Some People Will Hate Your Book

Heart & BookComing off a year in which my manuscript placed in a few contests, including the biggie RWA Golden Heart contest, you might think my book is just so dang wonderful, who wouldn’t love it? I’d like to think that too. But even though my book’s not yet on bookshelves and available to get book reviews scathing enough to make me scurry into a dark hole, I have no such belief.

Instead, I’ve realized that some people won’t like your book. And that’s okay. Among my fabulous contest scores are some mediocre and a few terrible scores. Why did some judges give it high marks and others wanted me to go back to the drawing board and rethink the whole novel? Because my novel isn’t for everyone. No author’s is.

The fact that not every reader adores Sharing Hunter puts me in good company. Check out these reviews, and then the book that sparked them.

“…no more than a glorified anecdote, and not too probable at that…” – The Chicago Tribune

“…an absurd story, whether considered as romance, melodrama, or plain record of New York high life.” – The Saturday Review

THE GREAT GATSBY, Scott Fitzgerald

“…no better in tone than the dime novels which flood the blood-and-thunder reading population… his literary skill is, of course, superior, but their moral level is low, and their perusal cannot be anything less than harmful.” — in The New York Times

THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN, Mark Twain

“The book as a whole is disappointing, and not merely because it is a reworking of a theme that one begins to suspect must obsess the author. [The main character] who tells his own story, is an extraordinary portrait, but there is too much of him.” – The New Republic

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE, J.D. Salinger

“How a human being could have attempted such a book as the present without committing suicide before he had finished a dozen chapters, is a mystery.” – Graham’s Lady’s Magazinei

WUTHERING HEIGHTS, Emily Bronte

“the plan and technique of the illustrations are superb. … But they may well prove frightening, accompanied as they are by a pointless and confusing story.” — Publisher’s Weekly

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, Maurice Sendak

Just take that last one. Guess what? Sendak didn’t write this book for everyone. It’s found its way into the hearts of children, of all ages, over the years. Here’s how the Library Journal‘s described it: “This is the kind of story that many adults will question and for many reasons, but the child will accept it wisely and without inhibition, as he knows it is written for him.”

As much as I wish everyone would love my story as much as I do, some people won’t like my book, and a few may even hate it. Yet I wholeheartedly believe there’s an audience for my story. (And I’m crossing my fingers it’s a rather large audience.)

What book did you love that others didn’t? Or what book did you dislike that others loved?

Sources: 11 Beloved Books With Shockingly Bad Reviews – Buzzfeed.comMaurice Sendak’s Thin Skin – Slate.com12 Classic Books That Got Horrible Reviews When They First Came Out – Huffington Post15 Scathing Early Reviews of Classic Novels

The Golden Heart Speech I Wrote, But Didn’t Give

The RWA Awards Ceremony Program

The RWA Awards Ceremony Program

When you’re nominated for an RWA Golden Heart award, they tell you to write a speech. Even if you have absolutely no belief that you could possibly win, they repeat the need to have coherent words on a page to read just in case your name is called and you have to make your way to stage and say something into the waiting microphone.

Last Saturday night, when 2000+ writers and their guests convened for the annual RWA RITA and Golden Heart Awards Ceremony, the name announced for the Golden Heart, Young Adult category was Stephanie Winkelhake, a four-time finalist. My other fellow finalists — T.L. Summer, Diana Munoz-Stewart, and Mary Sullivan — and I applauded her well-deserved win. And I look forward to seeing all of our books on shelves in the coming years (so watch for them!).

But I still have this speech I wrote, and it seems a shame to waste it. So here goes nothing:

Who would you thank in a speech for an award you received? Have you ever delivered a victory circle speech?

Why Do Teens Prefer Print to Ebook?

Why Do Teens Prefer Print to EbookThat question — Why do teens prefer print to ebook? — has been in the topic of many conversations I’ve had with authors and parents over the last year. It’s a fact that has intrigued me, given how tech driven this young generation is. Why are they on their devices almost 24/7, but when it comes to books, they want to turn physical pages? Could anything feel more old-fashioned?

I’ve decided there are several good reasons why teens are more likely to read a print book than load up an ereader.

1. Teens view their device as a way to interact with others. Watch a teen pull out their cell phone and what are they likely doing? Texting a friend. Looking something up online. Watching a YouTube video. Playing a multiplayer video game. Snapchatting, Facebooking, Instagramming, Tumblring, etc. Devices are a way to connect to the world.

