Wednesday, March 28, 2012
First off, I did a guest post over at Paper Mountain, where blogger Brooke asked me to write about being a young author. Hop on over if you're interested.
Today, I'm going to talk about the Internet and what's appropriate to post in a public forum. This is a very subjective topic; what's appropriate to one agent or editor might offend another, and as a teenager with lots of teenaged friends I'm not necessarily used to censoring myself. A few months ago, my agent told me to go through all my blog posts, tweets, etc, just to make sure I hadn't posted anything that could possibly alienate an editor. Bad book reviews fall into this category....I know many of us love reviewing, but if an editor navigates to your page and the first thing they see is a one-star review for a book they acquired, you're not going to make a good first impression. With me, this isn't an issue. I only ever post reviews for books that I love. But what about swearing? Information that might be too personal? And how does Facebook fit into the mix? My Facebook started out as a place where I connected with school friends, but it has grown to include other YA writers, agents, and book sellers. It's still set to private (so only friends can view my profile), but my business and social lives have begun to mix.
But first, an anecdote. Last year I won Utah's Sterling Scholar award for accomplishments in English, earning a full-ride scholarship to the University of Utah as well as $2,000 cash. Three other kids from my high school won in their respective categories (Math, Science, and Trade and Technical Education). We went out for ice cream afterwards, and ended up joking about taking a road trip to Vegas and blowing all our winnings. I tweeted about it (I was new to Twitter at the time, with only a few followers who were close friends). The next morning, when I woke up, a woman had tweeted multiple times about "English Sterling Scholar wasting winnings on Vegas trip, implicating four other winners in the process, English Sterling Scholar possibly condoning alcohol consumption for underage minors..."
Needless to say, I was mortified. Anyone who knows me (or Raiyan or Delian or Chris, for that matter) knows that I'm not about to go spend $2,000 on alcohol in Vegas. To win a Sterling Scholar award, you have to have pretty impeccable grades (Raiyan and Delian were actually our two valedictorians), and good grades indicate we have at least some measure of self control. To me, the joke seemed obvious. But to this woman, who I'd never met in my life, such a joke was quite offensive.
I pulled the tweet and apologized for offending her. At the time I thought it was rather silly, but Internet fights are never productive, so I let it go. Looking back, this illustrates one of the core issues with posting on the Internet: it's very easy to misinterpret what someone means. Sarcasm and humor often don't translate well into the written word. Without important body language/vocal cues, you don't get the whole picture.
I try to keep things professional on this blog. I talk about writing, for the most part, and when I do share a personal story it's a story I don't mind other people reading. Facebook is where things get tricky, because it's where I "hang out" with my friends, and there's a different set of social rules that govern my behavior around college kids than rules for a professional setting. For instance, my photos. Obviously I don't have anything risque or illegal on there, but what about summer pictures where my friends and I are wearing bikinis? Perfectly appropriate for a normal person's Facebook, but if I decide to use it as a platform to connect with readers, I'll probably have to go through and delete a few.
I suppose it's a moot point right now, since I'm not actually a real author. But if/when I do get published, there are decisions I'll have to make, such as whether or not to make my social networking profiles open to the public. My Facebook is currently semi-private. I only add people I recognize, but those people include writing industry professionals, so I try to censor what I say and the opinions I express. Even with the private setting, I've become more and more aware of what I post. A swearword here or there is fine. But am I going to rant about something like I might've in high school? Probably not.
My point is, when it comes to the Internet, always err on the side of caution. It's easy to misinterpret someone's intentions online, and one misread post can have lasting repercussions on your career.
Monday, March 26, 2012
One of my recent novels is set in a world reminiscent of historical India. India is one of my favorite countries, and when it comes to writing I find it's important to experience the culture firsthand as much as possible. Obviously, I don't have the money to fly to India whenever I want. So this past weekend, when the Hindu temple in Spanish Fork held its annual Festival of Colors, I decided to attend.
The Festival of Colors, or Holi, is a Hindu holiday that celebrates the triumph of light over darkness and the arrival of spring. It focuses specifically on the god Krishna. In Hindu mythology, a young boy named Prahlada escaped the witch Holika by reciting a prayer, and thus Holika burned to death. During the Festival of Colors, people throw colored, scented powder at one another, listen to traditional music, and dance around bonfires at night. In Spanish Fork, they hold hourly throwings during which the 50,000+ attendees all toss powder into the air. It's an amazing sight - you can watch a video here.
The Spanish Fork Festival of Colors is the largest Holi celebration in the Western Hemisphere. It's also the largest Holi celebration outside predominantly-Hindu countries. It really was an awesome experience, and I got plenty dirty, as you can see in the picture below:
Me and Chris
For those of you who are writing about a culture that's not your own, my suggestion is to find events like this. Look for ways to immerse yourself in that culture. You may not be able to travel outside of the US, but many minority religious/cultural groups hold ceremonies, events, or festivals that are open to the public. Such firsthand experiences will bring authenticity to your writing.
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Blogger spell check is telling me that I spelled "partners" wrong. Am I going crazy? That's how you spell it, right?
Anyways, a couple days ago I did a post about appreciating non-rejections, and how much I love getting emails that don't contain rejections. And so my wonderful CP Celesta sent me this:
(Saffy, short for Saffron, is the name of my cat.)
Needless to say, I'm ecstatic that Big Boy New York Publishing has decided to accept my manuscript. Don't y'all wish you had critique partners like this? (I'm not bragging. Okay, maybe a little.)
