A while ago I got this email from a teacher:
I teach 10th grade English to students with learning disabilities, mild cognitive disabilities, and emotional disabilities. It is close to impossible to find a novel that all are interested in and will actually participate in discussion about. I begged and begged my director and she was able to purchase me a class set of your novel, The Compound. It's such a pleasure to teach this novel! ALL my kids listen while I read and have much to discuss, which never happens. They even groan and complain when we have to stop reading or class is over. I've even had two of my copies come up missing and two students who checked it out of the library for their parents to read. I wish I could convey to you how unusual this is! I teach the core curriculum, the same standards, as a general education class and it is very difficult for my students. They are now working on these standards and don't even realize it because they are so excited about his story. THANK YOU!
A few weeks later, I had a library event in her city and she came to see me. She was so sweet and I hugged her and offered to Skype with her students. Here’s the thing: I reserve the right to charge or not charge for my Skypes. This gets me into trouble with other authors, but would you be able to get a letter like that and then not do the Skype simply because they don’t have a budget? I’m not that person and I never will be. So today was the Skype. And those kids were great. They had a million questions and made me laugh, and I made them laugh too. I was so glad I took the time. And then I got this email:
Thank you so much! Of course, after we hung up they started talking a mile a minute. They're such good kids and this is the first time many of them have finished a book or even liked reading. Our system's superintendent and assistant superintendent were here also. The assistant superintendent said she'd have to get us The Fallout so that we can read both next year. I feel like I'm in the Twilight Zone!!
I can't thank you enough for the excitement you have brought to English class. This will be a lasting, good memory for my kids who have so few things to be excited about.
So yeah. That was pretty much a really good use of my time. And it reminded me of why I do what I do.
And a bit of dueling titles, dueling type, dueling genres.
The town of Belmar started construction on its new boardwalk in January. Today, I was invited by the library to attend the grand opening of the new boardwalk - all 1.3 miles of it have been rebuilt, stronger and better than ever - and to read At the Boardwalk to some of the schoolkids on the beach after the ceremony was complete. (All of the school children from the public and Catholic school in town had been bused to the beach, wearing their "Tougher Than The Storm: Belmar/Belmarvelous" T-shirts.) There on the right you can see Mayor Matt Doherty, Governor Chris Christie, and Senator Bob Menendez cutting the ribbon to make it official.
I was extremely fortunate that my friend John Rowen decided to make the trek from Pennsylvania to take pictures of me during the reading. He did a really great job, and I'm just going to share a few of the photos with you below.
Here I am getting ready to read to the kindergartners on the beach. With an airhorn.
Here's me, reading to the kindergartners. You can see the ocean in the background.
Here I am again, from another angle. That's Liz Cole from Belmar Elementary holding the book.
It was a privilege and an honor to be asked to attend the grand opening of the boardwalk and to share my book with the kids from Belmar Elementary School. My thanks to the good people of Belmar, and to John Rowen, for a really wonderful day.
- Current Mood: good
- Current Music:Somewhere Over the Rainbow (brainradio)
Still, the writing was good. Maybe a little too good, if that makes any sense.
I was struck by how the sentences grew longer and longer. And the author uses such muscular verbs: clot, spit, screech, growl, branch, dip, slide.... In this book,aA coffee pot never "sits" on the counter. Instead, it's much more likely to "squat."
She lands on all fours, rolling and thudding forward, sliding across the short expanse of lawn, smearing away the snow in a ragged teardrop to reveal the green grass beneath. A tree at the edge of the lawn offers a hammer blow to her chest. Her breath is gone. Her wrist blazes as if stabbed through with a hot poker. Glass bites at her. The night seems to close upon her for a moment—and then she draws in a sucking gasp.
The only problem with using verbs in new strong ways is that they stand out. Like "glass bites." In the paragraph before, "The glass shatters, and shards of it bite at her."
Even though I didn't get into the book, I want to make my own verbs stronger.
So, Alloy is licensing some of its properties to Amazon, so Amazon can allow writers to publish legal fanfic and get paid for it. They’re calling it Kindle Worlds.
Now, I’m not gonna lie– I’m an old fandom queen. I have back in my day stories (we made vids by linking up two VCRs and editing manually! Zines under tables at cons!) and I have fandom queen reservations (people already get fanfic for free, there’s no reason to pay for it, furthermore fanfic is one small part of a fannish community that revolves around a particular media. It is not the sole purpose for fandom, and fanfic isn’t written for the benefit of the media property. And many other things, grr, argh.)
But as a published author who 1) loves fanfic 2) loves fen 3) loves getting paid, I really feel like I need to say something here. The terms that Kindle Worlds are offering are BAD, bad terms.
