Friday Links

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Happy Friday! It’s officially the start of the Easter weekend in much of the world, and so for all of you celebrating, enjoy. Our offices are closed today, so I’m taking the time to catch up on some non-work related things and — I hope — do some personal reading. My TBR pile has been glaring at me especially hard the past few weeks.

But before I go “off duty,” I have some fun links for you to kick off the weekend. They’re definitely a bit all over the place today, so I hope you find something that sparks your imagination or just entertains you. Have a great weekend!

The Virtual Moleskine – A look at the history of this popular notebook, and at their efforts to add a digital option.

A Photographic Tour of America’s Libraries – In honor of National Library Week.

Bookmarks Competition Winners – Book Depository held a contest, and these charming designs were the winners.

In Pakistan, Literary Spring Is Both Renaissance and Resistance – A look at the book festival behind held in Lahore, despite the atmosphere of political instability and oppression.

The Power of Garcia Marquez – A look back at the writer, who passed away yesterday.

Holiday bonus: Peeps Show 2014, Winner and Finalists – An adorable and entertaining use of Peeps — those traditional too-sweet, sticky Easter-time treats — in storytelling. Worth a look, whatever your beliefs.

The Art of Boosting the Signal

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Some days it feels like you sign onto Twitter and everyone you follow is selling something. You know what it’s like: daily deals, freebies, new releases, tie-ins, giveaways. They want you to check out the sequel to the book you haven’t read yet, download their new widget counting down to their pub date, or spread the word regarding their starred review. And that’s all well and good. Everyone does it, and chances are excellent that you will, too, if you haven’t done so already. People expect a certain amount of sales in with their socializing when they frequent various forms of social media, and in many cases that very type of word-of-mouth is what lets us discover our next great read or app or website.

The key to marketing yourself and others using social media is to keep things minimal and meaty. By that I mean, only Tweet about your book a very small percentage of the time and also limit how often you’re being sales-y on behalf of your friends or people you support/admire, and when you do go into marketing mode, make sure you include something of substance. You want to get mileage for those 140 characters, so do your best to include something of genuine interest and don’t confuse your followers.

How often have you seen a Tweet go by that’s nothing more than a link? No information, no context. Why would you click on that? Perhaps if the person Tweeting the link is someone close to you and you know they’re directing it at you specifically, you’ll click without a second thought. But in most cases, that link is going to just scroll on by. Likewise, how often has someone sent out a Tweet with a meaningless title, link, and a “via” followed by a Twitter handle? Chances are that Tweet was generated from a website where the person Tweeting wanted to share the post and used their on-page Tweet button. If the post’s title is vague and the Tweeter didn’t add their own description, it’s almost as bad as sending out a link on its own.

It’s tempting to send a Tweet out quickly and move on, but if you’re genuinely trying to share a post or convey your enthusiasm for someone’s new release, take the time to work in a few words that give your followers the proper message. If you’re reTweeting something that’s vague, take a moment to modify the original Tweet for clarity. Did you read the work you’re Tweeting about? Did you love it? Say so. Maybe it kept you up reading all night. Or you read slowly to savor every word. Are you talking up a friend’s webinar or book signing? What makes them knowledgable or entertaining? Share that information to make the Tweet stand out.

When it comes to marketing your own project, make sure you stress your own enthusiasm that it’s going out into the world more than you beg people to buy it. You love your book and hope others will as well. Encourage anyone who gives it a try to let you know what they think. Engage your followers. Start a conversation. Also, remember that Twitter doesn’t need to be a final destination. Use Tweets to link to blog posts or free chapters or tie-in short stories on your website. Limit your announcements regarding these items to a couple of Tweets a day, spacing them out to allow people in different time zones to get the information, and make sure you Tweet about plenty of non-promotional things in between.

Twitter can provide a great platform for marketing your work and helping the spread the word about other people’s projects you’ve enjoyed, but it’s up to everyone to make the experience is painless as possible. Take the time to craft your Tweets, be considerate of your followers and avoid flooding their feeds with endless promotions, and you can help keep the Twitter conversation entertaining and enjoyable for all. Happy Tweeting!

