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Thursday, March 31, 2011
You've got My Style!
- Create your character profiles.
- Write your outline.
- Create a flow chart to mark the arc of the story.
- Write your story.
- Make sure you have 'X' percentage of dialog, etc...
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Highlights Foundation: An Interview with Alison Green Myers
Alison: The Highlights Foundation believes that children deserve excellent stories. These stories start in the minds of our authors and illustrators. We give our guests a place to shape their stories, to improve upon them, to seek guidance from the best, and to connect with others who share the same passion.
WOW: I'm sure all children's writers are currently drooling over that description. Your mission sounds absolutely fantastic! How does it differ from Highlights for Children magazine?
Alison: The Highlights Foundation is a separate entity from Highlights Inc. We are a non-profit, and as such, we have many supporters of our mission. Highlights Inc. has been very generous with the Foundation’s needs. Our executive director, Kent L. Brown Jr., is a descendant of the founders of Highlights for Children, Garry and Caroline Myers. Kent worked his way to editor-in-chief of the magazine and then created Boyds Mills Press publishing house, along with its subsidiaries. As a prominent figure in the industry, Kent saw a need. Now as editor, chief emeritus, and publisher at large, Kent is able to dedicate his time to the causes of the Foundation.
WOW: Thank you for clearing that up. What are Founders Workshops? What topics do they cover? Where are they located?
Alison: The Founders Workshops are located at the homeplace of the founders of Highlights for Children, Garry and Caroline Myers, in the picturesque mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania. We find the publishing industry’s best writers, editors, and illustrators to teach Founders’ Workshops and only those who are proven mentors, willing and able to help writers and illustrators meet their goals. Our workshops range from weekend retreats about such things as establishing meaningful conflicts to week long workshops on topics like writing your first novel. We take special pleasure in fussing over our guests by offering gourmet food and cozy cabins (pictured above) for relaxation during—and after—a day of learning and writing.
WOW: Gourmet food and writing! You can't get much better than that. How do you find a schedule of the workshops and sign up to attend?
Alison: The best place to find information about our offerings is on our website, www.highlightsfoundation.org. You can also contact Jo Lloyd at the Highlights Foundation. She'd be happy to send you a brochure with details about our Founders Workshops and our annual Writers Workshop at the Chautauqua Institute. Just call her at 570-253-1080.
We are also excited about our Founders Facebook page, where we promote our offerings, give writing tips from our faculty, and share highlights of workshops and events that take place at the homeplace. You can link to our Facebook page from the URL above.
WOW: Sounds easy! Who teaches these workshops?
Alison: Our faculty is varied: editors, authors, illustrators, and professors. The one common thread among them is that they are the best in the business. Who wouldn't feel like sitting down to an intimate dinner of eight with Jane Yolen to discuss picture books? Or Carolyn Yoder, as she shares the ins and outs of historical fiction research?
We adore our faculty because they understand and support our mission. They work tirelessly, providing tons of encouragement and insight into the field of children's book publishing. They grasp that our workshops are kept small, so a meaningful bond can be formed between participants and faculty, resulting in great conversation and more importantly, a unique environment for success.
WOW: Tell us about the new facility you are building for larger gatherings.
Alison: The Barn at Boyds Mills (pictured to the right) is our newest project out at the homestead. And although it has modern luxuries, it is hauntingly connected to its real roots. The facility is actually in the footprint of the farm's original barn. Surrounding the native blue stone patio is the remaining foundation of the original barn. The beams were recovered from southeast Pennsylvania, the lumber from the acres around the homeplace, and stone and boulders from northeast Pennsylvania--all joining together to make a one of a kind gathering place for our guests.
WOW: This all sounds great and beautiful. But you know, writers are often broke! You mentioned to me that Highlights Foundation offers scholarships. What are the scholarships for?
Alison: The scholarships and grants we offer are to offset the cost of our workshops. In today's climate, giving yourself a week or weekend away to indulge in your own passions may seem unrealistic. We understand; and since we are a non-profit, we take all collected tuitions and put the monies back into our workshops and scholarship fund.
Some faculty members have also established scholarships in their own name for our Chautauqua workshop. Chautauqua is such a magical place; it is very telling that our faculty would wish to make contributions in this way. In addition to these gifts from our faculty, they are also a part of a very lively auction at Chautauqua, where 100% of the proceeds go into the general scholarship fund. There are signed prints and books. Authors and editors auction off critiques, school visits, and retreats. The hottest items are always Joy Cowley's hand knitted shawls and Eileen Spinelli's motivational cookies. The award winning poet sends cookies and handwritten notes of encouragement throughout the year to the highest bidder. I always try for that one!
WOW: Motivational cookies--what a great idea! Thanks for the information on funding. How do writers apply?
Alison: We have a link on our website for scholarships. Jo Lloyd is instrumental in finding grants and scholarships to meet the needs of our guests. It usually just takes one call to Jo, and you are pointed in the right direction.
I should also mention a few things specific to educators. We have many educators that use Funds for Teachers and other teacher based grants at both Chautauqua and our Founders Workshops. It is also encouraging that many school districts pay a portion or all of the tuition cost, as long as teachers opt to take the workshops for college credit.
