Read Alouds

At the end of last year, I drove up to Louisville one afternoon to participate in an exceedingly excellent idea for a new radio show Erin Keane was putting together with some of her colleagues at public radio station WFPL, where she's arts doyenne/reporter. Erin and I have known each other since high school, when we met at the Kentucky Governor's School for the Arts, and have been friends and fans of each other's work all these many long years since.

Erin is one of those amazing writers who not only works like a madwoman on her own craft, but also builds literary community to support others. For example, she founded the long-running and wonderful InKY reading series in Louisville. In fact, if there's a fab literary project or magazine out there that's reached out to her or that's crossed her path, chances are she's lent them advice, a hand, or bought a subscription.

Erin on the other side of the studio.(my crappy instagram photo of Erin on the other side of the glass)

Her latest venture is her biggest and best yet, I think. It's a radio (and podcast) series called Unbound, featuring two writers per half-hour themed episode reading their own work. To quote: "The show will be produced for broadcast in the WFPL listening area, available online via podcast and offered for syndication to other public radio stations. The show will launch this summer."

And it will include a wide range of writing (witness the fact I'm in the first episode, reading from Blackwood — not only a YA novel, but a fantasy one, which a great many literary enterprises might not decide to include, but here's one right up front) from writers who may not be household names. And because it's public radio, they have the ability to use partner stations to record authors who aren't able to get to the Louisville studio, too.

And from my side. #nervous(my slightly less blurry instagram photo from my scary side of the booth, getting ready to read)

I don't know about you, but I love being read to and hearing authors read their own work. And I love anything that helps put the spotlight on newer literary voices, which can sometimes be difficult to hear about in our noisy culture. The beauty of all this is you–yes you!–can help. 

Unbound's Kickstarter began yesterday. They've secured sponsorship to cover much of the costs of producing, distributing and promoting the show, but need (modest) help with the rest. I urge you to check it out (bonus? you can hear me being dorky about all this at the 3ish minute mark on the video). Click through, read and hear all about it.

I wholeheartedly encourage you to support the project if you can and help spread the word. You can also follow the show on twitter at @radiounbound and, of course, listen when it starts broadcasting. Yay.

Monday Hangovers

  • Maria Tatar on one of my very favorite topics: tricksters, and specifically lady tricksters, in the New Yorker.
  • The Morning News Tourney of Books is up and running. The commentary after The Fault in Our Stars win is particularly worth your time. I thought this, especially, was extremely well put from Kevin Guilfoile: "You and I were socialized to believe we were too cool to do almost anything. Our generation has been paralyzed by slacker inertia. Our hero is David Letterman, whose job it is to have the greatest gig in the world and act constantly like he doesn’t want it. That has always been the Platonic ideal of success for you and me and our peers. Maybe that’s why John Green’s books make me cry. Because he reminds you that you don’t have to be like that." I think I spent my 20s unlearning this attitude. Enthusiasm and action? Trump cool every time. (Or, rather, are the beating heart of actual coolness. Even better? Stop caring about coolness at all.)
  • Lev Grossman on writing a novel. Oh, god, yes, this. All of this.
  • A discussion of whether urban fantasy is inherently liberal (a counterpoint to the recent 'is epic fantasy conservative?' convo) at Tor.com.
  • Jane Hu on Gilmore Girls for the Awl. I love (and agree with) this whole piece SO much. Snippet: "In another way, cultural studies appears in exact keeping with "Gilmore Girls," as it tests the line between serious art and entertainment, the avant-garde and the popular. As a writer and a reader, my fantasy is to work in a world where the Harlequin romance, a NYBR classics release, and so-called academic prose all deserve re-readings—because they can all be read seriously, each one being worth serious attention." Yesss.
  • Slide show: A secret history of women and tattoo.
  • Really interesting piece from Grammnet's Brian Taylor (who's developing Blackwood for TV) on the role data could play in TV development at the Huffington Post.
  • Feeling sleepless? This New Yorker article probably won't help, but is fascinating. (Apparently I was catching up on NYer stuff like crazy last week.)
  • Linda Holmes on romantic comedies at NPR. Another great piece: "What's most profoundly wrong is the terrible, mean-spirited scripts that are getting made, that are making people feel justified in using "rom-com" as an eye-rolling insult, and we've got to stop that first. Stop saying "chick flick" like it's "pile of rotten meat," and stop saying "chick lit" and "chick book" and "chick movie" and anything else that suggests that love stories are less than war stories, or that stories that end with kissing are inherently inferior to stories that end with people getting shot. Or, if you believe they are and you want to continue believing that they are, stop pretending you're open to romantic comedies getting better."
  • Kat Howard interviewed at the Rejectionist. Yay.

