Because I really can't write worth a brass farthing.

How much is a brass farthing worth?

Is it just Mondays that bring this? This wondering why I’m doing this work, this query as to whether I have any talent at all? Mondays bring out the Horrible Writer Why Don’t You Just Get A Job syndrome in spades.

I think it’s the rain, too. Maybe JR in Portland is feeling it too. The thunder and lightning was a rare treat, enough to worry me about my computer’s surge protector — but mostly the dull greys of falling water aren’t doing my psyche any favors. Monday blahs, rain blues, and writer woes. I flipped through Thoreau – but his ascetic snobbery was no help. And then… I read…

Who will teach me to write? a reader wanted to know.

The page, the page, that eternal blankness, the blankness of eternity which you cover slowly, affirming time’s scrawl as a right and your daring as necessity; the page, which you cover woodenly, ruining it, but asserting your freedom and power to act, acknowledging that you ruin everything you touch but touching it nevertheless, because acting is better than being here in mere opacity; the page, which you cover slowly with the crabbed thread of your gut; the page in the purity of its possibilities; the page of your death, against which you pit such flawed excellences as you can muster with all your life’s strength: that page will teach you to write.

Annie Dillard, The Writing Life, at 58-59 (1989).

I had to read Dillard as an undergrad as part of a Nature Writer’s course, and I didn’t really ‘get’ her. She’s one of those writers you have to sort of digest piecemeal… and in my present state of mind I more ‘get’ the beauty and the starkness of that ‘eternal blankness’ she mentions of the page than much else she says. Yes, I am ruining the sanctity of that page as I blot it with my fitful and stunted observations on the universe, but it’s part of fulfilling the possibilities of that other life within me — and my secret self goes scouting down the ways of a vast myriad of other possibilities as I sit at this keyboard again and again.

I’m torn between laughing at myself for such hubris and saying ‘Gah, how depressing!’ I don’t feel any better. But, this too shall pass.

Write on. Tuesday’s coming.

Because I really can’t write worth a brass farthing.

How much is a brass farthing worth?

Is it just Mondays that bring this? This wondering why I’m doing this work, this query as to whether I have any talent at all? Mondays bring out the Horrible Writer Why Don’t You Just Get A Job syndrome in spades.

I think it’s the rain, too. Maybe JR in Portland is feeling it too. The thunder and lightning was a rare treat, enough to worry me about my computer’s surge protector — but mostly the dull greys of falling water aren’t doing my psyche any favors. Monday blahs, rain blues, and writer woes. I flipped through Thoreau – but his ascetic snobbery was no help. And then… I read…

Who will teach me to write? a reader wanted to know.

The page, the page, that eternal blankness, the blankness of eternity which you cover slowly, affirming time’s scrawl as a right and your daring as necessity; the page, which you cover woodenly, ruining it, but asserting your freedom and power to act, acknowledging that you ruin everything you touch but touching it nevertheless, because acting is better than being here in mere opacity; the page, which you cover slowly with the crabbed thread of your gut; the page in the purity of its possibilities; the page of your death, against which you pit such flawed excellences as you can muster with all your life’s strength: that page will teach you to write.

Annie Dillard, The Writing Life, at 58-59 (1989).

I had to read Dillard as an undergrad as part of a Nature Writer’s course, and I didn’t really ‘get’ her. She’s one of those writers you have to sort of digest piecemeal… and in my present state of mind I more ‘get’ the beauty and the starkness of that ‘eternal blankness’ she mentions of the page than much else she says. Yes, I am ruining the sanctity of that page as I blot it with my fitful and stunted observations on the universe, but it’s part of fulfilling the possibilities of that other life within me — and my secret self goes scouting down the ways of a vast myriad of other possibilities as I sit at this keyboard again and again.

I’m torn between laughing at myself for such hubris and saying ‘Gah, how depressing!’ I don’t feel any better. But, this too shall pass.

Write on. Tuesday’s coming.

Detritus from the Brainbox

Bon jour, good people,

I have the dubious privilege of going to guest lecture at my alma mater on the state of publishing. The lecture is not for a Children’s Lit. Course (those are on even years), but a regular Creative Writing class. It’s amusing for me, because for the most part these allegedly “Easy A,” basic undergrad courses are not filled with English majors, but with …PreMed students. Which should be an education in itself. Anyway. In researching what I’m going to say to these august persons, I always find myself having to further clarify what I do, who I want to write for, and why it should interest my listeners.

I ran across a good bit of information on trends in YA publishing on YA librarian Kelly Milner Hallswebsite. As both a writer on YA writing and a YA librarian, Halls does a lot of key research that we as writers would do well to appreciate. Halls suggests checking out “Connecting Young Adults and Libraries”, a book by Patrick Jones, another librarian. Jones identifies seven developmental needs of young adults in order to help YA librarians understand and so better serve their target audience. Because YA writers should be striving to meet that same goal, the list is invaluable to them too.

