tools of the trade (YMMV)

On Reading In Public

photo by Sam J. Miller

NYRSF reading, 2013. Photo by Sam J. Miller

Imagine yourself in a room filled with chairs, all pointed right at you. There’s a table with a sweating pitcher of water and an empty plastic cup, a box of leftover cookie crumbs, and, if you’re lucky, a table-tent with your name on it.

Welcome to your reading – one of many, you hope. What are you going to do now? (more…)

My Writing Process*

Emily Jiang’s Summoning the Phoenix – Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

There’s a series of questions going around the blogosphere about writing processes. Author Emily Jiang — whose beautiful children’s book, Summoning The Phoenix debuted this month to great fanfare (seriously, you should check it out!) — tagged me to talk about my writing process.

And I’m late getting the post up.

Why? Because I was finishing an edit pass, and …. I was late. No excuses. My letting this post go a few days longer than it should is relevant to my writing process.

So – there are six things that underpin how I write. I don’t always do all of them, and sometimes I’m a bit of a squirrel-brain (with apologies to the squirrels), but when I think about how I write (*always subject to change), this is what I get: (more…)

Writers’ Workshops – Which One’s Right For You

(This article has been reprinted from Apex Publishing’s archives. It was originally published there on February 7, 2014)

When you’ve reached the point in your writing career where you’d like to connect with other writers and improve your craft, it might be time to start exploring your options with regards to writers’ workshops.

For science fiction, fantasy, and horror writers, there are a range of options. There are six-week residencies and year-round online communities. Workshops vary in number of students admitted, costs to attend, and application procedures, so please visit their websites for the full scoop.

Nota Bene: Writers’ workshops can mean considerable expense, both in money and time spent. They are not for everyone, and they are not a guarantee of writerly success. What they are is an opportunity to focus on craft in the company of other writers, including more experienced writers. This can be a powerful experience.

Here are a few of the workshops available in the United States and online for adults and, separately, for teens, along with insights from program organizers, teachers, and students when possible. (Note, while I’ve done the gathering, errors happen and are entirely the blogger’s fault – please consider each workshop’s website as the final word.) (more…)

Unbound: Authors in the Classroom

School’s back in session, and I’ve been talking with friends about the relationship between authors and education (Especially in light of banned books week.). I haven’t done a tools-of-the-trade post in a while, and I thought we could look at the positive side of school visits – what works and why.

I’ve been on all three sides of school author visits – as a teacher, as a writer-in-the-schools, and as a student. Meeting authors and hearing them talk about what inspired them, and then having them ask what inspired us? Those were some amazing class sessions that challenged me to be a more involved reader and writer. I hope I do the same whenever I walk into a classroom.

So I asked Charlotte, who teaches high school English up at 9,000ft in Colorado; Christie, who is a reading specialist in Philadelphia, PA; and Stacey, an administrator and English teacher in Philadelphia; and authors Alethea Kontis, E.C. Myers, Gregory Frost, Stephanie Kuehn, and Jonathan Maberry to help me out.

(more…)

The Sneaky Lathe of Poetry *

Lathe: n. A machine in which work is rotated about a horizontal axis and shaped by a fixed tool.

(This essay originally appeared at Apex Magazine on April 3, 2013)

If you are not the sort who enjoys poetry, you might think April (being National Poetry Month) is the season for eye-rolling over enforced rhyme schemes and cringing at public displays of meter.

But even if you skip town for the month, poetic voice still shapes your experience in sneaky ways. The results will catch you unawares.

Take some of your favorite titles, as one example. (more…)

Short and sweet: What’s in a Bio?

The author, revealed.

“Please send us a short biographical statement and, if relevant, a few words about your story.”

Words that ring joy and fear in any writer’s heart.  You see that line when you’ve sold a story to an editor – that’s the joy.

Then you realize: you now have to talk about yourself. To an audience. Ah. There’s the fear.

So what’s a joyfearful writer to do?

Behold: several advice-snippets from writers and editors who’ve been here before. (The words ‘funny’ and ‘cheeky’ came up more than once when I asked for tips. But be careful – humor is tough and tone doesn’t always carry over into text. No ironic font for you.)  (more…)

Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest… – do you need them all?

A question to the floor: pinterest2
What social media tools do you use and for what purposes? We could talk all day about Facebook (or on Facebook) – where many writers have fan pages, or post most updates – but let’s go a bit further afield too.

  • Pinterest – Launched in 2010 as a ‘virtual pinboard,’ Pinterest can be used for research (putting photos in buckets), inspiration, and conversation. Check out some really well-curated pinboards for examples: Arin Dembo, Elizabeth Bear, Holly Black, Jenny Lawson, Sara Mueller, and Craig EnglerMine’s a bit sloppy, but I’ve found it a useful place to store things in buckets, so I know where to find them. Broadcast type: public.
  • Tumblr - Founded in 2007, but rising in visibility recently. The tumblr technique is called short-form blogging by the company. I’m new to this one (which is the reason for this post). In some ways, Tumblr is also a pin-board, though its visual interface is linear where Pinterest’s is more of (more…)

Writer Habitats, Abridged

Source: Wikimedia Commons – Antonio Litterio (der. 2011) / Inverse Hypercube (orig.)

Getting together with other writers shakes the dust off. Also, writers know where to find the good coffee.

Here are some commonly used terms for writer habitats, their street definitions, and, when relevant, a few tips for attending one for the first time:

Your Voice, in Public

The dreaded podium.
photo credit: Brian Herzog
source: Flickr (creative commons license).

Last week, at a local writers’ coffeehouse sponsored by the Philadelphia Liars Club, the topic of pitches came up. Meaning the kind of pitch you do sometimes in an elevator (giving the pitch its name), sometimes in a conference room, and never in a bathroom. The “I’ve finished a novel/autobiography/teleporter,” pitch. The “you’ll remember me, because,” pitch.

Keith Strunk, an actor, author, and Liar (the club linked above, not the activity), in particular said a number of good things about practice. About knowing well what you’re going to say before you need to say it. About speaking with confidence, and being yourself.

Two great tips: (more…)

The Care and Feeding of Your Assassin-Self

While so stealthy as to avoid a listing in Wikipedia, the assassin-self nevertheless runs wild when creatives are present.  The ratio is sometimes as great as 1:1.

For those who have had an assassin-self appear by their desk, or, worse, in public, with sour looks of pity and greasy sussurations of “not good enough,” and “shouldn’t even try,” a friend of mine* proposed the following regimen of care and feeding. (more…)