Tuesday, December 11, 2012

TED Talk Tuesday: Malcolm Gladwell Talks About CHOICE, HAPPINESS, and SPAGHETTI SAUCE

Today's TED talk, by author Malcolm Gladwell, is lengthy but worth the watch. I find his reasoning to be spot-on for helping me create a healthy querying mindset. He's not talking about writing, either. He's talking about how his friend Howard Moscowitz systematically and scientifically studied what makes people passionate about food.

It's really hard to see our writing with professional detachment, but we all know our feelings about coffee, Pepsi, and spaghetti sauce.

It all comes down to taste.

Your manuscript cannot be the perfect Pepsi. There is no perfect Pepsi. There are only perfect Pepsis.

Intrigued? Watch and see why your book can't, and shouldn't, be loved by all your crit partners, all agents, the whole general public.

Take it away, Malcolm Gladwell!

Can't view Malcolm's talk: Choice, Happiness and Spaghetti Sauce? Watch it here.

My takeaways?

1. People don't know what they want, but it is our job as writers to give it to them anyway. :)

2. "There is no perfect mustard or imperfect mustard. There are only different kinds of mustards that suit different kinds of people." Once you have perfected your manuscript, there will be crit partners/agents/readers, who don't like it. It doesn't mean that your manuscript isn't awesome.

It may mean that your manuscript is old world tomato sauce, and that the people you have been showing it to prefer spaghetti sauce with tons of visible solids. :) Your job as a writer is to use all your clues to find the crit partners/agents/readers who prefer the taste of spaghetti sauce with visible solids and see what they think of your manuscript.

We don't have the time to create different versions of our manuscripts. So we need to be specific when we search for our audience.

I have to add a personal caveat here--and that's that I do find value in receiving a crit from someone who doesn't read in my genre. As long as I know their tastes going in, it is extremely useful to me to hear their feedback.

3. It's all about taste. I know this on some level and have been told this in different ways along my career. But comparing books to food REALLY brings this idea home to me. We need to study and embrace human variability--embrace the diversity--in order to find the fans which will love the taste of our book. I don't want to write a book which appeals in a mediocre way to all. I want to create a book which is loved by some.

So, what do you think? Does this idea make it easier to think, when facing a rejection from an agent, that that agent prefers the taste of Pepsi and your manuscript is a Coke?

(Of course we need to make sure our Coke is the best tasting Coke it can be.)

What are your takeaways from this TED talk? What do you do when you are faced with a crit from someone who clearly doesn't like your book? How do you find your true audience? How do you handle the querying process? How do you deal with the rejections?

I will be the first to admit that I love weak, milky coffee (preferably with a nutty flavor). 

I'm so hungry for some spaghetti smothered in garlic mushroom Prego sauce. I think I'll go make some. :)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Evolution of Community and Laura Tells Us How to Survive Ancient Spells and Crazy Kings

*dusting off the blog* *cough* 
Phew. :)

It's been a while since I blogged. I've missed hanging out here and in your virtual living rooms! Slowly, I'm going to get back into it. Being a part of this blogging community really supports me. 

And when I'm away, I'm plugged into other community--in this case, I circled the wagons of my crit partners. In my writing life, I'm putting the finishing touches on my revision and hoping to query shortly. Revision is an interesting beast for me, one which I am happily taming. This time around I needed to focus on that process and take a break from the blogging.

My writing community used to be chiefly blog-based. From this wonderful community, I found writers close to me in proximity and writers (in virtual proximity) willing to be AMAZING crit partners. Now I'm even looking for local writers to go in on office space, something similar to Writers' Room Boston, but unique and in the 'burbs. Give me a shout-out if you are interested--it's going to be a kick-butt community space. :) 

So, I apologize if I haven't been a part of your circle of support recently. I would love to know what you've been working on!

My good friend Laura Pauling has been very busy--her new book How to Survive Ancient Spells and Crazy Kings came out recently.

I'm so excited for Laura, I invited her here to tell us a little about why she chose to write a girl's adventure story. I love strong female characters, especially since #myboysreadgirlbooks.   (Oh, and #mygirlreadsboybooks.) Sometime those hashtags will CATCH ON. :)

Wait, I need to throw up a banner before Laura gets here. 
*getting out virtual glue* *standing on ladder* *sluurp*

There! It's official. :)
Welcome, Laura! Tell us a little about your book.
Published by Pugalicious Press
 When Bianca and Melvin brave the jungle to rescue their grandfather, they stumble upon the ancient Maya city of Etza, where the people haven’t aged in 2,000 years. They must learn to work together as they face loincloth-wearing skeletons from the underworld, a backstabbing princess, and an ancient prophecy that says in three days the city will be destroyed. No problem. They’ll find Zeb and zip right out of there. The fact that a crazy king wants to serve Bianca up to the gods as an appetizer is just a minor technicality. But this ancient evil dude has finally met his match. 

Writing adventure stories for girls. 

When I started writing, I had no desire to write a story about a girl in elementary school dealing with typical problems. Not that those aren’t needed or good books, but I saw a lack of books starring girls that struck out on adventure. Usually they’re the sidekick. Maybe that has to do with marketing. I’m sure there are reasons. Or maybe girls really do prefer reading about everyday life and struggles with their friendships. Not me. I long for adventure. I did as a reader too. That’s why I made a girl the main character in my time travel adventure. I truly believe boys will enjoy this story just as much. Bianca’s cousin, Melvin, accompanies her on her adventure, so I didn’t leave the boys out!

So how did I add girl power to the adventure?
  • Bianca discovers the clues about her missing grandfather.
  • In Tikal, an ancient Maya city, she’s the one to make the decision to sneak out at night.
  • She fights Maya skeletons from the underworld and cunning enemies that try and trick her every step of the way.
  • Together, Bianca and Melvin fight in an ancient battle.
  • And in the end, she faces death with no escape route.
But, she is a girl. Woo hoo! I carefully wove in details about friendships and the challenges of relationships. For Bianca to discover truth about friendships, she had to experience the adventure. I tried to balance the struggles of contemporary middle grade for girls but in the backdrop of a time travel adventure. Hope you enjoy it!

Thanks, Heather, for having me today!

How To Survive Ancient Spells and Crazy Kings released in November. Pugalicious Press did a fantastic job, and I’m extremely happy with the results. This book would make a fantastic gift for boys or girls who enjoy adventure stories with lots of excitement! You can purchase it on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. You can read the first chapter here. Thankfully, my journey is just beginning and I’m excited to see where it leads. Click here for the list of blog tour stops! Enter to win these prize packages!

Prize Package One (signed paperbacks)

Prize Package Two (signed paperbacks)

Prize Package Three

  Refresh the page if you can't see the Rafflecopter form! a Rafflecopter giveaway

You're welcome, Laura! The book sounds fascinating--one that I am sure I (and my boys and girl) will love.

So, make sure to enter Laura's giveaway, and check out her other blog tour stops.

I know Laura first from blogging, and second from NESCBWI, and her blog is a must-read. She analyzes the how-to of writing in wonderfully enlightening ways. And she is kind and supportive. If you want to read more about behind-the-scenes-Laura, I interviewed her way back in 2010.

So, what have you been up to recently? Please let me know. And if you want to link to a blog post about it in the comments, I'll be sure to stop by and say hello! Do you crave office space in order to write? What works for you? Do your #boysreadgirlbooks? Have I asked enough questions yet? :)