Vast Imaginations

A Community of Children's Writers. Learning. Growing. Creating.

Does An Author Need to Blog? Part 2

In my last post I wrote about how becoming a regular reader of author Carrie Snyder’s blog Obscure Can Lit Mama motivated me to buy her book, Girl Runner. Carrie wrote back to tell me that while she appreciates people purchasing her books because of reading her blog posts, that isn’t why she blogs. She says having a blog has been an important part of her development as writer, but she’s never regarded it as a marketing tool.

Photo of Carrie Snyder - The Toronto Globe and Mail

 Carrie Snyder – Photo- Toronto Globe and Mail

 Carrie thinks that would take the joy out of blogging for her. Contrary to what I’d assumed, Carrie’s publisher has nothing to do with her blog. It is a personal project. To quote Carrie, “I think writers should blog because they want to, not because they feel obligated to.”

According to L.L. Barkat Carrie is probably smart not to think of her blog as a marketing tool because Barakat believes blogging is a waste of time for writers if they are counting on their blogs to inspire book sales.  
blogornotyw3In a post called “It’s Time For Writers to Stop Blogging”  Barkat says that while he thinks blogging is a great way for authors to learn discipline, gain experience and foster creative expression it is not a way to promote their writing. Blogging, he says, drains a writer’s energy and time and they’d be better off investing their time and energy in the writing projects they hope to complete for publication. Barkat recommends the use of Twitter and Facebook instead.  You can still get your message out with a lot less effort. 

Jane Friedman says some authors blog because they hope they will be able to turn their blog posts into a book.  “Don’t count on it,” says Friedman. Friedman claims you need the mind and heart of an entrepreneur to use your blog as a tool for publishing success and most authors don’t have that mindset. 

Joanna Penn says it is much easier to promote non-fiction with a blog but she doesn’t see blogging as a very useful marketing tool for fiction writers. 

Susan Laidlaw lists ten reasons why authors shouldn’t blog including the fact that it is addictive, there are no editors or critique partners to check work, it demystifies writers,  it causes them to spend too much time in front of the computer screen and essentially facilitates giving away content for free when writing is supposed to be providing an author with income. 

So does an author need to blog? I’ll explore that question from another angle in my next post on Vast Imaginations. 

In the mean time why not check out these top readership posts on my blog in the last year………

 Galileo’s Grocery List

What Does Your Mother Do?

De Ja Vu At the United Nations

In All My Glory


A writing exercise from these prompt words: CAFFEINE, CURLERS, ENCYCLOPEDIA, TIDE, WARDROBE.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I’m late. Did it again. Slept in. But I gotta have my caffeine, time or not. So I frantically flit around in my curlers—yeah–no hot irons or perm solution gonna wreck this head o’ hair. Yeah, so caffeine first, while I check my email.

No, gosh, no! Email #3 says ‘bring notes.’ Brilliant. My notes. The ones I forgot to write. And forgot to research. No winging it. Gah! Where’s the encyclopedia. I yank my curlers out, with a chunk of hair. No time to cry now. I rush to my wardrobe for an encyclopedia then remember I haven’t dressed yet–what the– I don’t keep encyclopedias in my wardrobe, and anyhow the only one I own is on my laptop.

Well I’m here now. I pull on rust capris and a pink tank shirt with tomato on it and cover it with a blue blazer. Good enough. I whip open my laptop again. My coffee’s cold. I glug it anyway and google Britannica online. Tides, tides—neap tides, whatever. I print it off, but the printer cord catches on the mug. Wet rust capris. Nice. Giraffe skin look, well that’s new.

I roll my eyes. Tides, wet keyboard. Some irony here. Now I’ve got tigers and tiles and tridents on my search page. Gah! I pull at my fake curls and melt as my monitor fades to black and there’s me reflected in all my slept-in glory.

Another day, another dollar. Actually not. I’m calling in sick.120722041610-woman-laptop-curlers-coffee-story-top


VastI footer…writes for under 18’s & is currently torturing her first complete manuscript with revision. She encourages all writers thus:

To know is nothing at all. To imagine is everything” -Anatole France

When Criticism Bites–A Lesson from the Fish Bowl

Yesterday, while sifting through my Twitter feed I came across a discussion between bloggers regarding a recent article in The Guardian. The article outlined an author’s stalking of an online reviewer. As I read my jaw dropped—she didn’t. This can’t be real. No one would reaaa1ally do that, would they?

