send you at least one copy of the magazine, for your portfolio. So here it is!
The spread was for Spider - a subscription magazine for children, mainly full of stories and poetry, with some activities to try. This fabulous front cover illustration was done by Dom Mansell:
If you are interested to see how the artwork was created, I blogged the process in three different stages and you can see them all here.
‘Tis the season for critique partner debuts!
Last month we celebrated Kate Bassett’s Words and Their Meanings. Now it’s time to cheer on Valerie Geary and her Crooked River. It’s been especially thrilling to watch these two talents find their agents, sell their books, and then release them into the world just a few weeks apart. Val and Kate have been instrumental in my own writing process. Here’s a little glimpse into CROOKED RIVER and the way the three of us work together.
Before I hand things over to Val, though, I want to share that Crooked River made November’s Indie Next list. It’s that good.
Tell us about your book.
Still grieving the sudden death of their mother, Sam and her younger sister Ollie McAlister move from the comforts of Eugene to rural Oregon to live in a meadow in a teepee under the stars with Bear, their beekeeper father. But soon after their arrival, a young woman is found dead floating in Crooked River, and the police arrest their eccentric father for the murder.
Fifteen-year-old Sam knows that Bear is not a killer, even though the evidence points to his guilt. Unwilling to accept that her father could have hurt anyone, Sam embarks on a desperate hunt to save him and keep her damaged family together. Ollie, too, knows that Bear is innocent. The Shimmering have told her so. One followed her home from her mom’s funeral and refuses to leave. Now, another is following Sam. Both spirits warn Ollie: the real killer is out there, closer and more dangerous than either girl can imagine.
Crooked River is my first novel, a coming of age story and a page-turning mystery that I hope will touch readers’ hearts and keep them up past their bedtime.
What is it like to work with two other writers you’ve never met in person?
I was in a local writer’s group for a short time, and while it was nice meeting in person to talk life and writing, it was also incredibly awkward to have to sit there and listen as my group members picked apart my chapters. There was very little time and no space to consider what they were saying, and for me it ended up being this horrible emotional roller coaster that did more harm than good.
My socially anxious personality tends to fit better with a virtual writer’s group. Whenever I’m ready, I send Caroline and Kate part or all of my manuscript. They take their time reading it and then they send the manuscript back with their notes attached. There’s less pressure this way, and a lot of distance, a feeling of detachment. Revision is all about setting aside what you think a story should be and really seeing it for what it is so that you can figure out what’s working and what’s not and why. During this stage, it’s important to be as objective as we can with our own work, and the best way I’ve found to do this is by not having my critique partners in the room while I consider their feedback. There’s no one around watching, or judging, or expecting things from me. No one for me to try and justify, defend, or explain my choices. It’s just me alone with my manuscript and their notes, finding a way to a better story.
That said, there are definitely times when I just want to go grab a cup of coffee and talk shop with my friends. Or pop by their house with a plate of cookies when they’re having a hard day. We can’t do this because of the distance, and that’s something I miss.
How often do you read for each other? Do you respond differently as a manuscript progresses? If so, how?
As long as I’m not pushing up against a deadline, I’ll read as often as Kate and Caroline need me to. I’ve read their manuscripts at various stages of development. When I read early drafts, I tend to look more for big picture problems like pacing, story arc, and character development. As the drafts progress, if I’m asked to read again, I still keep big picture things in mind, but I also edit for details, oddly worded sentences, grammar errors, and typos. At every stage, too, I try and point out things I love, beautiful phrases, sections that make me hold my breath or shed a tear, characters that steal my heart. Drawing attention to where a story already shines is just as important as pointing out where it might need a little more elbow grease.
Beyond critiquing manuscripts, how else do you support one another?
In this business, there are highs and lows, good days, bad days. When I need to vent, when I want to celebrate, when I feel like a sham, when I read an interesting article, when I need encouragement, when I have stupid questions, when I need someone to tell me I’m not going crazy, or a safe place to be myself, or someone to bounce ideas off of, I go to Caroline and Kate first. No one understands the strange life of a writer better than other writers.
What is something you’ve learned from your critique partners?
Perserverence, courage, resilience.
Also, that I overwrite more often than underwrite. Thanks to Caroline and Kate’s keen eyes and wicked red pens, I’m more aware now of the places in my manuscripts where the prose gets wordy or redundant. Of course, I don’t catch everything–I still need them to help me trim the fat.
One thing I always remind Caroline and Kate (or anyone else who asks me to critique their writing) is this: At the end of the day, it’s your story. So take the feedback that rings true to you and throw out the rest.
I feel like this is good life advice, too.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
The post Hooray for Val’s CROOKED RIVER! A Giveaway appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.
Actually, its publication date came while I was still in Barcelona but, as you can imagine, I had a few other things going on at that point, so have only just found time to tell you the good news.
Jungle Grumble is really funny and very unusual, so please do all rush out and buy it, right away! The paperback is £6.99. If anyone would like a signed copy with a little drawing and a dedication inside, just drop me an email and we'll sort it out on PayPal, then I'll pop one off to you. Perfect Christmas presents to put away perhaps?
