Saturday, March 31, 2012

MIMM - To Blog Or Not To Blog

This week is the last Manuscript in Motion Monday...for now... and the topic is, "To Blog, or not to Blog?"

I have to admit, I'm slightly biased on this front - I love blogging. I've been at it almost five years now - since two weeks after the birth of my second child. But blogging has often been a form of journaling for me - or a means of sharing life experiences and funny stories/pictures with family that cannot see me on a regular basis.

So as a writer, seeking to improve in my craft and build meaningful networks with like-minded individuals, where do I stand on blogging?

I'll admit, I mostly started my writing blog almost two years ago because I'd been told by several different knowledgeable sources that they were a meaningful asset for a writer. It wasn't hard to set the blog up. But then, what content to write????

What could I possibly have to say that would interest anybody? I'm not published, and I don't have a degree in creative writing. So my 'writing' blog became something to sit and stare at, between posts on the family blog, wondering what to do about it.

When I began my new years resolution to put more effort into the blog, I changed my attitude. I decided that instead of trying to be an expert at something, or waste time and energy looking for an unexplored angle, I would treat my blog as a forum to connect with other writers. Or, a chance to write and discuss topics that interest me, books I enjoy and want to recommend, and opportunities in the writing world worth passing along.

Do blogs promote book sales? I don't know, I'm not published yet.

Does a blog really make a difference? Again, I don't know. I hope that something I say, at some point, is meaningful to someone. That statement sounds really broad, but the truth is that I've been uplifted and encouraged on numerous occasions by posts of other bloggers. If I said just one thing that meant something to just one person, I would consider my blog a success.

And more importantly is this - if I never managed to publish a book, if I never said anything worth being read, I would still be blogging.

Why? Because it helps to fuel my love of writing.

And that's the answer that matters most to me.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Cheering On A Friend

My friend and critique group partner Jaima has made it to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) Quarter Finals, and I am so excited for her!!!

If you want to read her work, then you can download her excerpt here. You just have to be forgiving of the technological system errors that have someone evaporated her punctuation marks, and replaced them with strange Greek symbols, or just invisible altogether (apparently it's a problem for many of the entries...).

She's a talented and insightful writer, but also one of the most intuitive and caring friends. I can't wait to continue to read her work, and I'll be there cheering her along the ABNA way, no matter how far she goes, and beyond.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

You Want Me To Write What?

This post is my late edition of Manuscript In Motion Monday (MIMM). I know, I know, it isn't Monday anymore (nor has it been for several days) but I really struggled coming up with a post for this topic "You Want Me To Write What?", and in truth, almost gave up. Kasey shared an experience of having a friend ask for help with a written legal request, and though feeling inadequate, was able to rise to the task, using her talents and skills with the written word.

I've never done anything like that. I've never been asked to write something out of my comfort zone, and until recently, at least a few of my friends didn't even realize I do write. Why is that? I guess I just don't talk about it much, except on my blog, or with other writer friends.

So as I was formulating a written apology to Kasey for coming up empty with this weeks MIMM post, I had a thought.

It's something I've been wanting to talk about for a few weeks.

Critiques. And I'm not talking about the writer's group kind. I'm talking about the kind we usually label 'reviews' and slap up on Amazon and goodreads, etc.

I've read my share of amazing books. The kind you talk about and blog about and tell your friends about. I have no problem gushing about these books.

I've read my share of so-so books. The kind that were enjoyable to read, but you don't think much about after you turn the last page, and never really mention to others.

And I've read my share of terrible books. The kind that when you get to the end, you think, "Why did I bother to finish?". Those books are the easiest to criticize. And sometimes they are so horrible, I feel compelled to write up a critical review outlining all of their faults.

And then I realize, Why? Who am I to criticize this author? Is my opinion so important, that others should listen and heed?

There's been a few times I've looked a book I hate up on Goodreads to find it has a rather high rating and an equally large fan base. I'm just not one of them. And you know what? That's okay. Not everybody loves every book. But I certainly don't have to verbally attack the author because of it.

Which reminds me of the following Disney villain and one of the things he said:

"In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so."
~ Anton Ego, Disney's Ratatouille

Shannon Hale also weighed in on this topic here.

What do you think, o ye book reviewers and published authors? Is there a place for positive and negative review? Is there a line that reviewers shouldn't cross, or does even the vicious and cruel have a place? If I read a really bad book, should I write an equal review?

