SHOULD YOU EVER WRITE FOR FREE? HOW TO MASTER SETTING IN FICTION FINDING A WRITER’S VOICE WHY PERSONAL STORIES MATTER NOW MORE THAN EVER THE SECRET TO FINALLY FINISHING A NOVEL FREE DOWNLOAD! Get your free guide to finding a literary agent, including the contact information and submission preferences for more than 80 agencies! Visit writermag.com/giveaways to download this valuable resource today! GUIDE TO FINDING AN AGENT IMAGINE WRITE PUBLISH January 2018 • Volume 131 Number 1 FEATURES 12 Should a writer ever write for free? Writers, editors, and teachers speak out. BY K. L. ROMO 28 The hero of the story Disabled protagonists in children’s and YA literature. BY MELISSA HART 18 On the road with David Sedaris After a dozen books, what’s still left to know about this best-selling humorist’s life? In a word: Plenty. BY LEE MERGNER 22 Setting the tone 32 From promising to polished Use these revision tips to make your picture book manuscript irresistible. BY ANICA MROSE RISSI 34 Making progress How to handle voice in your fiction. Writing is hard. Writing a full-length manuscript is harder. How can authors stay motivated to reach the finish line? BY JACK SMITH BY YI SHUN LAI DEPARTMENTS IN EVERY ISSUE AT WORK 8 WRITER Is your home office causing 4 From the Editor you pain? Learn how to set up your home office in the most ergonomically-friendly way. 5 Take Note Featuring Lilly Dancyger and Natalie Bober. BY MELISSA HASKIN 42 Markets ESSENTIALS 10 WRITING Beyond the backdrop 18 47 Classified advertising Why setting leads to richer characters and deeper plots. BY SARAH VAN ARSDALE 48 How I Write Julie Buxbaum: “It’s important to write about things that matter to you and scare you.” SPOTLIGHT 38 LITERARY S’More This new magazine for young girls aims to make science fabulous. BY MELISSA HART INSIDER 40 CONFERENCE Wordcrafters Writers’ Conference Writers both young and old come together to talk craft in beautiful Eugene, Oregon. 22 BY MELISSA HART Put our free e-mail newsletter to work: Check out our weekly newsletter, which offers highlights from our website and the magazine, and directs you to more articles about craft from The Writer’s vast archive. Find the “Newsletter Signup” box on our home page, enter your e-mail address, and you’re in business. GET SOCIAL Cover: Team Oktopus/Shutterstock 40 writermag.com facebook.com/ TheWriterMagazine twitter.com/ thewritermag instagram.com/ thewritermag writermag.com • The Writer | 3 FROM THE EDITOR IMAGINE WRITE PUBLISH Senior Editor Nicki Porter Contributing Editor Melissa Hart Copy Editor Toni Fitzgerald Art Director Carolyn V. Marsden Graphic Designer Jaron Cote T here are two kinds of people in early January: the resolutionmakers and the resolution-haters. And I understand both camps, I really do. On one hand, who wouldn’t relish the opportunity to stop and seriously reflect on how we can be better people, spouses, employees, friends, working members of society? On the other hand, why wait until Jan. 1 to effect change in your life, especially via a too-lofty goal half of us will forget by February? But if there’s a goal for the next year that we can all agree on, surely it’s to be better writers in 2018. Need help making your setting come to life? Sarah Van Arsdale has tips for making fictional places come alive on page 10. Got a children’s book manuscript in your drawer begging for some fine-tuning? Anica Mrose Rissi’s revision primer on page 32 will get you started. No matter if you need help with finding the right voice for your fiction (page 22), building a healthy home writing space (page 8), or just finding the motivation to finally finish your novel (page 34), we hope this issue primes your writing life for success in 2018. As for me? Well, while I admit I’m not much of a resolution-maker beyond a few loosey-goosey mantras (Travel more! Whine less!), this year I’ll be seriously meditating on Lilly Dancyger’s advice on page 5 for sharing personal narratives in an era so weighted with violence, tragedy, and an appalling lack of leadership. I believe being born with the gift of words means we must use that gift for the greater good. We must keep writing. We must not become jaded, listless, fearful of speaking our truths. If nothing else this year, if you don’t make it to your thrice-weekly kickboxing class, eat more whole grains, or call your mother once a week, make a tremendous effort to pick up the pen as often as you can in 2018. Your words matter. Your stories matter. They matter more now than ever before. Don’t be afraid to share them. Keep writing, Nicki Porter Senior Editor 4 | The Writer • January 2018 EDITORIAL BOARD James Applewhite, Andre Becker, Eve Bunting, Mary Higgins Clark, Roy Peter Clark, Lewis Burke Frumkes, Gail Godwin, Eileen Goudge, Rachel Hadas, John Jakes, John Koethe, Lois Lowry, Peter Meinke, Katherine Paterson, Elizabeth Peters, Arthur Plotnik MADAVOR MEDIA, LLC EXECUTIVE Chairman & Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey C. 