Monday, November 26, 2012


It's that most...wondeeerrrfull tiiiiiiiiime...of the yeeeeeeeeeeaaaaar...

Ah. The fresh smell of exams...

I always wonder, as this time of year rolls around, if anyone is ever going to figure out the best way to make time to write. You know the last time I worked on my book was?

Neither do I. I was planning, originally, to have it done by Christmas. I knew at the time that was an unrealistic plan, based on writing 20 pages a day without fail from the beginning of the fall. But it was an estimate that I was aiming for.

I am proud to say that I have accomplished almost a fourth of that goal-- that's 80 ish pages. With the time I've had to write, that seems like a lot to me. But I don't plan on spending two years writing this thing. I want to have it done so that I can edit it, prep it, and send it off to the publishers, agents, et al.

But sometimes you've just got to be patient. And endure. This final holiday break of mine is hardly going to be a holiday, what with applying for and researching jobs. My goal is to be employed before I walk across that final stage telling me my collegiate and academic career is over. I want to be able to step off that stage into the new era of my life, rather than still struggle in the tweeners. I'm going to work as hard as I can to make that a reality.

Of course, it all depends on if anyone will take me. But I've worked hard all four years here at this grand place they call higher education to make that as possible as it can be. At this point, there is nothing more that I can do other than apply and pray and be myself. Someone will recognize the fact that I can do it and will make that offer.

Everything is a stepping stone. Every job is a stepping stone. Maybe I'll stay at this first job my whole life-- though that is doubtful the way the job market works these days. People move up, around, or away. New openings pop up all the time, within or without the company. It's possible I'll stay. It's also possible that I'll not. But the option is always there to do and be and change.

I'm just so excited to step into that first job! People tell me to 'enjoy it now' because life is just a 'downhill from here'. I always stare at them incredulously. How could anyone say that? Life is amazing, and I can't wait to see the rest of it! I'm so excited to work-- I want to work!! I'm really excited to move into my first cheap, crappy apartment (though who knows, I may find a real deal). I'm excited to pay my first bill with my salary, not the parcel of groceries I could maybe get off the paycheck I recieve for my part-time job. And when I say parcel I mean it-- one. One bag.

Who wouldn't be excited? Yes, it's startling, possibly frightening. It's change, and I'm not overly fond of change. But this is a change I'm really looking forward to. I'll work my butt off to do what I need to do to get where I need to be.

And, of course, first and foremost, God provides...

Good luck everyone on your exams-- you can do it! Just one breath, one step at a time, and you'll get through. This too shall pass. Everyone else, good wishes to the end of your year, safe travels, yummy baking, and all else that goes with. It'll be 2013 before we know it...

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thankful for Books

Happy Day after Thanksgiving!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday (those of you who, of course, celebrate said holiday) stuffing yourselves full of wonderful foods and hanging out with friends and family and loved ones. Perhaps you had a solitary Thanksgiving-- I hope you enjoyed the time relaxing, getting some quiet time. In any case, I hope the day was full for you; I certainly am thankful for all that God has given me.

Including this bizarre breakfast that I'm eating right now. Waffles and leftovers, including stuffing and corn pudding. No, it doesn't go together, but it's delicious, along with my huge mug of Earl Grey next to me.

And I'm thankful for books. Oh, how I'm thankful for books. Yesterday, after everyone had stuffed themselves silly (we did a Thanksgiving luncheon this time) we all lay/sat/stood around, talking, dozing, thinking. In my case, reading. I switched on and off between sleeping off the heavy meal and reading away, finally using this chance to catch up on my reading for-me rather than always, always for study. I've been in the middle of reading the Anne Rice book "The Mummy".

No, not the movie "The Mummy". This has no giant anubis armies or scarabs eating people. It's more delicious than that.

I always was an Anne Rice skeptic until my boyfriend started leaving the books around for me to find. I've  never been one for vampires, usually, as so many people portray them in what I find to be a disgusting or cliche manner. I'm not a fan of the vampire Lost Boys and I don't like Twilight. But I have enjoyed, thoroughly, other forms of Vampire tales-- like Moon Child, a movie by Hideto Takarai, or "Wildwood Dancing" by Juliet Marillier. The vampires in "Wildwood Dancing" are subtle. Moon Child is a gangster shoot-em-up-vampire story of epic proportions. No glittering romance here.

In any case, the introduction to the vampire novels by Anne Rice led, finally, to some of her other books; in this case, "The Mummy".

