Saturday, January 29, 2011

The effects of social-site-soapboxing

I'm watching a documentary the other night about the affects of Facebook on peoples personal lives. One teacher was fired over her postings about her students being "snot nose punks" and another woman finally found her birth mother that she was on the search for some twenty odd years. All through the power of Facebook. Good and bad things. As of late I have noticed some aspiring writer/authors making comments on their Facebook pages and tweets that are rather colorful and not in a rainbows and unicorns sort of way. Then I got to thinking about your responsibility as an emerging writer/author and what kind of impact these social sites can have on your potential or continuing career.

Whether some of us realize it or not, agents, editors, publishers, marketing people and book sellers all look at these sites. And yes, they even read your posts or tweets. Great, some one is finally listening! So what's the big deal you ask?

The teacher who was fired over her posts believed that her rants on her Facebook page were private to only her friends. Well, they weren't. Many of the parents read her posts and it lead to her termination after many years on the job. She made a poor decision and it backfired. Unfortunately for many people these sites have become a soapbox. Don't get me wrong, I'm all about freedom of speech. We all have a right to say what is on our mind. But what did we do before we had these sites? We used to pick up a phone and call our friends and loved ones to discuss our woes instead of unleashing them upon the world (where they are almost impossible to get back). The lesson. Some things are better left unsaid.

As writers we face a lot of rejection and comments about our writing. As writers we like to be heard and at times we get carried away and use these social sites to rant about those rejections or the people rejecting us. Most likely, anything said in poor fashion is going to get back to that agent, editor or publisher. And word of your swift tongue-sword will be damaging. It's okay to look for support on these sites. Many of us are there to support each other, cheer each other on and celebrate the little victories. We should exercise caution when ranting though. I know many employers and potential employers that use these sites to monitor those working for them and those under consideration for employment.

What does this all mean? If you are an agent or editor looking at a potential client and they discover that your tweets and posts are derogatory and negative and all you ever do is rant, this is going to give them pause. Who wants to work with someone so poisonous? Not them. Trust me, I've seen it happen to many talented people.

In a way it is like an audition. They can watch you from the dark seats while you stand under the spotlight.

Now, for many of you this seems obvious and something you've heard before. You would be surprised how many people read and hear these warnings and yet they have a complete lapse in etiquette and  carry on like a raving lunatic.

What can you do to make sure that you don't snap like a pea? First of all, common sense is the greatest gift we have been given as human beings. Although many of us forget to click that on switch from time to time. Flick the switch before you tweet or post to Facebook. Think about what you're saying and how it may be received.

If you face rejections take the notes and learn from them and share with the rest of us even if you don't think they are valid points, they may hold some truth and wisdom for the rest of us. We are all going to experience these moments along our journey so why not share them in a positive way. Build friendships and not just numbers. Give people a reason to want to keep coming back to read your posts and tweets. Use it to promote others and not just yourself. One of my biggest pet peeves is a writer who only posts about his book or writings. Building working relationships from these sites are so powerful and helpful it is astounding. However, if you only talk about yourself then the result is one-sided. These are not set rules but a guide to help you navigate the waters. And if I may humbly give one kernel of advice to aspiring writers. Don't friend agents, editors and publishers purely out of the hopes that they will do something for you. It's obvious and for the most part they won't respond to it. Support the team and give praise to those giants of the industry because you truly want too. Not because you think it will return to you. You don't donate books to sick kids because you hope you will get them back.

Remember, you are the captain of your boat. It is up to you whether it sinks or sails. I hope you choose to sail.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Stylish Blogging... not just for the runway

My fellow podling (Bree Ogden client) and blogger, Kelsey Ketch, has bestowed me with a Stylish Blogger award, which I truly appreciate. This is not because I dress like Johnny Depp on or off screen, but an award to say "Hey kid, I like the style of your blog."

Of course, there are certain stipulations to accepting this award. I must give seven random facts about myself. So here we go:

1) My favorite television show is Buffy the Vampire Slayer

2) I once played guitar in a band named Peach Melba for a school dance
3) I haven't read all of the Goosebumps' books (but I'm working on it)
4) I prefer to listen to movie scores over most all kinds of music
5) My favorite video game is from the 80's called TEMPEST

6) My favorite meal is pancakes
7) I don't have any tattoos - although I get asked often what tats I have (weird). I guess I exude a certain kind of tattoo vibe (not sure what that means).

There you have it. Thanks for letting me randomize, and of course, thank you for listening and letting me be stylish.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Silent torture...

As I sit here and write this posting my middle grade manuscript is going out on subs (submission) to editors. Moments ago I texted my amazing agent, Bree, that I was getting that screwy sensation in my gut that comes when you are about to put your work out there for hopeful adulation but most likely ridicule. Of course, like any great agent, she talked me off the edge of neurosis (which is partially why this blog aptly uses the word Asylum in the title).

Bree also said that I needed to distract myself. So I dove into my latest manuscript (which happens to my final assignment for school) and stared at the screen as my mind wandered. The manuscript is due at the end of the week and I am struggling with the last few chapters. Oddly enough, I know what has to happen. The characters know what has to happen and yet I'm partially paralyzed by the thoughts of what I may have done wrong or could have done better in the manuscript that is out making the rounds.

This is what I like to call silent torture. You put up a cool front to your family and friends while you are buzzing like an aggravated hornets nest on the inside. I recently read a great article in the February issue of Writer magazine by Jim Shepard and something he said gave me pause. When asked "When do you know you might be a writer?" His response was (and I'm altering it a bit for this post) "A writer needs to write to feel good about him/herself. But in doing so, it almost never makes them feel good about themselves." That sounds about as torturous as you can get. But that is exactly why I write, because I have too and it makes me feel good. If you asked my wife if I get a little cranky when I don't write she will give you a resounding YES!

