Tuesday, March 14, 2006


My students are working on multi-genre research papers. I stumbled on the idea while reading Tom Romano's Writing with Passion (which is geared toward teachers, but I found very liberating as a writer as well). Basically, instead of researching then puking the facts onto a page--a project guarenteed to be boring to write and boring to grade--they will create five or more shorter works in genres of their choosing, so long as information on the subject is portrayed and reserach on the topic is evident. Naturally, we will be testing out several genres over the coming weeks. Currently, we are working on dialogue.
There's a hitch.
Why, when all the authors out there can quote the Turkey City Lexicon or Elmore Leonard, and tell folks that 'said' is the invisible word and the only thing needed as a dialogue tag, area ll the teachers telling kids to avoid 'overuse' of the word by using billions of synonyms.
When I tell my kids that they should use said 99% of the time, they think I'm nuts. (My 1% exception is using 'whispered' occasionally). Un-teaching is much harder than teach, believe me.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Head over heels in love

The tech gooroo/media center master of my school is always happy to pass new poetry collections on to me (I could spend all year having students study and write different form of poetry. I love the experimentation, the variation, the freedom . . .) Friday he brought me Jazz ABZ by Wynton Marsalis.

It is absolutely incredible. He goes through the alphabet with jazz musicians: Count Basis, Sachmo, Coltrane, Duke Ellington . . . I've long loved anything 1920's (I hate that I'm large-chested, because I love the whole flapper style). And jazz, oh, baby, jazz. It's already on my list of books to buy and authors to keep an eye out for.

Someday, I want to write a historical fantasy set in the 1920's. People always cite Lovecraft when I mention this, but my style and his are worlds apart. I just don't want to write it yet. I've written what I consider to be a good book. I think the next one will be better. I want what I write for the 20's to be the cherry on top of everything. I don't feel ready for it yet.

In the meantime, a hearty thanks to Wynton Marsalis.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Barnes & Noble, you oughtta be ashamed

This past weekend, my mother and I stopped by Barnes & Noble. Mom wanted another book by her favorite author. I was looking for Ann Rassios's Godquake, which they didn't have. At the checkout counter, Mom asked the checker how a new author goes about getting noticed: we had just spent over an hour looking through the sci-fi/fantasy section, and I was less than chipper.

The clerk talked about book signings, advance copies, and such, and then handed Mom a slick flyer with the announcement "Get published now" blazoned across the front. She passed it onto me; I glanced at the iUniverse lable at the bottom and resisted blurting out, "This is a vanity publisher or something. This isn't my idea of publishing." (At this point, I'm sure somone will come out the woodwork announcing that THEY published through a vanity publisher and everything is peachy, but hey.) I didn't want to cause a scene--I'm not good at real life scenes, only fictional ones.

On the inside of the brochure, a double spread says that , "Barnes and Noble is opening its doors to the very best iUniverse authors." Open it again and there are testimonials from Natasha Munson, Sharon Boorstin and Gary Marino along with the steps needed to publish your book now. (tempting so far, isn't it?)

Step one: Publish your book for an introductory rate of only $999 Now, I can't be ceartain, but I'm pretty sure that I haven't spent $1000 worth of paper, stamps or time on sending queries yet, so I'll stick to what I'm doing.

Step two: When you earn Publisher's Choice, iUniverse will present your book and marketing plan to the appropriate B&N buyer. So how is this better than getting an agent, getting an editor and having the publishing house market it to the best B&N buyer? I was watching publishers very carefully in the store, and I didn't see iUniverse on anything

Step three: You book will appear on the Trade Paperback New Release table in the high traffic area at the front of B&N for a minimun of 60 days. Appear, like magic,huh? Good thing I write fantasy.

The rest is up to you the brochure proclaims.

The only thing left is the small print on the back. Publishing packages range from $299 to $1099. Some include cover design, or even a cover design evaluation and a "tune-up" of the promotional text on the back cover. "A great choice for authors who want their book to be a serious contender in today's competative publishing environment."

They also offer editorial services "at an affordable price" and claim to "offer the most comprehensive range of marketing and publicity products avaliable from any publishing services provider."

I need to go lie down. I'm feeling faint. It could have been the nachos, but I doubt it.