It got me thinking about how I’ll react to negative reviews. While I’m a first time author and I have yet to experience the heartache of a bad review, I do have experience in dealing with being in the public eye. Because of my husband’s work, we enjoy what I like to call ‘fame in a microcosm.’ People watch us.

Nineteen years ago when he first started, I had no idea how to handle the criticism that came our way–criticism about everything from the way I dress to what I make for dinner to how I raise my children to judgement of my motivations. I’ve been the target of gossip and had to sit and listen, and say nothing when people slammed someone I cared for deeply. Except, I’ve encountered this in real life and not online. Sometimes it’s even been from people I called friends, people I’d confided in. There was a time when I felt like it was destroying me, even a time when I wanted my husband out of that line of work, so that I didn’t have to deal with it anymore. I was afraid of what it would do to my children living in the midst of it. It took me to a really dark place.

And now, as I prepare to launch my first book, I also prepare for the criticism that will come with it. As certainly as the sun rises, it will come.

When you’re thrust into the public eye, this happens. It doesn’t make it okay, but you should know that it’s inevitable. I look at it this way—there has been no book in the history of books that has been universally loved and mine will be no different.

There are trolls out there. You’re not going to stop them and neither am I. Some people are like that. For some, feedback equals criticism, others seek attention, and still others hurt people to feel powerful. So don’t give them that power.

I’ve learned to focus on my supporters. Sometimes when I feel like lashing out, I think of those who have been encouraging. Those have been loyal friends. Those who have stood beside me through good and bad. Those are the people whose opinions really matter.

The other thing I’ve learned is to say to myself—I don’t care. I dress how I dress. I raise my children the way I believe is right. You can call me a bad mother, it wouldn’t be the first time, but I’ll continue on as I did before. If I want to make chicken for dinner
, it’s no one else’s business. You can like it or hate it. That’s up to you. I can’t control your opinion.

And it’s the same with my writing. I’ve already decided whose opinion matters–an decision every writer should make. But, then this also applies to good reviews. We can’t live from one positive word to the next, then die on every negative word. It hurts. I’m not going to say I’m not hurt when the criticism comes my way, but now I can withdraw myself from it, and give it only as much weight as it deserves.

If you enjoyed this article you might also like:

Handling Critique Without Melting Down

Who Should Not Critique Your Manuscript

Top Six Reasons Why Giving Birth is More Fun than Querying my First Novel

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Preliminary coverMelinda Friesen writes short stories and novels for teens. She’s learned that it can be tough living in a fish bowl, but also very rewarding. Her first book will be released November 22 from Rebelight Publishing Inc.

 

Make it Snappy – Writing a Just Right Book Blurb

Courtroom scene from the film adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird

Courtroom scene from the film adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird

