Saturday, October 26, 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013

Because I am quite mad, I have decided to participate in NaNo this year despite having no less than four other projects up in the air at the moment. My username is Katherine Pearl, and my profile is here. If you have any plans to participate, I hope that you'll add me as a friend.

I participated in NaNoWriMo from 2005-2010, and "won" the last of those two years. It's a really great way to come up with a very inventive, seat-of-your-pants first draft. Unfortunately, back in 2009 I hadn't yet practiced rewriting a novel, and I fear that SNOWBERRY--dearly as I love it--is not destined to see the light of day, at least in its current form. HAUNTED HOUSES, the most recent effort, was actually a second attempt at one of the earlier NaNo projects. It, too, is probably lost to time.

Over the last two years, I have been working--with varying amounts of dedication--on a young adult novel, THE WOODS AND THE CASTLE. (They make you write it in all caps if it isn't published yet.) I've written a full three drafts of that book, and am four chapters away from finishing a final edit of the third. Ideally, I'll finish those edits and this year's NaNo project at more or less the same time. That would leave space for NaNo '13 to slide smoothly into the editing spot. But time will tell.

One complicating factor is one of the aforementioned side projects. It was meant to be a Halloween short story, but--like so many drafts--got way too big for its pants. I'm hoping it will come out at around 20,000 words. Tentatively, I'm planning to self-publish it, priced at 99 cents like Five Stories. (If you haven't read Five Stories yet, wouldn't Halloween week be a terrific time to do so? I... sort of... kid.) It would be nice to put out at least one thing like that every year--I'm still on the fence re: self-publishing, but it was a really fun project, and I'd like to improve my cover-fu. The novella, currently titled "The Tongue of the Dead," went over quite well with some very respected beta readers, and I'm having a wonderful time writing it.

Other than that... waiting on something big, but I feel like if I tell you I'll jinx it. Feel free to speculate! And stay warm.



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Sunday, October 13, 2013

A silly anecdote about spiders

It was Friday night. We'd been talking in the kitchen for the past two hours, our topics ranging between travel and video games. My landfolk/housemates, J and M, were enjoying shared custody of a bottle of spiced rum. Both of them were a little silly.

The three house cats patrolled the floor, reminding us without much subtlety that it was about time for their dinner. Turning to look for Yggi, I saw a large spider in front of the patio door.

Now, this house does not welcome spiders. In fact, anything with an exoskeleton is distinctly non grata. J had recently expressed his particular horror of spiders, and I decided to tease him.

"Look, J. A spider."

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Are "Children's Classics" Any Good?

I've sat on this post for a while, deciding if I still agreed with it, but I think I do:

For several months recently, I worked as a clerk and book-buyer at a used bookstore. Shelving books was a major part of the job, and a lot of the shelving was in the extensive children's section.

The store had a pretty good selection, including three or four shelves of children's classics. Most of these books were actually "special adaptations"--simplified versions that contained most of the important plot points (at least the child-friendly ones), but none of the tone or spirit of the original writing. For example, the Great Illustrated Classics version of The Wizard of Oz begins, "Dorothy lived with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry on a small farm in Kansas." In Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the actual first sentence reads, "Dorothy lived in the midst of the great Kansas prairies, with Uncle Henry, who was a farmer, and Aunt Em, who was the farmer's wife."

I still haven't read this book. Can you believe it?

The more I see these adaptations, the more annoyed I get. It's bad enough that the series creators decided to dumb down classic children's books like Peter Pan and A Little Princess. Readers of these books, who probably won't know any better, won't get to experience the authors' original styles, and may miss out on important plot points that add emotional subtlety to the narrative.

Worse, though, is when companies like this produce watered-down versions of Moby Dick and Pride and Prejudice. These stories were meant for adults, and you can't pare them down enough for children to digest without really gutting them.

I'm not saying kids shouldn't read the original novels. If they can understand the writing, and appreciate some of the themes, then that's awesome. But by reading these adaptations, they're only getting the plot--and the same basic plot can tell a lot of different stories, depending on the author's motivation.

Look, for example,  at the first pages of Great Illustrated Classics' Pride and Prejudice adaptation.  It's missing all its sarcastic humor--all Mrs. Bennet's silliness, and all the restrained nastiness of her husband's barbs. You'd never guess it was meant as a piece of social criticism. Boiled down like this, it's not a work of literature anymore--just a story.

"And they all lived happily ever after."

