Thursday, July 31, 2008
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
The National Writer's Association sponsors a yearly award for young writers. Novels can be entered too!
Warning: I'm not feeling that great so posting may be a bit light this week. We shall get to all of the This Week topics, just more slowly. Gah! Talk about bad English.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Seriously, we are lucky this summer to have some truly fantastic reads on the shelves. It’s hard to name just a few without leaving out a lot so I’ll just tell you the books I’ve read most recently which to me were fabulous summer reads… A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels and A Great Far Thing by Libba Bray, Wake and Fade by Lisa McMann, Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr, Cross my Heart and Hope to Spy by Ally Carter and The Book Thief by Markus Zusack.
In the pursuit of publication (a pursuit one might liken to American Idol or traditional English foxhunting), it's a temptation to get too eager. For writers of novels, sometimes vanity presses ("publishers" that take your money and your rights in return for a few copies of your book) look so easy when compared to the real deal. For writers of short fiction, critique or sharing sites can be equally tempting. Don't give in!
When I say critique/share sites, I mean places where anyone can post their story, without monetary compensation or editorial management. Why should you avoid these?
Plagiarism bait. If your story is really good, it's easier for people to swipe it on the internet. It would be terrible if your magnum opus appeared in XYZ mag under someone else's byline. This would also be very hard to prove because most sites have authors use usernames (like krazyfrog123.)
Bad critique. Random critiques are almost never useful. You will get either snarked at or be told you're the next Big Name, all by people who aren't doing it for your best interests. If you want a good peer critique, ask two or three friends who love reading and love you enough to be honest. This can be helpful-- and there's no risk of plagiarism.
Get published already. If you want to be a published writer, you need to focus your writing energies on that by becoming a better writer (improving technique, style and voice) and pursuing publication (understanding the business and acting upon knowledge.) Don't waste your stories on places where you won't get paid or acknowledged!
Now, don't freak. There are many good small e-zines that are perfectly legit and won't hurt your career. How can you tell a small e-zine from a snarky critique site? Ask, does it have an editor? If there's somebody who reviews submissions before posting, chances are it's a goodie (if there are set editorial guidelines and highlights, that's good too.) If anyone can post anytime, look elsewhere.
And also, have people heard of it/written for it? Say there's a Star Wars SmallZine. Do people refer to SmallZine on Star Wars blogs? Have other young writers been published happily there?
Fan fiction sites are an anomaly because they sometimes have editors and submissions review, but they are not real clips. Write for them if you want, but please don't list them in a query as an example of publication. Please! I beg you!
Gabrielle Linnell has written for Cobblestone, FACES, New Moon, Byline and other magazines. Her fan fiction writing is limited to an attempt at a Harry Potter book. In her defense, it was like seven years ago when it was totally cool and unique to do so. I think.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
I visited Princeton this week as part of our college hunting and just wanted to blurb a little for the sake of future college attendees. Princeton, according to its alum Jennifer Weiner, has the best creative writing undergrad program in America. Having visited, I agree. Joyce Carol Oates and Toni Morrison are among the incredibly prestigious, incredibly involved faculty. They still serve as mentors for senior theses (see below.)
A special facet of the Princeton experience is the senior thesis. It's an 80-120 page research project that serves as a large portion of your grade... in other words, it's what you live for senior year. Even if you're not a writer, you can turn your thesis into a novel and incorporate different aspects of your major (literature, history, even science) into it with appropriate faculty sponsorship.
I'm very wired into the whole Ivy League perfectionism debate, and that's at the center of my current book. However, if you have good grades and like to work, consider applying to Princeton to write. The kind of instruction you would get there is priceless.*
*Well, it does cost ~$49,000 to attend, but you can't buy Joyce Carol Oakes or Toni Morrison and take them home with you. If you can, email me and we'll negotiate.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Check out http://orb28.blogspot.com/2008/07/from-published-girl-author-how-to.html.
But be assertive. Regardless of whether you're buddy-buddy with the professor, make sure to ask all the questions you really need to know (except for offensive ones like Are you a good writer?) This is a one time slot, so ask away!
Sit in on a class. I sat in on a writing class taught by the same professor. I wasn't impressed by the students but the prof's exposition of cliches and structural tension was fantastic! This is the best way to understand a particular college's English program.
