Sunday, February 27, 2011

Building Creativity

I've cocooned myself away for the last few months. No blogging, except for my posts on Five Star Expressions. No surfing the blogs to add comments. No participation in online discussion. And during my writing time, I actually make myself stay in my Word program instead of surfing the net.

I'm trying to jumpstart my creativity.

There's an article in the March/April issue of Poets and Writers, an interview with John B. Thompson. I know, I'd never heard of him either. But Thompson has written a book about a subject in which we're all interested: the world of trade publication, how it has changed since the 1960s and how it's changing today. The article is fascinating, and I'd recommend it for writers who are hoping to publish or to continue to be published. But one concept struck me particularly and that's Thompson's idea of what publishers want: the Big Book.
Oh yes, you say, don't we all want the Big Book.

But Thompson goes on to say that we would assume that by Big Book, he means a bestseller. That is wrong.

"A Big Book exists even before it's been published, sometimes before it's been finished. It's a hoped-for bestseller; it exists in the space of the possible. It's nourished by hope and expectation."

He calls this the "web of collective belief." According to Thompson, a huge amount of energy goes into the process of people in the industry persuading each other that they have a proposal, a draft or even an idea for a book that in the future is going to be a best-seller.

In other words, the Big Book is an Idea.

What's a poor writer to do?

Rebbie's solution: focus on developing your own creativity to find your Idea.

I like this article about creativity. I'm staying away from the fun stuff online to give myself plenty of time to be creative, to let myself be inspired.

How about you? Are you allowing time for slow, meandering thoughts and writing that may lead to inspiration? Are you nourishing your creativity?

Friday, February 25, 2011

On working with a writing partner by Barbara Fleming

Msny words have been written, much advice tendered, about the importance of having someone critique writing before it goes into the world for scrutiny. Writing is a lonely task, but rewriting benefits from another eye and mind. I am heartily in favor of critique groups--indeed, I belong to one--but in the last decade or so I have also benefited, in somewhat different ways, from having a writing partner.

Why a partner? For one, we know, like and trust each other,and we are compatible about what it means to critique. Critiquing is not cheerleading--it is an honest, thoughtful, intelligent response to the writing of others. The writer does not benefit from fulsome praise and is discouraged by a barrage of criticism. Many people seem to think critiquinhg means criticism. Not so. My partner and I are in agreement that we will do neither. Instead, we provide a considered response after a careful reading. We ask questions: Why did this charater say/do this? What is the purpose of this scene? How does it advance the story? And we give feedback: You lost me when...This passage seems out of place in this context...A transition might be helpful here. And so on. Talking back and forth as we do, sharing responses and sparking off each other's comments, we often arrive at a much better way to present a scene, a dialogue, a description.

With just the two of us, we can dig deeply into each other's work. We come to know the novel and its characters intimately, whereas in a lager group that is less likely to happne. Knowing the characters well allows us to question actions and motivations if they don't seem to fit. With just the two of us, we have time to give more than one readinhg to the work for that session. That means we pick up nuances those in a larger group might miss. With just the two of uus, we can set our own time and place to meet and there are only two schedules to accommodate.

I recognize that a writing partner is not for everyone. I'm sure there are and have been many rich, famous and successful writers who did not have anyone, or did not choose to have anyone, critique their work. I am also sure writing partners are not in abundant supply. This person needs to be someone who likes and respects your work as a writer just as you do hers, who writes at your level of skill and experience, and who is willing and able to spend the time to delve thoroughly into your writing as you will into hers. But I have had such a partner to enrich my writing, and for that I consider myself extremely fortunate.

Friday, February 18, 2011

E-Book Revolution

The E-Book Revolution

by Jacqueline Seewald

Attention: The E-book revolution is now! Amazon reports they are selling more e-books than paperbacks. Forget about hardcover sales! Even libraries have cut back on hardcover orders. Borders filed for bankruptcy. Many independent bookstores are going out of business. Should writers panic? Is literacy being challenged? Doubtful. What’s happening is a new intellectual revolution partially fueled by a depressed economy and also new technology. This is nothing unique in the annuals of history.

