Life Update: Florida and Freelancing

Over the weekend I went down to Florida to visit my godmother. It was so nice to get away and to experience real warm weather. It has been fairly good spring weather here in New York, but in Florida it was full on summer. 80 degrees everyday shorts and t-shirt sit by the pool and go swimming kind of weather, and it was great.

My godmother lives down the street from a dock and a bay which meant every night there were fabulous sunsets.Image

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I also got to see some pelicans: one of God’s more ridiculous looking creatures if you ask me.

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Needless to say waking up to rain in New York was a slight disappointment after Florida weather. But I have still managed to keep myself busy and stay on top of the freelancing projects I have. I actually just finished up Part I of one of the books that I have been editing so I am happy about that. It’s exciting to see a project through to the end (even thought there is more of the book to go) and I am interested to see what happens next.

I also just started working on another project last week before leaving for Florida, so I have been delving into that as well. It’s interesting to see different author’s writing styles,  seeing how each one approaches their story, and seeing how I can work with them as an editor. I feel like I am getting to know characters that no one else knows yet, and seeing how they deal with the problems in their lives. Because that’s really what a book is – a series of problems in a character’s life. It has also made me appreciate how important some of the smaller details of a book are, like the wording of a certain sentence, or making sure that a certain aspect of a character or the plot matches up with something else that happens later down the road. Because often times it is in those smaller details where a book really comes together as a whole.

Each story could be categorized as fantasy but they are both very different from each other, and are targeted towards different audiences. All in all this experience has been a lot of fun and I’m glad I have been able to work with these authors and their manuscripts.

World Book Night 2013

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Last night I had the pleasure of participating in World Book Night. I first heard about World Book Night through NYU, but when I went to sign up a few months ago it was past the deadline.

So I was happy to hear that a group of NYU people were getting together to hand out books. I joined them, and together we took Brooklyn by storm! Or rather, the Atlantic-Pacific subway station where we decided to meet up.

We had two different sets of books – Bossypants by Tina Fey, and Looking For Alaska by John Green. The way World Book Night works is when you sign up the organization sends a box of 20 books of your choice to a bookstore near you. There is a list of selected books each year, and this year had some pretty good titles including Fahrenheit 451, The House on Mango Street, The Phantom Tollbooth, and Good Omens.

After walking around for a bit, and giving a book to a man working in a falafel cart, we decided that our best bet was to hand out books in the subway. Let me say, I was much more comfortable giving out free books in a group than I would have been if I was on my own. New York sees transit time as a time to be by yourself, to listen to music, and to not pay attention to the crazy people giving out things in the subway, because usually there is a catch. But there was no catch this time, just books.

After walking down a subway platform and giving out a few copies of books to people there, we positioned ourselves in a fairly busy hallway. I definitely saw a few people do the “I see you but I am going to ignore you and keep walking” look that us New Yorkers are so good at, but they just missed out.

I also found that once people saw other people talking to us and taking our books they were more comfortable coming up to us themselves. They saw that we weren’t crazy, asking for money, or hiding a secret agenda, and who doesn’t want a good book to read on a long train ride?

Towards the end we were really swamped with people and ended up running out of books and turning people away. Many people took two books or grabbed a copy for their friend. All in all, I must say I now have more respect for people who tend to be ignored in the subway or on the street, and I am definitely signing up to hand out books next year!

After we ran out of books we stumbled across a burger place, Burger Bistro, where you hand pick your burger off of a checklist. It’s rated the #2 burger in the city by Zagat, and the #1 place I go to on a regular basis – $7 cheeseburgers, so now I feel somewhat of a burger aficionado.

All in all I would say the night was a success and I hope everyone enjoys their new books!

When Stories Have a Mind of Their Own

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Lately I have been pretty busy, which means I haven’t had as much time to work on my story. It has been in the back of my mind, and I have been thinking about it here and there, I did some basic research and character outlining, but I haven’t had a chance to sit down and make any plot progress.

Luckily I have had more free time this week than I have in the past, so I decided to revisit some of the scenes I had already written. I do this a lot. I write a scene and then I rewrite it until I am sick of it instead of moving forward with the story. But, this time I feel like my rewrites actually had some merit in them. I have three scenes that I feel comfortable with for now. They look different from what I first posted on here around New Year’s. The next job is figuring out what happens next.

