Monday, September 29, 2008

One More Thing You Might Not Know About Me

I have a regular guest feature over on The Blood Red Pencil, a blog for writers all about various aspects of editing. The feature is called Emerging Authors Want To Know, and the second installment about grammar is available here. Does anyone care whether or not you know what a passive past participle is? Does such a thing even exist? Find out today on the Blood Red Pencil blog!

Twitter Tag

Heh heh, I've been tagged by Marvin over at the Free Spirit blog. I love tag! Brings back good memories of running around the ol' Sappy Tree in fifth grade. Back when kids still had recess...

So now, I'm supposed to write six things about me that you probably didn't know. Let's see here...

1.) I went to Jaipur in India a couple of years back to attend a week-long India wedding, complete with elephants, monkeys, thousands of wedding guests, and a several hour long production put on by the wedding party. Now THAT was a mind twist! Street food = good, pit toilets = not as bad as you'd think.

2.) Odds were strongly against my conception. My mom was a Norwegian nursing student, and my dad was a British broadcast engineer stopping in Norway to work on a project for a day when they met at a disco. Both were, at the time, married to other people (though in the process of separating). My mom stood outside the disco waiting to get in with her friends. The rest of her friends decided not to wait and left, but she stayed and ended up getting in. She saw my dad sitting at the bar and invited him to join her. The rest is history!

3.) I know how to chop kindling, light a woodstove, use a lathe and a mill, operate a band saw, install a faucet, defrag a computer, throw a clay pot on a wheel, forge a letter opener, weave, shoot a handgun, frame a house, search for cloudberries and chantarelles, edit a video, write a software manual, lost wax cast, make jewelry out of precious metal clay, build a tornekake, bake yorkshire puddings, and brew homemade dandelion wine. But I can't drive a stick shift.

4.) I named my 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee Ramona Rae. Actually, she named herself. I just listened.

5.) I lived in seventeen houses before I turned 25.

6.) I've been recorded professionally singing and playing the guitar for songs I've written. You can't listen to the songs, though. They still need work ;)

Okay, and here are the people I tag:

Friday, September 26, 2008

Interview with Jayne Pupek on Community Fridays

Welcome to Community Fridays!

During Community Fridays, I interview authors, editors, publishers, and pretty much anyone else who I can get my hands on from the writing and publishing communities. Hope you enjoy, and feel free to suggest new participants. Check out current and past interviews here. Only have a minute? Click here for interviews at a glance.

Today I'm interviewing Jayne Pupek, author of Tomato Girl and Forms of Intercession.

What was the most major roadblock you encountered along the way to getting published, and how did you overcome it?

Just writing the novel was my major roadblock. I'd written poetry for years, but had written very little fiction when I began writing Tomato Girl. I had so much to learn. Fortunately, I had the help of a writer's critique group and several good mentors. They taught me so much and encouraged me to keep going.

On your website, you talk about working in the mental health industry, being a mother, and having a large family of animals living with you. Do you think that writers have a higher than usual tendency towards empathy? In your experience, are good writers also good nurturers?

I think empathy is a good thing for a writer to have, but I can't really say that writers are more empathetic or better nurturers than other people. I haven't spent that much time in the company of writers. Most of my life has been spent on things other than writing. My work has primarily been in the field of mental health, and empathy there is critical. I do feel empathy for my characters, and I assume other writers feel similarly toward their characters.

You've been published in quite a few literary magazines! I've heard that having stories, poems and articles published makes it easier to get a book published. Did you find this to be true? Do you suggest emerging authors try to get stories, poems and articles published before full-length works?

Publishing is a risky business. The publishing house invests a lot of money, time, and hard work to produce and market each book. Unless your name is Stephen King, the publisher can't be sure that they will see a profit on your book. Having previous publishing credits doesn't guarantee that your manuscript will be accepted, but it does say to the prospective publisher that other editors found your work worthwhile. In terms of poetry, it is expected that you've published a number of individual poems in various journals before you submit a manuscript. Poets also usually publish a chapbook prior to the publishing of a full length collection.

Your novel Tomato Girl was released recently, and you had to do a lot of work on promotion (meaning not so much time spent on writing.) Has the time you've spent on promotion tapered off somewhat, allowing more time for writing? Do you have any suggestions for promotion tools that have worked really well for you? Any tips on 'having it all,' writing and promoting at the same time?

