May 27, 2014

Gruff Variations

Back in 2012, I submitted a story to a Writing for Charity anthology. There were quite a few impressive authors in the collection—like Shannon Hale and Mary Robinette Kowal—so I was excited when my story was chosen to be included. I was also taking a fairy tale course at the time, so it was fun to work on my own reinvention of a classic tale. It was released in e-book, I bought it, and that was the end of that.

Well, I found out a few weeks ago that they decided to do a limited edition print release of the anthology. I was excited because I prefer actual paper books (especially if I’m in them!!!), and it was a pretty, shiny cover that, I thought, was a better reflection of the anthology than the original cover had been.

I went and picked up a few copies at the conference, and it was a fantastic boost during the drudgery of revisions! Also, it was nice to be part of something where all of the proceeds go to charity. 

Lovely, eh?

May 21, 2014

Why Writers Should Attend Comic-cons

A lot of writers attend writing conferences, but if you have the opportunity, do you ever attend other types of conferences?

In the last couple of years, I’ve attended several academic conferences as well as San Diego Comic-con and SLC FanX. I want to talk for a minute about Comic-cons, particularly because they usually get a bad rap. Not as much as they used to now that pop culture, movies, comics, video games, books, etc. have started to blur lines. Still, I know a lot of people who think that cons are beneath them for whatever reason. But as a writer, I'll go to them any chance I get. Here are five reasons why:

1.     Fans. You’ll never find a place with more weird/interesting/zealous personalities. There’s nowhere like a con for finding people who are passionate about their fandom. They are quirky and smart and fun and great fodder for writing characters! And who knows? One day, they might be your audience.

2.     Authors. So many great ones attend! Veronica Roth, Margaret Atwood, Brandon Sanderson, G.R.R Martin, Rainbow Rowell, and James Dashner are a few examples of authors currently attending different Comic-cons. You can meet them and attend panel discussions about their work. There are so many authors who attend, that at any given con, there is bound to be someone for everyone!

In addition to famous authors, there are also usually a lot of local and fringe writers who have gotten over the first hump of publishing a book, but may not have the fame or success yet. These authors speak on panels and sign autographs and are often more likely to have time to talk to you one-on-one.

3.     Networking. Networking can be one of the biggest obstacles for authors and finding chances to meet other writers, editors, and agents can be rare. At cons, they often have chances for writers and artists to pitch their ideas. While these are great, it’s also a good chance to talk with agents or editors as normal human beings who share similar interests and fandoms. These relationships can extend long after the con is over—both online and in person.

4.     Perspective. Con panels and booths are great resources for determining current trends—which books are doing well enough that the authors are guests. But they’re also great for gaining new perspectives in different topics than you might normally be interested in. One thing that I would recommend is finding a panel for someone in your genre that you haven't heard before, and see what they have to say. Or find an author or genre panel that you know nothing about. Listen to random people talk. Try something/someone you would never try and see what you learn. Ask questions. Interact in panels. Always learn something from every situation.

5.     Ideas. From costumes and personalities to panels to fan fiction and independent artists, cons are a melting pot of ideas. See a guy selling dragon skulls? A woman wearing a leather corset and pink ringlets? Meet a cute boy you can imagine dragging behind a booth to, er, compare your Doctor Who shirts? Whether you write Adult or Young Adult, contemporary, fantasy, science fiction, thrillers, or whatever, the inspirations for ideas are absolutely endless.

I believe that conferences are a lot of fun and can also be a great tool for learning new skills, meeting new people, and exposing your mind to new ideas.

And besides, though it has nothing to do with being a better writer, you get to meet people that you idolize—people who have worked hard to create characters you love.

Like Captain Mal and Jayne.

Or Judge Dredd/John Kennex. 

What about you? Besides writing conferences, are there other types of cons you like to attend?

May 13, 2014

Books on Writing Craft

One of the main reasons that I want to write this blog is because I haven't seen a lot of blogs that look at books about writing craft.

I don't know, maybe I am alone in this, but I spend a lot of time reading about writing, and so far the best sources I have found for discovering new books are Amazon reviews, Goodreads, and word-of-mouth. Personally, I generally find Amazon reviews to be the best source because of the variety of view points about any given book. What I'm trying to do here is look at specific components of writing books. What works? What doesn't work? Which books are redundant? Which ones are a must-read for authors?

This exercise is as much for me as for anyone else. I want to remember the positive aspects of books that I liked. Much like a book report does, I hope this blog forces me to question the bigger picture and pick out the positive and not-so-positive aspects of each book. So even if nobody else reads this blog, I still think it will be helpful for me.

Do you read books about writing craft? Any particular favorites? What do you think is the best source for discovering new books on craft?

May 6, 2014

Welcome to My Parlor

There are thousands of blogs about writing: Author blogs, agent blogs, book review blogs, blogs about craft, and blogs about getting published. I subscribe to hundreds of them and am often overwhelmed by all of the information.

But, overall, I think that's a good thing! There are a lot of choices out there, and everyone is looking for different things.

In a former life, I taught college writing and rhetoric. My fellow teachers and I would often use the example of a parlor discussion to illustrate delving into a new text or dialogue. Everyone joins at different times with different ideas, but the conversation started before we entered and continues after we leave.

Kenneth Burke calls it the "unending conversation." He says:

"Imagine that you enter a parlor. You come late. When you arrive, others have long preceded you, and they are engaged in a heated discussion, a discussion too heated for them to pause and tell you exactly what it is about. In fact, the discussion had already begun long before any of them got there, so that no one present is qualified to retrace for you all the steps that had gone before. You listen for a while, until you decide that you have caught the tenor of the argument; then you put in your oar. Someone answers; you answer him; another comes to your defense; another aligns himself against you, to either the embarrassment or gratification of your opponent, depending upon the quality of your ally's assistance. However, the discussion is interminable. The hour grows late, you must depart. And you do depart, with the discussion still vigorously in progress." 

I have wanted to be a writer as long as I can remember, but I've always planned pseudonyms or otherwise been in the closet about that unrealistic pipe-dream. But now that I've written four novels--two scrapped and two half-decent--this blog is my way of saying that I'm ready to be part of the conversation. I'm ready to find my way into writerly circles. I want this blog to be my own little corner of the writing world, as well as my attempt to join the bigger discussion.

I feel like the writing community, as I've witnessed it on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and blogs, is mostly a supportive group with a variety of ideas and approaches to publication. It's the ideal parlor community, really. Almost everyone is nice. Everyone is welcome. We never get tired of thinking or talking about books and genres and themes and authors.

Well, I have thoughts. I'm a nice person. I love parlors. And I'd like to join the conversation.
So imagine your favorite Austen novel or a scene from Downton Abbey. Picture that parlor. Picture the vibrant minds and the exciting conversation (okay, maybe not always exciting).
Now that you're inside, have a seat on a slightly uncomfortable settee or an overstuffed club chair. I'll grab the tea, and we'll have a lovely conversation about writing, reading, books, and publishing. I hope you'll stay a while!