Friday, January 27, 2012

There's a lively discussion going on over at Elle Strauss's blog about genre niches that aren't being filled. Many readers commented on the lack of books geared specifically toward college-aged kids.

The prevailing wisdom among legacy publishers--at least as far as I can see--is that college kids don't read for fun. They're too busy studying.

The truth is, if they're "too busy," it's playing XBox, going to frat parties and watching Jersey Shore. The college years are some of the most free and breezy of your entire life. The number of classroom hours is a fraction of that of high school kids. And the amount of "homework"? Well, my professor husband says it has steadily dropped as the cost of tuition has gone up. (One of the many things very broken about higher ed these days is just how little actual work students do. Make them work hard, you get bad evaluations and lose your job.)

This market niche is ripe for the picking, not only because of the sheer amount of free time college kids have. They also grew up reading, thanks to the phenomenon that is Harry Potter. The reason they stop reading isn't busy-ness. It's the lack of reading material that appeals to them. They want books more mature than YA--dealing with the transition to adulthood, without being fully adult. And since none exist, they stop reading. So maybe the "lack of market" is a self-perpetuating problem.

Let's be honest here--isn't advertising done in part to create demand for a product? Make enticing products and advertise like crazy and the co-eds will come.

What do you think? Is this a niche that indies/small presses should band together to fulfill?
Friday, January 27, 2012 Laurel Garver
There's a lively discussion going on over at Elle Strauss's blog about genre niches that aren't being filled. Many readers commented on the lack of books geared specifically toward college-aged kids.

The prevailing wisdom among legacy publishers--at least as far as I can see--is that college kids don't read for fun. They're too busy studying.

The truth is, if they're "too busy," it's playing XBox, going to frat parties and watching Jersey Shore. The college years are some of the most free and breezy of your entire life. The number of classroom hours is a fraction of that of high school kids. And the amount of "homework"? Well, my professor husband says it has steadily dropped as the cost of tuition has gone up. (One of the many things very broken about higher ed these days is just how little actual work students do. Make them work hard, you get bad evaluations and lose your job.)

This market niche is ripe for the picking, not only because of the sheer amount of free time college kids have. They also grew up reading, thanks to the phenomenon that is Harry Potter. The reason they stop reading isn't busy-ness. It's the lack of reading material that appeals to them. They want books more mature than YA--dealing with the transition to adulthood, without being fully adult. And since none exist, they stop reading. So maybe the "lack of market" is a self-perpetuating problem.

Let's be honest here--isn't advertising done in part to create demand for a product? Make enticing products and advertise like crazy and the co-eds will come.

What do you think? Is this a niche that indies/small presses should band together to fulfill?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Call it Seasonal Affective Disorder, or "my anemia isn't gone despite the horsepills," or post-holiday slump, or immobilized-by-major-decisions-to-be-made.

It's been a struggle to blog.

There. I've said it. And I know I'm not alone. Today Adam Heine at Author's Echo talks about what he calls "Blog Fatigue." Go take a look. It's good.

I've tried many of his suggestions. Taken hiatuses. Done the reposting thing. Posted pictures and videos that caught my attention. Arranged guest posts.

But I feel guilty about this. I like the teaching aspect of this blog and feel like a truant when I can't consistently show up with something good and helpful. And when I put in a halfhearted effort, I think it shows. No one comments and then I feel even less motivated to keep up the blog. It turns into this downward spiral of acedia.

Have you dealt with this? How?
Friday, January 20, 2012 Laurel Garver
Call it Seasonal Affective Disorder, or "my anemia isn't gone despite the horsepills," or post-holiday slump, or immobilized-by-major-decisions-to-be-made.

It's been a struggle to blog.

There. I've said it. And I know I'm not alone. Today Adam Heine at Author's Echo talks about what he calls "Blog Fatigue." Go take a look. It's good.

I've tried many of his suggestions. Taken hiatuses. Done the reposting thing. Posted pictures and videos that caught my attention. Arranged guest posts.

But I feel guilty about this. I like the teaching aspect of this blog and feel like a truant when I can't consistently show up with something good and helpful. And when I put in a halfhearted effort, I think it shows. No one comments and then I feel even less motivated to keep up the blog. It turns into this downward spiral of acedia.

Have you dealt with this? How?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Compulsion is a deep-seated need to do something, a belief that a particular action will make one's anxiety evaporate. More serious compulsions we label "OCD"--obsessive compulsive disorder. OCD sufferers need to wash their hands frequently to dispel their anxiety about germs, or flick light switches a certain number of times to keep the universe in harmony.

