Saturday, July 10, 2010

Guest Post: Sarah Mlynowski on Her Twitter Promotion for Gimme A Call

By Sarah Mlynowski

Ah, the Internet. Not only does it provide endless opportunities for procrastination (Huffington Post! Zappos! Dancing babies on You Tube!), but it also provides opportunities to talk directly to readers and writers.

As an author, I’ve always been active on social networks. Five years ago, I started a teen lit group on MySpace—it’s kind of dead now, but back in 2006, it was a happening place to be.

I was slow to join Facebook, but once I did, I cannonballed in and made lots of friends. Sure, some were sketchy friends, and some were fake friends (Anne Frank? Really?), but I also met lots of interesting and fun friends.

But when it came time to brainstorm promotional ideas for my new novel Gimme a Call (Delacorte, 2010), no one cared about MySpace or Facebook.

All I heard about was Twitter. Specifically, tweet, hashtag, trending, RT, hootsuite. And all I could think was…huh?

Yes, I had an account, but I had no idea what to do with it. And seriously, what was a hashtag?

I signed up for a Twitter 101. By the end of the tutorial, I felt somewhat confident in my Twitter abilities. At least, I knew what a hashtag was…. #kindof.

Gimme a Call is about Devi Banks, a high school senior who accidentally drops her cell phone in a 
fountain. When she fishes it out, she discovers the only call she can make 
is to herself--as a high school freshman, at age 14.

I knew the book’s theme needed to be part of my Twitter promotion, so I decided to e-mail various authors, (hello, Facebook Friends!), ask them “What would you tell your younger self, if, say, you had a magic cell phone that could call yourself in the past?” and tweet their answers.

To start, I posted "What @sarazarr would tell her high school self: You are not fat. You will be, but you're not now, so enjoy it. #gimmeacall." Sara Zarr retweeted it to her followers. Her followers responded. And retweeted to their followers.

Then Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself), who has 1.4 million followers, joined in, adding: "Dear 15-year-old-self, those comics you feel guilty for spending your Bar Mitzvah money on each week will save your life one day. #gimmeacall."

A hundred and fifty people retweeted his tweet, and suddenly it was one a.m. in the morning and new #gimmeacalls were popping up every few seconds. Wheee!

Some of my faves:

“Dear High School Self: You will live to regret that mullet. Also? The Bay City Rollers will never be cool.... #gimmeacall” -@ColleenLindsay

“Dear H.S. Self: sneaking wine spritzers at your friends' parents' 4th of July bbq is not 'as good as it gets'. #GimmeACall” - @AliseOnLife

“Dear High School Self: Stay away from any guy named Jeff, Joe, Will, Sean, Joshua, Jason, Tommy, Johnny, Mark, Billy, Ed,... #gimmeacall” - @dncallahan

And my favorite from the younger set….

“Dear High School Self: Oh wait, you're still in high school. #gimmeacall” - @chloeeesays

The editor of my next book, Ten Things We Did (And Probably Shouldn’t Have), already has plans for a #tenthingswedidbutprobablyshouldnthave Twitter campaign.

But I bet that by next summer there will be a new Internet sensation to help us procrastinate.

Can’t say I know what it’ll be.

If only I had that magic cell phone...

Cynsational Notes

Photo by Sigrid Estrada.

Look for Sarah this week at Chick Lit Is Not Dead and on July 12 at Bookloons: Teens.

See the Gimme a Call Facebook Fan Page. See also Sarah at Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Cynsational News & Giveaways

The Pals in Peril Tourists' Guide to Deepest, Darkest Delaware from M.T. Anderson. A fantasy tour guide of the state of Delaware--complete with sing-alongs and an interactive fantasy map on parchment. Read a Cynsations interview with Tobin.

My ALA wrap-up, in which I give a civil rights pioneer a piece of gum by Sibert Honor Author Chris Barton from Bartography. Peek: "During one of the speeches, I surreptitiously (I thought) snuck a package of gum from my coat pocket and began to extract a piece. That’s when I felt an elbow in my side and from the corner of my eye saw Ms. Colvin smile. I gave her a piece of gum. I figured it was the very least I could do." Read a Cynsations interview with Chris.