It makes you realize that you are on the right path. Personally, I've never felt so sure about what I was meant to do than when I write. Like many of you, I would like to make my maddening hobby a career. Eventually you will have to send that writing out into the world to see if anyone enjoys it as much as you do and wants to take a chance on it. Of course you are going to sit in silent torture while waiting for their response. Good or bad. That is part of the process.

So as we all contemplate if the FDA is going to create a medication for this madness I am going to stick to Bree's advice and keep myself distracted. There is plenty of writing to do. Lots of perspiration to shed. Hours of creative play to be had while the literary gods decide the fate of my manuscript (hopefully they can see me down on my knees praying). Before I know it I will have been so busy not thinking about it that I may just come out the other side with a bunch of pages glued together between some amazing artwork. In all honesty, I'm not really sure there is anything else I would rather do.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Reinvention of Bessica Lefter

Right before the holidays I received an ARC of the middle grade book The Reinvention of Bessica Lefter by Kristen Tracy. I already had a teetering stack of books to read and I wasn't sure how soon I would get to reading it. Then I read the press note about the release date of 1/11/11 and I got a little anxious. This book would be coming out in a few short weeks and I was able to read it before the launch. That always makes you feel a little special. So I tossed it in the luggage and brought it with me for the family holiday.

During the evenings when the family went to bed I decided I would crack it open and read. From the cover of the book it would not be my first pick. I usually go for the darker spooky genre fare. As I settled into the couch I found myself reading and reading and reading. Before I knew it I was knee deep in the book and entangled in Bessica's life and I loved it. Before I go on, here is the synopsis of the book.

Synopsis - After an unfortunate incident at the hair salon, Bessica is not allowed to see her best friend, Sylvie. That means she's going to start middle school a-l-o-n-e. Bessica feels like such a loser. She wants friends. She's just not sure how to make them. It doesn't help that her beloved grandma is off on some crazy road trip and has zero time to listen to Bessica. Or that Bessica has a ton of homework. Or that gorgeous Noll Beck thinks she's just a kid. Or that there are some serious psycho-bullies in her classes. Bessica doesn't care about being popular. She just wants to survive—and look cute. Is that too much to ask when you're eleven?

Okay, sure, Bessica is not fighting monsters, or slaying Orcs, and she isn't fighting pirates, but she is navigating the salty seas of middle school and roaring like a bear (that will make sense when you read the book). And we all know that middle school usually does involve monsters, Orcs (in my world it was jocks), and pirates (or rocker emo types). I found myself breezing right through the book - which is always a great sign - and laughing out loud. The final pay off in the book is well worth the read. I felt very connected to Bessica and really enjoyed her as a character. Her plight was a simple one but it never felt forced or cheesy. The story as a whole is fun, tender, and tasty as a marshmallow. If you want a light read that is a lot of fun then I highly recommend this book. Kristen Tracy is a solid writer and she has made a new fan here. I am especially interested in reading Camille McPhee Fell Under the Bus. It sounds hilarious and I love good titles.

To learn more about Kristen click here

I want to thank Delacorte Books for Young Readers for this unexpected early holiday gift. What a treat it was. 

The Reinvention of Bessica Lefter
Author: Kristen Tracy
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Release date 1/11/11
ISBN-10: 0385736886 

Sunday, January 2, 2011

My Twenty Ten

Just like most bloggers I thought about doing my list of great twenty ten happenings. Then I thought, why is someone going to read my list when there are a thousand other lists to read? So I am going to refrain from making a list and give my sincere heartfelt thanks to the following.

My wife and daughter for being my inspiration and driving force for doing what I do on a daily basis. Trying to keep the muse going and writing as often as I can. I also want to thank my parents for their continuing support of my writing and blogging. They are great cheerleaders that make me feel like a winning quarterback (most of you that know me know that a sports reference from me is strange, but that is all I could think of at this moment.)

Bree Ogden, my uber agent at Martin Literary Management. Having her bring me into the pod makes me feel like all the countless hours of creative insanity are worth something to someone beyond myself. It has been an amazing ride so far and I cannot wait for what the future holds. Actually, I can wait, because I want to enjoy every minute of it.

Art by Rebekah Joy Plett

The Breepod, you know who you are. What can I say about the podlings. They are a huge source of support, entertainment, and inspiration.

I want to thank every single one of you that have taken the time to read this blog and follow it and spread the word. When I started this blog I was pretty sure only myself and maybe a few family members would be reading it. I am truly amazed that it has reached so many people. I never follow statistics (because I didn't know I could) and found that this blog was getting an average of 4200 hits a month. WOW! I am floored. I better bring some serious posts to this 2011 picnic. Thank you all for the support. I really appreciate it.

I couldn't have done this blog without all the amazing authors that have been so kind enough to take time to speak with me and share their secrets about the creative process. I love all the writers who have been to this site. Most of them I hunted down and bugged them to come talk to me. He he. So to them, a huge thank you.

Lastly, I want to thank four special writers for their support, friendship, and inspiration. Getting to know them over the past year has elevated my drive to become a better writer. Tom Angleberger, Alan Silberberg, Mary Cunningham, and Lisa Yee. Thank you so much for everything. From one of your biggest fans.

Okay, fine, so that was sort of a list. But I didn't number it or add bullet points to make it look like a list. Thank you again for letting me indulge for a brief moment. I hope to make 2011 a hugely entertaining year for all of us, even if I have to dress up in lederhosen and street fight. I hope it doesn't come to that.