An Apology and Some Advice

I had every intention of updating my blog with more consistency, but… I haven’t. I’m sorry! I was going to do a lot of reading in my genre and do book reviews of sorts, but to be honest, I haven’t had time to read much. Instead, I’ve been working on writing and publishing, which is my passion anyway. Even so, I should have blogged about it. (So now I will!)

Twitter. That’s been the name of the game the past few weeks. I’ve never been all that active on Twitter before. It’s taken me a long time to get my footing in the writing world. For many things in my life, I’ve had the luxury of having mentors to help guide me until I find my own way—training wheels, of sorts. However, with writing, I’ve had to figure things out on my own. That hasn’t always been easy; I’ve had to make a lot of mistakes to get to where I am now, and I’m still far from where I’d like to be. It’s a process. The best thing I’ve been able to do for myself, though, is to get more involved on Twitter.

It’s hard to understand how Twitter can be beneficial. 140 character commentary? Come on. But really, it’s true what they say about the importance of networking, not necessarily for getting a step up but to find people who are walking the same path you are. I’ve learned more in the last month about the writing community than I had in the year or so before. Because of the Twitter community, I’ve entered three different writing contests, found an online critique group, won a free five-page critique, gotten invaluable feedback, and gotten to know some incredible writers, editors, and agents.

If you’re not involved with Twitter, I would seriously suggest signing up. Most agents have Twitters and post their manuscript wishlists as well as comment on some of the queries they find in their inboxes. Of course, it’s also a place to commiserate with other writers trudging through the query trenches. If you get yourself on Twitter, check out the #10queries/#tenqueries, #MSWL, and #askagent hashtags to get started. And, if you’re interested in contests, right now the #PitchtoPublication and #NewAgent feeds are bustling! (They also have great advice for ALL writers.)

As for the status of my publishing journey, I’ve gotten a few agent requests and my fair share of query rejections. Overall, I’m happy with where things are. I’m starting a new WIP, which is terrifying, but my main focus is getting my finished novel in the best shape possible.

What tools do you utilize in your writing journey? I’d love to know! I’m on the hunt for great resources.

Ends & Beginnings.

Hello, blogosphere! (Is that still a thing? Do we still use “blogosphere,” even if just ironically?)

The semester is finally over, so my musings and writings on the humanities and the research process are over. That means we’re back to the regularly scheduling fretting about becoming A Writer, the caps implying published and not starving. One of my aims for this summer is to maintain this, documenting not only my journey as a writer but as a reader. I have a whole stack of YA I’ve borrowed from a professor of mine, and I’m more than happy to write about books.

Now that I’m not bogged down by my thesis, I can devote all of my time to researching agents and sending out more queries. My manuscript is currently in the hands of the aforementioned professor, who happens to be a YA scholar and a good friend of mine. I’m looking forward to her criticisms so that I can revise and put my best work forward when querying. Since my last update about my publishing journey, I’ve added about 13,000 words to my book, all for the better. Everything feels more solid and fleshed out, and I’ve never been more excited about or more proud of my work. Hopefully agents will agree.

I do have a partial out currently, which was a total surprise. In some finals week haze I sent out three queries and had all but forgotten about them by the end of the week. This weekend I got an email requesting the first three chapters of my book which was like a chorus of angels singing. I’m more calm about this request than I have been about others in the past, which might be indicative of personal growth on my part but I think it’s really the fact that I have no attention span in the summer.

All this to say that I’m going to pay more attention to my blog this summer now that I’m free from the shackles of thesis writing. Though, I have to say… my thesis kicked ass. And yes, that’s the academic way to put it.

Happy summer, y’all. Let’s get to reading and writing. No ‘rithmetic allowed.

Conference Abstract

I did it! I finished my senior thesis, which topped out at 17 pages. I had to cut it down to 7 pages to read at the annual senior seminar conference, which wasn’t as painful as I thought it would be. As part of the class and the conference, I have to submit an abstract of the smaller paper. Here it is!

Magical realism is a genre that has been studied extensively in Latin America for its ability to blur the lines between reality and conjecture. In this way, magical realism seeks to confront perceptions of reality, an aim easily documented by research and criticism in the genre. However, there is not much research dealing with magical realism across cultures, especially as it pertains to the United States. Offering a cultural comparison of how magical realism manifests in both Latin American and American cultures provides a lens through which we can examine commonly held beliefs and views not otherwise apparent. Through a close comparison of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “Un senor muy viejo con unas alas enormes” and Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Black Cat,” the stark contrast between the author’s respective cultures comes into sharper relief.

Why Read?

This is a response to these two articles, both of which discuss, like last week’s post, the benefit and/or purpose of reading.

First of all, I much prefer Parks’s article because it automatically assumes that we read for a purpose, whatever that purpose may be. However, it seems to me that Parks end up preferring older books, giving unsatisfactory reasons as to the value of reading contemporary literature. For me, as a writer, I have to believe that new books have value. Each generation deserves to have a culture of their own, and literature is a hugely important part of that culture. Of course it’s important to read classics because they give us a glimpse into a past society, and that’s exactly why new books should be read and written—future Americans should be able to look back on us and how we lived.