A book, however, takes you into a different world. Youth want to get lost in that book world, and it’s pretty hard to do that when you’re flipping pages on the screen and notification beeps keep interrupting. The real world, with all its connections, intrudes. The better way to shut off that stream of busyness and get lost in a story is to set aside the device and pick up a print book.

This might be changing with the generation who are toddlers and preschoolers now, because they’ve had more experience reading books on iPads and ereaders. But we’ll see…

2. Teens don’t have credit card accounts to purchase ebooks. And this is a biggie. Because you can’t buy stuff online without a credit or gift card number. My sons have often given me cash for items they want online, which I then buy with my yes-I’m-a-credit-worthy-adult VISA number.

Teens want freedom (understandably), so having to schlep to Mom and Dad every time they want a book on their device and get a credit card number kind of stinks. It’s more freeing to simply check out a book at the library or purchase one at the bookstore.

Parents and grandparents could impact this by having their teens establish book wish lists online and regularly purchasing and sending selections to a teen’s ereader. Also, public libraries have electronic book loans (like Overdrive) which make ebooks more available to teens.

3. Print books make a statement of self-expression. Tell me about your favorite books, and I’ll tell you something about who you are. Carrying a print book can be like a statement of style — conveying to the world around you how you view yourself. No one sees what’s on your ereader, but if you’re carrying around an anime book? A teen angst contemporary? A vampire novel?

Self-expression is a big deal as a teenager, because you’re honing in on who you are, what you like, what you’re about. Showing off what you’re reading can be part of that, and print books do it better.

4. Print books allow teens to identify fellow readers and connect. While carrying around that print book, it’s easy to start conversations with fellow readers. “Oh, I read that!” “Did you like it?” “If you like that one, you should read ___.” We book nerds adore these moments of finding others who love the books we love. We also collect reading recommendations from like-minded readers. Friendships have sparked through noticing what someone else reads and commenting on it. Around the books we read, we build community.

This is especially true for trend books, like Harry PotterHunger Games, and The Fault in Our Stars. If you easily see the book cover in someone’s hands, it’s a conversation starter. However, ebooks are not visible to others, so you lose that opportunity.

5. Parents are more willing to buy print books for their teens. Parents supply quite a few books their teens read. And we know they’re actually reading the book when it’s a print copy in their hands. If a teen is on his/her ereader, who knows what they’re doing? It could be the book; it could be video games; heck, it could be something illegal…

Parents still lean toward putting a print book in their hands of their children, and that means teens are still reading print books.

Do I think the print book > ebook for teens trend is changing? Yes, I do. My teenagers didn’t grow up with iPads in their hands, but this upcoming generation did. Schools are also moving toward using devices for education, including making textbooks available on ereaders, so teens are getting used to reading on screens. Moreover, I believe the book industry will (eventually) find creative ways for young people to buy books without needing credit cards.

BUT I think there will always be room for print books. At least I hope so. Although I use an ereader plenty, I still love the feel of a book in my hands, the smell of freshly printed book paper, the crisp flipping sound as I turn pages. I like seeing the spines of my favorite books on my shelves.

Do you prefer print or ebook, and why? Why do you think teenagers still lean toward print books?

Sources: Young adult readers ‘prefer printed to ebooks’ – The GuardianDon’t Judge a Book by Its Cover: Tech-Savvy Teeens Remain Fans of Print Books – Nielson.com

Summertime Madness Book Lovers: My Picks

I’ve been immersed in YA reading this year, which is my favorite genre, of course. My TBR (to be read) pile looks like a crooked skyscraper. I completely relate to the “so many books, so little time” feeling.

So when humor author, and delightful conference roomie, Jess Witkins posted her recent book picks as part of the Summertime Madness Tag, I knew I wanted to play along.

Here are my choices for the questions included in Summertime Madness for Book Lovers!

1. Show a book with a summery cover.

Boys Like You by Juliana Stone. I’ve been reading through the young adult nominees for the RWA® RITA® awards, and this is the last one on my list, which I need to read pronto before the awards ceremony this Saturday, July 25.

Boys Like You

2. Pick one fictional place that would be the perfect destination for your summer vacation.

Narnia, please. I can’t wait to turn in my essay on What I Did for Vacation titled “The Real Lion King and Me.”