Thank you as well to all the team at Piccadilly Press who have worked with Julia and I on the book. People outside the business don't always realise what a team job picture books are and how important people like the editor, art director and designer are, not to mention all the folks we rarely get to meet, from sales and publicity etc.
If you would like to follow the process of how I created the illustrations, use this blog's Jungle Grumble label and scroll back to the beginning, for my very first sketched thoughts. There are also several short films on my YouTube channel, explaining how I created the animal characters in Jungle Grumble:
...and how I designed the book's roughs (it takes about a month to work out all the drawings and layouts in pencil, before any colouring can begin):
There is also another film on the way, talking you through the creation of a piece of pastel artwork - the cover of Jungle Grumble - just like the film I did when I was illustrating Swap!:
The footage for new film is all shot, but it always takes quite a time to edit the films and this is the most complicated one we have attempted. It got put on the back-burner while other things have been happening, but now the book is available, it's definitely time to get it out and get it sorted, so watch this space!
The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) has played a huge role in my writing life. Joining SCBWI was a leap for me — for the first time I was able to see myself as a professional, even though I had no published works to show for it. The organization has led me to dozens of writing friends, critique groups, opportunities to better my craft, and now, as New Mexico’s assistant regional advisor, a chance to give back to the children’s writing community.
Ever dreamed of writing or illustrating books for children? If you live in New Mexico or in a neighboring state, I invite you to join us in Albuquerque for the upcoming Handsprings Conference on Oct. 24 and 25, 2014 at the Ramada Inn, Eubank and I-40. Faculty will include the following publishing professionals:
- Liza Baker, Executive Editorial Director, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
- Patti Ann Harris, Senior Art Director, Little, Brown
- Sara Megibow, Agent, Nelson Literary Agency
- Julie Ham Bliven, Associate Editor, Charlesbridge
The conference will include an evening social event on Friday and a full conference scheudle on Saturday, including a First Impressions Panel, individual faculty presentations, plus the opportunity to attend two of our five targeted breakout sessions.
Here is an overview of the breakout sessions offered during this year’s conference. When you register, you’ll be asked to select two different workshops, one for breakout session #1 and one for breakout session #2.
Sara Megibow: Spoken Words and Written Words: Talking about Our Manuscripts and How This Helps Nail Pitch — Talking about a book can be helpful both to pitching your novel and to the actual written creation of your book. Attendees will talk through their pitches and their stories in a safe environment (or just listen to others talk if that’s more comfortable).
Julie Ham Bliven: Writing Middle-Grade Novels: Voice Your Voice — Using recent Newbery Medal and Honor books as a guide, this presentation examines qualities of remarkable middle-grade novels and suggests ways for you to strengthen your novel’s unique voice.
Patti Ann Harris: Good Habits of Successful Illustrators — Learn how simple ideas like keeping a sketchbook, taking the time to research your subject, and being open to the revision process can help you to grow as an illustrator and a picture book artist.
Patti Ann Harris and Liza Baker: Picture Book Boot Camp — A behind-the-scenes look at the world of the picture book and the steps leading up to publication. A focus on craft will include lively discussion and some in-class work on such topics as creating strong characters, the best practices of succeful illustrators, and tips on polishing your picture book.
Liza Baker: SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW: Bringing Creative Twists to Perennial Themes in Picture Books — There is a reason why some picture book themes are perennially popular and timeless, and why books that explore those themes are beloved by so many children. Be it bedtime, dinosaurs, princesses, or monsters, some topics are universal and resonate with children in a deep and resounding way. But within those themes there is a great deal of room for authors to explore new areas of creativity and bring a fresh point of view. In this workshop, we’ll discuss some of those most resonant topics, discuss examples of great books that bring an original approach to classic themes, and also brainstorm ideas for creatively layering themes in a playful way that offers readers a satisfying twist on those most celebrated topics.
Please click through to SCBWI New Mexico
if you’d like to sign up for the event. I’d love to see you there!
The post Handspring’s Writing Conference 2014 appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.
The day before I left for Brazil, the postman bought me another of those fun packages. I have already had an advance copy of my next book Jungle Grumble, so I have seen it, but this new copy is the paperback.
It's due out in October, although I am not sure which end. Not long though now!
If you’ve been around here for any length of time, you know my friend J. Anderson Coats says a lot of things that resonate with me. She’s the one who gave me my favorite piece of writing advice and came up with that great cow-through-a-colander writing metaphor.
During a recent email exchange with my Class of 2k12 friends, Jillian shared this:
A writing career is not a sprint. It’s a marathon. You’re not on a schedule. There is no schedule.
That first part, I’ve probably heard it a thousand times. But the second part? It felt like a revelation. It’s true that when you’re on deadline you most certainly have a schedule, but otherwise, the writing life is wide open.
So you know what?
- If there’s no schedule, someone else isn’t going to beat you to the punch. What you’re working on now will not somehow be replaced by someone else’s (faster) efforts.
