Archive | October 2010

Walking Through the Valley of Patience

So, you want to be a writer, do you?

Let's talk about the quality that all writers must have before all things. Before tenacity. Before skill. Before work ethic. Let's talk about patience.

Where is the first place you will encounter a need for patience? With your manuscript. You will finish it, and you will want to send it away. Don't. Put it in a drawer for a couple of months, and then work on revising it. Get some feedback on it, and then, after a few times through it, send it out. I rework mine several times, and if it's not taken on somewhere, chances are good I will do substantial revisions on it sometime in the future. Creating a good work of art isn't quick. I'm getting the years perspective in my mind's eye, you betcha.

After completing the work, the next place you'll need patience is when you submit your work. The urgency you will feel as you wait for the world to give you feedback will be in direct contrast to the size of the abyss you send your work into. Be mellow about it. Own your patience. Get on with your life. You can't sit by the computer refreshing your inbox and hoping. If you wander the Internet landscape, you'll hear about writers getting book deals years after they've submitted to slush. Or worse, rejections, years after. Give over the response to the universe, and do something else.

It can take a long time after you've gotten an agent to sell a book to an editor. It can take a long time to get your career balanced where you want it. It can take a long time to get an acceptance from a box store market.

If your work is accepted, you'll need patience continually. Waiting for the edits, waiting for the publication, waiting for the proofs, waiting for the check, waiting, waiting, waiting. This is the nature of publishing. I've heard that the cycle of a book going from accepted manuscript to published product is about two years at a minimum after you've done all the writing, revising, and shopping around.

Writing taken from this perspective seems to be an occupation for the self-flagellating type A. You'd best become a type B mellow person in regard to your writing life. Given this information, I think if you're looking for a life of recognition and fame, petty crime is better.

There's another piece to this, and that's what happens to the impatient. Some writers give up. I say you should, absolutely, if you can. Waiting is not satisfying.

Some writers self-publish. I say if you do, make sure you want to be a PR person, an editor, and a sales force, in addition to writing books.

Some writers publish in small press, or publish for free. I have done this, but if you do it, consider the implications for your career. Strangely enough, this doesn't work linearly, like it does in almost every other occupation. Consider the reputation of the venue, how much you'll be paid for your work, and the overall impact on your writing career. I'll just assume you're waiting for one of those.

Here I am. Waiting. Two whole weeks into submitting my most recent manuscript. Writing the next project. Walking the walk. Talking the talk. Waiting for the next opportunity to revise. Waiting for the agent, the sale, the publishing. Waiting for one short story to come out. Waiting for the edits on another. Waiting for the rejections, the partials, the fulls, the revision requests. Waiting for chance and skill to combine together into opportunity.

Not even chewing my fingernails. Nope. Because this is the writer's life. Writing, sending, waiting, rejecting, rewriting, sending, waiting. With the occasional acceptance to keep things interesting. I'm walking tall. I'm a writer.

You? Do you have the patience and the guts to send your work out, and wait for your writing to be good enough to get you the results you're hoping for? And then the ability to wait some more while those pieces fall into place?

I hear Solitaire passes the time when you're tired of writing the next thing. Me? I sew, talk long walks with my husband, and pet my cats.

Catherine

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

I finished Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor about a month ago. I was stunned. It's taken me about a month to sift through my feelings and impressions.

Nnedi has graciously agreed to answer some questions about the book, and I'll post those here when they come. Here's my review.

One of the interesting routes that fantasy can travel is to comment on an important issue in the real world. I respect escapism, but find that my literary side appreciates an author who takes the time and the responsibility to use the literature of the fantastic to raise awareness. Who Fears Death is that kind of book.

The book begins with death. We progress to rape, genocide, and female genitalia mutilation. The countries in this book mirror countries in our world, and the same problems exist in regard to racism, violence, sexism, and intercultural relations. This book looks African politics and genocide squarely in the eye and says important, significant things.

It is not an easy or a comfortable book to read. It is an important book to read. I am no where nearly as fluent in these cultural issues as I suspect the author is after writing this book, or growing up in dual cultures, but I have had the privilege of teaching. And these are among the stories I have heard in student papers.

I have heard about Both Olieny's life as a refuge taking care of his family as the wars in Central Africa moved him from camp to camp. A woman from Sierra Leone writes of rape and seeing a baby cut from a living woman. Students strike out to sea from Somalia in a boat with no idea what will happen next. A man smuggles himself out of Eritrea in a trunk to avoid the death sentence that is the army. A Rwandan woman, half Tutsi, half Hutu, leaves the country, because there is no longer a place for her, and loses half her family in the process.

We haven't got a clue. We hear about it, but we haven't got a clue.

Who Fears Death takes readers to these places. By reading about Onyesonwu and Mwita, by seeing their journey, and by understanding the implications of their very existence for the people of both the Okeke and Nuwu tribes, Okorafor slams the reader up against uncomfortable issues. Onyesonwu speaks about the complacency of the tribes as long as the war doesn't reach their towns. She condemns the justification of violence as laid out in the religious Great Book. As a person on the edges, an Ewu, a half-breed, she is both marginalized and capable of seeing from the margins.