Nonfiction Picture Books: The Power of Theme by Donna Bowman Bratton from Simply Donna. Peek: "Author Barbara Kerley refers to theme as the “so what” of the story; the ultimate reason why we care about the people or events that populate our story."

Scholastic makes inroads into Arabic children's book market by Geraldine Baum from the Los Angeles Times. Peek: "Scholastic, the world's largest publisher and distributor of children's books, first weeded its list of thousands of titles down to 200 and later 80. They were translated into Arabic, and over the last three years, almost 17 million copies have been shipped from a plant in Missouri to elementary schools across the Middle East and North Africa."

Congratulations to Varian Johnson on the release of the Korean edition of My Life is a Rhombus; see link to compare/contrast the U.S. versus Korean cover art and interiors. Read a Cynsations interview with Varian.

Making Up Stuff for a Living: newly redesigned official site of author Saundra Mitchell. Saundra's debut novel, Shadowed Summer (Delacorte, 2010), is now available in paperback. Read a Cynsations interview with Saundra.

Violets in Action: KidLit Authors Club: an interview with Keri Mikulski and Nancy Viau by Jennifer R. Hubbard from Shrinking Violet Promotions. Peek: "We knew that having many authors who write for a variety of ages was pretty unique, so late in 2009 we sent out letters explaining who we were, and what we would do to draw a crowd."

Featured Sweethearts: Jacob Lewis and Dana Goodyear of Figment by P.J. Hoover from The Texas Sweethearts. Peek: "Figment is a mobile publishing and social media site for reading and writing young-adult fiction."

The Picture Book Wall by Gretchen Geser from Through the Tollbooth. Peek: "Selling books is an important part of an editor’s job, she told us. She has to sell the works she’s acquired to the people within her house who then sell them to bookstores, and she does this with a form she fills out for each book she edits."

So, Names... by Amaris from The Enchanted Inkpot. Fourteen authors chime in on their thought process in choosing character names.

Death By Ham: Playing the Odds of Getting Published by Maggie Stiefvater from Words on Words. Peek: "I didn't get published before I wrote Lament (Flux, 2008), though I wrote 30 other novels from the time I was in my teens (why no, I had no social life apart from bagpiping, why do you ask?) And this is why: those novels weren't ready." Read a Cynsations interview with Maggie.

Publishing Isn't Perfect by Mary Kole from Kidlit.com. I've retitled this post, which is part of a series in which Mary discusses self-publishing. Peek: "...the old days of the recluse genius sitting in some attic, who only writes and doesn’t do a lick of outreach or publicity, are gone." Read a Cynsations interview with Mary.

Necessary Agent by by Jofie Ferrari-Adler from Poets & Writers. Peek: "An agent who understands that at a time when there is an industry-wide blockbuster mentality that makes it harder than it’s ever been for editors to find the institutional support it takes to publish serious work well, it is more important than ever for agents to be fearless, savvy, and relentless advocates for their clients after their books are under contract." Source: Elizabeth Scott.

Paul Fleischman: An Exclusive SCBWI Team Blog Pre-Conference Interview by Lee Wind from I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell Do I Read? Peek: "Keep your allegiance to your characters, not your theme. The minute your theme starts driving the book, the story will start feeling contrived--because it will be."

The Page Turn: An Inside Look at Books from the School and Library Marketing Team at HarperCollins Children's Books.

Editorial Palavering: Jill Santopolo by Cheryl Klein from Brooklyn Arden. Peek: "Most of the books I acquire are about empowerment. About kids who realize they're stronger, smarter and more capable than they thought they were or than society told them they were....Empowerment in general--and actually female empowerment in specific. I love books that star strong women." Read a Cynsations interview with Jill.

The Inner Editor Versus the Inner Critic and How to Ignore Them by Malinda Lo. Peek: "You have to face these fears head-on. I suggest writing them down in black and white. Write them down by hand, so that they come out of a pen held by your own fingers. Look at them there on the page."