I still do a good bit of promotion, especially online, but not quite as much as in the first weeks. I'm spending more time writing now. I have found online communities like GoodReads and LibraryThing to be helpful. Also, book bloggers are a wonderful group of people who are usually more than willing to review books, conduct interviews, and host book giveaways. I'm not sure that it is possible to write and promote at the same time, at least not in the first month or so. Each person has to find the balance that works for them..

In addition to your novel, Tomato Girl, you've also published a book of poems. Some say that it's harder to get poetry published than novels. Was it difficult to get a book of poems published? Do you have any suggestions for aspiring poets who would like to be published?

Poetry is much harder to publish than fiction, mostly because poetry doesn't sell. The poetry aisle in any book store is usually a lonely place. It's sometimes even harder for poets who are outside of academia, because we don't have a captive audience at our disposal. My advice to any writer, poet or otherwise, is to focus on the work itself and not the publishing. Getting published comes down to persistence and good luck, but first you must have a manuscript worth publishing. I don't think a person who is lukewarm can succeed as a writer. You have to really, really love the work of words and storytelling. If rejection letters make you quit, you probably don't love the work enough.

Lastly, because this feature is about establishing bonds within the writing and publishing industries, can you name one author, editor or publisher who's doing great things right now, and why?

I have to sing the praises of Algonquin Books because they consistently produce books of quality and compete effectively against much bigger houses. Algonquin also focuses on Southern literature, which is near and dear to me.

There are a number of very small, independent publishers that impress me. My experiences with Mayapple Press were wonderful. I also find the books published by Tupelo Press to be consistently good. One of my favorite novelists, Lydia Millet, publishes with Soft Skull Press. I'm also impressed with Another Sky Press, the innovative small press based in Portland that publishes the writer Kristopher Young and the artist Jesse Reno, among others.

About the Author

Visit Jayne's website and blog for more information.

Update: Learn more! Read a review of Tomato Girl on Lisa's Books and Cooks blog, along with a guest blog post by Jayne Pupek.

© Emma Larkins and Jayne Pupek

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Drumroll Please: Tomorrow's Guest Is...

...the lovely Jayne Pupek, author of Tomato Girl and Forms of Intercession. Want to get a book of poems or novel published? Stop by and read about it from someone who's succeeded at both tasks!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Links And Tips For Emerging Authors

Thanks to fellow emerging author Stina Rose from Scroll Bag for her comment yesterday. Stina, I'm glad you found the information here helpful! It's good to get in touch with fellow emerging authors. More authors = more stories = more readers. Simple as that!

Here are some useful links for those just getting started on the road to publishdom:

One of the first things I did after I decided I wanted to get published was attend a writer's conference hosted by the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers' Group. To find a local writers' association that hosts conferences near you, click here. It's a list in progress - let me know if I missed anything!

After that, I decided to start a small writers' group near my hometown. (I would have joined one, but there weren't any close enough.) Check your local writers' association for writers' groups in your area. If you decide to start your own group, read this article for tips and tricks. Wondering whether an online group would work better for you? Here's a comparison of online and offline writers' groups.

And of course, start connecting as soon as possible with other writers! If you haven't already, create your own blog. Posting regularly to a blog will get you in the habit of writing, and it will expose readers to your work. Just don't get addicted ;) Twitter is another great way to meet authors, publishers, editors, you name it. Follow the people I'm following to start building your network. They'd love to meet you!

Also, here's some encouraging news: I went to Target today, and what did I see but a whole end-cap display with books by emerging authors! Good to know that large corporations have our backs. Now all I have to find out is how to get a book displayed there...

Monday, September 22, 2008

New Feature on The Blood-Red Pencil Blog

Have you checked out The Blood-Red Pencil blog yet? If you're a writer looking for advice on editing (and writing in general), you should definitely take a look. The Blood-Red Pencil is a group blog on which professional editors discuss everything from the character creation to grammar to the ins and outs of modern-day writing tools.

Now, I'm not a professional editor, but I am an emerging author with a whole lot of questions. I could just pester these editors individually, but I guess they figured some of my questions might be applicable to a general audience. And so, they've invited me to host a regular feature called Emerging Authors Want To Know!

In the first installment of Emerging Authors Want To Know!, I ask the Exalted Editors about manuscript formatting. I recently submitted my first short story to an online literary magazine, and I regularly went into cold sweats waiting for a response, wondering whether or not I'd formatted the story correctly.

Is proper formatting still as important in the Digital Age as it used to be? Does bad formatting lead to automatic rejection? Find the answers to these questions and more today at The Blood-Red Pencil.

