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Showing posts from September, 2012

how not to be awkward at book festivals, part 2: the awkward book panel

Last weekend, I went to a rather awkward book festival. On Tuesday, we discussed the Awkward Book Booth (check the comments for some brilliant reader suggestions). Today, some observations on the Awkward Book Panel.
There is nothing like an awkward panel to make book festival goers wish they had gone on a brewery tour instead. There you are, trapped in your rickety folding chair while three authors you’ve vaguely heard of say a whole lot of nothing for forty-five minutes, followed by a fifteen-minute question period in which even more nothing gets said. When the panel’s over, you can’t remember a single thing anyone said—you can’t even remember what the panel was supposed to be about. Why are you even here? Why did you think you would find this stimulating? Can we go home now?
If you are a panel-bound author, here are some ways to make things less awkward for your audience:
Know thy panel-mates
There is nothing more awkward than a panel where three authors who have obviously never hear…

how not to be awkward at book festivals, part 1: the awkward book booth

This weekend, I went to a medium-sized book festival with a mission: to observe which authors were successfully selling books, and why.
Like all situations where you are meeting face-to-face with the producer of an item you may or may not want to buy, book festivals can be sort of awkward. This particular festival was especially awkward, as many of the booths consisted of lesser-known, debut, or self-published authors who were selling their books “cold” with no name recognition to ride on. As a person who will herself claim the illustrious title of Lesser-Known Debut Author in about eight months from now, I am very curious to find out how other LKDA’s were making it work (or failing to make it work).
To begin with, some pointers to authors who are selling their books at booths or tables:
Team up with other authors
I found myself shying away from booths where an author was sitting with stacks and stacks of a single title. Why? Because it’s already awkward enough to walk away from someo…

gas in the trunk: why your conflict isn’t working (and how to fix it)

One of the most cited reasons agents and editors give for declining manuscripts is “there wasn’t enough conflict” or “the stakes weren’t high enough.” For this reason, writers have learned to pile on conflict—checking for internal and external tensions in every scene, giving each character a backstory wound, defining clear and compelling story goals, etc.
But while these strategies can and do lead to stronger story telling, they can also backfire in confusing ways. Over the past six months, the freelance editor version of myself has noticed a peculiar phenomenon: manuscripts with loads of conflict that are nevertheless deadly boring.
“What’s going on here?” I found myself thinking again and again. “There’s so much drama, but I don’t give a tinker’s damn.” (No damns at all! Not a one!)
It turns out these writers had misplaced their conflict in various ways. It’s like keeping gasoline in the trunk of your car instead of putting it in the tank. Sure, you have gas, but it’s not doing y…

gas in the trunk: why your conflict isn’t working (and how to fix it)

One of the most cited reasons agents and editors give for declining manuscripts is “there wasn’t enough conflict” or “the stakes weren’t high enough.” For this reason, writers have learned to pile on conflict—checking for internal and external tensions in every scene, giving each character a backstory wound, defining clear and compelling story goals, etc.
But while these strategies can and do lead to stronger story telling, they can also backfire in confusing ways. Over the past six months, the freelance editor version of myself has noticed a peculiar phenomenon: manuscripts with loads of conflict that are nevertheless deadly boring.
“What’s going on here?” I found myself thinking again and again. “There’s so much drama, but I don’t give a tinker’s damn.” (No damns at all! Not a one!)
It turns out these writers had misplaced their conflict in various ways. It’s like keeping gasoline in the trunk of your car instead of putting it in the tank. Sure, you have gas, but it’s not doing y…

shelfspy #1

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I love inspecting other people's bookshelves. They occupy this funny space between something private and something on display. It almost feels like spying—but is it?
I took this picture of my current bookshelves this morning, with the intention of posting it here. I thought it would be easy—take a picture, post it, done—but I found myself wavering, wanting to edit it for the camera, remove some books and display others more prominently, show off some aspects of my reading life while downplaying others. 
Finally, I just took the picture without changing anything. This is what's on my shelf. More books cycle in and out of my house than I can keep track of, but these are the ones that have earned at least a temporary stay of execution from the used book store where most of my reading material ends up.
So spy away. And if you post a photo of your own unedited bookshelf on your own blog, leave link in the comments—I'd love to see it.