Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wisdom on Wednesdays: A Note on Professionalism

A lot of you have probably heard by now about the author who went ballistic on a reviewer who posted a mixed review on their blog. I'm not going to name the author, or the reviewer, or the blog - it isn't really that important, and I don't want any flaming in here. The point of this post isn't to ridicule, or make the author feel worse than she probably already does now that she's had a couple of days to look back at her very bad, very public behavior.

I just want to reiterate this point: we are professionals. We might sleep in, gorge ourselves on chocolate and coffee, refuse to change our socks, and bathe sporadically, but when it comes down to dealing with other writers, editors, agents, and anyone else in the publishing or book business, we are professionals, and we have to act like it.

Please, please, please, for the sake of your future in this or any other industry (and this goes for actors too - and YOU KNOW WHO I AM TALKING ABOUT): don't respond unkindly when you see someone saying something about your work that you don't like. Don't insult people. Don't argue with people over whether your work has merit. Just don't do it. If you can't be professional and polite, then be invisible and silent. Lock yourself in your bedroom or call your best friend and rant away. Scream at your mirror till your throat is sore, write in your private journal until your pen runs out of ink and your anger runs out of steam, and then move on to the next book or the next movie or the next whatever and put the bad review behind you. Instead of trying to get even or convince them they're wrong, spend that energy making your next project ten times better than the last one.

But whatever you do, don't get into a public confrontation. It will only do you harm.

Monday, March 28, 2011

In Which Hell Freezes Over

So, if you're a regular around here, you might have noticed the change in the sidebar to the right. Namely the addition of the "Tweet" buttons. And the big window with tweets in it. By me.

Yeeeaaah. I might have joined Twitter. This might be my profile. And it's a little weird.

I feel like I'm in uncharted territory. I mean, some people seem to go from wonderfully informative or insightful (this is a great book, this is a great article) to insanely off-the-cuff (Coffee - YUMMO!) in the space of less than three tweets. But then others are pretty much either one or the other most of the time. And I'm still getting the hang of how to sort the tweets. #isthatevenpossibleHELP

But I'm getting there. I wanted to open myself up to building connections with agents, editors, and other writers out there, so I figured I'd have to jump in sooner or later, and it may as well be sooner.

So, come find me. I'm @IshtaWrites. I tweet a few times a day, about books I love, articles I think are interesting, and other useful publishing/writing-related things. I don't auto-follow-back, but if your tweets generally err on the side of informative, I WILL follow you!

See you in the Twitterverse. #watchoutforflyingpigs

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Favorites: Firefly!

Confession time: I'm a sci-fi geek.

I KNOW! Who saw that one coming? No-one, right? With my big hair and actor/dancer-ness? But yeah, I'm totally a sci-fi geek. I once dressed up as Counsellor Troi from Star Trek:TNG for Halloween. I went to conventions. My attic is a gold mine for Trekker nerds. But what with the kids, and the husband, and the trying to launch multiple careers at the same time, I kind of lost my way.

Until I discovered Firefly!

First, the concept: It's the Wild West. In Space. The blend of horses, six-shooters, illegal shipments of cattle, and spaceships is pretty frawesome. If that's not high-concept, I don't know what is.

Second: It was created by Joss Whedon. You know who he is - he wrote this show called Buffy the Vampire Slayer that might have gone on to attract millions of fans and spawn a spinoff, dolls, books, comics... He also wrote Toy Story. Mm-Hmm. So you know going in that this is going to be high quality scriptwriting.

Third: it stars Nathan Fillion, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors. His characters are so rich, you almost think he's just being himself, except that they're all different from each other, so he must just be good.

If you like westerns, you'll like Firefly. If you like Sci-fi, you'll like Firefly. If you like both, you'll definitely like Firefly.

It was cancelled after 14 episodes for reasons that are unknown to me - and frankly, I just can't understand what could have made them drop this show. So, go to the video store. Buy the series. Watch it. You'll love it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Are Bookstores Going Bye-Bye?

One of my local indie bookstores is going out of business at the end of this month. Well, actually, it's not technically one of my local bookstores. It's a family-owned-and-run shop two towns over from where I live. But it's the closest indie to my house, so I'm claiming it. At least, until the end of the month, when it won't be there anymore.

This makes me sad.

I asked the owners what made it impossible for them to stay open, and they cited the upsurge in e-reading, as well as the opening of a big-chain bookstore in the same town. With a dwindling customer base, they just couldn't keep up with rising rent costs.

Contrast this with the picture of big-chain bookstore BORDERS' bankruptcy and we have an interesting picture. Will the big chains, now pushing out the smaller mom-and-pops in some cities while going out of business in others, last much longer anyway? Are print books going the way of the video casette tape? Will bookstores become nothing more than a shopfront where customers can leaf through sample titles before downloading e-books, while sipping lattes and letting the kids run wild in the ever-expanding toy sections? Will the indie bookstores make a comeback? Or will all those bookstores be bulldozed to make way for condos?