- The market isn’t in charge of your story. You are.
- For you published folks, you will not be forgotten if you somehow don’t get to keep some “regular” publishing schedule. Yes, your readers might age out, as they say, but there are always new readers to take their place and earlier books to introduce readers to the new ones, whenever they happen to be published.
- Unless you’re contractually committed, you can write whatever you want whenever you want.
- And there’s what author/illustrator Ruth McNally Barshaw (my niece’s former Girl Scout leader!) posted on Facebook a few days ago:
Repeated themes I heard at the writer-illustrator conference in LA: Slow down. Take time to do your best work. When you think it’s done, set it aside to assess again later. Build on what you borrow. Be courageous — do work you find important, no matter what others say. LIVE so you’ll have a rich portfolio of experiences to draw and write from. What gets your next book published isn’t luck, desperation, a magic shortcut, or networking with stars; it’s your hard work, your being ready to jump at sudden opportunities, and your connections with friends. #SCBWI14
Here’s to approaching your writing with freedom in the days ahead!
The post There is No Schedule appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.
When we got Boudreaux three years ago, I hoped she’d keep me company while writing, be a warm, faithful soul who’d stay by me as I worked. She’s been that and more.
Boo’s been around since the beginning of BLUE BIRDS
, back when I started reading everything I could find on the Lost Colony of Roanoke. She took a special shine to the manuscript, too. Here she is with first-round edits,
It seemed fitting that Boo get her own copy of BLUE BIRDS, but seeing as she hasn’t yet learned to read and it’s not as tasty as she first hoped, Boo’s offering to give her copy away.
If you’d like to read the book a full seven months before it’s published, enter below!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
The post The Fuzzy Muse and a BLUE BIRDS Giveaway appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.
Sorry I've been off-air for a while. I am so busy trying to get my sketching book ready for presentation at the Frankfurt Book Fair, that I have not been able to stop and chat. But I had to tell you about what arrived in the post today...
My advance copies of Jungle Grumble! It was a total surprise, as I wasn't particularly expecting them yet, since publication isn't until October. It's looking great. It's got a silk-finish cover, rather than full gloss, which I rather like.
I'll let you know when it's actually available to buy. Not long now! Right, back to work...
July’s the month I take a blogging sabbath. Throughout the course of the month, I’ll re-run some oldies but goodies. Enjoy!
I thought it would be fun to look over the goals I set for my writing this year, to see what worked and what didn’t. And in light of this recent discussion on author output, comparison, and finding peace with my own creative processes, the timing felt right.
At the end of last year, our SCBWI-NM monthly schmooze focused on personal writing goals. During that session, I took a one-page calendar and marked out school holidays, family vacations, and other important dates I knew in advance. And then I aimed high.
Here’s what I wanted to tackle in 2013:
- research for a new picture book
- twelve new picture book manuscripts (!!!)
- six months of research for a new novel
- three months of drafting this new novel
- blog/reading goal: re-read The Complete Journals of Lucy Maud Montgomery, Volumes I-V and write about it here
Author Chris Eboch led a second schmooze discussion in July about reassessing our goals. I noticed a few things:
- I was already waaay off on the picture book goal.
- Due to some wonderful news, I needed to change my novel goals.
- This was all A-okay.
Kristi talks about four terms that are key to a writer’s success:
- DREAMS: not under your control
- GOALS: under your control
- SUB-GOALS: specific to-do steps under each goal
- HABITS: daily practices that support your sub-goals
The distinction between what an author can control and what she can’t is key.* For example, while aiming to nab an agent is wonderful, it’s a dream, not a goal. But there are steps (sub-goals) a writer can take to do all that is in her control in this regard, from completing a manuscript, working with critique partners to revise it, taking advantage of contests or grants that might give feedback on her work, researching agents for the best fit, writing and evaluating a query letter, and finally sending it out.
Here’s what I actually did in 2013:
- research for a new picture book
- two new picture book manuscripts
- four months of research on a new novel
- one month drafting this new novel
- work on first and second-round edits for Blue Birds
- blog/reading goal: met! Plus I read the new(ish) LMM biography, THE GIFT OF WINGS by journal co-editor, Mary Rubio
Over all, I’m pleased with this year’s work. As for next year, I’ll consider re-visiting some of those picture book ideas, work on my novels within my editor’s time table, flex when surprises come, and keep re-assessing what’s best for my work and me.
Do you set writing goals? How have you fared this year?
*Unless you’re a local superstar author who recently shared with me she likes to set goals like “I’ll sell two novels and one picture book this year”…and does just that!
The post 2013 Writing Goals: Hit, Miss, or Somewhere In Between? appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.
I started blogging in September 2009. By then I’d been writing for over eleven years, and though I had no publishing leads, I decided to jump in feet first: I quit my teaching job and started writing full time.