First, the royalties you get for each sale. 35% as long as your story is over 10,000 words– but on the sale price. Whatever they sell your story for, 35% is yours. So if they decide to give it away free (and experience with their exclusive Amazon promotions says that they want to give stuff away for free a lot) then you get 35% of nothing.
But that’s not all! They get to license your work right back, forever, for nothing! Your cool idea for Vampire Diaries? They can use it on the show. They can hire authors to write whole books about it. They can create a whole new series based on it. And you get nothing, because the agreement for Kindle Worlds says so.
They also want to control the content. There will be writing guidelines. So this becomes less and less licensed fanfic, and more and more work for hire in which Amazon and Alloy have a disproportionate amount of control, both creatively and financially.
They’re asking authors to essentially give up all their rights for a sum that may well be a percentage of nothing, so they can then turn around and use that work any way they like. Content for their websites, new books, new shows– the sky’s the limit.
There’s no outlet in the entire universe that should reasonably ask for- and get- all rights to your work, in perpetuity, for the low, low price of potentially NOTHING. I don’t care if you’re a fan author, an indie author, a traditionally-published author, a small press author, it does not matter: If a publisher cannot offer you MORE than you can do for yourself, run away.
Because I started out as a fan author, I know there’s some appeal in being part of your show. The fantasy of contributing, of being valuable to TPTB and leaving your mark on something you love. I really, really get that. But I don’t think that Kindle Worlds is the way to do it. They ask for too much, and give you too little in return. And look– as a fan, you’re already doing the most valuable thing you can to help your show, your book, your fandom: you spread the word.
You write stories, you talk meta, you Tumbl’ all the gifsets there are to Tumbl’. You’re spreading the word, bringing in new viewers, and if you’re anything like me, you are buying so much schwag. You already conttribute to the media you love. It’s unfair, unreasonable and frankly, downright ugly for them to ask for more.
Fen, you are valuable. You are important. And you deserve better than Kindle Worlds.
The Daily Dot – The problem with Amazon’s new fanfiction platform, Kindle Worlds
Brian, Luke, and I went to Hershey Park with my sister and her boyfriend on Sunday.
When I was a kid I was totally in love with roller coasters, but since I met Brian I've turned into a huge Disney Snob and we hardly ever visit other amusement parks (partly to avoid disappointment, and partly because Disney takes all our money). I was excited to take Luke somewhere new, but I was a little worried that I would spend the whole day thinking, "Well. This isn't Disney World."
I'm happy to report that we had a great day. We actually picked a PERFECT day to visit, because it was early in the season, the Boardwalk wasn't open yet, and the weather looked like rain but never actually rained. The combination of all those factors meant that the park was DEAD. I think the only real line we waited in was for the newest coaster which opened last year, and everything else was pretty much a walk-on. And I only came across ONE group of obnoxious people. One! The whole day just went so much better than I expected.
The only downside was that the overlap between rides Luke could do and rides the adults could enjoy was sadly pretty small.
Luke was a Miniature and the rest of us were Jolly Ranchers. Luke was able to get on:
Starship America with Brian.
It was fast! He seemed a little traumatized afterwards.
The Carrousel with everyone.
He refused to ride a horse, or sit nicely, but he liked the music.
Ladybug ride with Aunt Tabby.
Some of the kiddie rides let one adult ride with the kid. Luke looked Super Serious while it was happening, but afterwards he seemed excited.
Dry Gulch Railroad with everyone.
And the Kissing Tower with everyone.
We also checked out ZooAmerica which is attached to Hershey Park and free with admission.
How'd you like all those animals, Luke?
Yeah. He slept through the entire zoo. He ended up taking at least a three hour nap that day.
There were 11 roller coasters and we managed to get on 8 of them (some twice, depending on how we split up), which I thought was pretty impressive. The Sooperdooperlooper was closed when we walked by, and we just never made it to Sidewinder or Fahrenheit.
After Luke finally woke up from his epic nap, we got some old time pictures taken.
Of course no trip to Hershey Park would be complete without some chocolate, so first we met the anthropomorphic variety.
Then we visited Chocolate World.
We did the free "factory tour," collected our free sample of chocolate, and then got some milkshakes for the road.
It was a great day! I wouldn't rush to go back while Luke is still this small, but definitely when he's a Kiss or a Reese's and big enough to really do all the kiddie rides.
The best part? That happy, exhausted little boy slept through the night for me afterwards.
(Taken during a lovely May 4 years ago...)
(Taken during a very hot May 2 years ago...)
Librarian Laini Bostian blogs at The Made Up Librarian. Today she talks to Eric A. Kimmel about authors marketing their manuscripts to publishers.
Learn more about Eric from Scholastic.
Eric: About writing and marketing, it’s never one or the other. Professional writers do look to the market. They have to. There are always compromises and adjustments to be made during the composition process and during the revision and editing processes.
