Friday, June 18, 2010
For the next two weeks, there's a good chance I'm at one of these places:
I'll be gone until the fourth of July (actually, I'll be back before then, but I'm giving myself some jet lag time to recover)! And when I come back, I'll have lots of European adventures to relate, as well as an EPIC contest that I KNOW you peeps will love (hint below), and I promise to visit every single one of y'alls blogs by the end of July. I've dropped the ball on that lately, and HATE it, so you can expect a (virtual) visit from me soon!
In case you're a curious thing like me, the cities I'm going to: Zurich, Lucerne, Verona, Pisa, Venice, Rome, Eze, Nice, Monaco, and Paris. Whew! (And in Paris, I get to meet my French publishers...for which I am EXTRAORDINARILY nervous.)
(PS: Anyone got any favorites to do in theses places? I'm going to Mt Pilatus in Lucerne and WILL get macarons in Paris, and we're doing all the touristy stuff--but any off-the-path suggestions?)
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Am I the only dork who is on the edge of her seat waiting for this?
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Okay, first? You rock. YOU RAWK. I was fairly scared to post the series last week--it was a bit of a departure from the normal highjinks around here, and all of your many comments really made me happy to post the series. I will be responding to you all, slowly but surely.
Second? You should go to the League on Monday. We're starting an awesome Scavenger Hunt--read the clues to figure out the title of a book, and you win the ENTIRE SERIES of books as a prize! And for my faithful blog readers, I'm giving you an EXTRA clue here: much like my book reviews, you're going to have to HUNT for HIDDEN spoilers...
(If you crank the volume up, you can hear the song I was listening to when I shot the video; it looks a little like Astraeus is dancing to it. And if you don't want to sit there for two minutes and watch the whole thing--trust me, it's mesmerizing--skip to the last 15 seconds or so--Astraeus sort of hangs in just the right spot in the light to be really breathtakingly beautiful.)
Friday, June 11, 2010
The Day Before Yesterday
The day before yesterday was your last day of school with students.
There were tears.
There were smiles.
You are swamped with essays to grade for the final exam, and you have to get grades in, and you have to wrap the whole year up. But you savor it.
These are your last days as a teacher.
Today is the very last day employed at a school.
The students are gone. Soon you will be, too.
You took pictures of your classroom before you ripped the posters off the wall and emptied the room of your presence.
You turned in the computer that was supposed to be used for school work, but on which you wrote both of your last novels on and did all your edits on.
You turn in your keys.
This is it.
Tomorrow, you’re a writer. Just a writer.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Part four of a series.
You’re scared to tell people you’re leaving your job. But when it comes time to sign contracts, you ask for a conference with the principal. You tell him. He’s surprised—he had no idea you wrote. He says you can have your old job back any time. You smile sadly.
You’re not coming back. You’ve come to understand that you can be a teacher and a writer at the same time, but you can’t be good at both at the same time.
You’ve made your choice.
When you tell your friend, the only one left of the original half-dozen who started working when you did, you cry more than she does.
News trickles slowly through the school. You hear “Really?” more than you can count.
The kids are the most surprised. It’s like when they find out you’re married, or see you at the grocery store. They have a hard time seeing you as a real person who wants anything or exists in any capacity beyond a teacher. They don’t think you can be anything but their teacher.
You worry they’re right.
Some of the teachers assume you’re leaving because you’re pregnant. You accept this; you’ve always known you were working in a place where a woman giving birth was often consider the highlight—the only high point—of her life.
When people say you’re a writer, you’re still a little shocked to hear the word in connection with your name.
The rumors run rampant. A billion-dollar deal, a movie deal, you’re going to Hollywood. You’re going to spend the rest of your life waking up at noon and eating ice cream in a mansion. You smile—they have no idea how hard this new life will be. They have no idea how scared you are.
You’re going to be a writer.
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Part three of a series.
The whole while, you’re still teaching. You write a book about some kids who find out their teacher is a witch, and really it’s wish-fulfillment because you want to be the kind of teacher with a magic wand to fix things.
You wish you could fix more things. You report the bruises to the social service. You hold them when they cry. You send the pregnant ones to the nurse. You wish they’d listen to you when you tell them they’re making a mistake. But they never do.
You work hard on revising the new novel. You spend all Christmas break with highlighters and colored pens and go word-by-word, line-by-line with critique notes and everything else.
You’ve written this one for publication. You’re convinced it will succeed. You did everything right.
But the story isn’t there.
