Saturday, February 12, 2011

What I'm reading

I finished reading To Kill a Mockingbird and The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella. Two books quite different other than their first person point of view. Both of them pretty light however. Next I need something dark, and so for contrast will read Stephen King's recent collection of 4 long stories titled Full Dark, No Stars.

The publisher's cover design makes it look like a sequel to the Twilight saga:


You'd think his name would warrant more subtly inspired artwork, but maybe he is just so prolific that new releases aren't big news.

I'm also reading Judy Moody and Diary of a Wimpy Kid as research.

I need my days to be longer.

Friday, February 11, 2011

This week in a nutshell

Submissions and queries for Hello Mommy continue, along with several magazine article pitches. I've also begun work on a short chapter book for 2nd-3rd grade male reluctant readers. Meanwhile, thoughts appropriate to the Theology of Desire seem to be re-emerging after a nearly year-long hiatus. Check out today's posting here:

Friday, February 4, 2011

February RACWI meeting

I attended a meeting of Rochester Area Children's Writers and Illustrators last night, my first connection with a local writing group. Given that I'll be moving before long I don't think I'll join; I'll find some groups closer to my new home. Grub Street for certain.

It was a useful session. A panel of children's librarians (both public and school) from around the area answered questions about reading trends, books they wish there were more of, etc. Interesting highlights included the need for:
  • Fiction books to support social studies and science curriculum.
  • Fun books to lure reluctant readers into the joy of reading.
  • Books with age appropriate content but lower level vocabulary for older kids who read below level. For example, imagine a teacher trying to encourage a high schooler who currently only reads at a 4th grade level... Judy Moody isn't going to cut it.
  • Elementary level biographies.

The general consensus was that kids love-love-love series, and are currently stuck on all things vampire, zombie, and fantasy. (In case you didn't know.)

I'm glad I went, and have been ruminating all night about a book for a 3rd grade little boy who doesn't yet know he loves to read...

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Another one bites the dust!

I received a rejection letter this morning for an article on Lent that I'd sent to a Catholic magazine published in Canada. It was a kind rejection, pointing out that 80% of their writers had to be Canadian, and that their quota of Americans was full.

My list of submissions for various pieces is growing, and as my friend DiDi tells me, rejection letters are a sign that I am moving forward in my life as a writer. It is good to have friends who are optimists and encouragers. They point out truths that you don't always see on your own.

On character development

I'm looking forward to moving sometime in the coming months. Heading for a small town in New England, there to find small town life, small town characters, small town experiences. I want to get a job as a waitress in a diner, so that I can meet people. It will be an adventure to watch and serve them. Should be a wealth of material. I can't wait.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Goodbye Cookbook Collector

I finished The Cookbook Collector and am stuck with essentially the same view I've had all along. I don't get it.

On the plus side, Ms. Goodman wrapped up the many story lines in hopeful ways (ala commercial fiction?) The nice girl gets married, the traumatized girl gets a new goal in life. The side characters end up with enough money, the girl of their dreams, etc. It's all very tidy, which makes you feel good inside though you may question the feasibility of such ubiquitous tidiness.

On the negative side, there were so many story lines. It could have been at least 2 books, probably 3. I would have loved to see Jess investigate the cookbook collector's life further, as that story line alone was rich and deep. Instead it was merely touched on, while details of dot.com IPOs and plummets were extensive.

I GET the idea of an ensemble cast, and of telling multiple tales at once. The stories were woven together reasonably well, but the overall impact for me was diluted. It didn't have enough of what I wanted. Readers feel misled when the title implies focus on one thing, and the book actually focuses on another. They/we look at a title like this and expect a cozy read involving cookbooks. That's what they hope for. That's not what they get.

I learned a lot from this book! It gives me hope, and focus. It helps me see how far I should go in providing back story about side characters. It warns me to keep the central focus on my heroine, and let the side stories support and feed it rather than compete with it. And it encourages me to include the types of writing that I love to do, such as she employed in chapter 22.