Last week I attended Bree Despain's launch party for THE SAVAGE GRACE, the third book in The Dark Divine trilogy. In honor of Bree's launch, I've decided to give away a signed copy of THE DARK DIVINE. It really is a great read (and I'm not even a big fan of paranormal romance). Plus, I kinda suck at hosting contests, so there probably won't be very many entries, giving you a high chance of winning! (Haha. That last sentence is just pathetic.)
Rules for the contest:
+2 for following
+1 for commenting on this post (with email, please)
+2 for tweeting/blogging/facebooking
+1 for BEING AWESOME
+1 for adding up all your points and posting that number along with your comment
Yay! Hope everyone's having a fantabulous Wednesday.
Saturday, March 17, 2012
Rule #1 to being an author: rejection is a given (unless of course you're Alane Ferguson). We writers love to quote the rejection statistics for famous writers, because it makes us feel slightly better about our own rejections. Hey, if JK Rowling can get turned down by almost every publisher in England and then go on to produce the highest-selling series of all time, why can't we?
And for me personally, most of those rejections arrive by way of email. So I have come to appreciate emails that don't contain rejections. It's rather interesting; while spam used to annoy the hell out of me, during the querying process I would open my inbox, see the junk mail, and breathe an enormous sigh of relief. It can be a sales pitch, or an advertisement, or one of those fake ZOMG YOU'VE BEEN SELECTED TO WIN A GAJILLION DOLLARS emails. Hell, it can be a freaking virus as long as it's not a rejection.
I write this post in a rather lame attempt to find something positive about being rejected over and over. I'm more confidant and outgoing than many writers, but still, constant rejection is a blow to the self-esteem, especially because writers tend to overanalyze the responses of agents/editors:
Dear Ms. Coursey,
You are a very talented writer and I thank you for the opportunity to consider MY BOYFRIEND IS A CRAZY STALKER NOOOOOOOOO. While the manuscript shows promise, it isn't right for my list at this time. I have no doubt you will find an agent to represent this.
What I read:
Dear Ms. Coursey,
I'm supposed to say all these nice things because I don't want to piss you off and provoke a call/email response/visit to our office, but I cannot lie anymore: you suck. Your writing sucks, your characters suck, your plot sucks, and that dress you're wearing is ugly as hell. Go back to being a normal high school student and stop invading our perfect literary bubble with your pulpy prose.
It's not that writers can't read (haha, that would be unfortunate). But our minds twist a rejection into something it's not. We twist it into a commentary on ourselves, our abilities, and our potential futures as authors.
So what's the one good part about getting a rejection? You learn to appreciate the non-rejections. I swear, nobody but a writer could ever get excited about an email selling toilet cleanser, or high-powered vacuum cleaners, or penis enlargement pills (seriously, am I the only person who gets about a million of these?). Today, I invite you all to celebrate the non-rejections. Let's be grateful for those glorious emails that do not even mention the word "pass".
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
....with lit agent blogger Miss Snark. Seriously, she is fan-freakin'-tastic! I know I'm about five years too late, since she retired in 2007, but to be quite fair I was an elementary/middle schooler during Miss Snark's heyday and thus didn't spend much time on writing blogs.
But her posts are still there, all 4,107 of them (impressive, I know). Snarkiness and nitwittery and clueguns abound. So if you're having a bad day, go read through some of the archived posts (there are labels on the righthand side of the screen.....my favorites so far are NO NO NO, Nitwittery abounds, and all crapometer related posts). You're sure to get a laugh or two, and who knows? You might even learn something.
Saturday, March 3, 2012
As all y'all probably know, I write a fair amount of historical fantasy. This means research. Lots and lots of research. It can be a hassle at times (for instance, writing a banquet scene set in 1631 Ireland takes forever, because you have to look up utensils, table arrangements, attire, common foods, dining traditions, etc), but in the end it's necessary in order to give your book the proper atmosphere. My current WIP is set in modern-day Cairo. The main character is American (which makes it a lot easier) and research takes less time, since there's considerably more information out there about modern Cairo than 17th century Ireland.
To make a long story short, I really wanted to have a sense of the Arabic alphabet, since the story takes place in Cairo's Islamic district. My main characters speak English for most of the book, but I had them wearing Arabic name tags and I found myself wondering what their names looked like. So I started researching. When I wrote LIKE CLOCKWORK, which is set in a fantasy world reminiscent of India, I resolved to take Hindi lessons in college partly so I would be able to write in the sanskrit alphabet. Turns out, learning alphabets is a lot of fun. It makes me feel all cultured and sophisticated (hahahahahaha) and it's a great way to get a better sense of a culture. There's something about the aesthetics, the way writing appears on a page, that really helps me immerse myself (as much as possible) in the culture I'm exploring.
Research can be fun. Sure, my study of Arabic letters probably won't make a huge impact on my WIP, but now I can make references to Arabic diacritics and sanskrit matras and such. Little details can make a big difference, and if you can find a way to have fun with your research then that funness (totally not a word, but whatever) will show. Readers will be fascinated because you are fascinated.
So just for fun, I wrote out all my critique partners' names in both sanskrit and Arabic. I think Celesta's is prettiest (in Arabic, at least), but they all look cool, and I had a blast figuring out the letters!
Yayyyyy for semi-useless posts. Do you guys enjoy research? Have any tips for making it fun?