Friday, April 29, 2011

The Story of a Legless Photographer

Kevin Michael Connolly was born without legs and gets around by using a skateboard. He’s traveled the world, and in his travels, many people have stared at him. It's difficult to imagine what it would feel like to be on display all the time.
Connolly had a genius idea. When people stare, he takes a picture.

At first, I misunderstood and thought this was a hilarious revenge. Can you imagine accidentally gawking at someone and then they whip out a camera? But that’s not Connolly’s intention at all. He keeps his camera at his side and people don’t even know they’ve been photographed.

On his website, The Rolling Exhibition, Connolly wrote: “Whether it is a glance or a neck twisting ogle, we look at that which does not seem to fit in our day to day lives. It is that one instant of unabashed curiosity – more reflex than conscious action – that makes us who we are and has been one of my goals to capture over the past year.”

You can go to his website and read about him and his memoir, “Double Take.” You can go here to see some of his photos. I highly recommend the video below:

UPDATE: I'm getting a ton of hits from Google searches about Kevin Michael Connolly's... anatomy. To satisfy your (perhaps perverse) curiosity, Connolloy says he has a girlfriend and won't go into details beyond that, as far as I know.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Another Miracle? Fundraiser for a Writer's Conference

HNS Conference
After blogging about how badly I want to go to the Historical Novel Society Writer’s Conference, a few of my readers recommended that I start my own fundraiser. It felt like a crazy idea, but I thought: ”What if I can do this and I just need to try it?”  

I say never to pass up on opportunities, and this counts. I'm going for it.

Here’s how you can help me go to the conference: there’s a donation button on the right-hand corner of this page. Click on it, and enter your payment info via Paypal (you don’t need a Paypal account).

If I don’t earn enough money, if all the spots for the conference get taken, or if I can’t go for any other reason, all the money will be refunded.

The Prizes

To show my gratitude, I have prizes for everyone who donates. 
  • Signed postcard from San Diego and a public thank you on my blog for every donation
  • If you spread the word via blog, twitter, or Facebook: signed postcard
  • $10      A pdf of my journal experiences at the conference
  • $25      Unlimited critique query letter (we’ll keep working on it until it’s done)
  • $35      10 5x7 pictures I took in Rome
  • $50      1  8x10 framed picture I took in Rome
  • $75      A Sacred Fire t-shirt
  • $100    A book signed by an author of your choice at the conference
  • $150    A Roman cookbook
  • $200    pdf version of Sacred Fire before I send it to agents
  • $400    A critique of your full-length novel and query letter
  • For every $5, you get an entry in a raffle for the following prizes: postcard, journal, query critique, 3 chapter critique, 10 5x7 pictures, 1 8x10 framed picture, t-shirt, book from the conference, and a pdf version of Sacred Fire.

Thank you everyone for your support!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Learning about Sex

The Talk. We all have memories of the uncomfortable moment when our parents explain the birds and the bees. 

It wasn't too bad for me. After The Talk was over, my parents gave me a book to read to give me further knowledge. I wonder if they knew I would read it from cover to cover. 

One of my homework assignments at school was to read 20 minutes everyday. Logically, I counted the sex book toward my twenty minutes. Why wouldn't I? It was a book, and I did read it. After writing down how long you read, you had to write about one thing in the book you liked.

There was a chapter in the book about how girls going through puberty are treated by boys (whistling and catcalls) and how to deal with that discomfort. One girl said, "I hate it when they tell me I have big boobs. Maybe one day I'll point at them and yell out, "Hey, you've got a big penis!"

My nine-year-old self thought this was hilarious. I wrote in my reading log, "I like the part when the girl told the boy he had a big penis."

The teacher gave my parents a phone call.

My parents had to have another talk with me about appropriateness. Unlike the original talk, that was pretty awkward. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Miracle that Slipped Through My Fingers

I mentioned already how badly I want to go to the Historical Fiction Society Conference in San Diego this June, but wouldn’t be able to afford it, unless an via a miracle. Then I discovered

It’s an incredible website. Artists post a project they need financial help to complete, such as publishing an ebook, burning a CD, creating a magazine, traveling for book research, and so forth. People donate money for projects they like, and the artist gives prizes for people who donate. Once they approve a project, half of them get funded.

