- Jamestown Colony cannibalism story; this has been all over, but you know how I love my early settler drama.
- The fabulous Annalee Newitz, one of the smartest people around, has a shiny new book out, Scatter, Adapt and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction. This piece at io9 is a great teaser for it.
- How entrepreneurs come up with ideas.
- Ten steps for being a grown-up from Kelly Williams Brown. I need to get better at three.
- What does science tell us about how we'd use superpowers; good or evil?
- Loved this interview with Melina Marchetta on heroines: "Whichever way you turn, female characterisation is a minefield. Male characters tend to get away with so much more. I loved writing Jonah Griggs (from Jellicoe) but Jonah killed his father, bashes up Ben and stomps on his fingers, shoves Taylor up against the wall in rage, yet I rarely read a negative comment about him as a character. Evanjalin in FotRock, on the other hand, has been criticised many a time and called manipulative and a liar. I think we are so much tougher on our female characters." (via Sarah)
- Good piece at Vulture with some script excerpts that show why Shane Black became one of Hollywood's favorite screenwriters.
- A truly must-read post from Kelly Barnhill: "The only reviews that matter."
- Another one that's already been everywhere, but which I'm sharing in case you somehow missed it. Maureen Johnson, brilliant human, launched the #coverflip earlier this week, asking readers to reimagine covers if the author's gender was flipped. The results are a must read and see. (See also: Amanda Hocking's reaction post.)
- Photos of abandoned Tunisian Star Wars sets.
So, yesterday morning, I asked for twitter's help deciding what to blog about, because that's turned out well in the past, and Libba pitched in:
— libba bray (@libbabray) May 6, 2013
Well, why not?
I learned many things about uvulas yesterday (fun word to say, and it sounds a little…dirty, doesn't it?)–that some people pierce them, that it's possible to get a bee sting there, that a friend knew someone when she was a kid who had two and could make them dance, that someone had a college instructor who mixed up uvula with an entirely different word to unfortunate results. WHO KNEW that the uvula's power to fuel anecdotes was so mighty? Not me. In fact, if Straight Dope is right, we don't even know what uvulas are for. But we do know they help us make some sounds and so that's awfully close to talking and talking is a suitable blog post topic.
All writers get stuck. There are the little stucks, the flummoxed by a scene for a day, or an hour, or a week. There are the bigger stucks, where nothing feels right, and we stall out or stutter-step forward, only to end up deleting a few steps back. Everyone. Gets. Stuck. And so everyone has to get unstuck.
There are various methods to this, as with all things. Some people walk away. Some clean the house. Some bang their head against their desk repeatedly. Some despair. Some move to a new city and assume a different identity. I have done all of these things myself at one time or another. Well, except the last one. That one I've just fantasized about when truly stuck.
But my most usual method for getting unstuck–and even, at times, just for moving forward, pushing ahead, figuring out a story–is talking it through.
Now, I'm lucky in this regard, because I'm married to another writer. He may not always be a captivated audience for these burblings, but he is a captive one. (Mwahaha.) I'm also lucky to have a number of writer friends who are happy to indulge in long talks to clear the fog or overgrowth that's hiding the path forward. Call on your writer friends, if you don't have a captive loved one, or call upon any friend or loved one to indulge your talking it out.
Often, it's just the very act of articulating the problem out loud that provides the solution. I think this is for a couple of different reasons:
1) Forcing yourself to explain a story knot or roadblock to someone else makes you have to explain it to someone else. And often that entails stepping back just enough to be able to see it more clearly. It also engages a different part of the brain, a different kind of thinking. Talking through possible solutions, your reaction to them will often reveal what's important to you about the story, and that is always a good thing to know.
2) You have to set your ego aside. Look, everyone gets stuck. But admitting you're stuck, not caring who knows, not letting that make you feel like a failure (see this fabulous post by Marie Lu on imposter syndrome), and asking for help, even if it's just an ear–that's a useful thing. It reminds you that this is about the story, about making it work, and not about you. It's hard to move forward with the full weight of the ego pressing down on your shoulders.
Another bonus: It's often fun, which being stuck isn't. Kicking around various solutions, talking over story issues, you can sometimes cover a lot more ground than you could cover in six weeks or six months at the desk making words and deleting them. The act of admitting you're stuck can also lead to commisseration, which in turns leads to less misery and feeling of awful aloneness. Ultimately, the solution comes from your fingertips, and yours alone, but there's no reason you have to suffer everything by your lonesome. Make others suffer with you. And suffer with them. This is the beautiful symbiosis of writer friendships.
The uvula wants you to talk it out. And remember:
— libba bray (@libbabray) May 7, 2013
As you were.
- The most exciting thing of today is that my dearie dearest Christopher Rowe has a brand new story, strange and marvelous, up at Tor.com. Go read "Jack of Coins." And then go check out this entry from Red Nose Studio on the behind-the-scenes of the making of that amazing illustration for it (right). But read the story first, because then you can nerd out over all the cool details in the art. Okay? Okay. (I'm told you can also get the story as an e-book single at Amazon, B&N, etc., if that's your pleasure.)