A recent survey of all-time favourite books places Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird at the top. Personally, I’m happy with that ranking.  It’s a favourite of mine too.  I first read the book ages ago and I recall burning through the pages in a glorious ‘couldn’t put the book down’ reading that carried on into the wee hours. A few years ago, I reread the book, curious to see if time and maturity might have dimmed the warm glow I felt then.  Nope. Still wonderful and gripping.
I’m not sure how the book landed in my hands the first time. Word of mouth, I’m guessing, because it was on every top 10 list imaginable.  Which raises interesting questions:  If there hadn’t been such a buzz, would I have actually selected the book on my own?  How would I know it’s one I might want to read?choosing a book
You can see where I’m going with this. Like most people, I rely on book descriptions to help with the decision – those sparse blurbs on the back cover or inside flap or in the subject heading on Amazon, Chapters and other online sources.   Just for fun, here’s the book description for To Kill a Mockingbird (minus a couple of lines that mention its literary acclaim and would have been omitted in original copies). To Kill a Mockingbird
The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it….Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior – to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos…. This regional story by a young Alabama woman claims universal appeal. Harper Lee always considered her book to be a simple love story. Today it is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature.
With my first novel for middle graders almost complete, my publisher is busy crafting its book description.   Unlike a synopsis or summary which might cover a full page or even several, book descriptions are snappy, short and  – I can testify to this because I’ve dabbled with a few – notoriously difficult to write.
From a number of online sources, here’s a list of ingredients well written book descriptions contain:
  • A hook. Grab the reader in the first sentence. Make it a standout line that not only sums up the book, but compels people to read on.
  • An emotional connection. How will the book make readers feel? Is it a tear-jerker or laugh-filled? Spine-chilling or nail-biting?
  • The payoff. What will readers get out of the book? Will they be happier, wiser, more compassionate or just plain entertained? Why?
  • A description. What is the story about? Just a few lines, enough so readers have a sense of the story line.
  • Characters. Who are the major players?
  • Problem. What big problem, dilemma, obstacle, conflict stands in the way? Not small stuff here, but the overriding issue.
  • Cliffhanging conclusion.   Make your readers so curious, so intrigued, and so excited they’ll want to read on.
 A pretty tall order, right? Even taller when you consider how much space you have.  One source put the max word count at 150.  Others said less.  As a reference point, the description for To Kill a Mockingbird quoted above registers at 82 words, and not a single one wasted.
to-kill-a-mockingbird2

Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch and Mary Badham as Scout

Other posts you might enjoy:
Titles – Where Less is More
Setting As Character – the ‘Breaking Bad’ Way
He Says, She Says – The Power of Dialogue

Larry Verstraete (www.larryverstraete.com) is the author of 13 non-fiction books for youngsters. His middle grade novel, Missing in Paradise, is scheduled for release by Rebelight Publishing Inc. in November.

 

A Blog? Does It Matter?

carrie snyder thin air festivalI heard author Carrie Snyder talking about her book The Juliet Stories at the Thin Air Writers’ Festival in Winnipeg a number of years ago.  The woman who introduced Carrie mentioned Carrie’s blog called Obscure Can Lit Mama.  The name intrigued me and so I jotted it down and looked it up when I got home.  After reading a few posts I was hooked.  

Photo of Carrie Snyder - The Toronto Globe and Mail

Photo of Carrie Snyder – The Toronto Globe and Mail

Carrie is an excellent writer. She is passionate about long distance running, has four children (three with the most adorable curly red hair) teaches creative writing at a university and reads voraciously. It is always interesting to check in on her and find out what she’s been doing and thinking.  Her four children are heavily involved in sports and music and a myriad of other things and reading about how Carrie keeps all those balls in the air- parenting, housework, cooking, teaching, writing, running and her relationship with her husband makes for pretty interesting reading.  She is also a good photographer and takes great pictures of nature and her family. 

girl-runnerThe last while however what I’ve enjoyed most as a writer is following the progress of Carrie’s novel Girl Runner which just came out this fall.  Via her blog I went along to England with her on a research trip, waited with bated breath while her agent shopped her book to publishers, slogged with her through endless rounds of editing, shared in her indecision when she almost changed professions to midwifery because she wasn’t sure she could make a living as a writer, savored her happiness when her book landed publishing contracts in many different countries and was excited when her book launched and was nominated for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Prize. 

Of course I immediately downloaded Carrie’s book Girl Runner onto my Kindle when it became available and had a hard cover copy sent to my sister-in-law who is passionate about running. Would I have done that if I hadn’t been following her blog? Probably not. 

So is it important for an author to have a blog? Carrie Snyder and her publisher probably think so because just before her book came out her blog got a whole new design with special sections for promoting her book and her writing career.

In my next post I’ll further explore the question of whether an author needs a blog.

If you enjoyed this post you might also like……

Writers Retreat

Let’s Talk About Writing

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MaryLou Driedger is just beginning to write fiction and non-fiction for children after working as a teacher, newspaper columnist and free-lance journalist for thirty years. She also blogs at What Next?

Get a Life, They Said


“Life Histories of American Insects.” It’s a book I found.

Did you know American insects had a “Life?” I don’t mean a life as in life not death. I mean the “get a LIFE” kind of life.BookSuperimposedd2

Well I didn’t either. I ventured to find out what other creatures and people had a Life. Apparently bees do:

And I found others too.

