Making Your Story “Less Lame”

George Saunders wrote the following paragraphs in the Guardian and I’m posting it here to remind us all how writing is all about re-writing. And how important it is to edit your own work rather than just assuming that the first draft is the final draft just because it’s written down. And how to add specific details to really delve into the minds of the characters.

(It’s not kid lit related, but relevant nonetheless.)

… “When I write, “Bob was an a**hole,” and then, feeling this perhaps somewhat lacking in specificity, revise it to read, “Bob snapped impatiently at the barista,” then ask myself, seeking yet more specificity, why Bob might have done that, and revise to, “Bob snapped impatiently at the young barista, who reminded him of his dead wife,” and then pause and add, “who he missed so much, especially now, at Christmas,” – I didn’t make that series of changes because I wanted the story to be more compassionate. I did it because I wanted it to be less lame.

But it is more compassionate. Bob has gone from “pure a**hole” to “grieving widower, so overcome with grief that he has behaved ungraciously to a young person, to whom, normally, he would have been nice”. Bob has changed. He started out a cartoon, on which we could heap scorn, but now he is closer to “me, on a different day”.

How was this done? Via pursuit of specificity. I turned my attention to Bob and, under the pressure of trying not to suck, my prose moved in the direction of specificity, and in the process my gaze became more loving toward him (ie, more gentle, nuanced, complex), and you, dear reader, witnessing my gaze become more loving, might have found your own gaze becoming slightly more loving, and together (the two of us, assisted by that imaginary grouch) reminded ourselves that it is possible for one’s gaze to become more loving.” …

To read the full article, go HERE .

 

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Wannabes

There are a lot of wannabes out there.

And Maybe if I had the time…

And Someday I’ll…

I’ve talked to quite a few people lately who say that they’ve always wanted to write a children’s book. That they have a story inside them. But that’s where it ends. They talk about it, think about it, complain about it, dream about it — but don’t DO it.

Why not?

Fear about not being good enough? Fear that they don’t know how? Fear of feeling silly or stupid or dumb?

There is really only one way to get over all of those anxieties.

Use the immortal words of Nike. Put the fears to rest. Just do it.

And yes, you might feel stupid, and yes you might think your story is dumb. But nobody starts out perfect. And to be honest, nobody ends up perfect either. I have nearly fifty children’s book manuscripts that I’ve started — thinking they were amazing ideas — and then realised that some plot detail didn’t work, or the story had been written before and wasn’t unique, or I just fell out of love with the idea.

These are not failures. I might return to some of those manuscripts in the future, or use bits of them in other stories. But if I hadn’t written them down I would have nothing.

Don’t have nothing.

Get those stories down on paper. Out of your head. Crap or not.

(The mantra above my desk is a not-so-child-friendly Anne Lamott quote: “Sh*tty first drafts.”)

Stop being a wannabe and start being a writer. And maybe nothing will happen with those stories –you’ll put them in your desk where they’ll languish for years. Or maybe something wonderful will happen, and you’ll be reading your books to your grandkids someday. But you’ll never know unless you get out that pencil or quill or keyboard and write it down.

Just do it.

 

I Had Dinner with Beyoncé

OK, not really, that is actual FAKE NEWS. I did sit at a table near her at a restaurant once, but I doubt she remembers.

But now that I’ve got your attention, I want to tell you about my upcoming BOOK LAUNCH!

Since we’re being honest here, it’s not technically a launch, as the book came out in January, but it’s as big a party as this wee picture book is going to get, so if you’ll afford me a little creative license…

Next Tuesday, here in Glorious Blighty (oxymoron anyone?) This Is a Serious Book will be thrust into the hands of its adoring public (that’s you people!)

There will be cake! There will be party games! Most importantly, there will be wine! I take that back (not the wine part, there will be wine, don’t worry), but MOST IMPORTANTLY it will be the culmination of 3 years’ wait from conception to birth of a 32-page bouncing baby book. (And let me tell you, 3 years is a long time to be pregnant with anything!)

So this launch has been a long-time-comin’ as they say. But it almost. didn’t. happen. Twice. The first time because the publisher that accepted the manuscript went out of business, but that’s a story for another time. The second time it almost didn’t happen because I didn’t make it happen. That’s the story I want to tell here.

