Write about a time you won something, whether a literary award or a round of poker. Do you generally feel lucky or unlucky, and why or why not?
Category: On Writing
Write about the last time you (or one of your characters) used an umbrella, as protection either from rain or from sun. Describe the scene in detail.
Write about a time your were at the mercy of nature, whether getting caught in the rain or in a tornado.
Write about a time you apologized.
Write about something new in your neighborhood.
Write about a leaking roof…or window…or radiator. Be detailed, and create a scene (which may or may not be true to the actual story) around the damage or perceived damage.
I look forward to seeing many of you at the AWP Conference & Bookfair — February 27 to March 1.
I’ll be hanging out at our booth for Ashland Creek Press, EcoLit Books, and Literary Provisions. Please join us (we’ll be in booth #1207 in the North Hall) to check out new books and fun stuff for writers.
And don’t miss these other events before, during, and after the conference …
Wednesday, February 26
I’ll be one of the readers at the fabulous AWP Festival of Language at the Rock Bottom Brewery (1333 5th Avenue, just a couple blocks from the conference center), along with dozens of other authors. I’ll be reading sometime between 5 and 6:30 p.m., and the literary festivities will go on until 10 p.m.
Thursday, February 27
Julian Hoffman, contributor to Among Animals and author of The Small Heart of Things: Being at Home in a Beckoning World, winner of the 2012 AWP Award Series for creative nonfiction, will be signing books from 11 a.m. to 12 noon. (ACP booth #1207)
Jean Ryan, author of the “captivating” (Publishers Weekly) short story collection Survival Skills and contributor to Among Animals, will be signing books at the booth from 1 to 2 p.m. (ACP booth #1207)
Friday, February 28
Mindy Mejia, author of the “beautiful” (Twin Cities Pioneer Press) novel The Dragon Keeper will be signing books from 9 to 11 a.m. (ACP booth #1207)
JoeAnn Hart, author of the eco-novel Float (“a stellar model of eco-literature”—Cape Ann Beacon) will be signing books from 4 to 5 p.m. (ACP booth #1207)
And at 4:30 p.m., I’ll be leading a panel on Book Marketing — From Finding Your Muse to Finding Your Readers: Book promotion in the twenty-first century, with Kelli Russell Agodon, Wendy Call, Janna Cawrse Esarey, and Susan Rich. Panelists from a variety of genres—poetry, fiction, narrative nonfiction, and memoir—will discuss the unique challenges and opportunities of transitioning from writer to published book author. Through specific experiences and using real-world examples, panelists will offer tips for finding one’s natural niche and audience, and how to reach out to readers authentically and generously. Topics include book promotion through conferences, book clubs, social media, awards, blogs, events, and salons. (Room 608, Washington State Convention Center, Level 6)
Saturday, March 1
On Saturday, the Bookfair will be free and open to the public!
At 12 noon, join John Yunker for a panel on The Greening of Literature: Eco-Fiction and Poetry to Enlighten and Inspire, with authors JoeAnn Hart, Mindy Mejia, Ann Pancake, and Gretchen Primack. From mountaintop removal to ocean plastic to endangered species, ecological issues are increasingly on writers’ minds. Authors on this panel discuss how their ecologically themed fiction and poetry engages readers in powerful ways that nonfiction can’t. Panelists discuss writing in these emerging sub-genres as well as their readers’ responses and offer tips for writing about the environment in ways that are galvanizing and instructive without sacrificing creativity to polemics. (Aspen Room, Sheraton Seattle, 2nd Floor)
Sunday, March 2
I’m thrilled to be doing a post-conference reading with the amazing Gretchen Primack on Sunday, March 2, at 2 p.m. at the Central Library in downtown Portland. We’ll be reading eco-fiction (me) and eco-poetry (Gretchen), and we look forward to a lively discussion afterward about the environment and animal protection in the context of fiction and poetry. This event is free, and all are welcome; click here for complete details.
Write about a time you did something absentminded, like locking your keys in the car or wearing two different shoes to work. Include all the details about what was going on in your life at the time. (Fiction writers: This is also an excellent exercise to do with your characters.)
Write about the last time you moved. What, if anything, did you have to leave behind?
This is an excerpt of Jenna Blum’s Q&A in Everyday Book Marketing, in which she talks about how to stay energized and inspired. For more book promo information, and to read Jenna’s complete Q&A, check out Everyday Book Marketing.
Jenna Blum is the New York Times and international bestselling author of Those Who Save Us and The Stormchasers and is one of Oprah’s Top Thirty Women Writers. Her debut novel, Those Who Save Us—a New York Times bestseller, #1 Book of 2011 in Holland, and Boston Globe bestseller—received the 2005 Ribalow Prize, judged by Elie Wiesel. The Stormchasers is also a Dutch bestseller, a Boston Globe bestseller, and a Target Emerging Author Pick. Jenna lives with photographer Jim Reed and black Lab Woodrow in Wichita, Kansas, where she is writing the screenplay for Those Who Save Us.
Q: Tell us about the journey of Those Who Save Us from debut novel to international bestseller: How long did it take?
A: Those Who Save Us came out in 2004 in hardcover—a.k.a. the family and friends edition, because that’s who bought it. It was published in 2005 in paperback, and I knew that was its second and last lease on life. I figured at that point I’d throw everything I had at the wall and see what stuck, promotionally. What did I have to lose? I loved my book. I spent years of my life researching and writing it because I loved it, and if I could do anything I could to keep it from falling down the well without a sound, I’d do it.
