Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go. ~ E. L. Doctorow

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Book Trailers

ewsbookblog.edublogs.org
Where have you been my whole life?  

While I was teaching, the day before the Scholastic book fairs, my students would watch a DVD with the latest books available for purchase showcased through trailers. We both loved to watch these sneak peeks. 

Reading has been in my Top Five of Things To Do for as long as I can remember.  I could never put down the Scholastic book orders handed out in elementary school, memorizing it cover to cover. Then, rushing home to show my mom all the books I needed (at least a dozen). The day the box with Scholastic written in red on it entered the classroom and was placed on the table in the back of the room I was so excited I couldn't remain in my seat. My eyes kept darting to the back, imagining how that book would look and feel like in my hands. I was sure my choices would make me the coolest girl in class.   

How did I decide which books to spend my parents’ hard earned money? Blurbs in the book order catalogue. So, where the heck were the book trailers?   

Unfortunately, I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, a time with little technology compared to today. I feel cheated. Book trailers provide an exciting and visual synopsis.  It paints the pictures, usually created in your mind, to create hype, hoping you will run out and purchase the book. The same tactic the movie industry employs to coax you to movie theaters to check out the latest blockbuster.   

More and more I see authors publicizing their novels through book trailers. Jessica Bell’s debut novelThe String Bridge due out November 2011—is creating buzz with her book trailer. She wrote, sang and played guitar for the song that creates the haunting quality of the visual experience and the story. Check out her trailer here

Like free books? She is also holding a book giveaway for anyone willing to get the word out about her novel.  Check it out here.


Would you use the book trailer to publicize the release of your book? 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

NCF Tuesday: Making Things Better; First 101 Words Contest; Growing Up Redefined


News

Japan

Yesterday, The New Yorker put out its March 28th issue devoted to Japan.  The articles range from nuclear meltdowns to dealing with the aftermath of disasters.  The editors chose Haruki Murakami’s story, U.F.O in Kushiro, to showcase a piece of fiction that provides readers a well crafted story, as well as push them to reflect on the implications the story has on our world. 

What do you think makes an excellent piece of fiction?

   
Art Education Anarchy

Join Teach 4 Amerika Tour’s rally today, Tuesday, March 29th, at Cooper Union in New York City as they discuss alternatives to overpriced MFAs and ideas to improve existing programs.  

Can alternatives to an MFA provide the same instruction and guidance?


It Gets Better

Dan Savage and, husband, Terry Miller released their book It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living (Dutton) on March 22nd.  The book evolved from their video campaign to stop bullying and let the LGBT community know things will get better. 


A Memorable Job: Top Secret Copy Editing

Susan Jeffers spent over a decade working with a renowned YA author, proofreading and copy editing her novels secretly.  “[She] felt an obligation to kids all over the world to keep things quiet.”  So, what series did Jeffers work on?  Find out here. 

What author would you secretly copy edit? 


Contests

FICTION
Lesser Apricots
-       Fiction: First 101 words of your manuscript
-       First Place Prize: Critique 
-       Deadline: April 15, 2011
-       Details here 

New American Fiction Prize
-       Fiction: Approx. 100-500 pages of your best fiction
-       First Place Prize: $1,000, publication contract, 25 complimentary copies and 15% royalties
-       Deadline: May 15, 2011
-       Details here 


E.M Koeppel Short Fiction Award
-       Unpublished Fiction
-       First Place Prize: $1,100
-       Deadline: April 3, 2011
-       Details here 

Glimmer Train Literary Journal
-       Open Fiction
-       First Place Prize: $2,000
-       Deadline: March 31, 2011
-       Details here 

Narrative Magazine
-       Fiction and Nonfiction
-       First Place Prize: $3,250
-       Deadline: March 31, 2011
-       Details here 

