Thursday, July 26, 2012

Margaret Mahy 1936-2012

This week we mourn the loss of Margaret Mahy.

Tributes have flowed in from around the world with obituaries appearing in the The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Herald Sun, The Huffington Post...and are still flowing in.

The world mourns the loss of THE STORYTELLER.

Margaret Mahy published over two hundred books for children and was the recipient of The Hans Christian Andersen Medal (commonly called The Little Nobel) for her world wide impact on children’s literature.
She won the Carnegie Medal twice for two young adult stories.
She was inducted into The Order of New Zealand, our highest civilian honour retricted to only 20 living people.

She was THE children’s writer.

Her awards are many...from her first ever published book, The Lion In The Meadow...discovered by chance in 1969, on an open page of our (famous) School Journal (in a glass case) as a book fair trade exhibit, by a New York editor,  through to her NZ Book of the year in 2011 with The Moon and Famer McPhee which was also named as an IBBY Honour Book this year.

A fact only lightly touched on in the media, but for me goes above the awards so richly deserved was that her little stories and poems made up a significant portion of the expanded Ready to Read series which introduced children to reading. She brought bounce and rhythm and fun into the challenging process of interpreting squiggles on the page as words and made reading time in the classroom a joy. This series was sold around the world...and so the world's children learned to read and laugh and understand that language could be playful and reading could be the best activity you could ever do.

Beautiful tributes have appeared in the last few days from this poignant personal poem from a close friend of Margaret’s, to the Pundits Of Literature trying to compare her with other well known New Zealand writers.

As the tributes and tears flow throughout the land (and now, as I write this) I am reflecting on the loss to the Children’s Literature community here in New Zealand.

In the children’s writing community you couldn’t and didn’t compare her. She was and is a colossus and a genius, as her friend and fellow children’s writer, Jack Lasenby said on National Television. 

On Facebook today I read this comment from John McIntyre owner of The Children’s Bookshop and National Reviewer of children’s books.
We have a growing, and perhaps irrational frustration at the comparisons of Margaret Mahy as "up there" with our finest authors, Katherine Mansfield and Janet Frame.
Hell, she wasn't up there, she was streets ahead. 
We like some of Mansfield's stories, but her's was a slight cannon of work over a short time span, most of it written in the many years she spent overseas whinging about how restrictive New Zealand was.
Janet Frame lead a reclusive life, and wrote for a small literary audience. She wrote brilliantly, and has had some international recognition, but could walk down the street without being recognised.
Margaret Mahy is the greatest writer we have ever produced, in any way you measure greatness. International recognition, generosity of spirit, quality of output, length of career, range of genre, awards won, languages translated into, critical acclaim, markets conquered.
Is it because she was a "children's" author that they need to qualify her greatness, or a we just being unreasonably insensitive. (and feel free to tell us if you think we are.)
This has roused a hearty cheer amongst the children’s writers and illustrators here....Margaret’s words helped children form an appreciation of reading so they could go on to appreciate the work of other writers.

I had to stand up and deliver a speech at our Children’s Book Association Annual General Meeting less than 24 hours after the news filtered through. How do you encapsulate her impact, personally and professionally and profoundly to people for whom children’s literature is why they are on this earth? You don’t. You leave it to the Storyteller herself to provide the words.

The Fairy Child
by Margaret Mahy

The very hour that I was born

I rode upon the unicorn.

When boys put tadpoles in their jars 

I overflowed my tin with stars.

Because I sing to see the sun

The little children point and run.

Because I set the caged birds free

The people close their doors to me.

Goodbye, goodbye, you world of men -
I shall not visit you again.

Margaret Mahy
1936 - July 23, 2012
Not R.I.P but...Dancing Among The Stars

Margaret Mahy’s last book, The Man From The Land of Fandango, illustrated by Polly Dunbar, published by Clarion will be out in October.

Friday, July 20, 2012

There Be Ice Bergs Ahead....

Today I had an email interview with a reporter on the subject of FaBo Story. One of the questions asked was how did Fabostory get started. This got me thinking about the power of Facebook for writers. Facebook can be a timesuck, a waste of time, a time waster, and sometimes it can be a catalyst for a really cool project.
On my second day on Facebook, Kyle Mewburn (cool Kiwi kids writer) said ‘Wouldn’t it be neat to have an online kids story which lots of writers can contribute to.’ A bunch of us started talking about how it could be done and before long it had morphed into an online writing challenge involving children’s writers, illustrators and kiwi kids all writing against each other in an hilarious mad story, which lasted for 18weeks! 
We did it again last year trying out one off stories, in different genre’s on another planet. 
This year there is a huge sporting event happening...What could go wrong at the Titanic games?....well we are about to  find out! FaBostory3 launches next week!

