Fresh from Razorbill! Showcasing the inimitable illustrations of Jillian Tamaki!
Fresh from Razorbill! Showcasing the inimitable illustrations of Jillian Tamaki!
I’m still trying to get over this. Or integrate. <grin>
I have to confess that the business side of writing is not my favourite part. Certainly there are many writers who are more extroverted and enjoy speaking about themselves and their latest book. They do a great service for boosting their own profile; after all, if we can’t get readers interested in picking up the finished book, if we can’t get it read, the project fails. Without readers books are inanimate objects (except for that person who’s made the most wondrous sculptures out of books!). We are writing these books so that they shall be read.
So why this reticence to self-promote, why so uncomfortable about using my person(ality) to foreground a project I believe in and worked very hard at completing?
Part of it is cultural. ~__~ . I don’t know if this is a cheap excuse. But anything that was anywhere near to “bragging”, even “self-promotion”, could be seen as a form of self-aggrandizement, a mark of a weak character. Not noble. Not “classy”. Clearly there are a lot of imbedded problems with this model– I know! But, man, those childhood lessons sear into bone.
Of course I believe in my own novel. If I didn’t I wouldn’t have been able to complete it. But I still have a lingering reservation about sales-pitching my own work. Clearly I must overcome this aversion because after the creative art process of writing, the book published by a publisher definitely enters the public space simultaneously as an art project as well as a product. The product exists in a market. The book is not only something that is read, but it is also something that is bought.
The buying part is important because if you are an artist who is making her living with her writing how well the book sells matters a great deal! I am nowhere near a “comfortable” place in income earnings. I get by each year by hook and by crook (not crookedly!). So in practical terms I should be busting my ass with promo after the book is in my hands. But I bite my lower lip and avert my gaze, hoping that someone else can do this for me….
Well! Tomorrow morning I have a Skype meeting with my publicist about “key message points”! And I will listen carefully and learn some new ways of talking about my art. Because I have moved past the “art-creation” point in the project, and into the region of “business and sales”.
And I’m really pleased with how Darkest Light turned out. I am ~__~. I hope you will be too.
I’m so very excited to share the cover of Darkest Light! Companion book to Half World, the cover and illustrations are being done once again (so lucky!) by the most amazing artist Jillian Tamaki .
I’m still working on finishing the novel but the catalogue comes early and what a nice incentive to see the book cover looking so real after years of working on a project… ~_____~ . Darkest Light is available for pre-order through Amazon. And I also encourage you to order it at your favourite independent local bookstore!
Description of Darkest Light:
The breathtaking follow-up novel to the award-winning Half World
The recently reunited realms of the Flesh, Half World and the Spirit are again at risk—something has been left undone. Gee, adopted as an infant, has been kept ignorant of his troubled past. Now at sixteen, he is a loner both despised and feared by his classmates. Dark feelings, unbidden, slowly grow inside him. Even as he struggles to control them, his past catches up with him and compels him to journey to Half World. Abandoning his adoptive grandmother and the place he has called home, Gee must face what he used to be in order to determine his fate and the fate of the Three Realms. Aided by a surly cat and a troubled newfound friend, Gee must fight the monstrous and the horrific in Half World. Most difficult of all, he must overcome his own propensity for evil.
The nightmarish adventure picks up sixteen years after Melanie’s return in Half World (2009, Puffin). With a new dark hero whose unlikely companions are a heartless cat and a self-destructive Neo Goth girl, Darkest Light is a compelling journey through despair in a desperate search for redemption.
Of note: this is my first novel with a male main character….
Being a professional writer invariably leads to public performances. I actually never thought this through when I started writing and only realized, in horror, that I’d have to read my words aloud in front of people I both knew and didn’t know…. I grew up as an introvert child…. Performing in front of people was something that I never aspired to do nor fantasized about. I thought being a writer meant I could be by myself a lot to write…. <weak grin>
Happily, after many years of reading in public, I’ve come to enjoy the performative nature of the engagement. It still makes me feel very nervous and I have a kind of tizzy when I have to perform new things, but I can often leave the stage feeling satisfied. It may never come easily to you, but developing a professional modality of performance can greatly affect how often you are invited to engagements. Remember, every time you read in a public space you are introducing your work to a potential fan who will go on to buy your books. Performing well can affect sales. If you’re trying to get by on your writing EVERY GIG COUNTS.