Interview with Simon Pulse Executive Editor Anica Rissi by Carolee Dean from Crowe's Nest. Peek: "The Internet isn't a place to market to readers, it’s a place to connect with readers, and like with successful face-to-face human interactions, those connections don’t happen through monologues."

A Tip About Doing Author Events by Cynthia Lord. Peek: "It's not unusual for me to find that what's been promised is slightly different than what the event asked me to do." Read a Cynsations interview with Cynthia.

Darth Vader is My Daddy by Cecil Castellucci from Red Room. Peek: "I was born the day I saw Star Wars, and Darth Vader made me. Sure, he's a jerk. And an emotional nightmare. And he's made some really unhealthy choices in his life. But he's my muse. And I do want to own his helmet." Read a Cynsations interview with Cecil.

Meet Andrew Auseon by Liz Gallagher from Through the Tollbooth. Peek: "Freak Magnet (HarperTeen, 2010) is that journey, but specific to two individuals, and pushed to extremes. Charlie and Gloria both visualize where they want to be and how they want to change, but they can’t seem to get there on their own. Their traveling companion not only surprises them, but becomes an essential part of the journey."

Put Clothes on Him. But Not Too Many. by Lois Lowry from Lowry Updates. Peek: "It's important, I think, for a reader to be able to visualize a fictional character or scene. But each reader will see something—or someone—differently, and that's as it should be, because it's what makes reading such a personal and individual act."

Picture Books for Hard Times by Michelle Markel from The Cat and The Fiddle. First in a week-long series of posts. Peek: "...picture books about characters with economic hardships. Each day we’ll look at a hopeful yet authentic story. The subject matter presents many challenges: Which details can be used to evoke the setting? How can the characters transcend their circumstances? Is it possible for the characters to solve their own problems? How will emotion be conveyed?" Read a Cynsations interview with Michelle.

Sex Education Through "Buffy: The Vampire Slayer" by Laura Sibson from Serendipity. Peek: "Later, we walked up to 29th Street for ice cream at Sundae Best and Tom asked the boys if they felt uncomfortable watching the episode. Our younger son (age 10) said he felt uncomfortable only because we were uncomfortable. 'I mean,' he said, 'there’s no point in watching if you’re going to fast-forward through every scene.'"

Congratulations to fellow Austinite Sean Petrie for signing with agent Marcy Posner of Folio Literary Management, and congratulations to Marcy for signing Sean!

The Global Fund for Children: Features links to bookstore with children’s books, whose profits go to vulnerable children world-wide, and links to innovative organizations working with children. Books include Global Babies (Charlesbridge, 2009), Nasreen’s Secret School (Beach Lane Books, 2009), and Faith (Charlesbridge, 2009).

Children's Picture Books and Plot by Martha Alderson from Plot Whisperer for Writers and Readers. Peek: "Rather than admit my failure to her, I asked Uma [Krishnaswami] to tell me a bit about her process when it comes to the plot and structure of her picture books." See A Tale of Two Uma Krishnaswami/ys from Cynsations.

Congratulations to Anna Staniszewski on the sale of her debut book, My Un-Fairy Tale Life, to Sourcebooks Jabberwocky. Note: Anna's agent is Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary Agency; don't miss Anna's LJ.

New Film on Children's Book Authors and Illustrators by Judith Rosen from Publishers Weekly. See the trailer for "Library of the Early Mind: A Documentary Film Exploring Children's Literature." Source: Julie Larios.

Evolution of the Strange Case of Origami Yoda Book Cover by Chad W. Beckerman from Mishaps and Adventures: Dedicated to the Process and Exploration of Children's and Young Adult Book Design. Peek: "How do you treat the text? Now that we settled on a chalkboard for the backdrop the font and how the text would be rendered must blend into the environment seamlessly." Read a guest post by author Tom Angleberger on The Strange Case of Origami Yoda (Amulet, 2010).

Cynsational Screening Room

Behind the Scenes with Lucy Cousins, Celebrating 20 Years of Maisy from Candlewick Press and Walker Books.



