Saturday, September 3, 2016

How to Love An Author

I do promise to get back to the personality problem but after attending an author talk at an area bookstore the other day (which was outstanding!), here's something I decided to share in the meantime.

HOW TO LOVE AN AUTHOR: A Few Random Thoughts
1. Send them chocolate or coffee. If you want to add some extra love, find out which one they prefer. (Note: random packages left on their doorstep are just creepy and may be ignored unless the chocolate/coffee stash is desperately low.)
2. Buy their book(s). At a public reading or signing if possible. Nothing is a truer reality of being an author (unless you're J.K. Rowling or Judy Blume) than being ignored by the general public in a bookstore.
3. Don't stand at their shoulder with trivial questions (up to and including whether the mortgage has been paid or where the children are) when they are in the throes of creative genius. And yes, that may look like they're just staring into space.
4. Talk about their book. (Hint: Strangers in the grocery line are, in essence, a captive audience.)
5. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. No need to stalk them but a follow's a nice touch.
6. Post a review. Hopefully kind but definitely honest.
7. Bring their book to book club.
8. Start a book club.
9. Visit your local book store and ask if they carry work by the author. Change your disguise each time you go.
10. Tell them when you love their work. Gushing suspicious but still welcome ...

Monday, July 4, 2016

Does an author need a personality? (Part 1: platform & publishing)

There is a classic stereotype of a writer, locked away in a dim room, staring at a single screen as they shut the world out in order to produce a new one. And honestly, I'm okay with that.

Why? I am an introvert. No matter which personality type test or quiz you show me, I will always come down heavily on the "people drain me" side of the scale.

A lot of people are a little skeptical (or just scoff outright) when I admit that. I enjoy people. I get along well with people. I can take on a crowd from a platform with relative ease, and can even do the mix-and-mingle well. I do a fun presentation with classrooms of all ages and sizes, and enjoy Q&A sessions and signings.

But when I finish those events, the quiet room with space for my imagination to be free sounds pretty sweet. And from my quiet space I see  the publishing advice that says I need to have "platform" and be active in social media and I wish for a world where I didn't have to be a personality.

But that's wishful thinking, and I realized it when I took a query letter to my wonderful critique group the other day. The advice I got was, "You have a vibrant personality - you just need to convey that on paper." The nutshell? My writing had personality; my writing about myself did not. Good advice (as always) and it has had me thinking: how does personality really fit into a writing career?

For an author, there are different areas where personality shows up:

1. Voice (Personality in your Writing)

Ah, the elusive element that every editor wants but can't really define. And in fairness, I don't blame them. It's rather like true love - it can captivate you when you find it but it probably won't look like you expect it to either. The charm is often in the unexpectedness of it.

Voice goes beyond having the basics of writing structure mastered, and is really where the personality of your writing shows up. Voice comes in combinations - how you mix all the possible ingredients of writing to create a sound, a style, a feel that is unique to you as a writer. It might show up in your story pacing, in a visible richness to your prose, in a lyric phrasing that carries a subtle motif,  or a unerring connection to the subculture of your characters. It might be your mastery of effective or unexpected punctuation, or a bare-bones clarity that cuts away all extraneous fluff.

Personally, I think there is freedom in finding your literary voice. It will reflect you in some way as a person but can go so far beyond your personality. How fun is that? The limits are lifted when you find your voice as a writer.

Do some writers seem to have a natural grasp of voice? Absolutely.
Can you develop voice? Certainly.

By reading - prolifically - and saturating yourself in other writer's styles. And then, by writing - continuously - until the words and worlds that you produce contain echoes and flavors of the masters but create your own particular blend of  story, vision, and word.

But once you've mastered your voice, and unfortunately for the introverts, you have to step outside your room and away from your screen and engage with the rest of the world if you want to see your dream of being an author take flight. And personality becomes a very different beast. 