Tell me what you think...

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Got Green? Blog O'Hop

Mark Koopmans is hosting a St. Patrick's Day blog hop, and the challenge is to do a Paddy's day themed post on your favorite/best Green Day story.

I thought I'd share our favorite family tradition.

You see, in our house we love leprechauns, but we'd love their gold even more. So for the past several years, we've labored lovingly over intricate traps to catch the sneaky little green men.

We have yet to actually bag one, but they at least appreciate the effort, and leave behind a little treat.

This year we did three traps. My daughter (6) used recyclables with a fake floor, so that when the leprechaun climbed in for the treasure, he would plummet (softly) to the bottom. She had big plans for indoor plumbing, soft lights and air conditioning, but alas, I'm not mechanically (or handy man) inclined. Still, it was fun to build.

My son (4) is a Lego-maniac, and built this nifty trap, where 'fake' gold hangs from the ladder. Once the leprechaun pulls on the glittery piece, the ladder will come crashing down, trapping him inside.

Together, the three of us built a Lego home, with a box of glittery gems, hidden under a cage that will fall when disturbed, the rigging 'carefully' hidden by a rainbow on the nearby building.
The kids set their traps last night, after leaving a shoe on the front step, and went to bed with rising anticipation.

In the morning, the traps were all triggered, but once again, he got away, leaving a trail of glittery gold wherever he had walked. He did leave behind some chocolate coins, and a quarter in each shoe. There are already plans being drafted by the wee ones for next years trap.

That leprechaun had better watch out, these kids are getting craftier...

To finish up our green day, we will have a green dinner, complete with green chicken (basil pesto), green spaghetti (the spinach kind), cooked broccoli, limeade and green jello salad. Yum!
Got to love St. Pat's day!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Great Writers....Read?

You've probably heard this sage advice before. In fact, it's old enough and prevalent enough, that when you hear it, or see it, you roll your eyes and wonder, "How can anyone think that way?"

What am I talking about? The idea that some people propagate that reading is bad for your writing.

It doesn't make much sense, but many people that call themselves readers actually think this way. In fact, a family member told me recently about a Facebook post they'd come across - a friend looking for good book recommendations - where someone had commented along the lines of

"I'm a writer, therefore I don't read much."

Seems shocking to me, but I've seen it before. It's the equivalent of saying:

I'm a lifeguard, but I don't like to swim.
I'm a teacher, but I don't like kids.
I'm a police officer, but I don't like guns.

It's not that you still couldn't do these things with those attitudes. It's that you can't do them effectively.
It's not that you can't be a writer if you don't read. It's that you can't be an great writer if you don't read.

Why do some writers feel that reading is bad for their craft? Truthfully, I don't entirely understand their side of the argument, but I think it has something to do with some of the following points:

1. They think reading similar books will kill their original ideas
2. They think reading requires too much time, which they could spend writing
3. They think there isn't enough quality literature out there that could stand up to their own skills (I know that sounds snobbish, but someone actually told me that once!).

What I'm not trying to do is be critical of those that hold this opinion. However, I believe people, in general, don't read enough these days, and as writers, who thrive on readers actually reading our work, we need to work to change that.

So here is why great writers read:

1. To set an example
2. To support other authors - we are all in this together!
3. To learn from the best and the worst (yes, you can gain something by reading a book that is poorly written)
4. To engage our minds in healthy, creative escapism, essential to our growth and positive well being.
5. To learn more about our world, and beyond.
6. To strengthen and refine our ideas, and plotting, and characters .... this list could go on.
7. Because reading books is what convinced us we wanted to write them in the first place.

This is in no way an exhaustive list. I'd love to hear what you think: why should great writers read?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

What Inspires You?

It's Manuscript in Motion Mondays (let's call it MIMM for brevity's sake), and this week I think I might actually get this blog-link-party-thing right (sorry Kasey!). Don't you hate it when it's very apparent that you are a newbie? Anyway...

The challenge for this week was What Inspires You?, and Kasey has given us a week to think through some of our favorite books and passages of text and reflects on their influence in our writing.

So I thought, and I thought, and I thought. And I couldn't think of how to answer the question. Not because I don't have an answer, but because I couldn't single one down. With so many positive literary influences and so many favorite books and authors, I couldn't think of just one passage to reflect on. I began to feel frustrated. Why is this so hard? Come on Mandi, can't you just pick one???

