Monday, April 30, 2007

Internet Trends

Patricia Wood's debut book, Lottery, isn't even out yet, but she's created a buzz that's gotten me to order a copy of it from Amazon nearly 5 months before it comes out. How has she done this? Well, one way is through blogging. I saw an entry on Miss Snark's blog about Lottery, which prompted me to go to Amazon, which led me to Patricia's blog, which...well, you get the picture.

During the SCBWI Conference lunch, I sat at the "YA Why Not" table, where I became the unpopular voice regarding kids and the internet. The general consensus was that the internet is a dark place, populated mostly by drooling pedophiles, and how should we get kids away from it. Eek. My stance was that the internet is a place full of possibilities. We need to make safe places for kids to go, and we can harness the internet to improve our own craft and create a more cohesive community among writers and readers. The three of them looked at me like they wanted me to stuff my sandwich in my mouth to shut me up. What can you expect from people who probably still have dial up...if that?

A group of Puget Sound area women writers have created a great web space for teen girl readers. Readergirlz is a web site moderated by Janet Lee Carey, Lori Ann Grover, Dia Calhoun, and Justina Chen Headley. Their manifesto is all about having serious fun while talking about books. The site delivers all kinds of fun for teen girls. Music, art, videos, and books!

If adults are getting into blogging, imagine where kids are with it. They're always a few steps ahead of us when it comes to technology. A web site such as Readergirlz makes me tingle all over. It's just the kind of thing I like to see. Harnessing technology to create a place for teen girls is so very way cool.

Having worked in the tech field and being a card carrying member of the Anita Borg mailing list, Systers, I am concerned about the challenges women face entering into technical fields. Most of the problems women face in tech fields is so insidious and ambiguous. Yet, if you frequent a women's forum on technology for any length of time, you will find that we face a barrage of prejudice and resistence regarding our presence which we are struggling, ourselves, to address and define. Such a large part of the abuse women endure involves being told that we are over reacting or imagining things, it is not surprising to find that we question, amongst ourselves, the validity of our perceptions. Through the use of blogs, public abuse of women who attain any level of success is prevelant and has received a lot of press lately. The Washington Post published an article today describing all of the facets of this complex issue.

Which brings me back to girls and technology. Women are here to stay in the tech world. We need to stand our ground and not allow intimidation tactics to push us away. Kids are going to find their way through the world, with or without our guidance, and the internet is going to be a part of that path. Girls need to have a place on that path where they don't have to fight just to be there. We writers can position ourselves along that path and make their journey richer.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Writing is Dangerous

So, what DID I take away with me from the Puget Sound Area's SCBWI conference yesterday? A stack of books, a skosh of motivation and a few good pointers on where to focus my energy.

Justina Chen Headley led a workshop on finding the heart in your story. The workshop was a display of her openness and commitment to baring her own vulnerabilities to tell the story that needs to be told. She spoke of having the courage to get down on paper the real heart of the matters that brought us to the page in the first place. It brought me back to a place I'd been a few months ago. I need to be reminded that writing is dangerous.

About six months ago, I watched the documentary on Bukowski, and the main thing I got from it was the concept of writing being dangerous. According to Bukowski, if a piece of writing isn't dangerous, it's worthless. This prompted me to take take this to my online writer's group and post a challenge that we all write something decidedly dangerous. Some great stuff came from that exercise.

I once had a creative writing teacher in community college who contended that the best stories, the real stories, never get down on paper because we can't get there. I remember making a promise to myself that I would not flinch from writing the real story.

How could I forget, again, about my promise, about Bukowski, about danger? I owe a debt of gratitude to Justina for taking me back to the heart.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

SCBWI Conference

I just got back from the annual conference put on by my local chapter of the society of children's book writers and illustrators (SCBWI). Boy! They should find a shorter acronym. The event was well organized and went without a hitch.

I always feel so inspired after spending the day around such great and talented people. The illustrators gave great presentations, the local published writers were fun and lively. There were some presenters who were very full of themselves, but, overall, it was a positive vibe.

Even while I feel inspired, I get that sense of being a grain of sand in a pile of poppy seeds. There are so many of us, and I'm not the one with any value. That's how I feel. Many on the unpublished side of the fence are practically rabid with hope and need. I'm on that unpublished side of the fence, but I went without an agenda of finding that agent or publisher who would think me wonderful.

I need to observe and absorb right now. While conferences are informative, there is a distinct them and us feel to them. The agents, publishers, editors, published artists and writers glomb together as professionals in a field, while the rest of us stand outside the gate, feverishly wanting inside.

One minute, I think Giving It Over is a great novel. The next minute, I think it's tripe. I can't be objective about it any more. So, what's the deal? Spend money on professional critiques? Oh, yes. There are many people out there willing to take my money. What makes their opinion any better than those of my critique group or any of the other people who've read my book?

Maybe if I just focus on book 2, the geek girl story, I'll be okay. I need to get lost in it. Then there's that short story about the love potion I haven't finished. Yeah. I've definately got stuff I could be doing. Going to this conference is good fuel. And then there's the retreat in June.

Just keep swimming.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Novel Finished

I completed Giving It Over several months ago and am embarking on that oh-so-fun quest for representation. I've used Writer's Query and the Writer's Market to find agents and have been sending off whatever their guidelines stipulate, one or two at a time. A few have asked to see pages. One agent, whom I met at the Whidbey Island writer's conference told me that she thought the premise of the story was good and wanted to see the first fifty pages. "Now, all we need to know is whether or not you can write."

Apparently, she thought that I couldn't write, because, after reading the first 75 pages of the novel, she have all others.

Now, I know that agents are busy folks. I have refrained from dogging anyone and asking those burning questions: WTF? and Could you throw me a bone, please?

Whether or not my YA novel ever gets published, I've met many other extremely good, unpublished novelists. I belong to a small, online writer's group, comprised of novelists, short story and flash fiction writers and a few poets. With their support, I finished my first novel and have begun outlining another. They taught me to set aside my fears about never being published and give myself over to the process. Not such a bad deal after all, huh?
Several short pieceds published since my last post:

Personal Essay – The Los Angeles Journal, June 2005 edition, “Waxworks

Personal Travel Essay – E-Marginalia, “Getting Touchy in Tuscany

Short Story – ConteOnline Literary Quarterly, “Pay Me No Mind

Flash Fiction –Salome on October, 2006, “We Would Like to Honor You with Our Appreciation”

Personal Essay – Edifice Wrecked, Nov, 2006, “The Dead Files