What do you think?

Monday, March 21, 2011

More Ways to Give to Japan

Courtesy of Robert Paul Weston:

If you live in Canada, go HERE for a site with links to donate to several humanitarian organizations that are giving aid to Japan.

If you live in the USA, go HERE to donate to the Red Cross.

If you live in the UK, go HERE to donate to the British arm of the Red Cross.

If you want to donate to the Japanese Red Cross, go HERE.

And if you like auctions, the intrepid trio of Rachael Harrie, Marieke, and Luna have put together an auction of all things writerly that they're calling WriteHope2011, to raise money for Save the Children's efforts in Japan. Go HERE for more deets and to bid. And there might be a rumor floating around that there will be a query critique and a PB critique by me that you can bid on, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for those!

SO: Go forth and give.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Non-Blogfest celebrating Kirsten Hubbard's LIKE MANDARIN

Disclosure: I haven't read LIKE MANDARIN. Yet. But I will. Because based on this Goodreads blurb, I can relate a little. Who didn't have someone who they would have given anything to be like in High School? And it looks like an amazing book. So in the spirit of raising some awareness for a debut author's debut book, here's my post on who I would have given anything to be like when I was a teenager. My Mandarin.

They sat together in every class. Perfect hair, perfect clothes, perfect teeth. Exchanging perfect smiles with their perfect boyfriends. Making plans to go to each other's perfect houses in their perfect neighborhoods on the East side of town, up in the hills, wide boulevards lined with quaint little shops and grand trees. Far away from my neighborhood on the other side of town.

They played fine instruments: piano, violin. Nothing like the uncultured, raw sound of my second-hand guitar. My wild curls were always getting caught in things, but they never had a wisp out of place. My mouth watered at the sight of their rich lunches, wraps and sodas and candy bars, white bread and American cheese. My cheese wasn't American; it was just plain cheddar.

I stole pieces of their lives: the name of a movie, a band, a store, a brand, stowed away on scraps of paper and in the recesses of my mind for future reference. Waiting for the day to come when I would get my invitation to the party.

My invitation came in an acceptance letter, two years earlier than usual. And just like that, I was the Mandarin, and they were just plain cheddar.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Hitting Your Target Age Group

I saw "Fantastic Mr Fox" this weekend. It was dry. It was witty. It was excellently cast and voiced. The animation was perfect. It was peppered with brilliant references to other, famous films. It was fantastic.

It was not for kids.

This film was, in my opinion, way too violent for the 7+ age group it was targeted at. It included characters being drugged, shot at, drowned (but miraculously surviving), threatened with knives, bullied, and kidnapped. The main character, Mr Fox, breaks the law, lies to his wife about it, gets caught by his wife and promises not to do it anymore, and then in the end continues to steal and is applauded by the rest of the crowd of animals he hangs out with. There are very, very mixed messages being portrayed here. It's not for kids.

The jokes, while brilliant, are adult jokes. They'll go right over kids' heads - at least, they'd go right over my kids' heads, if I were to let my kids see the movie. So the humour isn't for kids, either. The target market for this movie is the 25-35 age group: the parents of the kids.

So why was this movie marketed to kids? Is it to get the parents to rent it for their kids to watch, and then get taken in themselves? What benefit is there to making something that looks like a kids' movie, has its trailers shown in the previews before other kids' movies at the theatres, but is so clearly not really for the kids? Did they know they were making a movie for grown-ups and teens, or did they just aim for younger kids and miss their mark?

This movie reminded me of the fine line we have to walk as children's writers between attracting the kids and keeping them reading, and pleasing the parents. Kids love Junie B. Jones for her quirky use of language and her spontaneity, and parents dislike her for the same reasons. Teens love Twilight because it speaks to their fascination with the line between life and death, and to the tortured nature of teenaged relationships; like it or not, teen girls can relate to Bella. Mothers hate that, and they think Bella is a poor role model. Write something too adult, and we lose the kids; write something too childish, and the parents start raising eyebrows.

That said, if I'm going to err, I want it to be on the side of writing for the kids. I don't want my jokes to go over their heads; I don't want to scare them into putting my book down; I don't want them to want to stop reading. And I want to make them think. And I have to believe that I can do that without making my book so risque that their parents won't want them to read it.

What do you think? Did you see "Fantastic Mr Fox?" Would you let your 2nd or 3rd graders see it? Is it appropriate to make a book whose movie version we wouldn't let our kids watch? Where is the line, and how do we walk it?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Disaster Relief for Japan: How to Help

As you all know, Friday's disaster in Japan was catastrophic. My thoughts immediately went out to my friends who live in Tokyo, and my friends who live here in Canada but have loved ones in Japan. I hope that all our loved ones are safe and well.