I thought, “This is my miracle.” I could post about my book and the conference, and people could donate to help me go.

I was meticulous about writing my proposal. I planned out great prizes, like signed books from the conference, I heart Vesta t-shirts, a pdf of my book, postcards from San Diego, I even offered to send a rock from the temple of Vesta on a plaque. I exacerbated my desire to go by dreaming about how I would thank my patrons and the amazing blog articles I would write about the experience.

They rejected my proposal. Apparently, they only sponsor projects, whereas my request was for an “educational” experience.

Needless to say, I was heart-broken.

A friend of mine suggested that I resubmit my proposal with a different emphasis, as if my book couldn’t possibly be finished without the help of the people I would meet at the conference. I got excited all over again, but they still said no.

Since the odds of finding another program that gives away money with no strings attached is pretty miniscule, I need to just let it go.

On the bright side, YOU might want to give KickStart a look if you need funding for a project. My husband wants to start a t-shirt business, which would be perfect for it.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Now Starring... Pick Actors for Your Book

Here's a clever idea for a blogfest from Rapturous Randomocity: you pick actors for your book, then say why you chose them. I have no idea whom I want to act in Sacred Fire, but I just so happen to know exactly whom I want for Hunger.
Chris Pine – Eric
Eric is mysterious, handsome, and has intense eyes. He’s lived a tragic life and he’s sick of it.
Chris Pine played Captian Kirk in Star Trek. Why did I choose him? Just look at his eyes. That says it all.

Ashley Green – Savvy
Savvy is cute and her innocence is childlike. She’s has an intense passion for life. Her energy is Eric’s life-force.
I chose Ashley Green because she was adorable in Twilight.
Can't you picture those two together? There would be some definite chemistry.

Gale Harold - Alex
Alex is sarcastic and cares about nothing but pleasure. His greatest joy is tormenting Eric.
I’ve never seen this guy act before – I just found his face on Google – but he definitely has the look.

James Marsters - Damien
Damien is evil and manipulative. He has platinum blonde hair, pale skin, and he only wears black. This makes him look unsettling.
My gosh, James Marsters looks just like him. This is Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I can’t believe I found someone who’s so close to what I imagined.

Ryan Gosling - Sam
Sam is pathetic. His life centers around drugs. His eyes are bloodshot, his skin is pale, and he has dark purple slashes under his eyes. He looks deflated and ghost-like.
From what I’ve seen, this guy always plays clean-cut boys and heart-throbs, but I don’t know, I can just see him as a lost druggie.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Contest: Hooks for Books

Writer's Unboxed, my favorite writing blog ever, is hosting a contest where you have to be like Mary Stewart and hook people with the first line of a story. The winner gets 14 free books! Check it out.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Art of Laughing 'til You Pee Your Pants

I have a deep respect for humor. Really I just have a deep respect for any work of art that has a profound effect on people, especially a physical effect. The ability to make people double over, laugh loudly, and cry… that’s pretty cool.

I could watch YouTube videos all day long. Here are a few of my favorites.

Please feel free to share links in the comments of videos you think we might like.

P.S. I didn’t include any memes because I figure everyone’s seen them already. If you aren’t already familiar with these, you should look up David After Dentist, Redhead Dance Master, Numa Numa, Bed Intruder, Bed Intruder Song, Double Rainbow, Double Rainbow Song, and Scared Baby. Am I missing any good ones?
British Animal Voiceovers
Flight of the Conchords: The Humans are Dead
Airplane Dog
Cats Playing Pattycake Voiceovers

Achmed the Dead Terrorist

Adopt Pinky

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Guest Blogger: How to Get Creative Juices Flowing

I recently made friends with Reece Hanzon, a sci-fi writer and a newly budding blogger. I was impressed by this article because while we often read the same things over and over in the blogosphere, I've never read anything about using music as a tool. What a great idea! Whenever you get the chance, make sure to visit his blog.

Everyone give it up for Reeeeeeeeece Hanzon!