Writing Doldrums

Us writers love writing. That's why we sit down in front of our laptops and do the best to express ourselves after a long day of working our regular jobs, caring for our families, taking care of our homes and ourselves, right? We bound out of bed every morning with chapters percolating in our heads and our fingers just itching to get words down on a page, don't we?

Well, some of the time. The fact is, love isn't always daydreams and fairytales. It also requires a lot of hard work. It's often hard to take the time to write with everything else that's going on in the world. Face it, a lot of the process of writing for (the hope of) a living can be pretty thankless. There are those bright moments when someone loves one of your turns of phrase, or a submission gets accepted, or you earn your first dollar as a published author. But otherwise, we spend long hours working on projects that might never see the light of day. We have to squeeze writing into those cracks and crannies of time that are left over after we've taken care of everything else, and no one is going to give us a medal for doing so.

So what's a writer to do? How to avoid slipping into the Writing Doldrums?

In my recent struggles with the Doldrums, I've found a few things that seem to help.

It helps to get out of the house and away from the computer once in a while. I try to get out at least once a week to play Ultimate - good exercise, and good people. And today, I attended the Maryland Wine Festival for the first time. The music was good, the food was tasty, and I now know how to say Gewurztraminer.

Also, I try and get as much feedback as possible, from individuals, writers' groups, editors, and teachers. This improves my writing, and it also signals to my brain in a real way that what I'm doing isn't pointless. There are people out there willing to look at what I've done and put in their two cents. I'm not operating in a vacuum.

Last but not least, I try not to be so hard on myself. Whenever I'm putting pen to paper and making any sort of an effort towards getting published, I'm already working on achieving a dream. Whether or not I do end up making it as a published author, I'm doing something that's important to me, somthing that I love. And there's so much to be said for that.

Still, sometimes all of this isn't enough, and I end up slipping into those dreaded Writing Doldrums. What about you? Any experiences with the Doldrums? And what did you do to escape them?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Interview with Katrina Larkins on Community Fridays

Welcome to Community Fridays!

During Community Fridays, I interview authors, editors, publishers, and pretty much anyone else who I can get my hands on from the writing and publishing communities. Hope you enjoy, and feel free to suggest new participants. Check out current and past interviews here. Only have a minute? Click here for interviews at a glance.

Today I'm actually adding a twist to the basic premise of Community Fridays. Who forms the basis of our entire industry? Who pays our way? Who makes sure that we get fed and clothed (at least, most of the time?) Why, the readers of course! So I decided to pick the brains of one of them, in hopes of mining the rich secrets that will make us all wealthy beyond our wildest dreams.

Today's guest is Avid Reader Katrina L.

How long have you been an avid reader?

I can’t really remember the exact age that I was but I think it was in grade school. At some point I just realized all the different potentials for new and amazing worlds that the library contained. At that age, some of the assigned reading in class was actually fun, namely books by Roald Dahl, a book called Blue, and one where civilization had advanced not to see color and to be blinded from the world around them. I also had a boxed set of some of the classics with pictures, It made them easier to read and I was captivated by Treasure Island and The Secret Garden. This love got stronger through high school and college when I began reading more advanced books. Now sometimes I will start a book and will just have to find out what happens in the end so I just won't stop reading.

Do you have any fond, early memories of reading books?

I have a memory of going to the library once and being so excited that they finally had in the last book in the Alanna series (Lioness Rampant by Tamora Pierce) because I was just dying to know how it turned out.

What are your current favorite genres? Are they the same as the genres you used to like, or have they changed over time?

I would say my favorite current genre would be science fiction thriller, namely Dean Koontz, his books are so weird I just have to find out what the endings are like. I also like a bit of fantasy but the more confusing, "have to have read a whole series to know what's going on” books throw me off.

Who are some of your favorite authors and/or books? What is it you like about them?

There really are so many, I think any story I get into and read till the end I enjoy. There are a few that stand out though. I got really into survivor stories a while back, so one of my favorites would be Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. I just love reading about how people manage to survive alone in the wild using only their wits. I definitely love the Alanna series, I guess I connect to it being a female tomboy, but it also adds in fascinating things like knights and magic while still staying on the edge of reality. Another one off the top of my head is Myst. I first read this one because I fell in love with the game Myst and I wanted to know more about the world behind it, but I love that it is not a "video game book." It is only loosely linked to what happens in the game. The book opens up a whole new world with the D’ni and book writing and I just love the concept of writing worlds.

