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to point out this NY Sun article on a Harvard woman who just hit the big time in publishing. 17-years-old, no agent, unpublished, her H.S. diploma still blank in the printing cue.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:

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.

Barbara Seuling 2005 Manuscript Workshop

Hey, happy news for those who write for smaller kids – the phrase ‘young adult’ covers so much – prolific K-6 children’s author Barbara Seuling is giving a workshop in Vermont, and she is offering a scholarship to SCBWI members. Check out the details here.

Clever Maids, Those Grimm Girls…

College was such an eye-opener. We discovered that some of the men who paraded as the Vast Intellect of the Literary Canon were actually hiding behind the skirts (and, more importantly, the brains) of women. My mind goes first to Dorothy Wordsworth, who was never named as the more-than-a-Muse of her famous brother, William, but whom literary critics will tell you was responsible for, at the very least, the well-loved poem Daffodils. It must be intriguing study, digging out works previously believed to have been written by men and revealing them as the clever treatises of women. Suddenly, the words hold different meanings.

NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday reports on the revelation of another alleged literary theft, this one in the world of children’s literature. Valerie Paradiz’s new book on the Brother’s Grimm challenges the old understanding of how the brothers got their best work. Check out Clever Maids: The Secret History of the Grimm Fairy Tales. Lots of research, and plenty of new thoughts on what folk and fairytales, so deeply embedded into our collective psyche, really mean, coming as they may from a woman’s point of view. Was Snow White’s story a warning? Was Cinderella’s story really meant to be seen as a ‘happily ever after?’ And what was all that noise about Rumplestiltskin? Sounds like something worth exploring.

Happy Women’s History Month.

Mean girls… really REALLY mean girls

Man. It’s those girls again. SF Chronicle’s C.W. Nevius writes about ’em here.

So, the Queen Bees and Wanna-bes thing was just the beginning, spawning, as it did, yet another movie (which I haven’t seen, and since the book was non-fiction, I won’t skip off into another rant, I promise), and a whole spate of talk-show visits on the topic of mean …girls. And part of me is just bewildered. I’m like, What, did someone actually believe the whole sugar and spice schtick?! and the other part of me is a bit relieved… maybe if people keep talking about this suddenly exciting phenom of adolescent girls being snarky, some kid might be saved feeling like their whole life is going to end because Karin and Stephanie have made sure no one talks to them this week.

On the other hand, maybe not.

This is a valuable read to me, because it helps freshen the sting of junior high, and makes my emotional connection in writing for younger readers more realistic. I aspire to BE a mean girl, at least in print… because for the life of me, I never did figure out what made Karin tick…