Lazy Sunday?

I wish I could show you the stack of paper I’ve been wrestling with for the past nine and a half hours. I never realized how much a book over three hundred pages (356, really) could weigh — how the drifts of white pages could get out of order so easily, how the wicked edges could either rip or give me paper cuts — but I can’t whine anymore, it’s done, done, done. Final proofreading of the loose pages of my manuscript is FINISHED.

I now need cake and a massage, not necessarily in that order.
Sadly, I would have to make the cake first. Sigh.

Hope someone is having a lazy Sunday for me!

Books Worth Knowing

A friendly note from a cool person at Flux let me know that A LA CARTE is being featured at the Illinois Library Association’s Reading Conference. Along with my book are some other tomes of awesome, including Marla Frazee’s well received A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever (here’s a Just One More Book podcast from last year), Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, Rapunzel’s Revenge, by Shannon Hale, and Siobahn Dowd’s The London Eye Mystery, and Paula Yoo’s Good Enough.

I’m in fantastically good company. Thanks Illinois librarians!

Keeping the Love

Once again, the blogosphere has provided a sort of writer’s echo chamber ~ a place to throw out ideas and have them reverberate back changed and clarified and strengthened.

Viewing the serious state of things in the world can often cause artists to question their purpose and their place in the state of things, and it seems that more than just a few of us are wondering how to keep going. Via Writing & Ruminating, a really excellent piece by Jennifer Lynn Barnes on how to recapture the joy of writing.

“Now, however, I’ve discovered many other terrifying possibilities that writers have to make their peace with, too. Like what if you write a book and you sell it and then the chain stores don’t pick it up and readers can’t find it and the sales are disappointing and every time you try to sell another book, editors pull up those numbers and it’s a giant brand on your forehead, and you end up being worse-off than you would be if you’d never published a book at all? Or what if the book does really well, but all of the people who liked your previous books absolutely HATE this one and feel personally let down by you and it ruins your previous books for them because they just hate this one that much? What if (and this is, I swear, something every single published writer I know has thought at one point or another) the books you’ve done so far are just a fluke and you’ve been lulled into a false sense of security in thinking that maybe you don’t suck, but you really do, and soon you will be revealed as an impostor, full of suckiness?


Jennifer Barnes follows these ponderings on suckiness with fourteen concrete ways to keep your head, and keep your love of writing alive. Though she writes from the point of view of someone who has achieved mucho success with Golden and her Squad novels (and you may want to haul off and belt her with a fish you think she’s bemoaning her success — she’s not, so hold off on the piscatorial punishments), there’s plenty here for the unpublished writer as well. More encouraging suggestions follow in the comments.

This is a fabulous piece to read and reread and then push off into a strong sprint into your writing week.

Cheers, and thanks, Kelly and Jennifer.

But What's A Boy Sound Like?

In actual BOOK news, On the Guardian Book blog, UK children’s author Anthony McGowan talks about toilet humor encouraging kids to read. Middle graders are a tough audience — and the gross factor matches well with his book, HELLBENT. Not sure if this one is slated for a U.S. release any time soon. (And how much do you want to bet they’d have to change the name?) One thing I do have to say is that I’m glad McGowan doesn’t say he encourages BOYS to read by using toilet humor. He said, “KIDS.” As in, girls too.

Liz takes a moment to wish that those people who whine about “there are no good boy books anymore,” and “whatever happened to strong female protagonists” could have a booklist exchange. I’m in full agreement that I don’t believe in “Boy Books” and “Girl Books.” There are certainly some things which have more appeal to guys or girls, but it’s a slippery slope trying to divide books by gender.

Brian F., in the comments brings up another good question for writers constantly wondering if their characters sound genuine. When a female is writing a male character and asks the question, “Does this sound like a boy,” what’s the right answer? “What,” pray tell, Brian F. wants to know, “does a boy sound like?”

That question echoed into my brain and brought me to something else: dominant culture assumption in novels, or how to make a character “sound black.” Anyone want to touch that with a ten foot pole?

No?

I’ve just spent a lot of time in the past week doing what my editor calls “polishing,” which is making sure a character’s country-flavored drawl and Southern colloquialisms are absolutely readable to the average person. Even as a minority, I had no one to ask if my character sounded appropriately ethnic or not — yet there’s always the niggling suspicion that maybe my version isn’t the “right” one.

Is the characterization that I did enough? Despite the fact that I didn’t mention coffee, mocha, chocolate, cinnamon or anything else edible in reference to her, do you think readers will understand that she has an African American ancestry?

Perhaps the only thing that can be said on the “boy” or the “black” issue is this: no one’s got the final word on anyone else’s perception. No one is the authority. Girl, boy, black, blue, go with what you know, do your best to depict things as you hear and see them, and you should be fine.

Really.