Though opinions have since changed, anyone who was trying to get published “back then” was supposed to blog.* I’ve often been thankful I started writing long before the blogosphere was born. While it was sometimes lonely writing on my own, it was also simpler, too — fewer distractions, no one else’s writing regimen or sales to compare to my own experiences. I sometimes wonder if I’d started writing then how far I would have gotten. How easy it would have been to try and keep up with everyone else on-line and altogether forget about the actual writing thing.
I remember checking out a book about blogging, and though I didn’t understand a lot of it, one thing stuck with me: with so many voices out there, a blogger needed a unique angle. I decided my blog would be called Caroline by line, a name I hoped would be catchy, would be a play on “by line,” and would help people learn I was a CaroLINE and not a CaroLYN (Five years later, I still get LYN-ed as much as before). I opened a free account on Blogger and committed to talking about writing and reading, but also the publication process as I was learning about it. I also threw in some bits and pieces on teaching. These were the things I knew and loved.
Using a weekly planner I got through Writer’s Digest, I kept record of my blog posts. I posted five days a week until I sold May B. (roughly seven months in), then switched to three times a week. In 2010, I took off the weeks of Thanksgiving and Christmas. In 2012 I gave myself a whole month of sabbath in July. It’s a schedule that I’ve stuck to since.
Though many who started blogging around the time I did have since hung up their fiddles**, I’ve continued on. Not because I’m so great, but because I’ve really fallen in love with it all. After sending manuscripts into the void, sometimes never to be seen again, having immediate feedback from readers was and is the most amazing thing. Some of my most popular posts have been my Running a Book Club for Kids series, this Third-Grade Reading List I created for the said book club, a post on sod houses, and my interview series with author/teacher Donalyn Miller discussing her title, THE BOOK WHISPERER.
I’ve tried regular features. Some have succeeded, some have fizzled, some I’d like to revive: Classroom Connections, a series meant to introduce teachers to new books; Fast Five, an up-close look at five books that share something in common; On Writing and Why We Read, which are simply quotes on the reading and writing life; Navigating a Debut Year for those new to publication; and most recently, Straight from the Source, a series of interviews with authors of historical fiction. Then there was Carpool Conversations, little nuggets I overheard while driving the neighborhood kids to and from school.
Some of you are new around here, and some of you have stuck around since the very beginning. I’m so grateful for all of you and this journey we’ve been on together, from those first days I stepped into the world as an unemployed, unrepresented author to the present, with one book in the world and four more under contract.
If you haven’t before, I’d love for you to introduce yourself in the comments below, perhaps sharing how long you’ve read in these here parts. If there are any topics you’d like me to blog about in the future, I’d love for you to let me know.
Thanks, friends! This blog wouldn’t exist without you.
*Now it seems those of us who write fiction have been cut some slack. It’s you non-fiction folk who are absolutely required / no excuses / get to it / must blog. Or not. Whatever works for you.
**Sometimes only frontier slang will do.
The post Almost Five Years of Blogging: What’s Changed, What’s the Same appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.
This is kinda-sorta an "author's notes" post but without the spoilers. After a few months of quiet, I have a flurry of writing news. Horror d'oeurves features my flash piece, "Slips of Yew," a title I lifted from Shakespeare's "Scottish play." Okay, Macbeth. I guess it isn't bad luck to reference Macbeth in writing, just theater. Or is it theatre?
When I used to teach Macbeth, I'd show the rather grim and bloody Roman Polanski version. Yes, some moments are silly (e.g., a sleepwalking (in the nude) Lady Macbeth). Thanks for that, executive producer Hugh Hefner. Like anyone slept in the buff in a drafty Scottish castle, but I digress (again). The third of three witches in the film was younger than the others and Polanski/his writers chose to make her mute and assign her lines to the other two. "Slips of Yew" was born as I imagined her voice.
Imagine the excitement when I warned a room full of high school seniors (mostly boys) that we'd see nudity when I showed them the "something wicked this way comes" scene. Now imagine the shock and revulsion when the nudity was a cave full of old hags. Awesome. Those were the days...
Anyway, "Slips of Yew" to Horror d'ouerves marks my third official professional sale (5 cents a word or better)--fourth overall if you count a contest I won a few years ago. Unfortunately, it, added to my other professional sales, runs 1,000 words short of the ascribed 7500 word count/3 pieces threshold to be an active member of the HWA. So be it. I'll keep writing. Thanks to editor Shane Staley for picking up my little bit of darkness.
There's more, too, like "Lucky Numbers" in Dark Moon Digest #16. What's the skinny behind "Lucky Numbers"? Let's just say it might not be a good idea to cast a mask of your recently deceased loved one (post burial, even). And because everyone loves cover art:
The issue isn't officially out yet, but will be soon. Speaking of soon... I'm up at Every Day Fiction
again on Wednesday. More soon
So... May has come and gone without a single blog post. Bad writer.
But June brings a few new publications, including "The Summer I Fell in Love" in Niteblade #28. I've had a few other stories in Niteblade in the past, including "Bait Worms" way back in Niteblade #6... nearly six years ago.