Monday Hangovers

I feel bad about just popping up here with a few little links once a week, but I don't see time for much more until the big deadline is vanquished. Considering an Actual Hiatus, but, in the meantime, some things I've magpied during breaks lately:

  • Some interesting thoughts on Amanda Palmer's TED talk from Chuck Wendig and Justine Musk (I still have to watch it, but am enjoying all the discussions here, there, and everywhere).
  • Children's literature veterans share stories from back in the day at PW. Great stuff, and as proof a snippet from George Nicholson at Sterling Lord: "Together with other young editors and friends, we moved about the city in packs, reveling in 25-cent shots of rye from the many Irish bars then along Sixth Avenue in the 40s, all called we thought The Shamrock. When the work day was done we often gathered in hotel lobbies, checked the listing for professional organization cocktail parties upstairs and found that we could easily, with our fine wardrobes, pass for members of the Westchester Medical Association or the Plumbers Union or whoever was serving free drink and food. When discovered and politely asked to leave, we thanked our hosts and said we must have gotten the wrong ballroom."
  • I really want to see this documentary about famous conjoined twins The Hilton Sisters.
  • Virginia Morell on the latest research on what animals are thinking and feeling: "Through experiments and close observations, researchers have discovered that at least one species of ant engages in a form of teaching; parrots likely give names to their chicks (a finding which opens the door to the possibility that they are having some form of conversations); moths remember that they were caterpillars; whales and cows have regional accents; rats dream and laugh; cheetahs may die from being heartbroken; and cats can get their owners to jump to their feet and feed them by crying like a human infant."
  • Also at Slate, an enticement to read Shirley Jackson, should you need one.
  • The magical properties of mercury, an article filled with wonders like this: "The vapours given off by this extraordinary element are highly toxic. In the 19th century, a process called "carroting" was used in the making of felt hats. Animal skins were dipped in a solution of mercuric nitrate which turned the fur into a matted felt. The fumes given off by this process poisoned the brains of anyone in the vicinity, causing an epidemic of psychiatric problems among workers in the hat industry, hence the phrase "as mad as a hatter." " Bonus: alchemy talk.
  • Carrie Frye and Maud Newton on Thelma and Louise. I love this SO much. Favorite thing.

Monday Hangovers

Still crazy busy, swirling deadlines and revising going on, so just a few quick hangovers and then poof! I'm gone again for a bit.

Thursday Hangovers

Well, hello there. I did warn you I might fall off the face of the earth. Whole worlds–well, plots, lots of plots–have been constructed since my last post. Which is to say, Mexico was lovely and productive, as always. Just being in such a gorgeous place with some of my favorite brilliant, hilariously excellent people was reviving and sanity-saving, not to mention the margaritas and chocolate cake.

Anyway, I'll probably be scarce on the ground for a bit as I'm revising novel with deadline looming. (I've been tumbling more, because quick and easy, so catch some stuff there.) But! Now! Things!

A Few Things & The View From Here

A few things:

We are all getting lots of work done, talking about books and publishing and silly things (my favorite). I am revising my heart out or, at least, starting to. This is the view from here.

View 2

Shadowhunting!

Well, that seemed like a way more exciting post title than Essaying. Though, in fact, I am super-excited to report that Shadowhunters and Downworlders: A Mortal Instruments Reader is officially out today from the very fabulous Smart Pop Books. You can find out more info at that link and read Cassie's introduction online for this entire week.

