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Monday, September 30, 2013

Make Time to Read!

I thought of this post as a piggyback off the post I did a little while back called, "Make Time to Write!" I can't claim full credit for the idea, as a fellow author had recently posted in a discussion thread what is perhaps a little-known fact: that once we - authors - really get enmeshed in the business of being an author, we find it very difficult to actually read what our fellow authors are writing anymore! I read her comment and sat back and chuckled, because it is a very true statement. I know I'm speaking for many an author out there, but I think it's fair to say that authors love to read. Of course we do! Why else would we be writing stories of our own? But the tasks that surround first taking a story idea from conception to completion, then revising and producing it, followed by selling and promoting it, make for very little time to do other than those things. As I touched on in my previous post, it can be difficult enough to find the time to do that very quintessential thing which is writing. Sitting down to engross ourselves in any sort of leisure reading, therefor, tends to go out the window in a pinch.

But this is something that must not happen. If you consider yourself a writer of any sort, you must always make time to read!

Reading is one of the most important ways we hone our craft. As a teacher, I can always pick out my readers in my classes as the readers will almost inevitably be better writers. I have found over the years that people who don't read don't know how to craft engaging sentences, they don't know how to bend words to their needs, they don't understand, and therefore cannot utilize, the intricate subtleties of language. Writing is in large part imitative, and as writers, we first seek to emulate other writers we admire. And there is nothing wrong with that, in fact, it ought to be encouraged! I have never ascribed to the theory that everything we need to create a masterful work already exists within us. Rather, I believe writers are all born with an innate talent and predisposition for writing, but that writers must look outside themselves to learn the craft and hone it. Much like in physical disciplines such as martial arts, writers must also learn from a master, and it will only be after a great deal of "wax on, wax off" that a unique, creative voice will emerge. Once you know the craft, then you can really have fun with it! My creative writing students often don't like to hear this, but with the exception of a few creative geniuses, it will always hold true that most of your early writing will be little more than practice and imitation.

This is why writers must always read. Not only is it enjoyable and relaxing, but it helps with the ongoing task of learning how, and how not, to write. And if your time for leisure reading, like mine, is short, just be exceedingly choosy about your choice of reading. I've said it before, but I mainly only read books in the same genre in which I write - to see what's out there in the market, to see what "the kids" are reading, and to see what I find to be effective and ineffective writing (and storytelling, but that is often a different thing entirely!). So remember, "wax on, wax off!" Make time to read.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Instagram/Vine Video Challenge!

Instagram/Vine Video Contest

Teen Read Week is coming up – Oct. 13-19, 2013

TWCS is excited to be part of the fun with a VINE/INSTAGRAM Video Challenge!


VineHow does it work? Simple.

1. Between September 12th and October 17th,
Make a VINE or INSTAGRAM video featuring a TWCS YA Book

2. Post it on the TWCS Young Adult Facebook Wall 

3. Use the hashtag #YATWCSVINE
There will be a PUBLIC VOTE to choose the BEST VINE October 17-19, 2013.
In addition, a RANDOM WINNER will be chosen from all participants.

What do you win? THIS cool prize package of eBooks and ARCs!


So what do I VINE? Just show us something cool about a TWCS YA Book!

We are asking our readers to come up with a VINE or Instagram Video of you or someone you know:
•Reading a special part of the book
•Acting out a scene of the book
•Giving a review of the book
•A funny reason why people should buy the book
Be creative! Draw a comic strip! Have your dog read the book! Read the book to your dog!
Use interpretive dance! Whatever!
We want to see what you can do with that 7 seconds!

Please base the VINE on one of following books. All are available in eBook or print on all major outlets.

(Click on a cover for more information)

Don't forget to post your VINE or INSTAGRAM Videos onTHE TWCS YOUNG ADULT FACEBOOK WALL  with the hashtag #YATWCSVINE 

(Click the link if you want to see an example) 
Winners for both BEST VINE and the random drawing will be announced on Oct. 19th
Good luck, have fun, and happy Vining!!
All videos must be rated for all audiences.   All videos are subject to removal by TWCS Staff.  Any video with the following will be removed immediately: swearing or vulgar language,  nudity, sexual content, drug use, derogatory language, or racist remarks.  The final decision on removal is solely the responsibility of TWCS.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Make Time to Write!