It’s roundly rejected.
You seriously consider giving up.
You’re good at teaching. In your first year, there were a half dozen new teachers. You and one more are all that’s left. You stuck with it. You have a good reputation at school—fun, but tough. You have all your lesson plans made. You don’t have to stay up all night to grade or plan. You can roll up in the morning and do a whole day easily. You’re not as exhausted as before.
When you get home, you try to open your door with your classroom key. You do this often. Home and class are almost synonymous.
You go to a retirement party for a woman who has worked at the school for longer than you’ve been alive. You imagine yourself at 65, retiring from the school.
You’ve been working at school for 6 years. You invest in a retirement plan. You settle in for the long haul. You work for one full year to get your National Board Certification. You know when to let a kid sleep through class, and when not to. You don’t give homework because you know they won’t do it. You know exactly how long it takes to read a story, or write an essay. You don’t need backup plans any more.
Some of the kids call you “mom” and you realize it’s a compliment.
You start writing something else.
When you finish it, you decide: if this one doesn’t go anywhere, it’s time to quit. You can’t do better than this. You don’t want to be a bitter old lady who never achieves her dreams. Better to not have any dreams at all than broken ones.
You tell yourself you don’t care if you fail, but you do. You tell yourself it’s not failing if you give up, but it is.
You’re afraid to send this one out.
If it fails, you fail.
You send it out anyway.
You start preparing to be a teacher, just a teacher.
You get some rejections.
Then you get interest. When you get an email that an agent wants to call you next Monday, you and your husband go out to dinner. You keep telling him, it may be nothing. It's not officially an offer, just interest. It will probably not go anywhere.
On Monday, you get an offer. By Wednesday, you’re lining up agent interviews. The next week, you sneak out during your breaks, sit in your car with a notepad propped up on your steering wheel, and take notes on agents.
You’re juggling being a teacher, while at the same time clutching your writing pen.
And you realize.
This is it.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
This is part two. Check out Monday for part one.
You start writing another book. It’s about your brother, but you don’t realize that until the end.
In the spring of your first year teaching, you go to a conference. There’s a pitch session at the conference. You practice for the whole month before that, in front of the mirror, while driving to work, in your head during your planning period. You make huge packets of samples, copies of the whole book on CD, business cards, signed bookmarks, and all kinds of things.
At the conference, no one wants the stuff. Not even the tiny business cards.
You’re nervous when you pitch. You’ve memorized it, but you forget it all when faced with the gods of publishing. You make rookie mistakes—mentioning the books you’ve shelved, mistaking common terms in the business. Some agents are interested anyway. They give you their cards, and you will query them in the coming weeks, and not a single one of them will ever reply, even with a form rejection.
There’s an editor. From one of the Big Six publishing house. She’s interested. She’s funny. She wants the partial. When you send it, she quickly asks for a full. When you send that, she returns with a 12 page edit letter. Make the revisions, she says, and we’ll talk contracts.
You’re on cloud nine. You worry about doing the job quickly. You take time off work. You finish in a few weeks. You think it’s perfect. You rush to the mailbox and send it off.
You email her after months, asking for an update.
You pace in front of the school by the bushes before a basketball game.
For the first time, you start to think you’re not good enough.
You’re angry, as well as sad. So you try to figure out what went wrong.
You realize that you didn’t go far enough in the edits. You did a halfway job in your rush, and you regret it. But it’s too late now.
You join critique groups. You post samples on online forums designed to critique.
One person says your story is the worst he’s ever read. He questions whether you should ever write. He suggests you destroy the manuscript, never send it out, and quit writing. He says there is nothing of value in anything on the page you sent.
You enter contests. You never win any of them.
After entering—and losing—the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, you hook up with people on the forum who also lost, and start a critique group.
You start to realize where you went wrong.
You regret your past mistakes.
You rewrite and rewrite, then put some of the stories to bed.
You start to blog. No one cares. No one comments. You blog for months before you get a comment. You blog for over half a year before you have what could be called regular readers. Other people, who seem to have been doing half as much for half as long, get agents and contracts and deals. You get so jealous, you’re sick to your stomach.
You tell yourself: you can be a teacher and a writer at the same time, and you pray for nights on end that is the truth.
Monday, June 7, 2010
This begins a series of posts that I'll be uploading throughout the week. I know it's long. I'm sorry. The others are shorter. But as I end one career to begin another, I'm very reflective about how I got here.