I was beyond excited to get to contribute an essay for this, given that these are some of my favorite books in the world and considering that the contributors include many of my other favorite writers (in TOC order: Kate Milford, Sarah Cross, Diana Peterfreund, Robin Wasserman, Michelle Hodkin, Kami Garcia, Kendare Blake, Rachel Caine, Sara Ryan, Scott Tracey, Kelly Link, Holly Black, and Sarah Rees Brennan).

The lovely Smart Pop folks are also posting nice pull quote graphics from all our essays over on tumblr. Here's mine:

 

Smartpopfriendquote

Speaking of which (friends, I mean), I'm about to drop off the grid–somewhat–for this year's installment of a magical retreat in Mexico and some major revision time. I may well pop up here or there, but probably not quite as much as usual for the next couple of weeks. But, it's okay, I'll be writing hard and wishing on stars. Promise.

Fast Vs. Slow

I've noticed a few posts here and there about writing speed lately, mostly from people who feel like they go slowly, but sometimes from quote-unquote fast writers too. And these kind of questions have come up at a few events I've done: How long does it take you to write a book? How can I write faster?

I don't know any writers who don't wish they could write faster, though I'm sure there must be some (but they're so zen, they can't be bothered to tell us). In general, everything ends up taking longer to finish than you believe it will. Or wish it would. And this is even after you have some experience and a general idea of how long it takes you to write and revise a book.

But here's what I'm also going to tell you: It doesn't matter.

From an interview with Junot Diaz:

"God, I know, the torment of it. You know, it's weird to be an artist who works really slow. I mean, we have a country that does not like people to take the time. We have a country that even its artists are on the punch-clock. So someone like me really stands out, you know. But you've got to do what you've got to do. And hopefully I can just finish it, forget how long it takes. As long as I can finish the darn thing, I'll be grateful.

"But, you know, that process gets lost. No one remembers it. No one – and that's what's the best part about being artist. There's all the sweat you break, all the dust you raise, all the sort of things, all the internal emotional timbre that goes in the work. No one will remember. That's the best part. All that's left is the actual work.

"And, you know, my books, I try to keep the sweat off the books. So people read it, and they're like wow, this feels like this was effortless. That's a great – for me, more than anything, that's the best part of this. My work, that what I put into it doesn't show on the page. That's, like, great."

This isn't news, but it feels like there is a lot of angst on all sides of this issue. No one feels like their process is just right. We are all Goldilocks, ready to experiment with some new method we've read about here or there, with outlining in legos or jumping up and down fifty times in the morning before we start, or using special highlighters. And any of those things might be useful. And, in fact, the amount of time writing any given book takes may well matter for other reasons, especially depending on how big a source of income writing is for the writer and other career-related concerns.

But it doesn't matter to the reader. And it doesn't really matter to anyone except you, the writer (or if you have a deadline and a publisher, you and the publisher).

Maud Newton writing at Tin House recently:

"Other than the slow pace, I’m not drawing comparisons between my writing and Tartt’s or Chee’s — certainly not in ultimate outcome. Nor do I believe that writers who work more quickly are necessarily any less brilliant or less deep than those two are. (Try listing, just for example, the works of Muriel Spark or Graham Greene on a single page.) But writing a novel is an inherently strange exercise. It’s surreal to work for years and years on a project very few people have seen. Sometimes I feel like I’m in the grips of an incredibly intricate and time-consuming delusion. So it’s comforting to know that some of the novelists who inspire me also, of necessity, take their time."

I actually know a fair number of writers who prefer to write manuscripts on spec for this reason, so they can take the time they need. Some of them are "fast" and some are "slow."

I've never been one to shy from a deadline, and I suppose I am what would be considered a relatively fast writer. This does not mean deadlines make me any less nutso than anyone else. Not even a little. There is always that stress, that feeling that this time will be the time you can't manage to pull it off. And the adrenaline when you do. Like many (if not all) of the relatively fast writers I know, I'm something of a workaholic and also usually feel I could/should be working even more. This is something I'm trying my best to get over, because it seems like a terrible burden to never feel like the work you're doing is enough.

