June 30, 2011

Fun With Steampunk, and Other Random Things

I'm sorry to report that I have very little of excitement or substance to relate today, since my brain is currently subsumed in a mire of revision and will stay there for the next couple of days. Therefore, I present you with some news and links from other sources who have very kindly (if unknowingly) done all the work for me.

The Children's Choice Book Awards were announced a couple of weeks ago, and Rick Riordan of Percy Jackson fame was named Author of the Year. I was also particularly delighted to see that the kidlitosphere's own Chris Barton was a finalist for K-2 Book of the Year for Shark vs. Train, and that graphic novels were fairly well represented among the finalists.

Also, the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents (ALAN) announced their finalists for the 2011 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award: After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick, I Will Save You by Matt de la Peña, The Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco X. Stork, Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick and Wolves, Boys, & Other Things That Might Kill Me by Kristen Chandler.

Last but not least, if you're a fan of steampunk or think you might be a fan of steampunk and aren't sure what to read next, AbeBooks has put together A Beginner's Guide to Steampunk Literature, including classics that inspired the genre as well as newer additions--I was pleased to see Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan was included and not set apart in any way simply because it's sold as a YA title. Anyway, my reading list has now grown longer yet again...

Happy Thursday!

June 28, 2011

Writer Rites: A Bit of Reference

When I was in grad school, we had an author in residence who wrote mystery novels, and collected books of lists. He liked to know the name of the little silvery balls on Christmas cookies (dragées), the plastic bit at the end of the shoelace (aglet), and the name of the indentation at the bottom of a wine bottle (the kick, or the punt). He could tell us the parts of a stoplight (the tunnel visor is the metal bit out of which the light shines), and informed us that the rowel is the part of a cowboy's spur that rotates. He found his lists from David Wallechinsky and Amy Wallace's Book of Lists series.

Another great pair of references many writers use is the The Way Things Work series, and the How Stuff Works website and books. I discovered these when I was teaching, and the detailed illustrations include a naming of the parts, all the way down to the gears. Visual learners groove on that sort of thing, and it sends the author's imagination into the stratosphere... and generally made me forget that SSR was only supposed to go for fifteen minutes. Thank goodness for digital timers.

I have always loved knowing bits of minutiae, and learning something new. As writers, we can often spend tons of time exploring historical, social, and literary references to inform our own writing. It's easy to get ...lost in research.

I found another great place for you to get lost.

E2BN is the Learning Grid for the East of England and regional provider of the National Education Network. They've put out a website called Cookit! which is all about food and its history through time. There are recipes for 1970's cocktail sandwiches and Tudor frumenty, divided by class, time period, country, and level of healthiness. (Sandwiches, oddly, are less healthy than frumenty, to my mind). It's up to you if you just look on with horror or try and find the ingredients and make the stuff. Sure, you want hare terrine. G'wan!

It's another helpful site for writers of historical fiction (and history teachers), and it includes cooking podcasts, too. Fun, fun stuff.

Need a few words from flapper era slang? You've got it.

Howzabout some naughty Victorian words? Disturbingly, it's right here.

Want to hang with the workers in a medieval city? Head this way.

Now, writers, I'm supplying you with helpful shortcuts to make your work life easier. I am not providing you with an excuse to zone out on the internet. Put these in a folder on your home page, and get back to work. Right? Right.

P.S. - Psst, writers: If you have any other cool spots where you find unique and strange information useful to your fiction writing -- perhaps the names of the henna symbols drawn on bride's hands at Hindu weddings? Or the parts of a soft-serve ice cream machine? -- please drop it in the comments, and I'll add it to the post.

P.S. S. - For more writing notes guaranteed NOT to get you all lost and messed up in your research, check out yesterday's Shrinking Violets post.

June 27, 2011

SCOTT WESTERFELD! Is the Keynote Speaker for Kidlitcon

Registration is now open for the 5th Annual Kidlitosphere Conference, better known as Kidlitcon, to be held at the Hotel Monaco in Seattle on September 16 and 17. The keynote speaker has been confirmed: Scott Westerfeld, author of such books as Leviathan and the Uglies quartet. How cool is that?