Writer’s Digest Magazine
-       80th Annual Writing Competition
o   Fiction and Nonfiction
o   Grand Prize: $3,000
o   Deadline: May 2, 2011
o   Details here 
-       5-Minute Memoir, “Tales From the Writing Life”
o   Personal Essay (600 words or less)
o   Prize: Publication in Writer’s Digest magazine
o   Deadline: Rolling submissions
o   Details here 

POETRY
American Poetry Talent Search Contest
-       Poetry (100 lines or less)
-       First Prize: $250
-       Deadline: March 31, 2011
-       Details here 

Writecorner Press Annual Poetry Award
-       Poetry (40 lines max.)
-       First Prize: $500
-       Deadline: March 31, 2011
-       Details here 


Fun
Growing up brings bouts of frustration and resistance to mind.  What if we redefined the meaning of growing up?  Enjoy the possibilities in this web comic!



Friday, March 25, 2011

Prose from the Pros #5: Pablo Neruda



Body of A Woman


Body of a woman, white hills, white thighs,
you look like a world, lying in surrender.
My rough peasant's body digs in you
 and makes the son leap from the depth of the earth.


I was alone like a tunnel.  The birds fled from me,
and night swamped me with its crushing invasion.
To survive myself I forged you like a weapon,
like an arrow in my bow, a stone in my sling.


But the hour of vengeance falls, and I love you.
Body of skin, of moss, of eager and firm milk.
Oh the goblets of the breast! Oh the eyes of absence!
Oh the roses of the pubis! Oh your voice, slow and sad!


Body of my woman, I will persist in your grace.
My thirst, my boundless desire, my shifting road! 
Dark river-beds where the eternal thirst flows
and weariness follows, and the infinite ache.  

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Balancing Description and Narration


library.creativecow.net


“Write out of the reader’s imagination as well as your own. Supply the significant details and let the reader’s imagination do the rest.  Make the reader a co-author of the story."                                                                                          Patrick F. McManus





One of the biggest challenges I face as a writer is balancing description and narration in my writing. You don’t want to get in the way of your story, overwhelming your reader with too many details, or provide the reader with too few details, leaving them incapable of imagining the scene.  

Either way, the lack of balance will likely cause a reader to toss your story aside.  

You want to entertain not frustrate.  Author Stephen King advises writers to “say what you see, and then to get on with your story.” Don’t halt the narrative flow by wasting time describing a scene or character.

Not only should the flow of the story be unhindered, but also the reader should form a connection with it through the details.  King echos many other authors' opinions, believing “description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.”  The details you paint with your words allows the reader to visualize the setting and evokes recognition, which creates the desired connection.  

Lay down the blue prints of the scene or character description, but leave enough space to engage the reader’s memory bank (images, fears, opinions, etc.) that furnishes and completes the picture in their mind. 

Unfortunately, knowing when to back off isn’t the easiest task.  The first draft of a story should have minimal details.  Once the piece is critiqued, you’ll know which sections need to be expanded and which ones provided the balance.

Keep in mind the story is the writer’s main focus.  Don’t get caught up in verbose description.   

Less is more. 

Sparse, yet smart, description engages the reader’s imagination. The images, characters and setting are more vivid than anything you could of written creating a story the reader can call their own.  Making the reader more likely to pick the story up again to reminisce. 

What techniques do you employ to strike the balance between description and narration?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

NCF Tuesday: Writing Receiving Bad Press; Writing Contests; Death Star Canteen


News

Book Bombs

In Jakarta, terrorists aim book bombs at moderate Muslim figures and anti-terror official, striking fear into Indonesia with explosive words.

What do you predict will be the outcome of this tactic?

   
Jennifer Egan’s Win Overshadowed by Jonathan Franzen Loss

Jennifer Egan’s novel A Visit From the Goon Squad won the National Book Critics Circle fiction prize.  The online article incited an uproar when  the LA Times focused on Jonathan Franzen’s loss by only including his photo and only mentioning his novel in the sub headline.  

Why are women still a minority within the writing community? 