Being a full-time author this year is full of new and exciting challenges, but probably the greatest challenge of them all is also the most ironic of them all - it's really, really hard to find time to actually sit down and write! I don't know how it is for other writers, but I'm kind of a get-in-the-groove-and-don't-stop sort of girl. Once inspiration strikes, I can write for hours on end, and even when inspiration is fleeting and illusive, I can still keep writing as long as I have the time because I am such a meticulous planner (ie. my stories are planned out well enough so that I usually know where I'm going, even if I'm not "feeling it"). But if I'm interrupted for days on end with countless other tasks, or if I have said other tasks hanging over my head, I find it very difficult to write.

Now, I actually have much more time on my hands this year than in previous years. I'm no longer teaching full-time, which frees up an enormous amount of time, energy, and brain capacity (really), but when I was teaching full-time, prioritizing writing to the top of the to-do stack was actually easier. Think about it this way - with writing deadlines hanging over my head, I really had no choice but to use my limited free time to write. Neglecting the extra stuff was a necessity. What I'm finding now, about one month in to being a full-time author, is that it's much more difficult to prioritize that writing time. My tasks this week have included: filling out a marketing form (still not done with this - they are a beast to complete!), signing and organizing and mailing book orders, working on my website (still in construction), blogging (ha), corresponding with a variety of different people about a variety of different necessary things, and cleaning and organizing our home office into a usable space. Finally, three days ago, I threw up my hands and said, "That's it! I have to write!" Having my surgery a month ago, followed by a family-wide stomach bug (which I got twice - yay), followed by traveling to the Decatur festival last week and all the work that came with that, really meant that I hadn't truly written in over a month, so getting back on the proverbial horse was a challenge. But the moment I made myself sit down and DO IT, the juices started to flow once again. The next day I wrote 4,000 words, which is a really good day for any writer. Long story short (pun intended), I have learned a very important first lesson about making this full-time author career work. To be an author, you have to write books. Yes, all the other marketing and corresponding stuff is also important, but writing absolutely has to be my priority. Every day, without excuse, I must make time to write!

And now I'm off to take my own advice...

Monday, September 2, 2013

You Don't Sell Books Sitting Down

I spent the weekend in Decatur, GA (a beautiful and historic suburb of Atlanta) at the Decatur Book Festival. I was a participant in the Emerging Writers Tent, and it was not only a very profitable weekend for me, but it was also a time of reflection and observation. There was also one BIG lesson I learned: always, always bring more books than they tell you to bring. The rules for the Emerging Writers area stated that each author (and there were over 100 of us participating) could only bring 20 of each title. So I brought 20 of each title. I started selling at 10 AM. I sold out of book 1, The Six, by 1:50 with a day and a half left to the festival. Thankfully my publisher and I rallied and were able to offer a special deal for people who wanted to order copies of book 1 directly from me, and I sold several more copies that way, but I was really kicking myself for not bringing more than the prescribed twenty, because I know I could have doubled my sales on all the rest of the books. All of this led to a general observation though. Selling books doesn't just happen. Of all the authors there, I was the only one selling books in the Emerging Writers Tent in high quantities. In fact, of all the authors there, I was one of the only ones actively selling any books at all! Early in the day on Saturday I spoke with a fellow author who was there with his debut book, and I asked him what his strategy was for the weekend. He chuckled and said that he didn't really have one. He just wanted to put his book out there and see what happened. For the rest of the day, I saw him sitting on a bench watching the crowd go by. Meanwhile I (and my sister who came along for moral support and ended up being a great sales assistant!) was on my feet handing out flyers and bookmarks, engaging in conversation with people, smiling, laughing, and in some cases practically tackling people to bring them over to my books. I didn't scalp people away from other authors' books or anything like that, which would have been wrong and unkind, but I made an attempt to actively engage every person who so much as paused in front of my books. And you know what happened? I met wonderful people, I got to know some of my future readers, I learned what sorts of things they look for in stories, and I sold books! Now, I don't mean to be overly critical of the gentleman who spent his day on the bench. Novice authors tend to have this, "If you write it, they will come" mentality when it comes to publishing their first books, but the fact of the matter is that that's simply not true. Writers are generally introverted, but if you're like me - an author who is making a career out of writing - then you have to attack the pragmatic side of the coin as well. This year I can finally say this is my career, and I'm going to attack it with what financial guru Dave Ramsey would call "Gazelle intensity" (imagine a gazelle outrunning a cheetah and you'll understand the metaphor a little better). I will not sit down. You don't sell books sitting down.