"The Summer I Fell in Love" is a personal favorite of mine, originally written for an anthology of southern zombie tales. Yes, I wrote the "z" word. Dirty, dirty "z" word. Only this story is different. (We--meaning writers--all say that, don't we?)
Spoilers ahead. Please Read "The Summer I Fell in Love" before moving forward (if you are so inclined).
My story is more about a small town's hate and the irrational ends to which people will go in the face of horrible situations thank the "z" word. The narrator, a teenage girl, falls in love with another girl. Some of the details, lipstick tasting of soap, are fragments from my own memory. I dated a girl whose lipstick tasted like soap, but I was a teenage boy. My small town accepted such things (boys and girls together--not the soap-flavored lipstick). Fictional Connelly, somewhat modeled after my own as every other town I imagine, does not accept two girls falling in love.
When things turn sour, when the zombies show up, the town's angry voices need a target. Julie, the narrator's first love, is an outsider, not from "'round here" and therefore an easy mark. The memories and feelings of falling in love are there, even if the words and point of view aren't mine. The narrator's ache is my own.
This story earned one of my favorite titles--a title even more meaningful because the story is easily about the year of the zombie outbreak, the undead plague. But for the narrator, the real story was Julie--falling in love and Julie's sad fate at the hands of the real monsters. It will always be "the summer I fell in love."
I said there would be spoilers, didn't I?
Thanks for reading and thanks to editor Rhonda Parrish for another chance to have my words read. Please consider supporting Niteblade so they can continue to share fiction with the world. You'll find a "donate" button the right side of the site (scroll down a bit).
Have a beautiful summer. I hope it brings you much love but none of the "z" word.
While doing school visits in April I thought it would be helpful for kids to see all the hidden work that goes into writing books. Here are the pictures I shared with them — a peek at the “work behind the work” for BLUE BIRDS:
This is my research notebook along with a few of my books and a scattering of bookmark notes. Plus a hand-drawn map of the way I pictured Fort Raleigh.
Here’s the 1587 manifest (those we know as the Lost Colony), some maps, and a timeline of what happened July and August 1587 on the island of Roanoke.
Here’s some feedback from early readers.
Here are some first draft observations I made (adapted from Cheryl Klein’s SECOND SIGHT).
These are “quilts” I’d create after each draft — a way for me to see if the dual point of view narrative was working or not.
My three editorial letters. One thing I love to do is pass around my letters to students. There are usually two responses: they laugh (Whoa! These are intense!) or they want to know if the letters hurt my feelings (Whoa! These are intense!).
My response? Editors (and teachers) are like the friend who tells us we have spinach stuck in our teeth. It may feel a little embarrassing at first to see our flaws pointed out, but this is the stuff that makes us look infinitely better. It’s amazing to me how much hard work editors (and teachers) commit to writers (and students) while remaining largely behind-the-scenes. Editors and teachers, you are invaluable!
A page from the manuscript itself. Along with those detailed editorial letters, my editor also mails a printed copy of the manuscript with notes throughout.
The manuscript pile on my office floor. (I’ll reuse these for printing future rough drafts).
So there you have it, a glimpse into the inner workings of BLUE BIRDS. Any questions for me?
The post A Behind-the-Scenes Glimpse at BLUE BIRDS appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.
To publish a successful book, be sure you’ve got the following:
1. word of mouth (the everyday reader kind)
2. publisher support (this might come from a stellar marketing plan or in-house enthusiasm)
3. mysterious things out of everyone’s control that are often unnameable and unknown (these also can “doom” a book, like having a release in the midst of a blizzard/flood/hurricane)
5. great trade reviews — I’m not convinced everyday readers even know these exist, but librarians and booksellers certainly do (and often base their purchases on them)
6. a great cover
7. a lot of reviews by “regular” people at Goodreads, Amazon, on blogs, and the like (this connects back to #1, but is less organic, more strategic, and less powerful, I think)
8. …and to give your book a second wind, make sure it’s nominated for awards
486. author efforts
How much of a book’s success is in the author’s hands? Is it even possible to measure an author’s promotional reach? The first question is easy: only the author’s efforts are in her control. But do writers really live this way? The second question is the more challenging one. I know of no hard and fast evidence that shows how an author’s promotional work affects overall sales, but I have to believe my one small voice doesn’t have the power to influence as many people as the other things on this list.
So where does that leave me?
Strangely comforted, believe it or not. I can’t make anything I write a hit. No one honestly knows how to make this happen, though we keep trying (and for those of us in publishing, it’s part of our job to do so). What I can do, though, is focus on promotion that excites me and drop the need to try everything.
How much of a book’s success do you think comes from an author’s efforts?
Anything you’d add to my list?
The post How to Publish a Successful Book appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.
When revising, it’s essential you study your characters carefully to determine what’s working and what’s not. Here are some quotes and links I used in my revision class. I hope they point you in the right direction with your own work:
Quotes from Novel Metamorphosis:
Villains and emotional complexity: “Look for a place where you dislike the villain the most. At that point, how can you work in a tender scene with the villain’s friend?”
“Most dialogue is too long winded, too formal, and includes too much information.”
