Thursday, August 21, 2014

I AM NOT A BRAND


 
Okay, this is going to be a writer’s rant. So let’s get ranting.
The publishing world is undergoing enormous changes. Writers need to find themselves, their particular place, within the fluctuating industry. You’ll hear advice from everywhere. One popular piece of advice is, “create your brand”.

I disagree. I’m a human being. I am not a brand. My books are not products.

 
Branding and the whole inglorious myth behind it starts with the idea that the internet is not primarily a place of Community, that it’s The Marketplace,


that people are Consumers and we authors should get out there and make products for the Consumers to Consume the same way they consume hamburgers.



I do understand the importance of knowing what I write, the importance of creating stories that speak to readers personally and make them want to read more.  But steering my storytelling by determining what sells and/or what the audience wants is backward. It stifles new ideas and pares tales down to products.
Branding turns creative ideas into cattle.
So I’m having a cow here.


Part of the problem with branding is the limitations it creates for authors. I can see how it works for genre authors. Someone like Agatha Christie who wrote only mysteries. Then again she also wrote six novels which she could not publish under her own name. So they came out under the penname  Mary Westmacott.



Some authors write picture books, fantasy for young adults and adults, and historical fiction. Yes, some authors spread their wings that wide. What kind of "brand" aside from prolific author, could a writer like that use? Should they never write for adults because they also write for children? Should they only write for one age group of children, ditch the picture books or the young adult books so they can clearly define their "brand?"

Suzanne Collins wrote a fantasy series and was well established as a children's fantasy author before she branched out and wrote Hunger Games (listed under Sci-Fi in her website). What if her "brand" as a children's fantasy author limited her vision? What if she decided not to explore the plot idea because sci-fi wasn't her brand?

I think it's terrific for authors to write series, to stay within a genre they love. Yes to all of that and to the readership that loves their books. What I'm worried about is that moment when the same author also wants to write other kinds of books, books that might be radically different, books that express something new.

 I am not a brand.  My books are not products. They are stories.
C.S. Lewis said that each story has a best way of being told. So rather than say, I’ll write a picture book that really sells or I’ll write a young adult fantasy that fits my "brand." I start with a compelling story idea – one strong enough to wake me up at night and chase me around during the day.
 
In short, a story idea that nudges and haunts and makes a nuisance of itself until I agree to write it. I don’t start stories with sales figures. I don't determine genre by brand. I start by asking 3 questions. What does this story want to say? What’s the most interesting way to structure this story? How old is the central character? Answering those three questions naturally shows the type of story I’ll write and what age group will eventually read it. 
Then it’s my job to develop the plot, tweak the twists
 
infuse the characters with hopes, burden them with hardships, and write the very best book I can write, one that will touch a chord, and hopefully resonate with readers.
 
Branding is about sales and product and web presence, but if you start with story as your root, you might find your place in the world wide reading and writing community. You might find fellowship. You might also find a unique web presence which grows naturally from the types of tales you write.     

Note: I read Maureen Johnson’s marvelous manifesto post  after drafting this one. It encouraged me. If you like my rant, swing by and read her manifesto.
Until next time Dreamwalkers, walk well
 

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Write in Private or Write in Public?

Dreamwalkers, are you a Write in Private type of author or a Write in Public type?  I think of myself as a Write in Private sort of person.


Maybe it’s because I laugh out loud when a character says something unexpected, tear up in poignant moments, or need to jump up and physically act out a scene to get un-stuck. Do I want any of these behaviors on public display? Hardly.  

Or maybe it’s because I’m always trying to capture the illusive magic

 
But yesterday (drumroll please) I did something Bold! I met with fellow author Justina Chen

 
to Write in Public at a local coffee shop.


After a delicious conversation with Justina on life, writing craft—hashing out plots and twists, and writing  careers—her newest brilliant YA novel A BLIND SPOT FOR BOYS is coming out next week J, we opened our laptops and got down to business.
I discovered something there. Having to shut out the hissing, spouting, belching espresso machines, the nauseating overhead music, the conversations at the nearby tables forced me into uber-concentration. I dove into the scene and fell out of time and space right into the book.  It was . . .

 
Magical!

