Odds & Ends

There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. — W. Somerset Maugham

I don’t know what they are, either. After another round of edits (and a truly horrendous conversation with *S.A.M., resulting in him actually feeling the need to explain emigrate vs. immigrate, and saying the words “show, don’t tell” — the horror!!) I now officially feel that I know nothing about novels, nothing about writing, nothing about my characters, and all too much about the nature of certain people on the East Coast. That’s okay – I know someone else on that side of the world, and she remarked once that she was glad to be back East where she can be rude. This North Bay girl might need to take some lessons from a Jersey Girl and be a little rude…

The Detroit Free Press is following one of their writers through the process of writing and selling a book. Her first installment is a funny piece on readers and writers and that frightening statistic of 80% of Americans who believe they have a book within them (That number comes from Brian Hill and Dee Power, the authors of “The Making of a Bestseller: Success Stories from Authors and the Editors, Agents and Booksellers Behind Them” (Kaplan, $19.95).). Well, we have that in common, I suppose, but it’ll be interesting to see if the author perseveres to get it written and actually sold. Anyway, statistics (those lying, twisted things) are always being collected to reveal that there are far more novelists than readers, and writers often have to take a deep breath before committing themselves to the act of creation that is writing. But once you’re in for the lunacy of writing, why stop there? Why not believe that you can win tickets to the Dublin Writing Festival, too? It’s just one more impossible thing to believe before breakfast.

A really annoying trip to the bookstore with the Littles (younger sibs) proved to me something I’d long suspected: that there really are very few good chapter books for the transitional group from early readers to longer fiction. There aren’t as many multicultural books as there should be. There aren’t as many great books for middle grade readers as they should be, and there really aren’t as many books for reluctant readers as there could be. This is NOT to say that there aren’t some marvelous books out, but in the huge chain bookstore where I was (yuck, and I usually patronize independents, but I wasn’t near one), I saw huge, thick books that beckoned middle grade readers who were already competent, not interesting books for struggling kids. I saw a lot I didn’t like, and it made me want to go home. Funnily enough, an article I ran across in the School Library Journal website came to the same conclusions! I feel vindicated… but now I’m worried, too. What are we writers going to do about this? I hope publishers are listening, too…
*secret agent man, in case you’d forgotten.

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