Thursday, March 27, 2008

Naked, but Still Writing

We all have our personal equivalent of the “naked dream” where your vulnerable anatomy is revealed to an auditorium of peers who publicly humiliate or unmask you in some way.

Lately I’ve been exploring the feelings that come up around bad reviews and negative criticism since publishing my two new books, Make a Scene, and Write Free. Fortunately for the sake of blog post material, I received another crappy review, this one asking the very question that pulls at the seams of my tightly sewn writer’s persona, rendering me naked to the jeering crowd.

Why, asked the gentleman, should he have expected a book on writing to offer him anything useful when the author had not published a novel to speak of? (I paraphrase)

Was I, the gentleman pointed out in his cocksure manner, another example of the old axiom, “those who can’t do, teach?” (my words).

I’m afraid to admit this one stung precisely because I have asked myself this same question, waiting to be revealed as a fake. What if all those novels I’ve written—the prerequisite “5 or 6 unpublished novels hiding in a drawer” are all I will ever have to show of a literary life? What if all the hours I’ve spent building structures and implanting characters within them, spinning out tales and stories and yarns, never produce a saleable work of fiction?

Should I then turn off my analytical eye, blind the part of me that is, for some reason, pretty darn good at seeing and understanding the elements of the craft of fiction even as I struggle to make them work for me?

My answer is that I believe there is a difference between someone who teaches but does not practice their subject, and one who teaches and practices and still has a ways to go along the path, maybe a lifetime. I may not be "there" yet, but I'm still on my way.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Terena on KMEC

Terena and the Medusa's Muse editor, Jane Mackay, were interviewed on KMEC radio last week. The show is now on line on the KMEC website. KMEC is a low power, community radio station in Ukiah, Ca. 105.1 FM

The Midnight Society

(3-21-3008. The interview is split in two with lots of great Punk tunes)

Toward the end of part two, Terena explains how to submit your work to Medusa's Muse.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Review of Audrey, Wait! Robin Benway's debut novel

Audrey, Wait! by debut Young Adult novelist Robin Benway hits stores in April. Should you rush to your local bookstore and order it this minute? The answer is a resounding, musical YES, with heavy bass beats and non-synthesized drums in the background.

This is precisely the sort of YA fiction I hunt for but don't find often enough. It's fun without being vapid, fast-paced without sacrificing well-developed characters, and sweet without ever veering into saccharine land. The pacing is tight, and every scene delivers humor, tension, or pathos in just the right doses. Most of all, though, Benway manages to nail the voice and mindset of a modern teen girl with startling honesty and spot on accuracy.

Here's the premise: Audrey breaks up with her self-absorbed musician boyfriend on page one. Good riddance. He proceeds to write a breakup song called "Audrey, Wait!" The catchy number shoots to the very top of the pop charts and Audrey finds herself thrust into a brand new existence, one filled with paparazzi, online discussions about her love life, and teenie-boppers imitating her offbeat fashions.

The plot has momentum and moves nicely, but my favorite aspect of this book is definitely the attention to detail in Benway's character development. Every one of the main players, and even a few of the minor ones, are quirky, intriguing, and endearing. In particular, Audrey's best friend Victoria has such zest and energy she leaps off the page. She's also deeply human with very believable flaws, which makes her even more memorable and affecting.

Don't take my word for it, though. Get thee to thy bookstore and reserve your copy now. Robin Benway is a mega-talented writer, and if there is any justice in the world of YA fiction Audrey, Wait! will shoot to the top of the charts the second it hits the shelves.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Small Press Month

Not only is March Women's History Month, but it is also Small Press Month, celebrating the contributions of small and independent publishers to the book industry.

Small Press Month, now in its 12th year, is a nationwide promotion highlighting the books produced by independent and small publishers. The website calls it "An annual celebration of the independent spirit of small publishers, Small Press Month is an effort to showcase the diverse, unique, and often most significant voices being published today. This year's slogan is Celebrate Great Writing."

What is a small press? There are several definitions depending on what country you live in, but in the U.S. it means a book press that publishes less than 10 titles a year and earns less than $50 million. If that's the definition of a small press, Medusa's Muse must be a Minuscule Press, with just one or two books a year and earning less than a thousand bucks. Is there a mini-press category?

Wikipedia has an excellent definition of a small press . Here is part of that definition:

Since the profit margins for small presses can be narrow, many are driven by other motives, including the desire to help disseminate literature with only a small likely market. Small presses tend to fill the niches that larger publishers neglect. They can focus on regional titles, narrow specializations and niche genres. They can also make up for commercial clout by creating a reputation for academic knowledge, vigorously pursuing prestigious literature prizes and spending more effort nurturing the careers of new authors.[3] At its most minimal, small press production consists of chapbooks. This role can now be taken on by desktop publishing and Web sites. This still leaves a continuum of small press publishing: from specialist periodicals, short runs or print-to-order of low-demand books, to fine art books and limited editions of collectors' items printed to high standards

There are thousands of Small Presses in the United States alone. One of my favorites is Soft Skull, which put out the funny, fantastical story "The Good Fairies of New York," by Martin Miller, the tale of two Irish fairies who get lost in New York City and create havoc as they compete with each other over who "has the best human." Woza Books produces the excellent children's book, "The Call to Shakabaz" by Amy Wachpress, which was a finalist in the USA Book's National Award for children's fiction. The award winning British press Dedalus Books has been in business since 1983 creating haunting, visionary, and beautiful works and is on the verge of closing shop thanks to the end of the British Arts Grant which has helped support their work since the 1990's. Be sure and grab one of their books before they disappear. If you're in the mood for fairy tale or romance,go to Drollerie Press. Their books are as beautiful as their website. And did you know that the works of Henry Miller were published by New Directions Press, one of the pioneers in the Publishing industry?

Independent publishing has a long and prestigious history, from Anais Nin painstakingly typesetting each page and self-publishing her book, "House of Incest," to the now famous "Chicken Soup" books. I am proud to be a part of this tradition. As Walter Mosley says on the Small Press Month website, "The life’s blood of contemporary and modern literature is in the custodianship of so-called small publishers. Without them, there is no future for literature."

Embrace the spirit of independent publishing and pick up a book from a small press today.