Who Fears Death goes beyond shock and horror to make you see what the nightly news has watered down to a factoid. You can't see Onyesonwu's conception by rape in this book and detach, like when you hear about Darfur from by Brian Williams.

It is only such a person looking in that is brave enough to make the changes that are needed in the conflicts between these tribes. We think we know what the ending of the book will be, as Onyesonwu's fate is revealed to us early, but her end is as unpredictable as the changes she makes in each town she visits, each life she touches.

Don't miss this book. It's an important book, regardless of how you classify the genre. You need to journey with Onyesonwu and be awakened, like her friends, by her journey.

I always look forward to more books from Okorafor. Now I'm holding my breath to see what she gives us next.

Catherine

The 50 Most Hated Literary Characters

From my friend Catrina, the 50 most hated literary characters!.

Notable for me:

1. I hate Humbert Humbert. There is nothing you can say to me about him that would make me like anything about him. I am happy that he doesn't expect you to like him either.

2. Rochester is exactly why I dislike Jane Eyre. I'm not sympathetic to a man who locks his wife in the attic and tries to keep that a secret from the heroine.

3. Some days I love Rhett and Scarlett. Some days I want to keel Rhett and Scarlett. People don't understand Melanie Wilkes the way they should. She really is an exceptional person. Except for that wanting to keep having babies thing. Although she's a creature of her time, that was just suicidal. And why the hell isn't Ashley "I can't make up my damned mind" Wilkes not on this list?

4. If you're going to put Heathcliff, you've got to put Cathy. They just were poison together.

5. I got nothin' good to say about those damned Havishams either.

6. Why would you put Napoleon the pig, when you could put the real Napoleon. What do you mean he's not fictional?

7. Are people too hard on Willoughby? Is his own life and remorse his own reward? I mean, yes, he's not cool, but he's not nearly as bad as say, Wickham, who isn't on the list.

Take a look at the list. Let me know what you think.

Cath

1973

I'm setting my novella in 1973, so I wanted a convenient link to

Super70s.com

You may ask yourself, what was happening in 1973? I was in the third grade. I had pants that looked like couch upholstery, and crepe shoes that elevated me four inches. We were negotiating a cease-fire in Viet Nam, finally, and a great deal of attention was being given to the anti-Christ Tricky Dick Nixon.

Brrrrr! That's a rather chilling image to end with. Maybe this is better?

Today, be cool, and do your own thing.

Peace,

Catherine

Kidlitcon

Morale is about 0 right now. Ugly church meeting last night was ugly. Considering wearing a Christians for Christ shirt to church, just to sort of remind people about, you know, religion, which you wouldn't suppose they'd need reminding about, but there you go.

And THIS, ladies and gentlemen, is supposed to be the liberal brand of Christianity. Gotta wonder what the conservative brand is like. I am liking your Christianity, yes, but I am not much liking your Christians.

***

But we don't need to wallow in this mud. Let's talk about Kidlitcon instead!

I went to Kidlitcon on a whim. I saw it flash by on Twitter courtesy of Flux, and looked into it. A joint effort from Flux, Milkweed, and Lerner, it was held at the Open Book in Minneapolis.

I was also interested in going because Maggie Stiefvater was the keynote. EVERY time I meet Maggie, she impresses me with her absolute coolness, being a real person in spite of the well-deserved praise of her writing. Yes, she can write, and she's not drinking the kool-aid. Her journal is upbeat and positive, and her talk was as informative and useful as her entries. I also met the other two Fates: Tessa Gratton for the first time in real life, and Brenna Yovanoff, whose latest book I had the opportunity to buy and get autographed. They looked like they had a lovely, Fate-y time.

Brenna and Tessa were talking up a book called Split by Swati Avasthi. It is a book about what happens AFTER domestic abuse. Needless to say, that's been moved up on my list, and you can expect a report.

***

We enter the educational part of the morning.

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Queries and Video

Hey everyone. Let's talk a little about shopping the book around.

First of all, submitting the troll story. If you're no stranger to Writer Tamago, you know I am an advocate for Query Tracker. So far, I've sent out twenty queries to agents, and one query to a publisher. The responses have begun to come in. Query tracker makes it very easy to keep track of where things are and how they're going. A new feature I'm loving is that you can now keep track of publishing submissions as well as agent ones.

You may remember the last time I did this, I kept track of names and responses here. I thought long and hard about how this time around, my search could be of use to other writers, and I thought that this time around, I would talk a little bit about how knowing the lay of the land has made a huge difference.

The first time I did this, I really knew very little about agents and agencies. This time, I began my search with agents and publishers that have illustrated interest in my work. People who asked for partials last time make sense as the people I begin with this time. Another priority for me are agents who are prompt and professional (and by prompt, I mean by publishing standards prompt, because I have learned about how long things can take.) I appreciated agents who let me know when I can expect feedback and who have acted professional and interested in public. Agents whose demeanor was uncomfortable toward me are not agents I would submit to. The bottom line question has been would I accept this agent, were they to offer? If the answer is no, why query? I think that beginning writers come to the table looking for ANY agent. I am no longer that kind of beginning writer.