Some Tips on Performance:
1) Never go longer than your allotted time.
2) Never go longer than your allotted time.
3) NEVER GO LONGER THAN YOUR ALLOTTED TIME! (Clearly I cannot say this enough. Whenever I’m invited to a group reading there will always be someone, maybe several people, who go over time. Really, people. Get over yourself. Some people say they will just go a couple minutes over time because their story is a little longer than the time allotted. No. You should have chosen something that fit the allotted time. That’s all. Be respectful to the organizers of the event, your peers and your audience. If you use up more than your allotted time it may mean that people performing later in the line-up may not have their share of time/space/audience patience-energy. Audiences grow tired. Don’t be a space hog. If you want people to hear you for longer set up a salon at home and invite your friends who love you to bits and won’t get mad if you go on and on.
4) Select an excerpt or story that performs well on the stage. Some things that work well on paper don’t perform well. If you’re not sure if it performs well ask a writing friend to act as your audience and provide feedback.
5) Be sure you’re not going to go over time because you’ve practiced your reading, as well as the preamble/introduction, aloud, at home, several times, as you timed it against the clock. If it goes over time pare it down so it doesn’t. Easy!
6) A public reading is a performance. Try to inflect some feeling into the reading. A reading is more than just words read aloud; it seeps into a grey area closer to dramatic performance. Bring life to your performance. Imagine that you’re reading a bed-time story to your children. Or, imagine that you’re bringing a film into life through the invocation of your words. You are performing a magic act. Transport them.
7) Thank your hosts. Acknowledge the audience.
8) FOR THE RECORD: I think it’s perfectly acceptable to go over time as an act of political intervention. I.e. you’ve been invited to perform at an event that claims to be inclusive, but you’re the only woman and of colour person in the line-up. I think it’d be totally politically acceptable to HOG UP TIME by reading selectively critical things, etc.
My policy has been to read a little less than allotted time. I kinda feel that it’s better to quit while people still want to hear a little more, rather than hit the point where people are starting to tune you out.
Go knock their socks off!
If you have never had your work published in a professional venue (i.e. magazine not owned by family members, anthologies, newspapers, contest win leading to pro publications, etc.) and you are eager to do so you might like to ask yourself:
Question #1: Have I worked long at developing my craft?
Question #2: Have I had professional critical feedback on the piece I’d like to submit and I’ve re-written it once again (after numerous previous revisions)?
I think it’s really important that you’ve accomplished these two things before submitting. Of course I’m not speaking in absolutes. There are many paths and ways to being a published writer. The path I’ve taken is what I consider “The Tortoise’s Path” of “The Tortoise and the Hare” model. I’ll blog about that path on another day. ~__~
There are a few other questions you may like to consider. Writers write and seek publication for a wide range of reasons. We are complex and complicated creatures and life is never boring even if a great many of us are neurotics. I digress. I would like to caution the writer who is seeking first-time pro publication, however, if her primary drive to be published is ego-driven. I think that before the ego must come craft…. I’m sure there are wildly successful authors whose ego considerations come before their craft. And that’s fine for them. And, perhaps, that’s fine for you. Who knows? I have strong feelings, however, about the art-fullness of work to be made public. If you’re going to do it, do it to the best of your ability. Make it count. Because once it’s out there you cannot take it back.
