Saturday, June 30, 2007
Friday, June 29, 2007
My paternal grandmother Granny-P had it worst. The syndrome affected her coversation so much that you stuck around just to see how she could get from A to Z in lightening time and still make no sense at all. But she made the best chicken pie of anyone, so could be forgiven her grasshopper mind and her obsession with good (= expensive) handbags and shoes, although she rarely went out.
Me, I'm all over the place these days like a demented child. Stuck in deep to my first children's novel Elsie and the Silver Rain, I soon decided it should be the first of at least two books, the second of which should feature Elsie' sidekick Scoop, thereby coming up with Scoop and the Boxcar Tourists.
So, Elsie done at 29,000 words, you'd think I'd jump right into Scoop. But what about Return of the Summer Fish, the morphing of my memoir-that-got-stalled Summer Fish - reflections of a childhood in Iraq into a children's novel?
Well, with that one outlined, and a new central character jetissoned in to provide the necessary conflict, I soon got sidetracked by an idea generated by a quick 'sighting' - you know, that spooky stuff we writers are so prone to - of a boy kneeling looking out of a window to watch a high-born lady walk down his front path. This coupled with my long interest in the Riverview lands which were home to BC's first arboretum, developed by the Scot Mr. MacDonald (he has a first name I can't recall right now) - and I have a new book Escape to the Summer House featuring 13 year-old Lionel (goodie, a historial novel for YAs with a male protaganist - agents/publishers, please take note!) .
I love them all; I know the MCs without having to dig too deep.
Elsie with her hat and her strong survival instinct when everything else is falling apart.
Scoop who hides his dyslexia with wiles and cunning and by taking to the rails, where "no one needs to read nothing."
Pauline who longs for the exotic life her sister recounted in letters - wild camel rides across the desert, tea taken in Sheiks' tents, long rides down the Shatt-al-Arab river on overloaded date boats, finding only heat and dust and a sister who's too busy with her own life to let her in.
And Lionel whose only goal is to find a way to give little sister Grace the love and security he feels he lost when his father was killed in a logging accident.
I can't decide who I love most, that's the trouble. I see their faces, hear their voices, and can't decipher who needs me soonest.
Right now I'm hooked on Lionel, and in the process discovering that history is not all dry dust and old photos. What was New Westminster like during the time that Mr. Macdonald was bringing over his first trees from Europe. How am I going to get Lionel and Mr. Macdonald together? How will The Hospital of the Mind - as it was called then - feature in the story? And how long can Lionel and Grace survive in that abandoned summer house before they are discovered. And by whom?
Meanwhile, I'm still not sure when or if Elsie's own father is going to turn up.
But until he does, her mother Peg and ne-er do well Uncle Dannell will just have to keep stagggering through the thirty-fourth day of their dance marathon, holding each other up while I stand on the sidelines, wondering whose trail I should be following this week?
So I skip from one to the other. Afraid to let any of them out of my sight unless they dispappear from view without telling me all their secrets.
Grasshoppers are agile. So maybe I can keep up.
Conference Planning Committee Chair Carmen Merrells has put out the following call for conference volunteers.
The SiWC cannot operate without its loyal volunteers! We need people to help out in various capacities during the conference, as well as pre-conference and post-conference presenter transportation. Some of the benefits of volunteering include:
(1) Free lunch! (on the days you volunteer)
(2) Opportunities to meet and work with other writers and the presenters -- great camaraderie!
(3) If you're doing presenter transportation, opportunity to pitch your work during the ride, reimbursement for gas ($10 round trip) and parking (receipted)
(4) Free workshops for volunteers doing workshop monitoring and introductions
(5) A thank you gift
For more detailed information or to sign up, please contact the SiWC's Volunteer Coordinator, Camille Netherton, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I can only add that this is a great way to spend a weekend. This is probably the least hierarchical conference you'll run across. You'll meet the big names and the up-and- comers alike in meal line-ups, in the washroom, at lunches and coffee break, as well as learning useful craft tools, getting inspriation and motivaito for whateve ryou're working on, building your network. And you'll have a lot of fun in the process.
And whether you're there as a volunteer or fully paid up particiapant, drop by the Metta Publications trade table where I'll be selling/signing my book 101 - and more - Writing Exercises to Get You Stared & Keep You Going or drop into my workshop 'Having Your Say - Writing Personal Essays and Opinion Pieces'.