We offer continuing education credits through Chapman University. We are also working towards our professional learning accreditation with the department of education. If anyone wants to know more about our CECs, please e-mail me directly at alisongreenmyers (at) yahoo.com.
WOW: Those are fantastic opportunities for teachers. Anything else you'd like to share about the Foundation?
Alison: I have a great deal of respect for Kent and the unique offerings he has set up with the Foundation. He brings authors, illustrators, and educators together in such a meaningful way. Each guest of our workshops, each faculty member, and our staff know that books provide something magical and tangible for children. The Foundation’s family of writers understands the power that words have and go to great lengths to make each written experience authentic for our children. Adults with such respect for children deserve a place to improve upon their craft and create. The Highlights Foundation provides just that--a place for folks to gather and immerse themselves in the best that this market has to offer.
WOW: Thank you so much, Alison, for sharing the Highlights Foundation with us today. Muffin readers, if you are interested in their programs or any of the information Alison talked about today, please check out their website at http://www.highlightsfoundation.org.
interview conducted by Margo L. Dill; http://margodill.com/blog/
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Alice O'Brien: Fall 2010 Flash Fiction Runner-Up
Alice: “Easter Treasure” is the first short story I’ve composed, and I did very little revision. Typically, my work is very descriptive. In fact, I attended the writing workshop I mentioned earlier because I was trying to improve the storytelling aspects of my writing and reign in my descriptive style. The particulars of Jacob’s character came to me fully developed, which is typical of how my mind conjures characters when I’m writing. The hardest part about this piece was writing in a five-year-old voice.
Alice: A workshop attendee approached me and suggested I enter “Easter Treasure” in a flash fiction contest. As a novelist, I wasn’t familiar with the genre but fell in love with it when I read past entries on the WOW! website. I sent the short along to my critique partner who specializes in short stories, and she encouraged me to submit it. I’m glad I did!
Alice: I’m currently seeking representation for ROOTS AT RIVER FARM, a 53,000-word middle grade novel. For six years, 12-year-old Michele Ryan has wanted one thing: to find her father. And it seems like she’ll get her wish in the spring of 1969 when Mama moves the family to River Farm in the Yankee north. But when Mama gets sick and a world of carefully crafted secrets begins to unravel, Michele tries to make sense of her world. She discovers family history carved into wood and strangled by ancient bittersweet vines…a lady made of shadows…memories of her father that wash through her like lemonade on a hot day…a root cellar locking up tragedy…and an always-barefoot neighbor with so much old and young mixed up in her, it’s hard to tell which she is. Set in small town Massachusetts during the tumultuous summer of love, Michele Ryan discovers that there is a lot more to family, love, hope, and even despair than she ever dreamed. Michele’s path of discovery reveals that every place has a purpose. Sometimes, it’s simply to bring us home. To ourselves. To each other.
Alice: For me, there is a profound difference between traveling and being a tourist. As a traveler, I aim to fully embed myself in the culture, language, and space of the city I visit. I eat where locals eat, move as locals do. This has often landed me on the back of a donkey negotiating some treacherous terrain, but it forced me to get out of my comfort zone and adapt my lens. I learn other languages, gestural modes of communication, and I pay closer attention to how my cultural biases frame my experiences.
I’ve spent entire days sitting in Italian piazzas watching passionate lovers, eager tourists, and bouncing children--how they speak, touch, communicate, interact with their environment. Listening to the hum of traders in a North African outdoor market is more like music when you don’t know the language. And the smells, tastes, feel of life in a foreign country is a beautiful assault on the senses. I think my experiences traveling the world help me to develop characters that are fully formed, realistic. They have real human problems, dreams, demands of a daily life—and they have a story. I hope my travels make my characters more colorful, more worth meeting.
WOW: I think I would love to do some traveling with you. Your approach and attitude are amazing! Do you have a writing routine? When do you do your best writing?
Monday, March 28, 2011
Spring Forward!: Five Writing Exercises to Season The Poetic Muse
by Melanie Faith
• Pairing diametric opposites is often useful in amping up the thematic tension in a poem. Write a list of five or ten opposite pairings. Perhaps Republicans vs. Democrats, teacher vs. students, parent vs. teen, angel vs. demon, passive vs. aggressive, or even more abstract opposites, such as red vs. blue or square vs. circle. Draft a poem where two of the opposites have an argument with each other. By the end of the poem, there should be enough context clues to let the reader know who “wins” and why.
• Write a poem in which you begin with one phrase or image and then circle back to that image or phrase by the end of the poem. It is important to note that the reader’s understanding of the opening phrase or image must be deeper after the insights of the middle of the poem.
• Free-write a new poem in which two characters know each other intimately in one social setting and are thrown for a loop when experiencing each other in new surroundings. It might, for instance, be two divorced partners at a child’s school play or two best friends who learn something about each other while playing board games or seeing each other at the gym rather than at the local coffeehouse.
• Study the final image of a poem draft. Does that image contribute to a deeper meaning in the poem? If not, it’s possible that your poem would be better served with another final symbol or image. Frequently, poets write past the most resonant symbol. Look in the middle of the poem and compare the meaning of an image found there with one placed at or near the ending. Try to invert the order of these images, to see which makes a stronger ending. If there aren’t any strong imagers to bring to the end of the poem, draft a new ending. I’ve heard it said that a good poem should be like a suspense movie haunting-- the experience resonates meaning, questions, and thought long after an initial appearance.
