Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Send in the bastards

I did a little post over on last week about something I think is overrated in fiction: likeability. At the same time, I was toying with a new call for YA novel submissions (it’s been far too long since I’ve done one). Somehow, the two things have now combined in my head, and before I think better of it, I’m going to ask that you all send me your bastards (of all genders, naturally). Send me your problematic narrators, your cousins of little 6655321, your children of Humbert. In short, heroes need not apply. I’m not looking to like your narrators, but I’m hoping to adore your prose.

I don’t want really care about cover letters, so you can cut and paste this into the body of the email to which you attach your complete ms:

Please find attached a book narrated by a loathsome brute. Take him or leave him, but don’t like him.

In addition, if you’re inclined, I would welcome a brief note about your favorite unsympathetic narrator and why he or she won you, in spite of it all. The rest of the details on how to submit are here.

This call will expire after 11:59 PM on March 25th, 2011.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Ruth and the Green Book on CNN

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Will charisma count most?

I don’t have a good answer to the question I’m about to pose, and so it bothers me from time to time, most recently when Neil Gaiman posted a very calm, thoughtful video on piracy and the web. It elicited the same “yeah, but…” reaction I always have to Cory Doctorow, Seth Godin, et. al. It generally goes “yeah, but you were all some combination of already established, famous, well connected, and insanely charismatic in person….”

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not suggesting these people are just charismatic and not talented. That’s beside the point.

My question is, does an open/free approach to books and copyright only work for a certain kind of author? Are we moving toward a book market that, in its zeal for openness, closes itself off to certain authors? The example that always leaps to mind is Dickens—he’d have done well if he traded time periods with Cory Doctorow, I suspect. He’d have killed on the speaking circuit now as he did 150 years ago. But what about Jane Austen, I then ask? But that’s an analogy that’s more cute than useful. Austen didn’t expect to live on the income from her books. It’s not a comparison that gets anywhere.

Is this the wrong way to see this question? I feel like I’ve been nagging myself in circles with this “yeah but” for years? I want new answers.

Creative Commons photo by Eleaf

Monday, February 7, 2011

Why What Can’t Wait couldn’t wait

What Can't Wait (Carolrhoda Ya)

Kirkus just called Ashley Hope Peréz’s What Can’t Wait “Un magnifico debut.” Couldn’t agree more.

You can hear more about Ashley and the novel in this interview with Indiana Public Media.

I think my favorite part of the interview is Ashley talking about her students in Houston. This was a novel born of real teenage desire to see a certain kind of story told, and I think that urgency comes across in the book.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Advice by Any Means

I wasn’t at SCBWI in NYC, but I’ve heard from many people that Sara Zarr hit a keynote homer. Not really a surprise, I suppose.

Steve Brezenoff wasn’t officially at SCBWI either, but, he borrowed one of his character's juvie shoes, and now you can read his take on Zarr’s keynote. (Rumors you may have heard about Steve beating up John Green for his lunch money are totally unfounded.)

Here’s another excellent recap of the speech. I’m sure there are others.

These reports reminded me of Woody Allen’s obit for Ingmar Bergman (hence the photos). It’s well worth reading if you’re thinking about art and endgames. Here are a couple bits (emphases mine):

I have joked about art being the intellectual's Catholicism, that is, a wishful belief in an afterlife. Better than to live on in the hearts and minds of the public is to live on in one's apartment, is how I put it. And certainly Bergman's movies will live on and will be viewed at museums and on TV and sold on DVDs, but knowing him this was meager compensation, and I am sure he would have been only too glad to barter each one of his films for an additional year of life. This would have given him roughly 60 more birthdays to go on making movies; a remarkable creative output. And there's no doubt in my mind that's how he would have used the extra time, doing the one thing he loved above all else, turning out films.

Bergman enjoyed the process. He cared little about the responses to his films. It pleased him when he was appreciated, but as he told me once, "If they don't like a movie I made, it bothers me - for about 30 seconds."

I learned to try to turn out the best work I'm capable of at that given moment, never giving in to the foolish world of hits and flops or succumbing to playing the glitzy role of the film director, but making a movie and moving on to the next one. Bergman made about 60 films in his lifetime, I have made 38. At least if I can't rise to his quality maybe I can approach his quantity.

I think that whatever your role in bookmaking, it’s good to be reminded that the making is as important as the book.

Photos courtesy Meagan Fisher.