A word about the English major... As I've blogged about before, I have a writing class phobia. I'm always scared I'll get a teacher who is horrible, who wants to corrupt my artistic principles, etc. If you're not planning on an English degree but love to write, still check out the writing scene. It may help you understand where you want your collegiate academics to go.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
If you're a younger WriTeen, don't blow all this stuff off! Take time to learn about prospective colleges' English departments and what they can offer you. It'll save time so you're not cramming your junior/senior year.
Write up questions in advance. Know what you need to ask. Sometimes you get flustered by your professor, blank out or simply get distracted. It helps to have a list of questions running through your head, so nobody's time is wasted.
Understand why you're there. Admissions officers are interested in you, but professors have a busy schedule and are not there to ask lovely questions about yourself. You're here to get some insider info! Don't be disappointed if they don't ask about your personal writing.
Always ask about mentorships/internships. These kinds of resources will help make you a better writer and/or help you get a job in publishing after college. Ask whether the college facilitates the internship search or whether students find their own, and if you don't know, ask about publishing companies or magazines in the outside area.
There's more, but Princeton really will see me in a t-shirt and Soffes unless I dash.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
As I'm writing this it is... too late at night for my taste. Granted, I'm a firm believer in lots of sleep for teenagers and get more sleep than is respectable. But I had outlined my word count goal in order to finish THE BOOK's first draft on September 1, and had (of course) missed the first day of THE MANDATORY WORD COUNT yesterday. Which meant I had double dose today.
Which I finished.
If you get serious about writing (whether it's finishing the novel or freelancing or poetry), you will make sacrifices. You will push limits. You will do a lot of drudging. There will be a lot of late nights.
But if you make those sacrifices, and drudge away and push those limits and stay up those late nights and finish your 1008 word quota, there's a good feeling at the end. You accomplished this. What's more, nobody was telling you to. There's no teacher, no parent, no gunsman. You did this without thinking about your report card.
Enjoy this part of writing. It's romantic, it's self-indulgent, it's self-expanding. You are the chivalrous hero(ine) who has given all for the great work. There will be editing in the morning, and the pain of revision and oh-this-is-crap, so enjoy this part. It's pretty sweet.
Gabrielle Linnell is an award-winning writer who has been published more than thirty times. She was reading A Year in the World, Violet in Private and Intrigue in the House of Wong this week, and listening to Disneymania.
Just so you know, we are booked with bookshelf authors through October. This makes me very happy :) because these authors are not only incredible artists and so popular... they're super nice people who share their time with me and you to make us better writers. Sigh. Spread the love.
Friday, July 18, 2008
Thursday, July 17, 2008
How does one go about finding internships?
Search for local magazines. Even if it's just a community newsletter, what zines are published in your area? What about Seattle's Shaking or MidWest Town Life? Don't freak out if the only magazine near you is about cars or babies or something weird. You can still learn something!
Search for independent presses. Are there any small presses/independent publishers near you? If so, you could get experience working in making books! Google "independent publisher your town name." Check out local writing conferences and workshops, who often invite local publishers to speak. If there is a literary agency near you, send them an email too.
Search for a writer! If you are blessed to know (somehow) a fairly successful author who lives near you, ask if they could use an intern. Tell them about your mad email skills, your love of organization and your devotion to their books, and see if they'll let you help them out one afternoon a week. Don't take money for it, but instead count it toward your school's community service requirement and realize you're making friends with a Name in the Industry.
If you live in New York... then I have no words to say except fie on you for not being an intern already. NYC has ridiculous numbers of agencies, publishers and authors dying for some free help. It should be you there.
Kristen Nelson on newbie mistakes (must read) http://pubrants.blogspot.com/2008/07/beginning-writer-mistakes.html. After reading the first one, go back to the main site and read her two codicils.
Nathan Bransford's post on everyone's favorite word. Read the comments! http://nathanbransford.blogspot.com/2008/07/you-tell-me-whats-your-favorite-word.html
Marissa Doyle on the Victorian playboy: http://nineteenteen.blogspot.com/2008/07/nineteenth-century-bad-boys-part-iii.html
Kevin Alexander on finally getting a job (the funniest MFA student ever is... graduated!) http://blog.writersdigest.com/writerslife/And+Then+I+Got+A+Job.aspx
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
In this day & age where we do much of our reading on a computer and now some of us have e-readers, what's there to a physical book? Is a book in any other form still as sweet?
I've been pondering this as I catalog books for a community service project. These books range from "Harold and the Purple Crayon" to Scooby Doo mysteries and upper level books. The feel of a 300-page middle-grade read surprised me.