• We’ve all experienced awkwardness, and probably plenty more than we’d ever care to repeat. Pen a poem in which the speaker appears calm and confident externally and yet inside, the speaker is struggling with either his or her own awkwardness or the awkward behavior of another person. What is being said (or, more likely, not said) between the characters?
These and a myriad other tips and poetic exercises will be presented to get your pens moving as part of WOW! Women on Writing's online class Spring Forward!, starting on April 8 and currently accepting sign-ups.
Her current poetry chapbook, Bright, Burning Fuse, was published by Etched Press (www.etchedpress.com) in Dec. 2008. She has been a small town journalist, an ESL classroom teacher for international students, and (currently) a literature and writing tutor at a private college prep high school. She has enjoyed teaching poetry and essay writing classes for WOW! for two years.
Once again, Melanie's interactive workshop Spring Forward! starts on Wednesday, April 8th. The class is limited to 10 students, so make sure you reserve your spot today. Click here to sign up now!
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Narrowing Your Story
Currently, I'm working on a book proposal. It is an idea I've been focused on for a while and involves a high school friend I reconnected with a couple years ago. My friend doesn't know much about publishing or book proposals, so I'm putting it together. As we've bantered about the book, the concept has fleshed out. I'm confident we have a book.
During the important stage of putting the book idea to paper, I started exchanging e-mails with a friend with dozens of successful book proposals under her belt. She is graciously helping me put together the proposal. (I've done proposals before, but they have yet to risen to the level of her successes.)
I'm so glad I consulted with her.
Since we spent so much time considering the book, we had accumulated too much idea. The book had become unwieldy. In fact, according to my friend, we had two books on our hands.
Try to succinctly explain your book idea to someone really helps solidify your idea. The laser focus you can bring while giving someone the bare bones of your proposal can help form the idea, while also giving new energy to the project.
My friend was able to help me tease out the important bits of the project and left me with an enthusiasm to bring the proposal to fruition.
Do you have anyone you can turn to and explain a book idea? If so, I highly recommend starting the conversation.
If you are concerned about your idea being stolen, write it down on a piece of paper, date it and mail it to yourself. Keep the envelope sealed. Just in case you need to prove when you came up with the idea, the postmark serves as your proof system.
As for the superstitions, I'm not sure how to hold them at bay. Any ideas?
Saturday, March 26, 2011
The 'Challenging' Month of April
If you’re looking for a way to develop or sharpen your poetry or scriptwriting skills, check out a couple of writing challenges happening in April.
First up is the Poetic Asides PAD (Poem-A-Day) Challenge. Created by Writer’sMarket.com editor Robert Lee Brewer, the goal is to write a poem each day; using the daily prompt provided by Brewer is optional. The submission deadline is May 5, 2011, and any received after this time will be disqualified. Poems should either be submitted either in the body of the e-mail or as a .txt or .doc file. Out of all the entries, Brewer will choose a ‘Top 50’ of the month. You don’t need to register and participation is free. Full guidelines can be found at the Poetic Asides blog.
Then there’s Script Frenzy, sister to November’s National Novel Writing Month Challenge. Participants write a script (or multiple scripts) of at least 100 pages total, individually or with a partner. Just about anything can be written: screenplays, stage plays, TV shows, short films, comic book and graphic novel scripts, adaptations of novels. There are lots of resources for Frenzy participants to use, including how-to guides, inspiring interviews, forums and a neat Plot Machine if you need some help coming up with a script idea. You must register, but there’s no fee to participate. Everyone who reaches the 100-page goal receives a Script Frenzy Winner's Certificate and web icon. I’ll be joining the over 10,000 (so far) in this year’s Frenzy myself. Go to the Script Frenzy site for more details.
Think you’re up for the challenges? Check one or both out, sign up--and get to writing!
Friday, March 25, 2011
Friday Speak Out!: A Woman Who Writes Is a Working Woman, Guest Post by Stephanie Romero
by Stephanie Romero
Perhaps I am dating myself but do you remember an old commercial from years ago that went something like this, “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan. And never, ever let you forget you’re a man ‘cause I’m a woman.”
The whole point of this commercial was that as a woman she could do it all. It’s an empowering feeling but is it realistic?
As a writer one of the things that I have faced is the misconception that I have nothing but time on my hands. We tend to respect professions that require working in an office or another type of setting. But for those of us who work from home as a writer, well, it sounds a little too “relaxed.”
Writers must surely have time for naps and watching “Oprah,” right? I mean, after all, this isn’t really a true “profession,” is it? I have learned that it’s not easy to get others to take my line of work seriously.
In fact, at times I have found it difficult to get others to respect my work time. There have been many assumptions made that flexibility as a writer allows me to do whatever I like.
Working from home as a writer actually requires a great deal of dedication and discipline. I can’t bring home the bacon AND fry it up in a pan all of the time because quite honestly, sometimes I am swamped with work.
It could be that I have deadlines to meet or I have so much within that I have no choice but to let it all out through my writing. Writing is a profession and it deserves respect. We may not be able to convince others of this but I still believe we can walk with our heads held high and proudly declare that we are a working woman, a woman who writes.