There will always be someone who disagrees, who thinks you didn’t do enough, who wants to point out you didn’t do it “right.” Like so many other things in the writing life, one just has to take that in stride.


New poverty estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey indicate that about 13 percent of people nationwide were living in poverty in 2005. However, estimates from the American Community Survey (or ACS, a nationwide annual survey of households conducted by the Census Bureau) show that poverty rates in 2005 varied widely around the country, from less than 8 percent in New Hampshire to 21 percent in Mississippi. The ACS estimates also show that seven states had statistically significant increases in their child poverty rates between 2004 and 2005.

And now for a word from Colleen:

If you don’t read about kids in your economic strata who make it, who study great subjects, or build great things, or create great art, then you don’t think you can either. If you don’t see success for those from “your world” reflected on tv or in movies or in books then you will come to believe that certain – or maybe all – levels of success are not possible for you.

You will never be rich enough to be anything.

Can it be said any more clearly that all young adults need to see themselves reflected in the literature they read? Though I am personally hesitant about titles which glorify violence and no copy-editing urban lit arguably reflects a socio-economic group that should also be represented. Definitely something to consider. Go, read Chasing Ray, and put in your two cent’s worth.

But What’s A Boy Sound Like?

In actual BOOK news, On the Guardian Book blog, UK children’s author Anthony McGowan talks about toilet humor encouraging kids to read. Middle graders are a tough audience — and the gross factor matches well with his book, HELLBENT. Not sure if this one is slated for a U.S. release any time soon. (And how much do you want to bet they’d have to change the name?) One thing I do have to say is that I’m glad McGowan doesn’t say he encourages BOYS to read by using toilet humor. He said, “KIDS.” As in, girls too.

Liz takes a moment to wish that those people who whine about “there are no good boy books anymore,” and “whatever happened to strong female protagonists” could have a booklist exchange. I’m in full agreement that I don’t believe in “Boy Books” and “Girl Books.” There are certainly some things which have more appeal to guys or girls, but it’s a slippery slope trying to divide books by gender.

Brian F., in the comments brings up another good question for writers constantly wondering if their characters sound genuine. When a female is writing a male character and asks the question, “Does this sound like a boy,” what’s the right answer? “What,” pray tell, Brian F. wants to know, “does a boy sound like?”

That question echoed into my brain and brought me to something else: dominant culture assumption in novels, or how to make a character “sound black.” Anyone want to touch that with a ten foot pole?

No?

I’ve just spent a lot of time in the past week doing what my editor calls “polishing,” which is making sure a character’s country-flavored drawl and Southern colloquialisms are absolutely readable to the average person. Even as a minority, I had no one to ask if my character sounded appropriately ethnic or not — yet there’s always the niggling suspicion that maybe my version isn’t the “right” one.

Is the characterization that I did enough? Despite the fact that I didn’t mention coffee, mocha, chocolate, cinnamon or anything else edible in reference to her, do you think readers will understand that she has an African American ancestry?

Perhaps the only thing that can be said on the “boy” or the “black” issue is this: no one’s got the final word on anyone else’s perception. No one is the authority. Girl, boy, black, blue, go with what you know, do your best to depict things as you hear and see them, and you should be fine.

Really.

There will always be someone who disagrees, who thinks you didn’t do enough, who wants to point out you didn’t do it “right.” Like so many other things in the writing life, one just has to take that in stride.


New poverty estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey indicate that about 13 percent of people nationwide were living in poverty in 2005. However, estimates from the American Community Survey (or ACS, a nationwide annual survey of households conducted by the Census Bureau) show that poverty rates in 2005 varied widely around the country, from less than 8 percent in New Hampshire to 21 percent in Mississippi. The ACS estimates also show that seven states had statistically significant increases in their child poverty rates between 2004 and 2005.

And now for a word from Colleen:

If you don’t read about kids in your economic strata who make it, who study great subjects, or build great things, or create great art, then you don’t think you can either. If you don’t see success for those from “your world” reflected on tv or in movies or in books then you will come to believe that certain – or maybe all – levels of success are not possible for you.

You will never be rich enough to be anything.

Can it be said any more clearly that all young adults need to see themselves reflected in the literature they read? Though I am personally hesitant about titles which glorify violence and no copy-editing urban lit arguably reflects a socio-economic group that should also be represented. Definitely something to consider. Go, read Chasing Ray, and put in your two cent’s worth.

But What’s A Boy Sound Like?

In actual BOOK news, On the Guardian Book blog, UK children’s author Anthony McGowan talks about toilet humor encouraging kids to read. Middle graders are a tough audience — and the gross factor matches well with his book, HELLBENT. Not sure if this one is slated for a U.S. release any time soon. (And how much do you want to bet they’d have to change the name?) One thing I do have to say is that I’m glad McGowan doesn’t say he encourages BOYS to read by using toilet humor. He said, “KIDS.” As in, girls too.