Yours truly will definitely be in attendance, possibly as part of a panel (though nothing's set in stone yet on that score), and I can hardly wait. Although it's a conference that caters to bloggers, not a writing conference, it's still one of my favorite conferences of the year, for so many reasons:
  • it's small and intimate--making it much easier to mingle and talk to people, especially if you're intimidated by strangers and large groups (erm, like me)
  • it's got a diverse mixture of attendees--writers, librarians, illustrators, publishing folk--and, because of the small group size, it's much easier to get to know people
  • you get to meet people in person who you might only have "met" online, through blogging
  • the panels and talks change every year, and cater to a variety of audiences who blog for many different reasons, so I (so far) haven't felt like it's rehashing the same subjects each time
  • because of all of the above, I always leave feeling like I've made a real connection with people.
This will be my third Kidlitcon, and, if you can't tell, I'm really excited about it, and really want all of YOU, my blogging friends, to go. Hint, hint...

June 23, 2011

Toon Thursday: The Mathematics of Revision

Hey, kids! It's time for Toon Thursday. Before I vomit forth my toon like some sort of crazed monkey with Photoshop, though, I'd like to say this: don't miss Diversity in YA's Diversify Your Reading Challenge this summer:

This summer, we’re challenging readers to read books that feature a diverse world, to read beyond their comfort zones, and to just plain dive into some wonderful stories. Our challenge will have two components: one for libraries, one for readers and book bloggers. At the end of the summer we’ll be giving away some wonderful book prizes donated by publishers.

Just check out the prize list--you won't want to miss this. Libraries, readers and book bloggers are all eligible. Sounds both worthwhile and fun!

With no further ado, here's your toon. As always, click the cartoon to view it larger.

June 20, 2011

Monday Review: ANYA'S GHOST by Vera Brosgol

Dear FCC: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher, First Second.

What if you made friends with a ghost and she turns out to be a bit more than you bargained for? What if you can't get her to leave you alone, and you're starting to wonder if you'll ever get your normal life back? The graphic novel Anya's Ghost is about a lot of things: friendship, school, romance, fitting in—and it's got a healthy dose of ghost story to boot.

Reader Gut Reaction: When I saw that the author testimonials on the cover were by Neil Gaiman, Scott McCloud, and Hope Larson, I already had a pretty good inkling that I was going to enjoy this book. And I did. It struck just the right balance between funny, poignant and creepy—an odd combination, perhaps, but it worked for me. The art style was simple and engaging, too, and reminded me quite a bit of Hope Larson and Raina Telgemeier. It also reminded me of Marjane Satrapi's work in Persepolis, in its ability to work well with a monochromatic format.

Concerning Character: For me, character development in graphic novels is inextricably tied to the characters' visual representation as well as their dialogue—the way a character expresses herself visually is critical to how I see her. In this case, Anya—our main character—is kind of a nobody, and she's more or less okay with that. She wants to fit in, not be picked on for her long Russian last name, or her accent, which she's worked hard to eliminate, or her generous frame, which is decidedly not an asset in gym class. She's a little snarky, sneaks cigarettes, and occasionally skips class, but she's generally a good person. But everything changes when she meets a ghost named Emily. At first, having a ghostly friend is kind of awesome. At first...

Recommended for Fans Of...: STRONGLY recommended for fans of Hope Larson. Also for fans of graphic novels about learning to just be comfortable in your own skin, like Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki (reviewed here) and Katman by Kevin Pyle (reviewed here). May also appeal to fans of stories that manage to be both charming and spooky, like Neil Gaiman's Coraline.

Themes & Things: I really liked the ongoing theme of trying to fit in as an immigrant/child of immigrants, and learning to see one's background as an asset rather than simply a burden. It was very nicely done, and added a lot of meaning and depth to the plot. Another strong theme in this book is the idea that who someone is on the inside and who they appear to be on the outside don't necessarily match up, and it's worth getting to know people a bit better before making a final judgment about their character.