* * *
http://www.families.com/hizchozen/), editor/writer for the independent parties’ site at Bella Online – The Voice of Women (http://www.bellaonline.com/site/independentparties), Milwaukee Marriage Advice Examiner (http://www.examiner.com/marriage-advice-in-milwaukee/stephanie-romero) and the author/instructor for an online course, “Recovery from Abuse” (http://vu.ksurf.net/catalog/5824.html). In her spare time she works on her personal blog (http://stephaniesromero.blogspot.com/) and encourages women to live their dream (http://stephanieromero.wordpress.com/).
Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Do Your Homework Before Self-Publishing
Since that day, I've been investigating publishing options, including self-publishing. After talking with writing friends who have pursued this route, I've learned several valuable lessons about entering the publishing market:
- Investigate the competition. What sets your proposed deal apart from what's presently available in the market? How many books are already printed on this topic? How recently were they published? Once you know these answers, you can strategize the best ways to set up your book. Can you add infographics? Photographs? Sidebars? Think beyond the printed word and you will be one step ahead of your competition.
- Hire the best of the best. Once the book is written and edited, you should plan to hire a professional editor to give the script a once-over. A writer has an intimate working relationship with her script and all too often, you tend to overlook even the simplest of mistakes. Better to hire a professional than to print a book filled with glaring mistakes.
- Look professional. Your book needs to look professionally printed, and this begins with the outside package: the cover. Design a book cover that draws attention and actually fits the book. (How many times have you looked at a book cover and wondered if the author threw together a graphic?) Also don't forget that your book needs an ISBN number. Contact ISBN.org for information. You may want testimonials or positive reviews for the book jacket. Consider who you can ask for a review. What sets their opinion apart from others?
- Check on the inside. Not only does the cover need to draw attention, but the inside of the book needs to be reader-friendly. Text shouldn't run too close to the binding. Margins need to be precise so the page layout doesn't look crowded.
- Investigate publishing options. So many options exist today, so make sure you thoroughly investigate publishing options and costs. The least expensive option isn't always the best option, but don't get carried away with option overload either. Does your book need all the bells and whistles offered? Or can it it survive - and SELL - with the KISS method?
- Establish a marketing plan. Authors should be considering a market plan from the beginning. I've been working on the platform for my book at the same time I've been writing. I've remained open to options and ideas from my research subjects. Marketing must begin before the book prints. Otherwise, how will you sell books?
I'm still working on publishing options, but since I've done my homework, I feel comfortable about the possibility of heading down the self-publishing route.
Have you done your homework? What options have you considered for publishing your work?
by LuAnn Schindler. Read more of LuAnn's work at Writing on the Wall.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Finding My Inner Author: Preparing for the Tom Bird Retreat Week 3
Feeling Scattered? Pull Yourself Together with Journaling
by Linda M. Rhinehart Neas
Many women find themselves scattered in every direction. Journaling with the use of a wellness wheel aids in bringing back balance. I have studied many forms and designed a wheel, which I use in the journaling workshop that I teach.
The nine aspects of wellness (physical, emotional, spiritual, environmental, vocational, economic, cultural, intellectual and social) are all critical to a healthy mind, body, and spirit. When they are in balance, then the “center” in which we find Self, Family, Community, and World is also balanced. The use of a starburst reminds participants in the workshop that, when we come to center, our inner Light shines brightly. Balancing the aspects of our life helps us to illuminate our relationships with those closest to us (Family), those around us (Community), and those beyond us (World).
Using a wellness wheel is not unusual or new. Many indigenous peoples hold the wheel, circle, and spiral as sacred. The wheel, circle or spiral explained everything from the change of the seasons to the cycle of birth to death. Using a wheel for wellness helps us to understand how all aspects of life connect to and influence each other.
In addition, being able to see that the mind, body and spirit are intricately interconnected allows for balance. Too often, we are stuck obsessing about our physical bodies, totally neglecting our minds and spirit. Is it any wonder that we feel ill, or stressed all the time?
By mindfully journaling on a specific aspect, we are able to discern issues that are plaguing us; recall incidents that fill us with emotion; and discover new insight into situations. In the workshops, participants use various readings, quotes, and artwork to help inspire their writing on each aspect.
For instance, quotes like, “And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair,” by the poet, Kahlil Gibran can inspire discussion on how we view our bodies, especially our hair (often called a woman’s crowning glory) and our feet. Think of all the damage done to woman through the image of Cinderella’s stepsisters trying on the glass slipper. Women with big feet always feel self-conscious. Subsequently, we might never think that our fears, stresses, misconceptions or illnesses relate to something as simple as how we feel in our own skins.
Journal writing is rewarding for other reasons, also. Often, at the end of the workshop, participants find they have the workings of a memoir or have the beginnings of short stories and poems. The ability to focus on our selves, something women have a difficult time doing, allows us to uncover the glorious beings that linger within us all.
Thoreau wrote, “Good for the body is the work of the body, good for the soul the work of the soul, and good for either the work of the other.” Journaling is good for mind, body and soul.
Her first complete book of poems, Winter of the Soul, was published in February 2008. Gogo’s Dream: Discovering Swaziland, a collection of poems dedicated to those who work to aid the peoples of Swaziland was published this year. All proceeds from the sale of Gogo’s Dream go directly to Possible Dreams International.
