Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
I can't say that there are any really invariable rules about why a story should be told as fiction or non, but we've all learned some things from the James Frey and other literary scandals of the past few years. If a story is too good to be true, then it's wise to put the words, "A Novel" on the cover. If you call it a memoir, but you've embellished a lot, you're mislabeling a product, and no consumer wants to be misled.
Sometimes a life story can be just too rich -- filled with too many characters or incidents -- to fit neatly within the category of "memoir. " Those stories can benefit from the kind of imaginative editing and reshaping that goes into creating a novel.
Readers will always be hungry for stories about the lives of others, whether they are real or invented. Sometimes the trick is discovering just what kind of story you are telling.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
I also found the panels and other readings inspiring as well, as much for their content (really interesting info/discussions, great fiction) but also for the shared sense that reading and writing is to be celebrated. And what was also great -- all panels, signings, and readings were free and open to the public. Next time you hear about these kinds of events, I strongly urge that you attend! I know that I will.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Monday, March 15, 2010
I suspect it will be well attended, as it should be, by fans, authors, and writers interested in writing for the teen age audience. We all hear stories about the dire state of publishing, but the kids' market is a growth industry, with the success of blockbusters like Twilight, Percy and the Olympians, Pendragon, Gossip Girl, and superstar authors of individual titles (like Sarah Dessen), breathing life into the bottom line, and helping to support the quieter books by lesser-known writers. Publishing houses that have closed or consolidated imprints are often adding or expanding their reach to the young adult readers.
There are a number of reasons for this; partly it's just plain demographics -- there are a LOT of teens out there. But it's also because of a phenomenon remarked on in a recent article in the LA Times -- more adults are reading YA material.
Authors writing for teens or kids were sometimes viewed as "lesser than" and if you wanted to "cross over" into publishing fiction for adults your manuscripts were viewed with some suspicion. Not so anymore. Funny how those golden eggs change the perception of the goose...
I've always read books for kids and teens, long after the shelf-date on my adolescence expired. And it's what I write too. Not because it continues to be a growth-area in publishing but because the heightened life/death stakes of teenage lives appeals to me, because exploring the world through a teenager's eyes is exciting to me, and also because probably there wasn't any expiration date on my adolescence. I'm pleased to have been included in the festival -- I'll be reading from my YA novel Thicker than Water (which was included on the NYPL "Books for the Teen Age" list in 2006 and thankfully is still out in paperback!) at the Jefferson Market Library at 10 am, March 18th. And I'll be attending some of the panels too -- it's always inspiring and often reassuring to hear other writers talking about their process, since writing is a profession that can be very isolated. I suggest all of you with an interest in this area try to attend too!
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Thursday, March 11, 2010
What happened? Today, truthfully, I look at a novel and make sure the first thirty pages are fun to read as opposed to well written; set up good characters and make me hunger for more. Non-Fiction, Arnold has covered that. So what am I going to do to refresh my critical mind? I'm going back to the classics. Since I have zero memory of what I read last night, never mind forty years ago, I am thinking I will start off easy-THE CATCHER IN THE RYE Does that count? All I remember are the ducks.
Now I finally understand why there are book clubs and notes in the back of fiction. Duh. Took me one hundred years to figure it out. And that's another one: ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE-I don't remember a thing. I would love to take a year off and just read classics. Maybe when I retire that is exactly what I will do.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
I am on a lonely, probably futile, personal crusade to eradicate the use of “impact” as a verb throughout this planet. No book I have written or edited contains it (unless the author snuck it back into the manuscript when I wasn’t looking, or I dozed off—as I’m prone to do in the presence of such writing—and missed it).
Impaction is a medical condition that afflicts molars and intestines; “impact” as a noun may appropriately describe the unwelcome assault of a bomb, a car, or a punch; or in general the effect of one thing on another. But over the years I see it everywhere as a verb: “Always be aware of how your behavior impacts others,” “The marketing team hadn’t considered how the campaign would impact the budget,” “Women’s lives have been significantly impacted by the feminist movement.” Even if it’s correct, who could learn from writing like this, much less love it?
That’s my beef with “impact.” I think it’s a classic example of unthinking writing or (worse) intellectual timidity in which the writer fears to take a stand by choosing a word of true descriptive power. Call it a “speed bump word”—one a writer throws in there to quickly get over the mental speed bump of having to weigh more descriptive, hardworking options that could amplify the reader’s understanding; for example: affect, alter, increase, promote, magnify, extend, enlarge, broaden, sharpen, quicken, decrease, lessen, diminish, depress, erode, reduce, narrow, shrink, or devastate. Since we have such words in this marvelous language, why not paint with all the colors at our disposal?
I know, I know . . . get a life. But before I go out to find one, I have to ask: Is anyone else on a Word Crusade?
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Friday, March 5, 2010
And what about those films I saw after enjoying the book -- everything from Wuthering Heights to The Hours to Julie and Julia? If I really love a book, then I anticipate having the pleasure of rediscovering the work, seeing actors impersonate characters I had only imagined, and finding a new point of view in a director's vision. I guess it comes down to the richness of the original work -- Jane Austen versus Ian Fleming, for example. If staying on the edge of your seat is of paramount importance (as in the Polanski film), then reading the book first might actually interfere with your enjoyment of the film.
Then there are those films that have pointed me in the direction of a book and enriched my experience of it. I read Tom Jones as a teenager right after seeing Tony Richardson's brilliant film. I still recall the great pleasure I had in inserting Albert Finney into Fielding's deliciously unhurried picaresque novel. Sometimes movies don't replace books at all, but actually can bring us back to reading.
Monday, March 1, 2010
This morning I was editing a manuscript for a book intended to be both practical and inspirational. The chapter I was working on focused on having spiritual belief. And I found myself in conversation (electronically, via Track Changes Comments) with the author, feeling unconvinced by the author’s discussion and asking questions readers might ask in order to “go there” with her.
That got me thinking about the editor’s role, which I believe is to reflect the reader’s unfolding experience to the author. The author is the expert on his or her world, but that very expertise can cause a blind spot about the reader’s world. The editor’s job is to align the worlds of author and reader so they can enter each other’s experiences. When things work as they should, both are enriched: most authors who are well edited say that the process not only improved their book, but also deepened their understanding of their subject, and satisfied readers extol the rewards of reading well-written books.
That philosophy of “being the reader” keeps me on the editorial straight and narrow: if an edit falls under the rubric of my personal preference (“I don’t agree with this,” or “here’s how I would write it,”) I consider it an invalid edit. If it falls under the rubric of reflecting the reader’s experience (“I’m confused by this statement because it contradicts the one just above,” or “I don’t understand the leap of logic between this paragraph and the next one,” or “I think there’s a risk of losing the skeptic in this section; here’s where the thread of logic seemed to disappear,” or “This is the first time we’ve seen this term. What does it mean?"), then it’s valid and worthy of the author’s consideration. It’s an approach that keeps the ego out of things and puts both the author and me squarely where we should be: in the service of the subject and the reader.
Copyright (c) 2010 by Toni Sciarra Poynter