Around the blogosphere there has been lots of talk about the excellent piece on creative writing courses by Kristine Rusch. I posted it up on Facebook where it got picked up and discussed by tutors in creative writing around the country. Judging from the huge pile of comments it has struck a real chord in the online community. I know some of the sentiments struck home personally. At a writers lunch I attended last week, there was first hand description from a writer who was a student on a masters course in creative writing. The description of how a University Tutor (and name writer) conducted this course was hair raising!  Read the Kris Rusch's article and all the comments...It is worth the $5000 the poor writer, at lunch last week, paid.

Ploughshares Literary Magazine has published a piece on Plagiarism as Pedagogy from a creative writing tutor...who confessed they taught a student to plagiarise unintentionally and then thought about it and gave them an A. Their arguments make for interesting reading and so do the comments!

 They say a week is long in the moment it is the same in publishing. David Gaughran turns the spotlight on Authors Guild...who seem to have completely lost the plot in their recent diatribes against Amazon. He questions whether they are really serving their members well when they direct them to go to Publish America (a vanity publishing firm with eye watering tactics and prices, read Writer Beware.)

This morning I turned on my computer to see the news that Penguin have bought Author Solutions, a sister ship to Publish America operating on the same lines. And the comments are flying on Twitter! Will they do a Harlequin and offer rejected authors a  ‘but if you pay us $000’s we will publish your manuscript in our ‘boutique’ self publishing operation...’solution. This will be a big story to watch! (And watch out for the ice berg underneath,Writer Beware comments.)

Another blog to get a lot of comment was Porter Anderson asking whether publishers are doing any R&D? The comments about how self publishers are doing R&D are very enlightening...(marketing 301)

The Atlantic Monthly has an opinion piece on why the new books coming out are all looking the same. Does it have anything to do with e readers? Check out this crop of covers.

The Stats are out....and are getting commented on all over the place (yesterday in my car the local rock station DJ commented on them!) Ebooks are now 31% of the total publishing market and have doubled in sales to $2 Billion. Children and Young Adult books are the fastest growing category.

Joel (the Book Designer) has gathered up a collection on resources for you on the best book fonts to use that will warm all designers hearts.

Bestseller Labs has a fabulous interview with Lorna Suzuki about being a bestselling indie author and how she did it. Reading about Lorna is an inspiration in itself never mind that she writes as well!

In the craft section,

K M Weiland is so brilliant that others have taken her words and examples and made them into beautiful notes cards to print out and post on your wall.  Check out this set on story structure.

In the marketing section,
Kevin Franco lets slip some more details over his Enthrill system...ebook cards in retail stores...some great innovations happening here.

It’s conference season in North America.
Bob Mayer and Jen Talty reports on Thrillerfest and the new moves ahead there.
Both of these reports are interesting for new tech but also new ways of looking at the industry.

To finish,
I have been chatting to long time industry participants about Agent Rachelle Gardner's blog on why contracts are taking longer to negotiate. Contract language is changing and there are many hidden icebergs being slipped in that writers should be wary of. Passive Guy is always a good resource so I have linked to an article he wrote a few months ago to alert you to the tip of what is a very scary iceberg, especially if you negotiate your own contracts. (As always I urge you to read the comments so you can get a fuller picture.)

NZ Authors and Illustrators take note...perpetuity rights, rights reversion, length of copywrite, ebook publication, it is all being tweaked and not for the creators benefit. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Looking Sideways

This week I have spent a lot of time staring out through car windows as we have traveled the length of the North Island. We don’t usually travel this trip in mid winter and the familiar summer landscape morphed into unfamiliar with ice and snow touches which generated lots of interest inside the car. The volcanoes looked spectacular and we detoured to give the kids an hour playing in the snow.

My reward for driving the tricky mountain icy road and taking lots of pictures of my snow loving family was to spend a good hour chatting with my fellow FaBo writing team member Kathy White as we plotted dastardly twists that we could put into the next FaBo story...heheheheh.

Fabo 3 gets underway next week, so tell a child near you to check it out. Nine writers...a story that twists and turns...and a challenge to KIWI KIDS to try an outwrite us every week for prizes and fame...and coz we might need some ringers when we need a break....

