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12.31.2010

2011: Looking Forward

The new year is coming in about an hour and a half, and I am as prepared as I can be. I have just spent the last four hours going through shipping and inventory folders, the last couple days driving and visiting and getting my hair cut, and the last week drafting lists and outlines of projects (generally work-related) for the new year.

Usually, years come and go a little too quickly for me to prepare. I find my resolutions are usually made closer to March than January. This year is different. I've been mentally preparing for the changing tides for almost a month. I have looked forward to this otherwise superficial shift in the calendar with a patient eagerness. The song in my head for Christmas 2009 was Sufjan Stevens' "Sister Winter," but for 2010 I have been humming his "Chicago," with the joyfully resounding lyric "All things go, all things go!"

I am packing up the sack I will take with me from one season to the next. I am keeping little, but all of it precious, some of it awkward, and still more of it a little adventuresome. The things I'm leaving behind? I am too close to 2011 to recount them. They are at my back. I have moved on.

I have fears about the coming year. They are pretty enormous, actually, and most have to do with honoring serious commitments to other people and paying bills. I rarely worry, and I'm even less often afraid, so this is unusually hard for me. Please ignore the deepening lines in my forehead and at the corners of my mouth. Ignore them, or pray for me.

I have hopes for the year, too. They also have to do with the commitments I've made to others and the paying of bills, but they also have to do with remembering a lot of things I've forgotten in the last five years or so, rebuilding some things I've let crumble, and exploring some other things I've only just begun to discover. Vague, am I? Sorry, but this blog is still too public for everything in my head.

(I can share this small one, though. I am greatly hoping to read more non-work-related books in 2011. I read four such books last year, and that had to be some sort of record of lameness. Incidentally, all four were YA books. Much as I love them, that is just not right.)

I will not last till midnight. I say goodbye to 2010 an hour early. In sleep, I forget you. The morning brings a new day. Goodbye, and God be with you.

12.23.2010

All I Want for Christmas are Good Graphics

The following is not a reading wishlist. It's a small compilation of cover art that inspires me.





12.17.2010

Did you catch Google's tribute to Jane Austen yesterday? Probably not, if you were checking your computer in the US. The Washington Post takes a look at the controversy. Oh Google. Oh Jane.

12.14.2010

Not to over-do it or anything, but this video is a darling downer after my recent post on rejections. If you recognize the form of it from So You Want to Get a PhD in the Humanities, please look at Millinerd's take on the same.


Book Lists

It's that time of year when book bloggers, reviewers, and readers of any public forum gather their top ten books of 2010. An odd time to do it, you might think, as there are still a few weeks of reading left to the year. But people are buying books now, you see, for the season of giving is at hand. And if you don't know what to give the literati in your midst, these lists should provide some sort of guide.

I am not making a list because I have hardly read anything but the fast-growing ZOVA catalog this year. Preceding my panel at Steamcon with Lisa Mantchev, I read her debut novel Eyes Like Stars, and along with everyone else on the planet finished up the Hunger Games trilogy with Mockingjay - for which, unlike with the first two, I did not provide a blog review.

In the absence of my own rigor, here are some lists from the more attentive world:

The New York Times Best 10 of 2010.

Amazon's list of the best from January to June.

and Amazon's list of best Comics & Graphic Novels.

Felix Gilman on Omnivoracious lists his top ten read in 2010. How we love him.

The Millions has been asking readers for their own lists of bests from 2010.

Indie booksellers share their favorites with NPR.

Laura Miller lists her bests at the Salon.

There are many more where these came from, but I think I'm much more interested in the lists people have for 2011. Not to rush the coming of a new year, but it is just around the corner, and 'twill be the season for unattainable resolutions. Anyone know what they'll be reading next year?

12.13.2010

Unique to Renegade: A Day of Crafting

Yesterday I joined my mother and sister on our semi-annual foray into the world of DIY crafters. Strangely enough, two of the largest craft fairs in L.A. were selling on the same weekend, so we got two fairs for the price of one trip. Unique LA spreads its wares on the top floor of the California Market Center. Amidst the booths of various sellable delights, they handed out free drinks and offered free photo ops with a yeti. Renegade, held in the Los Angeles Historic State Park, was smaller than last time we'd been there, but there was also more room to browse. Many vendors had roped family and friends into helping them so they could display at both sites. I took as many pictures as I could - which is rare for me. Here are a few:

We went to Renegade later in the day, but that meant the sparkly lights showed all the prettier.