To us today, faced with an amazing knowledge explosion in the world of computer and internet technology, it may seem as though people in the Renaissance knew very little. However, they were very interested in the improvement of mankind.

The word "renaissance" means "rebirth". To Italians of the fifteenth century, this rebirth meant a revival of interest in the Greek and Roman classics. Yet this interest was not totally lacking in the Middle Ages. The scholars of the Renaissance put their emphasis on rediscovering the art and humanities of antiquity. In that sense, they were reactionary rather than forward-looking in their movement. But gradually, the Renaissance became something larger, a rebirth of the human spirit, a realization of the human potential for development. That realization led to many discoveries: scientific and geographical as well as artistic, philosophical and religious.

It is hard to overstate the impact and importance of the printing press on civilization at large, both in its own right and as part of the vast re-ordering of society that appeared in the Renaissance and Reformation. Did the invention of the Gutenberg printing press begin an intellectual revolution or was this technology a product of the intellectual revolution that was the Renaissance?

Before the invention of the printing press, in the Middle Ages or Medieval period, monks in monasteries copied bibles and important books by hand. It was a slow and painstaking process. It also made books quite expensive. Books were rare. Only the very rich could afford to own many books. Many books were religious in nature. Reading was for people of privilege: clergy, scholars, men of the court. Very few ordinary people had the opportunity to learn to read. Most important works were written in Latin, which was not the language of the average man.
Printing came to Europe from China in the early fifteenth century. The technique of printing from wooden blocks had been practiced by the Chinese since the tenth century and was introduced in Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg around 1418. A revolutionary advance in the art of printing, the invention of movable type, which made possible the production of many copies of the same text, was achieved in the Rhineland of Europe during the middle of the fifteenth century.

Johannes Gutenberg, to whom the invention is credited, printed a number of books between 1450 and 1455. He worked and lived in Strassburg, Germany until returning to his native town of Mainz where he went into partnership for the making of books. His type was used to create the first book made with movable type, the so-called Gutenberg Bible, which was issued in Latin.

Gutenberg did not invent the printing press. As a master goldsmith, he knew how to cut symbols, designs, and letters into metals and into wax to form molds with which he cast jewelry and seals. Building on the earlier Chinese idea of movable wooden type, he realized that casting it in metal would solve most of the problems with wooden type.

Gutenberg’s work was of major importance in the advancement of learning that marked the Renaissance. Not long after Gutenberg's invention, presses began turning out books in at least ten other European cities. By 1500, about nine million books had been printed. More people were learning how to read. Ideas could be more readily exchanged. The cost of books was considerably lower. More people could afford books. Also, since most people were not educated in Greek, Latin and Hebrew like the scholars of the university, the church or the court, there was a demand for books printed in the vernacular languages, the languages that people actually spoke. There was also a demand for non-religious literature. Spelling became standardized. Language generally became more accurate. Important ideas were now discussed and debated through the printed word. When the Bible was finally written in the vernacular, it became understandable to all those who could read without the need of interpretation or the aid of a priest. This helped to lay the foundation of the Reformation, a religious revolution.

After the invention of the Gutenberg press, people who could read would have access to all kinds of knowledge and information at the same time. With such information available, it allowed for complex thinking to develop, where ideas could be pulled together to form new complex ideas. It allowed for research, the basis for developing new theories and identifying accurate information. There was a great demand for secular literature, an expansion of knowledge and learning in all areas.
So now we have a new intellectual revolution, an e-book revolution. As for myself, I have only had one e-book published so far: L&L Dreamspell published my YA coming of age/romance novel STACY’S SONG in both paperback and all e-book formats. And yes, it is selling better as an e-book!

Where do you think the e-book revolution will lead? Do you as a reader and/or writer see this as a good thing?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Who Was This Valentine?

The origins of Valentine’s Day are shrouded in mystery, because the Catholic Encyclopedia mentions three saints with that name, one of whom was a priest, one a bishop, and the other a relative unknown. About the last, we only know he died in Africa. However, it’s generally believed the holiday honors the third century priest. Oddly, all three men are said to have been martyred on February 14th.
     The day associated with love probably sprang from the Pagan festival of Lupercalia, a Roman celebration of growth and fertility. Pope Gelasius renamed the Pagan festival Saint Valentine’s feast day, in honor of the Roman martyred priest.

