Thursday, January 31, 2013

Middle Ages: When You're Over Forty

I have a funny library story to share with you. It made me feel a little like an idiot, but the funniest stories usually do.

This past week a young teen came up to the desk at the library and asked me, "Do you have books on middle age?"

I looked at her for a moment and asked, "Well, what do you want to know? Health, etc.? Is it for class?"

She said it was. She was so quiet I had very little to go on, so I began to look up books on middle-age. I even went out to the shelves with her following and picked out two books - one about pregnancy over 35 and the other about mid-life crisis. She said nothing. Meanwhile, I was going on about how we don't get much call for books like this and these were the only two I could find in our library.

After I'd given her the books, she took them and dutifully went to a table at the window and sat there. I went back to the desk, but something was nagging at me. I felt like I hadn't properly helped her. I even asked a colleague if we had books about middle-aged people. She said I had to be more specific.

So, I went back and asked the girl exactly what she wanted to know about Middle Age.

She said, "Well, you know, knights..."

Then it dawned on me. The Middle Ages! Not middle age! (The 'S' is very important.)

After I heard that, I led her to the juvenile section where we had tons of books about castles, knights, chivalry, etc. Then she was smiling and carried her stack back over to her table to work.

So, kids, please be kind to your librarian. Be specific about what you're looking for. The more we know, the better we can help you. We won't chew you out, I promise.

And librarians, ask tons of questions. Even if you feel like an idiot, at least you won't have to look like one later.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Writers Digest 2013 Conference Freak-out

I'm not entirely finished with running around waving my arms in the air and screaming, but I'll post anyway. I've happily discovered that while I am going to miss the SCBWI conference in February, I haven't missed the Writers Digest Conference in April. However, now that I've realized I haven't missed it, there's all the stress and excitement of planning for it. I've never been to a conference in NYC before, or any writers conference, so this will be my first. I need conference buddies.

I'll be flying from Ohio (haven't made airport arrangements yet) and will probably do the Saturday only option at the con. I just don't have the funds (even with my great new job) to do the whole three days.

What pushed me over the edge to attend this conference was their list of agents. A few of them I've already queried, but a lot of them are new to me - and they haven't met me in person! (In person, I sparkle!)

What about you? Are you going to the Writers Digest 2013 Conference in April?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Library Art Teacher?

Fun library-related news update. I got approached by the 'boss lady' at one of the branch libraries where I work and she presented me with a problem and then a solution that delighted me to death. She hosts storytime for preschool children, and homeschool kids age 5-7. She's noticed some of her homeschool kids are getting too old for storytime and their parents brought up a great solution. They'd seen my art in the display case at the library (back in November-December of 2012) and liked what they saw, so they suggested I teach their older kids an art class to be held during the same time as storytime. Of course I grinned all big and immediately began ploughing up ideas.

The possibilities are endless and this'll give me experience teaching art to older children, so that if I want to do it as more of a full-time gig in future, I won't feel so unprepared. (It'd make more practical use of my degrees too.)

I love that my job, while incredibly awesome as it is, just keeps getting better and better! 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Website is Go!

So happy I can finally unveil my new illustration website to you all. I've worked on it since before the holidays, but with the craziness that ensued I had to take a break. Yesterday I finished it - which wasn't an easy feat, since I'm not familiar with the sitebuilder hostgator uses and had to look up tutorials. (The sitebuilder is basekit, which I'll probably have to fuss with when I update my gallery again.)

I'm so glad I turned to hostgator. It had been recommended to me a year ago, but I didn't have the money to spend on site hosting then. Since my new job, I do! I still have my domain with someone else, but hosting with hostgator has been great so far, and their support team is fast and helpful. I'd recommend them to anyone looking to host a new site.

Do you have a website? What host do you swear by?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Who Was Your Fictional Teen Crush?

Most of us have had a teen crush - the boy or girl in high school we couldn't take our eyes off of when they were in the same room, or even walking down a crowded hallway. At one time or another we've probably had crushes on celebrities, but some of us have also had crushes on fictional characters.