Yesterday I saw for the first time how the distractions forced me to Focus. Is this why many authors love to Write in Public? I have a sneaking suspicion it is. How about you? Which do you like best?

 
Until next time Dreamwalkers, walk well

 

Friday, February 07, 2014

ONCE UPON A STORY Spring Conference

I won Free Tuition to our Western Washington SCBWI Spring Conference!

By some magical confluence of energy, the ever-amazing
Deb Lund

(poster by art-magician DanaSullivan)
Drew my raffle ticket from the sack at last night's SCBWI meeting. My golden ticket to Once Upon a Story


It was as if I’d zoomed past the Phantom Tollbooth

And beyond reasonable Expectations to the land where authors, illustrators, agents, editors, and all species of children’s books bibliophiles converge (said destination may or may not be
noticeable on Milo’s map).

I’m already looking forward to meeting friends, honing my craft, and gleaning the latest tips from the publishing world at the bountiful 2014 conference. I’m grateful beyond words and since words are an author’s arsenal – that’s saying something. Or, I guess not saying something.

A Bit More About Last Night
Despite being rear-ended and having her car totaled on the way to the SCBWI meeting. (Pause to hug Deb here and send her love.) Deb Lund inspired us all, sharing 9 of her Fiction Magic cards that encouraged, challenged, twisted and tickled our writer minds. If you weren’t there to get this pure creativity gold, find out more about it @ Fiction Magic. Note to Deb: I must have the whole deck as soon as they’re available!
Deb also passed out magic wands.

I’m bringing mine to the conference. Are you?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

VIKINGCON PLUNDER

No lawless berserkers rampaged through VikingCon at Western Washington Universtiy campus on Saturday, but there were plenty of Otherworld folk from the fantasy, sci-fi, comic, and movie world.
Photographer, Heidi Pettit, took some snaps with her trusty cell-phone.

Rachel Ashby, aka Fionna of Adventure Time. Knight, Austin Voecks, behind.

Sipping a tankard of water (alas not Viking Ale) I joined the panel, "The Good, the Bad, and the Elvish: Character Archetypes in Fantasy Fiction," sharing the stage with R.E. Dalrymple, Wizard's of the Coast's global brand lead for Kaijudo, and fellow fantasy writer, Danika Dinsmore.


We three talked all things archetype, compared novel-writing and game creation, and a good time was had by all.

Then it was back to the exhibition hall to sign books.

Lana Swanson, aka Equis Zahhak of Homestuck, considers Dragonswood.

Some fine viking rigged it so my signing table faced the Costume Contest stage.


A whole lot of dancing was going on, so I jumped up.

Katie Myette, aka Mickey from The Sorcerer's Apprentice, danging to the DJ's music.

Twas a friendly VikingCon. No pillaging. But there was plenty of plunder, and fun in high commodity!

Until next time, fellow Dreamwalkers, walk well.

Monday, April 15, 2013

ROCK THE DROP 2013


 
Rock the Drop 2013

Readergirlz are happy to announce Operation Teen Book Drop 2013! On April 18th, readergirlz will be teaming with Figment I HeartDaily, SohoTeenand 826NYC to celebrate YA lit in honor of Support Teen Lit Day on Thursday, April 18th. We can't wait!

This year, in addition to rocking out and dropping our favorite YA titles in public spaces for lucky readers to discover, we're also directing supporters of teen fiction everywhere to consider a book donation to 826NYC to help grow their library.

Here's how you can get involved:

* Follow @readergirlz on Twitter and tweet #rockthedrop
* Print a copy of the bookplate (found on readergirlz blog) and insert it into a book (or 10!) On April 18th, drop a book in a public spot (park bench, bus seat, restaurant counter?) Lucky finders will see that the book is part of ROCK THE DROP!
* Also feel free to post the bookplate (designed by the super-talented Lindsay Frantz) and add it to your blog and social networks. Proclaim that you will ROCK THE DROP!
* Snap a photo of your drop and post it at the readergirlz Facebook page. Then tweet the drop at #rockthedrop with all the other lovers of YA books.