Most of us have less dramatic compulsions that surface in times of stress. "I'll be okay if I can just go for a run," says the exercise-compulsive. One of my good friends cooks and freezes huge portions of food when she's anxious. I tend to clean, organize and rearrange the furniture. Having a neat environment makes me feel like life is under control.

Over the weekend I watched a wonderful indie film, "Sunshine Cleaning," starring Amy Adams and Emily Blunt as sisters Rose and Nora. These women are both struggling financially and learn that they could be making good money starting up their own business--cleaning up crime scenes.

Now you have to ask what sort of person would be drawn to this work? It's grisly and just really, really gross. But as you learn Rose and Nora's back story, it becomes clear that this is therapeutic work for them. They lost a loved one in a grisly manner when they were both quite young and have had difficulty moving on. Clearing away the evidence of painful loss for their clients cleans their own damaged souls.

If a different set of characters had been set in this scenario, I don't know that it would have worked as well. A socialite scrubbing gore off the walls would have been funnier--but less believable. What kept me gripped by the film was a desire to understand the underlying compulsion--the psychological need being met in this particular set of circumstances.

At one point, Rose is at a baby shower and has to explain her new business to a group of well-off young women who were high school friends. You couldn't ask for a more ironic juxtaposition, so I was bracing myself for things to go horribly, hilariously wrong. But the writer took a light touch, and in that moment we expect to writhe for Rose, she gives a wonderfully layered response to her friends' questions that's simultaneously sappy and deep.

"We're helping people," Rose says, "at a time when they are going through something profound. And we make things better."

When you can link an old wound with a new challenge, well, friends, you have the makings of deep, compelling drama. The trick is to match your protagonist and plot well.

Does your story's plot force your character to grapple with an old wound? If not, how might you better match protagonist and plot?
Tuesday, January 17, 2012 Laurel Garver
Compulsion is a deep-seated need to do something, a belief that a particular action will make one's anxiety evaporate. More serious compulsions we label "OCD"--obsessive compulsive disorder. OCD sufferers need to wash their hands frequently to dispel their anxiety about germs, or flick light switches a certain number of times to keep the universe in harmony.

Most of us have less dramatic compulsions that surface in times of stress. "I'll be okay if I can just go for a run," says the exercise-compulsive. One of my good friends cooks and freezes huge portions of food when she's anxious. I tend to clean, organize and rearrange the furniture. Having a neat environment makes me feel like life is under control.

Over the weekend I watched a wonderful indie film, "Sunshine Cleaning," starring Amy Adams and Emily Blunt as sisters Rose and Nora. These women are both struggling financially and learn that they could be making good money starting up their own business--cleaning up crime scenes.

Now you have to ask what sort of person would be drawn to this work? It's grisly and just really, really gross. But as you learn Rose and Nora's back story, it becomes clear that this is therapeutic work for them. They lost a loved one in a grisly manner when they were both quite young and have had difficulty moving on. Clearing away the evidence of painful loss for their clients cleans their own damaged souls.

If a different set of characters had been set in this scenario, I don't know that it would have worked as well. A socialite scrubbing gore off the walls would have been funnier--but less believable. What kept me gripped by the film was a desire to understand the underlying compulsion--the psychological need being met in this particular set of circumstances.

At one point, Rose is at a baby shower and has to explain her new business to a group of well-off young women who were high school friends. You couldn't ask for a more ironic juxtaposition, so I was bracing myself for things to go horribly, hilariously wrong. But the writer took a light touch, and in that moment we expect to writhe for Rose, she gives a wonderfully layered response to her friends' questions that's simultaneously sappy and deep.

"We're helping people," Rose says, "at a time when they are going through something profound. And we make things better."

When you can link an old wound with a new challenge, well, friends, you have the makings of deep, compelling drama. The trick is to match your protagonist and plot well.

Does your story's plot force your character to grapple with an old wound? If not, how might you better match protagonist and plot?

Friday, January 13, 2012

My daughter sadly has a summer birthday. Sadly because it's in the WORST part of summer--August, when everyone is on vacation. We've had a few very unsuccessful attempts at birthday parties in her short 9 years (where 2-3 of the dozen kids invited actually come), so this year we're going to throw her a half-birthday party in February.