How to Get Creative Juices Flowing

I know a lot of people who are aspiring writers (I think we tend to gravitate toward each other naturally), most of whom aren't anywhere near finishing a book. I get asked a lot how I managed to write an entire book, how I come up with ideas, etc. and I'm not even published yet. The nice thing is it always gets me thinking about my writing process and I invariably give them one of three responses:
  1. know your characters
  2. know your story
  3. listen to music
I've talked a little bit about characters already (incidentally, read David Powers King's recent post on evoking emotion; it's really good), and I'll talk about knowing your story when I have more time to dedicate to blogging. What I want to talk about right now is music.

I find that every time I start outlining and developing a new story idea, I subconsciously start putting together soundtracks for it as well. Don't get me wrong, I'm not planning out the future movie based on my idea will sound.

What I find myself doing, as I think about what's happening at certain points in the story and in certain scenes, is identifying songs that evoke the character's state of mind/emotion. I generally end up with a fairly eclectic selection of pieces (everything from rock to classical).

The most amazing thing is that as I begin to actually writing the story, listening to my "soundtrack" actually helps me get into the story more. And that's when writing really starts to be fun!

So, what do you do to help get your creative juices flowing?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Let's See, Where to Put it...

So mischevious
When I was five years old, my family and I were on a road trip when I felt sick. I knew I was going to throw up and I didn’t have time to ask my parents to pull over.

I had to make a split-second decision. We were crammed in the car and there were no bags or buckets nearby. I certainly didn’t want to throw up on myself.

Sitting next to me was my one-year-old brother. He was fast asleep in his car seat. I knew it was wrong, but what else could I do? I leaned over and puked all over him.

To this day, it feels like the most logical decision.

I didn’t want to tell my parents because I knew I would get in trouble, so I kept my silence. Pretty soon my parents smelt the vomit, so they turned around and saw my baby brother was drenched in more puke than a one-year-old could produce. They stared at me with open mouths.

For some reason, they didn’t understand how logical my choice was.

They had to pull my poor brother out of the car to change his clothes, but he was still fast asleep and couldn’t understand why my parents wanted to wake him up. He cried while my parents cleaned him, glaring at me the whole time.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Fixing Shallow Characters

Flatest character ever. Ba-dum, dish
One of my beta readers told me all my side characters were bland. They also said I developed the relationships between Tuccia, my MC, and each Vestal Virgin, but I only developed some of their relationships with each other. This shocked me. How could that be possible? I loved all my characters.

I looked over the book and realized I paid too much attention to my main character’s development to worry about the others'. I also paid a lot of attention to the history and the plot.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized how necessary it is to develop all characters. People shouldn’t be there to just fill up space; they leave holes in the book. Nevertheless, I was afraid if I gave individual attention to every personality and every relationship, it would weigh the book down.

I remembered something my dad said: an author should know the answer to every question, even if the answers are never given to the readers. It helps keep everything in the book congruent, and the author will let slip enough clues to give readers the answers, and it will create the feeling that there is a world beyond what they see in the book.

I noticed one of the Vestal Virgins was much more developed than the others because she had a back story, but I didn’t use it in the book. Because I understood her, I knew what she would say and how she would react to every situation. She made sense to me, and she made sense to my readers.

I don’t have to put in a scene or even a whole paragraph that describes the relationships between the characters. What matters is that I know them, and what I know will be communicated to the readers whether I mean it to or not.

I did a little exercise where I wrote one sentence about how each character feels about the others. It was a lot of work, but I’m glad I did it.

There’s an example of two characters below.

Blog Post of the Day: Fleshing Out Flat Characters

Monday, April 18, 2011

I Can't Handle this Disappointment

I was totally cool about my 100 query rejections. So I had to rewrite the query, big whoop. I’m okay with things taking longer than I originally planned.

But I’m not okay with missed opportunities. You never get those back.

I latched onto something I want and can’t have, and it’s become an obsession. There’s a Historical Novel Society conference in San Diego this June. At this conference, I could meet authors and agents and editors and pitch my book and build connections and… well, basically go to writer’s heaven. And it’s all historical novels. Finding agents who are interested in historical fiction isn’t the easiest thing in the world.

To make matters worse, I have a published friend who’s going, and she has friends who are going that I can introduce myself to.

It would cost me around $1,500 dollars to go. There’s just no way. I won’t get into the details of why that’s impossible, but seriously, there’s just no way, save an act of God – which I’m not discounting.