How long does it take you to know if you'll like a book? A chapter? A page? The first sentence? Have you ever had to put a book down after a while because you just couldn't go on? Why?

I mostly know after the first few pages, definitely after a whole chapter that I'm not getting into a book, but most of the time I will read on. Sometimes books just start out slowly giving you all the background material and the rest of the book is great. I have had times when I put a book down and this is usually when I find it is taking me days just to get through a few pages. It obviously hasn’t captured me if I don’t want to spend the time reading it.

Are there any story-killers for you, that automatically make you abandon a book? Poetic giants? Machete wielding kittens? Mimes?

Well, the author would have to work pretty hard to fit the second one in. Nothing specific like that I would say, but if the world the author has set up is just too hard to understand and the elements in it just go way beyond reality that I have nothing to relate to.

Where is your favorite place to get books?

I love going to the library and getting the 25 cent books, but it is kind of a grab bag whether you get something good or not. Still this way I can find things I am interested in without spending tons of money. I especially like finding authors I love at the library and then getting more of their work at the store.

If you had one book in each of the following situations, what would it be?

One book on a desert island: I would have to say Treasure Island, it’s a great book and highly relevant. Maybe I should say "book on desert island survival," that might be more relevant.

One book you had to read for the rest of your life: Either the entire Chronicles of Narnia or Lord of the Rings. It would take me a long time to get sick of those. I would probably choose the Lord of the Rings just because it is a little more advanced.

One book on a dark and stormy night: Definitely The Taking by Dean Koontz. I love the imagery of the glowing rain and it is a chilling read but it has a happy ending.

About the Author

Katrina L. is a senior in college. She is an enthusiastic sailor and budding photographer (the picture above is hers). She's also very good at bumming money for those 25 cent books ;)

© Emma Larkins and Katrina L.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Page (Protector of the Small) Reviewed

Page (Protector of the Small) Page by Tamora Pierce

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
Everyone should read Tamora Pierce. Not just fantasy readers, not just young readers, but anyone who enjoys a good tale. And who doesn't? If you've read Tamora Pierce, then you already know what I mean.

Tamora never tries to win an award for the most confuscated use of the English language. She never lets language get in the way of her story. She writes her books in a simple, honest way to hook her readers into a fascinating tale. And she succeeds brilliantly in doing so.

In Page, Tamora Pierce gets back to the very essence of storytelling - a young hero must prove herself in the face of seeming unbeatable odds to achieve her goal. In this case, the hero is a female page struggling to gain her knighthood. Tamora is not afraid to touch on difficult subjects such as discrimination, abuse, and death. She creates strong, unique female heroines who fight against oppression, and yet the appeal of her books is not limited to a female audience. Who among us has not felt held down by seemingly unbeatable odds? Who has not wished for the strength to pursue an impossible-seeming dream? Tamora's characters pursue their dreams with strength and grim determination, and in doing so, make us believe that we too can achieve our dreams if we stick by them.

I read Tamora's books as a child and found myself unable to put them down, and even a decade later I get the same thrill as her characters fall in love, escape from danger, or rush into battle. Rare is the author who can so completely captivate a reader's attention.

It's no wonder that Tamora's books have all recently been re-released. And to boot, Tamora is kind to fans and frequently appears at conferences, book-signings and conventions! If you're looking for a new author to love, look no further.

View all my reviews.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Midsummer Disc Dreams Now Available!

Good news! My short story Midsummer Disc Dreams, a rousing, action-packed tale about the wonderful sport of Ultimate Frisbee is now available from outdoor literary magazine In the Mist.

I'm sure there are quite a few people out there who have never heard about Ultimate Frisbee before. It's a sport similar to soccer or football, played with a Frisbee instead of a ball. However, the players will tell you that it's much more than a sport. It's a place you can go as an absolute stranger across the U.S. and around the world to meet people who will welcome you with open arms. Most games are pick-up, open to anyone and everyone who wants to play. Beginners are always welcome at the casual pick-up games. There are no referees; rules are upheld by the players themselves, based on the 'spirit of game,' a code of honor that directs players to be honest, friendly, and fair. What better way to stay healthy and be social at the same time?

Click here to read my story, and others stories by women who love the outdoors.

Want to know more about Ultimate Frisbee? Click here! We're always looking for new players.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Interview with Jane Kennedy Sutton on Community Fridays

Welcome to Community Fridays!