Thinking about this, I came to the idea that a reader who can't handle a work of literature in its original form isn't ready to receive the story's message. When I was seven or eight, for example, I read an abridged version of A Tale of Two Cities. I felt very smug for having read such a famous book, but I couldn't tell you what it was about--I could barely follow the plot. As far as I know, it made no emotional impact; all I have is the vague memory of someone swimming across the English Channel, and of a woman knitting secret messages in a corner.

Of course, I do hope to read the book again someday. It's pretty far down my list, though: the abridgement did nothing to pique my interest. Really, should an eight-year-old be expected to grasp the themes of something like Huckleberry Finn, or Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, or 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea?

Something about a squid...?

I understand that "kids' classics" are meant as a sort of introduction, but do they serve their intended purpose? How many kids who read things like the Great Illustrated Classics series are going to read the original works as adults? I'm sure many do, but I'm sure many don't. I could be entirely off-base, but my gut feeling is that there's not much good to be said about any form of bowdlerized art. If you can't appreciate the work in its original form, then you're not ready to read it. Such is my opinion.

Anyway, I had a lot more about translations that I was going to write here, but the post kind of exploded, so I decided to split it in two. What do you think about children's adaptations? Have you read an adaptation, then come back to the original work later? How do you think it affected your reading of the original?

Let me know--



Image credits: Wonderful Wizard of Oz cover via Wikimedia Commons; others via Karen's Whimsy.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Reading, Writing, and Publishing Links: 3/14/13

Random song of the week:

Steve Earle: "Copperhead Road"

This song came on the radio a few days ago, and I realized it was one of the first songs I ever  remembered hearing. My mom confirms that my dad bought it a few days after it came out (I would have been about five). If I were to make a playlist of songs illustrating important aspects of American culture, this one would be on it.


1. "SFWA De-Lists Hydra; Random House Responds." Drama! The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America have decided that Random House's new e-imprint, Hydra, will not count as a qualifying market for SFWA membership. Random House feels they're being unfair. Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware reports at SFWA's website.

2. "Losing interest." Fantasy writer Patricia Wrede discusses some things that can make a writer want to abandon a story halfway through.

3. "Query Letter FAQs (Part II): 10 More Questions Answered." Chuck Sambuchino of Writer Unboxed gives some tips to writers approaching the dreaded query process.

4. "Omniscient." An interesting post by Ann Leckie on the rarely-discussed subject of third-person omniscient point of view. Worth reading!

5. "Why Not to Register Copyright for Unpublished Work." By Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware. Basically: it's probably a waste of time and money, and it might get you spammed by vanity presses. Those self-publishing, or publishing with small presses, on the other hand, should at least look into it. (Thanks as always, Ms. Strauss!)

6. "Publisher as Prestige Brand?" Wendy Lawton of Books & Such has an interesting speculation: that publishers are going to focus more and more on branding, creating recognizable consumer experiences like big design houses now do for fashion. Which I guess would put authors in the position of in-house designers? I don't know. It's odd to think about, but makes a certain amount of sense.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Reading, Writing, and Publishing Links: 3/7/13

Thursday instead of Wednesday this week; sorry about that! Here's your random track of the day.

 "Delirium," Motion City Soundtrack. Language warning (one instance)

I am unfortunately super-way-behind again, so these are a couple of weeks old. I thought they were interesting, though!
1. "My First Year on Twitter: How I Became @erik_kwakkel." Medieval researcher Erik Kwakkel describes the development of his personal Tweeting style.

2. Peter Knapp of The Park Literary Group, LLC says that emotions and relationships are the key to writing a good pitch. Posted in preparation for WriteOnCon's Mid-Winter "Luck-o'-the-Irish" pitch fest.

3. "Utopian for Beginners: An amateur linguist loses control of the language he invented." By Joshua Foer of The New Yorker (via Lilith Saintcrow) Very interesting!

4. "Author As Innovator: The Future of Publishing is Story, Not Technology." By Dan Blank of Writer Unboxed.
For writers, what this means is that innovation is in your hands. How will storytelling or publishing change? Stop looking to “the industry! the industry!” as Porter Anderson would call it, and begin creating it yourself.
 5. In this interview, Tumblr's Rachel Fershleiser gives some tips for organizing a successful book event. (By Togather)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Reading, Writing, and Publishing Links: 2/27/13

Your random song of the week: "The A Team," by Ed Sheeran. Added this song to my soundtrack for the upcoming WOODS sequel (none of it's written, but the bits and pieces are starting to come together.