Magicians Nephew

3. You’re about to go on a flight to your Summer Vacation. But you want to read a book that lasts for the whole flight, so what novella do you choose?

Before there was Hunger Games or Divergent, there were dystopian stories like A Clockwork Orange, published in 1962 and featuring a teenage protagonist. Since I’ve never read this classic novella, I think it’s about time.

Clockwork Orange

4. You have a case of Summertime Sadness. What happy book do you pick up to shine a smile on your face?

I keep meaning to re-read A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck. It’s a middle grade book of short stories chronicling two kids’ summer visits to grandma in the country, and I recall laughing out loud as I read.

A_Long_Way_from_Chicago

5. You’re sitting at a beach all alone, which fictional character would be your beach babe?

Let me be clear: My real-life character would be my husband, who beats any book crush I’ve ever had.

But…if I must choose…Thorne Carswell from The Lunar Chronicles. He’s introduced in Marissa Meyer’s Cinder, but he’s a main character in Cress. He’s got that sassy swagger with a heart of gold. *swoon*

Cress

6. To match your ice cream you want an icy cool sidekick, which fictional sidekick do you pick?

Right now, I’m all over hanging out with a character in my current work-in-progress (working title: Daring Charlotte): Kat would be an awesome BF to have on a summer vacation. But if I’m going with a published choice, how about Hermoine? She’s smart, brave, fun, and socially conscious (SPEW, anyone?). Plus, I love cats, so Crookshanks would be welcome.

Harry Potter Philosopher's Stone

What do you think of my choices? And given these questions, what books would be on your list? Share your favorite answers!

Not a Pantser. Not a Plotter. I’m a Puzzler.

What’s your writing process?

It’s such a common question for authors, and one most writers I know give a great deal of thought. Because we don’t simply hatch one day fully grown as authors who know exactly the best way to write books.

The best writers learn story structure, prose techniques, characterization, emotional depth, and all the good “craft” stuff that makes our writing shine. Good writing can be studied and learned, and we all want that destination of a story well told. But HOW we get from Point A to Point B differs from writer to writer. It can take a while to figure out your own best practices.

When I began writing, I was pretty much a pantser — that is, someone who free writes, by the “seat of my pants.” The story just came out on the page, and I went wherever it took me.

After a while, I decided I was a recovering pantser, though still not a plotter — someone who plans storyline and characters and plot points and scenes in advance. Still, I dove more into outlines and timelines and character sheets.

Then I did something really weird: I drafted two novels out of order. That is, I came up with a general outline, then wrote a scene here, a scene there, another scene here. I didn’t write the story chronologically, but plugged in scenes as they came to me. When finished, I had to work out transitions and flow. But all in all, it sort of worked for me.

One of my writer friends, Jenny Hansen, calls it “story quilting.” Which is a great metaphor. I’m not the least bit crafty, though, so “quilting” was a bit hard for me to connect with.

Not a Pantser. Not a Plotter. I'm a Puzzler. via Julie Glover

I’m a Puzzler.

But I love puzzles. Whether it’s jigsaw puzzles or crossword puzzles or brain teasers or mysteries, I love a good puzzle. I like working on a section at a time, then moving to another, and then another, until it all comes together.

The other day I realized my current writing process is like working a puzzle — a piece here and a piece there, until I have all the pieces fitting together just so and a complete image forms. I start with a solid outline and major characters, like building the corners of a jigsaw puzzle first, but then I let myself write scenes in whatever order I want. Slowly but surely, I build the novel and see the full picture getting clearer and clearer.

Is this a typical way to write? No, it’s not. Which is probably why it’s taken me so long to fess up to this process working for me. But somehow, it does.

My takeaway is that writers should master their craft, but experiment with their process. When someone suggests “the way” to write, it might work great for that someone, but not so much for you. Be willing to try different things, and see which approach brings out your best story.

Maybe you’re a pantser. Maybe you’re a plotter. And maybe a few of you out there are puzzlers, like me.

What Are Female Superheroes Wearing? (And Who Fights Crime in That?!)

I still remember my now-teenage son, back when he was a little kid, asking me about superheroes. He was fascinated with them and loved a great superhero story. However, he looked at one of his action figures, turned up his sweet young face to me, and asked, “Why is Wonder Woman wearing her underwear?”