I have so many memories-- or one giant blurred memory-- of reading books while in elementary school. Just feeling this particular book made me remember the excitement of starting something new, a good book... the feeling that prompted me and many others to write books of our own.
Remembering this is important. I still read quite a bit now, but often it's a means to an end. King Henry IV for summer work. Under the Tuscan Sky to learn about travel writing. Morgaux with an X because I'm bored. All of these are wonderful pieces of literature, but something is lost when I don't just read to read. Reading is its own reward.
Right! Physicality. I'm pretty anti-progress when it comes to technology (i.e., stubborn, old-fashioned, lazy) but honestly, I love the feel of books. I love that you can hold something abstract.
Other people have been blogging about children's books and the physical love of books: Shannon Hale (www.squeetus.com), Nathan Bransford (www.nathanbransford.blogspot.com) and Jessica Faust (www.bookendslitagency.blogspot.com).
Monday, July 14, 2008
My grandfather told me about a great new site for writers and lovers of books. www.Lovewriting.co.uk helps connect authors and books. Although it's primarily for UK readers, it's a great way to see what's jumping on the other side of the pond.
Another friend recommended www.goodreads.com, a site that allows you to connect with books your friends are reading. I love reading books recommended by friends (if I'm not huffy about not finding it first) so this one looks like a keeper.
And for girls who love books, www.readergirlz.com is worth your time. They post reviews, interviews, and encourage teen reading in general. And they've included Innovative as part of their teen links, which means they have great taste.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
INN: What was your inspiration for Good Enough?
PY: I had never written a book before based on my own life because a) I thought my life was boring and b) I really, really hated high school! But when a TV show I was working on got cancelled, I found myself unemployed. I decided to take advantage of the free time to write another novel – I had written a couple YA novels plus one adult novel in earlier years but they weren’t quite “ready” to submit to publishers. This time, I sat down in front of my computer and wondered what to write… and a viola joke popped into my head. I wrote it down. And then I started thinking about all my violin auditions, orchestra rehearsals, and violin lessons during my high school life and how much music means to me. (I currently still play the violin and am a professional freelance musician when I’m between books and TV show jobs.)
So I started writing about an All-State orchestra audition which led to all these stories about my high school life. To my surprise, I discovered I actually never hated high school – all the events that I thought were horrific made me laugh, and as an adult, I could finally see all the positive stuff that happened to me in high school… and learned to laugh at all the embarrassing stuff! So ironically, my high school life inspired Good Enough. They say you should “write what you know” and “write from the heart.” This was the first time I truly wrote about what I knew and I wrote from my heart, and it wasn’t a surprise when Good Enough became the first novel to be accepted for publication. All my previous attempts at novels didn’t succeed because I hadn’t learned yet how to write from an emotional center.
INN: If you were asked to write a book featuring a minor character from Good Enough, who would it be and why?
PY: Ooooh, this is a fun question! My gut reaction is Samuel Kwon because he is so much more uptight and logical than Patti. It’d be fun to see him loosen up and learn to live life… he definitely makes baby steps in that direction, thanks to Patti.
INN: I believe you're a part of the Fusion coalition, a group of Asian/Pacific-American authors writing young adult and middle school fiction. What else can you tell us about Fusion?
PY: FUSION STORIES is a collective of several Asian American children/YA authors who banded together to support each other and other Asian American writers in honor of this year’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (May 2008). It was the brainchild of YA novelist Justina Chen Headley (Girl Overboard) to provide a resource for librarians, educators, parents, and readers of the wonderful variety of Asian American writers out there for children and teenagers.
FUSION STORIES includes the following authors: Cherry Cheva (She’s So Money), Justina Chen Headley (Girl Overboard), Grace Lin (The Year of the Rat), An Na (The Fold), Mitali Perkins (First Daughter: White House Rules), Janet Wong (Minn and Jake’s Almost Terrible Summer), Joyce Lee Wong (Seeing Emily), Lisa Yee (Millicent Min, Girl Genius), David Yoo (Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before), and Paula Yoo (Good Enough). For more information, you can check out our website at http://www.fusionstories.com/
INN: What contemporary authors are you reading right now?
PY: I read ALL THE TIME. Adult books I’ve read recently include Tom Perrotta’s The Abstinence Teacher, Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing In the Rain, and Joshua Ferris’ Then We Came to the End. I just picked up Max Brooks’ World War Z because I’m a huge zombie fan! ☺ As for YA books, I’ve been catching up on some friends’ books, including C. Leigh Purtill’s All About Vee, Michael Reisman’s Simon Bloom, the Gravity Keeper, April Young Fritz’s Praying at the Sweetwater Motel, and Kerry Madden’s Jessie’s Mountain.