The key is how does the author feel about making the changes. If you go too far and say "yes" too often, you may come to a point where it’s no longer your book.
Also, some editors will tell you upfront that they may not be the one to handle a particular manuscript. It isn’t doing anything for them, or the changes they’d suggest would turn it into an entirely different story. Sometimes the writer can go along with that. Sometimes we can’t.
I’ll give you a recent example that just happened with the manuscript I’m sending out. I originally conceived it as YA. Several of the editors who've responded so far made the point that it didn’t feel like a YA. It felt more like middle grade.
Jennifer Laughran called to talk to me about it. The editors may be right, she said. YA is edgier. The characters are older. There’s more sex and drama. My main character is finishing middle school. You might call the story YA, but it’s definitely on the younger edge of the spectrum.
It’s borderline between age markets, and as Jenn pointed out, “The border is where you don’t want to be.”
Editors can’t fit it into a specific genre. They can’t predict its audience or what it will do.
That can be the kiss of death these days.
What Jenn suggested is marketing, not literary advice: Take it down a couple of years. Forget YA and go for middle grade. It would be easy. The changes would be mostly cosmetic.
She also pointed out that the YA genre is glutted right now. It’s been so successful that everyone’s writing YA. Meanwhile, there’s a definite shortage of middle grade fiction.
So guess what I’ve been doing this past week? It’s a change I can live with. I see the point. It actually suits the characters, the story, and me more.
Are these revisions marketing decisions? You bet! Are they artistic ones? Definitely yes, because I feel comfortable with them and actually think the manuscript is better for my having made them.
Laini: So, if this work does not sell, will you be upset? What should young writers do? What would you say to them?
However, that doesn’t mean you give up. Set the manuscript aside. Maybe you can do something with it later. Times change, so a manuscript no one wants today may become a hot item in a couple of years.
The advantage I have over young writers is I know the drill. A similar rejection could be devastating for a beginner. But again, so what? Will you quit and never write anything again?
Guess what? Nobody cares. Real writers suck it up and start something else. The ones that are only in it for a payoff will find something else to do.
What should young writers do? Write! They think they’re going to get rich? That editors owe them something because they scribbled out a manuscript? That they don’t have to revise?
Well, they’ll learn, and they’ll be better writers for it. And if they decide to spend their time doing something else, what of it? I guarantee there will be no shortage of writers or good books.
Yesterday (5/21/13) was my 3rd Runniversary!!! Every year, whether you want to hear it or not, you’re subjected to my annual running stats. And if you’re really a glutton for punishment, the other posts are here…Runniversary and 2nd Runniversary.
But here are the stats:
In the last three years I have gone on 181 runs with and average of 4.5 miles.
I’ve covered 832.27 miles and I’ve spent 137.31 hours of the last three years running.
I’ve burnt 83,171 calories, which doesn’t even put a dent in my chocolate consumption LOL!
My average pace was 9.55 minutes a mile.
And this year (May 21st to May 21st) I ran 261.07 miles.
And this is my favorite place to run. It makes me feel like a bird.
Do you have any anniversaries coming up? I also have another one. A really big one. Check it out on a special post on Thursday.
Well. Instead, I eventually got up, got breakfast, and spent a long time cuddling Maya. It's worked for me so far. In 20 minutes, I'll go wake up MrD and get him ready for school, but in the meantime...
Here's a list of things that have made me happy in the past few days, because honestly, I'm still feeling jittery from that nightmare (oh, how I hate the vivid dreams of pregnancy!), plus I've been pretty stressed-out over my freelance deadline and all our practical house-moving issues, and I really need this reminder right now:
1. Watching MrD in his nursery school's spring show yesterday. Possibly the most adorable sight ever (in my clearly unbiased and objective opinion)! And ohhhh, was I proud of him.
2. Eating gorgeous strawberry-cream cake at my favorite cake-café in town afterwards, with friends, while MrD and his own friends quickly devoured their own cakes and then just played and played together.
3. Knitting - possibly the most relaxing and de-stressing occupation I've ever found (and also the one gesture I can make to appease my frustrated nesting instincts right now, while our house situation is still undecided - I may not know where we're going to live with our new baby, but at least he/she will have a handknitted blanket!) - while watching MrD build enormous structures out of lego or play-dough, at various points over the last few days.
4. Re-reading The Lord of the Rings for the first time in 7 years, and sinking into it with total delight and wonder all over again at just how good it really is. Re-reading it is a process of re-discovery - oh! I'd forgotten how much I love the writing! - and also pure comfort - because I absorbed this book into my bones as a kid, and almost every scene resonates with memory, for me.
What about you guys? What have been the brightest spots in your week so far?