Good question, kid, I thought. Instead of answering, “Because she was drawn by a man who wanted his superhero to turn him on,” I scanned my brain for an answer that would ring true yet retain his innocence. My answer? “That’s her swimsuit. She was raised on an island surrounded by water, so she went swimming a lot.”

Not bad, eh? Kind of my own superpower to come up with that one on the fly!

But it’s still a good question. Why on earth are female superheros dressed like they’re about to film a sexually-laced hip-hop video instead of fighting crime and pursuing justice?

I’ve long been a fan of superheroes, starting with the classic TV series Batman, in which Adam West and Burt Ward POWed and KAPLATed their way to justice. Then there was Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman, the cartoon Justice League (including the Wonder Twins—anyone remember them?), and even the not-so-well-done Shazam! and The Secrets of Isis that aired on Saturday mornings. I’ve seen numerous superhero movies from Christopher Reeve’s Superman to all but the last X-Men to Guardians of the Galaxy (a recent favorite).

As much as I love superheroes, I still don’t understand most of the fashion choices when it comes to women. So when I realized I had a superhero-themed costume party to attend this summer, a fellow attendee and I had this conversation:

Her: How come all the women superheroes have no clothes on? How can you fight crime in a thong…

Me: I’ve wondered that too. Like we’re sitting around and thinking, “Hey, I’m ready to go fight crime. But first I need to put on my strapless top so the criminals will have lots of cleavage to distract them and my breasts will jiggle properly when I’m running. And I need a thong up my butt, because nothing says ‘I’m fearless!’ like a willingness to floss your crack. And stiletto heels, please, because if a woman can’t run, jump, and kick in ridiculously high heels, how can even bother to call herself a superhero?!”

Wonder Woman lasso

Here’s my lasso of truth! Tell me: Is this costume too revealing?

When I started actually shopping for costume options, I was shocked how many choices were preceded by the word “sexy,” as in Sexy Supergirl, Sexy Spidergirl, Sexy Wonder Woman. Really? We need to add more sexiness to that Amazon princess’s corseted look?

Stop the madness, people! This is no way to dress women in 2015! Or really any century, decade, or year.

No self-respecting crime-fighting woman would wear such get-ups. They are impractical for the physical feats expected of superheroes. They make the female class of superheroes out to be eye candy more than serious justice fighters. They don’t give the right message to young women who can be beautiful and powerful without being overly revealing. (Oh yes, you can, girl!) Moreover, they make emulating them for costume parties require a year-long gym membership and/or several pairs of Spanx.

Yes, there are some exceptions, and I applaud the creators of these more relatable female superheroes. I’d like to see more.

What do you think of the costumes for female superheroes? Who are your favorite female superheroes? How would you design a costume for superpowered crime-fighting?

Authors Are Fangirls Too!

This past weekend, I attended the RT (Romantic Times) Booklovers Convention in Dallas, Texas, where hundreds of authors, publishing industry professionals, and readers converged. It was a hodge-podge of writer workshops, industry panels, reader events, and entertaining socials.

I could report a lot of takeaways from my experience, but what hit me most was that authors are fangirls too! What do I mean?

No matter who I was with, whether a writer still seeking a contract or a multipublished bestseller, we all had someone who made our hearts flutter or our knees shake in their presence. It was that oh my gosh, did you see who’s here?! shriek. There were quite a few big name authors like Kathy Reichs, Charlaine Harris, Kiera Cass, Francine Rivers, Eloisa James, and more.

But we also had those niche authors we’d followed and read with delight. When we’d savored their books, we never imagined we’d meet them, much less chat or get an autograph or, as one multipubbed author mentioned, sit on a panel with them.

And I don’t think this ever goes away. Even if by marvelous fortune, I became a well-known, bestselling author, I am fairly certain I’d keel right over if Judy Blume or J.K. Rowling walked into the room. Be still my bookish heart!

What’s especially lovely is meeting someone whose books you adore, and finding out the author is authentic and delightful in person. For instance, I met Stephanie Perkins, author of Anna and the French KissLola and the Boy Next Door, and Isla and the Happily Ever After, and we had a great little conversation. (I feel even better now about recommending her novel to so many teens!)

Stephanie Perkins and Me

Stephanie Perkins and Julie Glover

I’m eager to return to RT Booklovers Convention again, not only to meet authors I love, but the readers we writers love too!

What author would you love to meet? Who have you met already?