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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: crush-worthy, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. SIX BY SONDHEIM for writers

The other day I watched the terrific documentary SIX BY SONDHEIM. (available streaming on HBO-Go, or on Amazon or iTunes.) It's part biography, part show-biz history, following Sondheim's career guided by six important songs in his life. It's excellent, and I was particularly struck by how many nuggets of wisdom I found, profound insights into not just Sondheim's creative process, but a creative life in general. Though he is writing musicals, obviously, I think that much of this is applicable to novelists as well. Just replace "put on a show" with "publish." You should watch the doccy yourself because I can't do it justice... but I can provide six things that I found worth remembering:

1) On "writing what you know":  "Part of the author is always in what he writes, and partly [it's] a work of imagination. It's like what Faulkner said about Observation, Imagination and Experience - you can do without one of them, but you can't do without two."

Sondheim was paraphrasing Faulkner, but yeah. This is good advice. You may not have lived something yourself, but if you have good observation and imagination skills, you can still bring it alive on the page.

2) On harsh reality: At 15, he showed Oscar Hammerstein something he'd written.... Oscar was nice about it, but Stephen said he wanted to get REAL feedback, just like he would rate it against something professional. (Young Stephen thought his own work was terrific, and was pretty sure he was about to be the first 15 year old with a Broadway show.)

Oscar said,"Oh well in that case, this is the worst thing I've ever read." Sounds pretty harsh, but Oscar then went on to show young Stephen point-by-point how his work was failing, and Stephen had to agree. Awkward! But a learning moment. You may not want to hear that your work isn't good enough - but if you are submitting to agents and editors for publication, they will expect your work to be on par with that of a professional.

And even excellent professionals get a LOT of stinging rejections!

3) On imitation: "One of the things he [Oscar] told me to do was not to imitate him. 'If you write what you feel it will come out true. If you write what I feel, it will come out false. Write for yourself and you'll be 90% ahead of everyone else.'"

4) On learning to write: "You can't learn in a classroom and you can't learn on paper. You can only learn by writing and doing. Writing and doing. A friend says 'write something, put it on. Write something, put it on.' -- well, you can't always put it on, but that's the only way to do it. That's how everyone who's ever been good got good.

5) On failure: "I experienced real failure when I did I Hear a Waltz... we thought, well, this'll be an easy job and we'll make a quick buck. Those are reasons never to write a musical.

It was a respectable show. It was not lambasted by the critics. It was politely received by critics, and politely received by audiences, and had no passion, and no blood, and no reason to be. And I learned from that, the only reason to write is from love. You must not write because you think it's going to be a hit or because it's expedient, or anything like that. It's so difficult to write, it's so difficult to put on a show, that if you have the privilege of being able to write it, write it out of passion

That's what failure taught me." 

6) PROTIP: "I work entirely with Blackwing pencils for a number of reasons. One is, it's very soft lead, and therefore wears down very quickly, so you can spend lots of time resharpening. Which is a lot easier and more fun than writing." ;-)

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I'm so proud of this debut novel from Miriam Forster. It's a murder mystery set in a fantastical world that reminds me a bit of Tamora Pierce, a bit of Jacqueline Carey... it's just so good, and Miriam is a new talent to watch.

About the book: Nisha was abandoned at the gates of the City of a Thousand Dolls when she was just a little girl. Now sixteen, she lives on the grounds of the isolated estate, where orphan girls apprentice as musicians, healers, courtesans, and, if the rumors are true, assassins. She makes her way as Matron's errand girl, her closest companions the mysterious cats that trail her shadow.

Only when she begins a forbidden flirtation with the city's handsome young courier does she let herself imagine a life outside the walls. Until one by one, girls around her start to die. Before she becomes the next victim, Nisha decides to uncover the secrets that surround the girls' deaths. But by getting involved, Nisha jeopardizes not only her own future in the City of a Thousand Dolls--but also her life.

See the official Book Trailer (which I have to say is RAD)

A great interview with Miriam on the Cynsations blog

For more information about Miriam and her work:


"Forster makes a strong debut with a fresh South Asian inspired fantasy/mystery crossover...Forster's well-crafted story and confident prose are rich, packed with small details that immerse readers in her sumptuously imagined world." -- From the Publishers Weekly starred review

"With fantastic world building and a wonderful heroine, City of a Thousand Dolls intrigued me from the first page."--Cindy Pon, author of Silver Phoenix
"A fantastical murder mystery with a creative premise, heart-pounding pacing, and characters with secrets to keep."--Cinda Williams Chima, author of best-selling
The Exiled Queen

1 Comments on Launch Day for CITY OF A THOUSAND DOLLS, last added: 2/6/2013
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3. Cheers to the Blue Board

Every time I go to a writers conference, I give the same advice to newbie kids book authors:

Read read read. Have patience. Don't follow trends. Join SCBWI if you are able. And FIND VERLA KAY!

