Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Which is your list?

Gotham Writers complied top ten/must read lists from 14 sources, including Newsweek, Oprah, Christian Science Monitor, and The Atlantic. I am a shoe-lover in Nordstrom, a foodie in Hong Kong, and a indie film enthusiast at Sundance.

I find myself picking and choosing from different lists even though I feel my tastes run closer to some than others.

Take a look and let me know if there is one list that hits all the rights spots for you or if you're like me, choosing from different ones.

Now to find the time to read all of them.

Pragmatism, Honesty, or Back-Scratching

For a long time now I have been thinking of the idea of publicly sharing opinions on books and have even drafted a number of posts on the subject. But I have never felt as if I have arrived at any kind of a well-defined stance. Domey's post at the Lit Lab the other day made me think about it again, and instead of trying to come up with a solution before writing a post, I have decided to explore the subject here. In writing about it, I hope I can clarify my thinking further and hopefully I can get a conversation going on the subject.

Writers writing public reviews: what are our responsibilities? What is our role? Which considerations matter?

A little while back, there was the loud but thankfully short fury in response to a supposed YA mafia whose members provide glowing reviews for one another and black ball those who dared to say they didn't like certain books.
Many writers chimed in to share their decisions with regards to writing negative reviews. Some writers choose not to post negative reviews for fear of creating bad karma for their own work. Others do so because they don't want to hurt the feelings of the authors, Yet others feel that honesty is the best policy and do not shy away from negative comments.

I understand the fear of having my own work being panned because of revenge, and obviously I am aware that behind every work is a person who loves their work.Yet praising something I don't like is not an option either.

My solution so far has been to review mainly books I liked. If I did choose to mention what didn't work, I made sure I provided specific examples to back up my points. Occasionally, I would discuss what I don't like about a book without mentioning its title.

This seemed like a safe thing to do.

But I am not contented with safe anymore. Domey is right; being only nice and quiet all the time isn't a good thing to do. Maybe I have been cowardly. Maybe my basic motivation has been fear.

So. Providing honest, objective reviews that are helpful to readers, without being nasty, without external agendas: surely that is an achievable goal?

And since the reviewer role is now shared by so many grass-roots reviewers, one review isn't going to have as much an effect. My hope is that I can provide helpful reviews to my readers and fair to the authors.

Keep me honest, won't you?

Read this interview and enter the contest!

If you haven't yet come across this interview Cynthia Leitich-Smith posted, you must go read it. Egmont editor, Elizabeth Law, and author Allen Zadoff provided a candid and in depth look at one editor/author team. Elizabeth Law is also offering a partial critique to one writer chosen randomly from those who comment on the post. Deadline May 31s.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Getting to know my readers: Laurel Garver

As part of the celebration for reaching 100 public readers I have decided to learn more about them. Scott Bailey, whose work is brilliant, moving and funny, indulged me by answering some questions. My second guest is Laurel Garver, whose blog reached her milestone of 333.

I don't remember how I came across Laurel's blog, but her thoughtfulness and warmth have drawn me back repeatedly. Here is a little bit about her:

Laurel is a writer, magazine editor, professor's wife and mom to an energetic second grader. Indie film enthusiast and incurable Anglophile. She writes young adult novels, literary flash fiction and poetry. She loves smart, sassy characters and stories that delve into the dark places where heart and soul are tested and growing up truly begins.

1. Name the last three books you read.

Invisible by Pete Hautman

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

Blue Fire by Janice Hardy

A majority of what I read is contemporary YA, but I do try to mix in other genres.

2. Name one of your favorite authors. The first name that pops into your
mind. Explain. Or not.

Susan Howatch remains a favorite. She’s a British author who writes about incredibly flawed
people of faith who go through the wringer and emerge transformed. I especially recommend
the first two of her St. Benet’s series: The Wonder Worker and The High Flyer.

3. On a typical weekday, what are you doing at 10 a.m. and 10 p.m?

At 10 a.m., I’m at my part-time day job as a magazine editor. I can usually be found trafficking
manuscripts, writing correspondence, copy editing or proofreading. I squeeze in blog
commenting here and there.