Authorial Asides: This is the author's first book, though she has contributed short pieces to the Flight anthologies, and in my opinion, it's a really outstanding and promising debut. I will definitely be keeping my eye out for more of her work. I'm generally really impressed with the quality of talent that the Flight books unearth; this is no exception.

You can find Anya's Ghost at an independent bookstore near you!

June 16, 2011

Kidlitosphere Happenings, and a Call for Submissions

Just cruising by with a few random notes on a Thursday. Did you see the final tally for the Guys Lit Wire book fair this year? Over 700 books were sent to the needy school library at Ballou Sr. High School in Washington, D.C. And GLW is planning to do another push for books at Ballou in the future, just to make sure they have all the titles they need--go read about it here and check out the final list of who sent what.

Are you going to KidLitCon this year? I definitely am. They're taking calls for proposals NOW, so if you have an awesome idea for a panel or presentation, you have until July 15th to get it turned in. Hope to see you in Seattle on September 16-17! Last year's Kidlitcon in Minneapolis was a smash, and this year promises to be amazing, too. I have it on good authority that there are awesome things in the works...but I've been sworn to secrecy.

Here at FW, and in our associated writing group, we often lament the fact that there aren't more markets for YA short fiction. Well, here's another one for you, and they're Desperately Seeking Submissions for Issue #2. Go check out Verbal Pyrotechnics, which not only has a cool name but also has a very nice PDF layout--check out Issue #1 here. I submitted an excerpt of a longer story that I am convinced must find a home somewhere because I love it so much. Could just be me, though.

Happy almost-weekend!

June 14, 2011

Writer Rites: On the Strength of Revision

Oddly enough, A.F. and I realized the other day that we don't talk a lot about writing in the Wonderland treehouse. Odd, because we both are published authors, odder still, because we started this blog for our writing group, with the idea that we'd talk about the books we were reading in YA, and what we were working with in our personal writing. So, I've decided to write a bit about writing - not in the And Now I Shall Give You Advice sort of way that a lot of published authors seem comfortable with, but more in a pedestrian, this-is-what-we've-encountered sort of way. Hope you find it helpful or provoking of thought for your own writing or teaching of writing.

You love Harry Potter, but you kind of have ISSUES with how the last few books went. They were thicker, sure, but that didn't mean that there was just more story to love. In some ways, there was just more... stuff. You merely have to say "Harry Potter and the Long Camping Trip" and certain people in my writing group crack up. It's not that we think we're More Awesomer Fabulouso writers than JK Rowling, but we simply had front seats to a thing we don't yet understand -- kind of the same thing, in adult fiction parlance, which happened to Charlaine Harris when her vampire novels made the leap to HBO's Trueblood -- Fame = a severe loss of editing. As with the vampire series, a lot of readers felt like the carefully constructed and well-loved fictional community Rowling created turned chaotic, after her books took off.

We can't imagine it happening to us -- mainly because none of us envision being the next JK. But thinking about it, there have to be some books which have become hugely famous which have retained their integrity even so. The Percy Jackson novels (never mind the film) remained constant. The Twilight books arguably retained their same quality pre-and-post movie. (And you may take that exactly as you will.) Clearly it IS possible... but the trick to still writing well years from now when fame takes you is to learn to really do your work well now.

Review, revamp, revisit, reconstruct, revive, revise -- there's a lot you can do with a second look at a piece of work. The thing I'm seeing right now as I advise people as they rewrite is to see to the emotional continuity of their story. Eventually we all figure out that stories need a beginning, middle, and end, but character emotions, too, have to go through the same progression to make them believable. Emotions change and evolve in changes, and it helps out a great deal if the character's emotional motivation changes and evolves along with the storyline. What does your character want? Do they want that same thing, all the way through the story? Did you remember that they wanted anything? It's sometimes really hard to remember to keep that focus!

Our writing group talks a lot about how to avoid things -- and it's nice to know that someone else's head is in the same space, albeit usually from the film perspective. This week The Meddler, aka screenwriter Matt Bird, is revising the Potter books. And so far he's cutting, cutting, cutting, to make the narrative flow tighter, and the pacing of the action faster.