Don't know what that last one means?

Verla Kay is a writer. You can find her books in libraries and bookstores near you. But she is also an extremely generous kid's book maven who started and maintains (with the help of a handful of hard-working moderators) simply THE BEST resource for children's book writers on the web. It's a message board extraordinaire, filled to bursting with extremely knowledgeable writers, illustrators, and yes, agents and editors and kids book experts of all types and at all levels who are game for dishing, advice, and general camaraderie. We in the know call it the Blue Board, or Verla's, or "verlakay."

I really shouldn't even be telling you this because it'll probably cause an influx to the board but... you're all nice folks, yes? And you are really serious about being children's book writers? And you're all very respectful of one another? Because that is what flies at Verla's.

What doesn't fly? Trolling. Spam. Flaming. Political or religious convos. You'll certainly be able to get writing advice, or a chance to share your query, or publishing insider info. You'll be able to discover average agent response times, or conduct an informal poll about tween slang. You may get a little boost of inspiration when you're feeling low, or even indulge in erudite discourse about literary themes... but you'll never get into a flame war, because it simply is not allowed to happen there. Personally, I find that extremely refreshing, and so for me (and for lots of similar-minded people) Verla's is a bit of a sanctuary.

I've been on the boards since March 2007 -- well before I became an agent (though I was already interning for an agency). I've checked in pretty much every day during those five years, except the rare days when I had no computer access. In fact, though I probably shouldn't admit to this, according to the stats, I've been logged in for a whopping 59 days. Yikes! (But that's because some days I stay logged in all day on one screen and check in a bunch and read a million topics... other days I just scan quickly to see if anything is new. But I always look. And there is invariably something there every day that I find interesting, or that brings a smile.)

There are many reasons to LOVE THE BLUEBOARD... not the least of which, for me, is that I have a ton of clients at least partly because of it. We MIGHT have met another way, if the Blue Boards didn't exist... but it would have been tougher. LK Madigan, Kate Messner, Daniel Pinkwater, Jackie Dolamore, Tara Kelly, to name a few... these amazing and brilliant talents were among my first batch of authors to sign, and while I met some of them on LiveJournal too back in the day, I know I can trace much of our early relationship right back to Verla Kay's message board or chat room.

Not because I was creepily hanging waiting to snag people based on their posted query letters, or anything like that... it isn't like those "modeling agencies" that hang out at the mall looking for tweens!  Joining the Blue Boards won't get you "discovered" -- it just isn't like that. Rather, it's a place to be genuinely engaged with awesome writers, have great conversations with them, and develop mutual respect and trust.

I'd say that the OVERWHELMING majority of the queries I get from Verla Kay members are in the top 10% of all the queries I read. Verla Kay members are also 90% more likely to follow submission guidelines. Were those  totally made up statistics? YES, but they made the point. Verla Kay members are not chumps off the street - they are more likely to be serious business, and I, for one, take them seriously. (Which is why, if y

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4. My Kinks

These are elements of a story that I am a total sucker for. I do love regular old contemporary YA and middle grade stories too, and I love plenty of stories that have NONE of these elements -- but these are my (not-so-secret) kinks. Seriously - if any of these are present I am almost guaranteed to like the book/movie/tv show/story, or at least give it a huge chance.


* Regency / Victorian / Edwardian Era England (1811-1910)

* WW1 / between the wars / WW2 / Blitz England

* 1920's - 1940's USA (especially Hollywood & NYC)

* Wiemar-era Berlin

* British Raj / Partition India

* Boarding School / Prep School / Drama School

* Secret Societies / Insular Groups different from "norm" society

* Ensemble Performance / Behind the Scenes - in other words, the reality behind busy restaurant, theatre, hotel, newspaper, sports team, movie set, etc.


* Girls Dressed as Boys / Drag Queens / Disguises / Secret Identities / Cross-dressing

* Makeovers

* Fashion Shows / Modeling / Clothes & Fabric

* Star is Born / Rags to Riches stories (Or even better: Riches to Rags to Riches, a la Little Princess)

* Theatre / Circus / Vaudeville / Opera / Ballet, etc.

* The Olympics / Olympic-level training (esp: Skating, Gymnastics and similar 'artistic' solitary sports)

* Charismatic Older Men Taking Care of Young Girls and Vice-Versa (think: The Professional, Daddy Long-Legs, Paper Moon, True Grit -- or, Bela Karolyi & Nadia Comeneci)

* Con Artists / Art Fraud / Grifters 

* Prostitutes / Dance-Hall Girls / Rough Trade

* Gypsies / Fortune Tellers

* Spies / Sleuths / Genius Problem Solvers (Sherlock, Dr. Who)


What about you? What are the 'kinks' that you tend to go for in a story?

0 Comments on My Kinks as of 3/11/2011 9:26:00 AM
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