I should have let it go right away, but I didn’t, and I regret that now. Every day I go on the website to see how many attendees have signed up and it’s killing me. I've watched open spots go from 79 to 68. It’s like a doomsday clock.

Why do I do this to myself? I’m going crazy! I reeeeealy want to go. This has put me completely out of my element because I always grasp opportunities, and this is the first one I wanted that was beyond my reach. I know that on June 17, I’m going to sit at my desk at my lame job and imagine all the wonderful adventures people are having in San Diego.

Keep your eye open for miracles, please. I know I am.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Long List of Writer's Conferences

Speaking of writing conferences, I found a website that lists conferences throughout the country.

Check it out here.

Some conferences are free, but it looks like most of them cost around $300.

Writers conferences are great opportunities to meet published and unpublished authors, editors agents... trust me, you'll want to go to as many as you can.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Joining the Road Kill Club

Andrew and I were on the ride home from the book conference talking about how cool Tea Obreht was when I saw the brightest lightning storm of my life. There were many moments when it looked like broad daylight. I was so busy watching what looked like white tree limbs tapping the horizon that when I noticed a dog in the road, it was too late.
I screamed and covered my face. Andrew made brief eye-contact with the dog before we hit it and felt it's body under the wheels.

I wasn't as upset as I thought I would be because I had emotionally prepared for this. The moment I moved from Utah to Mississippi, I knew we would kill a dog. There are dead dogs everywhere. You can't leave the house without seeing road kill. I've seen so many smashed armadillos that I've come to associate them with death. 

The experience felt like an initiation into true Mississippi culture.

We were driving my in-laws' car, and the whole bumper was smashed and hanging off the car. The crazy thing is only two days prior, my husband made a survival bracelet out of 20 feet of parachute chord. Neither of us thought he would ever use it. He untied it and used it to tie the bumper back on the car. I felt like a boy scout.

A cop saw us on the side of the road and offered to write an accident report. It was pouring down sheets of rain, so he asked Andrew if he wanted to sit in the police car while he wrote it out. Cool, huh? You see, when you go to book conferences, you never know what kind of opportunities will arise. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Meeting Tea Obreht, author of The Tiger's Wife

At the end of the book conference, there was an after-party with the authors. There were drinks and a cake to celebrate Tennessee William's birthday. Andrew and I arrived early and perused a table full of all the books the authors wrote, and as I was scanning over the titles, I found this book:

I already heard of The Tiger's Wife from reading a New York Times article about her. Tea Obreht's book is big -- 28 on the Barnes and Nobles sales rank. Not only is she a debut novelist, but this was her agent's first sale and her editor's first acquisition. She's also my age! (Twenty-six.) Of all the living authors I would like to speak to, she is at the top.

I had no idea she would be at this conference. Andrew told me she spoke the day before, so I thought I missed her. Missed opportunities are the worst. You never get those back.

I told the book store owner how disappointed I was that I missed her, and she said Tea Obreht would be at the bookstore and she would be sure to tell me when she arrived. 

I learned that you should talk to people. Anyone. Everyone. Just talk. It doesn't matter who it is or what you talk about; you never know what they'll say or how much they can help you, like the book store owner helped me.

The moment Tea Obreht walked through the door, the bookstore owner grabbed her and pulled her over to talk to me. I have a tendency to say stupid things in front of authors, so I was nervous. Then I got to talking with her, and I felt completely at ease. She didn't feel like a celebrity; she felt more like a TA in a college class.

I told her how cool I thought it was that she, her agent, and her editor are so new and how impressed I was that she's my age. She highly recommended getting a new agent because you develop a closer relationship. As for experience, if the agent works for a good agency, she will have all the resources she needs.

Many bitter authors talk like agents just pick random books to represent regardless of quality, which I always thought was ridiculous. Tea said agents are hungry to find good books. I like that. I like thinking that maybe I'll help satisfy someone's hunger.
I mentioned that I had a book I plan to query in July, and she asked about it.

"It's a historical fiction about Vestal Virgins. They were priestesses in Rome..."

"Oh yeah, I know who they were."

"When I heard about them, I thought, how has no one written a book about them before?"

"I know. That's a great topic. Most people our age are writing bar room books."