Jane Bond Shattering Stereotypes

Valerie Plame Wilson, best known for the memoir of her days in the C.I.A. called Fair Game, has signed a deal with Penguin Group to write a series of mystery novels with a female C.I.A. agent protagonist. “The idea for the books, Ms. Wilson said, “was born out of my frustration and continuing disappointment in how female C.I.A. officers are portrayed in popular culture.”


Who is your favorite female mystery character?


Contests

FICTION
 New American Fiction Prize
-       Fiction: Approx. 100-500 pages of your best fiction
-       First Place Prize: $1,000, publication contract, 25 complimentary copies and 15% royalties
-       Deadline: May 15, 2011
-       Details here 


E.M Koeppel Short Fiction Award
-       Unpublished Fiction
-       First Place Prize: $1,100
-       Deadline: April 3, 2011
-       Details here

Glimmer Train Literary Journal
-       Open Fiction
-       First Place Prize: $2,000
-       Deadline: March 31, 2011
-       Details here 

Narrative Magazine
-       Fiction and Nonfiction
-       First Place Prize: $3,250
-       Deadline: March 31, 2011
-       Details here 

Writer’s Digest Magazine
-       80th Annual Writing Competition
o   Fiction and Nonfiction
o   Grand Prize: $3,000
o   Deadline: May 2, 2011
o   Details here 
-       5-Minute Memoir, “Tales From the Writing Life”
o   Personal Essay (600 words or less)
o   Prize: Publication in Writer’s Digest magazine
o   Deadline: Rolling submissions
o   Details here 
POETRY
American Poetry Talent Search Contest
-       Poetry (100 lines or less)
-       First Prize: $250
-       Deadline: March 31, 2011
-       Details here 

Writecorner Press Annual Poetry Award
-       Poetry (40 lines max.)
-       First Prize: $500
-       Deadline: March 31, 2011
-       Details here


Fun
Another Eddie Izzard Lego-animated stand-up clip. Enjoy!




Friday, March 18, 2011

Prose from the Pros #4: Revisions

bvallc.com

The first draft of my novel has carefully climbed out of my filing cabinet, breathing fresh air from atop my writing desk. Reading through the story, it’s become painfully apparent my novel-writing skills are lacking.

As a novice writer, I’m faced with an opening without an inciting incident and a contrived ending. I’m tossing around the idea of telling the story from a different POV, and the villain is changing.  I should invest in a wig now while all my hair is still attached to my head.  

What’s known at this point is that the novel is crap. My job, now, is to turn this steaming pile into a coherent and suspenseful mystery novel. I just hope I have to strength to see this to the end.  I’m lost on where to start or what to do, so I’m turning to some inspirational words of wisdom.     

The following quotes are taken from the article "Rev Up Your Revision With 4 Simple Strategies" in the January 2010 issue of Writer's Digest. I hope they provide the same guidance they did for me while you revise your WIP.  

1.  Ask yourself at the opening of every chapter or scene:    

"What exactly happens here, and how does it surprise my character or offer some new perception to the reader?"

-       Every fight, conversation, or silent moment of reflection should move the story to a new place.

2.  “Be on the alert in your own work for long paragraphs consisting of backstory, physical description and character analysis. The information in such passages may be necessary, but unless you sprinkle in memorable scenic elements—snippets of dialogue, little clips of movement—your readers might lose patience.”


What advice do you turn to when you revise?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Getting Back To My Writing



Well, I took a detour from my writing the past week.  The short story I’ve been working on stalled, which brought me down.  Posting on my blog every day became overwhelming and took time away from my fiction writing, bringing me down even more.  So, I turned off my main writing roadway, and had the brilliant idea to get out of the car.  My head, crowded with negative thoughts, started to hurt causing my vision to blur.  I stumbled around for a bit, before I tripped into a ditch.  My motivation to write dissipated, leaving me lying in the ditch for a bit. 