During Community Fridays, I interview authors, editors, publishers, and pretty much anyone else who I can get my hands on from the writing and publishing communities. Hope you enjoy, and feel free to suggest new participants. Check out current and past interviews here. Only have a minute? Click here for interviews at a glance.

Today's guest is Jane Kennedy Sutton, author of The Ride.

What was the most major roadblock you encountered along the way to getting published, and how did you overcome it?

I had the misfortune of signing with an agent that did more harm than good. Her unprofessional actions and inaction delayed progress on the project for a year (the length of our contract). The experience also did nothing for my self-esteem or confidence but I did learn a lesson or two from it.

The support and encouragement I received through the writing groups I belong to as well as friends and family kept me from becoming too discouraged or giving up on the book. Now I believe everything worked out for the best.

ArcheBooks recently released your new novel, The Ride. Would you like to tell us a little about it?

It is a funny, poignant adventure of a 40-something woman taken on the ride of her life.

How does it feel to have all that hard work finally come to fruition?

I have gone through a full range of emotions including disbelief, excitement, panic, shock, exhilaration and everything in between. I've also felt a deep sadness caused by losing my parents shortly before the book's release and not being able to share this special time with them.

Over the years, you've done volunteer work in various capacities related to producing magazines and newspapers. Do you think volunteering helped you on your journey to getting published?

These were publications for various international women's groups. I'm not sure the work helped me become published, but I did learn a lot about the process and that certainly didn't hurt. However, I've discovered there is a huge difference between the production of a newsletter or magazine and the progression of a book from manuscript to publication.

Why did you choose volunteering as opposed to making a career out of one of those roles?

I considered my 'career' as 'professional tourist' because in many cases my husband's business Visa prohibited my paid employment. That was an excellent excuse for me not to seek a job and to be able to concentrate on being a mom, exploring, settling in, learning new customs and doing volunteer work.

How has exploring the globe for much of your life affected your writing?

Living overseas was a terrific way to learn about other cultures, meet interesting people of all nationalities, take part in many wonderful and, well, some not so great I experiences. So I thought when I began to write seriously, I'd write non-fiction pieces based on my travels. Although I have started a memoir about my major bloopers during my international travels, (such as the time in Taiwan when I thought we were invited to our landlord's mother's birthday party and it turned out to be her funeral), I found I really like making up stuff. I love fiction, creating and controlling lives. Maybe one day I'll come up with a fiction idea that will incorporate some of my overseas experiences.

Any advice for writers who want to make a living writing while traveling or living abroad (I'd love to do this!)?

I did none of these things, but looking back, I wish I had studied travel publications before I left to have an idea of guidelines, kept a journal, and made myself write something every day. Many journal pieces could then have been turned into articles for appropriate markets in the U.S. or the country I was residing in.

Which path would you suggest for an aspiring author?

Join writing groups, critique groups and attend conferences. I wish I had started all this earlier but I was really a closet writer. I didn't reveal my aspirations to my friends until the last few years.

Also, believe in yourself, don't be shy about sharing your dreams, and most of all, don't give up.

Lastly, because this feature is about establishing bonds within the writing and publishing industries, can you name one author, editor or publisher who's doing great things right now, and why?

I would have to say, fantasy author Sandy Lender. She's a fellow ArcheBooks author who has offered me so much encouragement when it should have been the other way around. While promoting her novel, Choices Meant for Gods, she's completed the sequel, Choices Meant for Kings. She keeps up several blogs and holds workshops to teach others about blogging. She also finds time to nurture the Florida sea turtle population. The incredible part is that she has done all this while dealing with a nasty divorce, a serious illness requiring chemo, and having to move unexpectedly when her landlord began having problems with the legal system, bank and upkeep. Through it all, she's maintained a wonderful sense of humor. I think she'd be an inspiration to anyone. Whenever I'm feeling I have too much to handle, I think of Sandy and realize just how lucky I am.

About the Author

To read a sample of The Ride, go to ArcheBooks Publishing and click on the Free Sample button. To find out more about me, visit my website or my blog.

I am currently working like mad to learn the marketing aspect of being an author and trying to squeeze in time to work on my second novel, Reigning Cats and Dogs.

© Emma Larkins and Jane Kennedy Sutton

Thursday, September 11, 2008

More Information About Tracking Traffic

Did you find yesterday's post useful? Then head over to Jungle Red Writers today to learn more about website traffic tracking, and why it's important. The site features an interview with Dani Greer, who has an amazing breadth and depth of knowledge when it comes to all things blog.