The (second) publisher of This Is a Serious Book is a lovely, independent publishing company that graciously accepted the book that fell in their laps after the first publisher dissolved. But truth be told, this book was never going to be their money-maker. So after a few advanced copies were sent to reviewers and a nice tweet from the publisher on the day it hit the shelves, the publicity basically stopped.

Now I wasn’t naïve to the fact that this was going to happen. I’ve read enough about the publishing industry to be well aware that most books get a polite nod from the marketing department and are then relegated to the has-been department. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

So this is the part where I had to make it happen. (It being anything.) Here’s where I get all “Lean In” on you:

  • I had a chat with my local bookstore owner and she was keen to host a party for a local author (win-win for both of us).
  • I decided for a late-afternoon/evening party that would be kid-friendly rather than a weekend-morning ‘reading’, because let’s be honest, it’s the parents that buy the books. And parents like wine.
  • We chose a date and I contacted the marketing department of my publisher to let them know. They were excited and offered to put up the money for said wine. (Hooray!)
  • I sent them all the details and their design department made a lovely invite. (Double hooray!)
  • I created some puzzles and colouring games for the kids who would be coming, since kids need something to do At All Times. Plus their parents will be drinking wine. I asked the marketing department if they would make photocopies of the games and they agreed.
  • I sent out invites to every one of my kids’ classmates, even though many of them don’t read picture books any more. Who cares! People buy books as gifts (children’s book sales were up 11.7 percent in the UK for much of 2016) and who better to invite than supportive friends?
  • I made a list of columnists and reviewers who should be invited as well, and sent them the details.

And that’s it! Next Tuesday there will be a party to support This Is a Serious Book. I feel like this has gone from 0 to 60 in no time flat. Will this party rocket my book up the bestseller chart? Probably not. But am I happy that I got the attention of the publisher and made this happen? Absolutely!

 

Things I’m doing while I wait for the LAUNCH of This Is A Serious Book

So, there are pleeeenty of things I should be doing today as I wait for launch day (more on that later).

I could be doing work

WORK WORK WORK WORK WORK WORK WORK

but I’m not.

I could be cleaning the house

HAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHA

but I’m not.

I could be working on my next book

LA LA LA ONCE UPON A TIME LA LA LA

but I’m not.

So what AM i doing, you ask?

KNITTING!

Yes it turns out I’m actually an old lady who would like nothing more than to sit around and knit scarves and snoods (a snood is like a thneed. Re-read The Lorax for more info.)

Maybe my next book will need to have a knitting theme.

Once upon a time there was a big ball of yarn that wanted nothing more than to be unraveled….

Nah, I’d rather being doing it than writing about it.

But back to THE LAUNCH. Ta Da! There will be a launch (only a month late!) and it will involve drinks and nibbles.

Why? You ask.

Why not! I say.

And it’s going to take place at the very lovely Ink@84 independent bookstore here in North London.

I’m a jittery hot mess. Which is why I’m knitting. You knew that knitting relieves stress, right? It all comes full circle, doesn’t it!

More on the launch in the next post.

A few interior pages

screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-22-20-52

Look at this beautiful page! The face on this donkey is just priceless, don’t you think! And this one is one of my favorites:

screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-22-20-41

(But don’t even get me started on the number of words there are in the English language that mean the same as “fart”! Parp, pop, toot, wind, gas… shall I go on?)

Sometimes I love my job.

Hooray for books!

Exciting times with the Parachini clan! We just flew to Washington, DC, for a wedding and I got my first glimpse of This is a Serious Book in an actual bookstore. I may have squealed like a mouse. And leaped around the store singing “This is my book!” And signed two copies of it with a squeaky sharpie. And glowed for the rest of the day. I’m not saying I did any of those things… but I may have.

So if you’re in Alexandria, VA, pop into Hooray for Books and pick up a signed copy!

Oh, and on another exciting note: This is a Serious Book will be published in China by Beijing United Publishing Co. It will be in simplified Chinese (Ha! simplified!) I’ll post a lovely version of the cover here when I receive it.