At 10 p.m. I might be watching a Netflix DVD with my hubby. We like British TV, SciFi and
foreign and quirky independent films. If he has a lot of grading, I’ll hole up in my home office
to write blog posts, do research or work on shorter pieces (flash fiction or poetry). When I’m
really “on fire,” I’ll work on a novel after dark.

4. Have you ever had breakfast for dinner? Dessert before main course?

We have breakfast for dinner a few times a month—usually waffles or pancakes. Yum! Dessert
first doesn’t appeal that much. Having the salty main course first makes desserts taste sweeter.

5. Kindle, Nook, or iPad?

I’d love to own an iPad. You hear that, Santa? J

Gadget-buying isn’t a priority for me. We live pretty simply so that I can work part-time and be
home when my school-aged daughter is.

6. How do you want your work to be characterized? First three words that pop
into your mind.

Layered. Gripping. Transformative.

7.What have you written today?

Book review assignment letter, four e-mails, some blog comments, and revisions based on crits
from my crit group meeting last night.

8. Name a favorite food/dish that is colorful

Evil Jungle Princess. It’s a veggie-heavy Thai dish flavored with red curry, coconut milk, ginger
and Thai basil. My husband makes this and all kinds of other world cuisines (Chinese, Korean,
Japanese, Indian, Mediterranean, French, British). He’s a very talented cook.

9. Name a vocation, time, and place you'd love to be.

I’d love to edit/publish a literary magazine and live in England in, say, the 1950s. It would be
fun to wear gloves and hats, but have indoor plumbing and electricity. While we’re dreaming,
I’d like a half-timbered house, a small stable with a horse and a music room with a marimba. I’d
play occasional weekend gigs with a jazz combo.

(I didn't know you played marimba! So do my MG novel MC and I!)

Thanks, Laurel and congrats on the milestone for your blog.

Monday, May 16, 2011

May Mayhem

May! Mother's Day! Spring! Flowers!

Lovely time of the year no? Well,except for some unexpected events. (But really, when are bad things really anticipated?) A couple of weeks ago, my computer crashed. So thankful for a husband who is highly tech-savvy. He set me up with a laptop, retrieved all the important information, and even resurrected the dead beast. Because it is 8-years old however, we decided to buy a new computer.

The car started to knock. Klonk, klonk, klonkity klonk = ka-ching, ka-ching.

Then, after not needing to go to the doctors' for almost two years for the kiddos, we've ended up going there four times in as many weeks, for weird hives, strange stomach ailments, and a freaky fall into a cellar.

Rains, pours.

Not everything has gone bad, thank goodness. The YA novel I'm working on tight now is moving along smoothly on a path that is working well. I am still over the moon with what's happening to my middle-grade novel. Both kiddos and I found new books to devour. And the sun is shining, after four consecutive rainy/snowy/ overcast days.

May! Spring! Flowers!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Scholastic Asian Book Award

The Kumquat Code, my middle grade novel, has been shortlisted for the Scholastic Asian Book Award!

It's a good habit not to let the inevitable road bu
mps and obstacles prevent me from writing, but I am most certainly going to let good news buoy my spirits!


Monday, May 2, 2011


Osama bin Laden's death has resulted in a strange mix of news in my email inbox and status updates on facebook page today: claims of moral victory, condemnation of the war, talks of retribution, mourning over the millions of lives lost and millions more affected, and great deals on mother's day gifts.

Since this is a not a forum to discuss political and moral issues, not directly, anyway, I thought I'd focus on how such surreal juxtapositions of big news and life-as-usual can be applied to writing.

Perhaps, in writing about a funeral, a writer may focus on the highly-polished shoes worn by the widower. Did he, in the midst of making arrangements for the funeral, go out to buy new shoes? Or did he polish them himself, and what might have gone through his mind when he did that? Or maybe someone else polished them for him, someone who quietly made themselves helpful.

Or perhaps in a bridal shower, someone left the TV on to a program showcasing the husbands of Elizabeth Taylor.

Or perhaps rescuers, while looking through a tornado-ravished town, trigger a Tickled-Me-Elmo toy.

Have you read passages that include incongruous details? What about in your own writing: do you use this technique? Maybe some of you would dash off a short vignette in the comments section. Please do.