The Weekend Store, Unique LA.
We always spend some time here. If you don't own a piece of her jewelry, you haven't been to a craft fair in LA.


I didn't get the name of this vendor, but I love the durability of these re-purposed book-marks.


Hmm . . . Didn't get this name either. Just loved the colors of this display.


Shoppers resting their feet.



London Manori.
I see these every year. Can I have the whole pile for a centerpiece?


Love Nail Tree.
The design of some of these sites is fascinating. Here, wooden structures were strung from the pipes in the ceiling. Their t-shirts and necklaces spoke "steampunk" rather more than they do "let's change the world." But who knows? Maybe we can do both?


Rock Scissors Paper.
Always a favorite. Not only are their products clever and darling (and fabulously designed), these women are utterly delightful. And check out that paper wheel!

We'll be back again next time around. For either or both of them, of course. If you're still struggling over Christmas presents, I'd suggest running down the vendor lists on the Unique & Renegade websites, linked above. I can pretty much guarantee that you will find something.

12.10.2010

Rejections

It may or may not be common knowledge that I work with books in a sort of publishing fashion. (No, I do not personally take submissions. No, I cannot refer you to an agent.) While I talk about books on this blog a lot, I don't generally say much about my work. That's mainly because this is a personal blog written mainly for people I personally know, and because of this I have felt free to express potentially alienating opinions (in the past, not so much recently) as well as observations and reflections on the life of faith or the current state of the Church (always and forever, no public eye shall silence me). When you do that sort of thing, it can be inappropriate to mix in your professional business.

But there are some things I do think ought to be said aloud somewhere.

As an amateur writer, I sat in creative writing courses for several years being told - as all writing students are told - that you have to receive a lot of rejection letters before you get accepted by a publisher. They don't really tell you what to do if you don't get accepted at all. They kind of pretend that otherwise inevitable future doesn't apply for this particular graduating class.

But it is quite probable that your manuscript will not be accepted, and when it isn't, you have to take a look around you at your other options. What surprises me is how rarely those options are either: a) radically revise the manuscript so that it is a viable work of fiction for the publishing houses you're aiming at, or b) find another hobby. The options frequently involve finding a publisher small enough to take your work regardless of its content. Now, I work for a small publishing firm. But our print runs are big enough that we care about the content. We care about it very much.

Frequent readers of this blog may recall that I am something of an academic snob (possibly read: elitist?), and this means I take canon very seriously. The amateur writer generally considers the purpose of a publishing house to be the printing and distribution of lots of books, especially their own. (Remember, when I refer to the amateur writer, I am also speaking of myself. There's an unfinished novel that's been sitting on my desktop for about five years now, and I am quite certain it is Penguin's purpose in business to publish it with one of their very beautiful covers.)

This is wrong. The purpose of a publishing house is actually much simpler: it is to tell the world that someone other than the author or the author's friends and family think this book is worth reading. That is, a publishing house is the first filter in the formation of the contemporary canon of public literature.

If you have received multiple rejections, you really must consider the fact that your manuscript either needs considerable revision, or it is just not what the public is looking for. The most likely reason for a rejection letter is that the editor who picked up your submission has already read multiple submissions that sounded almost exactly like yours. The second most likely reason is that your writing isn't very good.

Those of you who have read the last two sentences and objected, saying "My story is wholly unique! My writing is above the fold!" well, then you can be one of the members of the third reason: your writing, although unique and well-formed, unfortunately does not fit into a strong enough market for that particular publisher at that particular time. Perhaps you have written a brand new take on the vampire phenomenon; but new as your take may be, the vampire market is too saturated to bear an addition, however revolutionary. Perhaps your book introduces cyborgs to the zombie crowd, but the zombie craze has yet to descend from its peak; it is too early to convert zombie fiction readers into cyborg fiction readers. There are any number of reasons.

I have a weird sort of faith that if your book is very good then a good publisher will pick it up.
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