"The Mummy" is incredibly self-contained. As I said, no huge wars, no epic battles. It's a handful of characters trying to figure out what is happening to them and to their understanding of the world around them. When an immortal man, disguised as a mummy, awakens to walk the earth, the few humans privy to his secret must adjust their understanding of life and death, the past and the future...and make decisions that will affect their lives forever.

Sound good? Eh? Eh?

If you're a reader, no matter how busy life gets, you need, need, to make time for books. When I don't read, I get anxious, low, dull. My imagination doesn't get stretched like it needs to. I eat, breathe stories, new books and words. I soak them up like sunlight. And if I don't get them, I feel it physically in my bones, in my heart. Of course, like the image below, I could never turn all my books edible. I reread far too much to do that! And I'm greedy...I like to keep them around and enjoy my library. It hurts me that at the moment my library is boxed up in the attic...soon, in less than 6 months if everything works out, they'll be free...!

I was entranced by "The Mummy". I couldn't put it down. Many times I had to, simply because I had so much classwork or other work to do. But this Thanksgiving, I was thankful for books and the time to read them, and I polished that sucker off. It had an entirely satifsying ending, open-ended in some ways, and was exciting and intriguing all the way through.

But I can't tell you what happens, or I'd give it away!

Monday, November 19, 2012

One Week Hiatus...

Well. I consider myself exceptionally lax, but Officer, I can explain everything...!

You may have noticed that there were no new blog posts last week. For that, I apologize-- a series of events ensured that my designated times for blog writing were completely and utterly devoured. All you blog writers out there, know this-- it is important to keep up deadlines, even if they are personal deadlines. But sometimes, if keeping a deadline will ensure that you will be dead, reconsider. I'm sure you can come to some kind of arrangement.

I've recently, however, been exploring the different effects of social media on my blog. I created a Facebook page where I can be a bit more informal, link amusing pictures and stories, put videos and other articles between official blog posts, etc. After you get a certain amount of likes, I can see how many people I've reached in a week, how many people are talking about my page, etc. At the highest peak I had reached over 500 people in the space of a week and nearly 40 people were talking about my page. Now that's not bad by my count.

I've been expanding who I follow on Twitter (because apparently the way to get followers is to follow...and it's eerily been working. I follow 10 people, I get 6 new followers myself. Odd.) because I also post a link to every new blog post on Twitter in the hopes of establishing further readership that way. I now have 11 followers (don't laugh) as opposed to the 5 from before. I'm still working on that.

But the real truth, to me, of how well this surge of social media experimentation has worked is this: after a week of nothing new, no new blog, no new blurb, not even an apology for not posting-- my page views per day are still double and triple what they used to be on average between posting days. The views would spike when I had a new post out, but they'd trickle to a handful on the off days. Not so any longer. Last month alone I had almost 500 views to my blog. That may not be a lot in terms of professional blogging standards, but folks-- that's a huge leap from what I'm used to.

I suppose the moral of this story is: social media works. You have to keep up with you and work with it, but it gets you out there in ways word of mouth and frantic pleas for help and just plain begging won't. Many authors can thank their success to the workings of social media-- by serializing their work in an attempt to get it published, by pushing their own personal marketing scheme, by sheer good use of informational networking. If you have a project, an organization, a fill-in-the-blank-here, chances are a facebook page will help you. It keeps you organized, it keeps you up to date, and it keeps you in the loop. Also consider, everything you post gets seen by your friends. If they like it, if they comment on it, if they do anything to it, it then gets seen by their friends friends (depending of course on their security settings). Still-- I can tell you, I don't have over 500 friends. And I reached over 500 people in a week.

Something to think about.

In other news, the new Hobbit movie comes out in less than a month! Have you watched the video production blogs? Have you made plans to be available for the midnight showing on the 14th? Are you already suffering over all the new merchandise you can't wait to purchase (and know you'll have to wait to purchase for lack of spare change)? I know I am!!

Maybe I'm a bit...too excited?


Friday, November 9, 2012

EBooks are the Book's Hero

I've written in depth on this topic before in a rather long academic discourse and came to the same conclusion, but I found an article that was even better.

You see? Better than me. It does, indeed, happen.


In the past three or four years, eBooks have been the grim reaper of the publishing and printing industry, at least to publishers and printers. Innovative champions of the future embraced the slim eRearders an their digital contents, while more traditionally minded bookworms blinked in owlish surprise, wondering where all the pages went and that fantastic smell that old (or brand new) binding and pages smell.

Isn't it funny? Old, old books, old enough that their thin, crackly pages are yellow, and new, crisp new books smell so good. Diametrically opposite, and yet they both have a quality to them that is simply irresistible. I think it's not only the paper, it's the binding cloth, or the glue. There's particularly something about books published in the 60s...

