Caroline Bock-BEFORE MY EYES
Hope all are having a beautiful summer out there in cyberspace! I spent my Friday night with this amazing group of teen readers and writers at the Valley Stream, NY public library. For this group I prepared a Tip Sheet of Writing Resources -- it starts off with my disclaimer: This is by no means a comprehensive list, but represents groups
that I have participated in or taken classes with over the years— from Caroline
Bock, author of LIE.
More for Adults:
Society of Children’s Book
Writers and Illustrators
– (SBCWI) National
organization for children’s writers, I’m a member of the NYC chapter with
monthly seminars, annual winter meeting in January in NYC offers critiques,
workshops and panels. www.scbwi.org
(for women writers only). As they note, they are the “premier destination for women
writers, providing services and support for women at every stage of their
writing lives.” Lots of free
information, sharing here. Also
writing classes for a fee offered on line. www.shewrites.com
(on-line and in NYC, www.mediabistro.com
daily free email on the media business, plus some excellent short-term writing classes. Class with D.B. Gilles on screenwriting
is very worthwhile. He has a new
book: The ScreenWriter Within
highly recommend it.
– daily free email on the publishing business. Key info for serious aspiring writer
about what books have been sold by what agents to what publisher’s, what books
optioned by film or television, and the scope of the deals. A subscription component of the
site gives more details on deals. www.publishersmarketplace.com
– “the largest and most searchable
database of literary agents on the web.” Also the “how to write a query” section is very
helpful (a “query” is a sale pitch letter about your project to a literary
Long Island Children’s
Writers and Illustrators (LICWI)
- a very inclusive Long Island, NY group
meets once a month at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue, and features group
critiques of children –young adult work.
Editor visits. Extremely
reasonable annual membership. www.licwi.org
Hofstra Continuing Education
(high school and adult
education writing classes year round and a well-run Summer Writers Institute on
Long Island). If you are an
aspiring children’s writer, try a class with Brian Heinz, very worthwhile. www.hofstra.edu/ucce/summerwriting.edu
More for Teens:
: Write yourself in. A community to share writing – no fee
to join. Teen orientated. Educator section too. Lots of resources
for teen writers here – and for adult writers interested in young adult
fiction, Find interview with me on
this site!! www.figment.com
: It's a magazine written entirely by
children. Ask your librarian whether she has some copies you could read first. Check out their website at www.stonesoup.com
If you wish to
submit, send to:
P.O. Box 83
Santa Cruz, CA 95063.
Include name, age, home address, phone number, and a self-addressed stamped
Top Writing Competition for
High School students:
The Scholastic Art
& Writing Awards for grades 7-12.
Top award for high school students in the country for writing. Dramatic scripts, Flash
Fiction (1,300 words), Personal Essay, Poetry, Science Fiction, Short Story are
among the categories. DEADLINE for
Northeast regional: is in early
2013. Regional and national
winners. Scholarships for
winners. More at www.artandwriting.org
Short list of books about
writing on my bookshelf for adults or teens:
1) On the art of writing: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott about the creative process;
On Writing by Stephen King and The Art of the Novelist by John Gardner.
2) On practical advice: Immediate Fiction
by Jerry Cleaver, a complete writing course in one book; he Practical Writer from Inspiration to
edited by Therese Eiben and Mary Gannon on the staff of Poets
& Writers Magazine and The Forest for
: an Editor’s Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner. Also, Poets&Writers Magazine
and its website www.pw.org
resources (I even worked at Poets & Writers for a short, sweet stint as an editorial assistant!).
your school has a literary magazine, get involved. I truly began to think of
myself as a writer when I became involved in Opus, my New Rochelle High School literary magazine.
a summer of 2012 must-read
Check out the interview with fabulous Latina writer Meg Medina and me at her blog www.megmedina.com.
This is what happens when you go to a June literary reading entitled
at Housing Works
in Soho with your New York City girlfriend. You
don’t really expect to anyone to be nude, but then you don’t expect to be so
entertained by Dave Hill, Michael Kupperman and Rebecca (aka Debbie Downer from
Saturday Night Live) Dratch and readings from their new books—
You walk out in a great mood and see graffiti art on the
construction in the front of the turn-of-the-century (19 to 20th,
having now to be precise about what century) building. You cross the
cobblestone street – and you see --
That flames are spitting out of the graffiti man’s mouth—
You take a picture thinking it’s cool downtown art—
You don’t think:
FLAMES ARE SWIRLING OUT OF ITS MOUTH until two people stumble out of the
building choking on the smoke. They call the super and someone pours a cup of
water into his mouth as if he’s giving him a drink—
You and your friend quickly decide it’s time to go to dinner.
