Every writer is anxious about reviews. I don't know one who isn't--and I probably could keep the Klonopin factories in business with my nerves. So I'm thrilled to announce that Random House's Everydayebooks has compared me to Richard Yates' Revolutionary Road! I'm also a Jewish Book Council BookClub Pick, a San Francisco Chronicle Lit Pick (Editor's Choice), a May Indie Next Pick--and more. You can see the reviews at my website www.carolineleavitt.com. I think I have them memorized.
In other news, Please join me and Chatteworks for a special tweet chat, followed by a video chat, with a book giveaway of IS THIS TOMORROW. It's Tuesday, June 18th, from 8-9 and here are the details!
Monday, June 17, 2013
Friday, June 14, 2013
I think the thing I might love as much as Julie Sarkissian's new novel Dear Lucy, is this essay about it. And speaking of her novel, Joyce Carol Oates calls it "boldly lyrical." Ron Rash says it's "startlingly original." And I say this novel, about a farm, a pregnant teenager and a vanished baby, "marks your heart." Julie won the Francis Leon Page Award for creative writing and she's an instructor at the Sackett Street Writer's Workshop. Thank you so much, Julie for writing such a wonderful book--and such a wonderful essay for the blog.
In Good Company
By Julie Sarkissian
I buy a good deal of used books. I am lucky enough to live one block from a fantastic thrift store called Housing Works. Actually, I buy more than just books there; I credit Housing Works with providing a majority of my wardrobe and furniture. My finds are a constant source of jealousy among my friends. “You always find the best stuff there,” they tell me. And I do.
Especially books. I don’t know how the quality of the books at Housing Works is controlled, but the selection is well curated as the shelves of any indie bookstore, and as a novelist and unabashed book snob that is not praise I give freely. Along with bulking up my classics collection, I have discovered new contemporary favorites at Housing Works; books I had never heard of and now revere; “Mating,” by Normal Rush, “The Book of Ruth,” by Jane Alexander,” “Oranges are not the Only Fruit,” by Jeanette Winterson. Intimate, affordable and an endless source of inspiration, Housing Works is one of my favorite places in all of Brooklyn.
Until I saw my own recently published debut novel on its shelves. I was drawn to the cheery orange spine before I realized I was staring at my own book. Dear Lucy, by Julie Sarkissian. I went cold, then broke out in a full body flush. Someone had – gasp – given my book away. Someone had deemed Dear Lucy – my baby, my life’s work, the very essence of my existence – was not even worth re-gifting to a friend. I looked around to make sure nobody had seen the look on my face and immediately pegged me as an author whose book someone did not want to keep. I grabbed my book, rushed to the counter and didn’t wait for my change.
Then I got home and had to find a place to put my 51th copy of Dear Lucy. I have stacks of Dear Lucy on chairs, the floor, on my dresser. I have piles of Dear Lucy manuscripts in my basements. What good could come of bringing another copy of Dear Lucy in my tiny apartment? Here the most excitement that book would see would be when it was shuffled from a chair to the floor to make room for someone to sit. Maybe I wasn’t saving the book from being orphaned as much as getting in the way of its being adopted.
Like any author, I wanted my book to find readers. But to do that I had to accept the book’s journey into the hearts of appreciative readers would be paved with people that didn’t care for it, that actively disliked it, that would give it away – maybe even throw it away. There was no way I would be able to snatch the book back from people who didn’t like it, but I could hope that it might find its way to people that did. And where better for that to happen than Housing Works, a beloved place where I had discovered so many gems?
The next day I took the copy back to Housing Works. The price tag – two dollars – was still on the back. I slipped the book back on the shelf, in between Housekeeping by Marilyn Robinson and Dubliners by James Joyce. Dear Lucy was in good company. Maybe here she could find a good reader as well.
I first met Alan Corey when his first book, A Million Bucks By Thirty, was sent to me. What instantly snagged me was the irreverent tone, the whoppingly good advice, and the astonishing fact that Corey, at 22, managed to pull this off. (It took him six years, but still.) He's funny, smart, and a damn good writer, and I think I'd promote his grocery list. Thanks for being here, Alan!
\ Alan Corey’s new book “The Subversive Job Search” is not just creative advice for finding and furthering a career, it also has creative style. Don't believe me? Take a gander at it from an author’s perspective.