And yes, eBooks have gone on the rise. Amazon is selling 114 eBooks for every 100 physical books it sells, and that's just a singular indication of the eBook world. I guarantee, if you haven't purchased or downloaded an eBook for yourself for scholarly purposes, you know someone who has, and you know people who have an eReader of some kind. My parents, for example, have a Kindle Fire or whatever it's called, as does my older sister.

Oh...oh dear! It's spreading!!

But eBooks and eReaders are not the end of the literary world as we know it. If nothing else, it's encouraging growth. EBooks are the fertilizer of the book garden. Because as more people are able to access a greater array of books at their digital fingertips, they're also being introduced to a wide spread of new books that they'll want on their shelf, that can't be purchased as an eBook, or that they never would have had the opportunity to read before without an eReader and now it's on their radar. It's free advertising and it's working.

Andrew Losowsky has great insight on this topic in his article Why Ebooks Are Inspiring A New Age of Print.  Because despite the convenience and innovation of eBooks, they just aren't as solid and substantial as our favorite books. The books with the creases down the spine because we've read them so much, the ones with the slightly rippled pages where you gripped the paper so tightly it dented, the one with the signature on the inside when you, miraculously, got to meet the writer. The one that smells like childhood, like springtime, like winter, like a storm, like love.

Poetic, I know, but admit it-- it's true.

Losowsky describes this phenomenon as being caused by the pure physicality of books: "Enduring physical presence is no small thing in an age when information appears on a screen, then changes, evolves, and maybe even disappears. And as efficient as ebook retailers are, clicking to purchase is a fairly soulless affair in comparison to the pleasures of browsing in a bookstore."

Oh. How true. I once got a shopping spree at Books A Million for a birthday present. I could barely carry all the books out and they made a stack nearly as tall as my dresser next to my bed. It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. A must repeat, one of these years...

Losowsky goes so far as to even claim that "ebooks have actually encouraged a new level of fetishization of the printed page." Well. When you put it that way...but really, think about it. You smelled the book's pages before, but did you ever really talk to anyone about it? Now, when you're having a heated debate about the pros or cons of printed versus digital, the feel, the smell-- they become passionate experiences in your arsenal of why you want your physical book. All these sensory components have elevated the physical book, and eBooks were the springboard.

"This might be a generational anomaly, created by those with nostalgia for print and libraries, soon to disappear once the digital natives are in charge. Or this might be the moment where print, freed from its need to do everything, becomes even better at doing what it can do uniquely."

Oh yes-- I think, and indeed hope, that this is the case. Literature is an art form, though you wouldn't know it sometimes by looking at the terrible romance novels (natural or supernatural...) for a penny in the airport waiting lounge. But it is. The words of London, Tolkien, Lewis, of Rilke and Yates...pure art distilled in vocabulary and sentences. Let's get back to it.

I'm going to go smell my favorite book now.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Ok,  now this is just cool...

Recently I had the pleasure of interacting with an incredibly bright young man. Bright as in used to make a good $700 or so a month (don't quote me on the actual numbers) off of his i-phone apps alone. In addition to anything else he had going on, like stocks. And he's a sophomore in college.

How does he do it?! I don't know. I just fall asleep on a tear-soaked pillow thinking of my own accomplishments, in comparison.
He just introduced me to a really nifty website call Help a Reporter Out. What is this, you ask? Well, let me tell you:
"From The New York Times, to ABC News, to and everyone in between, nearly 30,000 members of the media have quoted HARO sources in their stories. Everyone’s an expert at something. Sharing your expertise may land you that big media opportunity you’ve been looking for."
Especially in the cases of those aspiring writers trying to enter the journalism world, you've probably run across the line "clips required" attached to some application or other. Clips being, as you know, cuttings or photocopies or links of published articles or snippets that you've written. Until this year, actually, I had no clips to my name (except for one APC blog post, and I'm not entirely sure that counts...), and so I've left the strict journalism world alone for the most part, other than in terms of administrative work. Now I have a good five or so articles that I could pass in, if I wanted to. But what do you do if you have none? How do you get them?

Well, you can submit freelance to magazines and newspapers all around your local area. But you can also use HARO. Basically, reporters and news sources come looking for stories, for quotes, for information about this or that topic and fact. Something they can use other than wikipedia, that's more professional and also more personal. That something is-- you.

So, according to their sign up page, here's how it works:

  1. Sign Up --> (easy enough, yeah?)
  2. Read your HAROs every day! --> (that means read the queries from reporters asking for help)
  3. Respond to reporters looking for your expertise, immediately. --> (give your advice and quotes!)
Simple! To me, it sounds a lot like an interactive twitter that gives you journalism and social media experience in legitimate sources and literary locations.