Soooo. . .

I’m thinking all these beings, even the house sound like they have more of a Life than I do, a writer driving herself batty with revisions, etc. . . sitting on the same chair, no padding left on it, staring at my screen and often backspacing nearly as much as I have written. . . eyes going like a fan in swirls. . .

I but I do have a Life. And not just one, but many. They are just not visible to the masses yet. But I can touch them, I can taste and handle them. I feel the emotions, the joy and despairs of characters I have given birth to, and others that have meandered my way. I know their fears and trials, and I help them by giving them friends and mentors on their paths. I challenge them with antagonists, people they can’t stand.

I am fully acquainted with their locations, the weather there, the living conditions, the secret rooms, the slippery paths, the hermit up the hill and his secrets, the widow in the flower shop who treats O like an adult not a child and tells her the truth. I know why M. takes up an old questionnable art for revenge, and I know she’s not all bad, underneath. She has suffered. I know the old folklore of the village L lives in and why the dog only comes back with one shoe–there’s an old mystery there. I know of ghosts real and imagined and their hidden agendas.

I smell the moss on the stone gates and the mold in the ruin. I know X loves to explore it and I know why she can’t tell what she finds when her leg cracks right through the floorboards. I know the pain she feels and wince. I make faces at the computer screen to explore how she deals with it.

I tense up when R’s secret gets out and he has dire consequences to face. And feel his relief on my own features when the right person stands up and covers for him.

Yeah sure, it’s all second hand stuff, you might argue. Aah, but I’m creating many lives—bringing things into being that weren’t there before.

We writers do so much research even when we’re writing fiction that we do expand our borders beyond our four walls in a way that becomes very real to us. Sure it would be fabulous to do, go and see all the things I want to, and the things I want to write about in situ. One day. For now my “Life” and I do have one, is by proxy. And I’ll make the most of it.

ME_112_GetALIfe

VastI footer…writes for under 18’s & is currently torturing her first complete manuscript with revision. She encourages all writers thus:

To know is nothing at all. To imagine is everything” -Anatole France

My Submission Sabatical

Last spring I hit a critical point in my submissions process–the point where I was extremely discouraged. Each new rejection was a knife in the gut and brought on a bought of despondency. The long and the short of it is, it was causing me a lot of emotional distress and I didn’t like the direction it was taking me or the person it was turning me into.

You see, I have a lot of good things going on in my life. I have a great family who are healthy and wonderful people to be around. I have my health. I have a home. I have friends. I have my writing. But right then, I couldn’t see any of that. All I saw was: REJECTION. REJECTION. REJECTION.

So I decided to take a break. Not a week or two like I’d done in the past, but a long break. Three months. It was a tough decision because I felt I might be missing out. What if my one and only chance passed me by while I refused to submit work? Was this like giving up? Because I refuse to be  a quitter.

I forced myself. I knew I needed the break. More than a few times I considered sending something in, especially when someone mentioned a publisher or an agent looking for something I had. But, I stuck to it.

When September came around–the month I’d told myself I could restart–I was reluctant again. I’d come to enjoy opening my email without bad news awaiting me. But, once again, I pushed myself. I sent in two short stories. A rejection came back on one and it didn’t hurt at all. So, I went a step further and sent out an agent query. Yesterday, I got that rejection. My submission sabbatical clearly did me well because instead of it feeling like a catastrophe, it felt like a hiccup. I thought, “dang.” And then I moved on and sent our a couple more queries.

What did I learn? Taking a break is healthy and it isn’t giving up. I also realized I have a lot to be thankful for and that, in light of family and home and health, a publishing contract is just gravy.

