Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Genre Readers

I was going to write in generalities about Science Fiction & Fantasy readers versus Romance readers, but I'll try to stick to the specifics.

When I finished the most recent Robert Jordan book, I suffered a bit of withdrawal. I looked around online to see who was out there and had answers to some of my questions. I found several websites and discussion boards devoted to The Wheel of Time. I found an incredibly comprehensive encyclopedia that covers all 8000+ pages published thus far. I found detailed chapter summaries. I found interesting theories and amazing quantities of background research.

Every time someone asked a "dumb" question or made an error, there was an immediate correction by another reader. These people were geeks, of course. I found pictures of conventions and weddings designed around the world Jordan created. But these people are also really smart. I was duly impressed.

About a month later, I finished the most recent Diana Gabaldon book. Diana Gabaldon herself is very smart and a little intimidating. I anxiously looked for Outlander online communities to read discussions about this latest installment in the lives of Claire, Jamie, Brianna, and Roger.

I didn't find much. Well, I did find a robust online community. But far from being a place where every inconsistency is closely examined and critiqued by fans, as on the Jordan sites, the level of discourse on the Gabaldon fan page ran more toward comments like, "Well, everyone makes mistakes. There's a lot to remember here."

Not examining "inconsistencies" purposefully included by the author is a good way to miss important developments in the story. But more importantly, not asking for accuracy in the writing is an insult to the author. It's suggesting that the work of fiction is so inconsequential that it doesn't even seem real in the author's own mind.

Instead of detailed theories, complete with footnotes, readers asked very basic questions. One reader talked about buying her Christmas tree. It was from North Carolina and was a Fraser Fir. She couldn't believe the coincidence! Suddenly "Fraser" is everywhere! I mean, it's not possible that the author did such incredible research that she might have discovered that there are Fraser Firs grown in North Carolina, where she set Fraser's Ridge in the books? Impossible! It must be an incredible coincidence.

That's about when I closed my browser window and went on my merry way.

So, yeah. Jordan fans and Gabaldon fans seem equally passionate. Both spend incredible amounts of time online discussing the books. But Jordan fans seem a lot smarter.

Interesting trend watch. Laurell K. Hamilton, Robert Jordan, and Diana Gabaldon are all series authors I read. And they have all become much more interactive with their readership. All have some sort of blog for communicating directly with us outside of their books. It's interesting. I wonder how this growing transparency will affect the writing and the author/reader relationship.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Post Hiatus

I'm back! I'm sorry to have been gone for so long, and with no warning. There were many reasons I was away: moving the computer from the kitchen table into a back bedroom, sickness, tiredness, company, travel, family, moving the computer from the kitchen table to a back bedroom . . . but when it comes down to it, there's one real reason I stayed away.

Everything I thought of writing, whether I hoped to be funny or clever or anecdotal or just to say hi, everything I composed in my head sounded negative. Sniping, nasty, mean, negative. And I didn't feel like being that way, so I stayed away. I drowned myself in fiction, and it felt good. I'm still in a heavy reading phase, and I'm still feeling good.

Last weekend was good too. Paul, Ellie, Lizzi-pug, and I were up in Iowa for a family reunion - Paul's side. I had extremely low hopes for the event, so I couldn't help but be pleasantly surprised. And indeed, the weekend was restful, rejuvenating, and fun. There are some really good people in that family.

One of Paul's cousins had twins 3 days after Ellie was born, and it was indescribable to see the three one-year-olds together. Her mother, Paul's aunt, loves to tie-dye. She made color-coordinated, huge shirts for everyone in the family, with each individual family unit getting a matching pattern. The result was stunning. I offer proof:

To top things off, here's a shot of Ellie with her cousins. See what I mean?

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Book Review

Flea at One Good Thing has been reviewing books lately. That started me thinking about what I've been reading.

I have been growing frustrated with the portrayal of caterpillars in modern children's literature. What? You were expecting James Joyce?

"The Ugly Duckling" gets it right. The moral is that while the ugly duckling is, indeed, "ugly" for a duckling, he's not really ugly at all - he's just not a duckling. (I hope I didn't give away the surprise ending for anyone).

Percival the Plain Little Caterpillar and its ilk get it all wrong. Several of these newer books talk about the drab life of caterpillars until they transform into beautiful butterflies. Percival, for example, is depressed because he's "so plain."

Then something wonderful happened! He became a butterfly! "And no one ever said he was plain again."

How could the apples have fallen so far from the tree?

Thursday, June 2, 2005

Validation!

A friend and I recently started a little writer's group. I had a great time at our first meeting and am looking forward to continuing it, both for the company and for feedback, but especially for her wonderful know-how about writing professionally and submitting pieces to publishers. (I know, that's a little funny coming from someone who works in publishing.)

On the other hand, I have no idea what she'll get out of it other than the motivation to write before meetings. I'll leave her anonymous in case she prefers it that way, but I want to let her know that I had a great time and want to do it again!

