Wednesday, June 29, 2011

You're both right...and wrong.

Once again the WSJ published a piece by Mrs. Gurdon. She responded to the folks who responded to her last article. And now people are lashing out at her again. I must say that, after looking at the issue, both sides of the argument are right, and both of them are wrong. They both make great points, and both of them appear to utterly dismiss the others' point of view as legitimate. The fact is, I think the books that worry Gurdon should remain available for purchase, and I think we need MORE of them to use as teaching opportunities for our young men and young women.

At the same time, Gurdon still has a point that it's hard to find light and fluffy books. I think there need to be more of those, too. But not as many because that's not as valuable as books that bring about better understanding of issues that many (but not all) teens experience.

It's my belief that the worst then my parents ever did was attempt to shelter my brothers and me from the darkness in the world. We were fortunate enough to find out what the world is like without overreacting the way many sheltered youths do. And it happens all the time. Just look at Amish kids. They aren't taught how to live in the real world as well-adjusted people. They have to learn on their own, and some of them end up making mistakes that can ruin their lives. It's dangerous and irresponsible. But you don't just throw a kid into a whore-house/crack-den and tell them, "Life can get this bad, and it probably will. Watch that meth-head claw his eyes out because he thinks spiders are crawling around in there. See? Get used to those sights, you'll be surrounded by them for the rest of your life."

You HAVE to find middle ground. Let kids know that there are awful things out there, and teach them how respond to it in a way that will make them valuable members of society. As I said in my last post on this subject, this is not an issue of the content/quality of literature: it's an issue of good parenting versus bad parenting. So everyone, take a moment to try to understand where the other people are coming from. YOUR perspective is legitimate, valid, and absolutely relevant to the discussion, but so is the perspective of the person on the other side.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tuesday Thoughts

Like I said last night, work has been crazy the last few days. It's drained me so much that I nearly slept through my alarm this morning. I'm glad I have a job, and I'm looking forward to the work day. I'm just tired.

I didn't get any work done on my query this weekend due to emergency deliveries for work and total exhaustion. But I'm pleased with what I accomplished on Friday! I took a look at the query and thought, "This doesn't show anyone what the story is about. It shows them a few events that happen in the story, but that's about all." And that's a problem. Sort of. Okay not really because that's an easy fix. I started making those fixes Friday, and in a few minutes I'll continue.

It's the end of June, and that means we'll have a new charity soon. But with all of the flooding in Minot, ND, the tornado victims in Missouri, and wild-fire victims in New Mexico, I really want to ask you again to click on the link for Samaritan's Purse and give to their US Relief fund.

See you tomorrow!

Monday, June 27, 2011

What did I say?

I said it would be a crazy week. I worked all day! I haven't had the energy to do anything until right now. And even this is a lot for me. I WILL put together a post tomorrow, so for now I bid you goodnight.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Regaining Momentum

I spent a week in New York, either too busy to get on my computer, or too tired to keep my eyes open. Now that I'm back, I find that getting up in the morning is harder than it used to be. And my first day back at the day job was CRAZY busy. Plus, the next few weeks will be even crazier. I'm still making great progress on my query letter, but I feel like I would have finished it by now if I had some real free time.

This is why I didn't blog this morning. I just couldn't justify spending time on anything other than my query letter. Over the next few weeks, blog posts, though regular, will remain brief. At least until I finish writing this query.

Have a great weekend, I'm going to finish my lunch and get back to work.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Ah the joys of owning your own place. You don't have to keep the walls white, you can change the flooring whenever you like, and you don't have to worry about your rent going up every year. On the other hand, when things go wrong, you have to fix them.

My toilet's leaking into the crawlspace of my new home. Since I don't know much about home-repair, and since I'm going to be in New York next week, AND since I won't have much free time when I get back, I needed to call a plumber to come in and fix the toilet. He's going to be here soonish, but I have to get ready for work. That means I don't have time to work on writing this morning.

But I should have time to work on the query letter on my lunch break.

Oh, and I probably won't get a post up on Friday, Monday, or Wednesday because I can't guarantee that I'll have internet access. I'll definitely have a post up next Friday. See you then!

Monday, June 13, 2011

What can I say?

This week, I'm going to New York for the first time in my life. My sister-in-law is graduating from the Merchant Marine Academy, so my wife and I are going to be there to celebrate!

Two years ago, I hoped to have an agent by this time. Maybe even a publisher I could visit while I'm out there. In theory, it wasn't unrealistic: I had a completed manuscript, I knew how to go about querying agents, and I was more than willing to put in the work necessary to move my career forward. As my regular readers know, I still don't have an agent or a publishing contract.