Sad video, isn't it? The music reminds me a little of James Blunt.

1) "Is Your Agent an Asset?" By Lynne Price of Behler Blog. This is actually really scary. Apparently there are a lot of agents who send out query letters that misspell words, leave out wordcounts, and fail to include a book's target audience? Price's takeaway point here is that if you work through an agent, you should always ask to see the letter that's being sent out to editors.

2) This interview with Chuck Sambuchino at Literary Rambles raises a couple of good points. My favorite is in question five, where he describes three different ways to focus your blog. I've been using a blend of #1 and #3 for this one--that's a combination of "related subject matter" and "writer's journey"--but I think I'd like to steer more towards #1. That will probably mean a bit more focus on fairy tales and ghost stories--and, as a result, more reviews of fantasy movies. I hope that's okay with y'all. : P

3) "The Series Death Spiral, and other unfortunate realities of publishing." Kevin J. Anderson explains how the sales of book 2 can actually make or break a series. If book 2 doesn't sell well enough, the publisher might decide not to publish book 3 at all.

4) "Perpetual WIPs: Literary Agents." By The Daily Dahlia. This is another "Gospel According To Agents"-type post, but the questions are good and the answers are interesting. Probably a must-read for those considering traditional publishing.

5) "Interview with Holly Black and Sarah Rees Brennan, YA Authors," at Talks about the importance of writing a diverse cast of characters, and the difficulty of getting those characters represented in movies and on book covers.

6) "Romance novelist 'Jessica Blair' is an 89-year-old man." By Today News. You often hear about this happening the other way--lots of female authors use male or gender-neutral pseudonyms--but this is the first specific case I've heard of where a male author used a female one. I'm kind of interested in reading his books, now!

7) "Serials, or, How to Make Your Readers Hate You." According to Angela Benedetti, there are people out there marketing serials by pretending they're selling complete stories and surprising their readers with cliffhangers. Um... maybe don't do that?

8) "An Ode to the Series, Contemporary YA Style." By Kelly of Stacked. I actually never got into contemporary--by the time I hit middle school, I'd discovered fantasy, and never really looked back. If one were interested in seeing what's cooking now, though, this would be a pretty good place to start (her list is short, but there are lots more suggestions in the comments).

9) "Beta Outside Your Genre: Opposites Attract." Sarah Enni of YA Highway points out that fresh eyes (stylistically speaking) can be an advantage during the editing process.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Reading, Writing, and Publishing Links: 2/20/13

Oh, hey, you guys! I got distracted--here are yesterday's links. Sorry for the delay!

Your random song of the week: I've come across this as an auto-play background song on a couple of different blogs, and though I hate auto-play media, I really like the song.

Half Moon Run, "Full Circle."

1. "Where your time is." Fantasy author Patricia Wrede points out that a writing career takes time, and often comes at the sacrifice of other appealing things (TV, money, a social life...)

 2. "The Dreaded Synopsis." Sean Cummings of Oasis for YA says the secret is to write it from your outline, not your manuscript.

3. "What to Do When Our Families Don't Support Our Writing." I'm lucky enough to have a very supportive family (thanks, Mom! I love you!) However, if you have trouble getting your loved ones to support your need for writing time, Jody Hedlund has some suggestions. I especially like the one about considering the first couple of years of unpaid writing a sort of professional education--that's how I've been thinking of it. : )

4. "Bad advice from best-selling authors." By Janet Koboel Grant of Books & Such. It's an interesting read. However, at the risk of sounding snotty, I'd like to see a post extolling the value of literary agents that was not written by a literary agent. Nothing personal against Ms. Grant--it's just that a lot of agents have written posts about how much writers need them, and it comes across as... less than objective.

5. "Too much talent." Patricia Wrede on how talent can actually be a disadvantage on how you don't have the diligence to go with it. This is the same thing that happens to bright high-schoolers who are used to coasting once they get to college and are expected to work. (Not that I speak from experience...)

6. "MFA Programs and You."  This... actually sounds amazingly good. I wonder if they'd take my almost-finished novel as an application? Thanks, SFWA!

7. "An Introduction to Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction, Part 1: Definitions." Another SFWA post, this one by Malinda Lo. I think this is actually a few weeks old, but I don't remember posting it before; if I did, I'm sorry. (WOODS, if you're curious, is definitely on the edgier side of YA. : ))