2. Queries, pitches & cover letters (Personality in your Presentation)

This is another "on paper" part of the equation and is arguably one of the hardest types of writing any writer has to produce. I personally think the reason it's so hard is because it straddles the line between our personality as an individual and the personality of our writing. Because we're supposed to be selling our idea and ourselves in the voice of our manuscript. And if those don't mesh, it sounds stilted and unnatural and has us pulling our proverbial hair out as rewrite stacks up on rewrite. (If you ever want to cringe over your writing, look back at your early cover letters. Youch.)

It's self promotion. To the introvert, it feels like self-aggrandization. (I have no idea how it feels to extroverts.) It really does make it seem easier to deal with live people. Which brings us to ...

3. Conferences, workshops & writing events (Personality with Peers)

Well, here's where we should be able to breathe easy among our own kind, right? Well, yes and no. You'll find your tribe. You'll connect with wonderful kindred spirits that "get" the excitement and the frustrations and the realities of being part of the writing world. You'll hear speakers and teachers that challenge you to the next level and remind you why you love what you do. You might even find the dream contact that lands you an incredible contract.

You'll also find the nervous, the ambitious, the aggressive, and the borderline narcissistic writers that have the constant question lurking behind their eyes, "How will you benefit MY career?" You'll find the usual mix of personalities. And depending on your own personality, you may walk out thinking, "I'm in the wrong line of work ... "

Hang in there, because at some point, you'll be the one in the limelight ...

4. Author events (Personality with the Public)

At some point, whether you are traditionally published or an indie author, you will have an opportunity to do an author event. (Here's where the introverts curl up or break out in a sweat (or both) and the extroverts say "YES! This is why I'm a writer!" :) ). It might be a book signing, a classroom visit, an author fair, a reading, or your own book launch. People enjoy meeting their favorite writers and hearing about the process of writing. Meeting a real live author can help teachers boost literacy and inspire classrooms. Think about it - the public is why you publish!!

Your own personality will play a big part in how you view these events, and knowing that can help you play to your strengths in these events too.

Or you can just swear off them entirely and stick to on-line interaction with the public through ...

5. Social media (Personality as Platform)

This is still the public, right? Yes. And no. Social media - blogs, FB, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and so on and so on - is a great place to connect with peers, with fans, with industry experts, and to provide a consistent arena for your writing while still maintaining a little distance. It, too, straddles the line between our own personalities and how that reflects in our writing. It's not on paper, but it's an "on paper" (written word) form of expressing our personalities.

Here, too, your personality will play a role. Can you be scintillating in 140 characters more than three times a day? Can you produce quality content on a daily/weekly/monthly basis? Can you connect with enough people to provide immediate connection to your latest and greatest publishing news? When you can, that's platform.

So let's review: does an author need a personality?

Really, in the end, it's a trick question. Every author has a personality. It's just that who you are as a person is not always irrevocably tied to your personality as a writer. Your combination of experience, training, motivations, and character traits will always be reflected in your writing but in your writing you can also step beyond your reality and into your imagination where the limits are lifted.  

For aspiring and experienced authors, the question, then, is how can you mesh your writing career with the type of person you are? More on that soon.

*All photos courtesy of

Monday, February 8, 2016

Great resources for KidLit writers

There is a lot of information available on the internet and sometimes the challenge of protecting our writing time is sabotaged by the challenge of finding useful, pertinent, reputable, up-to-date, consistent resources. I have joined a multitude of emails lists, followed the rabbit hole of link bait, and scratched my head multiple times over seemingly conflicting advice  over the years.

While this is only a top 3 list, and people will often find they connect better with one group or approach over another, here's my current go-to spots for great information, excellent advice and lots of writerly support.

1. SubItClub
The site has great behind-the-scenes interviews and blog posts plus a very active Facebook group for help with submissions to agents, editors and publishers.

Again, an absolute wealth of riches when it comes to writing, illustrating, revising and submitting for children's literature. They host a super supportive Facebook group also, plus have manuscript swaps, post contests, and keep a great group of resources available. 

This is a membership group that only opens for admission at certain times of the year but the challenge is to write 12 picture book manuscripts in 12 months. It's a fantastic group of enthusiastic writers and illustrators, and the feedback is fun and encouraging. 

That's my top 3 for this year. What are yours?