Then the other day I came across a list that got the wheels in my head turning. I realized I had my answer, and now I'm going to share it with you. And since today is MIMM, I'm going to relate it to my current WIP.

So I'm writing a Dystopian right now. In fact, I'm almost finished. Really close. Painfully close. So close I've actually slacked off on blogging and laundry other things that should be getting a little more attention, because once the kids go to bed every night, I just write.

And because I'm writing dystopian, I'm reading it as well. I've been scouring goodreads and blogs for recommendations on good dystopian reads.

I've read the Hunger Games, and thoroughly enjoyed it, but aside from that and Lois Lowry's The Giver, back in Jr. High, I didn't think I knew much about this genre. Since that time, I've happened upon some amazing dystopian reads, such as Abel Keogh's "The Third" and Jeff Hirsch's "The Eleventh Plague", Ally Condie's "Matched", Lauren Oliver's "Delirium", and Scott Westerfeld's "Uglies". And with each novel, my love and interest in the genre has grown.

So where, I ask, did this interest grow from? All my life I've considered myself a YA speculative fan, of anything fantasy, sci-fi or paranormal based (as long as it's clean!), and while Dystopian certainly fits in that category, until the past year, I didn't even know it existed as a trend, never mind a genre.

So when a critique partner pointed out that my current WIP was dystopian, and then I learned that it was currently a trend in literature, I hit the library looking for more great dystopian reads. And like I mentioned earlier, I keep finding them. Rodman Philbricks "The Last Book In The Universe" was fantastic. So was Kristen Landon's "The Limit". And there's more, and still several waiting on my shelf begging to be read. And I can't wait to get to them.

To bring this story full circle, and back to the MIMM, imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon a list of dystopian fiction, that get this - dates back to the 1950's! (The link is on my sidebar right under the dystopian reading challenge)

Curious, I began to pour through the list and was amazed at how many of the books I had read and never really realized were dystopian until I stopped to think about it.

And then I hit 1990, and a name jumped out. Monica Hughes. A Canadian writer whose books I gobbled up in Jr. High. And guess one type of book she'd wrote, all of which I'd read?
That's right - dystopian.

So the answer to this weeks question - what inspires you?

The list is too long for just one post. But at the moment, without a doubt, because of the labor of love that is my current WIP, my inspiration draws back to my early days of reading, and the high quality of literature in the dystopian genre I read then, and continue to read now.

Don't you just love little surprises like that?

Your turn - what inspires you?

On a side note - I'm realizing I've barely scratched the surface of this fascinating genre, despite it's current lime light. If you know of any good dystopian reads I haven't discovered yet, please share! Just leave a comment below.

If you are interested in participating in the MIMM challenge, just like on this image and join the linky party!

Mormon Mommy Writers

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Dystopian Reading Challenge

I don't usually sign up for reading challenges, mostly because I read by what interests me at the moment, which changes based on my level of energy, and my mood. Also, because I find that my list of 'to-read' books just keeps growing longer and longer, as I find more amazing authors and compelling stories.

However, dystopic and post-apocalyptic literature is currently about 2/3 of what sits on my 'to-be' read shelf in the fiction of YA speculative.

And, it's quickly becoming one of my favorite genres. So for fun, I'm going along with it!

If you're interested in signing up as well, you have until June 1, 2012.

I'm declaring, for now, that I will read the medium level, of 8-14 books. Wish me luck (I've already done five this year, and will get to their reviews this month, I hope).

This challenge lasts from January 1st, 2012 to December 31st, 2012
All books must be started on/after January 1st, 2012
Crossovers with other challenges are allowed.
After the challenge has started, you can decide to choose a higher level,
but you can not choose to go down a level.
All books must be dystopian (duh) and either Young Adult or Middle Grade (I
can't think of any MG dystopian though).
Must post all your reviews to either your blog or goodreads. Sorry, non
blogging folks!
Must create a sign-up post that includes a link to this post, the level
you've signed up for, and the button above.
Must sign-up before June 1st, 2012.

Important Info:
After each month I will do a recap where you can link your reviews, I will
also declare what the prize will be for the current month and the winner of last
month's giveaway.
Each month there will be a giveaway for all those who reviewed a book, each
review = one entry. The giveaway item could range from a gift card, a book,
swag, and more.

The Levels:
Easy: Read 5-8 books.
Medium: Read 8-14 books.
Hard: 15-20 books.
So Hard it Would Have it's Own Apocalypse!: 21+
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