 

Friday Links

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TGIF! And I mean that most sincerely. This has been the sort of week where you take two steps forward and 14 back, with schedules turned on end and all sorts of unexpected things flying out of the woodwork, some good, some of the duck-or-run variety. My consolation is that the weekend is here (nearly) and I plan to spend a good portion of it sleeping, and also in an air conditioned movie theater with Captain America and his cohorts. (Have you seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier yet? No? What are you waiting for? Go!)

Okay, now that we’ve gotten the agent-as-geek portion of the post out of the way… I bring you links! A fair few are colored by my love of National Poetry Month, but there’s some other stuff going on as well. I hope you find them entertaining and interesting, and maybe a bit inspirational, depending on what floats your boat. Wishing you all a great weekend, filled with words and sunshine. Enjoy!

Kima Jones, On Black Bodies and Being a Black Woman Who Writes – A great piece from NPR with this talented emerging poet.

Revisiting YA Verse Novels: A 2014 Guide to the Format – For those of you who love, or are curious about, YA novels in verse. Good list.

Amazon.com to Acquire ComiXology – Yeah. Not sure how I feel about this.

Vladimir Nabokov on Writing, Reading, and the Three Qualities a Great Storyteller Must Have – On inventing story.

A Censored History of Ladies in YA Fiction – On writing under the anonymity of initials and more.

Between the Lines: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie with Zadie Smith

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Check out this fabulous author conversation between authors Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Zadie Smith, discussing Adichie’s latest book, AMERICANAH, with a focus on themes of identity and globalization. It’s a fairly long interview, and there are a couple of technical glitches, but it’s still well worth a viewing. Unfortunately it’s not letting me embed for some reason, but you can watch it over on the Schomberg Center’s site.

Friday Links

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Normally I’m all about Friday. Yay, weekend! Even though I work at least part of most weekends, there’s a certain mindset they bring with them that just makes things feel a bit more cheerful. Except this weekend I have a hot date with my tax return, so… not so much. However, that doesn’t mean I’m not wishing all of you a wonderful weekend, and naturally I have a list of links to help you ease the way. At the very least, I hope they make you think or perhaps take a fresh look at how you approach your writing. Enjoy!

Speak Plainly: Are we Losing the War Against Jargon? – An interesting look at trends in conversational style.

10 Signs of Underdeveloped Characters in Your Novel – Some good tips.

10 Surprising Ways to Transform Your Creative Thinking – Thoughts on how to best get your brain churning.

Buried Badasses: The Forgotten Heroines of pre-Code Comics – A peek at some “Golden-Age” comics, and at the kick-ass women who graced their pages.

The Night I Slept Outside Shakespeare & Company – One writer’s encounter with the famed Parisian bookstore.

A Month for Verse

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Poetry is truth in its Sunday clothes.

~Joseph Roux

Happy National Poetry Month! I don’t discuss poetry much here, mostly because I don’t represent it and I don’t want to confuse anyone. But as a reader, I love poetry, and I believe that writers of every stripe should read poetry as often as possible. It bends the brain in new directions, looks at the world through a different sort of lens, and sings to the soul in varying rhythms. Plus poets know all the best vocabulary words.

When I was seven or eight, my mother bought me a giant anthology of poetry geared for children but that included plenty of poems originally intended for adults. It was a giant hardcover off the dollar book table, with a torn book jacket, but we brought it home and my mother made a book cover out of some gorgeous old wrapping paper, and inside the pages were pristine and illustrated. Many of the poems had a narrative structure, or else a familiar rhyming pattern, or were only a stanza or two long. It was my first introduction to Emily Dickinson and Ogden Nash, to “Paul Revere’s Ride” by Longfellow and to many others, and it made an indelible impression.

I loved how much thought and story could be condensed into such a small package, how entire stories could reveal themselves in a few short paragraphs — while rhyming, no less, though I liked the poems that didn’t rhyme, too. And although I was already a reader who could happily devote entire days to curling up with a book, I appreciated the quick fix of poetry. I could finish reading an entire poem between the time my mother called me down to dinner and the time she actually expected me at the table. It was also easy to keep all the details of something that compact in my mind, to turn over and contemplate in a way I couldn’t with a full-length novel. A poem, once read, belonged to me in a way other reading material didn’t.

