May 30, 2013

Literary fiction must-reads...Alaska style

SO excited to be joining you all for this post on literary fiction reads. I'm late to the party - at education training all this week- but I had to share some of my favorite lit-fiction authors because they're awesome people AND wonderful writers.

First up is Eowyn Ivey and The Snow Child. She combines beautiful language with a fairy-tale retelling in 1920s Alaska. This book has won numerous awards (the U.K. Guardian's best debut novel award, the Indie Bookseller's Pacific Northwest award AND was short-listed for a Pulitzer) and sits on my shelf as mute testimony that a good story well-told will always get attenion. Plus Eowyn is an acquaintance of mine; we live in the same small town and she consented to be interviewed on my blog before she was famous.

Next, there's Heather Lende's If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name. This is the first book of two in Heather's distinctive narrative nonfiction style about her life in Haines, Alaska. Heather is an obituary writer for her town's weekly newspaper, which is an unusual way to build readership but her stories are so unique (think Garrison Keillor only in Alaska) they're addictive. She has a blog at the same address as the link to her name and she posts gorgeous photos of her hometown, plus amusing/poignant vignettes of her life with family, grandkids, dogs and neighbors.

Her second book, Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs continues her story, which is a blend of personal and narrative essays on, among other things, the meaning of life. I HIGHLY recommend both!

Next up is Dana Stabenow who *cough* is technically a mystery writer but her stuff is so Alaskan, I have to include her in this list. I try to grab both her Kate Shugak and Liam Campbell series whenever they're first published because they're so hard to get at our local library. Dana combines crime sleuthing (Kate is a PI; Liam is an Alaska state trooper) with quirky, Alaskan characters that are almost too good to be fiction....and I have a sneaking suspicion after living here for a while that her best stuff is solidly based on fact.   I just finished Bad Blood last week; go here to find a cool map and a video by Dana about this latest tale. Dana lives part of the year in Anchorage and recently donated land to create a writer's retreat for women. Check it out on her site - it would be an awesome place to write!!

Blogger is acting weird today (sorry for the odd spacing!) so I'm signing off now. Look forward to reading your recommends!!

May 24, 2013

Friday funnies - May 24

Which one are you?

Conversations with a two year-old

Happy Friday!

Have a great weekend,

May 17, 2013

Friday funnies - May 17

I need this as a poster in my classroom...

Very cool garden sign:

I've seen this one tagged as "cereal killer" which is a bit funnier:

And my favorite this week:

Men have a simulated labor. It kicks their butts.

Have a great weekend!

May 12, 2013

Knowing when to rewrite

There comes a time when a rewrite -  a complete tossing-away of the original MS - is necessary. In fact, it's been my experience that most successful authors do this at some point. The first draft is the draft you write to get into the world. The first draft is for YOU. Yes, you can revise. Yes, sometimes it's successful.

But more often, it requires multiple revisions to shape a story. I did six revisions before a rewrite of my latest MS. SIX.  Believe me, the idea of a rewrite after all that time and hard work did not make me jump for joy.

So, how do you know when to start over? Here are the four biggies:

1. There's a major plot hole. It could be the villain's motivations (or lack of). It could be the premise is too impossible for readers to swallow. It could be a major character isn't strong enough to carry the action.  Fixing this plot hole will cause your entire MS to shift as if the earth has moved. A revision won't cut it.

2. Readers don't connect with the voice OR the main character is unlikable. Perhaps it's too snarky or removed from the action, or there's not enough deep POV to keep a reader engaged. Perhaps the main character has a flaky personality that doesn't lend itself to overcoming the tension in the story. Either way, this problem is a draft-killer.

3. You have a serious structural problem (aka your pacing is too slow). This is where pantsers realize that outlining isn't optional in certain genres. Pacing is key in any story. Each chapter should build to a peak while still leaving a reader hanging. This is a delicate dance that is akin to brain surgery on a MS. If your draft's brains are screwy, it might be time to jettison your Frankenstein and start fresh.

4. An agent has given you an R&R with instructions that go far beyond a revision. 'Nough said.

If your MS has one or more of the first three, is it worth a rewrite?? That's the million-dollar question, right?
Well if you...

love, love LOVE this story, go for it.

If there's nothing else on the market, or that you've seen queried in contests similar to yours, go for it. 

BUT if you haven't ever:

gotten a request, had anything more than a form reject for a full submission, and if the market is saturated with your premise, it might be time to shelve. Seriously, don't beat a dead horse. Moving on may be the smartest career move you'll ever make.

Hope this helps!

May 10, 2013

Where I've been...

I've been gone all week so no Friday Funnies - sorry! Instead, here are a few pictures of my trip with the seventh grade class to Seldovia. It's an Alaskan village off the grid - meaning no roads, only ferry and plane service. Although I usually don't share much of my alter-ego teaching life in this blog, not many outsiders get to this part of the state. Enjoy!

My daughter, clamming

Two sea otters. They were playing really loudly in the water.

Leathery sea star

Some of our 7th graders....

A pair of very noisy eagles, staking their claim. It's the start of the breeding season and eagles
were everywhere, fighting over territory.

My daugher and I, getting covered in mud while clamming. We got 62!

Have a great weekend!