Linda is also a WOW! Women on Writing Classroom instructor. Her interactive workshop JOURNALING FOR HOLISTIC WELLNESS starts Monday, April 4th. This class is limited to 10 students, so make sure you reserve your spot today. Click here to sign up now!
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Interview with Lisa Daly - 2nd place winner in Fall 2010 Flash Fiction Contest
Lisa's first short story, "Road to Dreamland," appeared in the November 2009 issue of Kansas City Voices magazine.
And the winners are...
Kristina is also sending an autographed copy of Letters from Home to one of our Surprises bloggers. And the winner is...Mason Canyon who wrote at Thoughts in Progress about her favorite surprise: envelopes of books delivered to her mailbox. (In this post.)
Thanks to everyone who entered and may next time be your turn to win! Why don't you enter to win The Literary Ladies Guide to the Writing Life on our latest WOW Blog Tour?
26-Year-Old Amanda Hocking is Making a Million Dollars a Year Publishing Her Own Books to Kindle
Amanda Hocking tried to go the traditional publishing route for eight years but received countless rejections. She never thought of self-publishing as a viable option.
"Everything I'd heard about self-publishing is that is was impossible to make a living, reach readers, or produce a quality product. But last year, I heard about how some others like Joe Konrath and Karen McQuestion are doing well with ebooks. So I thought I had nothing to lose."
So how did she sell so many books? She worked it via social networking, of course!
"I didn't really have a strategy. I think one of the advantages I have is that stuff considered marketing is stuff that I do a lot anyway. I've been active on social networks and blogs for years.
"I also send ARCs out to book bloggers. Book bloggers are a really amazing community, and they've been tremendously supportive. They've definitely been a major force that got my books on the map.
"When I first published, I did do a bit of promoting on the Amazon forums, but they're not really open to that, so I haven't really interacted there much at all in months. I hang out at Goodreads, Kindleboards, Facebook, Twitter, and I blog. And that's about it."
She now has an agent who is working on selling the foreign rights to her books. She plans to continue self-publishing, but isn't turning her back on traditional publishing.
"As amazing as this ebook revolution has been, it's only 20-30% of the market, and I'm not going to ignore the possibilities to reach the other 70-80% of readers. However, it is hard to compete with what my books are already able to do with Kindle and PubIt."
While that may be true, rumor has it that she's been shopping a four-book series to major publishers and attracting bids well over a million.
It seems we are entering a new and inspiring age, where traditional publishing certainly isn't the last word. Being rejected by a publisher isn't the end of the line. If you have the drive to do it yourself, why not? Publishing, marketing, and creating websites is the cheapest and easiest it's ever been. And in most cases it's free. If you have any thoughts on this topic, we'd love to hear them!
To find out more about Ms. Hocking's books, visit her Amazon Author's Page.
Quotes from The Huffington Post interview, Meet Mega Bestselling Indie Heroine Amanda Hocking.
Class: Social Networking for Writers: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and More! Learn how to leverage the power of social media with this four-week e-course.
Monday, March 21, 2011
The Literary Ladies' Guide to the Writing Life by Nava Atlas, Blog Tour & Book Giveaway!
Author Nava Atlas's latest book, The Literary Ladies' Guide to the Writing Life, is the literary version of that dinner party. Using their diaries, letters, memoirs, and interviews, Atlas has compiled writing advice from a dozen successful female writers. Her "dinner party" includes Louisa May Alcott, Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, Willa Cather, Edna Ferber, Madeleine L'Engle, L.M. Montgomery, Anaïs Nin, George Sand, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Edith Wharton, and Virginia Woolf.
Nava's own insightful commentary lifts the curtain on these women's lives and provides reassuring tips and advice on such subjects as dealing with rejection, money matters, and balancing family with the solitary writing process that will resonate with women writers in today's world. This inspirational book is punctuated with photographs, letters, drawings and other illustrations. It makes a splendid gift book for writers or yourself. Just view the book trailer (designed by the author herself!) below.
[If you're reading this in Feedburner e-mail and can't see the video below please visit www.LiteraryLadiesGuide.com or click on the blog title link.]
Book Giveaway Contest: If you'd like to win a copy of The Literary Ladies' Guide to the Writing Life, please leave a comment at the end of this post to be entered in random drawing. The giveaway contest closes this Thursday, March 24th at 11:59 PM, PST. We will announce the winner in the comments section of this post the following day, Friday March 25th. Good luck!
The Literary Ladies' Guide to the Writing Life by Nava Atlas
Published by Sellers Publishing (March 15, 2011) | Hardcover w/ Jacket | 192 pages | 130+ color/BW vintage photos | ISBN: 978-1-4162-0632-2
The book is available for purchase at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Indie Bound, and at bookstores nation wide.
----- About the author:
Nava Atlas is the author and illustrator of many well-known vegetarian and vegan cookbooks, including Vegan Express, Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons, The Vegetarian Family Cookbook, and The Vegetarian 5-Ingredient Gourmet. Her first book was Vegetariana, now considered a classic in its field. In addition, she has published two books on humor, Expect the Unexpected When You're Expecting! (A parody), and Secret Recipes for the Modern Wife.