Because I also write children’s picture books (my debut was Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story by Lee & Low Books, 2005 and my next book with them is a biography on the actress Anna May Wong, out in 2009), I also keep up with a lot of picture books, too. My favorite authors are also my friends, and I am eagerly looking forward to their new books – Kelly DiPucchio, Lisa Wheeler, Hope Vestergaard, Carolyn Crimi, and Janie Bynum.
INN: How has your love of music impacted your writing?
PY: Music helped me become a better student over the years. Learning how to sit quietly for three straight hours in youth orchestra rehearsals helped me endure really long lectures in high school and college classes! Learning to sight-read music on the spot helped me learn how to think on my feet better in the classroom. And so on… I strongly advocate music education for all children as a way to help them become better learners. As for writing, I would say music helped me specifically in the following ways: as a violinist, you have to be very sensitive and know how to phrase the music in a way that makes sense but also sounds lyrical and pretty. That instinct spilled over in my writing as I read my sentences outloud, gauging the “poetry” and flow of how the words sound.
There’s also something subconscious that happens when I play my violin… it’s hard to explain, but when I have writers’ block, I’ll practice my violin and then afterwards, I can write again! Plus, I tend to write a lot about music anyway… but not all my books are about music or the violin, of course. But what they all share in common is that my characters have a PASSION for something – be it music, sports, science, whatever… the passion I have for music spills over into my writing and I’m interested in writing about characters who feel passionately and strongly about something – or someone – in their lives.
INN: Any advice for teen writers?
PY: Read, read, read! Write, write, write! Add water and stir! Seriously. Read as much as you can, study what you read, and learn from those authors. As for writing, you just have to keep writing. Don’t censor yourself, don’t be afraid to spill your guts on the page. And have a tough skin – be willing to take negative criticism constructively, figure out your voice, figure out what you want to write about, learn how to structure a story where the character is on a journey of discovery, raise the stakes and keep the story compelling and filled with conflict… and be ready for lots of rejection because that’s what you need to become a better writer.
I am so grateful I got rejected a lot because it made me a better writer and I could not have gotten published had I not been rejected first and learned from my mistakes. Also, the rejections also taught me what I needed to stand up for – I didn’t always agree with the rejections and stood up for what I believed DID work, and eventually an editor agreed with me! So you also learn from this business what you should defend in your writing as well. Go for it! ☺
Thank you, Paula!
You can buy Good Enough by clicking http://www.amazon.com/Good-Enough-Paula-Yoo/dp/0060790857/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1203758334&sr=1-1 where it has eight five-star ratings. Visit Paula at http://www.paulayoo.com/!
Travel writing is a new friend of mine. As I mentioned before, I think I read The Best Women's Travel Writing 2007 three or four times this week. As I read and reread, certain themes and aspects of these excellent stories revealed themselves as principles.
Connect me. Every author connected her travels to Bali or Mali or Morocco with a personal, emotional change or experience. No story was simply, "I went to China and this is what I did," but "I went to China and realized my mom is incredible," or "I went to Ecuador and found out I needed to change my life."
Describe me. The descriptions are fantastic. Each story describes the world the traveller experienced with deft language, never getting heavy or boring. Key ingredient to a successful travel story!
Speak to me. Voice is so important. If you don't like the voice of the travel writer, you hate the essay, but somebody else will love it. However, if the travel essay has a weak or nonexistent voice... nobody will love it, ever. It's crucial to have a definitive voice when travel writing.
Change me. There are many different kinds of travel writing. In this anthology, there were stories written by volunteers, honeymooners, young students, senior citizens, cynics, optimists: every travel writer has a different story to tell. Don't discount your travel experience as "not worth writing about" because you were studying, or backpacking, etc.
Take me. All the essays emphasized the necessity of travel, and each writer respects the country that they wrote about. They may criticize an aspect of the foreign culture, but never degrade it.
Respect for someone else's home, however, is a principle for everyday life.
Gabrielle Linnell has been published more than thirty times in magazines such as Cobblestone, FACES, New Moon, ByLine and others. Her list of desired travel destinations is around 26 and growing.
As Kathy over at www.irreverentfreelancer.blogspot.com wrote, you're never in demand more than when you're not available. I should go away more often!