(I don't know what a bar room book is, but I'm glad I didn't write one.)

"I was just grateful that history was there for me to use," I said.

"Well, don't give up because you never know how long it will take. We sent my book to seventeen publishing companies before one of them accepted it."

(Since she was published by Random House, my dream company, I'm sure it was worth the wait.)

She signed my book and said she needed to speak to someone behind me, so I thanked her and said it was great meeting her. I turned around and realized I had talked to her so long that a line of ten people were behind me waiting their turn. I had no idea they were there... oops.

Of all my experiences as a writer, this was by far the most helpful and the most exciting. I'm so grateful she took the time to talk to me, and I can't wait to read her book!

Click below to read a summary of The Tiger's Wife.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Don't Be a Jerk at Workshops

Richard Tillinghast, author of Finding Ireland (among other works of poetry) led a workshop where a few writers critiqued each other's poems. I loved it. Poetry is only fun for me if it's a community thing; I like going to readings and discussing poems in class, but I could never sit down and just read.

 We spent about 20 minutes critiquing the first poem and we had a great discussion and made some insightful critiques. But he didn't write down any of our advice. I think that's incredibly rude. How could he possibly remember everything we said?

What's worse is when someone only writes some of the comments. It basically tells the reader, "This comment is worth remember. The others, not so much."

We were about ready to move on to the next poet when he told us of his inspiration for the poem and how he loves it so much that despite its flaws, he wants to stay true to that inspiration and wouldn't change a thing about it.

This made me furious. If he had no intention of making his poem better, why on earth did he want it to get critiqued? When writer's do this, I they're just using workshops as an opportunity to share their work. That's not what critiques are about. That's for publishing and readings. We aren't there to appreciate him and make him feel warm and fuzzy inside; we're there to reassemble his insides even if it's uncomfortable.

The next poet said something I'll never forget: A poem is never finished. Everytime she reads her poems, she changes something. A poem is a living, breathing entity that evolves as the poet matures. It is like a human being and publication is like a snapshot of a temporary moment in time.

It would be wonderful to keep a first draft of a poem and after years of changes to look back and see how different we are as people.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Are People Reading Less? and the First Amendment

Paul Yamazaki, head buyer at City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, spoke at the Oxford Conference of the Book. City Lights is the most famous bookstore in America because of it's willingness to publish liberal and controversial books.

They were involved in a case against author Allen Ginsberg for his novel Howl. People thought it was obscene and would corrupt America's youth so he and the bookstore's manager were arrested. Can you believe that? This was a famous case that shaped our understanding of the First Amendment.

I have high moral scruples and I've read many books I don't think should have been published, but readers should be able to read whatever they want. I'm just shocked anyone would want to read certain things. So, regardless of how "immoral" Howl may or may not be, the fact that he was arrested for an idea is appalling. America, fail.

The panelist asked Paul Yamazaki if the bookstore carries Sarah Palin's books. Yamazaki laughed uncomfortably because he knew where he was going with this.

"No, we don't represent her."

"Don't you feel that's a form of censorship?"

He went on to explain that they had limited space and they didn't feel right providing books they didn't believe in. That's a fascinating question, and I'd like to hear some of your opinions. I don't think he was in the wrong because people still have the freedom to read Sarah Palin. It's not like City Lights is the only place to buy books. They aren't forbidding conservative literature. Also, they're a private company and should be able to buy whatever they want. I feel the same way about Banned Books in schools... it's not like kids don't have access to bookstores and public libraries.

They opened up for questions and I mentioned Borders closing. "Many authors are panicking because they believe this is a sign that people are reading less. In your experience, have you noticed a decline in how much people read?"

I wish I had recorded his answer, because it was fantastic. He said he's noticed a growth of not just readers, but deep literacy. There's been an exciting boom of young authors and readers. Because they're so well-versed in technology, they become more involved and therefore more knowledgeable. He also said that despite the fact that this large demographic is raised on technology, youth still appreciate novels in their traditional, physical form.

I realized the answer should have been obvious. YA literature is huge right now. I would like to know how many YA books are published each year; I'd bet it's close to the amount of adult books. Authors are getting younger and younger because they are reading more and getting prepared earlier. There are more resources available to us and more opportunities for growth than ever before.

