Monday, September 28, 2009

National Book Festival

Once again authors and readers descended upon Washington D. C. The Washington Post put up a nice video of the various authors who talked about their craft and the books they love to read.

Also, on You Tube there is an amateur video of children's author Judy Blume talking about her childhood. If you love to read, book festivals of this caliber are a wonderful place to be. An array of books from all genres are laid out with the author there to chat with. Having done smaller book festivals, I know how much the authors enjoy this as much as the readers. Even the more popular authors have stated that it is a wonderful way to meet their readers and learn something about their fan base. Even if they do get writer's cramp signing so many books, they still love positive feedback from someone who truly gets where they're coming from.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

How to write a great query letter.

It's easy to get lost in the world of publishing. Everyone needs help occasionally. A literary agent has decided to make his and writer's lives a bit easier by offering a free download of his query letter tips. For the agent, it relieves them of the trouble of sorting through pointless and confusing query letters. For the writer, it gives great ideas and tips for writing a query letter that just might get noticed. Go ahead and have a look. Then, write your query with the agent in mind.
From the free download site: New York literary agent Noah Lukeman, President of Lukeman Literary Management Ltd, has represented multiple bestsellers, winners of the Pulitzer Prize and American Book Award, National Book Award Finalists, and has written three critically-acclaimed books on the craft of writing New York Times The First Five Pages, The Plot Thickens, and A Dash of Style). During his last 13 years as a literary agent he has read thousands of query letters and now, for the first time, he offers his insights on the query letter, sharing an insider's perspective, giving insights and practical tips about what works and what doesn’t.
HOW TO WRITE A GREAT QUERY LETTER:INSIDER TIPS AND TECHNIQUES FOR SUCCESS is a must-read for any writer serious about being published.Designed for writers of fiction and non-fiction, for screenwriters and poets, it speaks to a broad range of authors, offering principles that will help lead to success no matter what your craft.Practical, engaging, filled with exercises, anecdotes and sidebars, this 80 page e-book takes you on a journey, will transform your query letter from a document that could be rejected to a document that will make agents take you seriously.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Space Invaders

No, I am not talking about an ancient video game or Sci-Fi novel. I'm talking about individuals, who, for some reason, gravitate towards lonely people. These are gregarious, talkative, social people who honestly feel that if you are sitting alone, you are lonely. They assume that any right minded person craves social interaction. They see the poor pitiful soul sitting there all alone and they decide, right then and there, that they shall brighten up your world. They volunteer their presence so you will not feel like an out cast. To be fair, they crave the interaction as much as they think you do. They have plenty to say and it would be just plain weird to say it to no one. So, here you are. You found that perfect spot, away from the crowds, where you intend to sit. You may be waiting for someone or just killing time. You purposely chose this spot because of its seclusion. You may be at an amusement park waiting for your family to get off a ride. You may be on a lunch break. Oh the sweet serenity where you can gather your thoughts. You may be getting ready to pull out that book you've been reading. You've waited all day to get back to it. You silently congratulate yourself for finding a fine spot in which to exist, if only for a little while. As an added bonus you find a spot near a tree or better yet, a wall. One less personal access point, you sigh contentedly. You note that there are plenty of places for newcomers to sit, away from you. Since most people do not usually like to sit in too close proximity to someone else, you're pretty much guaranteed solitude.
Then it happens. You notice out of the corner of your eye that someone is looking in your direction. Then, they start walking toward you. You make a point to look at your phone or bag, anything to avoid eye contact. Then, oh dear lord, no! They sit right next to you despite the sea of unoccupied spaces far away from you. You mentally go over a list of inconspicuous exits you can make without insulting the intruder. For the love of god, you were just about to grab your book. You were so close. Now it would look like you obviously were trying to avoid this person. So? Does it matter you ask yourself? Noooooo, you wasted too much time thinking...Now the invader speaks to you! I know, I'll feign deafness. No, that would be too obvious. OK, I'll answer their question to be polite and then act like I have to go.
"Yes, it sure is nice weather", you respond. Nooooo, another question!
"I have a dog." You silently berate yourself for not saying that you hate animals or that you are allergic to them or anything that would cause this person to get up and leave. Too late, you're engaged in conversation! You pray for a cell phone call, an alien abduction or your family to return, anything but this time wasting conversation. Its not like you're anti-social or anything. You just looked so forward to this personal time out.
I searched a bit on the topic. To my horrors I discovered that those who are advisers are telling people to invade other people's space! They mean well, really they do. But, they fail to take into account that its OK to be alone sometimes. It doesn't necessarily mean anything negative. Why do the occasional loners get singled out as sad, pathetic people in need of companionship? Sometimes they are labeled as shy or worse yet, stuck up. When seeking a place to wait, size up the situation for yourself. Don't always do what other people tell you. You might just pick out some crazy person to sit next to. I won't go into the many scenarios that could ensue there. To be fair, there are those who want companionship in open spaces. The shy ones who seek companionship usually send out clear signals. They have no book to read, they make eye contact (even if they do look down immediately) or they sit rather close to occupied spaces. Even loners know that in a group situation like a sporting event or school activity, sitting alone is not usually an option. The loners know this and accept it. No one wants to be alone 100% of the time. OK, some do but they tend to be in a whole category by themselves.
Remember, people, when you are approaching a potential seat, don't pick out the person who obviously chose a seat way away from the crowd. They aren't necessarily lonely. In fact, their seat choice may be strategic. If there are many people around, yet this one person sits alone, there's a reason for this! Be kind and take pity on the, not necessarily lonely individual by choosing your own idealistic spot, way away from the loner. Thank you for your support.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Flying Snakes, Who Knew?

Just when you think you've cornered the market on innovation, you find out that someone already did it. There was a cartoonist who drew a strip with flying snakes. He smugly went where no other cartoonist had gone. He created a niche. He was quite proud of his unique character that he created out of his own imagination. His strips were mildly funny. It was the concept of the flying snake that made it silly. I gave this cartoonist silent accolades for his original, witty theme. Come to find out, flying snakes do exist in nature. (check out the videos) One can almost hear the snakes go "wheeeeeee" as they fly from one place to another. Not only do they fly, they do so in a floppy, comical kind of way. These snakes, in real life, are way more funny than the cartoonist's strips. OK, they don't actually fly like a bird but they do flee. Even though they are technically jumping in a wiggly sort of way, they are still called flying snakes. Flying snakes, you say, well that cartoonist honestly had no idea. Does it matter? It didn't seem to matter to the person who created Rocky the flying squirrel from the Bullwinkle cartoons. Everyone knew that flying squirrels existed and it didn't matter. So, should you spend your life trying to find a void in the creative world in order to be the "only one"?
I read that many of the new inventions being patented today are just remakes of old, expired patents. Sure they're modernized, but they aren't necessarily original. Try watching the old black and white sitcoms from early TV. You will see how many of those original ideas have been recycled by today's TV writers. Even those original shows "borrowed" from vaudeville and ancient comedians. Surely, after Socrates died from drinking Hemlock, some Greek comedian said, in his monologue before the gladiator festivities, "Hemlock! why didn't someone tell me Hemlock was poisonous?" when making a joke about the philosopher's demise.
The bottom line is, be creative. Follow that inner voice that tells you something is right. If you write, then write and finish things. Then, do it all over again. If you paint then paint...and so on. If it is your passion, follow it. Does it matter if flying snakes really exist? No, but it makes the world that much more fun.
Oh yes, as a side note, the aforementioned cartoonist did not use a flying snake as his hero due to its uniqueness. No, he admitted to using a snake because that was all he could draw accurately.