Unique Dedication – The dedication of “The Subversive Job Search” at first glance seems simple, stating “This book is dedicated to you.” But an aside on the following page requests the reader to not tell his sister Jill about the book, so that she doesn’t have a book dedicated to her.
What looks like a simple joke at his sibling’s expense, is also a call back to Corey’s first book “A Million Bucks by 30”, where he also “not-dedicates” the book to his sister. She’s most likely the first person to have not one, but two, published books not dedicated to her. Corey single-handedly created his own material for gaining the upper hand in some sibling ribbing.
2. Opening line –The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest is an annual contest challenging writers to write the worst opening line for a novel. The namesake, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, is infamous for his long-winded opener: “It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.”
Miffed that the contest is only limited fiction, Corey purposely wrote the worst opening sentence that he could in his latest non-fiction installment. (You’ll have to check out the book to read it.) Luckily the bad writing stops after line one. Maybe now there will be a new contest for non-fiction writers trying to top Corey.
3. Inventing Words – Corey calls out on occasion when we invents new words. For example, bosse, which he defines as a posse of bosses huddled in the workplace. Like any creative author, Corey doesn’t let the dictionary limit his choice of words, whether it is inventing his own office place vernacular or coming up with tongue-tying curse words.
4. Writing Constraints – The most writerly aspect of the book is that “The Subversive Job Search” is a lipogram. A lipogram is a piece of work that purposely avoids using certain characters, and his book does that by dancing around the letter z. Not only is that harder than it sounds, but it’s also another nod to fiction-only works as his book is now the only non-fiction lipogram ever published. Corey has introduced his own challenges to writing to keeps things interesting not only to readers, but to himself.
Although Alan Corey’s career guide has writerly aspects that authors may enjoy, it does not distract readers from the book. “The Subversive Job Search” stands alone as a great offering to job hunters and those looking to further their career and incomes. Many of the writerly items mentioned here would go unnoticed to most casual readers, which is the perfect way to make things fun for the eagle-eyed writer types. The book is in stores now.
I first met Marci Nault through her wonderful new novel The Lake House. Not only is she the founder of 101 Dreams Come True, a website dedicated to the power of dreaming, but she's also an electrifying speaker and a partner in the online bridal boutique Elegant Bridal Designs. I'm honored to host Marci on the blog today. Many thanks, Marci!
Writing With My Eyes Closed – Creating Depth in Scenes and Characters
The world changes for me whenever I pick up my camera, feel the weight of my lens in my hand, and look through the viewfinder. Instead of seeing the big picture, I look for the tiny details: an angle that leads my eyes to beauty or even a rusted bike wheel that reminds me of childhood summers. Through my lens I find a world that calms me, forces feelings and creates memories.
It’s not so different from the way I write, but instead of looking outward to the world, I turn my vision inward. I close my eyes, find my setting or character and I search for the small details.
The first time I met my character, Victoria Rose, I was sitting in my living room terrified to write for fear that I wouldn’t be good enough. Then Victoria came to me – an older woman standing in her sunroom in the middle of the night with three candles lit. A battered sweater, tinged with the smell of mothballs, was wrapped around her shoulders. Patsy Cline played in the background and a spring breeze came off the lake and through her windows. Victoria swayed and pretended she danced with a little girl, her child, and I realized that the daughter was no longer with her in this world. Then I looked at the candles and knew that each flame was for a woman she’d lost.
Tears filled my eyes as I felt this woman’s heartache. I fell into the depth of loss and regret and how her soul screamed but had to continue to live. Victoria, at that moment, was as real as anyone I’d ever met, but somehow I felt closer to her than real life. I knew that she’d come home to Nagog, the tiny lakeside community in New England where she’d grown-up, because she needed its warmth, love, and a chance to remember happiness.
Each time I write a scene or a character, I close my eyes, take a deep breath and allow a world, not quite my own, to create pictures in my mind’s camera. I seek out the details: the smells, the sounds, how things feel, and the world that defines the character’s personality. Then I do the hardest thing; I allow the emotions to overtake me. I experience every moment of pain, happiness, laughter, and anger. My kittens have kissed away tears many times while I’m writing. Thank goodness I also write funny scenes or I might not get out of bed.
It’s through this empathy and quiet that I can make my characters and setting come to life, and when readers write to me and tell me that they want to move to Nagog Lake I know that every emotion was worth it.