If you are a gifted young writer, and I met so many gifted and hard-working writers at the VPL Writing and Book Camp this past week, I would encourage you to not be in a terrrible rush to be published (Unless you’re suffering from terminal illness– that would very sad, and rushing would totally make sense.). Maybe you long to make a big literary Splash in the publishing scene. It has happened before, and it will continue to happen in the future. I think this kind of entry into the publishing scene is not without certain stresses and drawbacks that could deeply affect your career and writing development trajectory. Because even after the pro publication our writing continues to change and develop. We dig deeper. We think harder. We continue to grow. This is the lovely and amazing thing about being a writer. We can keep on learning and growing as long as we seek this! If, perhaps, you seek early career publication and it makes a Splash, you’ve set yourself up in a very public way and there will be expectations that you produce something just as splashy the second time around. The Second Book Syndrome can be paralyzing and destructive to your creative process. I wouldn’t wish it upon anybody. I’ve seen this happen to adult writers. I would hate for this to happen to someone in her teens. Not that you might not be up to the challenge. But let me reassure you: it’s okay to take your time. Writers needn’t race toward publication. If the story, the poem, the novel, is well-crafted and a lovely thing, it will find a home. Author Justine Larbalestier has blogged about being published early that may be of interest: http://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/2005/08/13/too-young-to-publish/ I don’t want to discourage you if you’re young and ambitious. It’s great to have goals and dreams. I know sometimes there feels like a great urgency to be “a real writer” (i.e. published. I don’t know if I think that only published writers are “real writers” but that’s another essay)…. I swear. There’s lots of time. Read and read and read. Write, rewrite, ask questions, find someone to professionally critique your work, rewrite. Rewrite some more.
Now, if you’ve answered a resounding, “Yes!” to question #1, I would suggest that you go do research at your largest library and find out what kinds of magazines and journals are being published locally/regionally. Of course you can also look online for these journals as well as looking for online publications. You need to seek out venues that would be a suitable place for your stories/poems. If you’ve written a Pro-Choice poem and submit it to a Roman Catholic magazine it’s not going to be accepted. You need to research the market and submit to likely places. Read a wide variety of journals and magazines and look for a publication that publishes work similar to yours. There’s also a lot of helpful pro tips online if you look around. Do tons of research!
Contests are also a place to submit your work. If the contest is asking for a submission fee or processing fee that doesn’t differ so much from the prize I would advise you not to participate. For instance, if they ask you to pay $25 and the prize is $500 I would consider it “not worth it”. A true contest should not have you paying anything at all. Often a magazine will have a contest and with the processing fee you receive a year’s subscription of the magazine. If it’s a magazine you like and it publishes work similar to yours and you’re interested in the content then I don’t think it’s a rip-off.
Beware of online contests and publications. There’s not a great deal of quality control there yet. You may want to seek out professional advice before submitting to venues you’re unfamiliar with. Do research. Ask around.
Question #2: Where do I go for professional critical feedback? If you live in a major city it is very likely that the central libary or university(ies) have a Writer-in-Residency Program. The Writer-in-Residence is hired by the library/university/etc. to be available to the writing public to offer professional feedback/critiques. I’ve served in four residencies and not so many younger writers were coming in to access the services. There’s no age limit. Younger writers should feel free to book an appointment to receive feedback on their writing. You needn’t worry about your work “not being good enough”, because the whole point of the writer-in-residence is to provide feedback to writers who are working on a project, so they can strengthen it. I would also add, however, that some writers-in-residence may be more helpful than others. This is true of editors. If you have a less-than-helpful interaction with a writer-in-residence or editor it may be that they weren’t the right one for your kind of work. Please don’t despair. Find someone else. Maybe there’s a school teacher who is interested in writing, is a writer herself. Maybe there’re writing workshops through Continuing Education. Find places where you can receive critical feedback so you can further polish and develop your work. Family and friends who encourage us is very important to keep us going, but they may not be the best people to critically evaluate your work. The work being critiqued may not feel so pleasant, but it’s a necessary part of revisions.