Probably the most important thing Halls mentions in conjunction with her reading of Jones’ book is that YA readers want a chance to read the truth — your version. As YA novels become more inclusive, the stories that are told are no longer solely stories about Anglo-Saxon characters, upwardly mobile or upper middle class characters, or characters with single gender identities or only subtly dysfunctional families. The thing that keeps me excited about writing, and talking about writing, (even to pre-Med students) is that the truth of one of my stories that might someday resonate with a young adult — my truth. I’m not sure there’s any other line of work where my truth has that kind of value.

Back to the keyboard.

Wonders Never Cease: $500K book deals AND Hahvahd?

Busy Mills woman Likhaari took a moment to point out this NY Sun article on a Harvard woman who just hit the big time in publishing. 17-years-old, no agent, unpublished, her H.S. diploma still blank in the printing cue. Wow. Pomp and Circumstance must seem like nothing after getting a call from The William Morris Agency.

This topic is really germane to the conversation we had at Chat last week about ‘Chick Lit,’ and how that genre itself has proved so capitalistically viable as to have spawned its own imprints, including Harlequin’s Red Dress Ink, Pocket Books’ Downtown Press, Random House’s Harlem Moon, (a small romance imprint for women of color now trying hesitantly to expand into new avenues– anytime you read the word ‘Harlem’ it’s only gonna mean one thing in marketing, yo.); the imprint Strapless & the now defunct HarperCollinsUK imprint, Flamingo. A large part of the rousing success of the pastel, mass-marketed paperbacks publishers surmise, is purchase by readers who formerly didn’t like to read, but are finding that it’s not as bad as they thought, especially when often their novel is followed up by a blockbuster film. You can bet the film options are going to keep coming, strengthening once again the link between Lindsay Lohan and literature. Uh, yeah. Fashionistas and Gossip Girl to the rescue again.

While I wish Miss Viswanathan every success, I’m a little terrified for her. $500K and a two book deal for the germ of an idea on a college application… a plotline that’s part of a trend that may or may not be in its ascendancy by the time she’s through… It’s really risky for the publishers, and perhaps for Viswanthan’s future publications (although, to be fair, she had determined that she was going to be an investment banker when she grew up.) Also, ‘Chick Lit’ as a sub-genre seems to be written mostly for and about the young, white, urban, upwardly mobile career woman — and the YA equivalent about the children of same. Will an Indian woman find a way to fit, and retain her East Asian roots?

Stay tuned. This may be a story worth writing.

Typing Down the House

There’s the merry whine of a saws-all whirring downstairs, accompanied by the clatter of falling wood and plaster dust. Random thumping and hammering blends harmoniously with the assorted grunts of workmen. And I, trying valiantly to sit and create in this mess, am getting a headache. Yes, this is the I’m-trying-to-work-here,-people rant.

You’d laugh if you saw where I am — desk shoved back into a corner and half-covered by plastic sheeting. It’s chaos and drama, but I just had to sit down and write today. Aside from the really good reason of finally having an agent show interest in my work (what am I saying “finally?!!” I’ve finally contacted one! My fault no one showed interest prior to that!!), I wanted to write today because I realized that if I don’t write I feel… Disconnected. The ‘wrestling match with my Muse’ that began so long ago has become second nature. Email, essays, something — I’ve just got to write.

And — no! This isn’t meant to be one of those write-every-day things they tell you in Grad school that you sort of go grey just thinking about. I’m not trying to say that I never have a bad day — far from it! I think I’ve just slowly come to realize that a bad day writing is better than a good day… doing a whole lot of other things. I’ve had to enlarge my definition of what writing is, and what it does for me, and let myself be a part of the process of writing — which sometimes means reading, sometimes means thinking and letting my thoughts range wide into dreams.

And now I sound all esoteric and crap. So I’m going to stop.

Meanwhile, my creativity isn’t exactly sparking at this moment (due to the fact that it feels like one of those sledgehammers is crunching right between my eyes), and I have a bunch of files I’m supposed to go through for one of my many part-time jobs, but I’m here. Still hanging in there.

Hope you are too.

A New Age in Fiction

Can I just say OY, *[email protected]#$ Daylight Savings Time? Right now, I’m completely jealous of Arizona.

Fantasy writers, creepy mystery novelists and ‘ghostwriters,’ you’ve got to check out Llewellyn Worldwide, one of the oldest publishers dealing with the paranormal — they opened up their publishing line to YA stuff about three years ago, and they’re likely one of the more open-minded about “creepy” fiction and paranormal mysteries than the average publisher. They claim that they publish stories on the ‘edge of teen culture.’ What struck me most about them is that they claim to prefer to deal with unagented writers — PREFER, my dears. Possibly they feel this is more authentic? I have no idea. Their YA guide is here, and is very, VERY specific, including a detailed questionnaire to be immediately forwarded to their marketing people. Efficient. If my fantasy novella weren’t in such a snarl, I’d get chattin’ with them immediately. As it is…

…back to the keyboard.