If you want to do more than think good thoughts, go to Maureen Johnson's blog HERE for info about Shelterbox, a disaster relief organization, and deets on what you can do to help. And don't worry, it's even affordable for starving artists like ourselves. Everyone can do something. (Courtesy of Kiersten White: her blog is linked in my sidebar over there on the left. Thanks, Kiersten!)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Calling All Picture Bookers!

The deadline for the Barbara Karlin Grant for unpublished picture book writers is looming! If you're a member of SCBWI and you have a picture book manuscript, you're eligible. So, hop on over HERE for all the deets and get that application in the mail ASAP to arrive by March 15th!

Also: I missed it, but I discovered a lovely Favorite Picture Book Blogfest that happened this Wednesday. Go on over to Megan Bickel's blog post for the list of participants, complete with links to all their posts about their favorite picture books.

As for my favorite picture book, it's...

Just kidding. Oh, come on. You didn't really think I could pick one favorite picture book, did you? Pffft. I can only ever narrow it down to a few. Some of my faves are OLIVIA by Ian Falconer, THE GRUFFALO and A SQUASH AND A SQUEEZE by Julia Donaldson (illos by Axel Scheffler), FUNNYBONES by the venerable Janet and Allan Ahlberg, and LOST AND FOUND by Oliver Jeffers. Interesting how most of those authors are from the UK... Guess I'll have to add "picture books" to the list of things I miss most about my time there, along with apples, sausages, and late-night kebaberies.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wisdom on Wednesdays: Doing Pre-Submission Research

This is more of a tip than a "wisdom," but it's something not everyone knows about, so I'm posting it anyway.

First and foremost, you have to do the pre-submission research. Subbing blind won't get you anywhere, unless you're extremely lucky when it comes to random drawings. In which case, buy a lottery ticket while you're at it.

And if you want to make your pre-sub research a lot easier, do online book searches according to the publisher. Most libraries in largish municipalities offer this feature in their online catalog search: type in the name of the publisher or imprint you want to scope out, choose the "search by publisher" field, and off you go: every book by that house or imprint in the library's system. Once you've got all the books by an imprint in one place, it becomes really obvious whether they do primarily dystopian or paranormal or picture books with talking animals. It makes it much easier to tell whether your MS would be a good fit for them.

Have any of you tried this? Do you have any other tips for making pre-submission research less painful?

Monday, March 7, 2011

iPad, youPad...

I had the opportunity to take a friend's iPad for a test drive over the weekend, and I never thought I'd see myself type this, but...

I kind of liked it.

I like the screen size, and the size of the keyboard. I like the screen itself. I like the ease of internet browsing. I even like a lot of the apps. (And after learning that there is a Fast-Food Nutrition Information app, a Breastfeeding app, a whole whack of Workout apps, an app for reading every newspaper, and a zillion others, I am convinced that there is an app for everything. Prove me wrong. I dare you.)

So, I'm asking you: Do you have an iPad? Why or why not? What do you see as the pros and cons?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Friday Favorites: Dr. Seuss

When I was a tot, just learning to read,
My father said, "Kid, this is just what you need."
He gave me a book about kids and a cat
And a couple of Things that were stashed in a hat.

That cat was so wild, he wrecked the kids' house!
He behaved like a pig! He behaved like a louse!
But Thing 1 and Thing 2 made it all go away:
No more mess, no more clutter. Those Things saved the day!

I said to my dad when he finished the read,
"That's my favorite book ever!" Daddy agreed.
And now that I'm grown, my dad reads to my sons
Those stories of cats, kids, and Things, every one.
There are Grinches and Whos, there are Wockets and Wugs,
Everything you'd imagine from Ziggles to Zugs.
And those tales make them giggle, they thrill my boys so
That it makes my heart burst, I'll just have you know.

Dr. Seuss had a birthday this Wednesday, you see;
It deserves celebration, I think you'll agree.
So grab a nice blanket, some kids, a warm drink,
And read Dr. Seuss - you'll like him, I think.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wisdom on Wednesdays: Just Do It

I don't know about you guys, but I'm pretty sucky at keeping New Year's Resolutions.

My big problem is getting started on them in the first place. There's always an excuse: I'm sick, my kids are sick, I'm too tired, the laundry needs to be washed, I'll do it tomorrow. But that "tomorrow" never comes. And books don't write themselves, submissions don't mail themselves, and fat doesn't get up in the middle of the night and hop the next train to Neverland.

So yesterday, I finally did it. I just made a commitment to get started, and I did it. I've scheduled a block of time every day for this, and I'm going to get. It. DONE.

Sometimes, you can't afford to wait for the perfect time. You have to just do it.

How about you? What have you been putting off that you just need to DO?