Is this a bad thing? I don't think so. In retrospect, I wasn't ready. I've looked over that manuscript again. And while it's not horrible, I think it still needs work. Sure, I finished another book in the meantime, but I just finished making new revisions. I'm almost done with that query, too. I'm not upset that I'm going to New York without having an agent and/or publisher. Sure, it would be fun to visit with my editor and my agent (assuming they worked out of New York. I'll be incredibly happy with my agent no matter where they work), but life doesn't always turn out the way I plan.

I'm working hard, and I'm excited about where my writing is headed. I can see it improving. I can see my query letter getting sharper, more to the point. I'm learning how to put together new stories. And I'm not afraid of getting a "no" from an agent.

What else can I say? I stuck with it. Sure, I have a long way to go, but I'm happy moving in the direction I'm headed.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Hey, I'm Learning!

So as I mentioned a while ago, I started writing a new query letter. It turns out that I'm improving! Sure I got the obligatory "your story's lame, give up" comments on the forum, but most of the comments were VERY helpful (and honestly, that one negative comment helped me see where I need to clarify the query). In my early letters, I struggled with voice in the query. I didn't know how to translate the voice of the novel into the letter, and I wasn't even sure what the voice of the novel sounded like. But this last revision helped me understand what my voice is. And by focusing on what the story is about, I figured out how to get the MS's voice into the query.

See? By sticking with my work, I learned how to get better as a writer! Sure, my blogging leaves something to be desired, but I'm working on that, too.

Now I just need to find a critique group to join so I can spend more time in the real world rather than on the internet.

Over the weekend, please consider how many blessings you have. Look at your safe, intact home, and then help someone else move down the path to recovery. As many of you are still aware, we still have MANY people suffering the loss of homes and families. Please give to the Samaritan's Purse US Relief fund. Have a great weekend, I'll see you on Monday!

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

My Response to the WSJ

So on Monday I mentioned the WSJ article that came out last week, and I told you that I wanted to take some time to put my thoughts together before I wrote a response. If you haven't read the article, do so now so you're not lost. Done? Great, let's continue.

First of all, the bloggosphere, and YA authors (aspiring and otherwise) seem to have responded with a resounding "Eff you, WSJ!" That's quite an overreaction, and I'll tell you why: this is an opinion piece meant to inform readers of what the author thinks about the YA book world. It's not a "news story" or a "call to arms" for parents, it's simply one person spelling out her concerns to her readers. And as a parent (I think she's a parent) her concern is justified, though unjustifiably ill-informed (I'll get to that in a moment).

The fact is, there are a lot of books out there (for all age groups) that some parents don't want their children to read. Many of those books get the most press as "the book everyone must read." So when a parent who wants to be involved in their offspring's entertainment choices is faced with a wall of books that they don't particularly like, it can get overwhelming. (I'm not excusing a lack of ignorance, I'm simply bringing perspective to the table.) The flip side of this coin can be seen most clearly in the video game debate. When a kid steals his teacher's car, bowls over a ton of pedestrians, and then wrecks, the kid's lawyers blame Grand Theft Auto. Those of us with brains in our heads are smart enough to ask, "Where are the parents?"

The parents are trying to buy "appropriate" books, movies, video games, etc. for their kids. Because they care, because they want to be involved, and because (and I can't stress this enough) PARENTING IS NOT A SPECTATOR SPORT!

Now before you hate me, before you blast off an angry e-mail, scroll down to the comments and cuss me out, it's time to justify some of the anger the YA community expressed over the weekend.

Mrs. Gurdon got her facts wrong. Many, MANY young adult books are available for the parents to give to their kids, even if they're concern with what their kids read. On top of that, Gurdon mentioned and then dismissed the idea that YA books help readers deal with issues that they may not otherwise know how to deal with. Yes, all forms of media influence how we think (to what degree can't be debated because each person deals with and reacts to media in unique ways). But if Gurdon spent any time talking with the great people out in the YA industry, (like aspiring author Kate Haggard, authors Chuck Wendig, Kiersten White, even J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer), she would have discovered that the books we read when we're feeling depressed, lost, and outcast give us the encouragement and strength we need to face our troubles and fix our problems. Gurdon didn't bother to find out how people's lives have been changed for the better because they read a book about a character that faced the same problems as the reader.

