Posts made in September, 2017


I first came across Kathleen O’Dell’s work during a period of infatuation with silhouette covers, which to me seemed (and seem) perfectly whimsical, creepy, and enticing. Add a mysterious mansion, hyper-intelligent birds, and the ghostly influence of a magician, and you have a perfect mix of the spooky and magical. Kathleen has written a number of other books for young readers as well (I encourage you to check out the full list on her Goodreads page, linked to below). I was excited to chat with her about her experience writing and publishing–and was especially interested to hear how she overcame some early, and completely unwarranted, discouragement.   1. What is some of the best advice you’ve received about writing? This advice is from Ernest Hemingway, and it helped me cope with my fear of long-form writing: “The most important thing I’ve learned about writing is never write too much at a time… Never pump yourself dry. Leave a little for the next day. The main thing is to know when to stop. Don’t wait till you’ve written yourself out. When you’re still going good and you come to an interesting place and you know what’s going to happen next, that’s the time to stop. Then leave it alone and don’t think about it; let your subconscious mind do the work.” I was afraid I would run out of gas or lose my place if I attempted to write every day for months on end. When you save a little juice for the next day, you start with a push that sparks your imaginative engine. You live to chug away yet another day.   2. What is some of the worst advice you’ve received about writing? Before I was published, I once attended a writing group where I presented the beginning pages of a novel. Up until that time, I had been devoted to writing poetry and approached novel writing with trepidation. I’ve forgotten the piece I brought, but I’m sure those first pages weren’t very strong. The writer hosting the group took me aside afterward to advise me that unless I wanted to write and publish a novel more than any single thing on earth, I really should not to continue. The pursuit of publication would only break my heart. I was wary enough of attempting a novel already, so I listened and kept flogging away, writing poetry that attracted some interest here and there but was always ultimately rejected. I had become tired, bitter and more than a little hopeless. That’s when I broke through and realized, “Hey, my heart is already broken. Can’t get much worse. Why...

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As far as titles go, I’m not sure there are many better than Carol Plum-Ucci’s The Body of Christopher Creed. It’s so simple, and so evocative–all the more because the body, in that story, is missing. I first read The Body of Christopher Creed years ago, but the story has stuck with me. That’s why I was so excited to ask Carol these questions about writing and publishing. And, at the end of the post, you’ll find a number of different ways to connect with Carol and follow what she’s up to.   1. What is some of the best advice you’ve received about writing/publishing?  The best advice was from Steven King’s book On Writing. It read something like, “Don’t listen to all the ta-do about how hard it is to get published. It may be hard. But there is always room for those who are talented.”   2. What is some of the worst advice you’ve received about writing/publishing?  The worst advice was all, “Ooooooo…. you’re gonna have to work so hard. Oooooooo….it’s so hard. Ooooooo…you have to be a rocket scientist.” All that negative energy. It may be true that for every 10,000 manuscripts that enter New York, one will be bound. However, I love to break that figure down: Eliminate the thousand people who don’t know how to follow directions and present manuscripts in fancy typefaces, single spaced. Eliminate another thousand who splice three commas on the first page. Eliminate the thousand who can’t use a search engine and don’t know how to find the right sort of agent. Eliminate the thousand who don’t know how to write a covering letter that hasn’t made them and their work sound like the center of the universe. Eliminate those who blow the story in the final third (that’s all the newbees who want to ‘wait to see if it sells’ before trying another). Eliminate all those people who think they have been abducted by aliens (not that maybe they haven’t, but the American psyche isn’t open to certain things, and you have to have a feel for what they are). Eliminate all those who haven’t read in their own market, so they don’t know where their work fits in. Eliminate all those who write a book and THEN ask “what market does this fit?” (Fiction writers are servants; we serve markets. The markets only serve us if we understand them and serve them first). After eliminating all those who are not serious or who are given to massive brain farts, your chances are about one in 200. That’s not bad! Do it five times, and you’re in.   3....

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If you love creepy tales involving haunted locations, mysterious characters, and some VERY terrifying dolls, you have to check out Frozen Charlotte. Alex Bell’s YA horror is creepy all the way through, and it’s one that I recommend to anyone looking for a new story in this genre. Bonus? Today marks the release of Alex Bell’s prequel to Frozen Charlotte, Charlotte Says:   I had the privilege of asking Alex a couple of questions about her journey as a writer, included below. At the end of the post, you’ll find a number of different ways you can connect with or follow Alex and her latest work!   1. What is some of the best advice you’ve received about writing/publishing? How did it help you? I think the best advice I ever got was from my dad. He always said to me that the key to getting published was persistence and that you just had to keep going and working hard whenever you received a setback. It helped me get into the right mindset from the very beginning and not just expect that everything would come straight away, or easily. 2. What is some of the worst advice you’ve received about writing/publishing? Why wasn’t it good advice for you and what did you learn instead? When I was a teenager I emailed one of my favourite authors to say how much I’d enjoyed reading their books and that I’d like to be a writer myself one day. In their reply they advised me not to start writing until I was at least 40 as you needed to wait until you had stuff to say. Obviously I totally ignored this and wrote my first published book, The Ninth Circle, when I was 19. I think teenagers have just as much to say as anyone else and there is no point waiting to start. 3. What is one resource (whether it’s a writing tool, book discovery tool, community forum, etc.) that you think is valuable for writers that not everyone may know about? I really like StoryWorld Cards for brainstorming and workshops. They’re available on Amazon. (Psst–here’s a link to a pack that I found on Amazon if you’re interested. -Stephanie) 4. What is something that surprised you about your career path? It was easier to get published for the first time than I had expected but it was also much harder to *continue* to be published than I had ever imagined it would be. 5. What is one book–fiction or nonfiction–that you would recommend writers pick up? I love Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brand, as well as Writing Down the...

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