I had incredible help from readers, and the way this happened was, I started going to book clubs. The mother of one of my novelists at Grub Street Writers in Boston invited me to her book club, and of course I went. A chance to talk about my baby for three hours with kind strangers and drink all their wine? What writer wouldn’t go? Mrs. Garabedian, my first book club hostess, was so kind to me. She and her group gave me an orchid, which I still have and which still blooms. They recommended me to another book club—which cooked German food featured in the book, I might add. And that book club recommended me to another. By the time Those Who Save Us jumped onto the New York Times bestseller list in 2008, three years after it had come out in paperback, I was speaking at three book clubs a day (!) in person, and talking to as many as I could by phone. I estimate I visited over 1,000 book clubs in the Boston area alone, and it was a great privilege. Now readers in Holland and European countries are kindly keeping the book aloft. Those Who Save Us is a reader-created book, which I think is just as it should be.
For more advice from Jenna, and to read Jenna’s complete Q&A, check out Everyday Book Marketing. Click here to visit Jenna’s website, and keep an eye out for her latest work, forthcoming in July in the anthology Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion.
Write about a favorite ending — to a book, a film, or even a chapter in your own life.
Write about denim. (Trust me, you can go far with this one if you just start writing…)
This is an excerpt of Serena M. Agusto-Cox’s Q&A in Everyday Book Marketing, in which she talks about how she handles book reviews for her blog, Savvy Verse & Wit. For more book promo information, and to read Serena’s complete Q&A, check out Everyday Book Marketing.
Serena M. Agusto-Cox is a poet and amateur photographer who lives outside Washington, D.C. She has published poetry in Beginnings, LYNX, Muse Apprentice Guild, The Harrow, Poems Niederngasse, Avocet, and Pedestal, as well as an essay in Made Priceless by H.L. Hix. Her blog, Savvy Verse & Wit (www. savvyverseandwit.com), features writing critiques; book reviews of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction; and conference/ book event news.
Q: How many book review pitches do you receive each week?
A: I did not receive many pitches at all in the beginning, but now, after five years, I receive about ten to fifteen pitches per day from a variety of publishers, authors, and publicists. Some of these pitches are well within the types of books I read, which isn’t really hard since I’m an eclectic reader. I love poetry above all else, but that’s closely followed by literary and historical fiction. I read a bit of nonfiction/biography/ memoir, but I am pickier about my nonfiction reading. The other pitches I receive are far outside and are usually turned down quickly.
I have a standard response that I crafted to send to everyone who requests a review. It’s very simple, but I make sure to change the name so that it addresses each person individually. This standard response is for books I’m not interested in at all, but I will make more personal responses for books I’m interested in but may not have a certain opening they are looking for in terms of reviews. I will often suggest a different time frame, a guest spot/interview, or a giveaway. There are certain things that get deleted without a response because they are automatic lists that are sent out to everyone, it seems, and don’t require a response, and there are several publicists who have said I don’t need to respond unless it’s a go.
Q: How do you decide which books to review? Do you have any guidelines regarding self-published versus traditionally published books?
A: I generally do not accept self-published books unless they have gotten good reviews previously, are highly recommended (by a friend or an author I trust), or are on subjects that highly interest me. One self-published book that I took right away because of the subject was Across the Mekong River by Elaine Russell. This novel was about Vietnam and was recommended by a friend. I also rarely accept e-books for review unless the author has no time frame for the review or any expectations time-wise because I’m a slower reader on Kindle than I am in traditional book form. I tend to get more distracted with electronic books, finding that my mind wanders to the television or other pursuits.
Write about the most unusual pet you’ve ever had — whether it was not usual, like a reptile or insect; or whether it was a fairly normal pet, like a cat, with a very unusual personality. Describe a scene in your life with this pet.
This is an excerpt of Elizabeth Austen’s Q&A in Everyday Book Marketing, in which she talks about radio interviews. For more book promo information, and to read Elizabeth’s complete Q&A, check out Everyday Book Marketing.
Elizabeth Austen is the author of Every Dress a Decision, a finalist for the Washington State Book Award, and two chapbooks, The Girl Who Goes Alone and Where Currents Meet. Her poems have appeared online (The Writer’s Almanac, Verse Daily), and in journals including Willow Springs, Bellingham Review, the Los Angeles Review, and the Seattle Review, and anthologies including Poets Against the War, A Face to Meet the Faces, and What to Read in the Rain. Elizabeth produces literary programming for KUOW 94.9, a Seattle NPR affiliate.
Q: What are some of the best ways an author can prepare for a live interview?
A: The most important thing is to spend some time beforehand thinking about what you want to say about your work. Imagine the interview is already over: What do you want to have said? What would you regret not saying?
Often, the person interviewing you will not have had time to read your book. So you need to be prepared with a short description of it. What’s your book about? Why did you write it—what drew you to this subject matter? Is it a departure from your previous work, and if so, in what ways? Is there an interesting story about how it got published? Also think about what you want to say about how you got started writing and why you continue to do it.
You’re essentially interviewer-proofing yourself. Hopefully you’ll get an interviewer who is genuinely interested in you and your book, and will talk with you briefly before the interview starts about what he/she wants to discuss, but you can’t depend on that.
Also, choose a couple of short excerpts or a few short poems that you might read aloud. What would provide a good introduction to the book? Practice reading aloud, and practice giving a concise introduction to what you’re going to read.
If you have time, I recommend listening online to an example or two of your interviewer’s program, so that you’ll have a sense of what to expect in terms of tone and approach. Does this interviewer tend to ask more about craft and process, or about the backstory of the book or individual poems? Is the interviewer looking for anecdotes and stories? Does it seem like the interviewer has actually read the book?
I’m a great believer in preparing for anything, and then letting go of the preparation during the interview so you can respond to what’s actually happening in the conversation. The most important thing is to be present. In the moment, approach it like you would any conversation with someone you care about—by listening and responding as honestly and generously as you can.