Also, a fun one on writing this week is at Yat Yee's blog - with a minor spoiler alert on Kung Fu Panda II, she explores how to create a story with such charm and verve that readers can overlook any flaws she might leave. A good question.

Happy Writing Week.

June 13, 2011

Monday Review: BIRD IN A BOX by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Dear FCC: I received an Advance Review Copy of this book from ALA Midwinter in January. That's right, I'm still working through my pile of ARCs. Don't make fun of me. I'm savoring them.

In Bird in a Box, three very different children in Depression-era Elmira, New York meet and become friends, realizing that despite their differences (one is an orphan; one is fleeing an abusive father; one is the daughter of a Reverend) they have many things in common—not the least of which is their shared love of boxer Joe Louis, the "Brown Bomber."

Reader Gut Reaction: I have to say right off that I don't necessarily gravitate toward Great Depression stories (or historical fiction in general), and I'm not a fan of boxing as a sport, but although Bird in a Box does include these elements, I ended up really enjoying the story. It doesn't pull punches about how difficult life could be at the time, but it is still a heartwarming and ultimately optimistic story of friendship that would be great for middle grade readers.

Concerning Character: The three main characters, Otis, Willie, and Hibernia (or Bernie), are very distinctly drawn but all three are equally relatable. They're all growing up a little too fast, not simply because times are hard, but also because they've all experienced personal loss and family troubles. Fortunately, they find each other—and a cat named Bird—at the exact right time. The adult characters, though not the focus of the story, are integral to the children's lives, and I particularly enjoyed Bernie's relationship to her father as well as the kindheartedness of the orphanage caretaker Lila Weiss. Even Joe Louis feels very real thanks to the well-researched historical details (e.g. actual radio transcripts that have been incorporated into the text).

Recommended for Fans Of...: Stories about kids growing up during the depression, like Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis or Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko. Historical stories about coming of age as an African American, like our own Tanita Davis's Mare's War.

Themes & Things: The characters in this story learn how to cross various social divides thanks to the bonds of friendship, shared loss, and shared joy. They also learn the importance of determination and aspiration—the fact that having a life goal you truly believe in can keep you going during difficult times.

You can find Bird in a Box at an independent bookstore near you!

June 09, 2011

Toon Thursday: We Really Mean It This Time

Yes! That's right! Brand-new writing advice in cartoon form, brought to you by Toon Thursday. I hope it was worth the wait. I really did mean to put this one up last week--I had the idea written down and everything--but I just never had time to actually sit down and draw it. Anyway, enjoy! (And when you're done, go check out a few new sites from Scholastic: You Are What You Read and This Is Teen.)

Click the cartoon to view larger, as always.

June 08, 2011

Don't You Dare! They're All Mine!!

It's TGIFBM over at Cindy Pon's blog. What does that mean? It means a fabulous giveaway of TWO ARCS I DESPERATELY WANT. Cindy is giving away Nova Ren Suma's Imaginary Girls and Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke & Bone. How awesome is that?

I'll tell you how awesome it is. It's so awesome that I'm going to shamelessly plug it here in order to get an extra contest entry. And, well, okay, I guess you can go enter the contest, too. :) But I'm not afraid to arm wrestle for books. Just sayin'.

June 07, 2011

Awesome Anthologies and Alaya Dawn Johnson

Today Finding Wonderland greets Yearning for Wonderland in the name of bookish blogosphere reading. We welcome every fellow booknerd to the party!

Grrrl Power in science fiction and fantasy is alive and well.

Fantasy & SciFi Lovin' News & Reviews is holding a random drawing giveaway for the new Tor Books anthology, Chicks Kick Butt (Tor.com posted an excerpt), Edited by Rachel Caine and Kerrie L. Hughes. Chicks Kick Butt is an anthology that features one of the best things about the urban fantasy genre: strong, independent, and intelligent heroines who are quite capable of solving their own problems and slaying their own dragons (or demons, as the case may be). While this isn't strictly a YA anthology, I am VERY sure there's some major crossover potential going on, and this will be a fun one for the older teen "chick" you know.