Check out the book trailer for Mostly Monsterly by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Scott Magoon (Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster, Aug. 31, 2010).



Marketing: an Inteview with Bree Despain by Cherylynne from The View from Above and Beyond. Peek: "...the nail polish. It has been a great give-away because, unlike a book mark or a business card, it is something that people will keep and use. And I've found its an incredible talking piece. People constantly ask me about where I got the great color, giving me a chance to talk about The Dark Divine (Egmont, 2009)." Check out the book trailer for The Dark Divine by Bree Despain (Egmont, 2009).



Printz winner Libba Bray. Source: Heidi R. Kling. Note: thanks to Miss Libba for the shout out!



More Personally

Normally, Cynsations would be going on hiatus right now as I'd be off to teach at the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. However, I'm taking a leave of absence instead to focus on my own writing, specifically the Eternal graphic novel and the fourth prose novel in my Gothic fantasy series.

I'm already missing my colleagues, students, and the VCFA community at large. My thoughts are especially with the incoming first semester class, the outgoing graduates, and the new visiting faculty members. To any of y'all reading this, have a wonderful summer residency!

What else? Greg and I celebrated the 4th of July with Chicago-style hot dogs...

and a visit to the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, where--among other things--I was wowed by Ann Richard's boots. The late governor's motorcycle also was on display. Notes: (1) some of you may remember Governor Richards from her Democratic National Convention Keynote Address in 1988 in Atlanta; (2) I love cowboy boots!

Get your geek on! Join anthologists Holly Black @hollyblack and Cecil Castellucci @cecilseaskull, along with authors Libba Bray @LIBBABRAY, Cassandra Clare @cassieclare, Barry Lyga, Tracy Lynn @TracyLynntastic, Wendy Mass, and Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith @CynLeitichSmith for a #GEEKTASTIC tweet chat in celebration of the paperback release of Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd (Little, Brown, 2009, 2010). The chat is scheduled for 5 p.m. PST, 6 p.m. MST, 7 p.m. CST, and 8 p.m. EST on July 12.

Increasing Website Traffic: an interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith by Darcy Pattison from PR Notes at Fiction Notes. Peek: "My top recommendation is to keep one’s site updated. I’m forever going to author sites, looking to link to information about new releases, and that content is nowhere to be found."

Cynsational Giveaway

Enter to win How to Survive Middle School by Donna Gephart (Delacorte, 2010). Just email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address and type "How to Survive Middle School" in the subject line.

Facebook, JacketFlap, MySpace, and Twitter readers are welcome to just privately message me with the title in the header or comment on this round-up; I'll write you for contact information, if you win.

Deadline: midnight CST July 31. Note: U.S. entries only.

Cynsational Events

Author Pamela Ellen Ferguson will be presenting and signing Sunshine Picklelime, illustrated by Christian Slade (Random House, 2010) at 2 p.m. Aug. 15 at BookPeople in Austin.


The launch party for Brains for Lunch: A Zombie Novel in Haiku?! by K.A. Holt, illustrated by Gahan Wilson (Roaring Brook, Aug. 2010) will be at 2 p.m. Sept. 12 at BookPeople in Austin.


Thursday, July 08, 2010

The Suburb Beyond the Stars: A Short (Smart, Funny, Mysterious, Scary) Movie

From author M.T. Anderson's official website:

This book trailer, stitched together out of pieces filmed before
M. T. Anderson’s unfortunate disappearance, discusses his new book The Suburb Beyond the Stars.

It is part of a larger set of documents about the strange and mysterious sightings and deaths in the area of Mount Norumbega — all of which will be released soon on Scholastic’s website. We’re working to make them available to a waiting public.


We hope you can make more sense of this film than we can.


The Suburb Beyond the Stars from Sang Lee on Vimeo.

Cynsational Notes

The Suburb Beyond the Stars by M.T. Anderson (Scholastic, 2010). From the promotional copy: "Something very strange is happening in Vermont. It's not The Game of Sunken Places--but when Brian and Gregory go to visit a relative in the woods, they find many things are . . . off."