You pick a not too expensive place nearby and order a white wine and a nicoise salad
and watch fire trucks race by—
After dinner, you go back to that turn-of-the-century
building because you parked your Honda CRV with the Junie B. Jones books piled
in the backseat right in front (street parking available after 6 p.m.). This is
what you find—
You and your friend agree: this was a night neither of you
will ever forget. You get in your car and drive back to Long Island in awe.
A summer of 2012 must read.
Re-read Crime and Punishment by Feodor Dostoevsky in the 98 degree heat, which just broke in a lacerating storm of thunder and lightening and downpour. Maybe this is not what others would consider fun summer reading though it's set in the stifling heat of 19th century St. Petersburg in summer and strikes close to the bone -- for me.
Why Crime and Punishment? It's considered the first modern psychological novel -- a portrait of a tormented murderer -- and his redemption -- and my next novel has a character that drew me back to its main character Raskolnikov. However, my character in my new novel has no ex-prostitute to save him, no exile to Siberia to redeem him, no confession -- only the breakdown of reality and his mind -- and yes, death on his hands too.
" 'To think that I can contemplate such a terrible act and yet be afraid of such trifles, he thought, and he smiled strangely. 'Hm... yes... a man holds the fate of the world in his two hands, and yet, simply because he is afraid, he lets things, drift -- that is a truism... I wonder what men are most afraid of..." Raskolnikov in the opening chapter. (I would recommend the "Norton Critical Edition" of this classic over any other).
This blog receives quite a number of "clicks" from Russia (and even recently Romania!) -- is Crime and Punishment still read there? And to all, is there an answer to Raskolinkov's rant: What are men most afraid of?
Musings for this summer evening...one filled with the darkening threat of more rain.
If you haven't read LIE,
my debut novel, consider it for your
summer reading list --
author of LIE
is one of the major figures of modern Chinese literature - but perhaps people out there in the Internet ether know this -- or at least, I keep wondering who in China is clicking on this blog? I taught "Diary of a Madman"
this year -- reluctantly. I knew little of Chinese literature. It was a mandate from the English department at City College of New York to teach this early 20th century short story as part of my World Humanities course.
I loved this story. Reading and teaching Lu Xun led me to think of China -- and of other places in history and time that has suppressed human creativity and hope -- driven people crazy with fear. I wonder if they are reading him in China today -- or is he out of fashion? Written in 1918, "Diary of a Madman" is about a so called "madman's" point of view of his village -- of sanctioned terror, of a village and of families turning to the most horrendous of human crimes-- cannibalism.
Or, is this all just the crazed ramblings of an unreliable narrator? Moreover, is this truth or symbolic of a larger destruction of a corrupt, brutal, inhuman society? Does the madman speak truth to power or does he have no power at all --except to share his nightmares?
As the narrator exclaims at the very end, "Are there children who have not yet eaten human flesh? Save the children..."
As I speak to groups young and old about LIE,
my debut novel, (and I have an upcoming talk at the Elmont Public Library on Tuesday, June 5th at 6-8 pm at 700 Hempstead Tpk. Elmont, NY -- FREE, open to the public
) there is always someone who comes up to me, and often, shyly admits that they want to be a writer.
Yes, I think to myself: a reader! To be a writer you have to be a reader, someone who devours books -- especially books in whatever genre you are interested in writing in. And since we are on the topic of free -- books can be FREE (think: public library).
Beyond being a reader, to be a writer you have to write -- and that sounds simple, but it takes practice, skill, and often, guidance to write well. So, I discovered an upcoming FREE,
yes, FREE (because writer's conferences and Master of Fine Arts degrees costs money, sometimes a lot of money), on line children's writer's conference: Write On Con 2012
, which will take place Tuesday, August 14 and Wednesday, August 15th. Major agents, editors and children's writers are scheduled to be involved in this second annual Write On Con --(I hope to be involved -- keep your fingers crossed for me!). The 2012 theme is "Back to Basics." And it's all on line -- so you can live anywhere in the world and participate! Plan ahead. More details at www.writeoncon.com
author of LIE
if you haven't read LIE
yet -- put it on your summer reading list!!