Liz takes a moment to wish that those people who whine about “there are no good boy books anymore,” and “whatever happened to strong female protagonists” could have a booklist exchange. I’m in full agreement that I don’t believe in “Boy Books” and “Girl Books.” There are certainly some things which have more appeal to guys or girls, but it’s a slippery slope trying to divide books by gender.

Brian F., in the comments brings up another good question for writers constantly wondering if their characters sound genuine. When a female is writing a male character and asks the question, “Does this sound like a boy,” what’s the right answer? “What,” pray tell, Brian F. wants to know, “does a boy sound like?”

That question echoed into my brain and brought me to something else: dominant culture assumption in novels, or how to make a character “sound black.” Anyone want to touch that with a ten foot pole?

No?

I’ve just spent a lot of time in the past week doing what my editor calls “polishing,” which is making sure a character’s country-flavored drawl and Southern colloquialisms are absolutely readable to the average person. Even as a minority, I had no one to ask if my character sounded appropriately ethnic or not — yet there’s always the niggling suspicion that maybe my version isn’t the “right” one.

Is the characterization that I did enough? Despite the fact that I didn’t mention coffee, mocha, chocolate, cinnamon or anything else edible in reference to her, do you think readers will understand that she has an African American ancestry?

Perhaps the only thing that can be said on the “boy” or the “black” issue is this: no one’s got the final word on anyone else’s perception. No one is the authority. Girl, boy, black, blue, go with what you know, do your best to depict things as you hear and see them, and you should be fine.

Really.

There will always be someone who disagrees, who thinks you didn’t do enough, who wants to point out you didn’t do it “right.” Like so many other things in the writing life, one just has to take that in stride.


New poverty estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey indicate that about 13 percent of people nationwide were living in poverty in 2005. However, estimates from the American Community Survey (or ACS, a nationwide annual survey of households conducted by the Census Bureau) show that poverty rates in 2005 varied widely around the country, from less than 8 percent in New Hampshire to 21 percent in Mississippi. The ACS estimates also show that seven states had statistically significant increases in their child poverty rates between 2004 and 2005.

And now for a word from Colleen:

If you don’t read about kids in your economic strata who make it, who study great subjects, or build great things, or create great art, then you don’t think you can either. If you don’t see success for those from “your world” reflected on tv or in movies or in books then you will come to believe that certain – or maybe all – levels of success are not possible for you.

You will never be rich enough to be anything.

Can it be said any more clearly that all young adults need to see themselves reflected in the literature they read? Though I am personally hesitant about titles which glorify violence and no copy-editing urban lit arguably reflects a socio-economic group that should also be represented. Definitely something to consider. Go, read Chasing Ray, and put in your two cent’s worth.

Book Birthing Day


Opened up my email this morning, and the first thing I saw was a celebratory note from Jama at Alphabet Soup, whose soup of the day made me smile. An e-card full of anagrams — crazy ones, I wish you could see them — came from Little Willow. (And I agree, LW — Ultrasonic Tango could quite possibly be the coolest anagram of ‘congratulations’ ever!) Finally, I received notes from all the Poetry, who know what it means to have worked really hard, be neurotic about what you’ve come up with, but throw it out there anyway.

Yep, my first major published work, A LA CARTE, begins to be uncrated from cardboard to land on bookstore shelves, and my sincere thanks to everyone who has been so encouraging and supportive. You guys are amazing. Kirkus Reviews said, Davis’s debut offering is as delightful and fulfilling as the handwritten recipes-in-progress included at the end of each chapter. More importantly, my Mom said, “Oh, hon, that’s really cute.”

Really, it’s almost exactly what Kirkus said.


PS — Jackie, now I’ll *never* forget your birthday. Have a happy, you teapot loving, crossword doing, crazy person, you!

Poets, Audience and …Denim.

Huzzah! Poetry People everywhere are celebrating National Poetry Month. More celebratory than most are Gregory K. from GottaBook who has an original poem-of-the-day subscription service, Elaine at Wild Rose Reader who has an awesome contest going on, Cloudscome who is posting a haiga (haiku and image) every day at A Wrung Sponge and the Whidbey Writers Workshop whose Students’ Choice contest this month is for short poetry, and includes a cash prize. (Their writer’s workshop blog is quite a resource for writers.) We’ll be introducing the Poetry Princesses this month — stay tuned as soon All Shall Be Revealed…


While I am sort of sick of hearing about Elizabeth Gilbert (apologies to everyone who just LOVES her book) I was happy to find out that her sister is Catherine Murdock Gilbert… the YA author who wrote Dairy Queen and its sequels. Cool, no? Putting aside Elizabeth Gilbert’s meteoric rise to fame, the Oprah-bump that Eat, Pray, Love received etc. ad nauseum, ad infinitum, the really cool thing about her that The Violets have zeroed in on is how she wrote her book. She wrote it to ONE person, a friend who was troubled, and whom Gilbert felt would benefit from hearing about how her life had changed from her travels and various interactions with nations and people. Just one person. The whole novel was a letter.