In fact, look at one of these success stories. Lisa De Fazio built up her professional portfolio using HARO, and then that professional portfolio turned around and gained her television publicity. Lots of it!
"HARO gets Lisa De Fazio National TV Appearances
Every week, I respond to seven or eight queries and get one media placement on average. Every time I get an appearance, I can put that outlet’s logo on my site. It builds my credibility as a media dietician.
The “Daily Buzz” – the national morning TV show – put out a HARO query asking for articles for their new Body Checklist website. They needed a nutritionist so I responded like I always do. When the producer looked at my website and saw all of my media coverage and TV appearances, she asked me to write a series of 15 weekly articles, with my picture and bio added to the site as a regular expert."
Read the rest of the success story on the website. If this sounds right up your alley, well, go for it! Build your credibility as a source of information, get clips and logos to your name, plaster it all over your resume. If you have a business or product, put that on there too.

You might just get flown across the country to be on tv. Or you might get some clips that you can put on your application to get you a job. But you'll build your credibility and portfolio either way.  And, if absolutley nothing else, you'll help a reporter out.

See what I did there?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Never give up...Never surrender!

So a few days ago my father sent me this article along with this quote. I already posted this article to my official facebook page (feel free to Like it and get updates with my bi-weekly posts [yes, I gave in and went back to my old schedule...habits die hard] as well as comments about the publishing world, videos, pictures, and possible inspirational threads with interactive communication) but I thought it merited some commentary in a full-on blog post.

  "This is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy."  -- Winston Churchill, HarrowSchool, 29 October 1941.
That is exactly what all of us need to hear on occasion. The publishing industry is shaky, writing is hard, the market is flooded with mediocre to just plain bad literature, and as such it feels like our work (which we hopefully consider to be at least competent part of the time) will never get published, never be put before an adoring audience, never amount to anything.

Well. Realism is good for keeping inflated egos and dreams from getting out of control. But it can tend towards the creation of cynics rather than rational thinkers. Hope and dreams must be held in equal measure with realism. Perhaps we never will get published. But if we give up and don't try, that will be a definite fact rather than a possibility.

Lucy Alibar didn't give up, and she was in far more desperate straits than many of us writers find ourselves in. She was the classic New York hopeful, living on a shoe string (and in fact this shoe string had recently broken so it was tied together by the frayed edges, and it was also a bit muddy after running through the streets in the rain) working two and three jobs at a time, trying desperately to break it big, maybe just break it at all. To get somewhere with her dream of writing that one, brilliant piece of work.

Well guess what. She did.

 Lucy Alibar is a dream example of how hard work and dedication can pay off. As this article featured in Elle magazine states, Alibar was making large sacrifices just to do what she loves to do: "In ­order to ­support her writing, ­Alibar had been leaving her ­Lower East Side apartment at 5 A.M. for a job making sandwiches and ­salads (“I can’t ­remember the ­exact number, but it was a lot”), then return­ing to her apartment to write, then bartending, then home again to write, then waitressing."

And finally, after her cell phone had been disconected due to lack of payment, her co-written screenplay went big. Big as in won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, won the Caméra d’Or prize for best first feature, won great reviews, and was endorsed by Oprah Winfrey (after being recommended to her by President Obama, apparently). Jeez.

Beasts of the Southern Wild was Alibar's first screenplay. But it made an incredible impression, and now she describes her life like "heaven. I don’t want to go on vacation. I don’t want to buy  clothes. I don’t want to do anything. I just want to write."

I remember that feeling. Of wanting nothing  more than to write and write and write, for hours on end, never surfacing unless food or sleep required it, and sometimes not even then. For many of us, life happens, and we lose that passion or we lose the ability to indulge it. But are we waking up at 5 am to make it happen? Are we working three crappy jobs, all the while working like no one else?

There's a saying, and it's original intention revolves around the idea of saving for retirement: Live like no one else so you can live like no one else. I think it has merit regarding the writing world as well. Right now Alibar is living like very few people-- she's doing the thing she adores to do, she's doing it well, and she's excelling at it, and living off of it. She lived like very few people in order to get there. So what are we complaining about, that the industry is bad and that it's hard. Yes, it's hard. So get out there are work!

I speak to myself just as much as anyone else. I could wake up way earlier to work on my book. I could work on my book every single day instead of just once a week, as it's come down to. I could make the time. I don't. I'd rather sleep that extra hour. But should I? Could I?

Something to think on. Perhaps I'll go fiddle with my alarm clock...