Fact Stranger than Fiction? Maybe

bionic eye 2My son in Bellevue, Washington frequently e-mails articles or links to articles to me. He’s a computer engineer and I have a science background so scientific and technical topics are favourites. But we’re also keen on subjects that are off-beat and obscure which explains the recent arrival of items like The Woman with the Bionic Eye (The Atlantic), Photographer Turns the Table on His Subject by Getting Naked to Take Their Portraits (Business Insider), and US Trained Alaskans as Secret ‘Stay-Behind’ Agents (Associated Press). See what I mean?
Most times, I read the article online, but if it is especially intriguing, I print it and pop it into my ‘futures box’ – a holding tank of sorts that I dip into periodically for inspiration. The futures box has been a godsend many times.  Not only a hotbed of research material, it’s also a source for wild and weird ideas – the kind of extreme stuff kids, particularly boys, love.
It’s easy to trace how such ideas influence choices when writing non-fiction since there’s a direct relationship between research material and final product. But what about fiction? Where do those ideas come from – the plot twists, intriguing characters, and sizzling themes that make fiction work?
Now that I’m in the final throes of my first middle-grade novel, Missing in Paradise, I’d like to know. Figuring out what gets creative juices flowing should take me a step closer to harnessing them in the future, right?. Well, that’s my rationale, anyway.  Here’s what I found.
Missing in Paradise is a mystery, adventure story about two boys, 14 year old Nate and 12 year old Simon who, after discovering a box of odd items at a garage sale, embark on a search for lost shipment of gold, certain they are fulfilling the ghostly request of Nate’s recently deceased grandfather.pirate treasureWhat kid doesn’t like a treasure hunt? As a kid, I did. I wasted many a glorious afternoon, digging in the family garden, convinced I’d find pirate treasure between rows of tomatoes.  So the storyline comes from those experiences, right?
Probably, but I can also draw a direct line to several Futures Box items
    • A truck driver, making a road stop in 1998, discovered a box of clothes abandoned in a rickety shack in Nevada. Among the items inside – a grimy, tattered pair of jeans from the 1880s. Auction on eBay as the oldest Levis ever, they were purchased by Levi Strauss & Company for a cool $46,532.

      oldest jeans

      World’s oldest Levis

    • Two paintings bought by bargain hunter Carl Rice, at a 1996 Tucson, Arizona garage sale – one of roses purchased for $10, another of magnolias purchased for $50 – bore the initials M.J.H. in the corner. Turns out they were works by well known 19th century painter, Martin Johnson Heade.  Sold at auction in 1998 for a whopping $1 million.
      Magnolias by Martin Johnson Heade
      Magnolias by Martin Johnson Heade
    • Daydreaming in English class one day in 2000, ten year old Bingham Bryant, a grade 5 student at Old Lyme Central School in Connecticut, studied a gloomy painting that had been hanging in the library for 80 years. “I was certain it was old,” he said. He told his father, an art dealer, about it.  End result: Fate of Persephone, a long lost original by famous artist Walter Crane, sold at auction for more than half a million dollars.
      Fate of Persephone
      Fate of Persephone
    • A 2011 newspaper article recapped a piece of local history. Between the late 50s and 60s, dapper Winnipeg resident Ken Leishman (aka ‘The Flying Bandit’) committed a number of crimes including bank robberies, stealing planes and escaping custody. His most famous heist was the March 1, 1966 theft of nearly $400,000 worth of gold bullion from the Winnipeg International Airport – the largest gold theft in Canadian history.
Ken Leishman - The Flying Bandit

Ken Leishman ‘The Flying Bandit’

Without giving away the entire plot, I can safely say that Missing in Paradise contains many of these real-life elements – inquisitive boys discover a box at a garage sale containing items that, at first glance, appear commonplace, but just might lead to a potential fortune – a legendary lost shipment of gold rumoured to have been stolen in a heist years ago.
Is this a case of art imitating life? Maybe.  But whatever the source of fictional ideas, I’ll keep stuffing my futures box with clippings and encourage my son to send more weird and wacky stuff.  sometimes fact is stranger than fiction, and who’s to say where one stops and the other begins?
Other posts you might enjoy:
The Futures Box – A Wealth of Ideas
Nothing But the Truth
Hanging Ornaments on Your Story Tree
Larry Verstraete (www.larryverstraete.com) is the author of 13 non-fiction books for youngsters. His middle grade novel, Missing in Paradise, is scheduled for release by Rebelight Publishing Inc. in November.

 

 

 

Perfect for Pre-Schoolers

maryloudriedger:

I published this piece in my newspaper column and on my blog What Next? I thought it would also be of interest to Vast Imaginations readers as well.