And check out the Conference website regularly, as more info. is being added all the time.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
An earlier deadline of June 30 applies to The Writer magazine's fiction contest.
Speaking of The Writer, my article May I Put You On Hold - dealing with interruptions appears in the Aug issue. I have my copies, so I expect it will be on the newstands any minute. Check it out if you are interested to know how long it takes to 'recover' from a phone or email interruption while you're working.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Which seems to be the priority for most consumers these days.
But what about supporting the independent stores whose owners live in your neighborhood, who are in touch with what you want and need, who ensure that local issues are reflected in their bookstock, that local authors get exposure?
You won't get that from the big boxes.
As a publisher, I have good reason to aviod the big boxes - they just don't care about the little guys. It took us over two months to even make contact with a 'real person' in the national purchasing dept. of Chapters (couldn't even get the time of day from the local store manager) and having sent sample copies of our books to them about six months ago, haven't heard since.
And can't even get a return call when we try to contact them.
But not all independents are so friendly, either. Blackberry Books, one of Vancouver-area's oldest independent bookstores won't even consider independent publishers offerings, although they're more than willing to spend an hour flipping through a national distributor's catalogue and sneering at most of their offerings. (I know. I had the dubious pleasure of sitting in a public cafe and overhearing the poor salesperson being turned down on every page.)
While many independent bookstores obviously get more mileage from ordering from a big distributor, they will, if aproached properly, consider smaller publishers' books.
When Metta Publishers approached Munro's Books in Victoria - one of my favourite bookstores in the province - they said they didn't handle small publishers' work. But when we were in town, they were willing to sit down with us. At which time they said they'd buy two of each book, changed their mind and ordered five, and have since reordered both books.Left. Munro's bookstore, Victoria, BC
Independent bookstores get my support - as a consumer and a publisher - and my dollars every time.
I don't even like Starbucks coffee, so I never have a good reason to even enter Chapters. And in my work at a library I use Amazon regularly to track down new books that customers are looking for.
But I prefer to spend my money elsewhere, in my own community.
It's worth the wait, and the expense to support the little guys.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
The Rejected Quarterly
Someone actually wants your rejected fiction! Fiction to 8,000 words. You must also submit 5 rejection slips with your entry. Entry fee: $200 / Deadline: June 30, 2007. Check it out here.
Deadline: June 30 / Entry Fee: $23 (includes one-year subscription). Prizes: $1,500 / $1000 / $750. Accepts email entries; more info. here.
$1,000 First Place prize in each of four categories: Fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and writing for children. Note the earlier than usual deadline: Must be received by 4 p.m., August 3. Entry fee: $15. Details here. Accepts email entries.
Open to BC writers. This year's topic - Foreign Affairs: Travel Writing With a Twist. Entry fee: $15 members / $20 non-members. Prizes: $500 / $300 / $150 . Details here.
Monday, June 18, 2007
And on another topic entirely:
Vancouver speechwriter Colin Moorhouse seems to have resuscitated his e-newsletter Freelancing Success, available through his website of the same name. When you subscribe, you can also receive a copy of his e-book Finding Work - Marketing mantras for the freelance writer. Lots of useful insights that might help you make some kind of a living in this business.
Saturday, June 16, 2007
'The water with all the answers'! What I want to know is - what are the questions?
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Of course you all know about the Surrey International Writers' Conference. Three days of great presentations, panels, author and agent interviews, trade show, book signing sessions, etc. This year's line-up is impressive, and registration begins soon. You can sign up for early notification of the registration date at the website.
I'll be doing my usual gig of reading manuscripts in the Blue Pencil Cafe, presenting the workshop - Having Your Say - Writing personal essays and opinion pieces, and selling my book 101 Writing Exercises to Get You Started & Keep You Going and the new A Writer's Year. And this year, as well as being a sponsor of the Nonfiction category of the the conference contest, I'm co-judging with my good buddy Elizabeth Lyon. I'm looking forward to reading the shortlisted essays and articles and being on hand when the winner picks up their $1,000. All the contest info. is here.
During the conference, I hope to put faces to a few of the names I've recently encountered in the YA/Children's Literature section of Compuserve's Books and Writer's Community. What a supportive group of newbie and published writers to share with and learn from! Whatever you write, check out the forums to find writers working inyour genre.