Drawing at FSFLN&R closes June 28.

If you're a reader of old skool ("Old." Oh, how I amuse myself) speculative fiction written by folks like Charles de Lint or Emma Bull, you might know a little something about Bordertown. Apparently it's a series of linked stories started in the 80's, all set in an in-between kind of place, a way station between elves and modern times, Tolkien's high fantasy, and today's high rises. Bordertown is really an example of the first urban fantasy, and the best example of a shared world. Even before Second Life, people were writing out their adventures in this place -- kinda like the magic of Thieves World, but even better.

The anthologies, edited by Terri Windling, came out until the late 90's, and then the fun was over... Until Holly Black or perhaps Ellen Kushner thought Hey. I'll bet a whole new generation has never even heard of Bordertown! And a new anthology was born.

You know me and YA-friendly anthologies, right? I want to read this new one like WOW, and OH MY WORD, generally because Black Holly is involved, but also because so is Our Lady, Jane (Yolen), Cory Doctorow, Sara Ryan, Patricia A. McKillp, Cassandra Clare, Annette Curtis Klaus, Neil Gaiman... and I want to read this specifically because Alaya Dawn Johnson has a story in the collection. (Yes. That IS a link to the story, from FANTASY, another story 'zine I read.)

Alaya Who What? you ask?

Wait, didn't you read ZOMBIES VS. UNICORNS? And have you not been following the SUBTERRANEAN PRESS YA EDITION excerpts on Gwenda's blog?

People, people, people. Please follow the blogs which share STORIES, which are MORE IMPORTANT RIGHT NOW THAN ANYTHING. (Seriously. Do not get between a girl and her stories.) Gwenda hath provided, now, go. Read. And come back and tell me that you want to read more from this author, whose tale is both intelligent and hilarious, disturbing, and intriguing. And again I say disturbing. But, oh, I laughed out loud. And said "Eeew!" And snickered some more. GRRRL Power vs. Vampires, people. JOY.

To my joy, I found out that Alaya Dawn Johnson has written some short pieces for Strange Horizons, another online 'zine that I really like. So, read and enjoy, and look forward with me to reading more tip-tilted speculative fiction YA stories from this writer.

Just discovered that The Book Depository has this book - which means free worldwide shipping. Which means, I get to have it --

*wanders off mid-word to find the book*

TURNING PAGES: The Girl in the Steel Corset

This book came out May 31st, and has received a lot of press already. Normally, I prefer to review books with a diverse cast, but steampunk as a genre is always deliciously tempting, so I made an exception for Kady Cross' The Girl in the Steel Corset.

Reader Gut Reaction:When Finley Jayne is set upon by the son of the house where she is a lady's maid, I expected her to figure out a traditional way out of a jam -- for her to bribe, barter, or boo-hoo her way out of the trouble coming down, like a proper Victorian miss. I expected her to run like the wind, or some kindly butler to step in ...

I did NOT expect her to wallop Lord Felix August-Raynes upside the head and knock him out cold.

Finley Jayne kicks butt -- or, something in her does. That something inside of her, is shuddering and stretching and bubbling, trying to grow. If Finley doesn't get in control of herself, that something else will be in control... maybe permanently...

A bit predictable, but fun, The Girl in the Steel Corset uses a nifty twist on steam tech -- a nanotechnology-type of thing -- and combines it with well detailed costumes, interesting characters, and traditional adventure tale tropes.

(And while it would be hard to do much [any!?] serious adventuring in it, and the main character wouldn't ever wear it, you've gotta love that gorgeous red dress on the cover... Also, chapter pages had a nice selection of gears - great book design.)

Concerning Character: With few exceptions, this novel remains in comfortably unoriginal territory, with a great many familiar and traditional character types in place -- the wealthy young nobleman whose parents have departed this mortal plane too soon, his handsome, but troubled "common" best friend, the plucky hoyden whom neither of them quite notices is a pretty young woman, and the newcomer, Finley. They break down into the traditional heroes - The Professional, the Rogue, the Adapter (kind of McGyver on the fly), and the Fish out of Water. This team gathers essentially for the cause of one, are arcane and powerful, yet use their somewhat magical powers for good, which is reminiscent of the Harry Potter books, as well as comic books like, oh, the original X-men. It's a tried and true formula, and while it's strictly unoriginal, the light, quick premise still satisfies.