Siegel’s article is, to put it gently, infuriating. Siegel talks about a study that shows that reading literature sharply increases empathy. You would think this is a good thing, but Siegel seems to disagree, saying that empathy is also the mark of sociopaths. Are you serious? The basis of Siegel’s argument is that he doesn’t want literature to serve a measurable purpose—it should be an accepted leisure activity. My question: why can’t it be both? Why can’t some relaxing activity also affect a positive change in those who undertake it?

Why Reading Matters

This post is a response to Simon Hay’s “Why Read Reading Lolita? Teaching Critical Thinking in a Culture of Choice.”

I’m a reader. I come from a family full of books; my father was a bookseller and rare manuscript hunter by trade, and my mom spent much of her career as an antique dealer shelving gorgeous, leather-bound classics. I grew up in a house filled to the stuffing with books, so much so that a contractor once told us our attic was in danger of caving in on the rest of the house due to the many stocked bookshelves we had. I’ve never once asked myself why I read. At the danger of sounding trite, asking why I read is akin to asking why I breathe. I’ve never had a choice—the act gives me life.

For Hay, it seems this would not be a satisfactory answer. Asking a group of literature students why they study what they do is hard, especially when Hay frames the question in such a way that giving an “acceptable” answer is near impossible. When students answer that reading literature gives us a glimpse into past lives, he believes they are calling English studies History-lite. The same can be said for each answer a would-be student could give Hay, which to me isn’t fair. Students of literature, in my experiences, come home when they study books. Books are a safe place—a place that makes sense amidst the ample chaos found in the world. Honest students of literature study their discipline because they simply have no other choice—they are held delightfully, helplessly captive by the allure of escape, understanding, and emotional connection that reading offers.

In the end, Hay concedes that it is the choice to study, not the discipline being studied, that matters. As far as I’m concerned, if it matters to you, it’s worth pursuing. If you are called to read, then read, even if someone has the gall to ask why.

Commenting on Craft: Part Seven

Seriously, this has been happening for a long time.

Is it cold in here? Maybe it’s just a draft… the first draft of my thesis. (Someone please make me stop.) It’s good as a draft but it sucks as a paper, so I’m going to have to do a lot of revising. Luckily, today’s installment of the Craft series deals with the sticky, slippery slope of revision.

When you have a draft and systematically revise top-down, from global structures to words, you are more likely to read as your readers will than if you start at the bottom, with words and sentences, and work up.

Once upon a time I was the editor of my high school newspaper. Because of that, I’m accustomed to copy editing—that start-at-the-bottom approach. This quote is helpful to me because it breaks me out of that habit and forces me to see my revisions in a new light, hopefully leading to an overall higher efficacy of my edits.

Each paragraph should have a sentence or more introducing it, with the key concepts that the rest of the paragraph develops.

I’m not sure if I do this or not, so I have to consider it carefully when I begin my revisions. I’m good at creating an overall structure (I’m a huge fan of headings), but when it comes to paragraph structure, I stop paying attention. Now’s a good time to start.

When Booth was in graduate school, his bibliography class was told to copy a poem exactly as written. Not one student in the class of twenty did so perfectly. His professor said he had assigned that task to hundreds of students, and perfect copies had been made by just three.

This is both terrifying and awesome—terrifying in that it’s so easy to make mistakes but awesome that everyone, then, makes them. While thinking globally is essential in making a coherent and relevant paper, care has to be taken with the details as well. I’m going to go over my quotations and make sure they’ve been copied correctly because, although I might not be great at math, three out of a few hundred are abysmal odds.

Commenting on Craft: Part Six

There are lots of other parts to this series. (It reflects the fact that research really is a never-ending process. Maybe that’s just how it feels from where I’m standing.)

Today’s installment is about intros and conclusions. I’m to a point in my life where I love writing introductions because it’s the only way I can give myself a blueprint to follow. Anymore I write an intro for me, not my readers. Conclusions, though? I still suck at conclusions. Because of that, I’m going to choose my quotes from the section on writing conclusions. Makes sense, right?

You may be happy to know that you can write your conclusion using the same elements in your introduction, in reverse order.

That’s all well and good, but that puts me in a trap where my conclusion sounds too formulaic and too similar to my introduction. I understand it’s good to have everything come full circle and tie together, but it’s boring as hell to write—and if it’s boring to write, it’s boring to read.

Don’t start grandly. If your subject is grand, it will speak its own importance.

I think I fall into this sometimes. We always want to feel like what we’re writing about is important, but we don’t have to say it’s important. If we as writers and researchers have done our jobs, the reader will already know that it’s important—and why.

You can bring your report to a graceful, even literary close with an echo of your opening fact, anecdote, or quotation.

This seems much more human to be than a standard intro-in-reverse approach, as seen in the first quote I chose. I love the idea of being able to have a literary close, especially since mine is a paper about literature. A novel concept, don’t you think?

Thank you, thank  you. I’ll be here all week.

(Not true. Easter break starts tomorrow. I’ll be here the week after, though!)