- Second most exciting thing of the day is that I finished my revision. So I'll be trying to catch up on email and other things that have gone by the wayside. And collecting all the books I need for the next projects I want to work on…because I wouldn't be me if I didn't start something new soon. That said, I'll also be having a weekend of sloth (mostly) first and envying everyone at RT. Next year, I will be at you RT.
- The Merriam-Webster Visual Dictionary. Ooh. (Via Scott.)
- A fabulous profile of the 60-year-old Kim Gordon. Role model forever.
- A interesting piece on the Voynich Manuscript; the possibility it's a hoax makes it no less fascinating.
- R.I.P. E.L. Konigsburg. I loved this NYT piece in remembrance.
- I want to see the new documentary about Ricky Jay so. badly. But it's not coming anywhere nearby. Alas. *waits*
- Joe Hill interviewed at the A.V. Club: "In the first draft, at least in my case, I tend to write a lot more than I need. NOS4A2 is just about 700 pages in hardcover, and was well over 1,000 pages in manuscript form. But I cut several hundred pages out of the book, because there’s a difference between what I need to understand the characters, and what the reader needs to have a great time, and to really enjoy the story."
- The wonderful Toni McGee Causey on being brave (and an excellent demonstration of same).
- Rainbow Rowell posts about writing a Korean male lead and why in her amazing novel Eleanor & Park. I don't think I've mentioned it here, but I should've. Definitely one of my favorite books this year. Flirting over X-Men comics, two fully-realized and singular characters, gorgeous writing. Read it.
- "30 things to tell a book snob."
- Michael Shannon's dramatic reading of that sorority girl letter. Epic. You've probably already seen it, but since it's one of the best things I've seen in ages, I'm including in case you haven't.
Also known as that thing that happens around a deadline, and so I probably will be MIA this week. We had zippo wireless coverage for a chunk of Bat Cave, and were busy much of the time anyway. I'll try to catch up soon, and if you need something important or more timely, then you should feel free to ping me about it. Still, I'm behind on many things and unlikely to dig out fully before next week.
But lots of work (and play) accomplished at the retreat (revision vanquishment nigh!), and thinking about projects to come, and just generally yay. I miss everyone, but it's also nice to be home with C and dogs et cat in the beautiful bluegrass springtime with the backbrain throwing off story sparks. Hope it's nice where y'all are too.
1. Heading out this weekend for this year's Bat Cave retreat. It's set up exactly like this:
(Image from here.)
Except replace the underground stream with a hot tub. There's really nothing more energizing, wonderful, and magical than spending a chunk of time holed up in a scenic locale with a gaggle of writers talking fiction and being silly and sharing war stories and in-jokes and, yeah, I can't wait. Especially because I am still being attacked by rogue deadline and have to rewrite some more words to escape its clutches. But! Nearly finished.
2. A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to teach a day-long workshop to this year's class of the Young Women Writers Project at the Carnegie Center. I can tell you that these are some amazing writers, who you'll be hearing lots from in the future. And I'm so sad to miss their big reading. If you're in the Lexington area, however, you should go: it's next Friday, April 19, at 5:30 p.m. (during Gallery Hop) at the Carnegie Center. Go support them.
3. I can't remember where I saw this regional dialect map first, but it is fascinating.
4. A typically wise post from the fabulous Robin LaFevers on the ups and downs of life in publishing. The creative life is definitely not for those who are afraid of heights or lows.
5. Speaking of which, this week has obviously been a high point for me. When you sell your first book(s), it's impossible to know if you'll publish more of them after that. It feels, often, that this must be an accident or a mistake, and to expect it to happen again, well, that's some nerve. That's tempting fate. But you keep writing anyway, of course, because you can't stop and there are stories to tell and what's fate for, but to tempt? (See also: Chuck Wendig's post on imposter syndrome.) Girl on a Wire was a book I started not thinking at all of the market, before I sold Blackwood, just because I wanted to tell this story, and it would be worth it even if it never saw the light of day. And then I finished it and revised it because I still felt that way, despite the shadow voice whispering that my first sale was a fluke. To have that book find such a great home is just as surreal and marvelous as selling Blackwood and The Woken Gods (eep! hope you like it too) was. In some ways more, because of all of the above. I can't wait to get back to work on it. But I just wanted to say again THANK YOU, sincerely, for the overwhelming flood of congratulations on twitter, tumblr, facebook, email–wherever congratulations are possible–this week. It means more than you can know.
So, love to y'all, and happy weekend.
So, I'm delighted to share this news, from today's PW Children's Bookshelf:
This is the book I finished the first draft (well, the first draft of the second draft, natch) on New Year's day–fitting, because while there will be plenty of time to detail the combination of swirling things that became Girl on a Wire, I know precisely when the first inkling of it arrived…over New Year's 2011. (When I'm asked where I got this idea, I can say from The Flu and it will be somewhat true.)