It's one thing for a teen to read about a thirty-five-year-old woman who got assaulted in an alley. Maybe that book could help a fifteen-year-old girl find the strength to overcome an assault from a family member. But how much more effective is the message (it's not your fault, this doesn't have to define you, control you, etc.) if the protagonist of a novel is also a fifteen-year-old girl with the same abusive relative?

No, I don't think the book itself will completely fix a person's life. But it can inspire the reader to make changes, seek help, and stop hiding from an issue that may otherwise drive that reader to self-destructive life-choices.

I understand that many parents want to hide their children from the darkness of the real world. But by the time they're thirteen, chances are they're living in that darkness. Even if their parents desperately try to shelter them. They shouldn't waste time and energy griping and complaining about the "inappropriate" books on store shelves. Instead they need to look for the books that they DO approve of. And if their kids want to read something they don't like, they should read it anyway and use it as a teaching opportunity.

And bloggosphere needs to calm down. The WSJ wasn't attacking them, and neither was Gurdon. Gurdon is paid for her opinion, which she's entitled to. Those of us with brains in our heads know that she's wrong. And spewing venom on a blog will not change how she writes. A concise argument with valid examples of WHY she's wrong may change her point of view, but vitriol will not. (For an example of a good response, read Kate Haggard's blog.) Bloggers shouldn't give Gurdon the power to make them angry. She is not going change their opinions or keep them from reading their favorite books. Instead, bloggers should use her article as a conversation-starter with people they know who share her view. And then prove THOSE people wrong by recommending great YA novels.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Random Thoughts

A lot of tense emotions filled the internet this weekend in response to a Wall Street Journal article about YA fiction. I have several thoughts on that article as well, but I need to do a lot of research. I can tell you, though, that my point of view does not conform to the responses that filled my twitter screen on Sunday. Sure I agree with some of their points, but the issue is bigger than those opinions. At least from where I sit.

It's been quite a weekend for me. I didn't get any time to just sit around and do nothing. That's good and bad. On the one hand, I got to work a LOT, which means I get to pay my bills.

On the other hand, I didn't get to take the time to work on my blog layout. I also spent the ENTIRE weekend tired, sore, and out of the house. But a good deal of it got spent with my wife, so that's great, too :D
If you haven't seen it yet, go see the new X-men movie. It's awesome. I saw it yesterday, and I'm thoroughly impressed. The acting is solid, the characters are engaging, and the plot leaves little to be desired (unlike X3 and Wolverine).
Again, I ask that you head over to Samaritan's Purse to donate to their US Relief Fund. We still have a lot of tornado and flood victims out there who need help putting their lives back together.
Have a great week. I'll see you on Wednesday!

Friday, June 03, 2011

Getting Help

It's hard work, learning how to hone your craft. That's why I'm going to a conference this fall. You see, on Wednesday I finished Wyrm Fiend again. Now I'm rewriting my query. Even though I have an idea of what I want to say, and I'm certain that I'll be able to craft a quality query letter, I know I need to take some classes on how to write a query.

There's a wealth of information on the internet, and it's helpful. Really helpful. But I learn better in a classroom-type environment. There aren't any magic solutions that will instantly get me a request for more pages from an agent. It still requires hard work on my part. I just don't know what to do to make my query pop.

I've said it before: it's important to ask for help when you need it. That's what I'm doing with this conference. And if there's anything you ever need help with, especially in your writing, find a group who can help you.

As you can see, I haven't been able to fix the sidebars on the blog, so here's the link to the current Charity of the Month. It's Samaritan's Purse. Please go to their site and donate to their US Disaster Relief program so that the families in Middle America who have been torn apart by floods and tornadoes can start to get back on their feet.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Charity of the Month: Samaritan's Purse

It's the first of the month, so now we're going to introduce a new charity!

Samaritan's Purse is an organization run by Franklin Graham, the son of evangelist Billy Graham. This charity does so many things I don't even know where to start talking about them. But I chose them because they have a department dedicated to US disaster relief.

As you all know, we've had an enormous amount of flooding along the Mississippi river. We've also had a record amount of tornadoes all over the country. People need help. They need food, medical supplies, repairs for their homes, and many of them even need all-new homes. Many groups are doing great things for our fellow Americans, but we still need to do more. So I'll keep it brief today. Please visit the Samaritan's Purse website, click on the donate button, and give to their US Disaster Relief fund.

Note: as you can see, the sidebar isn't updated. Blogger won't let me edit this template (they updated some stuff and now I can't edit the blog). I'll put together a new template that I can edit as soon as I can. Until then, I'll keep the Charity's link in every post.