When you only pack three books for five days, always choose anthologies. I brought This is Push and The Best Women's Travel Writing 2007 as well as the excellent Margaux with an X by Ron Koertge. I reread all of them at least once.
Always overpack. This is the first trip I haven't done so and suffered for it. Why is summer so hot?
A fantastic new issue of Innovative is about to spring forth upon you, because I was able to do most of the work beforehand! "Fasten your seatbelts, kids, it's going to be a bumpy night." Oh, Bette Davis and Augie Hwong.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
The book of the month is The Success Principles for Teens if you haven't noticed. Jack Canfield and Kent Healy emphasize the power of visualization and vision boards. Just like a calendar reminds you of what day it is and what you have going on, a vision board reminds you of what you're aiming for.
After reading their book, I re-organized my hitherto boring bulletin board. I have interviews with famous writers on there, pictures of places I want to go, inspiring quotes as well as papers I don't want to lose and my writing goals and ideas. There's also a picture of me with my cousins and an envelope from one of my favorite colleges.
My board keeps me focused, and according to Canfield and Healy, it will help get me to where I want to go. I am a non-crafty person, but even I could do this. What about you? Anybody have incredible bulletin board ideas?
Monday, July 7, 2008
I'm thinking about summer reading. What are the summer's hot books? Anything spectacular that you've found? Classics? Debuts? Books that I've read, am reading or have heard about are...
2007 Women's Best Travel Writing
The Debs by Susan McBride
King Henry IV by... Shakespeare... I think...
Peeps by Scott Westerfeld
Girl Overboard by Aimee Ferris
Carpe Diem by Autumn Cornwell
Viking Warrior by Judson Roberts
Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner
A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle
I'm looking for excellent travel writing books. Recommendations?
Saturday, July 5, 2008
After three years of freelancing, I've succumbed to Freelance Fake Deja Vu Syndrome. This strange neurosis shows itself when I stare at an essay or article and think... have I written this before? Or worse, have I submitted this before? Plagiarism against yourself is awkward. Once you start sending your work out to magazines, how do you keep track of them all?
Whatever system you use, always identify name of submission, name of magazine, name of editor sent to, date submitted and date (expected response.) Other stuff, such as notes from a rejection letter, type of submission or specific addresses/emails, is a good idea.
The Flashcard Way. Do you like 3D, non-computer organization? Invest in 3x5 flashcards and a box to hold them in. This way, you can literally pull out the card when you need to follow-up on a story or article.
Make Me a Table. I used this for about two years and it worked wonderfully. Set up a Microsoft Word document Table, with columns of all the required information and blanks for response dates, payment or editorial notes. The benefit of the blanks is that when you look over your submissions table, you can easily see who hasn't emailed you back.
Write It Down. My current system is on my "Writing Whiteboard" (a Microsoft Word document I have on my desktop that keeps track of all my projects.) I write it like this:
"The Origin of the Alphabet" for Dandy Andy at ABC MAGAZINE submitted 1.1.01. [Received, accepted, published] Fool around with different formats that make the most sense to you.
Even if you're only sending out a poem a month, don't trust your memory! There are one million benefits to keeping track of your submissions, so start or update today.
Gabrielle Linnell enjoys public speaking, reading Mark Haddon and watching The Apartment. Talk about funny writing!
We have done interviews with authors like Mark Peter Hughes, E. Lockhart, Melissa Walker, Steve Kluger (and a bunch more!) as well as posts on selling your work and staying inspired.
Have fun scrolling around and please drop a comment or an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to chat. We're always looking for guest posters, book recommendations and interview possibilities.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
I love emailing with other teen writers (if I didn't, what would I be doing here?) But what breaks my e-heart as I read their questions and suggestions is not their content (which is always good) but their spelling.
Why is this such a big deal? Publishing is a business about words. We string words, make words, invent words, play with words, sell words and buy words. And spelling is as fundamental to good word usage as running is to any sport. Can't run, can't play. Can't spell, can't write.
Now, spelling should never get in the way of a fantastic story; don't stop writing just because "necessity" makes your head spin. But make plans to improve your spelling before you aim for publication. Always use Spell Check and another reader if spelling is a problem.
You can have the greatest idea in the world but if you can't spell, no editor will ever read your stuff. What if Ian McEwan didn't learn how to spell? I wouldn't have just watched the incredible Atonement movie... and realized I missed a huge plot twist when reading the same story...