Quotes from Second Sight:
“At the end of your book, your main character should be better equipped to live that life…”
Characters often don’t know what they truly NEED. Don’t spell it out for the reader! Let them figure it out.
“…a character is a plot.You just have to find the other characters and the moral dilemmas that will force the character to change and grow.”
“Put those characters in situations that fascinate or trouble you personally — problems you want to write about, conflicts that move you in some way.”
Samuel Johnson: “Inconsistencies cannot both be right; but imputed to man [and characters!], they make both be true.”
“Use backstory to show the reader how the character became who she is, what her relationships with other people are like, and why the frontstory matters to her.”
“Action: what a character does to get what they want. Action is a result of Desire plus Attitude.”
“ To the minor characters in your book, the hero of your books isn’t your main character — it’s them…Everyone has reasons for doing the things they do and you need to know the reasons.”
“[As we read] we are right there in [the characters’] heads, having these experiences with them, sharing their pain; as as a result we share their growth as well.”
Quotes from Writing Irresistible KidLit:
“No description should ever be content to play only on the surface. Whether a reader is aware of it or not, he should always be learning about character on multiple levels, especially at the beginning of your story.”
“We must always know what your characters want (each and every one of them) when we see them in a scene together.”
Unconscious objective (Cheryl would classify this as an unknown need / desire): “Characters struggling with Unconscious Objective shouldn’t be able to articulate them. But those deep desires are something that you, the writer, must absolutely think about.”
“Think of yow you can lend your stories a more complex undertone by always reminding us of your character’s worries and anxieties.”
Where Do Character Strengths Come From? :: Cynsations
Determine Your Character’s Destiny :: The Write Practice
The Sensitive, Passionate Character :: Live, Write, Thrive
Character Development :: Janice Hardy’s Fiction University (a collection of articles covering protagonists, antagonists, developing strong characters, secondary characters, and character arcs)
The post Novel Revision Class: Quotes and Links on Character appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.
When I was a senior in high school, I dropped Physics at semester to take Forensics. No, not forensic science, but forensics: the art and study of argumentation and debate. This is also known as speech and drama competition, a place where kids recite poetry and prose, preform monologues, or deliver original speeches in front of a judge.
One of the requirements of the class involved attending at least two meets. My coach/teacher provided me with Robert Frost's "The Death of the Hired Man" to read in the oral interpretation of poetry division. I performed one time and tied for fourth (I lost the coin flip and received a fifth place medal--wah wah). It was my only performance of that poem and the only medal I received in forensics. I went on to coach for 12 years as a teacher.
Okay, what does this have to do with "Silas"? Well, the story is available in the Winter/Spring 2014 issue of The Rampallian, and it is one of those odd, hard-to-place pieces. It is, in part, inspired by "The Death of the Hired Man" and features an old hired-hand named Silas, just like the poem. While horrrific in subject matter, it isn't "horror" in the commercial sense.
This is your spoiler alert. So please read "Silas" or continue with the spoilers. I'm afraid it is one of those tales you'll need to shell out a few bucks to buy the issue, but 50% of the issue's proceeds go to benefit Reading is Fundamental.
My story implies Silas has molested young Rose, the protagonist. I wasn't sure I wanted to tackle such challenging subject matter, but after reading Peter Straub's masterful "The Juniper Tree" I understood the power of challenging subject matter. (I almost put Straub's story down before finishing it--but it's so damn good in the end.) While "Silas" does not touch the hem of Straub's coat, it is born of "The Juniper Tree" and "The Death of the Hired Man" with a good deal of Aaron Polson imagery tossed in the mix. The original title: "The Hired Man is Made of Worms"--I'll let that conjure an image or two without explanation.
Rose is a brave girl in the face of a horrible, harsh reality. In the story, you'll find Silas is the least of her problems. Thanks to The Rampallian and editor Rebecca McKeown, I have the chance to tell her story.
I ran an earlier version of this post right after selling my first book. Because it’s one of my favorites, and because I so often need to hear these words myself, I share them again today. Keep plowing, friends.
