Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Breaking The Fourth Wall

Just yesterday I was talking with a YA librarian about the strangle hold first- person narrators have on children's books. Then this morning I learned that Monica Edinger has a post at Educating Alice called Thought on Newbery: Third Person Omniscient Narration. In it she discusses third-person narrators that she describes as characters or "third person narrators who insert themselves occasionally into the reader’s consciousness." If you follow her referrals to other posts, you'll get to her own Whatchamacallit Narrators and The Personalities of Intrusive Narrators at Fuse #8 Production.

I don't recall the intrusive narrating in The Golden Compass, which Monica mentions somewhere along the line. And I liked the second The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place book, a series Betsy Bird mentions at Fuse #8, very much, though I never got a chance to blog about it. However, while I'm sure there are other exceptions, as a general rule, I am not a fan of the intrusive narrator.

I think of intrusive narrators as being the literary equivalent of breaking the fourth wall in television programs, something else I'm not a fan of. I want the illusion that the fictional world is a real one that I have entered and am experiencing somehow, even though there is no pretence that I'm a character. Breaking the fourth wall and speaking to me directly destroys that for me. If the characters in the fictional world know I'm there, then they know they're not part of a real world, right?

While I'm reading that book or watching that TV show, I want the characters to believe in themselves and not me.

Now, this is not to say I will never use an intrusive narrator. I would just need an incredibly compelling reason that I can't even imagine right now.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Good Press For Daughter Of Smoke And Bone

Laini Taylor's name is one I recall from my blog reading, so when I saw it appear in one of last month's EWs, I paused to see what was going on. The magazine gave Laini's new book, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, an excellent review.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

M.T. Anderson In Willi

M.T. Anderson will be speaking this Tuesday at Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic, Connecticut. The presentation and book signing will be held at the Student Union Theater from 5:30 to 7:00.

Evidently Anderson is doing a three-day residency at Eastern this week.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Oh, Look. I Finally Read A Children's Book.

This fall I reread several of the Chrestomanci books, but the only new children's book I've read is The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall. I was a big fan of the two earlier Penderwick novels. This one...not so much.

I think the problem here for me was that the story wasn't as tight as it was in the first two books. Book one was a sort of modern Little Women. Book two was all about children dealing with a single parent who is taking an interest in members of the opposite sex. For a long time it was hard to tell what Point Mouette was about. It seemed like just a rambling vacation story. Breaking up the sisters weakened the situation, too. It may have been realistic, but shouldn't a Penderwicks book be about the Penderwicks? All of them? And while I found the dramatic reveal at the end of the book dramatic, I also found it far-fetched.

Check out Ms. Yingling's rant on Penderwick-like books, as well as the comments that followed. The Penderwicks at Point Mouette is a Cybils nominee.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Those NESCBWI Blogs I Was Talking About

Over two weeks ago I announced my plan to visit all the New England Society of Children's Book Writer and Illustrator blogs listed at the organization's website. And here I am finally getting to a couple more.

I sort of know Jeannine Atkins (we're Facebook "friends"), who blogs at Views From a Window Seat. Hers is another blog that portrays a person living a real writer's life. She submits, she teaches, she attends literary festivals. And you can read about all that activity at Window Seat.

Nandini Bajpai has published short form work, which interests me, since I dabble in that kind of writing, myself. Interesting material from her recent posts: her experience with NaNoWriMo and her part in what she describes as a "Big Fat Indian Wedding."

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Looking Forward

Okay, the prep work for the holiday is over, the food has been eaten and the leftovers put away. Some guests are gone, while others are visiting in-laws and will be back for a little more shmoozing.

I just spent a nice half hour flat on my back on the couch reading the latests SCBWI Bulletin. I've either not been working at all or have been barely working since the end of August, when we experienced an elder health crisis. I didn't expect to get started writing until the beginning of the year, but I did think that by this point I'd be doing more professional reading than I've been able to do.

This was my first week with just three days of elder visits. I still ended up spending some of my "free" days on eldercare business, and then there was Thanksgiving, which, though one of my favorite holidays, is certainly a timesuck. Next week, though...

I'm fantasizing about a book of essays, catching up on blog reading, looking at the Cybils nominations. It really doesn't take a lot to make me happy.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Here's Something About Annie Barrows That I Didn't Know

Annie Barrows is the author of my favorite young girl series, Ivy and Bean. A couple of days ago, I learned that she is also the co-author of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. How did that get by me? That book has been making ripples for a while.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Another Something Came Up

I've been working a few hours a week trying to revise an essay for submission to a journal that accepts submissions only three times a year. We're in the midst of one of its two-week acceptance periods. It ends on Tuesday, so it was going to be a crunch to try to make it.