Anyway, I'm really proud of this book, and I hope you'll all love it. It comes from many of my obsessions–the circus, high wire walking, girl daredevils, classic screwball comedies, multi-generational family mysteries: if any of those are things you like, well, you're in luck. (It's set in the here and now, by the way. Though I hope it's infused with lots of history.)
I must give many, many thanks to the 2012 Bat Cave workshoppers, who gave me such great advice on the first draft–especially to Laurel Snyder and Beth Revis, who read the whole messy thing and helped me figure out what was working and what wasn't. And, of course, massive thanks to my fabulous, best agent on earth Jennifer Laughran, and to Larry Kirshbaum, Tim Ditlow and their team at Amazon Children's for truly getting the book and being so very enthusiastic about it. You left me with no doubt that this is, simply, the book's best possible home. I'm excited to work with you on it.
(On a different note: I just want to make clear that I will always support independent bookstores. I hope some of you–my dear friends at fabulous indies–will consider stocking the book when it comes out next year. But if not, then we will work together on other things and I will tell people to come in and order it from you anyway. There is room for everyone in this literary future, that I believe.)
And now! A photo of Jules'–the main character's–hero, Bird Millman, over New York City:
I truly can't wait for you all to be able to read this one. Yay!
On Saturday, I'll be at the Woodford County Public Library for a panel discussion with fab YA authors Kelly Creagh, Bethany Griffin, Katie McGarry, and Heather Sunseri. Check out the nice graphic the library made for us (click to embiggen) and come out if you can.
I can't wait.
Now back to pretending a vast ocean of Things To Do does not stand between me and the weekend…
- Toby Buckell did a thoughtful post about the GoodReads acquisition by Amazon, which prompted me to create a mailing list to send out the occasional newsletter with news (obvs), extras, giveaways, and chatty stuff like book recs. Sign up here; I'll even wish you a happy birthday, if you like.
- In the past couple of weeks, I've returned to yoga, by way of some excellent local classes. So I particularly love this Sara Ryan post about the idea of sitting with the discomfort and how that applies to creative work as well. (I love yoga, I do, and am so glad to be doing it again…except for the occasional ridiculous non sequitur along the lines of "unhinge your jaw." Because I am neither an eldritch horror nor a character on V. Though the idea of them being in a yoga class–especially together–is pleasing.)
- Bookish murals from around the world. Gorgeousness.
- The wonderful Nalo Hopkinson profiled by the LA Times.
- Gate to Hell found–noxious gases apparently a dead giveaway.
- 14 Words That Are Their Own Opposites.
- The news from Iain Banks is completely heartbreaking, and his statement on it has touched many of us, I know. I hope if I'm ever faced with such awful circumstances, I can handle them with such grace.
- An excellent piece by Nichole Bernier on the role of the paperback, talking cover changes and the like, at the Millions: "Here’s what I learned, after a month of talking to editors, literary agents, publishers, and other authors: A paperback isn’t just a cheaper version of the book anymore. It’s a makeover. A facelift. And for some, a second shot."
- Michael Grant offers some typically wry advice for writers at the Guardian. Snippet: "Writers often offer up helpful hints, and I've done the same in moments of weakness, but here's the truth as I see it from my own narrow and subjective perch: You can either come up with stories or you can't. You either have the ambition and work ethic to sit there typing for months on end or not. But you do it by doing it." (On his second piece of advice, of course, I disagree, because I come from the proud school of Read Everything.)
- And now for the best thing of the day: Preserved Moments of Historical Sass (Vol. 2) from Messy Nessy Chic. So many excellent photos. So. Many.
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- Drowning, swimming, floating, all of the above. Just a few quick links, because I hate to let this place get too dusty even in the middle of Sinus Infection Deadlineville (the lesser known ghost town you pass through on the way to Complete Overloadtown). All will be well.
- One thing that gives me the happies lately? Pretending we're all going to live on this Greek island together, drinking boiled coffee, socializing, napping, writing, and living forever.
- The amazing invisible bike helmet.
- Agent Rachelle Gardner offers some thoughts on making a living as a writer and part two.
- The always fascinating Richard Nash at VQR with an essay: "What is the business of literature?"
- You all read Terri Windling's blog faithfully, right? So many days, I find just what I need there. This morning was one of them.
- Narrative structural diagrams for several different radio shows on cocktail napkins. Pretty.
- I love envelopes, especially old ones or ones with scribbled on messages. I tend to use even boring old bill envelopes as makeshift notepads. Messy Nessy Chic loves them too, and has the pictures to prove it.
- I've passed this link on to my favorite milliners already, but sharing here too. A great piece from Movie Star Makeover on Lilly Daché, old Hollywood's favorite hatter.
- And if this handful of links isn't enough for you, Big Think has a little round-up of interesting, provocative things for spring. And it is, you know, springtime. If only nature would behave that way.