In fourth grade, my reading teacher announced a year-long introduction to poetry. Around our regular book assignments and free reading, we would be doing an ongoing poetry unit that basically consisted of standing before the class and reading a pre-chosen poem out loud. Once every couple of weeks, we would devote a class period to poetry readings. Kids would sign up to read ahead of time, choose their poem, and then when the time came, read it to the class. You didn’t need to memorize it, but you did need to read it through beforehand so that you wouldn’t stutter and stumble through it on the actual day. And even better, our teacher would be reading aloud, also. I can’t say I recall much of what the other students read, but I do remember the day our teacher read “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes (which I was later delighted to realize was in my own enormous poetry collection). The poem itself is highly dramatic, and she played it up to the hilt. I had no idea what a highwayman was prior to that day, had no idea poetry could make me feel anxious and put me on the edge of my seat. Even for someone who already enjoyed poetry, it was a revelation.

Not all my academic experiences with poetry were wonderful or inspiring. Poetry, like any kind of reading material, comes in all shapes and sizes. Some of it is difficult, like wading through quicksand. Some of it is plain incomprehensible. But the bug bit early enough, and firmly enough, that I never gave up. I went through all the typical adolescent experiences you might expect; scribbling poems in my journal, writing them for class assignments, editing them for the high school literary magazine. I took far more English classes than required for my university degree — taking both the mandatory courses and then using them for electives as well — and unsurprisingly, there were a fair number of poetry courses along the way. I added John Donne and Milton, Eliot and Bishop, Auden and Yeats to my list of loves, but also Margaret Atwood, Nikki Giovanni, and other living writers.

Outside the academic confines, it’s more difficult to discover “new” poetry — either classics I’ve yet to come across or modern writers, though certain standbys area always lurking on library shelves or well-stocked bookstores. Word of mouth, the internet, and the occasional literary magazine provide new names to check out. Some of my favorite recents finds were the result of an online writers’ loop where we instituted a periodic Poetry Day, and members shared poems and/or poets they love with the group. They introduced me to Denise Levertov, Anna Akhmatova, Sharon Olds…

Poetry still serves as a small escape. It is a treat, a pocket of peace in a sea of work and work-related reading. Sometimes I crave the beauty of a lyrical verse, sometimes the humor of something short and silly. It is an easy prescription, a quick getaway, a balm.

Do you read poetry? Does it affect your own writing? Who are your favorite poets? Who would you recommend?

 

Goal Check: Assessing Your Year-in-Progress

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Farewell to March! It’s the last day of the month, and also of the first quarter of the year, which makes today an excellent time to assess your writing progress and see where you want to go next. Remember those goals and/or resolutions you made around January 1st? How are those working out for you? Never mind your visits to the gym or your promise to eat more fiber; I’m interested in your writing goals, and how you’re working toward building your career.

Perhaps you’ve had a great few months, and you’re right on target for the goals you set. If so, congratulations! Toast yourself, or grab a cupcake — whatever little reward makes you smile — and then face forward and continue to charge ahead. What goals have you set for yourself for the second quarter? What needs to happen in April to keep you on track? Are there any adjustments you would like to make based on what you’ve accomplished so far? Have any new opportunities come up that change your game plan? Goals and resolutions should be fluid, altering as your writing progresses, new ideas come to mind, and you master both your craft and the business.

On the other hand, you might be feeling a little behind right now. Maybe you didn’t get as much writing time in as you’d hoped, or you’re not completely pleased with your latest project. That’s fine. Just take a deep breath and an honest look at what you’ve been doing. Have you been procrastinating or simply busy with things outside your control? Are you being too hard on your WIP? Any draft is better than a blank page, after all. Get it all down, and then go back and revise. Books are made during the editing process; no one should expect a first draft to be golden. Then decide where to go next. What would you like to accomplish going forward? How can you carve out more writing time? Maybe take a writing class for inspiration, or see if you can join a new writing group to get some fresh feedback. Assess your goals for the year, and see what you need to do in the next three months to point yourself back in the right direction.