Author Interview: Ellen Schreiber on Vampire Kisses

Learn about Ellen Schreiber.

What were you like as a YA reader?

I was what you would call a “reluctant” reader. I didn’t enjoy reading because, unfortunately, I didn’t find many books that I could relate to. There wasn’t the fun YA market there is today.

Who were your favorite authors? What were your favorite titles?

I did like A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (Crosswicks, 1962).

What first inspired you to write for teens?

I read a YA book that was flip, fast and fun, and I thought, “I could do this.” I’d started a novel that never went beyond 30 pages. I changed the characters to teens and finished it in six and a half weeks.

Could you tell us about your path to publication--any sprints or stumbles along the way?

I was very lucky. When I finished my first book, Johnny Lightning, my brother sent it to his Belgium publisher, Facet. They published it, and I was ecstatic!

It took a few years before I got published here in the U.S. An editor had just moved to HarperCollins and was taking unsolicited, unagented manuscripts. I sent my book Teenage Mermaid (2003) to her, and she published that along with Vampire Kisses (2003) and Comedy Girl (2004).


Congratulations on the rock-star success of the Vampire Kisses series (HarperCollins, 2003-)!
Could you tell us a little about the books?

You are too kind! Wow. I wrote Vampire Kisses in 1998. I never dreamed it would become a series. After it was published, my editor asked for two more books. I’m currently writing VK 8.

What was your initial inspiration for the series?

Three things. An image, a character, and an obsession.

I wanted to write a book about a girl who was feisty, headstrong, fearless, and confident. I saw two goth girls swinging on swings in my neighborhood and loved the image. I thought maybe I’d write a poem and call it “Dark Angels.”

Instead, I decided to marry the character with the image and the girl would be a goth. Then I needed something else. I wanted her to be obsessed with something, and vampires popped into my head.

But I wanted to write about a vampire without the blood and gore. I wanted to focus on the romance of vampires. What made a vampire need a girl for all of eternity.

What was the timeline between spark and first publication, and what were the major events along the way?

I wrote it in 1998, and it was published in Belgium in 2000. I got the HarperCollins contract in 2001. Their 2002 fall list was filled, so it was published in 2003.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?

Not too many. I just sat down and wrote it. I asked my dad about some vampire lore--as he’s really into the Universal Monster movies. Other than that, it just wrote itself.

What inspired you to branch into graphic novels?

I was lucky. Tokyopop (a leading manga publisher) and HarperCollins were joining for a manga imprint. A TP editor was looking through the HC catalogue and spotted Vampire Kisses and thought it would be a good manga. I still thank him to this day for that moment!

What is the writing process like for the graphics?

I write the whole story in an outline form and as much dialogue and anything else I can. Then a scriptwriter transforms it into a script. We tweak it as we go, and once the art is finished, we still have to make sure the language matches.

What advice do you have for fellow series writers?

I write the stories as I go--since I didn’t think about a series when I wrote the first book. I imagine if you know you are writing a series ahead of time, you can write an outline of the whole series. But for me, I write more organically and things happen as I’m writing. So I guess it just depends on your style.

Why spooky stories? Are you a spooky person?

I love scary movies. My mom didn’t let me watch them when I was growing up. So I’m making up for that in my adult years.

What other stories/books do you want to tell us about?

Vampire Kisses 7 - Love Bites was out May 18th. It is about what happens when Alexander’s best friend, Sebastian, comes to Dullsville.

Also, Once In A Full Moon. It is a new series that will debut in January 2011 about a hot and heroic romantic werewolf.

So far, as a reader, what is your favorite tween/YA novel of 2010 and why?

I don’t read when I am writing--which is most of the time. I like my thoughts to remain my own, and I don’t want anything influencing them. Sometimes I do read manga as it is a different genre.

What books by other authors would you recommend to your own fans and why?

Starcrossed by Mark Schreiber (Flux, 2007) It is hip, edgy, and a great story, and I’m not just saying that because he’s my bro.


What do you do outside the world of books?


