Being an Author

From Terence Blacker’s list of what it means to be an author:

  • You write a book, and when it’s gone, it’s gone. It turned out not to be the perfect work you once envisaged but, for better or worse, it has reached its destination. If you are lucky enough to be asked to talk about it months later when it is published, you will see it from the outside, almost as if it has been written by a stranger. Your mind is on what you are writing now.
  • You long to be part of what is described as “the literary establishment”, but you never will be. Other authors, swanning about smugly at a festival or a Royal Society of Literature reading, may cause a knot of rage and jealousy to form in your stomach, but they are worrying about being outside the establishment, too.
  • You are lucky. You are doing something which, for all its agonies and uncertainties, allows you to lead a fuller life than you would otherwise have had.

Rest of the list through the link; he hits on lots of the anxieties and joys in the writing process.

(via Neil Gaiman)

Friday Fifteen

Welcome back to the Friday Fifteen, your favorite (only?) source of five fifteen-word reviews. Onto the books!

1. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
Bought it because I like Green’s work; ended up being particularly touched by Levithan’s Will.

2. The Piggy in the Puddle by Charlotte Pomerantz
Silly sounds and muddy fun in a cute picture book.

3. Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen Cookbook: 100 + Great Recipes with Foolproof Instructions by Nancy Mills and Kevin Mills
My first cookbook. Perfect for new cooks, with useful “mom tips,” like what ovenproof means.

4. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
My favorite Cinderella adaptation, full of charm. Don’t judge it by the movie.

5. The Prelude by William Wordsworth
Lesson from Oxford: If the question is Wordsworth, the answer is “The mind of God.”

Friday Fifteen

Okay guys, executive decision time. I love the Friday Fifteens, but I think it’s time to take it down a notch. So far I’ve had sixteen Friday Fifteens featuring fifteen reviews, which means I’ve reviewed 240 books; I’m exhausted! Starting this week, the Friday Fifteen will review five books in fifteen words or less. All that fifteen-word goodness in a snappier format.

1. Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot: Being the Correspondence of Two Young Ladies of Quality Regarding Various Magical Scandals in London and the Country by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
Jane Austen meets Harry Potter in this epistolary novel. Such a treat!

2. Russell Grant’s Illustrated Dream Dictionary: Your Dreams and What They Mean by Russell Grant
If you dream about teeth, it means you’re stressed. Or something. Can’t remember much.

3. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Me in seventh grade: “Why are they all named Jacques?” Had a crush on Sidney.

4. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
Gorgeous collection of short stories; can see why this won the Pulitzer.

5. The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks
Dug it, got the sequel, stopped reading when no characters from Sword of Shannara appeared.

Friday Fifteen

Finally Friday! Time for the Friday Fifteen, in which I review fifteen books in fifteen words or less.

1. A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
Captivating historical fiction with character struggles set against the backdrop of a real murder case.

2. The Best Creative Nonfiction, Vol. 1 by Lee Gutkind
One of my favorite collections. Excellent essays from the people behind the journal Creative Nonfiction.

3. Let’s Go Amsterdam 3rd Edition by Let’s Go Inc.
Helped guide me through Amsterdam; lent it to another study abroader who didn’t return it.

4. A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
My first Shakespeare (7th grade). Have read it a couple times since, still really fun.

5. Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag
My dream as a kid. Minus the end.

6. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
Gorgeously written, like any Faulkner novel. Plus it has an exclamation point.

7. The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean
Eerie YA novel about a girl in Antarctica with her unhinged uncle.

8. I Like You by Sandol Stoddard Warburg
Surprisingly cute. Good as a gift for someone you like/love.

9. The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, & Issa ed. Robert Hass
Solid introduction to haiku, with good translations of major haiku poets.

10. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
Victorian social hilarity and Wilde’s witty wordplay. Try not to laugh.

11. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
More a series of linked short stories. Tan handles the mothers’ voices and stories best.

12. Choosing Sides (Sweet Valley High Twins #4) by Francine Pascal
What happens when your awkward friend wants to be a cheerleader? Elizabeth finds out.

13. Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson
Anderson deftly handles Tyler’s voice and high school social complexities. Nice depiction of desperation.

14. Wedding Etiquette Hell: The Bride’s Bible to Avoiding Everlasting Damnation by Jeanne Hamilton
Sensible advice for crazy wedding situations. Made me feel a lot more sane.

15. The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
Adorable story about a gentle bull. Lovely art, too.

Friday Fifteen

What would a Friday be without the Friday Fifteen, in which I review fifteen books in fifteen words or less? Onto the books!

1. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Stevens might be one of my favorite literary characters. Manor house intrigue, excellent writing.

2. Lucky Girls by Nell Freudenberger
People seem to love or hate Freudenberger. I thought her stories were fine, if forgettable.