Today I have been thinking about the marketing options writers have with movies....I hear you all saying WELL DUH! but it is bigger than that. Popular teen authors have this whole movie buy in sorted. They get their fans to come up with dream casting of their favourite characters... promote and discuss these...and if they have a film option generate hype for every little piece of news...this of course feeds into the books...with competitions for best fan book cover, best fan book cover for movie tie poster art with your dream cast...etcetc. What makes this a marketing mania tour de force is that the books titles are constantly being talked about in a sort of sideways move.

Today Cassandra Clare, having a keen finger on the fan pulse, had a pivotal piece of news to share with her fans on the casting of a major character in the City Of Bones movie. She told her fans she wouldn’t reveal it until they made it a trending topic in Twitter. One hour later it was the worldwide trending topic and she had to spill the beans. Cassandra is generating huge hype for the movie but at the same time those books are getting pushed in front of everyone. Not bad when she has two more books to go to wrap up two series and launch a third.

Catherine Ryan Hyde, she of Pay It Forward fame, talks about what happens when Hollywood gets hold of your book and then rewrites does an author cope...

Both of these posts look at author marketing in a slightly different way. The next two links help you to understand what is going on. Betty Ming Liu teaches social media in her journalism class and she has put together the guide to the best way to use Twitter. This is how I use Twitter and how I tell others to use this tool.

Catherine Ryan Howard talks Google and SEO which is something that authors need to understand...especially Metadata. How does a search engine even find your book?

LJN Dawson reminds us that this whole book explosion thing is recent and nobody has a handle on Metadata...but we should.

Chuck takes a look at 25 Bad writing behaviours....(warning It’s be prepared to have your hair stand up! You will nod and laugh sheepishly at the same time tho.)

Laura Hazard Owen talks about the new publishing kid on the block for women pay but they interesting model that may well point to the way of the future!

Agent Rachelle Gardner talks about 7 ways that writers give up their power and why this is not a good thing.

For the illustrators out there Debbie Ridpath Ohi has the most magnificent helpful collection of blogs for writers...but she is a talented kids book illustrator. She has started a blog just for kids book illustrators...which you should check out!

In the craft section
K M Weiland talks about you struggle with it?

Janice Hardy talks about filtering...that is words that distance the reader from the POV character.

Agent Mary Kole talks about a common problem she sees often in manuscripts...when the problem is too difficult...the characters become unbelievable...

Writer Unboxed has a stand out post on the curse of the middle book..that is the one in the middle of a trilogy...How do you get it to stand on its own when everybody knows it’s the middle book!!!

To finish,
Ollin Morales always has an interesting blog and this piece on the ten rules of grammar all writers need is an inspiring reminder to look at rules sideways.

pic is from this cool tee shirt on line shop

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Kling On To Warmth...

It must be winter...Metservice New Zealand is warning us to wear three layers and a windproof layer. Fog has shut our biggest airport and we are over rain.
So huddle up next to the heater...US readers find a working air conditioner...and let me share what has been happening in the blogosphere this week.

Porter Anderson takes a close look at Hugh McGuire’s TEDX piece on whether ebooks will be around in five years...(It’s ebooks Jim but not as we know it.)

Writer Beware gets annoyed with people who confuse copywrite and rights...and reposts her informative breakdown on how to tell the difference. (Is it a Tribble?)

Kristin Lamb has a must read post on Internet trolls and what to do about them...If you are not sure whether you are one, check out the post... (First check... are you wearing a redshirt?)

The writing bomb has a post on common lies Self Publishers believe. This is a great post to make you think about the lies we all tell ourselves in the publishing game. (Fascinating....lift your eyebrow the Spock way.)

The writers guide to epublishing takes a look at the myths of Traditional Publishing.
 If you read both articles you will have an all around understanding of the flux of publishing today...(Rumours of my assimilation are greatly exaggerated...)

Lynda Young has a useful post to help you control the chaos in your life so you can get some writing done. (Make it so!)

In the craft section
A great post on restraining yourself from putting in huge amounts of sensory detail.

Joel has a handy list of tips to check if your MS is ready for publication...this is fine detail stuff folks and good to remind yourself to check before hitting send

Larry Brooks gives another perspective in writing scenes for you to try.

Writer Unboxed puts the spotlight on using strengthan your writing.

Querytracker has five ways to polish up your manuscript so it shines...start by reading it backwards....

To finish,

Funny, informative and something to pass on to any writer you know...
Engage Warp Speed People!

(written wearing my new mittens so my cold hands can feel the keyboard...Star Trek quotes coz the kids are on holiday and we need a bit of fun in this cold weather.)
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