When I was in junior high and high school, my older brother made certain I wouldn't be ignorant of the world of comic books. That's when I got my first fictional teen crush. He came dressed in a brown trench coat with the usual close-fitting superhero spandex underneath. Only his spandex was black and red (and blue) and his weapon of choice was kinetically charged playing cards. He also used a bo staff, which I thought was pretty darn cool, and he spoke with a heavy Cajun accent (accents get me, and I love when they're written in fiction).

Since then, I've discovered Gambit is a pretty popular figure in the fictional crush category, but at the time I didn't have anyone else to share my fangirling with. So I made myself content writing fanfiction and drawing fanart starring him and his tough southern lady. I wasn't one of those girls who wrote herself into stories married to her crush. His match to me was always Rogue, who I admired as a strong female character. Their tense and often troubled relationship was magnetic. (I and most of the female fanbase wanted to see them get together without fear of her powers.)

My teenage Gambit-swooning days are over (no longer a teen, still swooning), but the same type of fictional guy that attracted me then attracts me now. And that type attracts other girls from teens to twenties and up. Books (and comics/manga) often sell based on fictional crushes.

So, here's a question for the writers: How do you write your fictional teen crushes? Are they the type you're attracted to yourself? Are they based on a fictional crush you used to have or still have?

Who was your fictional teen crush?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Does YA + Female Author = Romance?

You might know, if you've been reading my blog, that I've been on the search for YA that's entertaining without being heavy on the romance. Actually, to be more precise, I'd like very little romance and when it does turn up, I'd like it to be natural, believable and sweet. I want to really like the love interest and care about the relationship he has with the MC, instead of getting annoyed or frustrated at either her or him. I'm beginning to think that's a tall order for today's YA.

To quote Belle, "I want adventure in the great, wide somewhere! I want it more than I can tell!" (Although, I can't help but wonder if Belle ever got the adventure she wanted outside the relationship she had with the Beast.)

When I brought this topic up to a few fellow writers recently, one of them said, "Don't read female authors". I was taken aback. I was stunned. I was a little insulted. I began to wonder if YA + Female Author = Romance. (At least if the female author is writing about a female protagonist.) I believe it's possible to find a female YA author writing a female protag without a romantic goal. She might be trying to save the world, a family member, herself, or unravel some mystery, kill a monster, etc. But if she stumbles across a boy along the way, it'd be nice if their relationship developed naturally and didn't turn her into an idiot who can no longer do anything without him.

When I think of the YA I've read with memorable female protags who have nonromantic goals, and are written in a style that entertains me right to the end, I realize that the authors are mostly male. I'm hoping I've just been missing all the lady writers somehow. I'm going to keep looking, including accepting recommendations I've already gotten for some YA (or NA) with these qualities. If I find enough, I'll make a list of all the low-romance or high-adventure YA (that doesn't simply replace romance with blood and violence) and post it on this blog.

So, what do you think? Has it become a standard that YA + Female Author = Romance? In that case, it kind of makes me wish I was a male writer, since they apparently don't have such a requirement.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Trust Me, I Have ABSOLUTELY No Idea What I'm Doing!

For my first post of the new year I thought I'd throw out everything I learned about doing a writer blog (since this isn't just a writer blog, anyway). Instead, I'm going to just gabble about what I learned or didn't learn last year. (Or what happened and didn't happen.)

What happened and didn't happen:

1. I tried to read a long list of YA and found out I'm happier reading Terry Pratchett (unless it's YA that isn't about teenage girls finding boyfriends or becoming supernatural creatures).
2. I queried and didn't get an agent. And I'm okay with that.
3. I thought about becoming a freelance illustrator and became a library clerk (who is still an illustrator).
4. I turned a few guys down who asked me out and accepted one handsome guy who I wouldn't see again.
5. I didn't want to rewrite scenes from my novel, but I started last week.

What I learned:

 1. Read what you want.
2. Readiness isn't measured by time.
3. Freelance illustration is for the birds. I've got steady work and benefits!
4. Some opportunities don't come around twice.
5. Nothing is ever as bad as my imagination makes it.

I still don't think I know the key to successful blogging, but this year I'm going to experiment. There's no rush, since I probably won't find the right agent for awhile. So instead of being a 'platform-builder' this blog can just be fun.

What happened or didn't happen with you last year?

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