There are many paths to becoming a published writers and you will find your way somehow! Ganbare! And believe! ~__~
I have been so busy I have not posted on my Sundays. But, je ne me regrette pas, because tomorrow– well, today, in fact, daughter and I leave for France! We are “picking up” my mum along the way (via airplane/airport) and will be spending the next two weeks on the road! Tres bien! It is one of my sister’s birthday and she’s arranged for a large gathering of friends and family in order to celebrate. It’s going to be loud, exciting, fractious, hilarious, dramatic…. We are not a quiet family. Nope.
I hope to post On-the-road updates now and then. I’m not entirely sure that our accomodations have internet connection. This detail wasn’t included on their websites. Lordy. I’m kinda addicted to email. I guess time off-line is a Good Thing. But it will take me a little while to acclimatize! I guess I could always write the entries on laptop and then post on a later date.
The past few weeks I`ve been catching up on writing, rewriting, editing and correspondence. Also had the most fabulous “shop talk” meeting with my agent. “Shop talk” is, for me, discussions of the business side of writing. My agent knows a lot about this of course and it’s good to touch base to hear where she’s at, where I’m at, and what kind of goals can be placed upon the horizon in the most potentially fruitful of ways. I find it so very important to me to work with an agent I can talk with– an agent who has the time to sit down and answer questions, ask questions, and share information. Not all agents do this. I suppose not all writers want this kind of author/agent relationship? Some agents don’t like to be asked questions…. They want to be left alone with your manuscript, the author to go back to being creative, and the agent will be happy to hear from you once the next manuscript is completed. The important thing is to find an agent with whom you can work compatibly.
I`ll be meeting my French editor of Baam! in Paris! Half World was translated and released in 2010 as Entremonde. It`s so neat and odd to have one`s book translated into a language one does not know. The translation is a book near to what you wrote, but the translator (in this case, Marie de Premonville!) is the one who literally wrote this French version! I can`t read it to comprehend it. I can sound out the more simple words, and spot a noun here, a verb there, but there is no comprehension other than what I know already of my own English version. A translation is a variation of the original, because there is never an equal and exact translation from one language into another. I love variations… (except in my morning coffee!). Very excited to meet book people from France! Yay!
Not much time left for sleeps. So adieu mes amis! (Daughter hates my French accent. Or, my English accent atop my atrocious French. It is likely I will embarrass her a Great Deal. Just as my mother will embarrass me. Oh, the legacies! I tell you!)
I’ll try to post while on the road!
It’s difficult to comprehend fully, but I’ve been a writer for over twenty years. Unbelievable! Weird! By hook and by crook I’ve somehow managed to live off my writerly income, but this has been only just manageable because my ex-husband and I share our resources to raise the children and maintain family. I know I could not have stuck to my writer’s life as I have lived it as the primary care-giver single mom.
I don’t like to think of my writing as business and don’t do it naturally— this is partly a result of the idea of separating art (i.e. “high art”) from the commercial. Braid into this strand the political and it’s even more difficult to frame writing as business. Every profession will have members who think of themselves as the best, or the most “pure” (?), the most evolved, etc. In the great wash of life what people think of you and what you do does not truly matter. However, sometimes we can’t help feeling doubts and question what we do, how we do it. We can’t help these feelings and thoughts, because we are, aside from V.S. Naipaul <rolling eyes>, feeling and thinking social creatures.
If writing is the sole means of your income to not think of the business side of things is selectively naive and counter-productive. To think and plan on how to increase your income with your art so you can continue to do the art you love to do is not an evil thing. I have heard people in the literary arts and visual arts talk to each other about how so-and-so has “sold out” or “went commercial” and wasn’t “truly an artist anymore”. My first question I ask is who is it that deems this so? Are they coming from a place where income is a less pressing concern? I.e. do they have family money to fall back upon so they needn’t fear aging in poverty with no medical plan? And, finally, why must we cling to the weird Romantic idea(l) that artists must suffer for their art?I want to live and eat well. It is everyone’s right.
Art is also labour. I think of the writing I do as art but also as a serious (and joyous) labour. And as a worker I expect to be paid. I’ve been working hard at writing for many years. As I become better at this labour and art form I want a raise! Hahahahahahahahaaaa!
