Can’t get enough of my perspectives on writing? Check out my interview with Anne Greenawalt on The Muffin, the blog for the Women on Writing where I was recently awarded a third-place story prize for The Malicious Mist of Misery Sound. Sorry about the photo, though.
April Fool’s, everyone!
Yes, I know it was last week; my mind hasn’t been that addled by free time and hard drives full of media. Last week, you might remember, is when I pulled my very first WordPress prank, by posting the ‘lyrics’ to the old Meow Mix commercial, and suggesting it might be literature. I then tweeted about it—twice, like I do for every other post—and invited the world to view it. I crossed my fingers, hoping that the world wouldn’t: hoping, despite myself, that world would prefer rich human debate over literary trends to the image of a long-deceased mouser lip-syncing one word.
Guess what? The world likes the cat better.
According to my stats, the singing tabby got more views than my last two editorial posts: one exploring publishing trends, and the other lamenting what the loss of Dana Plato could mean to writers. Continue reading
Today, we take a break from my usual medley of fiction, advice and introspective centers for this acknowledgement of true literature. You can sing along with the lyrics I have provided.
(First verse: sung piano)
Meow, meow, meow, meow,
Meow, meow, meow, meow,
Meow, meow, meow, meow,
Meow, meow, meow, meow.
(Second verse: crescendo to mezzo-forte. Note emphasis.) Continue reading
Publisher. Publication. Publicity.
See the similarity in those words? It’s not a coincidence. Those who hang out the “Publisher” shingle on their little shack are promising, by their very title, to create publicity for the works they print.
And yet, authors, how many times have you been preparing to submit a manuscript, and been deflated by a statement like this?
Over the past ten years, the publishing industry has changed drastically. These changes now mean that authors carry the responsibilities of promotion, marketing, and publicity for their works. Many authors fail at this difficult task, meaning their contract is cancelled, and any future contracts are at risk. It’s a cold, hard fact that an author’s books must become popular for the industry to be able to keep publishing.
This is an excerpt from the submissions page of a small, independent press. I have changed (and, I must say, corrected) some of the vocabulary and sentence structure, in order to keep search engines from locating the exact source. I would credit this publisher, but it might seem I am picking on them. I am not. Such clauses, to some degree or another, are fixtures in most small publishers’ disclaimers these days. That “cold, hard fact” is one that has affected us all.
Here’s the thing, though, about facts: people with power are the ones who create them. I think most of us would agree that, even now, publishers hold much more power than authors. Continue reading
As the temperature rises to the point of causing slow insanity in the town where I live, people often ask me if I wish I’d stayed in a cooler climate. Sometimes I have to think about it, but my answer is always ‘no.’
It was her dance with this northern land that had kept him here.
He would have sought warmer climates if just for himself, but could not imagine life without her delight over the glittering flakes and various snow-beings: men, angels, and bunnies. She would advance each day into the spiritual winter, then return to him with stories that overflowed him, for that evening, with perfect understanding.
He could not imagine her dance without the winter as her partner. Continue reading
Remember Kimberly? She was the girl who moved to the beat of that other drum. While her adopted brother from Harlem was asking everyone what they were talkin’ ’bout, Kimberly was attending private school, deciding whether to go on ski trips with boys, and even grappling (for twenty-two minutes) with Bulimia.
Kimberly was also my very first crush.
I’m not convinced that I can entirely credit my crush to the lovely Dana Plato, who quietly played Kimberly behind her much louder costar. It was more that I had grown up just enough to notice the first age-appropriate girl who appeared on my TV screen. Nevertheless, there are some ‘firsts’ a boy never forgets—his first big TV, his first belly-laugh, and his first crush—so Kimberly lives on, to this day, in my affections.
The Girl Who Played Kimberly did rob me of something, though. She robbed me of the illusion that notoriety brings everlasting success. Continue reading
Recently, I was struggling to distinguish the characters in one of my first-person novels. Every character in the story had their own personality, which I had clearly planned and defined, but I was starting to see that they all behaved too much like the narrator. As an exercise, I recalled an incident that happened to me as a very young boy, then forced myself to rewrite it as it might have happened from the perspective of a teenager—who, at the time, seemed to me like a man—I had encountered.
This is the result. Time will tell if it helps with my novel, but sourcing and rewriting an event from a writer’s own experience can be a valuable strategy. It might even be the best definition of the irritating old adage, “Write What You Know.”
By K. Alan
In summertime, songs would reach Stanley through the fruit vines as he fought to remove an old tree. Every morning, he would arrive to Mr. Greenberger’s ranch-house, wanting to wrangle. He wanted his calluses to come from reins and saddles, not from a shovel. He wanted to be a man for just a few minutes.
Instead, Greenberger would send him in the rusted VW to hack at this stump as its roots clawed the soil. The old oak would have blocked some proposed grapevines; it had to go. Stanley put a sleeve to his brow, and stared along the imaginary line of vines up the hill.
If you have not already, please visit my award-winning Flash Fiction here, here and here. While you are there, take a moment to browse around the community at WOW; enter a contest, take a course and read their informative blog. Without hyperbole, they are as supportive and encouraging a group as any that a new writer will ever find.
When I first wrote Olivia of Olympus, I thought I was being original. After years of experiencing Dystopian YA fiction through the eyes of my students, I had begun to question why those familiar tropes should not instead be applied to existing legends. After all, it was the Norse and the Romans who first told tales of young heroes being pitted against impossible trials. It was the Greeks who proposed a society where women were freed, but at the cost of their lovers being killed and their sons enslaved. And when Zeus defied his wife, Hera, to express his overwhelming love for the human girl, Alcmene… well, a story like that has to give even Bella Swan a run for her mournful money.
For this entry in my series, The Right Age for Young Readers, I hope to start a discussion about whether existing mythology provides as valid an adventure in YA fiction as newly invented worlds. An excerpt from my edited 3-day novel project, Olivia of Olympus, is the starting point.
Olivia of Olympus, by K. Alan
from Chapter ε—A Long List of ex-Fathers
By the middle of this fifth chapter, Livi has gotten over her anger at her nerdy classmate, Kent, for ruining her chance to dance for scouts at a talent show. The show is cancelled when Kent cannot bring back his nerdier friend, Steve, after making him disappear. Trying to untangle the failed magic act, Livi and Kent, along with their friend Elsie, discover a portal to the ancient Greek land of Themiscyra. After learning of the Amazons’ abuses against Kent for simply being male, Livi is angry, and no longer just looking for Steve. Olivia is now looking for justice.
“You’ve got a lot to answer for, lady,” I sizzled upward to the Amazon Queen.
Hippolyta seemed remarkably unconcerned. “The slave’s time was short,” she reasoned. “His passing was inevitable. Killing him was a mercy.”
A sunrise behind us was revealing more detail to the surroundings where the sentries had taken us. We were in the arena of some kind of coliseum, with circles of concentric benches all around us. Kent was seated on the lowest of these, while Elsie tended to the most obvious of his wounds. It was up to me, then, to face the woman who I had thought, up until now, might want to help us.
“Even if that’s true,” I countered about Ozzie’s death, “That doesn’t explain your treatment of the other slaves.”
Hippolyta shared a look with each of her attendants, taking a little too long to examine their flowing hair and the flowers decorating it. As if they were all sharing a joke, she shrugged down at me from her throne, explaining simply, “They are men.”
“They’re your sons.”
My comment passed darkly over her features, and I knew I had pressed a button.