Originally posted on What Next?:

       “Why don’t you do a column about books for pre-school children?” My friend Marilyn Rempel was responding to my annual newspaper column about novels perfect for summer reading. She suggested I create a list of recommended read aloud books for the pre- kindergarten crowd. What a great idea! 

 peek a who      Just a few weeks ago I went to McNally Robinson Bookstore to buy Peek A Who by Nina Laden for a baby shower gift. On each page in the book there is a question. Who? Then on the next page you get the answer. It might be a ghost who boos, a cow that moos or a train that choo- choos. On the last page the answer to the question is YOU and a mirror so children can see themselves. It has been my experience that you can read Peek A Who dozens of times to a…

View original 440 more words

Private Matters


From a Writing Prompt: Write about someone who tells other private things as if they were close friends:

 

The bus slogged on and on in the soupy traffic. Stop, start, stop, start. Bore, bore, bore.

Until she got on. I’d seen her before. Can’t forget that face; crooked mouth, leaning teeth, and eyes that looked in different directions. I quickly turned my own eyes downward to my book.

“May I sit down?” said a reedy voice and I looked up to see Ms. Cross-eyes. She didn’t wait for an answer but plunked a billion bags down around her, toppling onto my lap, and sighed. I’d heard of rabbit breath before. Or was it rabid breath. Either way, her’s wafted across my nose and was worse than either of those.

“Ooh, my bunions! Been walking so much I’ve got to give them some air. Oh it’s alright, they’ll not smell, deary,” she said to me. “I use Jonson’s foot powder. Helps with the athletes foot you know.” The shoes came off, then the socks, which she laid in her lap and I discovered she lied. The foot powder didn’t work. I delivered a stare out the window.

She did not take the hint, and carried on, poking my arm for my attention. My mother taught me to be polite always, so I turned back to Ms. Cross-eyes when she sighed again. I stopped breathing for a moment.bilde

“Walking too long is tough, what with 3 ingrown toenails and all. But the problem with sitting is my tailbone’s too long, see. Broke it once. Healed wrong. Now if I don’t sit crooked it digs into my–well–you know.” She leaned my way and grinned, hiding her mouth with one hand, whispering. The bus rattled on through a huge puddle and mud water sloshed on my window.

“Then I get constipation. Terrible you know, you don’t go for days and then your stomach explodes with pain when those logs finally start moving down their track. Doc says ‘remember eat lots of fiber and to use your donut cushion or one day you’ll rupture something.’” She leaned yet more my way.

Her foul breath she didn’t have to tell me about, I could smell that myself.

“So how are you this fine day? Isn’t it a treat out there today after that storm yesterday?”

I muttered a “I’m fine.” Well I was until she started her health tirade.

“Me too, me too. I do despise those cloudy days, makes me cough. And all that humidity, makes for a lot, I mean a lot, of phlegm. My throat just clogs up and I gotta clear it all the time, and that makes me vomit. You know, the pressure combined with all the new food allergies I develop constantly. I’ve such a big house, but since I got my late brother’s dog, I don’t worry about making it to a bathroom in time. Did you know dog’s love vomit? Thank goodness they do. It’s not easy at my age to get down on your hands and knees to clean. Well,” Ms. Cross-eyes giggled here, “Actually it’s easy getting down, but not getting up again. Oh the times I pulled my ligaments or tensions or what-you call them, the doctor was threatening to remove my kneecaps! I ask you, does that make sense?”

I shook my head, but said nothing. I’m only 19 what am I supposed to know? Ms. Cross-eyes sighed and sunk her head into the headrest. I did the same, in relief. then her packages tumbled as the bus flew over a bump.

Ms. Cross-eyes straightened them, looked at me, and when she was sure I was only faking sleep, began again, whispering this time. “Have you ever had an oozing green infection in—“

I stood, pulled the bus string, excused myself and got off, tripping over half a million of those bags of hers. I had no idea where I was, but hey, there’s only so much phlegm and ear wax one can take, after all. I’ll walk home.


VastI footer…writes for under 18’s & is currently torturing her first complete manuscript with revision. She encourages all writers thus:

To know is nothing at all. To imagine is everything” -Anatole France

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