I love to shop for funky stuff, Hello Kitty, and I gossip about celebrities with my best friend. I’m always searching online for new and fun stuff to add to my vampire and quirky collection. I also like to make amigurumis (Japanese crocheted cuties) and watch cool movies with my husband.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Guest Post: Leda Schubert on Feeding the Sheep

By Leda Schubert

When I was in my final semester at Vermont College of Fine Arts—before joining the faculty in 2006—I worked with the remarkable Phyllis Root.

I was struggling with the character of the mother in a novel, and my own history kept getting in the way. So Phyllis suggested I write a piece imagining the worst mother I could.

I had just finished crocheting about a million scarves out of gorgeous yarn for people I loved—the VCFA faculty. And there I was, thinking about mothers in my morning shower.

For some strange reason, the questions in Feeding the Sheep (FSG, 2010) came to me like a song and I recognized them for the gift they were. This happens once in a while, you know. Catch those moments!

I have long wondered how anyone ever got an idea before the shower was invented. Traveling back in time? Forget it. Not before showers.

Kids ask, “Where do you get your ideas?” so when I do school or library presentations, I begin with a slide of our shower. (“It defrosts the brain,” one child told me.)

Did you know that Benjamin Franklin himself brought the first bathtub to the U.S. from France in 1790? But built-in showers weren’t common until after World War I, which coincides with the development of the American picture book. I rest my case.

Once I had the idea, I had to do research. I love research. I could do research forever.

I interviewed sheep, sheep farmers, spinners, weavers, and knitters. But I didn’t really think of Feeding the Sheep as a book about the process—I thought of it as a book about the love between a mother and daughter.

In 1840, Vermont had 5 ¾ sheep per person, and many of the forested hills I see from my window were bare. After 1870, the sheep population declined rapidly, but now they are staging a small comeback and there are sheep right here in Plainfield.

They occasionally get a bad rap (“A Nation of Sheep”), and what did they do to deserve it? Nothing. Milk, cheese, meat, wool, gamboling lambs—they provide it all, plus they keep fields mowed. Go, sheepies!

My agent, Steven Chudney, sent the manuscript to Beverly Reingold at FSG, who accepted it and told me that Andrea U’Ren wanted to illustrate it. I fainted with joy. Then Beverly left, and I began working with Wes Adams.


Picture books take a very long time, but I just kept chanting “Andrea U’Ren, Andrea U’Ren” as the years passed. I have admired Andrea from afar since her first book. I love everything she did here—adding a setting full of color, life, and love, telling stories within stories, and even including a great dog (I love dogs). There’s a cat there, too (I love dogs). The expressions on the back cover crack me up every time.

In conclusion, Vermont College of Fine Arts changed my life. I learned so much as a student, and I’m learning even more as a faculty member.

I hope you all like the book!


[Pictured above is a sheep that Leda knitted and takes on school visits. She says, "Yes, I made this. Help!"]

Cynsational Notes

Leda Schubert teaches at Vermont College of Fine Arts in the MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program.

In addition to Feeding the Sheep, she is the author of Ballet of the Elephants, illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker (Roaring Brook, 2006), Here Comes Darrell, illustrated by Mary Azarian (Houghton, 2005), Winnie All Day Long and Winnie Plays Ball, both illustrated by William Benedict (Candlewick, 2000), and the forthcoming The Princess of Borscht and Monsieur Marceau (both Porter/Roaring Brook). Leda lives in Plainfield, Vermont.

Of Feeding the Sheep, Kirkus cheers, "The collaboration of text and illustration is seamless and presents a complex operation in a manner completely accessible and understandable to young readers. Lovely."

And School Library Journal raves, "Feeding the Sheep will teach and entertain the very young, and they’ll be examining their sweaters with greater appreciation."