Tune in tomorrow for a Community Fridays interview with Jane Kennedy Sutton, author of The Ride.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sitemeters, Statcounters, and Analytics, Oh My!

An email group I belong to has recently been discussing each other's blogs, trying to improve them. One of the things that comes up often in the discussions is the need to track traffic on our sites.

I'm going to come right out and say that I think the practice of displaying the number of hits directly on your site is passé. I know that people will disagree with me on this, but here's my reasoning: if your blog is popular, people can tell. You'll get a lot of comments, the blog will rank highly in Google for various keywords, you'll get a lot of Diggs, or whatever. And while you might think a certain number of hits is impressive, your audience will probably have a different opinion.

However, I think that it's vitally important to track the traffic on your website for your own purposes. How are you going to know which tactics work to increase traffic, and which don't? And luckily there are simple tools that let you do just that.

By far my favorite is Google Analytics. Anyone with a Google account can go to the Analytics site, sign in, and download the code for the tool. (I don't know if Google accounts are still invite only, but if you need an invite, let me know). Blogger layouts and Weebly layouts (and I'm sure others) have html modules that you can put anywhere on the page - plunk your code in there, and you're set! Later, you can sign in to Analytics and take a look at your stats. Analytics displays breakdowns of the information into various formats, including snazzy graphs and charts. In addition, you can get different chunks of code for different sites you own, and view all the statistics in one place.

I also have a Site Meter widget on my blog, way down at the bottom. I admit that if you click on it, you can see my statistics. However, in order to do so you'd have to know what Site Meter is, and you'd probably have a good reason for wanting to know my stats (i.e., to find out whether I'd be a good host for a blog book tour). The information is available, but only to people who need it. Site Meter is another good site for checking your own statistics, not quite as suited to my purposes as Analytics, but it does a decent job and I can check it easily from my blog anytime.

Another statistic tracker I've come across is StatCounter. I haven't used this one personally, but I've tried to click on StatCounter widgets on other people's sites and been taken to a page that requires a log in to see the statistics. I suggest that if you're going to offer a tracker as a widget on your site, make sure people can click on it to see the info without having to log in. If you don't want to use Site Meter or Analytics, StatCounter might work for you.

These are just the trackers I've had experience with. Let me know if you've had good/bad experiences with others!

In conclusion: if you're interested in increasing your traffic for fun or profit, don't delay in installing some sort of statistic tracker. But don't let just anyone see this information, unless you have a good reason.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Talk about serendipity! Remember how I mentioned Disc Love yesterday? Well, it's just been accepted (under the new title Midsummer Disc Dreams) by In The Mist Magazine, an online magazine for women who love the outdoors. And for their maiden issue, no less!

Woo hoo! My first online magazine publication! My mind is a frenzy. I feel the same way I felt when I got into college, like big changes are on the horizon. I know that I still have a long way to go, but it's good to know that at least one thing I've written is suitable for publication.

I'll let you know the details when they're finalized.

Monday, September 8, 2008

In The Name Of Progress

Here's a quick update for those of you interested in knowing more about the details of my Journey to Publication.

Short Stories

Disc Love

I recently submitted this fast-paced tale of Ultimate Frisbee glory to a new online woman's outdoor magazine. Fingers crossed!

About Face

I'm (hopefully) in the final stages of a series of edits and critiques for this story about a woman who struggles against a purposeless life and a unique disability. I'd like to start submitting it by the end of September.

The Secret Lives of Mushrooms

As I composed this story about a group of girls who learn some hard adult truths in my head, I managed to miss my exit on the way to my orthodontist appointment! I just finished the first draft of this one, but I'm still a little iffy about the whole thing. I really like the title and the first line: "In the beginning, our gang numbered three: Lillian the beautiful, Mia the strong, and me, Kay the wise." Maybe I just need to let it stew for a while.


The Hidden Land of Gre

This has been my main project for the last seven or so months. I'm simply amazed that I've made it to 55,000 words on my first novel! I'm guessing that I have about 10,000 words and a month of writing left to go. The book did surprise me recently, though - it decided to turn into a series! Here's a quick teaser of a synopsis:

A girl named Elish from the Hidden Land of Gre, along with the boy Cade whom she kidnaps from our world of Lume, must fight to find the source of a secret curse that will mean the end of the Greling race.