Thursday, June 13, 2013
Win a chance to win IS THIS TOMORROW, tweet chat with me, and get a chance to video chat with me, too, all on June 18th!
Want to have a chance to win one of three copies of my new novel, Is This Tomorrow? Now in its second printing, the novels is also a May Indie Pick, a San Francisco Chronicle Lit Pick/Editor's Choice, a Jewish Book Council Bookclub Pick, and it has also won raves from The Week, The Boston Globe, The New York Daily News, MSN Entertainment, Shape magazine, People Magazine, and more.
And even better, after the tweet chat, a few special individuals will be chosen to video chat live with me on Google Plus. Come on, it's your chance to ask me anything! Please come! To sign up, click!
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Of course, I have the official bio for the amazing David Abrams: his debut novel about the Iraq War, Fobbitt, was a New York Times Notable book, a Best Book of 2012 by Paste Magazine, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and Barnes and Noble. He regularly blogs about the literary life at the wonderful The Quivering Pen. But the unofficial bio is that David Abrams is one of the kindest, smartest, most generous people you'd ever want to meet, and I'm really honored to consider him a friend. His blog has this extraordinary feature called MY FIRST TIME, where you can write about your first publication, your first rejection, your first attempt at a poem. I'm spreading the word and encouraging writers to write for him. And David--many, many thanks for everything you do. And by the way, David is reading from Fobbit at the 86th and Lexington Barnes and Noble for an event with Ben Fountain and Robert Olmstead on the 17th at 7. You don't want to miss this. Trust me.
“My First Time” submission guidelines
My First Time is a weekly feature at The Quivering Pen books blog in which writers recount certain “first experiences” in their writing/publishing careers. The content is generally anecdotal in nature and is designed to inspire both writers and readers with a sense of how a writer evolves from those first steps in his/her career.
Here are some of the “firsts” which potentially make interesting, story-driven subjects:
- My first publication: What were the circumstances behind your first publication? How did it make you feel? What other opportunities did it lead to in your writing career?
- My first editor: How did your first editor help shape your work? Was it a good or bad experience? (Names need not be mentioned) This doesn’t necessarily have to be the very first editor you ever had; let’s call it your first meaningful author-editor relationship.
- My first agent: How did you find your first agent (or did he/she find you)? What role did that first agent play in your career?
- My first inspiring teacher/mentor: This could be your high school English teacher, a college professor, a fellow writer, or even your mother. How did they encourage your writing?
- My first failure as a writer: This could range from a small stumble early in your career to an “epic fail.” What mistakes did you make—either in the writing itself (flabby plots, weak characters, etc) or in a career choice you wish had gone a different direction? How did you learn to “fail better”? If you could go back and give your younger self some advice in that situation, what would it be?
- My first success as a writer: The converse of the above. What did it feel like to get the news your book or story had been accepted for publication?
- My first public reading: If not the very first, then the first memorable public reading—whether it was sharing that Thanksgiving poem with relatives gathered around the table when you were 13 years old, or the first time you stood in front of 30 strangers at the local bookstore to read from your first novel. What were the circumstances, and what lessons did you take away from the experience?
- My first review: Good or bad, how did it feel to see your work analyzed in print?
- The first book that made me fall in love with books: I realize this is a bit of an obvious question for a books blog, but I think we’re all curious about the early books that shape an author’s life.
These are only some of the “firsts” to be featured at The Quivering Pen. I’m certainly open to any other ideas for stories related to a writer’s initial steps. I’m hoping the topics will be mere springboards and that responses will lead to deeper and more personal stories from the participating writers.
I know your time is valuable and many of you are already spread thin with other writing obligations, speaking engagements, and “day jobs.” Unfortunately, at this point I’m unable to monetarily compensate for contributions to the blog. I will, of course, wholeheartedly promote your book or other published work in an introductory bio note. And you would have my bottomless thanks for whatever you could contribute to the blog.
If you would like to participate in “My First Time,” please send it as a Word document or in the body of an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, indicating this is a submission for “My First Time.” Word length is generally 250-750 (though authors are certainly free to go longer if they feel the story warrants it).
In sincerest appreciation,
The Quivering Pen blog: www.davidabramsbooks.blogspot.com
Twitter ID: @ImDavidAbrams
P.S. If you know of another published writer who would be interested in contributing, feel free to pass along this email.