If you'd like to donate books to 826NYC, here's the address:

826NYC
Attn: Joan Kim
c/o: readergirlz Rock the Drop
372 Fifth Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11215

Visit our blog , Facebook page, and Twitter more news and pictures before, during, and after the event! 

DREAMWALKERS:
a note from Janet: This is such a fun, generous event. This year I'm Rocking the Drop = sending books to 826NYC and dropping off a book in a fun location on the 18th.

I hope you'll join me and Rock the Drop.

Until next time walk well.

 


 

Friday, March 22, 2013

WHY I WROTE THE BOOK

I have never seen visions in the fire, though the writing craft is sometimes like that.

 
I have never been accused of witchcraft, though I might have been if I’d been unlucky enough to be born in medieval times when anyone deemed “different” was suspect. I’ve never been forced to dress as a leper to run from a witch hunter
 
 
or stumbled into a mystical forest like Dragonswood where fey folk and dragons dwell the way Tess does in my novel.
But all stories are in some way about survival, about who we are, where we come from, where we truly belong. And, like Tess, I’ve hungered to find my place, longed for true family, lost more than I’d ever hoped to, and made heart-rending sacrifices to help those I love.
 
Like Tess I’ve tried to find happiness, to craft a good life from what clay I’ve been given. Tess is braver than I am. Journeying with her, I can only hope some of her bravery has rubbed off.
 
Until next time Dreamwalkers, walk well.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Hooray for PNBA

Dear Dreamwalkers

My wonderful publisher Dial Books for Young Readers, set up a Dragonswood book signing for me at the PNBA Fall Tradeshow. My friend, Heidi Pettit, caught a few fun shots of the day. The tradeshow was held in the elegant Hotel Murano.

 
Check out the beautiful sea green glass in the entry. We headed upstairs for the tradeshow and ran into some friends right away. Justina Chen was there signing Advance Reader Copies of her upcoming novel.
 
 
 
Justina and I caught up with two of our favorite local independent booksellers, Rene Kirkpatrick of Eagle Harbor Books, and Sue Nevins of Mockingbird Books. Then it was time to do some book signing.
 
 
 
It was a Very Long line! Everyone was talking about the beautiful cover. I said, "Boys will like the adventure scenes and the dragons in the book, though I can understand that the cover deters them."
      The next man in line said, "I'm here because I like the cover."
     "Heidi," I said, "Get a photo of this guy!" Here he is.
 
 
After the book signing, I chatted with Colleen Conway the sales rep for Penguin Books. We'd never met before this. It was great to talk in person. 
I also caught up with fellow author, Meghan Nuttall Sayres, who was signing copies of her newest book Night Letter.   
 
Some readers may not know Meghan is also a Tapestry Weaver. She asked me to try on a felted whirling dervish hat, which she learned to make in Turkey (one of several hats the protagonist Anahita wears Night Letter.) I was happy to try it on.
 
and end the day with a dance.
Until next time, Dreamwalkers, walk well.
 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Summer ALA and Fall Library Conference

SUMMER Means ALA

I flew down to LA with writing buddy Katherine Grace Bond  and we dove into the American Library Association Conference in Anaheim. The trip combined 2 favorite things.




Books and swimming pools.



The best parts of ALA for me this year were:

~ Spending time with my editor, Kathy Dawson.



~ Standing in line while Katherine signed copies of her new book The Summer of No Regrets.



~ Meeting the librarians and snagging them for interviews on my blog Library Lions!

~ Hearing



read the prologue to her newest book


(Katherine and I gave her a standing ovation.)

Last, I have to say it . . .  going to Disneyland for the first time in my life (Katherine treated me to an evening pass.)  

FALL means WLMA (Washington Library Media Association) conference.

This October I headed over the mountains with author buddy, Deb Lund driving to Yakima to present on the panel "Show, Tell, and Do: The Next Generation of Author Visits" Deb and I joined  authors, Jennifer Wolf and Helen Landalf  and had a great discussion with the librarians.


(Deb grabbing books from the table. Helen & Moi)

Next day I presented one of my favorite workshops "The Female Hero in Children's and YA Fiction" The topic prompted some amazing discussions.


Thank you for traveling with me through summer and fall.