Now, to get on with the story: The young master around whom everything revolves is His Grace, the Duke of Greythorne, Griffin King, who gained his title at the age of fifteen, and whose life is only loosely supervised by his aunt. His money enables him to gather friends in need about him, and the Organites discovered by his late father -- a discovery banned by the Crown -- make the technology of the time that little bit better. At Griffin's house, all the velocycles are a bit faster, the automatons smarter, and nobody ever needs stitches, because the Organites, organic beasties which can mimic the body's own cellular composition and everything else -- are at work. The young duke can also manipulate the Aether, the substance of which everything in the non-corporeal plane is made. He can simply look into your eyes, and ...change things.

Sam is Griffin's best friend -- a faithful sidekick who, though lowborn, has had the same advantages as the young duke. Terrifying circumstances have recently shaken his faith in himself -- and everyone else -- and he even blames the Irish girl, Emily, whom he has adored for so long, for saving him with her mad steampunk engineering skillz. It is obvious to everyone that Emily adores Sam, and saves some of her best tinkering for him (except for that marvelous steel corset that she makes for Finley, which is pretty awesome in itself), but Sam is too tangled up into his pain and delusions to care. (Sam = kind of annoying)

Finley appears to be only a servant girl, but the past links her to Griff in a way that makes her appearance in his life seem anything but coincidental. Is she, as Griffin's aunt suspects, being planted in the household to hurt them? Is the "thing" inside of Finley a threat?

Dramatic voiceover: Only time (and, okay, reading the book) will tell...

Obviously, such a powerful group filled with strong, smart girls and butt-kicking, Dudley Do-Right guys, is going to have Enemies. Finley fears her old employer -- for good reason -- and a crime boss named Jack Dandy. Kind of. She's mostly afraid that he's too attractive by half. Sam fears himself -- he's his own worst enemy. Griff -- and by extension, the rest of the team, plus Queen Victoria -- fear a shadowy madman called The Machinist, who seems to have an agenda which includes, oh, taking out Griff, taking down the Crown and then moving on to world domination. You know, the usual.

There's a betrayal that's a bit disappointing -- I saw it coming a mile off, and so, probably, will you -- a death that remains unexplained -- maybe we'll figure it out in later books? -- and I had to chuckle at a couple of other incidents that I just knew would happen, but no matter the predictability, this series is atmospheric and has plenty of fun elements, and it is going to be quite well received. Like the "cozy mystery," this novel has "cozy adventure" all over it -- light and fast paced, and not too far out of a reader's comfort zone.

Recommended for Fans Of...: The Infernal Devices Trilogy, by Cassandra Clare, Catherine Webb's Horatio Lyle series, Gail Carriger's books, and others which are light on tech, heavy on dashing around and budding friendships and romance.

Authorial Asides: Kady Cross is the author of this novel... but her real name is Kathryn Smith, and she's a bestselling romance novel author. I haven't read any of her work - that I know of - but wrote a pair of YA Regency romances in 2002 for Avon Books. With nineteen novels and two anthologies under her belt, she's a busy lady.

Leila also reviewed this book for Kirkus Online.

DEAR FCC: I received a .pdf ARC of this book from publisher Harlequin TEEN, via NetGalley.

You can find THE GIRL IN THE STEEL CORSET at an independent bookstore near you!

June 06, 2011

YA Saves. That's All There Is To It.

Yep, more controversy in the YA writing world! As if you needed more. (Come on. You know you love it. NOT.)

The tagline to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal by Meghan Cox Gurdon reads: "Contemporary fiction for teens is rife with explicit abuse, violence and depravity. Why is this considered a good idea?" Rife! Depravity! That's right, we're a cesspool over here, just itching to inflict our negative moral values on the innocent, sponge-like brains of your children.