Another perk for this time around: I've read widely enough to know the kinds of materials agents are looking for and whether what I write is a good fit with that. Last time, part of my error was that I often submitted to agents who repped people I liked to read, and that's not always the same as people who rep the kind of thing I write, or at least the kind of thing I'm querying this time around. I have a handle on the parameters of my project. This is a YA adventure fantasy. It's not likely to morph into an MG or an adult epic. My search is much more targeted.

While I am not against transparency and showing you my successes and failures, this time I am not likely to tell you about every rejection and every nibble. I have had some of both at this point, which is expected in early days. I expect that the rejections will outnumber the nibbles, because they do for all writers, all the time. So, you probably won't hear anything beyond that I'm sending out five queries a week, unless I make it into a smaller funnel than last time (and last time I had at least one full request, so it would have to be an acceptance, I guess.) I can tell you at this point that the query has attracted interest in a partial, but that has already come to naught. Of course, the solicited on the strength of the last project submissions are still out there.

I also feel that regardless of what happens with this manuscript, it feels good to be sending something out. Rejection intimidates much less when you become more accustomed to it.

Um...Kidlitcon! Met many wonderful people, learned some great things. Need to write a post, but not right now. I leave you with the link to the Endowed Faculty Chair video about writing Hulk Hercules.

Endowed Chair Antics

Workity work!

Catherine

Elizabeth Moon, my Church, Safe Spaces, and a lot of Headscratching

It has been a busy week in my brain. I finished the troll novel, and then fell into a week which included Bryon's parent teachers conferences (doing the errands for 2, instead of one, on my end), my penultimate nightclass, and the grammar retreat. Ugh.

Added to that, I had dinner with my pastor on Monday. Bryon and I have followed Kathy to 3 Methodist congregations (Methodists have a tendency to move ministers around), and we think she's a smart spiritual leader, a liberal Christian who's good at what she does.

Monday, I discovered that she's having some serious issues with the congregation, and that some members of our church had left due to conflict, not with Kathy, but with people who aren't behaving churchly. These unchurchly people are trying to oust her in the new year. As she related these tales to me, I found myself perplexed, because you know, this is church, man. I get conflict in other organizations, but there are some pretty clear Christian tenants that tell you how to behave.

And then, last night in White Privilege class, we were talking about safe spaces to talk about issues of racism, and color, and I brought up MoonFail, and the con comm's rescinding of her guest of honor status. I suggested that might be creating a safe space, although I felt pretty disappointed in the con comm waffling so long in making the decision, when it was clear that Moon countermanded the mission of the convention as feminist and progressive, and being a safe place.

Now, people suggest that this would have been a teachable moment for Ms. Moon. Weelll, given that Ms. Moon has exercised white privilege by walking away from the response (in all fairness, we'll watch to see if she puts anything up when she is less busy), I'm not convinced that she sees herself as in need of any modification or change.

Timmi is right. I too have to blame Fox News for both of these situations.

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Kidlitcon

I'll be up at Kidlitcon this weekend. It's a one-day gathering of children's books authors and bloggers in the Twin Cities. Regrettably, I won't get to see the Merry Fates Reading tonight, as I'll be winging my way north after work, but tomorrow, think it'll be a good day of meeting new people, seeing some familiar faces, and doing the author thing in general.

Hope I can stay awake after the week I've had. 🙂

And I hope you all have great weekend plans.

Catherine

The Foundling’s Tale Book 3: Factotum

So, I received this ARC of Factotum because I've talked of my love of D.M. Cornish's stories here. Before, this set of stories on half-continent was called The Monster Blood Tattoo, but I have to admit that the arc is better named The Foundling's Tale, as at its core, it is and ever will be about the boy Rossamund, whatever he may actually be.

If you haven't read any of D.M. Cornish's work, I envy you, because you get to discover it for the first time. Cornish's Half-Continent is part Baroque, part Lewis Carroll, and part Revolutionary War. The writing is witty, the dialogue a perfect imitation of the novels written in the period, and the characters strong and with heart.

If all this weren't enough, there's art work. Cornish himself draws the monsters and the characters in an angular, eerie portrait style.

In this particular volume, Rossamund, our young hero, lives with the fallout from the accusations and realizations of book 2, championed by the fulgar (monster hunter) Europe. They make political enemies, and in the end, Rossamund has to make a decision about where he belongs and where his allegiances lie.

Besides the incredibly well realized Europe and Rossamund, the book boasts all sorts of characters. The Lapinduce who appears only briefly, almost steals the book.

The vocabulary and the world require some explanation, but in addition to character sketches, Cornish provides you with vocabulary and appendices. It's exactly the kind of book my husband won't read, for those reasons, but in this case. that means more Cornish for me. 🙂

And more Cornish for you. Factotum will be at a bookstore near you in November, 2010. Go out and buy it, and learn a little bit about really sophisticated world building.

Catherine