Until next time fellow dreamwalkers. Walk well





Saturday, June 02, 2012

DRAGONSWOOD Giveaways Dark Mind Book Tours

If you'd like to win a signed copy of Dragonswood for a summer read



Dark Mind Book Tours is hosting Dragonswood reviews, interviews, excerpts and giveaways for the next two weeks. I had a lot of fun with the author interviews and the character interview with Tess. (I had to climb over the boundary wall and follow Tess into forbidden Dragonswood to get her to talk to me.) 

Here's the Tour Schedule:

June 4th, 2012
(Giveaway, Excerpt)

June 5th, 2012
(Author Interview, Giveaway)

June 6th, 2012
(Giveaway, Excerpt)

June 7th, 2012
(Review, Giveaway, Excerpt)

June 8th, 2012
(Giveaway, Excerpt)

June 11th, 2012
(Review, Character Interview, Giveaway)

June 12th, 2012
(Author Interview, Excerpt)

June 13th, 2012
(Review)

June 14th, 2012
(Review, Giveaway)

June 15th, 2012
(Giveaway, Excerpt)


Until next time Dreamers walk well ~ ~ ~

Friday, January 06, 2012

BEST BOOK BIRTHDAY EVER

Yesterday was the Best Book Birthday ever with many well wishers on twitter and Facebook (thank you!) I woke up wanting to go to lunch to celebrate. I’m not a last minute sort of person so I had little hope of swinging a sudden lunch, but I called friend and fellow author JUSTINA CHEN and, wow! She was free!



We lunched the launch and talked all things writing over delicious Thai food and jasmine tea.



Over lunch Justina asked some interesting questions like, “What do you love most about the book?” I shared my favorite scenes. Then she asked, “What did you learn writing it?” Another good question and one most folks (other than fellow writers) often don’t ask.

My answer: Before this tale my books have highlighted ‘the lone hero’ facing the plot on his or her own.



This reflected how I’ve lived my life, always thinking I’ve had deal with things by myself. In the last few years, life’s surprising challenges have driven me to the point of having to ask for help – what a revelation it’s been. So in Dragonswood



when Tess escapes from the witch hunter and goes on the run, she’s not a lone heroine, she’s running with her friends Meg and Poppy. The three of them share the dangers, the hunger, and the need to find safe sanctuary. Of course they fight along the way and get in lots of trouble, but the key thing is, Tess is not alone.

We talked more about Justina's books


Walden Award Finalist. Best Book of the Year (Kirkus Reviews and Barnes + Noble)
*starred* reviews - Publishers Weekly,Kirkus,Booklist

Chatted about her novel Return to Me (A beautiful book I've had the privilege to read due out Jan 2013) and her work-in-progress. Justina was All Dragonswood, but I like to talk about Her work so we took turns :)

After lunch we popped over to Bellevue Barnes & Noble for a look-see.

“I don’t think they’ll have any Dragonswood copies in yet,” I said. Justina just smiled and headed for the information desk where she asked about Dragonswood. They produced a stack for me to sign. Very nice!

It was already a Perfect Book Birthday, but there was more. In the afternoon I headed for my favorite second hand store to find something for the book launch party. I already have my party dress and didn’t know what I was looking for, just something magical. What did I find? Shoes that match the dress – and not just any shoes – fairy slippers.



Then headed to the Asian Market for dinner supplies and found a particular party treat – seaweed.

Tess Meg and Poppy eat seaweed on their journey so the Dragonswood Party goers will have the chance to nibble some. I happen to love it!



Finally, the late afternoon light was golden on the trees as I drove home and the moon was out. It made me want to view the sky from Phantom Lake. My husband and I paddled out in our canoe among the birds.



Canada geese, and cormorants flew overhead. Little buffleheads skimmed across the water and we saw an eagle with its black wings and white tale spread as it soared over Phantom Lake.



Perfect end to a perfect Book Birthday.

To all you fellow authors out there, I highly recommend celebrating your Book Birthdays in some special way that’s just right for you and your book. If you do, or if you plan to for your next book – tell us how you’re going to celebrate.

P.S. One week left on the Teen Book Scene book tour. Full Tour Page

Warmest thanks to Kari for putting this 3 week blog tour together!