Reading this morning about "Giving Birth To Blue," in the PW Children's Bookshelf (free newsletter!), and came across this paragraph, which about the editorial process. This is an exchange between fabulous fantasy author, Kristin Cashore, and her editor and is very telling about what editors are looking for -- from any author (bestselling or not!) and how they read manuscripts:
"...Following receipt of the letter, the editor and author spoke on the telephone. Dawson told Cashore she had started a “chapter map” for Bitterblue, a document she creates for every book she edits, which she uses to test whether a chapter is doing enough. “These are down and dirty notes for me so I can make sure each chapter has a reason to exist,” Dawson says. “I keep track of plot developments and reveals. There’s got to be a reversal or a transformation in each chapter, otherwise it’s not really a chapter..." Read entire story at www.publishersweekly.com
Truly, from the author of LIE
realistic young adult novel,
(and a reader who loves
This spring, I taught a terrific group of students Corporate Public Relations and Public Relations Writing, and I learned what I didn't know about what they didn't know. I learned a lot. So, here's four quick pieces of advice for the college student or new graduate:
*Learn how to write a professional business letter
*Learn how to write a professional business memo
*Learn how to write a professional business email.
This is about writing clear, concise, focused, grammatically-correct, proofed works -- based on your own ideas and insights. It's about knowing how to present oneself in writing as a professional. It's about being able to say with confidence that you know how to write and think critically about an issue.
Yes, there is a place for five-page essays and 10-page research papers. I'm a former English student and a recent MFA graduate in Creative Writing, how could I think critical papers were not important?
However, with 20 years plus of experience in Corporate America, I also know most adults will never write an essay. But they will write an one-page letter, a memo or email.
Our fast-moving, 21st century society is about making the complicated less complicated -- and that often means being able to summarize and distill ideas into shorter works, especially for professional organizations. Those "shorter works" are often letters, memos or emails. Learn how to write them well and you will go far.
I promised four pieces of advice:
*Learn basic business interaction -i.e. how to stand up straight, look someone in the eye, have a solid handshake- and talk in a sincere, thoughtful manner that says: I care, I want to be part of what you're part of and I plan to work hard at it today and each day that I am employed here. (Leave out these phrases: "whatever," "like," "don't know," "you know," and so many more along those lines that scream: I seem to be having trouble holding a professional conversation).
Maybe this is all old fashioned -- I mean, we have spell check and grammar check, we text vs. talk, we connect via social media, but I strongly believe that the lack of basic professional writing and oral skills is what leads so many in business to believe that young people aren't entering the workforce prepared. And we, teachers, as well as parents, should be instilling these skills.
One last thought:
A terrific website -- sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor -- on careers and career-building is www.onetoline.org.
Congratulations to the class of 2012!!
Yes, a novel.
Buy and read.
"Even though we love publishing as an art, we very much know it's a business too. And that is we do our jobs right and get a little lucky, that great art can be great business." -- Chip Kidd, award-winning book designer.
I found this as part of a wonderful interview post on GalleyCat
(a must-read publishing site for anyone interested in the intersection of business and art). It's smart. It also makes me think what makes a business -- and what destroys a business, and in doing so may destroy art too. What destroys? Free destroys. Free downloads for example, especially if they are illegally obtained. But even if the downloads are legal, even if the artist is giving away his or her work
( I make exception for short term promotional giveaways), I think, in the long run, this free giveaway of creative work erodes the value of all the published worked out there. If we, as writers, want to keep our business and our art vital, we need to be paid for it.
Where does this mini-rant come from? -- reading posts on various writers' sites, lamenting that they must self-publish, that no agent will represent them or editor "buy" their books that, at the end of day, few people will pay even minimum for their books, and that they must give them away for free. If you are determined to self-publish, or to published with a digital vanity press, and there is a value you put into your writing, ask your potential readers to understand that value.
I want to shout out that it is a business, one that is changing, but one that cannot survive with the word "free download" attached to it.
I like Chip Kidd's thought a lot -- great art can be great business. It's going up on the wall next to my desk.
That said, buy a copy of my debut novel -- LIE.
Why do I picture Maurice Sendak on a private boat?
As Max, making mischief, exploring once again,
where the wild things are, the king of all wild
things? Sailing into the night?
May this transformational children's writer rest in peace.
May his stories live on and inspire future generations, as they
inspired me and so many others.
What children's story inspired you? Where the Wild Things Are ?