For your first career day at elementary school, you dress as a secretary because you like to type.
Later, you discover that you like to write stories. Your fifth grade teacher reads one of your stories out loud to the whole class, and you beam the entire time. Your sixth grade teacher reads a nonfiction personal narrative essay you wrote, and you hide your secret smile, because she says the description is realistic, but you made it all up even if it was supposed to be nonfiction. You write stories about unicorns and read them to the girl who sits next to you on the bus. Every page is a new chapter. You get to
page chapter 10 and think you’ve written a novel.
You want to be a writer, but your teachers and parents say you can’t make money off it, it’s not a real job, so you decide to be a teacher. You’re in sixth grade, and you’ve got your life planned out already: a teacher who writes stories on the side. It doesn’t really occur to you that you can do anything but write on the side.
In high school, you join the literary magazine and write half of it. But you spend more time on your AP classes, because you know you’re going to need a real job.
In college, while you’re an RA and don’t have a roommate who can see you, you start to write a short story that turns out to be a novel. At first you just want to see if you can actually get that many words on a page, but in the end, when you have the whole thing printed in front of you, you realize it’s not that bad.
You send it out to a handful of agents, and you write the sequel.
You make an outline for the third book, but never write it. You discover that outlines kill your stories.
You get rejected. It doesn’t sting—you have already realized the first novel wasn’t that good, and the rejections point you in the direction of where you should go.
Meanwhile, you start your student teaching semester. It’s scary, at first, too look out at a sea of high school student faces and know they expect something of you. But you do it, and to your surprise, you actually kind of like it. You realize this may be the rest of your life.
Your brother dies. It’s sudden, and unexpected, and you hide silently within yourself for awhile. People seem like moving shadows. When strangers get to know you, and ask if you have siblings, you don’t know what to say. The first Christmas is the hardest, because your grandmother dies then, too. It’s not as sudden or unexpected, but it extends the silence.
You’re in grad school now, living alone, too poor to afford television. You spend a lot of time online, between reading Harry Potter forums and reading Miss Snark. You have a sense of pride for reading Miss Snark from the very beginning, and you’re shocked when she ends the blog.
You get an idea. A good one. A really good one. You’re supposed to be writing your Master’s Thesis, but instead, you write a book. You love it hardcore. You “edit” by printing it, fixing the grammar, and adding a few paragraphs.
You send this one out.
This time, the rejections hurt.
You still love the book. You write all the sequels to it, but squirrel them away.
You graduate with your Master’s degree in English literature.
You start looking for a job. You wait a long time to apply. You treat the whole thing casually—you figure teaching jobs are a dime a dozen. You blow off an interview.
The summer starts to end. You start panicking. You need a job. You visit some friends in NY and on the flight back you pray to God that you’ll take the first job offered to you, even if it’s janitorial work.
You have two interviews—one at the dream job in the nice city, one at the bottom of the barrel job in the backwoods of the world. You go to your interview with the backwoods school in your fancy business suit and five inch heels. The assistant principal takes you on a tour of the whole school, including the back fields with the goats. Your heart is breaking a little. You thought you escaped backwood schools and goats. You remember NY, and you think about how publishing’s heart is there. Then you tell your heart to shut up, you need a job.
The backwoods school offers a job the day before the nice city school. You remember your prayer. You take the backwoods school offer.
You rent a duplex. There’s a whole room for your computer. Your stories are tucked away in a nice folder, but you ignore them.
You write lesson plans. At first, everything is too hard—you’re trying to discuss symbolism, and they’re still learning vocabulary. Then everything is too easy—you can’t seem to find the balance.
You’re terrible at teaching. Honestly. A fight breaks out in your room so quickly you’re shocked, and before you know it, desks are thrown and a girl is standing on top of a bookcase screaming. You advice the yearbook, and you don’t know you have to check behind the students for every. Single. Little. Detail. You get cussed out by angry parents for misspelling their child’s name.
You stay up all night to work, at least once a month. You write long notes on all their essays, even if they just flip to the back to see the grade. You care so hard. Already heavy, you get fatter as time goes on, unable to expend the time, money, and energy to cook healthily.
You try to write and teach. You realize that you may only be able to do one. You are afraid you’ll never be able to do either.
Friday, June 4, 2010
I can't help it.
I like to see the fights.
I guess that's why I watch Real Housewives, too. That, and the husband and I like to make fun of the women. (Speaking of, OMG, how hilarious was it when Kelly couldn't even open the door?!)