In my MFA craft classes and in my writing group, the topic has often turned to audience. Who are you writing for? one of us will ask the other when we’re not sure the story is communicating clearly to its intended readers. We often debate whether or not it’s important to have an audience, a target toward which to aim the appeal of the story. Some of us try to write for everyone — adults, teens, middle graders, small children. Others of us consider this futile and just try to write for ourselves.

There has to be middle ground.

Being all things to all people never works in life, not to mention in writing. But writing in consideration of an audience seems scary — what if the audience is made up of hostile critics who don’t respond to your work in the way that you want? — Picturing yourself writing to a sea of unknown faces may not work, but Gilbert’s idea of just writing to one …is ponder-worthy, and maybe even a tiny bit magical.

What an idea: communication. One to one.


readergirlzTons of people knit little hats and donate soft toys and stickers for kids in Children’s Hospitals. But, if you’re sixteen, those things really aren’t aimed for you. What you really need is a BOOK. Books are portals that open onto new worlds, bring entertainment, distraction, and sometimes can help blunt the pain. If you can’t avoid the hospital, at least there should be tons of books there, no? Rock the Drop, people. April 17th. Go see the readergirlz and get involved.


It’s NOT a joke: effervescent novelist, Carrie Jones… is running for Maine State Legislature. Whoa! AND we have the same birthday. Which is a coolness unto itself. Go, Carrie, go, Maine! Whoo!

All RIGHT… Because it’s …traditional this first day of April, I have to include some weirdness- so, here are things I WISH were complete jokes, via Ypulse in the last couple of days: Paris Hilton, inspiring role model to young girls. What. Ev. Er. And …Christian… jeans. No, really.

Happy April.

The Literature of Longing

This morning I was reminded of how our best writing takes place from a sense of longing. The Writer’s Almanac today made note of the fact that it’s Kate DiCamillo’s birthday. “She spent most of her childhood in Florida, but after college she moved to Minnesota to work for a book wholesaler… That first winter in Minnesota was one of the coldest on record, and DiCamillo missed her hometown in Florida horribly. She also desperately wanted a dog, but couldn’t have one because her apartment building didn’t allow dogs. So she began writing a story about a stray dog that helps a 10-year-old girl adjust to life in a new town…” and we know the rest of the story from there.

On the tail end of this very cold, wet, miserable winter, I can only imagine the author’s horror. Snow is pretty — when you don’t ever have to go outside, or are only visiting it temporarily. I imagine that after growing up in Florida, it must have seemed impossible, yet Kate DiCamillo found room in her mind to create a place where she wanted to be, and people she wanted to be with. And she found herself a dog.

Is your writing real?
Is it so heartfelt that it’s part of your inner world translated to paper? It seems that stories like these are the best things to read, and the most worthwhile to write.

A story I wrote features an older character who changed and grew with the novel until she was a major player along with the teens in the story. I really enjoyed rounding out the character and including her, because I enjoyed rewriting, in a small way, my actual history. I created a relationship like the one I very much wished for with my own grandmother, and that character has attracted favorable comment from many people.

It may seem a little… weird and needy to rewrite the world to your specifications, making yourself the heroine of all encounters. More importantly, it can be completely boring — keeping in mind the writer’s adage that Just Because It Happened To You Doesn’t Make It Interesting. There’s a difference between writing out your own personal history and personalizing a story by writing a real emotion. It’s a worthwhile bit of digging, to find something real.


Shrinking Violets has a few things to say on introverts vs. extroverts from the book The Introvert Advantage. Most notable to me is the assertion that extroverts “adapt more quickly to time-zone changes than introverts.” Also, extravert’s test performances were improved by receiving praise. This is some really fascinating stuff — I imagine it’s very valuable for parents, too, not to mention writers who have to figure out how to manage the public side of the field. Thanks, Violets!

NPR’s Morning Edition discovers comic books. Comic book audiences are …different, Joss Whedon discovers. “You can evoke ire that you’ve never dreamed of in TV.” Yeah… Ire. Controversy. Whatever you want to call it…

WRITING CONTEST ALERT

Aerin @ In Search of Giants is hosting an April Fool’s Writing Contest! It’s easy — because all you have to do is finish a story. Do you love yourself some Mad Libs? Or those ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books? Go to the site, read the story starter which has been presented by Writer At Work, and — finish it.

Prizes are subjective, of course, but there will be a $20 SuperCertificate to the author of Writer At Work‘s favorite ending, one Readers’ Choice $20 SuperCertificate and one $10 random lottery prize SuperCertificate by random lottery.