Nava is also a visual artist, specializing in limited edition artist's books and text-driven objects and installations. Her work has been shown nationally in museums, galleries, and alternative art spaces. Her limited edition books are housed in numerous collections of artist's books, including the special collections libraries of The Museum of Modern Art (NY), National Museum of Women in the Arts (Washington, DC), National Library at the Victoria and Albert Museum (London), Brooklyn Museum, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and dozens of academic collections. Learn more about Nava's work at VegKitchen.com and NavaAtlasArt.com, in addition to LiteraryLadiesGuide.com, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.
----- Interview by Jodi Webb
WOW: Welcome to The Muffin, Nava! We're thrilled to be launching your tour today. The Literary Ladies Guide to the Writing Life is an unusual idea. How did you come up with the concept?
Nava: Aside from being a writer, I'm also a visual artist, and I've long been fascinated with the creative process, especially for women, who have historically had to struggle a great deal to have a presence in the arts. Not surprisingly, women writers are more likely to muse on all aspects of the creative process. At first I was just going to collect inspirational quotes and short passages to put together into a simple book, but as I delved more into their personal narratives, the project grew larger in scope, to include longer narratives from their letters, journals, autobiographies, and interviews. I was then compelled to comment on these musings with my own, weaving in thoughts on how the experiences of classic women writers past still resonate with women who write today.
WOW: Why did you choose the 12 women you featured? Do you have a favorite?
Nava: I started out with a few others, but narrowed it down to 12—a solid, round number that allowed me, in the space of a 192-page book, to reveal enough so that the reader feels they've gotten to know the women behind the classic books. I chose authors who left a fair amount of writing on various aspects of their lives as writers. I suspect that Jane Austen did a lot more "writing about writing" than we're left with, as a majority of her letters were, sadly, destroyed. But I just couldn't imagine not including her, as she has influenced so many writers, and found enough nuggets to scatter throughout most of the chapters. I would have liked to include Zora Neale Hurston, but couldn't find quite enough in her personal narratives on her writing life. She was a talented, innovative artist of the written word, and bold and open on matters of race and identity in an era when it wasn't as acceptable to do so.
I fell in love with some aspects of all twelve authors, and as readers will see, each represents a certain theme or struggle inherent to the writing life. For example, Louisa May Alcott is so much about earning a living by the pen, rather than being an artiste; Edith Wharton's theme is overcoming lack of self-confidence; Madeleine L'Engle exemplifies perseverance throughout dry years of constant rejection; and so on. I don't lock them into these themes, as all twelve appear throughout the chapters of the book, but I did identify each author with a standout quality.
If I absolutely had to name my favorite, it might be Charlotte Brontë. She wasn't always successful (her first novel, The Professor, never found a home during her lifetime, though it was published after her death), and came off sometimes as rather prickly, but there was something in her steely determination that I admire. She seemed like a person who wouldn't take &@!# from anyone, and always spoke her mind. That being said, I just gave up on her novel, Villette. Each sentence is so exquisitely crafted, but the story fell apart in the middle for me and I just couldn't bear to go on!
WOW: I enjoyed the “steely determination” in many of the authors your book features. Even when they were being polite and ladylike you could sense an underlying THIS is the way it’s going to be. It seems you must have had your own determination to get published in three vastly different genres. Did you worry that starting as a cookbook writer would pigeonhole you?
Nava: When I got my first book contract I was still in my 20s, very naïve about the publishing world, and just thrilled that I was going to get a book contract. I was working as a freelance illustrator and graphic designer and didn't fashion myself as a writer per se, even though I've always loved to write. So the thought of being pigeonholed didn't cross my mind. After the first book was published, and was fairly successful, I kept getting (and still keep getting) cookbook contracts, as it seemed an easier and in many ways more gratifying way to make a living than the job-to-job existence of a freelance illustrator. Writing vegetarian, and more recently, vegan cookbooks also really squares with personal ideals that I hold dear.
But yes, one does get pigeonholed. Jumping from one niche to another is tricky. It's hard to build a platform in two or three niches. Not impossible, but tricky. The two humor books I did (Expect the Unexpected When You're Expecting!, a parody of the renowned but controversial pregnancy "bible" and more recently, Secret Recipes for the Modern Wife, a satiric look at contemporary marriage, designed to look like a 1950s cookbook) were hugely fun to do, as I love humor and satire, but I can't say that either were best sellers! And when my agent was pitching The Literary Ladies' Guide to the Writing Life, I'm reasonably sure that a few editors said something like, "not interested in this, but does she have a cookbook proposal we can look at?"
Edith Wharton did a book on house decorating and one on Italian gardens, I believe, before she started getting her fiction published. Rather than pigeonholing her, the first two publications opened some doors for her. So I take comfort in that!
WOW: What made you decide to break out of cookbooks to humor and now nonfiction? Any fiction writing in your future? Or perhaps Italian gardens?
Nava: I don't think it's something I consciously decided, it was more about pursuing a notion and seeing where it led. I had tried to write two novels in the past, but gave up when it started feeling too hard. One of the most comforting things I learned from the Literary Ladies and other authors I quoted in the book is that indeed writing does often feel hard, and that in itself isn't a reason to give up. That lesson learned, aside from continuing to do visual nonfiction for women, I'd like to try my hand at a graphic novel. I've started to research it already; it touches on a lot of subjects of interest to me—issues of gender, race, and class; food; and the aesthetic of the 1940s and 1950s.