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

New Voice: Holly Nicole Hoxter on The Snowball Effect

Holly Nicole Hoxter is the first-time author of The Snowball Effect (HarperTeen, 2010). From the promotional copy:

Lainey Pike can tell you everything you need to know about the people in her family just by letting you know how they died. Her reckless stepfather drove his motorcycle off the highway and caused the biggest traffic jam in years. Her long-suffering grandmother lived through cancer and a heart attack before finally succumbing to a stroke. And Lainey's mother--well, Lainey's mother hanged herself in the basement just days after Lainey's high school graduation.

Now Lainey's five-year-old brother is an orphan, and her estranged older sister is moving back home to be his guardian. Meanwhile, Lainey's boyfriend is thinking about having a family of their own, and her best friends are always asking the wrong sorts of questions and giving advice Lainey doesn't want to hear.

As she tries to pull away from everything familiar, Lainey meets an intriguing new guy who, through a series of Slurpees, burgers, and snowballs, helps her to make peace with a parent she never understood.

Was there one writing workshop or conference that led to an "ah-ha!" moment in your craft? What, and how did it help you?

When I took my first college writing workshop, I was seventeen years old and terrified. I’d gone to a magnet high school with a literary arts program, but we’d spent most of our time discussing iambic pentameter and not a lot of time critiquing each other’s writing.

So, on the day of my first critique, I stood in the hallway waiting for the previous class to end, and I had to squeeze my arms to keep myself from shaking. I held on so tightly my fingernails cut through my skin. And then class started…and I relaxed.

As the discussion went on, I realized they didn’t hate my story! In fact, they kind of liked it. I was astounded and relieved that a classroom of aspiring writers took me seriously. I’d always known that I wanted to be a writer, but my classmates’ approval strengthened my belief that it could actually happen. And I also learned that I was tougher than I’d thought. Their criticisms didn’t hurt my feelings; they just made me eager to learn and improve.

Of course all things worth learning can’t be taught in a classroom. My next “ah-ha!” moment took place the following year in the break room of the supermarket where I worked.

A woman from the deli had heard I wanted to be a writer, and she told me that she used to write stories, too, when she was my age. A few editors had sent back complimentary rejections, but she never had anything published and eventually she stopped writing.

As I finished my lunch, I could very clearly imagine my future turning out like hers. I liked my job—I worked in the produce department cutting fruits and vegetables for the salad bar—and I liked my co-workers. I could see myself becoming comfortable and complacent, and eventually letting the publishing dream drift away like it had for the woman from the deli.

That horrified me. I knew I had talent, but that moment in the break room made me suddenly understand that persistence and determination are just as important—maybe more important—than talent. I’d been incredibly naïve up until that point, and it was honestly the first moment I’d ever really considered how hard I would have to work to make writing my career.

As a contemporary fiction writer, how did you deal with the pervasiveness of rapidly changing technologies? Did you worry about dating your manuscript? Did you worry about it seeming inauthentic if you didn't address these factors? Why or why not?

It doesn’t feel like much time has passed since I was a teenager, although I’m somehow coming up on my ten-year high school reunion. It astounds me how pervasive and mainstream the Internet has become since then.

I’ve always had a huge fear of “dating” my novels in a negative way, so in The Snowball Effect, I tried to ignore technology as much as possible. Lainey has a cell phone and makes one mention of the Internet, but that’s it. At one point, she remarks that she “taped” her soap opera to watch later in the day. A copy editor asked if I wanted to change that reference to something more current, like a DVR or a Tivo. I didn’t.

But I think eventually you write yourself into situations where the absence of technology would be even more conspicuous than its presence, so you can’t ignore it completely.

The novel I currently have on submissions is the complete opposite. It makes heavy use of the Internet and social networking sites and blogging. It’s actually a pretty big aspect of the story.

The main character reads online diaries on a fictional version of livejournal, and it eventually leads her to the love interest and sets the plot in motion. So I guess it’s something that has to be determined on a case by case basis.

If it can be ignored, then it should be ignored. I wouldn’t drop references to the latest Apple products or cool video games just for the sake of trying to look hip, but if something is vital to the story, then I use it.

I have no idea where the technology will go from here so I can’t even begin to fathom how outdated our new innovations will seem in 2020. We’ll probably have flying cars by then, right?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...