Friday, March 24, 2006

It's That Time Again

Yes, boys and girls, the first week of April is coming up soon, and that means Buy A Friend A Book Week is almost here.

I know I'm supposed to buy a friend a book for no good reason, but I'm using the next Buy a Friend a Book Week as an excuse to contact a friend I haven't seen much of lately. That's cheating, I suppose, but I'll still be buying a book.

I'm not sure, but it looks to me as if the Buy a Friend a Book site has yet to recommend a children's or YA book for purchase during BYAB. So I will recommend the books I've purchased for BYAB over the past half year: Whales on Stilts by M. T. Anderson and Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins.

This time around I think I might buy A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb.

Yes, I Did It

This morning I did three repetitions of circuit training while listening to The Guardian's conversation with Kazuro Ishiguro, author of the Alex Award winning Never Let Me Go.

For those of you who aren't up to lifting weights for thirty-nine minutes while listening to this interview, here are a few interesting points:

1. Ishiguro made three attempts to write the book over a period of nine years. That was music to this writer's ears.

2. Many readers feel the book has a mystery element. The author finds this surprising.

3. Many readers wonder why the characters in the book didn't make an effort to avoid their fate. I wondered about that, too. Especially since we see the characters grow through adolescence, a period when people reject a whole lot less benign things. Ishiguro said he didn't want to write a book that was a metaphor for slavery, which he was afraid would be the result of a revolt on the part of his characters. In addition, the characters' fate is a fate that comes to everyone at some point. Everyone else accepts it. (More or less, actually.) And, finally, Ishiguro said he doesn't think an author needs to explain why to everything. Some situations can just be presented as accepted by the characters in the world the author has created.

Myself, I'm a big why person. I have to address why in any book I write. However, Never Let Me Go is so good, I was able to accept the situation as the author presented it.

A Bog is Not a Web Site

The most recent SCBWI Bulletin includes an article called Blogging: What, Why & How For Writers by Michele Regenold. While Ms. Regenold is right that blogs are great places for unpublished writers to actually do some writing, she also suggests that published writers can use them to tell visitors about "a writer's work, upcoming events, a writer's thoughts on his or her own work, etc."

I've noticed some writers using blogs or livejournals instead of web sites recently, so Regenold is reporting on something that is actually happening. I think using a blog in that way, though, is a major mistake. A traditional web site communicates that kind of information much, much better and faster than a blog.

The reason an author wants a presence on the web is to do just what Regenold talks about in her article. Visitors to author web sites are looking for information. Is this the Gail Gauthier who wrote Saving the Planet & Stuff or some other Gail Gauthier? What's the book about? Has she written anything else I'd be interested in? Has she written anything that's available on the Internet, and are there links to it here?

Assuming any of that information were available in my blog, a reader would have to hunt through hundreds of posts looking for it. And no reader would do that. If the visitor leaves without getting the information she was looking for, I may have very well lost a reader for my book(s).

At a web site, however, (at least at a good one) that information should be laid out in an orderly way so that readers can find what they're looking for quickly. There are masses of things competing for their attention. If they can't find what they need right away, they are completely justified in giving up and doing something else.

It's all about communication. If you have information you really need to get out to people, you want to present the information in such a way that they actually can get it. If I tell you guys about something here in my blog that I really need people to hear about, I repeat it on the homepage to my web site where they can find it immediately.

One way to keep clear the difference between and functions of web sites and blogs: A web site is about fact. A web log is about opinion.

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