There have been two great links lately of writerly insults and literary feuds.
As usual, Mark Twain tops the list. Via bookshelves of doom: The Fifty Best Author Vs. Author Put Downs of all Time. My favorite:
Every time I read 'Pride and Prejudice,' I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone.Also, via Dystel & Goderich Literary blog: A Gallery of Literary Feuds. Personally, I think the feuds are interesting, but DANG! William Thackery has some cool glasses! I want a pair!!
Also, also: How preposterous that Harold Bloom thinks Harry Potter has no literary merit:
Bloom, however, remained unperturbed as a detractor. “Can more than 35 million book buyers, and their offspring, be wrong?” he asked. “Yes, they have been, and will continue to be for as long as they persevere with Potter.”
I am having trouble with my sidebars, and can't get these to post right there.
I want to share widgets with you!
First: GoodReads has a widget where one simple click will add my book to your to-be-read list!
There's also this Widget, which shows the book directly:
Beth Revis's books on Goodreads
Second, here's the widget to become a fan of the Elevensies! The Elevensies is a group of writers who are all debuting MG or YA work in 2011. Very cool people there.
Promote Your Page Too
Finally, Amazon doesn't have any spiffy widgets, which saddens me immensely. BUT I totally just stole a screen shot that LOOKS like you can click it, and if you do click it, it will land directly in Amazon! :)
PS: This is so cool. You have no idea how surreal it is to post these.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
I just tried an experiment--a whole series of reflective posts done in second person. They'll go up next week.
Meanwhile, I was reading the Elevensies blog and read the article on the Day in the Writing Life by Dawn.
And she posted something awesome.
Stickman in Fairyland!!!
I like the Gnome Knee Biters and the Unicorn Stabbing the best.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
the maker of one of the best ranked book trailers, and... oh, yeah, he's still a teenager!
You can find Jacob online at his website, blog, Facebook, and Twitter, but here's a introduction to this innovative young author, who's also throwing a huge launch party with giveaways!
I'm a teenager with a dangerously overactive imagination and a love for words. My book, Kestrel's Midnight Song, is a YA Fantasy about a legendary Marauder awaiting his hanging, the Marauders' plot to free him and unleash the secret he so carefully guards, and a shepherd boy who travels with no knowledge that his journey will decide the pending fate of the world. To promote it, I'm currently organizing a "Huge Online Party" in which I'll be streaming live via webcam and giving away hundreds of fantasy books and gift cards. The reason this helps my book is that, in exchange for entries, I'm having people do stuff to promote my book ahead of time (RIGHT NOW). So far I think it's been a great success. Kestrel's Midnight Song is the #2 most discussed book of all time on Shelfari.com (behind Twilight) and its book trailer is three votes away from becoming the #3 most popular book trailer of all time on Goodreads.com
If anyone wants to help out and win cool stuff, go to kmsparty.blogspot.com
We can all read about your bio from the back of your book or your FAQ online. So, what's a completely random fact about you that most people don't know?
I was forced to endure a season of cotillion class as a pre-teen. For those unfamiliar with cotillion class, I'm only too happy to raise awareness; cotillion class is where they teach you ballroom dancing and formal etiquette. A more effective form of torture for pre-teen boys has yet to be discovered. My psychological damage is evident to this day. However, the silver lining is that I survived, and from my experience was born a comic strip that ran in my local newspaper called "Skeeter & Skunkbeard." It features two teenage outdoors-men who are forced to endure cotillion class... and aren't afraid to stand up to the torturer—I mean teacher... It's my coping mechanism...
What are some of your favorite books? Why?
I like the kind of books that allow me to experience something impossible and/or otherworldly. I'm not usually interested in reading fiction in which the events happen in the real world. In short, the more imaginative the better. I most enjoyed books like The Hobbit, Harry Potter, Holes, Keys to the Kingdom, Artemis Fowl...
You're a remarkably young author. What led you to pursue this dream now?
I actually started much younger. In fourth grade I started writing my first novel with the plan to become the youngest author ever. (For the fame and fortune, of course.) I quickly discovered two things:
- I love writing. Way more than reading. Which is saying a lot.
- Writing is a lot of hard work.
My novel attempts reached into the 30,000 word mark and beyond but always petered out. Although I had some encouragement... I won a short story contest in 5th grade and the judge suggested I expand it into a novel. In 6th grade an adult read a sample of my work and thought I'd copied it out of a book somewhere... it wasn't until around my fifteenth birthday that I saw a novel all the way through. Coincidentally, that's also the first time I used an outline.