I couldn't bear to finish reading the article myself, but I got an excellent overview from Liz B. over at A Chair, A Fireplace, and A Tea Cozy. Liz says: "Some kids in terrible circumstances read about kids in terrible circumstances and find comfort and hope, even in the bleakest book; others live it, so don’t want to read it. Some read for windows; some, for mirrors."

Cheryl Rainfield, whose book SCARS was named in the WSJ article, had this to say: "I think what helps us bring good into the world, and stop the things that hurt people so much, is to talk about the darkness, bring it out into the open, and encourage healing, compassion, and love. Not by hiding it."

On the L.A. Review of Books blog, Cecil Castellucci said: "Gurdon’s article in the WSJ seems to imply that these kinds of dark books should be cleared off the shelf and that good clean books with less objectionable content should be there instead. And that the publishing industry, in the name of sales, pushes these kinds of books to pervier and pervier extremes and then cries censorship if called on it." She has a lot of other great stuff to say on the topic, too.

And these are far from the only voices speaking out. Check out the Twitter hashtag #YAsaves for more links and comments.

June 03, 2011

Well, Allrighty, Then

Writers always worry about things.

Straight writers worry about how to portray gay characters.
Caucasian writers wonder if they should attempt to portray characters of other ethnicities, while those outside of the dominant culture wonder if they're not representing if they don't write solely about their own culture.
Female writers worry about writing males -- and often are told they're stripping them of testosterone, while male writers tiptoe when writing female characters, and wait for the firestorm of female protest.

Writers always worry about things.

Some do, anyway. Others make bold sweeping statements like,I'm a good boy writer, and no girl writer is as good as me, nyah, nyah. Or, if they're the Indian author V.S. Naipaul, they say that there is no woman writer whom he considers his equal – and then single out Jane Austen as someone with whom he could never share such sentimentalism. Naipaul also said that women are never fully masters of their house, and that comes out in all of women's literature, AND that if you give him a paragraph or two, he can pick out anything that a woman has written.

St. Andrews 48Um. Yeah. First of all? Our Jane wrote in the 19th century. That time is past, and none of us is ever going to be quite as innocent and sentimental as the people of that time. It has nothing to do with gender, and everything to do with the fact that there were no iPhones. Secondly, I had to read Naipaul for grad school. He is not sentiment free. I'm just sayin'. Thirdly, Naipaul wrote about colonialism. The South Asian characters whom he depicted were usually under the thumb of the British (or their wives, parents, mother-in-laws, or all of the above) and not in charge of their lives nor their households at times -- and yet: he is not a girl.

But what made me happy just now was seeing how the Guardian cheerfully challenged his statement about being able to tell gender in writing. They put together a little test. Try your hand at it. Can YOU always tell?

(I can't. I am, apparently, guilty of sloppy thinking, and should read more books by men...)

Meanwhile, writers are still worrying about everything. If you want to "man up" (oh, I hate that phrase, what the heck does it mean?)(No, don't try to explain, it's self-evident. It's still stupid, however) or "girly down" your characters, you can use the Gender Genie, but really - the trick is to have others read for you, read your work aloud, and understand that there isn't always an identifiable "thing" that males or females do. Just... write your characters as best you can, and carry on.

Stop worrying, k?

Ready, Set, GO!

Hey, all of you participating in the fun - enjoy yourselves! If we didn't have weddings this weekend and brunches and other junk going on, we'd be with you. We're ENVIOUS of your reading...!


June 02, 2011

Broken Promises and Sorry Excuses

Right. Remember two weeks ago, when I swore up and down that I'd post a brand-new Toon Thursday? Um, yeah. No. It's not happening. Why not? The short answer is, I went to Disneyland yesterday instead of staying home working and drawing a new cartoon. The longer answer would involve a detailed description of all the other things I did this week that prevented me from having any extra time for a new toon, but nobody wants to hear about all that. So let me just conclude by saying, sorry, but Disneyland was worth it. And please enjoy this blast from the past as a sorbet to cleanse the palate. (Click to view larger version.) I will possibly be posting a new one next week to make up for it, but apparently I shouldn't make any promises...