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The Writer is not responsible for returning unsolicited manuscripts. CUSTOMER SERVICE/SUBSCRIPTIONS US: 877-252-8139 CAN/INT: 903-636-1120 EDITORIAL EMAIL email@example.com TO SELL THE WRITER MAGAZINE IN YOUR STORE: Contact David Goodman, National Publisher Services Phone: 732-548-8083 Fax: 732-548-9855 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org The Writer (ISSN 0043-9517) is published monthly by Madavor Media, LLC, 25 Braintree Hill Office Park, Suite 404 Braintree, MA 02184. Periodicals postage paid at Boston, MA and at additional mailing offices. Postmaster: Please send changes of address to The Writer, P.O. Box 4300, Big Sandy, TX 75755-4300. Subscribers allow 4-6 weeks for change of address to become effective. Subscriptions ordered are non-cancelable and nonrefundable unless otherwise promoted. Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings and photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no responsibility can be assumed for unsolicited materials. All rights in letters sent to The Writer will be treated as unconditionally assigned for publication and copyright purposes and as subject to unrestricted right to edit and to comment editorially. Requests for permission to reprint should be sent to the Permissions and Reprints Department. The title The Writer is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Contents copyright © 2018 by Madavor Media, LLC. All rights reserved. Nothing can be reprinted in whole or in part without permission from the publisher. Printed in the U.S.A. good essay must have this permanent quality about ¾“A it; it must draw its curtain round us, but it must be a curtain that shuts us in, not out.” —Virginia Woolf Personal narratives in the Trump era Why personal essays matter more now than ever. BY LILLY DANCYGER Dmitriip/Shutterstock A s a writer and editor of personal narratives, I’ve been having a bit of an existential crisis since the 2016 presidential election. I’ve been wondering if there’s space for the personal and internal in a world so politically fraught; with people having their rights stripped away in new and horrifying ways every day, what place do I have reflecting on the past traumas, joys, and humiliations of my own life? As an editor, I’ve been more selective than ever when reading first-person submissions, as most of the conflicts feel petty, superficial, and meaningless in the face of ongoing national tragedy. When Jia Tolentino wrote for The New Yorker that the fluffy, self-as-spectacle style of personal essay died with the election, I nearly jumped out of my seat to shout my agreement. But as the months have rolled on, I’ve realized that while the superficial and self-indulgent no longer deserve a seat at the table of public discussion, the vibrant, meaningful personal narrative is in fact more needed now than ever before. The personal is political, and it always has been. Individual, human representation is one of the most valuable tools for educating and creating empathy. My Jewish father began teaching me about the Holocaust from a young age, but the atrocities were abstract and beyond my grasp until I read The Diary of Anne Frank when I was 8 years old. Through the story of one real girl, all of the terror of those unfathomable facts became tangible. Anne Frank’s words serve as a lasting reminder so that we may do our best to uphold the Jewish vow of “never again.” And we need this kind of personal narrative tied to the travesties that are happening in our own era as well. One of the greatest challenges of the Trump era so far has been the effort to fight off emotional fatigue; waking up and reading the news every day takes more fortitude and deep breathing techniques than it should. It would be so much easier to shut it out, to surrender to apathy and decide to accept that the world we live in is a terrible place. It’s much harder to take that second step of not just reading the news, but also looking for ways to fight against each new horrifying announcement. To stand up for the refugees who, like Anne Frank, are being denied access to this country, and for immigrants who grew up here and are now being told to leave, for survivors of sexual assault who are being told to quit school if they don’t want to share a campus with their attackers, and for scientists who are trying to convince an oblivious administration that we’ll all be drowned and burned soon if we don’t start fighting for the environment. We need personal narratives so that we can carry with us every day the lived experiences of the marginalized people who need advocates more now than they ever have. To remind us why apathy isn’t an option. If we’re going to continue to fight, we need art to fuel the fire. “[Storytelling] can validate and affirm the experiences of those whose stories are otherwise ignored,” says Aiyana Knauer, an organizer of the Brooklyn chapter of Shout Your Abortion, a campaign to end abortion stigma by sharing personal abortion stories. “Another power of storytelling is writermag.com • The Writer | 5 that it puts a human face on things we may otherwise just discuss in abstract. People often respond better to the story of someone they know if they’re trying to understand the struggle of an issue they don’t think affects them – like when