I was able to make it to my Bucks County Writers Group meeting.  I always feel reinvigorated and motived to write after our meetings.  One of the members suggested I put the short story aside for a while and work on something else.  Clearly I wasn't getting anywhere trying to force the story.  A simple solution I should have come up with myself, but my perfectionist drive doesn’t always see things that way.  Then, my motivation started to return, giving me the strength to crawl out of the ditch and climb back into the car.  

I’m happy to report I’m back on the main writing roadway.  Go Team!  (I hope I didn't confuse you too much with my driving allegory.)   

While I was gone, several more people started to follow me.  Welcome!   After taking some time to figure out my new blogging schedule, I decided on twice a week with a showcase post on Fridays.  This new schedule gives my readers a chance to read and comment on my posts and allows me time to focus on my own writing.  I will also have time to read and comment on the blogs I follow. 

Tuesdays will remain News, Contests and FunThursdays I’m going to share thoughts on my experience or advice I’ve learned along the way.  Fridays will be a freebie day for me.  Instead of writing it myself, I am going to showcase poetry, a passage, a quote, novel, etc. I particularly liked and felt inspired by.

With all this free time and the short story away, I pulled out my NaNoWriMo novel.  An enormous task lies ahead of me with revisions, but ideas are running through my mind daily.  I’m excited to get started on polishing this mystery novel for querying. 


What writing projects are you working on?  

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

NCF Tuesday: Authors Writing for HBO & Showtime; Writing Contests; Tea, Cake or Death


News

Chabon, Waldman and HBO

Authors Michael Chabon and his wife Ayelet Waldman are collaborating on an HBO show called ‘Hobgoblinthat revolves around magicians and conmen trying to defeat Hitler.    

 Will fantasy and Hitler mix well?

Rushdie and Showtime

Author Salman Rushdie is “developing Next People, a fictional story which dissects the "radical pace of transformation in contemporary American life – from politics and race to technology, science and sexuality.”  Showtime entertainment president David Nevins sealed the deal after convincing Rushdie it was the best place to present his writing.  

What do you think about award-winning authors writing for television?


15 Richest Fictional Characters

Forbes magazine is known for printing lists of the richest men and women in the U.S.  They also publish an annual list of fictional characters and their estimated wealth.  Forbes needs input from readers to create 2011’s list.  They provide lists from previous years which include Carlisle Cullen from Twilight, Scrooge McDuck and Jay Gatsby. 

Who would you nominate for the list?


Contests

FICTION

New American Fiction Prize
-       Fiction: Approx. 100-500 pages of your best fiction
-       First Place Prize: $1,000, publication contract, 25 complimentary copies and 15% royalties
-       Deadline: May 15, 2011
-       Details here 


E.M Koeppel Short Fiction Award
-       Unpublished Fiction
-       First Place Prize: $1,100
-       Deadline: April 3, 2011
-       Details here 

Glimmer Train Literary Journal
-       Open Fiction
-       First Place Prize: $2,000
-       Deadline: March 31, 2011
-       Details here 

Narrative Magazine
-       Fiction and Nonfiction
-       First Place Prize: $3,250
-       Deadline: March 31, 2011
-       Details here 

Writer’s Digest Magazine
-       80th Annual Writing Competition
o   Fiction and Nonfiction
o   Grand Prize: $3,000
o   Deadline: May 2, 2011
o   Details here 
-       5-Minute Memoir, “Tales From the Writing Life”
o   Personal Essay (600 words or less)
o   Prize: Publication in Writer’s Digest magazine
o   Deadline: Rolling submissions
o   Details here 

POETRY
American Poetry Talent Search Contest
-       Poetry (100 lines or less)
-       First Prize: $250
-       Deadline: March 31, 2011
-       Details here 

Writecorner Press Annual Poetry Award
-       Poetry (40 lines max.)
-       First Prize: $500
-       Deadline: March 31, 2011
-       Details here 


Fun
Enjoy Eddie Izzard’s Lego-animated stand-up!




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