Our generation is powerful. We're starting companies our parents never could have imagined. College students are becoming millionaires. We have more influence now than ever before. Paul Yamaziki mainly referred to 15-16 year-olds; a new and even more powerful generation is emerging.

It's exciting.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Oxford Conference for the Book

When I heard about a book conference going on in Oxford, Mississippi, I was excited to go. It was free so I figured only be local authors would be there, but that it would be a good opportunity to get some experience on a small scale. Besides, you never know where you'll find opportunities.

Imagine my surprise when I found out many of the authors were successful people from all over the country. Some of them I had heard of before, and some of them were best sellers.

It was amazing and I learned a lot, so I'm dedicating this week's blog posts to the conference. I'll talk about authors I spoke to, presentations I went to, workshops, etc. 

Below is a list of the authors and some of their books. I encourage you to read over the list and see if there are any you'd like to read (especially the authors I talked to, because they were very nice).

Tea Obreht, The Tiger's Wife
I had such a good experience with her that she gets her own blog article on Thursday.
 Kevin Brockmeier, A Brief History of the Dead
I first discovered that authors at this conference were successful when I went to his reading and heard how good he was. He's written eight books, all of which I want to buy. I talked to him about book covers because this one was so amazing. He said authors don't come up with their own covers but they can make suggestions and they have the power of veto. At his reading, he handed out a list of his top 50 favorite books. I thought was a brilliant idea, and I briefly talked to him about a few of the books I had read.

 Karen Russell, Swamplandia
Karen Russell is adorable. Her book is outrageously quirky, and when I asked her where she came up with ideas, she blushed and said they just come into her head and she has to write them down. She said when she tries to write "normal" things, they always turn out badly. I told her that makes her unique and she should never lose that. I can't wait to read her book.

Joe Matt, The Poor Bastard
He's a graphic novelist who's very passionate about what he does. When I told him I had a budding interest in comics and asked for recommendations, he ran through the bookstore crowded with authors pulled things off the shelves. I wish I had the money to buy everything he handed me... of course, I wish I had the money to buy everyone's books.
Richard Tillinghast, Finding Ireland
I went to a poetry workshop with him, which I really enjoyed. He's an intelligent professor and he made me miss college. I have a love-hate relationship with poetry, but I plan on buying his book because the poems of his I did read were fantastic.  

Natasha Trethewey, Native Guard, Pulitzer Prize Winner!
Ally Condie, Matched
W. Ralph Eubanks, Ever is a Long Time
Wil Haygood, Sweet Thunder
Thomas Oliphant, Praying for Gil Hodges
Sarah Kennedy, Home Remedies, A Witches Dictionary
Michael McFee, The Smallest Talk
Mark Richard, The Ice at the Bottom of the World
Justin Taylor, The Gospel of Anarchy
Job Voelkel, Middleworld
Jesmyn Ward, Where the Line Bleeds
Curtis Wilkie, The Fall of the House of Zeus
Charles Regan Wilson, Baptized in Blood
Sven Birkerts, The Gutenberg Elegies
Joyce Farmer, Special Exits
Tom Franklin, Hell at the Breech
Ted Ownby, Subduing Satan
Jack Pendarvis, Awesome

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Embarrasing Moment Contest

Writer's Digest is hosting a fun contest where you write about your most embarrassing moment as a writer. Here are the details:

Whether your story is funny, humbling or an important lesson learned the hard way, Writer's Digest wants to hear from you. Share your experience in 150 words or fewer and e-mail it—along with your name, city and state—to with “Lessons Learned” in the subject line.

Your story could appear in a future issue of Writer’s Digest. (All submissions will be considered for publication and may be edited for clarity or space.)

I just happen to have the perfect story! If you submit anything, I'd love for you to post it in the comments so we can all have a good laugh. If you don't submit anything but you have a good story anyway, we'd still like to hear it!

Here's mine:

When I was a naïve college freshman, I went to a reading by a Pulitzer Prize winner. I was curious about the process of becoming so successful, and of winning the Pulitzer in general. When she opened up for questioning, this is what I asked:

“You’ve won some very prestigious awards, including the Pulitzer, and I was wondering if that was a goal you had and what steps you took in achieving that goal.”