In medieval France and England, it was believed that most birds mated on February 14th, and by the 18th century, Saint Valentine’s Day had evolved from a religious feast day to a secular one in which cards were made, complete with ribbons and hearts, along with a love poem or verse, and exchanged by lovers. The tradition spread to the colonies, and February 14th is now widely known for a day to celebrate romance. So while you’re enjoying chocolates and wine, give a toast to Saint Valentine. It never hurts to curry favor with someone who may pull the strings in the romance department.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Chicken Soup or Chili or Clam Chowder or...

The writing life isn’t always a bowl of cherries. But, for me, it has come to involve a bowl of soup.

We all find support in different ways. Comfort food and good friends are among the most common, though, and both have become large parts of my writing life. A couple years ago, one of my dearest writing partners broached an idea, inspired by Anne Randolph’s Soup Kitchen Writing. A few weeks later, we became soupies.

Every Thursday, a few of us who have flexible schedules get together. Alternating homes, we gather for lunch. The meals are simple: soup and bread. But, we get to spend an hour as friends, just chatting about our lives, our celebrations, our frustrations, our dreams. Since we have writing in common, we discuss accomplishments and setbacks in our writing life. But, since we are friends as well, we share life as a whole.

Then, after clearing the table, we pull out our laptops to share writing. Each of us identifies a goal for the day and we begin. Around a dining room table or sometimes in the living room or outdoors, depending out our moods and the weather, we simply write. At the one hour mark, we check progress and coach each other onward. At the two-hour mark, we report and shut our computers down.

The next week, we do it all over again.

It’s a simple concept but it has become such a part of my writing life that I’m not sure what I would do without it.

There is something so basic about sharing. Our soup nourishes our bodies, of course. But the gathering nourishes our souls. For that day, we break away from routine. The simple meal brings friends together to share lives. For writers, introverts that we often are, such times can enrich us more than we realize.

And, then, there is the writing. There are Thursdays when I’ve been stuck and the act of sitting across from my friends, who are all busy typing away, can prod me into creativity. There are productive days where I get pages and pages done. There are days when new thoughts flow and days when revisions get done. But always, I know that those two hours will be full and focused on my writing and that I will accomplish. If it has been a hectic week where life has wreaked havoc with my writing, it will be a day that I return to it.

The writing life is pretty simple sometimes. Who knew soup could be such a wonderful thing?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Reading an ARC

Last month, I talked about electronic publishing. (I'll be doing a blog/workshop/Q&A on the topic at the Savvy Authors DigiCon on Feb. 15th, btw). So, this month, I thought I'd look at the process for my print book, WHERE DANGER HIDES, due out in May. In my December post, I mentioned I was waiting for the ARCs to arrive, the next step along the road to publication.

The publisher puts these out in trade paperback size, with the full color front cover image. This is the Last Chance to catch typos. This is also the copy that the publisher sends to reviewers, hoping for some advance buzz that will sell books to their target market—libraries.

Reading an ARC isn't like reading a book. There's that sword hanging over the head feeling. Miss a typo, and it's forever in the book. And they're often hard to spot. No period at the end of one sentence? Two periods 3 pages down the road (must be a 'conservation of punctuation' thing)? Quotes facing the wrong direction? You're expected to find them all.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Giveaway Winner Announcement from Jacqueline Seewald

The winner of a copy of my sensual historical romance TEA LEAVES AND TAROT CARDS has been chosen randomly by an impartial party. Before announcing the winner, I would just like
to say that I appreciated all the positive, supportive comments given.

If possible, I would give everyone a copy of the novel. However, there is one way to read my novel and many others at no cost whatever: place a request at your local library. If you ask,
they will order. A great many libraries have already ordered and received copies of this novel.

One important function of our libraries is to provide books that patrons want to read. Your tax dollars help pay for this privilege. So don't be shy about using it! As a former acquisitions librarian myself, I always paid attention and ordered requested books.

And now for the winner: Caroline Clemmons. Congratulations, Caroline! Your copy of
TEA LEAVES AND TAROT CARDS has already been mailed and you should be receiving it very

My very best to all of you,