So while I may write relatively quickly, I've also gotten much more deliberate–even just in the last year–and that feels like progress. I don't push push push to get to the end and rush a manuscript out the door the way I used to. I wait until it feels ready (enough, anyway; it never feels fully ready). I may be wrong, but at least it's not because of rushing when rushing doesn't matter. (In deadline world, this is not always possible. Alas. Sometimes meeting a timeframe does matter, and so you just have to do it. By hook, crook, or lack of sleep.)

I guess the point of this post is to answer those questions with: Write at your own pace and try not to stress about what pace that is. Fast, slow, whatever works. You're not racing anyone. Unless someone has locked you in a room where it's just you, two typewriters, and a monkey. Then you're racing that monkey to come up with Shakespeare.

(Now, if you're not writing at all…that's a problem. That's not slow, that's stopped. But, even so, there's a time for that too. We all need rests. Burnout is real. So is RSI. But so are deadlines. Don't miss those unless you have a really, really good reason.)

From an interview with Joyce Carol Oates:

"Young writers need to know that writing is work. It’s not something that can be done in a few hours. It takes much longer than that. You have to stay with it. When I look at something I wrote, I remember the trouble I had writing it.

"I don’t write in any kind of fever. Not at all. A story that is 15 pages long is written paragraph by paragraph, scene by scene. I might start with the ending and work my way back to the beginning. It’s more like a mosaic, pieced together. When it’s working right, a story has a certain fluidity. That’s my ideal, to move it along like a stream.

"I always get questions about my schedule and how productive I am. People think I’m productive, but I work so hard and so slowly. Anybody who worked 10 to 12 hours could be as productive, any normal, sane person. I can concentrate for that long because I have to, because I want to get it done."

The important part is not losing sight of the end goal, which is producing the best book you can. It will always take time. It will always take effort. It will probably take all of both you have to give…until you can finally send it on its way for good, and it's time to work on the next one.

Tuesday Hangovers

Friday Nattering Et Hangovers

Helloooo! I didn't meant to go poof vanish-y, but I did. And I'm afraid the next week or two is likely to be more of the same.

However, I didn't want to miss saying that the Bluegrass Writers Studio faculty and students showed Jenn and I a fabulous time last weekend. And it was so nice having her here. If there's any agent on the planet who is more willing to answer questions and be candid and explain how this crazy business we call pub works, well, I don't know them. (And this is just one of the many reasons I feel so lucky she's my agent. And my friend. <3) We also talked about the new secret book, which I'd just sent her to read, and much of my AWOL-ness this week has been because I'm revising (spoiler alert: she likes it; whew). After a bit from Blackwood, I read a little section of it at my reading–audience choice, and in my experience, people always want to hear from the new secret thing–and burbled about it afterward and was very much relieved at how enthusiastic people were. And they sold out of copies of Blackwood after the reading, ever happy-making. My husband, the original Christopher Rowe, is in this program, and so I went back last night to see Justin Cronin read and hang out and people still wanted to talk about the new novel. This is the kind of thing that makes a writer happy.

Having Jenn in town meant I finally got to meet a couple of other local authors previously only known on the twitter machine: Andrew Shaffer and Tiffany Reisz. Not to mention, one of my favorite things in life is taking visitors to our fab local bookstores and favorite restaurants, and I got to do that too. Puck the Dog, who is famously picky and hates everyone, loooooves Jenn. So there. A great weekend.

Anyway, I'm busily trimming away bits of research loveliness that aren't strictly speaking enhancing the story (or unstrictly, let's be honest!), and doing a bazillion other things, and still trying to catch up on reading I owe people and wearing the wrong earrings together by mistake, etc. But I shall return victorious or triumphant or something or other. I also managed to take no pictures, so no pictures to share.

But I do have a few little Friday hangovers: