Friday, December 23, 2011

The Paris Wife

Like many of you, I'm off visiting relatives. Recently, my mom recommended The Paris Wife by Paula McLain so, of course, I read it. I enjoyed this quite a bit. It's the story of Ernest Hemingway's first wife Hadley Richardson. McLain does a really nice job getting inside the head of her protagonist; it's almost a stream-of-consciousness narrative. As a writer, however, the really fascinating thing here is seeing how all kinds of famous writers like Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein and many others operated. Hemingway basically threw caution to the wind and wrote full-time, and he did so for years before achieving recognition. How many of us are lucky enough to be supported by our spouses while we spend week after week, month after month, year after year, writing full-time with little to no success? That Hadley is a hero if you ask me; without her we probably wouldn't have some (any?) Hemingway classics.

Hemingway's story is a good motivator, despite it's sad ending. People that follow their dreams do sometimes achieve them! If he can write night and day despite barely having enough money for rent and food, surely I can write while I'm on holiday...

Happy Writing!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

another new blogger!

Here at Seton Hill Writers, we're pleased to announce another new blogger joining our ranks!

I think Fran Van Cleave has agreed to step onboard. Fran has been publishing science fiction since the 1990s and is a member of SFWA. I'm not sure what all she'd like to tell you about herself, but I will say: Fran was awarded a Master of Arts in Writing Popular Fiction in June of 2011. Maybe she'll tell us more...

Welcome, Fran!

Monday, December 19, 2011

character's voice

Voice is probably the most crucial thing for a writer to develop, and at the same time achieving it can seem very vague and amorphous. I blogged about this before V is for Voice, but I called it the writer's voice. I gave some intresting examples. I'd say Janet Evanovich has the strongest writer's voice of the authors I read. You can tell immediately when you read one of her stories. ;)


Over at Sisters of the Quill, they wrote recently about The Power of an Outrageous Voice and they made a very good point. The voice belongs to the character. Every character should have their own voice. An author who does this well is Charlaine Harris; all her series have totally different voices. You wouldn't mix up Sookie Stackhouse with Aurora Teagarden or with Lily Bard!

I'm off to work on my character's voice...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Tip from My Grandfather's Writer Friend

I thought I’d start off blogging for Seton Hill Writers with a bit of wisdom that’s helped me. My father has a lot of sayings. Some of them have proven helpful. Some not so helpful. But this particular one was passed down from my grandfather, and it sticks in my head every time I sit down at the keyboard. To me this means that it’s good enough to share with my fellow writers. So here goes.
             My grandfather was in the film business in Los Angeles during the silent movie era. (This goes along with my advice; I promise. Hang with me for a second.) He had three movie studios, was in a few of the Three Stooges flicks, and produced a slew of others. He did pretty well for himself until the talkies hit…and then the show was over for him. But in the process, he made some pretty interesting friends. One of them was John Steinbeck--author of such works as Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.
             When I started seriously thinking about writing, my father reminded me of this particular quote. He spouted it often during my childhood when I was writing papers and struggling with where to start.
              “Aileen,” he’d say. “You have to do what Steinbeck said. ‘Write for the waste paper basket!’"
             As a kid, this would frustrate me. I’d want to scream at him, “How is that going to help me get my history paper done?” It wasn’t until much later that I realized the value in the saying and fully appreciated the person who said it.
             Writing is hard. If you’re anything like me, a blank page ties your stomach in knots. The blinking cursor on a white screen is the bane of my existence, mocking me with each passing moment.
              What if it’s terrible? What if I suck? Why am I even trying?
              The John Steinbeck gave my grandfather permission to suck. He even admitted that he sucked at first too. He threw pages fresh off his typewriter into the garbage. So, it’s okay if little ole me sucks today. If I end up throwing everything from the day away, I’m doing no worse than one of the great authors.
             To my fellow writers I say, do as John Stienbeck did: Write for the waste paper basket!
            Because writing is a journey, and it often starts out a little rocky. But you have to keep writing. Eventually, those pages won’t be for the waste paper basket. They’ll be for saving, building upon, and sharing with the world.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Card on fiction