Agents, Agents, Agents…

A.fortis has shown so much chutzpah and moxie and a whole lot of other things with taking those wee rejection slips and making them into confetti that now I’m wondering why I’ve held off for so long on getting an agent. I’ve been reading my own notes on this from the SCBWI Conference talk with Writer’s House agent Jodi Reamer last summer (you can check out the notes in our Files on Yahoo), and I’ve been going back and forth… Finally, I’ve decided that I have something to offer. So. Tomorrow, people. Going to contact Writer’s House, since they have the largest children’s list in the U.S., and see what their parameters are in accepting manuscripts, etc., and then go from there.

Check out Authors on the Web.com, which has a little Literary Agent’s Rountable section, where they ask various questions of various agents from different houses. What galvanized me into action was the answer one woman had about what she looks for in a query letter. She said that what she wanted most to know is “What are you doing next?”

I’m only as good as the next word I type.
Something to consider.

Write away.

Another Monday quel FABULOSO

Is it just me, or does today already completely aggravate? Is it just a Monday writers thing???

Ah, Julie-the-Writer (see sidebar for her site) says it all:

3.16.05
I was reminded this weekend why I never took a creative writing class and never will. It would kill me. I was at a conference and during two workshop sessions the participants were required (required!) to engage in a writing exercise. The words “writing exercise” evoke panic in my heart. Immediately my brain freezes, my hand shakes, and I am irreversibly damaged by physical implosion. I cannot – I will not – write on demand. I resent being asked. It’s too personal. How many young people – real writers – feel that way? “How dare you force me to reveal myself to complete strangers? I’m not going to write in your presence. I’m not going to show you what that looks like.”
Maybe the more writing classes you take, the more discipline you develop, but I can’t conjure up my muse at will. I wouldn’t want to. She’s an evil creature and her breath stinks. Oh I could probably whip out a few meaningless paragraphs (like these two) and call it creative writing. But it’s not. It has no link to the creative synergy between body, mind, and soul. I think real writing comes from a deep, dark labyrinthe inside you and you don’t enter the maze unless you’re prepared to risk getting lost. For all eternity. Assuming a person can navigate blind alleys and reach a pool of understanding in the next twenty designated minutes is absurd. It makes me wonder how many real writers we turn off in school by forcing them to write between the hours of nine thirty-six and ten forty-two. How many young people are writing in stealth as a true form of self expression? A lot, I tell you. Oh how I wish they had writing groups who would nurture and share that passion, that love, that bliss. Young writers groups – this is my newest crusade.


Here’s to nurturing, when the writing process is SUCKING DOWN YOUR VERY SOUL.
Or something like that.

Andre Norton SF/Fantasy Award for YA Novels

I rarely talk about my great love of fantasy and science fiction, because it’s true Geekdom, and I try to avoid the appearance of that whenever possible. HOWEVER, I have to give credit and respect to the 93-year-old Grand Dame of Science Fiction and Fantasy, because they’ve named an award after her. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) has created a new literary award to recognize outstanding science fiction and fantasy novels that are written for the young adult market. The Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Fiction is going to be paired up with the Nebula Awards, and the Bradbury Award, and will start being issued in 2006.

For those of us who want to write science fiction and fantasy, the field has already been open, and is certainly opening further. Norton is 93 and her health is failing, Madeleine L’Engle is 87, and Anne McCaffrey is 79. Ursula K. LeGuin is now 76. While there are younger women in science fiction and fantasy who have been writing successfully for years, these women challenged and changed the male-dominated science fiction and fantasy world and when they go, the genre will change yet again. Which is reasonable, I suppose. After all, science fiction is supposed to be the literature of “what if?” and if not uncertainties, of what else is a new world made?

Weetzie Bat Has Company

Aaah! Francesca Lia Block, being praised for being “edgy” has an AWARD now…for lifetime achievement!!!!! The NY Times comments here. (Requires free registration!)

I want to know, dear people, your thoughts on this one. Block’s first book was in 1989 (– wasn’t her first book Weetzie Bat? How come I can’t get a Lifetime Achievement Award for my first book!?) and already she’s getting a LIFETIME achievement award from the ALA when the National Book Award people just NOW awarded Judy Blume for the very first time? Something’s certainly odd about that. I mean, I assume that Blume got recognition from the ALA sooner than her recent NBA award this past year, but it just seems like much ado about nothing to be awarding Block. She simply rewrites the same book over and over. Or is it just me?

That’s this hour’s writing gripe… back to work.