WOW: Nava, you’re a constant surprise! Could you tell us a little about the path to publication for The Literary Ladies?
Nava: The original proposal was almost bought by my longtime cookbook editor, but just as she was about to make an offer, there was a huge layoff of editors at Random House, including her, and that was the end of that. My agents then sent the proposal to couple of other editors I'd worked with in the past who really liked the project but felt for one reason or another that it wasn't right for their house or imprint. We first started shopping the project at the end of 2008, just after the stock market plummeted and things everywhere seemed pretty gloomy. They just kept sending it around, and I can't tell you how many times it was "almost yes." So it took a year to find a good home for the project. It finally went to Sellers, a company that has been named one of the fastest-growing independent publishers for the past few years by Publisher's Weekly.
The proposal they bought was similar in spirit to the finished book, but it's much more fleshed out, and while the proposal was in two colors, the printed book is full color, a decision promoted by the publisher. My editor continually urged me to turn up my voice. At first I felt quite shy about commenting on what these eminent authors had written. You know, the "who am I to..." syndrome so many women suffer from. But as I got into it, I lost, if not my humility (as writing about such authors is a humbling experience), then at least my shyness, as my editor kept reminding me that it was my commentary that was making the book relevant to present-day writers, whether aspiring or seasoned.
WOW: You've written cookbooks, humor, and nonfiction for writers. Do you find that each book niche demands different marketing?
Nava: I do think each type of book demands a different type of marketing plan. I've been in the vegetarian/vegan cookbook niche, and my name is known in that market, so I find I actually don't have to work all that hard any longer when a new cookbook comes out. I know so many of the veg authors and bloggers out there, if not in "real life," then via the web, and we tend to be very supportive of one another to get the word out there about new books. Humor is a very tough niche to market, unless you're a known name, like Dave Barry or Amy Sedaris; it's because your audience is not readily identifiable as a demographic or even an interest group.
So now, I'm entering an entirely new niche, reaching out to writers and literature geeks (an affectionate term I apply to myself as well), and we'll see how I fare here. I would say though, that with all the writer's groups, publications, centers, sites, and blogs, it is a niche that seems eminently reachable, so I'm optimistic that The Literary Ladies' Guide to the Writing Life will find an audience.
WOW: In addition to your WOW Blog Tour, what else are you doing to promote The Literary Ladies? Do you have one great marketing tip you'd like to share with our readers?
Nava: I'll be doing readings at libraries and bookstores; the schedule is still taking shape, but those interested can go to the Literary Ladies' web site (http://www.literaryladiesguide.com). My publisher is sending out review copies to the usual mainstream media outlets plus some specialty publications; I designed a trailer (the first I've ever done; I had my webmaster animate it and set it to music), which is on the home page of the same site, and getting people to share it. My friends in the food world have even offered to do promotions on their very popular blogs, even though for them, it's off-topic. Even though these blogs are about vegan food, when you think about it, every blogger is a writer, and they're all willing to help promote the book! Interestingly, one of these talented food bloggers is an English instructor at a college and did her doctorate on Katherine Anne Porter, who isn't one of the twelve literary ladies, but I quoted her a few times in my commentary throughout the book.
WOW: Serendipity, I suppose! Besides your writing you have so many other creative outlets. Do they positively affect your writing? Help stave off writer's block?
Nava: I'm also a visual artist; I make limited edition books and text-driven objects and installations (http://navaatlasart.com). Everything I do in some sense involves both words and images, a fact of my life ever since I was a small child. I'm lucky that I can dash from one creative outlet to the next. Even cooking is a creative outlet. I'm all about simplicity in the kitchen, and prefer meals that yield the greatest rewards (in terms of flavor, health, and visual appeal) with the least amount of effort. So constantly making things, whatever form they take, is a kind of practice that does stave off blocks.
WOW: What can we expect from you next?
Nava: Well, let's see how I can do with the aforementioned graphic novel. Aside from that I have two vegan cookbooks coming out in the near future: Vegan Holiday Kitchen (fall 2011) and a cookbook on all the leafy green veggies people love so much these days, as yet untitled, in the spring of 2012. I'm going to devote more time and energy to my art career; I have a few exhibits on the horizon. For all those who are interested in the food, art and book aspects of my triangulated career, you can keep posted on events and news on my Facebook author page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Nava-Atlas/67621864858.
Thanks for the great questions, Jodi. When I get to put my thoughts down in writing like this, I'm always reminded of the quote by Joan Didion that goes, "I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking..."
WOW: I think that’s a wonderful thought for all of us to keep in mind. And we’re looking forward to learning what you’ve been thinking!
----- Blog Tour Dates:
Join Nava on her tour! Check out these dates and mark your calendar! You can also snag a copy of WOW's Events Calendar HERE.
March 23, Wednesday @ Musings from the Slush Pile: Julie loved Nava Atlas's book of writing advice from classic female authors so much she's featuring The Literary Ladies today and tomorrow. Stop by today for Nava's post on dealing with literary rejection.
March 24, Thursday @ Musings from the Slush Pile Day 2: Day Two features a review and giveaway of her book The Literary Ladies Guide to the Writing Life.
March 25, Friday @ The Urban Muse: Today we celebrate failures! Although we all strive for success and shun failure, writer Nava Atlas tells us why failure is just as important as success.