Meeting with my agent’s partners in Toronto has shifted something for me in how I think of my writing. I had been always placing the ideals (subjective) of art and politics in the foreground, but I think I need to balance the field with an equal amount of thinking and energy around elements of business.
One of the agents said that the average reading level was Grade 10. My friend said, That high? Instead of feeling like the writer must come down from her esteemed standards of excellence which involves a large vocabulary, and woeing and wailing that literacy has fallen so low, it can be seen as an opportunity to reexamine the author’s expectations of audience. There are also issues of class. Does your choice of vocabulary, construction and narrative only speak to a smaller specific audience or does it have the capacity to reach a wider and diverse audience? Who do you want to reach? Who do you want to have read your book? Do you want to make more money? To want to make more money is not, in itself, a bad thing.
The same agent said that books are luxury items. Most people cannot afford to buy books in the same way they would spend money on apples or bananas. True, I thought. I love libraries and frequent them and borrow books. But as a writer I earn money when people buy my books.
I don’t think it’s one or the other– we’re either true to our political beliefs and artistic ideals or we “go commercial” and write more mainstream. I like to think that it’s possible to combine the best of all wor(l)ds and an artful writer can pull this off! Why not? If you write it into being, you’ve written it into being!
God, I love this work!
WisCon 35 concluded—what a lovely weekend meeting up with friends from previous Cons, making new friends, and talking, laughing! Nisi Shawl gave a lovely GOH speech and I loved how she situated the idea of genius as not something individual and anomalous, but arising from and because of community, and that it is possible for all to shine. The feminist contingency from Japan, including Mari Kotani and Madame Robot had an excellent panel detailing their feminist domination of Tokon 10 last year in Japan. I loved the discussions that were generated by the Magic Realism and Diaspora panel moderated by Mary Anne Moharanj with Nisi Shawl, Sheree Renée Thomas, Ibi Aanu Zoboi, and yours truly. coffeeandink has shared her notes from that panel on her livejournal if you want to take a look. The loveliest conversations are held during lunch and dinner– reestablishing connections and proposing new projects. Building a wider lattice of communities. I’m so lucky to have been able to attend!
Intensive socializing, panels and a reading. Sometimes the introvert side took over, over-riding the professional face, sending me upstairs to pancake flat atop my bed. And what a lovely bed it was!
I must confess— I don’t have cable TV at home so when I’m on work trips and stay in hotels I am mesmerized by what is on there! Particularly paid-for programming/advertising. This time, of particular note, was the special cantaloupe skin cream that that model uses…. Whoa—the complete lack of any kind of scientific info and reliance only upon the model’s own face and then shots of the special French doctor and the story of him “discovering” the magic melons follows such a fairy tale narrative. Holy smokes, I think. Why not magic beans? Why not the Japanese magic pot? It’s brilliant in its simplicity and effectiveness. And frightening. People want to follow the cult of “anti-aging” and “youth” so very much. I love aging faces! I love the distinct lines, the imprint of experience that is etched into skin. I would stare at older people if staring wasn’t considered rude. (The special melon story is fascinating, but I still would opt for the Spanish snail slime cream they were advertising in Leiden….)
I quickly flipped through the numerous “reality” shows figuring young people partying and being unpleasant/drunk because I find them so very painful to behold. Then I was snagged by an “exposé”-type program that combined catching pedophiles with reality TV on hidden camera…. This was sick on multiple levels. I think it’s a good thing, of course, to catch would-be pedophiles who prey on young people online. But to record it on camera and air it on television is another matter altogether. We watch the pedophile enter the house where he’d been directed to go to by the “bait youth/child” and witness him being berated by the “host” of the program. This is truly disturbing as it situates the viewer as a weird voyeur. I think the viewer is meant to feel some kind of moral righteousness as the would-be pedophile is caught and also a sense of justice and power and superiority as we witness the very public humiliation of the man (I didn’t see any women in the program). The different men frequently claimed they had made a mistake. And that they would never do it again, etc. They were very compliant with their guilt, and several of the men mistakenly thought that the “host” of the program was actually the father of the child/youth he had preyed upon online. What the would-be predator doesn’t know is that there are an enormous number of police officers waiting for him outside. He is allowed to leave the house, thinking he has gotten away, when the spotlights are lit and he is roughly made to lie upon his stomach, told he is under arrest and handcuffed and taken away.