Lueil's Lyre

This fairytale appeared on my blog a few months ago. I'm partnering with Konstantinos Tsiopanos, who is working on the illustrations for the story (along with concept art for The Hidden Land of Gre). I've considered submitting it to agents once the illustrations are complete, but posting it on my blog triggers the "previously published" switch, which doesn't appeal to all publishers. Alternately, I'll look into independent publishing.


India Travel - More Than Meets The Eye

An article about some of the safety issues you'll come across when traveling in India, based on my trip there a couple of years ago. For submission to a travel magazine.


I'm still wondering whether or not to participate in the National Novel Writing Month (a.k.a. Nanowrimo) this November. I should be done with The Hidden Land of Gre by then, and ready to start the next novel in the series. Probably won't be a bad idea to give the first draft of Gre a rest before I get to editing. Still... 50,000 words in one month?! That's almost 2,000 words a day! I can get in up to 500 words first thing in the morning, and 500-1000 before I go to sleep, but with a day job 2000 words will be a struggle. Then again, it will be good practice for the real life of a professional author. We'll see!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Interview with Laurie Paulsen on Community Fridays

Welcome to Community Fridays!

During Community Fridays, I interview authors, editors, publishers, and pretty much anyone else who I can get my hands on from the writing and publishing communities. Hope you enjoy, and feel free to suggest new participants. Check out current and past interviews here. Only have a minute? Click here for interviews at a glance.

Today's guest is Laurie Paulsen, author of short stories for Espresso Fiction.

What made you decide to start working towards getting your writing published?

Golly. My dream has always been to tell stories for a living, since I was a wee thing. Nothing else has given me the same satisfaction, that same feeling of connection.

You have worked at a bookstore in the past. What can you say about how bookstores choose what books they are going to sell? Can authors have any effect on this?

I've worked for a major chain bookstore for several years, and decisions about inventory are made almost exclusively at our corporate office. We have leeway over local interest titles, but unless we consciously work to subvert the system we can only witness which titles roll in, and which are taken away.

I can say that large publishers carry sway, as a rule. They have the funding for assigned co-op displays, which afford their authors significant exposure, and they also can influence buyers to bring in a higher volume of their titles. The trend the last several years has been to flatten inventory selection and stock higher numbers of fewer titles—the blockbusters. I've been disheartened watching this unfold.

The good news is that on a local level, authors can still do a lot to affect their book sales. Don’t be afraid to contact local stores, arrange for book signings, and cultivate positive relationships with booksellers (particularly those who specialize in your genre.) Hand selling happens, and I can attest to manually ordering in more copies of an author’s titles to keep them selling. Be aware that bookstores have little to no budget for publicity, so that falls in your hands as well as supplies for book signings (including copies of your books, if necessary). Bookstores can offer the opportunity to talk to potential readers, and are happy to do it.

I think many aspiring authors worry that they'll put a lot of effort into trying to get published, and then not be able to make a living out of it. What are your thoughts?

Heh. It’s definitely a concern. The writing seems to be the easiest part of a working writer’s life, from what I understand. We have to be salesmen, and many of us are uncomfortable crowing about our work, selling others on giving it a try. We fantasize about creating something wonderful and magically breaking through to the masses. I think what I’m aiming for is mid-list authorship. I have secret (well, not secret now—d’oh!) fantasies of fulfilling that bestseller dream, but realistically, I know making it as a writer will involve writing loads of novels in as many genres, and spending a large chunk of my time promoting my work. It’s a changing world, this publishing business.

If it never happens? Well, I’m living my life now, as I write this. I figure I’ll keep living it and finding my happiness as I go, and if I’m published (and published regularly), I’ll be one of the few whose lives surpass their expectations.

How have new technologies affected you as a writer?

Remember typewriters? Ha! Using a computer is like having a prehensile tail, but without those awkward moments at parties. Typos, rearranging entire chapters, rewrites—it’s all easier now. The hard part, the actual writing, never gets easier. But the tools sure have improved.

Speaking of fabulous tools, the internet is invaluable! Information which, twenty years ago, I’d have to burrow through the stacks at my college library for I can pull up with a few keystrokes, now. Amazing. Also, writer web pages are important--having an online presence, developing that accessibility, is a great help to building a fan base. I’m just learning this stuff, myself, and it’s both exciting and intimidating.

Tell us a little about your writing (published works, writing style, genre, etc.)

My writing is genre-friendly; I seem to focus more on action and plot than character, and I love reading most genres. I lean more toward science fiction and horror, but you’ll find elements from mystery and romance in there, too. I’m a buffet kind of girl, I guess. As far as style, I tend to imply more than I show, which leaves room for readers to interpret facets of the story for themselves. Some people like this, some don’t. Thematically, I love pitting strong chicks against near-impossible odds and watching them fight their way to survival. Is that a theme, or a device? Hm.

