Sunday, May 27, 2012

'Literary karaoke?' I'm not entirely sure I understand - and I'm not sure it matters

So I've had a few friends e-mailing me that Huffington Post article - you know, the one about indie publishing with the now-infamous phrase "literary karaoke."

Yeah, it puzzled me, too, for a bit. But that's apparently the term that some as-yet-named traditionally published author gave to indie publishing. I had to think about it for awhile to figure out exactly what he/she was saying. I mean, I got that it was unflattering, sure. But was the author simply saying the writing was bad? Or was it that we were just imitating real authors because we weren't backed by big houses?

I was a little confused. But it didn't matter. The point was that this author felt that indie authors were upsetting the apple cart. And we are, no doubt, But so are e-books - the Post article eloquently points this out, as well. In fact, there's lots of blame to go around if you want to point fingers about the uncertainties of publishing.

And it's a tempting game to play, believe me. Hey, I know about uncertainties, about change. I have my own thoughts on versions of karaoke. I used to be a newspaper reporter. Newspapers - remember them? I studied hard to become a journalist, but soon, everything was online, and everyone could be a "citizen journalist." Screw formal training and solid ethics. Everybody could be a reporter.

So if you want to shake your fist at the sky, I know what you're going through. .

But I think I get the point. There are plenty of crappy indie books out there, and that's frustrating. But there are plenty of really good ones, too. Just like there are plenty of really good - and awfully bad - traditonally published novels.

And here's the thing - in karaoke, only the best singers get the applause. I think in publishing, it'll be the same way. Readers want good storytelling, solid writing. The good authors will stay the course, and the others will just fade away.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Beloved children's books are like good friends - guaranteed to make you feel better

The other night I was stressed and not feeling well - and I couldn't seem to shake the blues. As I sat on the couch, wondering how I could make myself feel better, I realized the answer was right in  front of me.

I was, in fact, surrounded by old friends. Hesitating only a minute, I walked over to my bookshelves and began searching for a few favorites, some that I haven't touched in years.

There was "Misty of Chincoteague," one of several selections by Marguerite Henry collected during my horse-loving phase, and "Little Women" and "A Garland for Girls," both by Louisa May Alcott, purchased when I fell in love with Alcott's gentle stories sprinkled with altruism and romance.

I couldn't resist leafing through my battered copy of  "Understood Betsy," the story of a sickly city girl who finds a new life in the country, and I read Rumer Godden's "The Story of Holly and Ivy," all the way through before I knew it. I found my stash of Laura Ingalls Wilder books and remembered how I used to read them in my room while pretending my bed was my own covered wagon.

The time flew by. My bad mood vanished. But that's what good friends will do for you.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Latest conversation about writing might call my sanity into question

I have the cover of my newest Work-in-Progress posted on my cubicle wall at work. It's there to motivate me, to remind me to go home and finish it, not relax and eat Pringles on the couch.

Some days it works, some days it doesn't.

It's a fun, colorful cover for a book of non-fiction essays called "Mom Tales," and it was designed by Chuck Todd, a very talented artist friend of mine. You can see more of Chuck's work by clicking here.

Chuck's cover is eye-catching, and it caught the eye of a co-worker, who stopped to ask me about it, and about writing in general.

It had been a frustrating morning at work - nothing horrible, just a lot of petty annoyances. My co-worker and I were both in need of distraction.

So we ended up talking a lot about writing. And not just about "Mom Tales" - about lots of things. He talked about screenplays.

I talked about murder mysteries: about plotting them, creating them, thinking of ways to kill off characters.

It only dawned on me later that I didn't know that particular colleague very well, and it was quite possible that I sounded like a homicidal maniac.

But hopefully, a creative one.