It was 2004. While driving to meet my writing group, I happened to catch an interview on NPR with Adrienne Young, a folksinger just starting out. She talked about her first album, inspired by some advice she’d gotten while struggling to make it as a musician:
If you want to do this with your life, stay focused and see this through. You’ve got to plow to the end of the row, girl. That simple phrase – plow to the end of the row – was enough to push Adrienne to continue. It became the title of both her album and lead song. I can’t quite explain what that interview meant to me, hearing an artist choose to create despite the struggle, to push against fear and sensibility and make it “to the end of the row.” I’ve carried this image with me for years, the plant metaphor standing in for artistic endeavor, the plow the unglamorous slog needed to dig deep and make it to the end. Sometimes I find it funny I’d choose a profession so bent on forcing me to wait, so full of uncertainty and disappointment. An almost foolish optimism has kept me working, trusting that the next editor or the next agent or the next story would be the one to launch my career. I’ve haunted mailboxes and inboxes, waiting for something positive to come through. I’ve ceremoniously sent off manuscripts, chanting, “Don’t come back!” (entertaining postal workers, for sure). I’ve journaled again and again “this next editor is a perfect match!”, managing somehow to keep on plowing in midst of little validation. After twelve years of writing and hundreds of rejections, I sold my first book, May B., a historical verse novel about a girl with her own challenging row to hoe. May’s determination carried me through a rocky publication experience: losing my first editor; the closing of my Random House imprint, Tricycle Press; the weeks when my book was orphaned, with no publishing house to claim it and its future uncertain; the swooping in of Radom House imprint, Schwartz and Wade; edit rounds seven, eight, and nine with editor number two; and finally, May B.’s birth into the world only three months behind its original release date. Though each row’s length varies, they’re still mostly lonely, not very straight and loaded with stones. But the soil has gotten better as I’ve worked it, and each little sprout I’ve planted has been stronger than the last. And I keep at it — plowing, planting, hoping, dreaming — because I’m made for this. And knowing this is enough to continue, enough for my work to thrive.
The post Plowing, Planting, Hoping, Dreaming appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.
Lately, I’ve noticed how some writers are getting more and
more discouraged because they aren’t able to place their manuscripts with their
long-time publishers or agents.
After many years of writing and publishing, they are becoming
pessimistic about the future of their work. Editors don’t respond to their submissions,
agents no longer call or else tell them that their work isn't current,
What do I do with these silly stories I write?
Try to have them published, somewhere, so readers can see them. Why would I write silly stories and then sell them for the price of a beer (as I did with "Saint Max" to Phantasmacore)? Because, dear readers, the process of submission makes us all better. I could post this stuff on the blog, but no story will be it's best if it doesn't pass at least some publication muster.
Maybe that's what "Saint Max" is about. Becoming better. As always, there will be spoilers. Please read "Saint Max" if you'd like--it won't even cost you a beer--and head back for the story behind the story.
"Saint Max" started with a man digging holes in his backyard. He didn't know why. I didn't either when I started the story. He just dug. He did what he felt he needed to do. His son, Max, watches him. It's a strange thing which only grows stranger as every morning the yard looks normal.
Max grows in the story. He has to confront a bully named Caleb, and does so with violence. But nothing is solved for Max. His parents are dead when he goes home after confronting his bully. Why? You, dear reader, must decide. Maybe it was domestic violence (they do fight a lot). Maybe they just died. That's how death works. It simply happens.
And that's the hard part of this story. That's what might keep some readers at bay: sometimes life doesn't offer easy solutions. Sometimes bad stuff happens with no explanation. We want that explanation; we want to "know"--especially in fiction. But the real horror is not knowing. The real horror is the unknown, just like good ol' H.P. Lovecraft said. If a monster killed Max's parents, then the monster is the enemy. Max certainly believes in the monster, but it isn't a real thing. It isn't tangible.
I love this story and Max (both the fictional Max and my son), but it won't be accessible to everyone. Some people like the thrill of chase and death and everything else. But this is about Max surviving after his parents have died. This is about Max trying to figure out what to do with death. And... "A horror story cannot simply be about death."
Read "Saint Max" if you would--and if you do, please let me know what you think. Thanks to editor Jason Block for the future beer and giving my story a home.
It’s been a good, long while since I’ve written a post around here. March 5, to be exact. Since then it’s been quick quotes or photos, guest posts or repeats.
March and April have been busy for me. I was on deadline with BLUE BIRDS, taught a Novel Revision class for our local SCBWI chapter, spent a week in Spain, and traveled to Dexter, NM and Santa Fe for school visits.
I thought it would be fun to share about these experiences in detail with you here. I’ll start with my Novel Revision course.
The idea for this course came while I was on a run. I was listening to Cheryl Klein and James Monohan’s Narrative Breakdown podcast on Revision Techniques, and it struck me how perfect this podcast would be as a starting place for a revision class. From there I developed a course for SCBWI members who’d drafted a middle grade or young adult manuscript but weren’t quite sure how to go about revision.
Those who signed up for the course received copies of Darcy Pattison’s NOVEL METAMORPHOSIS and Cheryl Klein’s SECOND SIGHT. Because so many already had Cheryl’s book, I gave those participants Mary Kole’s WRITING IRRESISTIBLE KIDLIT.
Members were paired with partners and exchanged manuscripts. They focused on big-picture changes (character growth instead of punctuation, for example) and wrote a letter to their partner which focused on three things:
- What works
- What needs work
- What stuck out
Participants also wrote “letters to a sympathetic reader,” a technique Cheryl Klein sometimes uses with her authors when they begin the editing process together. The sympathetic letter focuses on
- The real thing / key ideas / effect on reader the author is aiming for
- Where the novel started from / idea came from
- Big ideas the author is exploring
- The things the author loves and wants to keep
- The things the author knows are not working
- How the author sees their main character (their purpose, journey, etc.)