Then I lost a couple of hours today because a family member died unexpectedly, though not really. And it's not one of the elders we've been dealing with for years, either. It's another, not quite so elder.

So I'm calling it quits on the essay because Uncle Bob and his family certainly deserve whatever time and energy I would have put into writing the next couple of days. The essay will still be here when the next submission period comes around.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Yes! I Am Getting Stronger!

Every time I pass by an Internet headline like Nancy Grace's Weight Loss or Prince William to be Deployed, I if I have a normal IQ.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

More Blogs!

The New England Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators has a new (as of mid-October) resource page listing member blogs. Some of these blogs are already familiar to me, but others are new. Though I recently said that I'm going to cut back on my blog reading, I want to check all these blogs out.

I'm starting with Kristine Carlson Asselin's Writing. For Real because NESCBWI lists the blogs in alphabetical order by author and Kristine's blog comes first. Kristine writes both fiction and nonfiction, and she is quite industrious with her blog, doing both interviews and reviews, writing about book launches, and recently taking part in a blog ring. Oh! And she has published short stories and belongs to a critique group. Her blog really portrays a person who is living a writer's life.

Okay, we'll see how long it takes me to get to the next blog.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

A Little Catching Up

I nearly missed a couple of events.

The Connecticut Children's Book Fair is this weekend. I had hoped to go see Jack D. Ferraiolo on Sunday, but that's not going to happen. Others should go to the Fair, though. Either day. Any time.

The nomination period for The Cybils is over for this year. When I have more time, I'll go over the nominated titles. If you have time, do it now.

Distorting Truth

I've been thinking of giving a copy of one of my books to a therapist who is working with our ill family member, to give her an idea of what said family member was like decades ago. Except, of course, she wasn't like the woman I wrote about in this way and that way and a couple of other ways. So what would I say to the therapist when I give her the book? "Except for A,B,C, and D you can see what she was like back in her thirties, but she wasn't really like that a couple of decades later"?

I just read this post by Karen Russell at The Orion Blog. Russell is the author of Swamplandia, which I've been thinking about reading because it's an adult book with a child main character, and I'm always interested in how that happens. What's the difference between an adult book with a child main character and a children's book?

But that's not the point today.

Russell begins her post with Whenever I’m asked about the ratio of the real to the fantastic in my work, I will shamelessly plagiarize Flannery O’Connor, who said, “The truth is not distorted here, but rather a distortion is used to get at truth.” I struggle with this whole idea of "the truth" of fiction. I'm more interested in theme and story then some concept of the truth of fiction. But I like this idea of distorting the truth of a writer's experience to support theme and story.

So perhaps I will give the book to the therapist with a note that the reality of our lives was distorted to support the story.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

I'm Beginning To Think About Writing Again

I'm not just thinking about my own writing. I'm thinking about other writers' writing. Perhaps I'm thinking about writing in a global sort of way. (I was thinking about the word global today, too.)

A couple of days ago I finished reading a book of short stories that had sat in my To Read heap for a few years. It was written by an author I've liked in the past. His work has always been very elegant and witty.

Now, some authorities on the short story will tell you that a short story should show some kind of change in the protagonist. In the past I haven't always been a big fan of that theory. I've liked writing what I called "slice-of-life" stories. They would often be more like studies of a character or a situation rather than about something happening to someone as Rust Hills says in Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular. They rarely sold.

Well, in the book I was reading, the author's writing was, as usual, elegant and witty. But story after story left me feeling that there was no story there. Lots of character. Lots of situation. Lots of not much point. And a lot of the reason that there wasn't much point, I think, was that even when something happened to the protoganist (always a middle aged man in the throes of some kind of angst), it didn't change him.

As a result of this reading experience, I'm going to have to rethink years of work sitting gathering dust in my cellar.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Well, I'm Mortified

I am myself because I can't juggle more balls or even juggle the ones I do juggle very well. I do try to know myself, accept my limitations, and move on, but when I hear of others who are coping with far bigger problems than I am and doing so with good grace, at the very least, I do feel chagrined.

Lita Judge, who I heard speak about year and a half ago, has a new book, Red Sled, coming out this month. However, she's been sick for at least nine months and won't be able to do much to promote it.

At least I'm dealing with other people's health problems and not my own. Man up, Gail!

It's hard to describe how difficult it is for writers, or probably for all people who create/produce anything, to go through all the effort to get from idea to end result and then find that's it because they can't do the next step of getting attention for what they've done. And to have that happen because of something so outside your control, like an illness, which you have to cope with on top of your professional struggles, compounds the frustration.