My book has a lot of me. It's a little scary how much of myself I pour into my writing. I'm sure a psychologist could basically peer into my soul after reading my book. However, none of the characters are like me, per se. Though, the main characters each have some of my traits. It's easier to write that way. And as I go through life, even as I experience things, I think about what the best way to translate it into words would be. I'd like to think it improves my writing.
What was your timeline for the book? How long did it take to write, revise, submit, and finally, get published? How did you feel at these stages?
I started writing it around my fifteenth birthday, finished the first draft around my seventeenth birthday, and submitted it after a few months of revision. Acceptance came a few months after that. And here I am, two months from my nineteenth birthday, and we're still editing. It's on the home stretch, though. It releases hopefully this September. As far as how I felt... at times ready to give up, at times euphoric, at times sick of the publishing industry, at times joyful enough to dance (literally), at times bored to tears of the monotony of slogging through the manuscript for the ninth time. Like I say in a later response, it was a roller coaster.
If your reader could only take away one emotion, theme, or idea from the book, what would you want that to be?
From a writing standpoint, my goal is immersion. I want my book to suck the reader in and never let go until the last page has been flipped, leaving them dazed for a few seconds as they travel back to the real world. That's what my favorite books do for me, so that's what I want my writing to do for others.
What are your goals as an author? Where do you want to see yourself as a writer in 5, 10, 15 years?
A byproduct of my overactive imagination is that I'm susceptible to dreaming. (I wanted to be published as a fourth grader, remember?) So I've imagined myself as accomplishing pretty much everything possible for a writer. It's hard to separate my dreams from my goals, but I'd really like to hit the NY Times Bestseller's list someday. Oh, and have one of my books turned into a major motion picture, oh and... I should stop there.
What's the most surprising thing you've learned since becoming a writer?
The number of teens who are actively writing and trying to get published. I get a lot of emails from young writers like myself asking for advice, and I've read some of their work. There are a few out there, in my opinion, that are very good. I think, in the near future, we'll see more and more teen authors published. I'm by no means the first, of course, but I think the numbers will grow.
Beyond the typical—never give up, believe in yourself—what would be the single best advice you'd like to give to an aspiring author?
Just based on my personal experience, be prepared for a roller coaster. One day I'd pound out a chapter and feel like I'm producing pure, exhilarating gold. The next I'd read over it and wonder what I was thinking and why I was even wasting energy trying to write a novel. I traveled to a writer's conference one summer and rode the train back singing (literally) after these experts I'd been stalking online were impressed with my work... even as they ripped it to shreds. (Okay, maybe it was more of a hum). Then I came home to a couple of waiting rejection letters. In short... hold on tight. Hmmm, in retrospect that's kind of a long way of saying never give up and believe in yourself...
What do you consider to be your strongest talent in writing? Your weakest?
I think the compliment I get the most is for my actual wordsmithing—the flow, syntax, word choice, etc. My weakest? I have a lot of weaknesses, which is part of what has me excited for my next book, but probably one of my biggest is a lack of research and note taking. (Is that two? They're semi-related...)
What's a writing pet peeve that you have?
Definitely contrived dialogue... and now that I think about it, contrived plot devices. Nothing sucks the reality out of fiction faster for me. For instance, it really bugged me in Avatar when Parker explains to Grace that the whole operation is to obtain "unobtainium." She knows what it's all about. She's been on the project for years. It's a scene obviously there to inform the viewer about unobtainium. And it's especially frustrating since it could have been so easily avoided by having someone explain the unobtainium thing to Jake, who realistically could have no idea about unobtainium. But anyway, now that I've said that, everyone's going to point out all the contrived-ness of my book, and/or all the mistakes I made. :P
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
io9 thinks the League is cool!
HUGE thanks to io9 for linking back to my article on setting!
This totally made my day. For reals.
Kid 1: Did you like it?
Me: It was okay...
Kid 1: Okay? Okay?! That movie was freaking awesome!
Kid 2: Yeah! That end was cool! I totally didn't see that coming!
Me: That's why I wasn't that thrilled with it--I totally guessed the ending. I figured out how it would end after, like, the first twenty minutes. So it wasn't that cool for me.
Kid 1: But I didn't figure out the ending. I was totally surprised, and that's what made the movie COOL!
Kid 2: Yeah, Mrs. Revis. You need to be stupid like us, and then you can enjoy movies more!