In preparation for Orson Scott Card's 2008 novel Ender in Exile, I reread Ender's Game (1985). Ender's Game is a very good novel, which I'll discuss at a later date. Here, I want to focus on comments Card made in the Introduction:
  • In science fiction ... the whole point is that the ideas are fresh and startling and intriguing; you imitate the great ones, not by rewriting their stories, but rather by creating stories that are just as startling and new.
  • I knew it was a strong story because I cared about it and believed in it.
  • [I]n writing Ender's Game I deliberately avoided all the little literary games and gimmicks that make "fine" writing so impenetrable to the general audience. ...My goal was that the reader wouldn't have to be trained in literature or even in science fiction to receive the tale in its simplest, purest form. ...If everybody came to agree that stories should be told this clearly, the professors of literature would be out of a job, and the writers of obscure, encoded fiction would be, not honored, but pitied for their impenetrability.
  • Ender's Game disturbs some people because it challenges their assumptions about reality.
  • Why we read fiction, anyway? ...I think that most of you, anyway, read these stories that we know are not "true" because we're hungry for another kind of truth: They mythic truth about human nature in general, the particular truth about those life-communities that define our own identity, and the most specific truth of all: our own self-story. Fiction, because it is not about somebody who actually lived in the real world, always has the possibility of being about ourself.
  • [R]eaders have placed themselves inside this story, not as spectators, but as participants... This is the essence of the transaction between storyteller and audience. The "true" story is not the one that exists in my mind.... The story in my mind is nothing but a hope; the text of the story is the tool I created in order to make that hope a reality. The story itself, the true story, is the one that the audience members create in their minds, guided and shaped by my text, but then transfomred, elucidated, expanded, edited, and clarified by their own experience, their own desires, their own hopes and fears.
  • The story is one that you and I will construct together in your memory. If the story means anything to you at all, then when you remember it afterward, think of it, not as something I created, but rather as something that we made together.

Wow. A lot of food for thought here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

new blogger!

Here at Seton Hill Writers, we're pleased to announce a new blogger joining our ranks!

Aileen Latcham was born and raised in Houston, Texas. After receiving her
Bachelor of Science in Radio–Television–Film from the University of Texas
at Austin, Aileen moved to Los Angeles and worked in editorial houses that
specialized in commercials. After a few years, she found her love of
writing and continued her education at Seton Hill University in Greensburg,
PA. Aileen will be awarded a Master of Fine Arts of Writing Popular
Fiction in January of 2012.

Welcome, Aileen!

Monday, December 12, 2011

cut yourself some slack

Ugh. Clearly Monday has gotten away from me.
In preparation for my holiday, I updated all my current projects taking into account comments from my critique partners. That took a while. My plan was then to print everything out in hard copy so I can get a fresh perspective on said projects and bring them with me on vacation. That took a very long while what with all the formatting issues, proofreading, etc. I'm still not quite done.

Factor in there, I got yet another story rejection this afternoon, and my writing day doesn't feel so productive.
I'm sure you all can relate. :(

But, as part of my New Month's Resolutions, I'm not supposed to feel guilty about such things. So, I'm going to cut myself some slack. I hope you do the same when you find yourself in similar circumstances.
Tomorrow is another day...

Friday, December 9, 2011

a book on every bed

Advice columnist Ask Amy is advocating "A Book on Every Bed" campaign again this year. This is a grassroots literacy campaign which she started with the Family Reading Partnership (, to foster a new generation of readers. The idea is put put a million books at the foot of a million beds for a million children on Christmas morning. You can read more about it in various papers including The Washington Post.

What an awesome idea!

Count me in! How about you? :)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

pricing e-books

Many of you have been debating the pros and cons of e-publishing your books yourself. Author Elle Lothlorien has a fascinating guest post over at Joe Konrath's blog: "Why Your Novel is a Tall, 6-Pump Vanilla, Breve Latte Grande, Extra Hot, Heavy Whipping Cream, Extra Dry Cappuccino (Or It Should Be)". Her research showed when she priced her novel The Frog Prince at $5.99 she sold more copies than when she priced it at $2.99! Wowsa. Apparently customers expected a better book at that price and so perceived it was a better book, or something like that. :)

Joe Konrath chimes in at the end and says he's researched pricing and $3.99 to $4.99 seem to be generally reasonable prices. He recommends trying pricing your ebooks higher and seeing what happens. :)

I'm tempted to do the experiment myself. How about you?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Congratulations grads!

Today is a very special day for some of my fellow students: our last MFA assignment ever is due! So, after today, that will be it; we're done. We'll have fulfilled our obligations for our degree. (Okay, except for a little thing called a defense.) W00t! Huzzah!!

So, here's to Carla, MaryAnn, Jenny, Haleigh, Aileen, Anne, Kathleen, Aleasa and Serena. Congratulations!

Friday, December 2, 2011

rethinking book tours

The Wall Street Journal had a really interesting article this week: "Rethinking the Familiar Book Tour". Is the traditional book tour in which an author reads his/her work becoming a relic of the past? Certainly folks' attention span is much shorter than it used to be. As a reader, I'm not sure I'd miss these traditional readings. They can be a bit dull, even when I really enjoy the work. As a writer, I'm not sure I'd miss these traditional readings. They can be a bit dull, even when I really enjoy the work. :) Besides, I can joke around and give a powerpoint presentation with the best of them!

What do you think? Should book tours/readings change? To what?