Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Kirkus Review

I'm still waiting on the Midwest Book Review corrected review, but the Kirkus review is here. Am I thrilled with it? No, unfortunately. It's not all good, not all bad. There are some quotes I can use from it for promotion, however. To read it, click here:

Well, what do you think? Does it make you want to read the book? I'm not sure if it even makes me want to read the book.  What this whole experience of reviews makes me think is that so much of it is the luck of the draw. There are books I hate that others think are masterpieces (examples? Dostoyevski's Crime and Punishment, Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code, the former is well-written and miserable, the latter is terribly written, but a good story).  It's not different with reviews.  The people writing those reviews are individuals with their own tastes and preferences, their own life experiences that create filters through which they interpret the story. 

Is this reviewer an anti-feminist?  He or she seems to have really taken issue with an imagined dichotomy of girls being interesting and strong, boys being either good or bad.  Which is funny, because that was neither intended nor true in the story... the reviewer calls the boys in the story one-dimensional and either "good" (and traditional) or "bad" (and westernized).  WHAT???  Cem, Rachel's love interest, is neither one-dimensional nor traditional nor very westernized.  He is absolutely a mix between "traditional" and influenced by the US.  Aylin and Leyla's father is, to be fair, fairly one-dimensional and he doesn't play a big role in the story.  Rachel's father, however, is very important to the story, and I'd argue that he's not one-dimensional at all.  But that is what the reviewer felt when he or she read the book, and he or she really seems to have felt very strongly about this point to have written so much about the supposed dichotomy. 

But a review is a review.  Kirkus reviews gave me the option of posting the review or not, and I chose to have them post it.  So please go over to their site and rate the book.  Now let's see what the Midwest Book Review says........

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Going mad

I don't remember any other thing I've done that required so much waiting.  When I was a teacher, I created lesson plans and taught, I sometimes gave seminars and lectures to other teachers at conferences.  When I worked for the state government, I created and filed forms, drank my tea, and brainstormed better ways to run our program.  Sure, I submitted articles and chapter proposals for academic publications and had to wait for responses about their acceptance, but it just didn't feel like such a big deal.  But now... it's different.  Maybe because I don't have anything else intellectual going on, but this waiting to hear from contest entries, from blog hosts on which I've applied to guest blog, from reviewers is making me lose my mind.  There's so much other stuff that I want - and need - to do in order to promote my book, but I need these professional reviews from Kirkus Indie and the Midwest Book review before I can do the other things on my list.  Here's my list:

  1. Contact online bookstores in Turkey because they haven't listed my book yet (it is, however, listed in Finland, India, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, the UK, and Poland).
  2. Contact bricks-and-mortar English bookstores in Turkey to see if they will carry my book.
  3. Write to study abroad organizations that organize trips to Turkey to encourage them to publicize my book to their clients/students.
  4. Send application to Pearson, an academic publisher, to see if they'd be interested in publishing an ESL version of my book (modified).
  5. Contact independent bookstores in Colorado to see if they'd be willing to host a book reading or book signing when I visit.
  6. Write to more book review websites to see if they'll review my book.
  7. Send the reviews to the agent who has my book - I haven't heard from her, but I want to remind her that I exist.
  8. Write to/call newspapers that might print an article about me - local newspaper in Washington, where I most recently lived, local newspaper in Colorado where I went to high school, my college and graduate school....
ALL of this is assuming that the reviews say something nice about my book.  And if they don't?  Well, let's just hope they're kind....

Monday, April 16, 2012

Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award

Have you ever heard of it?  The Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award is "an annual award in the United States for a book that exemplifies literary excellence, widespread appeal, and a positive approach to life in young adult literature."  (Source: Wikipedia).  I had never heard of it myself, but I stumbled upon it, looked it up, and thought wow, THAT is the kind of award I would be proud to win.  So I looked it up and actually had to go to a lot of work to find contact information.  The hosting website wasn't working too well, but I was dying to know how to find out more about it.  Thanks to Google, I was able to find a contact from the award, who got back to me the next day.  She was so kind, and let me know that if I could get copies of my book to the committee members within five days, my book could be entered into the running.