March 28, Monday @ Crafting Fiction: Nava Atlas discusses a trait so many writers lack, self-acceptance. She's also giving away a copy of her latest book The Literary Ladies Guide to the Writing Life.
March 29, Tuesday @ Writers Inspired: Don't miss Mary Jo's interview with author Nava Atlas--she'll be telling us how she learned from classic female authors. Stop by and tell us your favorite classic author!
March 30, Wednesday @ Ink Thinker: Kristen King reviews a book of literary advice culled from famous authors' letters, journals, and interviews: The Literary Ladies' Guide to the Writing Life by Nava Atlas.
March 31, Thursday @ Colloquium: I think I can! I think I can! According to Nava Atlas, just like the little train that thought he could, writers should never give up just because the job is difficult. Need an encouraging boost? Stop by today!
April 2, Saturday @ Writer Unboxed: We laugh when actors or actresses look foolish when faced with fame. What about authors? Author Nava Atlas posts about dealing with fame--even if we don't have paparazzi outside our window!
April 4, Monday @ WordCount: Stop by Michelle Rafter's blog for a peek into the lives of a dozen female writers.
April 6, Wednesday @ The Book Tree: When you write, what do people hear? Stop by for the Don't Whisper, Don't Blather! The Literary Ladies on Finding Your Voice post by Nava Atlas and a review of her latest book, The Literary Ladies' Guide to the Writing Life.
April 7, Thursday @ Nia Promotions Podcast: Don't miss an audio interview with Nava Atlas. Interviews with Dana are always unpredictable and fun!
April 11, Monday @ The Other Side of the Story: Nava Atlas will be the guest blogger at The Other Side of the Story's feature "How They Do It," giving us insight into some classic female authors. She'll also be giving away a copy of her latest book The Literary Ladies' Guide to the Writing Life!
April 12, Tuesday @ Words by Webb: Stop by for a review of The Literary Ladies' Guide to the Writing Life and a 5Ws interview with author Nava Atlas.
April 13, Wednesday @ Cathy C.'s Hall of Fame: Cathy Hall, lover of children's books, has a few questions for Nava Atlas about the children's authors she's included in her list of literary ladies.
To view all of our touring authors, check out our Events Calendar HERE.
If you have a blog or website and would like to host Nava Atlas or schedule a tour of your own, please email Angela and Jodi at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Book Giveaway Contest: Remember, if you'd like to win a copy of The Literary Ladies' Guide to the Writing Life, please leave a comment below, or ask Nava a question, to be entered in random drawing (via random.org). The giveaway contest closes this Thursday, March 24th at 11:59 PM, PST. We will announce the winner in the comments section of this post the following day, Friday March 25th. Good luck!
Labels: Anais Nin, Austen, blog tour, book giveaway, Bronte, Inspiration, interview with Nava Atlas, Louisa May Alcott, Nava Atlas, The Literary Ladies' Guide to the Writing Life, women authors, Woolf
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Remaining Truly You (A Casual and Unofficial Poll)
Friday, March 18, 2011
Friday Speak Out!: Living with Words, Guest Post by Jo Bryant
by Jo Bryant
I started writing before I became a teenager. Anything--a journal, poetry, lyrics for songs, stories. Then I grew up and put aside writing. Marriage, children, they pushed aside the pen and paper.
Somewhere in those years I lost the imagination that took me riding on the backs of unicorns, or leading a battle on a white stallion. The only words in my life were those of others.
Now the children are out in the world, writing has found its way back into my life. The words that I read, and reread, are mine.
It started small. Poems, small stories about my life. University papers taught me how to organise those thoughts, until they had substance. Some words could open doors, and some would relatively slam them. They had grey hair at times, wore buttercup coloured boots and lay down in a field of poppies to watch the geese fly north.
Sometimes they went to war and wrote letters to their family, before they rotted in the mud that froze around them, their eyes not seeing the blood red moon above.
I learnt to keep a pen and paper beside my bed. For it is mainly at night--in that half state, somewhere between sleep and waking, where my ideas come from. It may be triggered by anything that happened that day, a conversation, the way a person wears their clothing, maybe a dog chasing birds in a park. Worrying about paying a bill has even been the catalyst for one story.
It was in that half state that the idea for my first book grew. And at two in the morning I started to write. A simple story of a conversation between a father and son. Fifteen hundred words, another short story for my writing group.
But he wouldn’t go away. The protagonist in that story, the son, well he just kept hovering around. Having a coffee with a friend I’d look across the table and see his green eyes. When I walked the dog he’d argue with his brother. I had to buy a small recorder to take with me so I wouldn’t forget what he was saying.
As the story grew so did the world around it. Maps formed in my head, a city emerged out of the dust and with it a new land took shape.
Writing is no longer about the black words against a white background. When my character leads the way through a forest, I am able smell the wood of the trees, the heavy warm aroma of the oak, and the walnut with its darker earthy scent.
I’m a long way from finished, but I know where I intend to end up. Eventually I should find my way there, but in the meantime--well, last night while I was writing--I heard the whales’ song as it echoed of the crescent moon.
* * *
http://www.jobryant.com/). She belongs to Pacific Poets, writes for the web, as well as articles, short stories, and poetry. She is currently writing her first novel.
Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!