Her theme? Harry Potter, of course. We have loads of ideas for invitations and decorations and food. We're a bit shorter on ideas for games and activities.

Can you help a mom out here? What Hogwarts-themed crafts and games can you think of, appropriate for ages 8-10?
Friday, January 13, 2012 Laurel Garver
My daughter sadly has a summer birthday. Sadly because it's in the WORST part of summer--August, when everyone is on vacation. We've had a few very unsuccessful attempts at birthday parties in her short 9 years (where 2-3 of the dozen kids invited actually come), so this year we're going to throw her a half-birthday party in February.

Her theme? Harry Potter, of course. We have loads of ideas for invitations and decorations and food. We're a bit shorter on ideas for games and activities.

Can you help a mom out here? What Hogwarts-themed crafts and games can you think of, appropriate for ages 8-10?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I'm contemplating some shifts in the coming year. A big one is whether I will begin to take on some freelance editing projects.

I've been hesitant to do this for one reason. Taxes. I live in a city that deals with self-employment income differently than other kinds of wages. It's a biggish step to do more than an occasional freelance job. There's an upfront cost to register any business venture in Philadelphia--a somewhat steep one.

Happily, I found an inexpensive two-hour workshop on small business taxes in the city. So I hope that once I have a handle on what's involved, I can make an educated decision.

Meanwhile, I continue to receive Editor-on-Call questions. Here's the latest:

Dear Editor-on-Call,

I said to my mother, "Because I am me." She corrected me and felt I should have said, "Because I am I." Who's right here?

Sincerely,
I gotta be me
(aka Jessica Dimuzio, author of Bark, Bark, Bark for my Park)

Dear Gotta Be,

I'd say it depends on context. The rule is that the verb "to be" acts like an equal sign and the second pronoun should be subjective (I, she, he, they), not objective (me, her, him, them).

BUT it sounds like a pretentious over-correction to say "I am I." The grammar sites I checked all had ongoing arguments. "I am me" is using the word "me" to refer to one's ego. Or at least that's how grammarians today think of the phrase. (Whether one should think of one's ego as some kind of discrete entity is a larger philosophical issue that's more my husband's area of expertise as a philosophy professor, but I digress....)

The fact is, we don't have a singular entity making pronouncements on the purity of English like the Académie Française in France. English's strength is its flexibility and skill at keeping up with the times. This is one of those cases where the rules are in flux and what was once considered correct is passing out of ordinary use.

She is right to the letter of the law; you are right to the current standard of speech patterns.

Any of you self-employed? How big a headache are tax issues? Which of the sentences Jessica mentioned sounds best to you? Do we need a guardian of pure English?
Tuesday, January 10, 2012 Laurel Garver
I'm contemplating some shifts in the coming year. A big one is whether I will begin to take on some freelance editing projects.

I've been hesitant to do this for one reason. Taxes. I live in a city that deals with self-employment income differently than other kinds of wages. It's a biggish step to do more than an occasional freelance job. There's an upfront cost to register any business venture in Philadelphia--a somewhat steep one.

Happily, I found an inexpensive two-hour workshop on small business taxes in the city. So I hope that once I have a handle on what's involved, I can make an educated decision.

Meanwhile, I continue to receive Editor-on-Call questions. Here's the latest:

Dear Editor-on-Call,

I said to my mother, "Because I am me." She corrected me and felt I should have said, "Because I am I." Who's right here?

Sincerely,
I gotta be me
(aka Jessica Dimuzio, author of Bark, Bark, Bark for my Park)

Dear Gotta Be,

I'd say it depends on context. The rule is that the verb "to be" acts like an equal sign and the second pronoun should be subjective (I, she, he, they), not objective (me, her, him, them).

BUT it sounds like a pretentious over-correction to say "I am I." The grammar sites I checked all had ongoing arguments. "I am me" is using the word "me" to refer to one's ego. Or at least that's how grammarians today think of the phrase. (Whether one should think of one's ego as some kind of discrete entity is a larger philosophical issue that's more my husband's area of expertise as a philosophy professor, but I digress....)

The fact is, we don't have a singular entity making pronouncements on the purity of English like the Académie Française in France. English's strength is its flexibility and skill at keeping up with the times. This is one of those cases where the rules are in flux and what was once considered correct is passing out of ordinary use.

She is right to the letter of the law; you are right to the current standard of speech patterns.

Any of you self-employed? How big a headache are tax issues? Which of the sentences Jessica mentioned sounds best to you? Do we need a guardian of pure English?