I thought it was a legitimate question.

For a moment, she only stared at me. Then, with a little more hostility than I thought was necessary, she said, “A writer would have to be a complete idiot to actually plan on winning the Pulitzer.”

I was so embarrassed; I hid my head in my hands and didn’t hear anything that was said for the rest of the reading.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

An Author Gone Ballistic

Hoo boy, this is plastered all over the internet. The writer of the blog "Books and Pals" wrote a negative review of the book “Greek Seamen.” The author, Jacqueline Howett was upset and argued against him. Readers supported the original review, and Howett got progressively angrier, demanding that he remove the review, ordering him to answer her emails, and when she couldn’t think of any other arguments, she repeatedly said the F word.
When I read this, my mouth dropped open.
When I read the 300 people who responded by telling her how classless she is and how they would never read her book, my mouth closed again.
Many agents and authors on the internet are accusing readers of starting a witch hunt. They say we all make mistakes and go on rants, and that even though Howett’s behavior was inexcusable, that’s no reason to be malicious.
This is interesting because I didn’t think anything said against her was undeserved. She had no right to act that way. I noticed a pattern: readers are furious at her, but people who have written books – people who have had their own negative reviews and wanted to act the same way – they’re the ones who are forgiving.
So what do you think? Are the reactions against her appropriate?
I have no answer, but I do have a story I wasn’t planning on telling anyone ever. I myself have gone on an internet rant. It was absurd how angry I got. Someone disagreed with me on a forum. My hands were trembling with rage and I grit my teeth and typed some pretty nasty stuff, and everyone in the forum ganged up on me and pointed out how tacky I was. This went back and forth for a while. I even chewed out a moderator. Then I got suspended from the forum.
The next day, I read what I had written and was horrified. (And then my period started and the whole thing made sense.) I apologized to everyone I had virtually screamed at and told the moderators they were right to suspend me, and now I never type in anger. For a long while, people responded negatively to every single thing I wrote. It took a while before people would be nice to me again. I don't blame them; it's human nature.
For Jacqueline Howett, I feel the readers’ response was justified and she should make amends by issuing a public apology. You can’t expect mob mentality to be mature. You should be accountable for all your actions, and as public figure, you have to be likable at any cost. But even though I’ve been criticized publically, I’ve never had my dear novel smashed so cruelly. Maybe that makes all the difference.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Villiage In Kenya for Women Only

I got very emotional when I read this article. It's about a woman in Kenya who was so fed up with the terrors women face in her country that she created a villiage men weren't allowed into. This was very dangerous for her, and for all the women in the village. I wish I could fly out there and hug them all and tell them how courageous they are.

We can all help them by buying their jewelry. Most of the income of the villiage comes from selling their beaded artwork, which has been featured in the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and in many other prestigeous places. I like buying from them better than just giving them money because the ability to earn instead of recieve is so empowering.

Here are some videos about these amazing women.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Pride + Humility = A Cocktail of Awesome

I was inspired to write this article by one of my readers, who wrote:
Do you ever get self-conscious when you read your work to others? I certainly do. I can't even be in the same room if someone is reading my stuff. I know lots of writers feel the same way, so the question is how to deal with it. Any thoughts?
I love it when readers ask me questions because it helps me to know what they would like me to write about.
Oh dear, I found a typo.
We know to cure pride with humility. The key to solving insecurity is also humility, just a different kind. Some of us won’t stop until our work is perfect, but it never will be, because we aren't perfect people. Thinking we ever can be is a form of pride. If we can accept that we can’t be perfect, it’s easier to admit flaws (even to other people).

Writers take themselves too seriously. A mistake often brings them great shame. Instead of being embarrassed, laugh it off. If you can laugh it off, it means you know better now and you can be proud of your growth.

I think it's easier to tone down excessive confidence than it is to build up self-esteem, so feel free to overcompensate. You can practice saying this mantra: "I am so awesome. I am so awesome." It helps. Really.

Let’s play a game: I am going to share a flaw of mine that makes me laugh, and you brave souls can share one of yours.

I’ve noticed I say things twice for extra emphasis, as if readers won’t get it the first time. For example, I might say, “She was scared and terrified.” Those are synonyms, dummy.

Your turn.
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