The fact that you're here, means you have some interest in blogs. But to know more, and learn how they can benefit your writing, attend the Tues. June 26 meeting of the Shebeen Club when the topic is 'Blogging as Writer's Practise. Irish Heather Pub, 217 Carrall Street in vancouver's Gastown.
I'll be sorry to miss it, but it conflicts with the mandatory volunteer meeting for the Vancouver International Folk Music Fesitival. This will be my third year helping out in the Information Booth - a highlight of my summer. I was in the audience for years, along with my daughter who loved the freedom of spending a day in the sun on site with a couple of friends, only having to check back in once an hour. I quit going when it got too crowded, but when I started as a volunteer in 2005 I discovered that it's still possible to find a quiet spot to soak up the sun and listen to the music in the distance. Working my three shifts at the Info tent, I get to meet all kind of out of towners and new and older follkies, reunite people with their wallets, cellphones, and children, and soak up the music from a shady spot.
Over the past few months I've been acting as unofficial marketing consultant to the Young People's Opera Society of BC. They're staging the world premiere of a new work entitled The King Who Wouldn't Sing in early July and the rush is now on to put bums in seats for the 8 scheduled performances. It's exciting to be in on the ground floor of a brand new organization as it struggles to get support and public awareness, and involved with people such as Patricia Dalquist (librettist) George Austin (composer and Musical Director) and Barb Gould (Executive Director of the Society, and tireless advocate).
Long time, no blog!
I'll now be using my blog to replace the News page on my website. So here you'll find a random mix of stuff, posted at least every second day.
You can take as many writing classes as you like, but finding out about the business from the inside is the best way to learn.Today I ran across the blog maintained by Jessica Faust of Bookends LLC - a Literary Agency. Lots of info about how an agent works, insights into what makes a good query, and loads of other invaluable stuff. Miss Snark may be no longer snarking with us (although her archives are posted), but we're not totally on our own.
Too bad I'm a Canajian, or I'd to submit my picture book story Tell Me Again to the Goodnight Moon 60th Anniversary bedtime story contest. If you're in the US or a US citizen, check it out. Top prize $1,000 and publication. Update: just now noticed that you also have to be completely unpublished to be eligible to submit.
In case you wondered, Elsie and the Silver Rain will be done by the week-end - well, a good shitty first draft. Its sequel Scoop and the Boxcar Tourists will have to wait until I've finished the revisions on Elsie, because I'm already chomping at the bit to start work on Return of the Summer Fish. For anyone interested , these are the brief synopses of these WIPs:
Elsie and the Silver Rain
With the help of her friend Scoop, nine-year old Elsie sets about reconciling her family when it starts to fall apart under the pressure of change and poverty. This mid-Grade novel is set in Depression-era Vancouver.
Meet Elsie. I ran across this picture of an unidentified child in the book 'Children of the Deptression'. Without this face, I might not have a story. Her pic is on my laptop desktop, on the bulletin board, and tucked inside my notebook.
Scoop and the Boxcar Tourists
Exiled to the Fraser Valley to work on a farm for the summer, Scoop tries to find his own way home to his family and best friend Elsie, only to end up going the wrong way in the company of railroad hoboes. Sequel to Elsie and the Silver Rain.
Return of the Summer Fish
While eleven year-old Pauline Fraser has spent the last year at boarding school in England, her younger sister Gilly has been sending her letters about hunting jackals, riding camels, and drinking tea with sheiks in their desert tents.
When Pauline joins Gilly and her parents in Iraq, instead of the exciting summer she's expecting, she finds the culture overwhelming, her younger sister unwelcoming, and her own place in the family uncertain.
Then Gilly goes missing in a sandstorm, and Pauline discovers that she can not only negotiate Sally’s strange – and much exaggerated - world, but that she can also help her sister adjust to the idea of leaving her familiar environment and returning to boarding school with her when the summer is over. Memoir-based, set in the expatriate community of the Middle East in the early 60s.
Wednesday, June 27 is the first in the summer session Write @ the Library, a series of moderated critique groups and short workshops. All I need is enough people to cover the cost of the room and refreshments, and we'll run with whoever shows up. Complete info here.