Tonight I went to the writer's group at the local branch of the county library for the second time. Before I went for the first time, I expected it to be a bunch of young readers. You know the type: book lovers who desperately want to be writers but just aren't. Kind of like me. I was all set to feel critical of their work. Wow. First of all, the 8-12 people in the group are amazing writers. Second, they're all published. Very very published. Third, with one exception, they're all over 50. Some are way over 50. Fourth, they're mostly men. There's one older woman, then a younger woman who's in her late 40's, then me.

I read a short story tonight, for the first time. Before I read it aloud, I had no idea how much sex was in there. Gulp. I mean, it's not explicit or gratuitous, let alone titillating, but it is sex and I was reading to a bunch of father-aged men. I had never read any of my writing aloud before.

They liked it. They laughed aloud. They praised the form, the imagery, the style, the symbolism. "This is a very accomplished piece," the leader said. These are people I don't know, whose opinions I value because I admire their writing.

"Does it need . . . ?" I ask.

"Send it off," they said. "See what comments you get back and then decide if you want to add to it. It's ready to go."

I am walking on air. Maybe I can write after all.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

On Writing

I love writing and I've always wanted to be a writer. A fiction writer. I've always felt like I could do it for real, as a career - once I got started. Getting started was the hard part.

I wrote my first stories before I could write. I told the stories to my mom, who wrote them down, and I illustrated them with pictures cut from the J.C. Penney and Sears & Roebuck catalogs.

When I was 7, I wrote and illustrated my first story all on my own. It was a read along book about a little girl who loved reading more than anything else in the world. After her birthday party, she found a small unopened package. It turned out to contain a magic lotion! (Those who know me well will laugh that my lotion obsession was evident even at that age.) The magic lotion allowed the girl to float in the air! How did the girl use such a precious gift? She applied the lotion in her bedroom, floated up to the ceiling, and reclined to spend the rest of the afternoon reading in midair. I taped myself reading the story, and still have the tape although I think I've lost the book. On it, you can hear my pedantic/precocious voice saying, "You may now turn the page" after every 6 words or so.

In college, I took a couple of fiction writing classes. I wrote a lot in college and felt good about what I was writing. Finishing was my big problem then and afterwards.

More recently, I decided to get serious about it and do some real fiction writing. Lately I've been having a little crisis of faith. I don't think that what I've been writing is very good. And that's really what I was afraid of all along, that's why it was so hard to get started. What if I can't do it? What if I'm really really bad? Who am I if I'm not the girl who will, someday, be a writer?

Sunday, January 9, 2005

Weekend

Sarahlynn's weekend in a mini-meme

Last time you exercised: this afternoon
Last time you er, uh, you know: last night
Last time you wrote creatively: 5 minutes ago
Last time you did something useful: this afternoon, playing with Ellie (we're working on stacking and nesting and putting in and she's got the hang of it now)

Woo hoo! Even though the Christmas decorations are all concentrated/exploded in the front room, I think I can call this a productive weekend after all.

Wednesday, January 5, 2005

Resolutions

I don't make New Year's Resolutions. I know that they work for some people (my in-laws quit smoking 3 years ago after lifetimes with the habit) but for me they feel trite and ineffective.

Nonetheless, this year I made a few resolutions. They aren't New Year's Resolutions, I tell myself, but are rather Resolutions to Get My Life In Order Before I Go Back To Work or Beat Myself Up Over Getting Older and Not Having My Life Be the Way I Hoped it Would Be. Catchy, no?

1) Go to bed at a reasonable time, most of the time
2) Exercise more
3) Write lots

I especially like the way they're not "SMART" goals. Nary a measurable one in the bunch!

Well, the first was out. It's a holiday, for heaven's sake. Belongs in December with the rest of 'em. On the second I didn't do too badly. I exercised. And while I didn't "really" write, I blogged and decided to count that to make my stats look better. Nothing like getting off to a good start. On the third I exercised and blogged again.

Today, well, yesterday, I was crabby and exhausted from the lack of sleep. So tonight I forwent exercise and writing and fell into bed at 8:30. Of course I woke up at 12:30 after a reasonable amount of sleep (better than I've done all week!) and am still up, reading blogs and eating spray cheese out of the can. Alas. Tomorrow (today) will indubitably suck. Isn't it always the rainy, sleepy days when the baby won't nap? Feels like it.

Looking over at the Recent Posts, it occurs to me that recently this blog has become very . . . er, mama blog. Not that there's anything really wrong with that. It's just that the political entries and essay-diatribes tend to take more time, thought, and energy than I can summon on fewer than four hours of sleep.

Before I go off to hang out with my faithful buddies Strunk and White in the hopes that they will soothe me to sleep, let's look again at the last line in the previous paragraph and smile about getting "fewer" hours of sleep rather than "less". Who needs to get all riled up about politics and the willfully ignorant when there are so many grammatical errors begging for attention? I'm sure that this post itself offers a veritable cornucopia of such errors for those inclined to point them out.