I always find this part of writing a story to be interesting, because sometimes you know what you want to happen. You know what the character will do, or what they will think. But sometimes that changes on you. I have had that happen a few times in this story, and its always an interesting process. For example, I knew that Allie (used to be named Iris) would travel back in time. But I didn’t know that she would faint once she got there (The Aurora can have an interesting effect on people). Once she did though it made perfect sense though. I have never fainted but if I was uprooted from a classroom and dropped into a wheat field in the middle of no where after floating in an abyss with colors out of this world, I would probably faint too.

In my rewriting process, other characters became more clear as well. Professor Morris, the physics teacher, became clearer in my mind by the way he talked. He is kind of a hopeless romantic professor who is amazed by the inner workings of our world and our lives. I had a third scene that I added in which Allie took a placement test for her classes, but that turned into an advisor meeting with one of her professors. I liked this more because Allie hadn’t really spoken much in the first few scenes, and this gave me a chance to see more of her character and what she is like. It also established another relationship between her and a professor, who will play an important role when they travel back in time – she’s a history teacher, after all.

Writing can surprise you sometimes. At times you feel like you know what will happen, you are the writer and creator of the story after all, but then the story turns in another direction and you are just trying to put the pieces together.

I would say that in my story Allie definitely needs a lot more work/backstory. She doesn’t really have a reason to stand out as a protagonist other than the fact that she is the only freshman in many of her advanced classes. I have some ideas brewing though, and I’m excited to see where they take me.

Also, yesterday I went to see the Impressionism: Art and Modernity exhibit at the Met where they displayed fabulous dresses from the late 1800’s. These dresses aren’t the fashions that were in style during World War I, but they are somewhat similar and it made me really excited to delve into that era!

The Dynamic Duo

A few months ago I talked about publishing – self publishing vs. traditional publishing. Initially the two seem to be on opposite ends of the spectrum. Either you do one or the other. However, based on an article in yesterday’s NY Times, that might no longer be the case.

According to the Times, many authors who are already represented by agencies are choosing to self publish their books rather than going through traditional publishing houses. ICM Partners, for example, is starting their own self publishing service. Authors at other agencies, such as InkWell Management, and Trident Media Group are also choosing the self publishing route. Simon & Schuster is also creating its own self publishing house the Times says.

Personally, I find this to be an interesting and hopeful combination of self and main stream publishing venues. By self publishing, an author can get a larger percentage back on the sales, but with a literary agency and/or publishing house, they would have a stronger professional support group than if they were to just publishing on their own .

Agencies or publishing houses could also assist with elements of the process, such as jacket design, marketing, and professional contacts with self publishing mediums, such as Amazon. Self publishing, as I said in my last article, also widens the field for authors and potential successes. The Times points out that many of the titles that have hit the best seller list this year have been self published books.

All in all, this will be an interesting development to watch in the publishing world.

The Year of Magical Blogging

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A year ago today, I decided to start a blog. I was sitting in my room at college, and posted a review of The Hunger Games online. I miss that room. It was probably my favorite room that I had for the four years I was at school. It was on the top floor of the building, and had a sloping ceiling and a dormer window. Since it was in the corner, it was smaller than most of the other rooms on the floor, but that also meant it was easier to keep clean. I made it very homey with a soft tan rug, and a light that gave off a pink glow. It was a good room to study in.

I started this blog for a few reasons. One was to counteract the fact that I was graduating. It would give me something to do on a regular basis and keep me productive. I am very schedule oriented, and this was the beginning of my post-graduation schedule. Of course, my schedule has increased to include more things since then, as it would naturally, but this was its start.

I also remembered around this time last year, realizing that graduating meant that I could read whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. As nerdy as it sounds, this fact actually helped me deal with the fact that I was graduating a lot. Also, there have definitely been times where I have really enjoyed writing a post, and then I realize it’s because I am writing something similar to an essay. Essays are familiar to me, and I love talking about the things I am passionate about. And if there is anything I know how to do after 17 years of education, it is how to write an essay.

It has always been challenging for me to start a routine. At the beginning of every semester in college I would go to the gym, work out for about 20 minutes, feel great, and swear that this would be the year that I would go to the gym once a week, and maybe even push it up to twice a week if I was really good. This never happened. I would go at the beginning of the semester, and then sporadically throughout the rest of the year, when I was feeling especially stir crazy and energetic (which, mind you, is a very specific combination of feelings), and that was it.