- What the book is now and where it should be
- Mission / vision statement for the book
A sympathetic letter helps a writer to get back in touch with their initial ideas. It can also show how ideas have changed over the course of the draft. Though partners exchanged letters, its primary function is to teach a writer about their own work.
Much of our class centered around tips I gleaned from the Revision Techniques podcast and from Cheryl and Darcy’s books. My next two posts will be a collection of quotes and links I shared with my students on revision, plot, and character.
The post While I Was Away: Novel Revision Class appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.
Revision requires an author to see her work with new eyes. Here are some quotes and links to point you in the right direction:
Quotes from Novel Metamorphosis:
Revision: What is the most dramatic way to tell this story?
“Revisions are the messy route toward powerful stories. …I never tell someone how to revise their story. Instead, I ask you to look at your story in different ways, apply various strategies of revisions, and tell your story, your way. You are in control and will make all the decisions yourself.”
“Competence is a hard-won prize that only comes with lots of study and practice.”
Quotes from Second Sight:
“When you’re writing that first draft, don’t worry about following the rules. Instead, tell yourself the story you’ve always wanted to hear, the story you’ve never read anywhere else, the one that scares you with the pleasure of writing it. Treasure the joy of the work, because it is hard work, but when you can find that just-right word, that perfect plot twist — there are fewer greater pleasures.”
“Editors work forward from the manuscript to make its truth all it can be…paying attention to details that add up to an overall result.”
“Good prose repeats words in close proximity to each other only by strategy or design, not by accident or sloppiness.”
“I test every sentence against the question ‘What purpose doest this serve?’”
“An editor’s greatest joy is a writer who can recognize his own weaknesses and respond with an intelligent revision.”
“For a writer, an artist, making a choice gives you something to work with. You make a choice, get the words on the page, see if it feels right. If it doesn’t, you edit it or go back and make a different decision. The hardest thing is getting past the fear of making a choice at all.”
Saul Bellow: “The main reason for rewriting is not to achieve a smooth surface, but to discover the inner truth of your characters.”
Quotes from Writing Irresistible KidLit:
“As you’re sitting down to write, you need to ask yourself: Am I writing a specific story that could only happen to this character in this world, in this time? What am I trying to say with this story? What do I want my readers to think when they put my book down?”
“What questions or mysteries does your first line raise?”
“Just because you put it first doesn’t mean that your current opening section is the real beginning.”
“Be a curator, not a camera…Believe it or not, most beginning writers will transcribe, as if they were a video camera…Another big mistake is focusing on transition scenes because you think you need to show how a character gets from one place to another.”
Novelists: You Are Gifted and Talented :: Darcy Pattison
WFMAD The Bones of the Writing Process, Parts 1 and 2 :: Laurie Halse Anderson
23 Essential Quotes from Ernest Hemingway About Writing :: The Write Practice
WFMAD (Write Fifteen Minutes a Day) Revision Roadmap #18 :: Laurie Halse Anderson
WFMAD Temper Tantrums and Do Overs :: Laurie Halse Anderson
I don’t want an honest critique :: Darcy Pattison
WFMAD Getting Feedback on Your Story :: Laurie Halse Anderson
WFMAD Belonging to a Critique Group Without Murdering Anyone :: Laurie Halse Anderson
Balancing Thoughts, Description, Dialogue, and Action :: Between the Lines: Edits and Everything Else
The post Novel Revision Class: Quotes and Links on Revision appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.
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When revising, it’s essential you study your plot carefully to determine what’s working and what’s not. Here are some quotes and links I used in my revision class. I hope they point you in the right direction with your own work:
Quotes from Novel Metamorphosis:
“The connection between the inner and outer arc, the emotional arc and the plot arc, isn’t always easy to see! When you set up an initial plot conflict, you need to immediately ask yourself what obligatory action scene is set up. When the inner conflict is set up, you need to ask what epiphany is set up.”
Quotes from Second Sight:
Good fiction creates “deliberate emotion…through immersing us in the character’s lived experience [via] well-crafted prose: prose where every word has been considered carefully by the author and belongs in the work; prose that communicates clearly.”
WANTS = action plot / NEEDS = emotional plot
“The difference between starting with premise and starting with character is usually that in a premise plot, the character has something done to him or her from the outside; and in a character plot, the character is the one who causes the action, thanks to the Desire.”
Quotes from Writing Irresistible KidLit:
Avoiding the infodump: “Information must emerge organically, usually within the context of action.”
“A kid reader, whether he knows it or not, is picking up a book with the following request in mind: Make me care.”
“Fiction runs on friction and trouble.”
“Decide whether we need to see the full action of every instant in your book? …Focus on your most powerful scenes.”
“You are a writer, not a security camera…Shape events and cherry-pick the ones that are going to be the most exciting and most significant for your story.”
Plot Structure :: Ingrid’s Notes (This is an incredible series on classic plot and arch plot, alternative plots and alternative structures)
Plotting :: Janice Hardy’s Fiction University (Another comprehensive list of posts on plot)
The post Novel Revision Class: Quotes and Links on Plot appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.