So far, I've been lucky enough to see two short stories published this year, at an online magazine called Espresso Fiction.

Lastly, because this feature is about establishing bonds within the writing and publishing industries, can you name one author, editor or publisher who's doing great things right now, and why?

In my travels around the internet, I've stumbled across a group of genre writers who have given so much to aspiring authors. They've created a website called Forward Motion for Writers (originally founded by Holly Lisle) which excels at offering free practical advice on everything writing-related. Questions about refining that character you can’t quite get a handle on? How to get an agent’s attention? What to do after you've been published? How to market your work? They’re passing on their experience and wisdom, and I've found loads of useful and encouraging information. They’re wonderfully generous.

About the Author

Laurie Paulsen is an author with several published short stories. Please visit her portfolio and her piping-fresh blog. It’s a work in progress (ignore the hammering in the background), but she'd love to hear from you. Drop by!

© Emma Larkins and Laurie Paulsen

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Glass Castle: A Memoir Reviewed

The Glass Castle: A Memoir The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
When I first started reading this book, I had some trouble getting into it. The young narrator used language suited to her age, and I took a few pages to adjust. However, the book soon swept me up in the crazy journey of the Walls family.

I didn't have an issue with the believability of the story, although some of the events that happened to the children over the course of the novel were almost beyond belief. I felt close to the struggles of Jeannette and her siblings. I wanted to see them succeed at the end of the book, to triumph over the the hardships of poverty brought on by an alcoholic, idealistic father and an enabling, self-absorbed mother. The middle section was a bit slow, with grim event after grim event piled on, almost more than I could take. But by the last section the book absorbed me completely until I couldn't put it down.

It's funny, I felt the tiniest hint of longing as I read this book. I know that it must have been a terrible experience for Jeannette, and it's amazing that all the children even survived their childhood, but at the same time most of them came out of it with an amazing determination and drive. Many children in our modern times don't receive the chance to play outside and learn about the dangers of the world first hand, and quite a few end up just kind of floating around because of it.

This is definitely a good, unique read. Check it out if you get a chance!

View all my reviews.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Lit and Art Afternoon In Baltimore

I like exploring. I haven't been traveling abroad much lately, but I'm finding that I can come across gems even in my own backyard. The Lit and Art Event that I went to yesterday turned out to be just one of those gems.

I love the idea of building and being part of communities, but I thought that internet communities would be too distant and modern for me to connect with. I was completely wrong about that! I've met many wonderful people who I may never have met in real life. In addition, my internet community has led me to some terrific real-life events such as Lit and Art (because as great as the internet is, I think we all need some face time with our friends every once in a while!)

Since I've been following the blogs/tweets/profiles of various members of the writing and publishing community in my area, I've come across many such events. I ended up attending the annual conference for the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group after looking at a calendar of events for Echelon Press Publishing. I received an email about the Stanford Engineering networking event because I'm on their email list. And I came across the information for this latest event as I was learning more about the Maryland Writer's Association, in a roundabout kind of way.

Of course, when you do something new, it never quite turns out as you expected, I ended up going to 1005 Charles Street in Baltimore instead of 100 S. Charles Street... I think I need to work on my handwriting. However, it turned out well as the woman at a cute little clothes shop at 1005 told me how to get where I wanted to be. South Charles Street is also an awesome-looking neighborhood, with restaurants and funky bars filled to the brim on a Sunday afternoon.

When I finally made it to the actual event, I was treated to some real treasures. The event was hosted in the Watermark Gallery in the Bank of America building. Manzar, the owner of the gallery, has gorgeous work displayed there. She's also a classically trained vocalist from Iran, and mesmerized us with a lovely poem/song in Farsi. Lauren Beth Eisenberg read a chapter from a book she's working on. She also encouraged me to attend meetings for the Baltimore chapter of the MWA. Erik Kestler and Rob Waldek performed on the guitar, and Nitin Jagdish read a piece of experimental fiction about a two-timing stalker. One musician even played a real-live lute! A good time was had by all. And I also received a talking-to about how I need to get my butt into gear and get my works into the hands of some agents or publishers. So it was a profitable event career-wise as well.

Have you attended a local art or writing event? I'm always open for suggestions of good ones I'm missing. And if you haven't, get to it!