Friday, January 06, 2012

Happy Epiphany! Today's the day of celebrating the Magi's visit to the Christ child and the official end of the Christmas season. In parts of the world, today is when gift-giving happens.

I certainly got a nice gift today--publication of a vignette, "New Hues," in the inaugural issue of Vine Leaves Literary Journal. This new venture aims to fill a gaping hole in the lit mag field--vignette pieces, or "snapshot" or "element focused" writing. It's not about plot, but about focusing on other aspects of writing, such as description, setting or character.

The first issue is jam-packed with pieces--several from my blogging friends and my poetry group. Hope you swing by to check it out!

And if you like to write short, focused studies that you know aren't quite stories, but are beauty you want to share, consider submitting to future issues. And yes, they take novel excerpts! Guidelines are available HERE.

If you were to write a focused exercise, what element would you most like to explore? Description, setting, character? Perhaps a symbolic dream or poetic musing?

Side note: I've changed my schedule for 2012 to Tue, Fri posting.
Friday, January 06, 2012 Laurel Garver
Happy Epiphany! Today's the day of celebrating the Magi's visit to the Christ child and the official end of the Christmas season. In parts of the world, today is when gift-giving happens.

I certainly got a nice gift today--publication of a vignette, "New Hues," in the inaugural issue of Vine Leaves Literary Journal. This new venture aims to fill a gaping hole in the lit mag field--vignette pieces, or "snapshot" or "element focused" writing. It's not about plot, but about focusing on other aspects of writing, such as description, setting or character.

The first issue is jam-packed with pieces--several from my blogging friends and my poetry group. Hope you swing by to check it out!

And if you like to write short, focused studies that you know aren't quite stories, but are beauty you want to share, consider submitting to future issues. And yes, they take novel excerpts! Guidelines are available HERE.

If you were to write a focused exercise, what element would you most like to explore? Description, setting, character? Perhaps a symbolic dream or poetic musing?

Side note: I've changed my schedule for 2012 to Tue, Fri posting.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

I hope you all are having a delightful Christmas. What? You're not still celebrating? Come on, the party doesn't wrap till Jan. 6, peeps. We're still in the heart of the Twelve Days, so whoop it up!

I was delighted (truthfully, shocked and awed) to receive a Kindle this season. In addition to some gift books, I've been loading up some free classics as well.

So far, what I have is the most ridiculous hodgepodge of eras and styles. I was an English major undergrad and also for a year of grad school, so I'd like to think I've ready pretty widely. But here are a few of the gaps I'm filling in.

Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser
Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

I also hope to bone up on Jean Rhys, Djuna Barnes and some of the other 20th century women novelists. My modernist course covered mostly men; some, like Nathanael West, aren't particularly core figures either. Ah, sexist professors, how you warp us.

Anyway, I'm just loving how easy it is to have multiple books going at once. I can switch to the particular mood I'm in and not have to haul extra weight or lose my page. I think this will be particularly helpful in tackling the likes of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, known for their hefty tomes. I think the backache factor has scared me off the Russians for years, but now I feel equipped to dive in. Yeah, I'm looking at you, War and Peace.

What new horizons could or has an e-reader opened for you?
Tuesday, January 03, 2012 Laurel Garver
I hope you all are having a delightful Christmas. What? You're not still celebrating? Come on, the party doesn't wrap till Jan. 6, peeps. We're still in the heart of the Twelve Days, so whoop it up!

I was delighted (truthfully, shocked and awed) to receive a Kindle this season. In addition to some gift books, I've been loading up some free classics as well.

So far, what I have is the most ridiculous hodgepodge of eras and styles. I was an English major undergrad and also for a year of grad school, so I'd like to think I've ready pretty widely. But here are a few of the gaps I'm filling in.

Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser
Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

I also hope to bone up on Jean Rhys, Djuna Barnes and some of the other 20th century women novelists. My modernist course covered mostly men; some, like Nathanael West, aren't particularly core figures either. Ah, sexist professors, how you warp us.

Anyway, I'm just loving how easy it is to have multiple books going at once. I can switch to the particular mood I'm in and not have to haul extra weight or lose my page. I think this will be particularly helpful in tackling the likes of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, known for their hefty tomes. I think the backache factor has scared me off the Russians for years, but now I feel equipped to dive in. Yeah, I'm looking at you, War and Peace.

What new horizons could or has an e-reader opened for you?