Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The 'List'

Like many authors, I aspire to be on The List. You know, the New York Times Bestselling list. The A list. The short list for an award.

I made two: the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators short list for the Crystal Kite Award. Members chose books from their traditionally published ranks in 11 different regions. Sirenz didn't win but really, it was a thrill to be nominated for that first book.

On the second list I have have a lot of authors keeping me company: the midlist. It's kind of like no-man's land between unpublished and superstardom. It's where most authors end up. Most of us get overlooked in favor of the big names.

But how does a book make it to the 'superstar' list? Sales have a lot to do with it (hence, 'bestselling'). And how does one get to be bestselling? It's not by talent alone. There have been some stinky books, in my opinion, that have sold millions, won awards, or had movies made of them. And there is a gold mine of superb books that don't make it off the midlist. (And no, I'm not talking about Sirenz, Sirenz Back in Fashion, or Blonde OPS. I'm talking about other people's books, this is not a plug for Sirenz, Sirenz Back in Fashion or Blonde OPS.)  Certain books just pick up a following and momentum builds. It also helps if you spend a lot of money on PR (either publisher or author), have people who are rabid about helping promote your books, and the critic gods smile on you. But even with that, some books languish, with the rest of us, on the midlist.

Beloved author Jane Yolen, seeing many authors pushed aside when celebrity books debut (as celebrities, they already have promo and money) has established a grant to help midlist authors. It's hard to compete with all the actors, singers, talk show hosts, rockers, sports players, and some-who-are-famous-but-I-don't-know-why people pushing their books and sucking up PR dollars. It's not easy being a green writer.

It's one reason I don't gush over celeb books. I use my effort for my midlist colleagues because they need it more, they're more appreciative (has anyone gotten a thank you from a celeb for mentioning or praising their book?), and frankly, I think they deserve it. We spend years perfecting our craft, revising, re-imagining, resubmitting our work. No ghost writers or on-call editors for us! Plus, we do most of the marketing for our books; publishers can only do so much when you're not a guarantee of million dollar plus sales.

So, pick a not-so-well-known author to read from the library, from the bookstore. Share it with your friends. Talk about it on your blog, your Facebook page, Twitter, Yik Yak, etc. You might be the difference between a truly good author continuing to write or being forever lost in the midlist.


Monday, March 23, 2015

Good or Popular?

I'm painting my kitchen and listening to some classic CDs, like REM's Eponymous. Part of one song catches my ear and I stop giving the wall and window trim the first coat of white.

Not everyone can bear the weight of the world.
Think compassion...

That's evocative of so many thoughts. I have family members and friends who suffer from depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and other mental illnesses. To me, this is a powerful phrase because it hits home.

While I'm mulling and painting, another (oldie) song comes up with these words:

You were licking your lips and your lipstick's shining,
and I was dying just to ask for a taste...

It's You Took The Words Right Out of My Mouth  by Meatloaf. I swoon with the imagery these words provoke. This is good writing.

So when the radio comes on and I hear:

We found love in a hopeless place (repeat 100 times) it's kind of blah.... It's not descriptive, it's not emotional, it's just... words. But Beyonce's song is popular.

Some authors. like some songwriters, are beautiful writers and I want to weep from the power of their thoughts. Add moving music and I'm both envious and enraptured. I want to write something that affects someone in their heart, or makes them laugh and forget their woes for a bit.

Other writers are popular, and there's a difference. There are mega bestselling authors, or rock star writers and their writing is... okay. We all know personal preference comes into play, but I can't help wondering if it's like 'follow the herd' mentality. There are Pulitzers that put me into a coma, yet they are labeled 'great' writing and everyone rushes out to buy the book. (I wonder if they read it...) Then, there are little known writers whose book I chance upon (or am asked to critique) that will always stay in my head. Little popularity, but good writing nonetheless.

I'm not begrudging anyone their success, I'm just saying I won't be part of the herd. Like Andy Warhol's soup can art; it's called a masterpiece but I can't see it. I would argue that Thomas Kinkade was a thousand times more talented. Art critics and buyers don't agree. (I have some fabulous preschool art from my kids that should be worth a cool quarter mill....)

Eye of the beholder aside, it's another reason I don't do reviews. I don't follow the crowd when they ooh and ahh over a particular book and I can't give it away fast enough.

There's room for the less well-known authors (and singers and artists) to get their share of the limelight. Let's not drown one person with all our attention when we can lavish it on many.

Back to painting...


Monday, March 16, 2015

What To Do....

I love the idea of this one manuscript.

 It needs work, possible major changes, but to throw out almost everything?

That's the advice from a trusted friend/well known ed/publishing big wheel. And from my agent.

What do you do when the advice is contrary to everything about the story, in no way fits or enhances your vision and you can't even think how to make the changes?

I don't want to throw the story away--I love it too much. But the changes... make it seem too much like everyone else's story. A few I can make, one I even had in the beginning, and it's feasible, but the others just aren't me.

I don't want that.

Non-fiction is so much easier. Yes, research, but the facts are the facts. Writing about the Titanic? No matter how or why, it sunk and no non-fiction piece will ever tell you otherwise.

Fiction is where anything can happen, Unless it doesn't fit in with what the publishing world wants. I feel like my story has to be someone else's.

So do I kill the story?

For now, it goes in the drawer. Maybe I need some time, distance, and consideration. I just can't write someone else's story because the words won't flow.

Goodnight, sweet tale, perhaps we shall meet again in the near future...

picture courtesy of Microsoft

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A Little Battered Up, But We're Both Springing Back!

The daffys are coming!!

The first buds on my daffodils are popping up!

It's been a hard winter for them; lots of snow, ice, subzero temperatures. I despaired at times that I'd ever see them. But here they are! Especially on a cloudy, looks like rain day, these make me sooo happy.

Last week, I felt like the daffodils buries in the cold ground. I had the worst case of the flu imaginable. Every joint hurt, I couldn't move off the couch for a whole week. Then I got the head and chest congestion, cough. Total misery.

On Tuesday, I started feeling a little better. Still stiff and sore, still congestion, but just a bit more 'awake.' I dragged my butt to do a few things around the house, took a nap, then dragged myself out to bell practice. I was dead by 9:30 pm.

But today I woke up feeling even a little bit more normal. Too sore to go to yoga, but I'm thinking a little swim to loosen up the joints. (I never knew what total body pain felt like-I will be more empathetic when people tell me how much their arthritis and similar diseases hurt.)

And then I saw the daffys. While it's still going to be tiring and painful, we'll both persevere and in a few weeks, we will be blossoming and joyful.

Wishing you all a burst of energy and inspiration!


Monday, March 2, 2015

These Things Happen

The Daffodil Watch has been suspended until:

1. It stops snowing every other day
2. I can move enough snow to get to my daffodil beds
3. When I go outside I don't have to worry about frostbite within 2 minutes

In the meantime (like until Wednesday when it's going to be 50 and I'll be out washing my car), I leave you with a picture of last year's glory:

And a little reminder from my friend and neighbor, Jeannie, to all of us:

Whether rejections, crises, upsets, disappointments--keep moving on.