Here are the submission guidelines:

Context and Criteria

Established in 2008 to honor the wishes of Amelia Elizabeth Walden, the award allows for the sum of $5,000 to be presented annually to the author of a book selected by the ALAN Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award (AEWA) Review Committee as “the title of the year most relevant to adolescents and having enjoyed a wide and appreciative teenage audience.” 

Per Walden’s request, the selected title must:
1)    be a work of fiction, ideally a novel (novels that are part of a series must be able to stand alone);
2)    be published within one year prior to the call for titles (in this case, 2011);
3)    be published in the United States but may have been published elsewhere prior; and
4)    possess a positive approach to life, widespread teen appeal, and literary merit (please see below for additional guidance):

A Positive Approach to Life

Submitted titles should:
§  treat teen readers as capable and thoughtful young people
§  offer hope and optimism, even when describing difficult circumstances
§  have a credible and appropriate resolution
§  portray characters involved in shaping their lives in a positive way, even as they struggle with the harsh realities of life

Widespread Teen Appeal

Submitted titles should:
§  be intended expressly for readers aged 12-18
§  have universal themes that transcend time and place
§  have themes that resonate with a wide variety of readers, regardless of race, culture, class, gender, and sexual orientation
§  provide readers a window to the world and/or reflect their own experiences

Literary Merit
Submitted titles should:
§  contain well-developed characters
§  employ well-constructed forms suitable to function 
§  include language and literary devices that enhance the narrative
§  suggest cogent and richly-realized themes
§  present an authentic voice

Do I have any chance at winning?  Or even at runner-up?  That depends on so much.   Primarily, it depends on whether or not the committee agrees that my book fulfills the "positive approach to life" requirement.  In my opinion, it does, but it's subtle.  Especially the part about difficult circumstances. Nothing terrible or unusual or terribly unusually bad happens to my protagonist, but she does face the sort of challenges that normal, everyday teenagers face.  

Even if I won "runner up" of this prize, I would be incredibly honored.  The criteria of the award is essentially an outline of what I want to write.  So, what kind of writer do I want to be?  I want to write books that would be eligible for this award.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

What kind of writer do I want to be?

As I'm working on Book 2, I'm faced with a question - what kind of writer do I want to be?  Book 1 (Secrets of a Summer Village) is a coming of age mainstream fiction/YA crossover.  It's fairly light-hearted, upbeat, and positive.  The feedback I've gotten is that it makes readers feel good and learn something at the same time.  It also makes you feel good when you're writing happy, positive stuff.  That said, I don't want to write fluff.

In book 2, something bad is actually going to happen to the main character.  I am pretty sure I know what this bad thing is, and it's really bad.  But I don't want to write a depressing book.  The first voice I gave this as-of-yet unnamed character was too depressing.  I didn't want to make myself depressed having to write her.  So then I found a much more upbeat, cheerful voice for her.  It was so fun to write, and it just flowed out of me.  But then this really bad thing is going to happen to her, so she won't be able to keep that up, and I don't even know how this voice would have to change after a tragedy.  So I have to find another voice.  Something between depressed and polyanna.

I also have to choose an age.  Is this going to be mainstream fiction? YA?  Crossover?  I'm leaning towards crossover.  What I hope I'm writing is intelligent YA that adults can enjoy, since in this modern world in which lines are incredibly blurred, young adults often read mainstream "adult" literature (I sure did when I was a teenager), and plenty of adults unabashedly enjoy YA.  I was thinking of making the main character 13, but then I was told that 13 is a black hole because it's considered too old for Middle Grade novels and too young for YA.  So my main character needs to be either 12 or younger... or 15 or older.  Which is a shame because I think that 13 is a fascinating age.

I think my main character will have just turned 15.  I'm not ready to write Middle Grade books yet, though I hope to one day.  What I mean by that is that I still remember being a teenager, but my memories of being 12 are much murkier.  I'm planning on waiting until my children are "middle grade" readers themselves before I can imagine that world again.

So, what kind of writer do I want to be?  Second book will help steer me in a direction.  First book was a wild card of sorts, but second book will make me lean towards a genre... or not.  Something that has to happen for me no matter what, is that I have to like the main character and enjoy writing the book.  Bad things may happen, but the characters cannot and must not be destroyed by them.  I want to be a writer who people enjoy reading.