If you swore to write 1,000 words a day starting January 1st, and kept to that resolution, you could be finishing off the first draft of a 90,000 word novel today. Maybe it would be a shitty first draft, but that’s okay, because we all know that draft is just the kicking-off point — something to work with, beyond the scary blank page. If you start April 1st and write 1,000 words a day, you can have a first draft by the end of June. Don’t beat yourself up for something you failed to do in the past. Just recommit to your writing and do the best you can each day. And don’t forget that, depending where you are in your career development, you can also make goals pertaining to getting published, improving your self-marketing skills, and more.

Some potential goals for April through June:

  • Commit to writing every day (either a set word goal or a specific amount of time)
  • Finish a work-in-progress
  • Revise a first draft
  • Write and polish three short stories
  • Research agents and make a list of potential representation for your nearly finished project
  • Send out ten query letters a month
  • Brainstorm 50 ideas for potential projects; write the first sentence for each of them
  • Set up a blog tour for an upcoming release
  • Redesign your author site
  • Learn one new form of social media and engage through it regularly (frequency to be determined by the platform)
  • Start a quarterly newsletter for your readers and include a sign-up on your author site home page

Friday Links

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Happy Friday, everyone! I hope you all had a good, productive week. It seemed to go quite quickly; frankly, I’m not sure how we’re staring down April already. 2014 is flying along.

I have a collection of links this week that should inspire you to action, whether that’s to sit your butt down and actually write something or to polish and submit an existing project that’s been languishing on your hard drive. Spring has sprung, regardless of the weather in your neck of the woods, and it’s time to take the plunge, whatever that means for you. Go make something happen this weekend. Start things rolling.

With that I wish you a wonderful weekend filled with books and writing and ideas. Enjoy!

April Prompts – A prompt a day for a month. This site lists a new month’s worth of inspiration on the last Monday of each month, so bookmark it for future inspiration.

Learning to Love Editing – This writer blogs about some advice she heard from YA author Holly Black years ago and has finally learned to embrace.

Inspiration Information: “The Interestings” – The New Yorker kicks off a new series of interviews with authors about the cultural influences on their work.

Life Is too Short to Read a Bad Book – Author Edan Lepucki interviews her editor at Little, Brown, Allie Sommer, about the editing process and what she loves to read.

Opportunities for Writers: April/May 2014 – A list of contests and call for work/submissions for the upcoming months.

Myths, Misfits, & Masks

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Imagine growing up without any cultural icons or heroes who look like you? Or, even worse, imagine that everyone held up in the media who does look like you is being identified for having committed a crime. What would that do to your sense of self? How would it shape your goals for the future? And how do you think those stereotypes can be corrected?

In this TED Talk geared toward teens (but applicable to all), comic book editor Sana Amanat talks about growing up Muslim in the United States in the wake of the first attack on the World Trade Center, how her experiences affected her, and where she sought refuge. Her talk is interesting on multiple levels, but above all it serves to highlight the importance of having diverse characters in published works and also diversity behind the scenes.

Friday Links

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Happy spring! Today is the first full day of spring, and I hope it finds you ready for a wonderful weekend, whatever your local weather. I have some great links this week, including book recs, so if you’re in a part of the country that’s still holding onto winter, you might consider curling up somewhere warm and cozy with one of these titles. Of course, I’d love to hear you’ve devoted an hour or two to your writing, as well.

Whatever your plans, wishing you a lovely Friday and a good weekend break. Enjoy!

10 Women Writers All Women Should Read – (Men, too.) A good selection, though by no means exhaustive.

16 Ways to Conquer the Blank Page – How to fight writer’s block.

23 Children’s Books You Need to Read Again as an Adult – Whether you read them to your kids or just dive in yourself, nice list.

The VIDA Count: 2013 – In case you haven’t already seen it. A survey of how major publications have done in the last year regarding the diversity of their contributors/subjects.

A Tale of Two Literary Magazines – A look at the reactions of two publications in the wake of the VIDA statistics, interesting for the attitudes of the participants as much as for the results themselves.

Fictional Places that Attract Real Tourists – Having visited a few hobbit holes — among other things — myself, I can relate to this tendency.

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