Wednesday, January 28, 2009


I'm not going to delve too deeply into this controversial topic, but for anyone who is interested in self-publishing, I urge you to read this article in the New York Times: "Self-Publishers Flourish While Authors Pay the Tab."

If you're interested in having copies of your story made up for friends and family, great. If, however, you're expecting publishing fame and fortune, you might want to consider a different tack. There is a big difference between having your worked printed and having it published.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Rabbit at Rest

The great John Updike died today at the age of 76. It’s difficult to read Updike and not feel that you are witness to some sort of divine grace—writers of his caliber are clearly born, not made. He will be missed.

Biography & Interview

This I Believe Essay for NPR

Interview with Charlie Rose

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tell Me How You Really Feel

A few weeks ago I received a nice note from a reader who had enjoyed my book. She found me through one of those book networking sites, and so after I responded, I went to check out her page. Underneath her review of my book were several favorable reviews by other readers. As I scrolled down the page, however, I came across one reader who described my novel as “hands-down, the worst book I have ever read.”

Ouch. The review was so brutal, I found myself laughing in disbelief. Still, it didn’t seem to bother me all that much, not like it would have a few years ago when the book came out. Now, it seemed to kind of bounce off. I attributed my unusually mature reaction to the fact that the book is history to me. My focus is on the book I’m currently working on.

And yet, in the following days, I found myself chewing on those negative words. I was compelled to bring up the review to my close friends and family, which was a clear sign that the reader’s comments were bothering me. Their reactions were just as supportive as I’d hoped they’d be, calling into question the reviewer’s moral character, intelligence, and taste. My father wondered if the reviewer was angry and had an ax to grind. My mother—let’s just say I hope the guy never bumps into her in a dark alley.

While I so appreciate my loved ones coming to my defense, I just can’t join in on the demonizing bandwagon. There was nothing in the review that was abusive or deranged. He just didn’t like it. I, along with everyone else, have a list of the worst books, movies, TV shows, songs, etc. that I’ve ever come across—and surely those pieces are as dear to their creators as my book is to me. There’s no point in finding fault with someone for expressing his opinion. He is, after all, entitled.

Even if he's wrong.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Happy Inauguration Day!

I hope you've been enjoying the festivities on this historic day. Check out this creative marvel: The Presidential Inauguration rendered in Legos.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

It's All Right To Think You're The Greatest--Just Keep It To Yourself

Tess Gerritsen has a great blog entry over at Murderati about how arrogance can kill your chances of getting an agent. The story she tells is not an isolated incident—in fact, it is all too common.

Querying an agent is a lot like going on a job interview. The agent isn't only interested in a writer's talent, but she also wants to know if this is someone she will enjoy working with. No agent wants to work with someone who is pesky, demanding, and think they're God's gift. A humble attitude goes much, much further than overconfidence.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Favorite Quotes

In going through my old papers, I’ve found several of my favorite quotes. These tidbits of wisdom have been taped to the edges of my monitor or pinned to my bulletin board since I started writing professionally, giving me a nudge when I needed it most. Maybe there’s something here that will give you a little inspiration as well.

The crisis of today is the joke of tomorrow. –H.G. Wells

Exquisitely developed characters and heartbreaking stories are the obligations of any novel worth remembering. –John Irving

We must be the change we wish to see in the world. –Gandhi

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action; and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. –Martha Graham

Write a little every day, without hope, without despair. –Isak Dinesen

Before you speak, ask yourself: Is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence? –Shirdi Sai Baba

Every act of love is a work of peace, no matter how small. –Mother Teresa

And my personal favorite, found in a fortune cookie:

Show-off always shown up in showdown. –Confucius

I also have a clipping that was given to me by a friend’s mom. It’s basically a crash course in grammar, with each rule humorously illustrating the point.

How to Write Good

Avoid run-on sentences they are hard to read.

No sentence fragments.

It behooves us to avoid archaisms.

Also, avoid awkward or affected alliteration.

Don’t use no double negatives.

If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times: Resist hyperbole.

Avoid commas, that are not necessary.

Verbs has to agree with their subjects.

Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.

Writing carefully, dangling participles should not be used.

Kill all exclamation points!!!

Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.

Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.

Take the bull by the hand, and don’t mix metaphors.

Don’t verb nouns.

Never, ever use repetitive redundancies.

Last but not least, avoid clich├ęs like the plague.

--William Safire

If you have any words of inspiration you’d like to share, please do.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Cleaning House

Happy New Year to all! I, for one, was very happy to see 2008 go—it was not my favorite year by a longshot. I think 2009 is very promising. I’m feeling enthusiastic and energetic. Maybe this is the year I’ll have the time to make some serious headway on my novel. I’ve just spent the morning reading bits of what I’ve written and I’m really happy with what I have so far.

I’m not normally one for New Year’s resolutions. I agree with Puzzle Master Will Shortz—self-improvement can take place any time of year, not just on January 1st. That being said, I have a few simple writing-related goals in mind and now is as good a time as any to get cracking. Here they are, in no particular order:

1) Clean My Desk. As you can see from the picture above, it’s a bit cluttered. Unfortunately, I don’t have separate areas for writing and general household management, so my writing space has become a dumping ground for everything, including toys (note the Barbie on the far right). Normally, the mess doesn’t prevent me from writing, but just looking at it can drain my energy.

2) Speak Correctly. In high school, I made the conscious effort to sound more “folksy” so I wouldn’t be accused of being “nerdy”. Dumb idea. If I really wanted to avoid being nerdy, I should have quit the math team and the marching band. Instead, I developed a life-long bad habit of using words like “gonna”, which I’m finding impossible to break myself from. Someday, if Charlie Rose calls for an interview and I haven’t broken my habit, I’m gonna be mortified.

3) Read More. I am embarrassed to say that I spend very little time reading. Stephen King once said something along the lines of: “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write.” His meaning, of course, was that writing and reading go hand in hand—you can’t be a good writer if you don’t read. Very true. I also take it as an affirmation: I have very little time to write and my lack of reading is proof. I actually read all kinds of things during the day—catalogs, magazines, children’s books, online articles—but what I truly need is more good fiction.

4) Write More. Sometimes I develop an all-or-nothing attitude toward writing. If I don’t have a significant block of time to write, it doesn’t seem worth making the attempt. While it’s hard to dig deep during short spurts, I think I need to try writing even when I only have ten minutes to spare.

5) Brush Up. I feel like there are giant holes in my general knowledge—particularly of history and grammar—that need filling. I’m going to dig out that old Strunk & White and some history books and try to plug the holes.

If you have any goals for 2009, I’d love to hear about them.