3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling
Possibly my favorite in the series, definitely my favorite twist at the end.

4. 2012 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market ed. Chuck Sambuchino
Always a solid choice. Nice interviews with authors like M.T. Anderson and Maggie Stiefvater, too.

5. King Rollo and the New Shoes by David McKee
New shoes are awesome, but what happens when they have laces?

6. Sweethearts by Sara Zarr
Sweet YA novel about accepting and finding strength in your past.

7. The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction: Fifty North American American Stories Since 1970 ed. Michael Martone and Lex Williford
The standard anthology for intro to creative writing classes. Apparently there’s a new edition.

8. The Princess Bride by William Goldman
Fencing. Fighting. True Love. Try not to love it. (The movie is awesome, too!)

9. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The first fifty pages punch you in the stomach. Moving and ultimately uplifting.

10. Hello, Cupcake by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson
Got it off the free table. Haven’t attempted anything, but the designs are all fun.

11. Kate’s Surprise (Sleepover Friends, #3) by Susan Saunders
The friends plan a birthday, get kittens. At eight I was the target audience.

12. The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
Dreamy and compelling, but ultimately less satisfying than I hoped.

13. Ariel by Sylvia Plath
Chilling and extremely well-crafted poems. Talent transcends associated life drama.

14. Bunny Days by Tao Nyeu
Cool art and funny story about mischievous bunnies. Weird in a good way.

15. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
We all want to be the courageous thirteen-year-old captain of a ship.

You’re Gonna Make It After All

Love this post by  Justine Larbalestier about when you know you’ve made it as a writer. Lots of hilarious items included like:

“. . . I get my very first fan letter. Someone read and enjoyed my book enough to write to me! Best. Day. Ever.

. . . the fan letters I get make me cry because they are so moving.

. . . the fan letters I get make me cry because they are so illiterate.”

Make sure to read through the whole list, because it’s awesome and a good reminder that being a writer isn’t about being on tour or having an agent or getting a Nobel Prize. It’s about writing.

(Couldn’t resist including Mary Tyler Moore in this one.)

Friday Fifteen

Another Friday, another Friday Fifteen, in which I review fifteen books in fifteen words or less.

1. The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath by Sylvia Plath, Karen V. Kukil (Editor)
It became immediately apparently that Plath was way smarter at 18 than I’ll ever be.

2. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
Love the vignette style, fantastic voice. Even jock senior boys in English class liked it.

3. Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
Feels forced in parts, but moving overall. Foer’s best novel so far.

4. The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
Made me very nervous as a child. People shouldn’t mess up your house!

5. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Hated it initially, then got pulled in by Gilbert’s voice. Some nice local history, too.

6. The Witch’s Sister by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
First in a series; read these obsessively in fifth grade. My limit on horror reading.

7. The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Poetical and historical bedtime reading in my household. Fun for New England kids!

8. Happy Birthday Samantha!: A Springtime Story (American Girls: Samantha #4) by Valerie Tripp
The first AG book I read, sparking enthusiasm for the series and the Victorian period.

9. Tiffany’s Table Manners for Teenagers by Walter Hoving
Christmas gift that I kept glancing through. Surprisingly useful stuff for an eleven-year-old

10. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
Some classic Dickensian style, but the ending fell flat for me.

11. Where are You Going, Where Have You Been?: Selected Early Stories by Joyce Carol Oates
The title story is exquisitely eerie, others follow the same unsettling tone.

12. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
A recent favorite. Love a heroine who’s not afraid to be clever, bold, and ambitious.

13. Knights of the Kitchen Table (The Time Warp Trio) by Jon Scieszka
I’m holding it in pictures from first day of first grade, so probably liked it.

14. The Emperors Embrace Reflections On Animal Families And Fatherhood by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson
Summer reading for Bio, ended up enjoying it. Found out why beavers are so awesome.

15. Holidays and Birthdays (Childcraft: the How and Why Library #9) by World Book-Childcraft International
What’s your birthstone? When’s Yom Kippur? My source of all calendar knowledge as a child.

Happy weekend reading!

The Top 100 Countdown

Scholastic has put together a list of the 100 Greatest Books for Kids. Obviously lots of favorites are included, and it’s impossible to list all of the children’s books that have meaning for readers. The top ten:

  1. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  2. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
  3. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  4. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jacks Keats
  5. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  6. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  7. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
  8. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  9. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
  10. Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel

No major surprises here, I’d say, although I’m surprised to see Frog and Toad in the top ten. I liked their stories growing up, but I wasn’t emotionally touched by them. And The Giver is only at #25, even though it’s one of the best books ever. That said, I am glad to see Tuck Everlasting so high at  #16; I feel like usually it gets shuffled further down.

What are your thoughts on the list? Does it reflect the best of children’s lit?