So, I am somewhat surprised that I have been able to keep up this blog so regularly. Of course, I didn’t post much while I was in school. I was too busy focusing on writing a seminar paper, memorizing obscure facts about European cathedrals, and finishing my senior year, to read on my own, let alone talk about what I was reading on my own. (See Thoughts About Book Challenges)

But, I was surprised at how easily posting on a weekly basis fell into my routine post-graduation. I have been really enjoying it, and I especially like expanding the topics that I cover (i.e. talking about education , and movies). I’m excited to see what else I can find. I have always been interested in books and stories, of course, but also psychology, history, education etc. I am a multi-facited nerd, and I would love to expand what I talk about on this blog, while still keeping it relevant.

I am also happy that I have close to 100 followers. I know that’s nothing to brag about really in the blogosphere, but it is still a milestone, I think. So thanks, everyone, for reading my bookish ramblings!

Clare

Note: At the time that I read The Hunger Games, winter break of my senior year, dystopian novels were not as big as they are now. Many of them had been published, but the craze had only just begun. Hence the title of my review: Not Your Average YA read. See how much can change in a little over a year?

Everyone Should Read The Book Thief

I hope everyone has had a happy Easter Weekend! I spent my weekend relaxing, knitting, and reading. I also finished The Book Thief, which I have been reading for the past few weeks or so. I mentioned at the end of an earlier post that I would make everyone I know read this book, and I am making sure to keep up my end of the bargain…with myself…

Every now and again you come across a writer who, while you are reading their work, makes you put down the book and just process what you just saw. Sometimes it is because the author’s prose are just so well done and beautifully written. Sometimes it is because the imagery is really well done, and sometimes it is both. With The Book Thief it was both. I have mentioned a few other novelists that I put on my imaginary list of just really good writing. Barbara Kingsolver, and Erin Morgenstern are on the list, as well as Billy Collins, who I have been obsessed with since high school.  And now I have added Markus Zusak, author of The Book Thief, to the list.

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Markus Zusak looks at the world in a very unique way, and it comes across strongly in his writing. At first his style reminded me of Morgenstern’s because of his strong imagery in the book, but soon after that I saw that this was in fact his own unique style. The Book Thief tells the story of Liesel Meminger, a young German girl growing up in World War II, who is sent to live with a foster family at the age of 9. The Book Theif tells the story of her life, living in rural Germany, dealing with her younger brother’s death, learning to read from books that she stole, and her friendship with her adopted parents, Rudy Steiner, and the Jewish man that comes to live in her basement.

Zuzak does an excellent job of capturing both the innocence and maturity of being 9 years old, especially when growing up during World War II is taken into account. Yes, The Book Thief is considered to be a Young Adult novel, because of Liesel’s age throughout the story, but Zusak approaches his subject matter in a very mature, matter-of-fact fashion. He does not shy away from dark, or serious subject matter, but instead talks about it through beautiful imagery and storytelling.

One of the more amazing things about the book was the narrator. The narration is primarily focused on Liesel, but the narrator is his own separate character; Zusak makes Death the narrator of his book. At first, to me, I thought it was some Nazi soldier, but the narration quickly becomes too overarching for it to be one human being. Death, however, has his own opinions, his own characteristics, and even his own humor. The Book Thief is a dark book, but it is not without hope, or humor (at times). In an interview, Zusak talks about his decision to make Death the narrator of his book. He says,

Everyone says war and death are best friends. Death is every present during war…but this time, Death was to be exhausted from his eternal existence and his job. He was to be afraid of humans – because, after all, he was there to see the obliteration we’ve perpetrated on each other throughout the ages – and he would now be telling this story to prove to himself that humans are actually worth it.

I thought that was a beautiful way of putting it, and I definitely saw what Zusak was talking about throughout his story. I fell in love with all the characters very quickly, even Liesel’s stern stepmother, and it is clear that the narrator feels the same way.

Zusak did some interesting things in the telling of this story. Since Death is the narrator, and is somewhat outside of time, he often told us the fate of a character soon after we met him. This is a tricky tactic to use well while still keeping the suspense, and the flow of the story moving forward, but I did not feel that there was a lack of either of these things. It was interesting to see how Death wove himself in and out of the story.

I was surprised to see that this book came out in 2005, and I hadn’t heard about it until more recently – in the past year or so. But, I am glad that it has gotten as big as it has recently, because it is definitely worth it. I also saw that there is a movie of the book coming out in 2014 with Geoffrey Rush. There isn’t too much information out about it yet, but I could see how it would lend itself well to a movie with all the imagery and strong characters that it has. The Book Thief is one of those stories that I cannot fully explain without going on and on, so I just recommend that you read it. It’s good.