What are we when we observe this spectacle? What are we if we gain some kind of satisfaction from it? There is a kind of displaced mob-justice element, here, that should not be encouraged in our species.
Of course I find the idea of pedophiles and predators disgusting and reprehensible, but I don’t think that this means that they ought to be treated the way they are on the television program. I can understand police officers doing this as a part of their work. I suppose some people would say that such shows, if viewed by predators, could serve as deterrent as he may fear being caught is much the same way. And that this is reason enough for this program to continue. But at what cost for those who are not predators—a far larger number of people? That this is televised and can be viewed as a “form of entertainment” troubles me so very much. It can only sicken our spirit…. But I don’t want to end on appalling television programs!
I’ve written about being a writer and mother on this blog and though I’ve been doing these work trips for some time it’s still lovely to get away from the home front, have ROOM SERVICE and lie in bed whilst eating a clubhouse sandwich!!!! Hahahahahaaaa! Because I was getting into that space of being soooo sick of wondering what I’d make for dinner. Holy shit….
Rumours and buzz: Sharyn November, my editor at Viking, told me that the next new thing is supposed to be mermaids…. I can only hope it will be the man-eating variety rather than the wanna-marry-a-man kind. <weak grin> . I won’t be holding my breath. Tomorrow meetings with my agency and publisher. Finish an editorial. Catch up on emails, business, and back into a groove of writing.
In a professional way, of course. (Just like I admire and respect librarians!)
This year I am so lucky as to have been introduced to an accountant who not only understands what kind of expenses/interactions/etc. that a writer is likely to financially experience, but, is also a writer himself! An accountant poet!!! This means that he actually knows how to deal with my receipts, in the best possible ways. He understands the workings of travel, research, business meetings, social expenses, etc. because he has experienced them also.
I mean after all these years I don’t know what to do with all of my receipts! My previous accountants, who were solid people, didn’t really understand the ins and outs of writerly business. My current accountant, to whom I was directed to by a writer friend, can advise me on how to configure my work trips in a more business-minded way. Practical advice that is greatly appreciated.
It’s a blessed relief to feel like one’s business side of writing is in good hands. I don’t like to think of my writing practice as “a business”, but I’m required to file my income taxes and I want to feel confident that I’m getting the best return that I can. And, there is also a big part of this writing profession that is also about business. For me to pretend it isn’t does me no good whatsoever. Surely it’s important to maintain professionalism not only around ideas of craft and style, but also the business side of the equation. I hadn’t realized my own insecurities around the accounting side of the business until I experienced such relief in having been accounted for by an accountant who really knew what kind of work I did.
Some of my friends file their own income tax; they are so talented! They say that this way they know exactly what is being filed, and they can be sure that everything is handled right– we can’t necessarily know that the accountant has done this as you would have liked/preferred/wanted. This is true. My friend says that there is software that guides you through the entire process and it’s not difficult.
I hate working with numbers so much (aside from pondering pi and wondering why multiplying the 9 times table you end up with two-digit numbers, if added together, turn up being 9… i.e. 18, 27, 36, 45, etc.) that I would far prefer paying someone to do it for me.
I’m gleefully considering a MacBook! Or an ice cream maker (I’ve always wanted an ice cream maker so that I can make my own matcha ice cream….). Maybe I can get BOTH!!! Hahahahahaaa!
A MacBook can definitely be filed as a Capital Purchase. Accounting word of the day (wroooaaaaar clap clap clap!)! What about an ice cream maker?
My accountant would know!