they remember they have a gay friend or a trans friend.” I wondered at first whether personal narratives would have this same impact in the Trump era. I wondered what the point was of sharing personal stories in a world where so many people see the basic human rights of marginalized people as extravagances they don’t have time to concern themselves with; the rights of LGBTQ people who face discrimination as a superfluous distraction, the desire to shelter undocumented immigrants as un-American, where even condemnation of Nazis is a partisan issue. In a world where an attempt to express our personal experience to others, to share where it hurts, is met with taunts of “snowflake” and barely coherent tirades about participation trophies. Storytelling can humanize, but what do we do when the opposition knows we’re human and just doesn’t care? Maybe the answer is that this art is not for the enemy. Yes, sometimes art is about changing minds, about opening up your world to people who would not otherwise see you. Sometimes art is to provoke, to challenge, to force confrontation. But sometimes art is for ourselves, to feed and nurture and show others like us that we’re here. We may not be able to reach into the dark hearts of those who gleefully watch Trump and his cronies 6 | The Writer • January 2018 strip us of our rights, who barely bat an eye when a Black man is shot in the street but get ruffled by a Nazi getting punched in the face. We may never convince the bigots to care about our humanity, but we can still share our stories with each other, and in doing so make our resistance more united through empathy for each other, even if we can’t get it from the opposition. Only by sharing these experiences of our own can we let others who are struggling know that they’re not the first. And, just as stories that humanize the most pressing political issues can give us the will to keep fighting, personal narratives that are totally disconnected from the political can give us much-needed respite. It’s not sustainable to spend every second of every day being angry and fighting. Once in a while, we need to stop and recharge, to reclaim our own humanity and our own lives. And what better way to hold onto humanity than by indulging in a beautiful, contemplative, human story? By having the audacity to find our own stories worth telling, we make ourselves real. We remind ourselves and each other that there’s more to life than the constant doom streaming out of Washington. We remember the value of connecting with others and remember that we’re not just fighting against, but for. —Lilly Dancyger is the Deputy Editor of Narratively, where she oversees the memoir section. She’s written personal essays for Psychology Today, the Washington Post, BUST, the Jewish Daily Forward, and more. Her debut memoir, Hunted: A Memoir of Art and Addiction, is forthcoming in 2018. Find her on Twitter at @lillydancyger. ASK THE WRITER Is it necessary to indicate who is speaking for every line of dialogue? Sometimes the “he said” and “she said” seem repetitious. Dialogue tags, those phases before or after dialogue that indicate who has spoken, can help the reader navigate a scene. Still, they are not necessary for every single line of dialogue. Exchanges between characters can be written so that some lines of dialogue are easily attributed without a tag. In Jennifer Egan’s “Found Objects” in A Visit From the Goon Squad, Sasha is on a first date with Alex. On their way out of the hotel where they have dinner, a woman follows them. She’s desperately looking for her wallet, which Sasha has swiped from her purse earlier in the evening. Alex has this exchange with the woman: Alex turns to the woman. “Where did this happen?” “In the ladies’ room. I think.” “Who else was there?” “No one.” “It was empty?” “There might have been someone, but I didn’t see her.” Alex swung around to Sasha. “You were just in the bathroom,” he said. “Did you see anyone?” Egan uses only one dialogue tag, and the exchange is clear. Each new paragraph indicates a different speaker, and that is enough for the reader to easily follow this back and forth. Egan also uses action in the narrative to indicate the speaker. The exchange starts with Alex turning to the woman, and the reader knows that the dialogue immediately following is his. Using a variety of techniques to signal which character is speaking allows you to keep exchanges revealing, fluid, and clear. —Brandi Reissenweber teaches fiction writing and reading fiction at Gotham Writers Workshop. biography can be more personal than fiction, ¾ “Iandthink certainly can be more expressive.” —Peter Ackroyd WRITERS ON WRITING Natalie Bober whitemomo/Shutterstock Natalie Bober is an awardwinning and critically acclaimed biographer and historian. She is the author of eight books of nonfiction, most recently Adventures of a Biographer. Her book Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution was the winner of both the Boston Globe/Golden Horn award for nonfiction and the Golden Kite Award. Her biography Thomas Jefferson: Draftsman of a Nation led to her consulting for and appearing as a historian on the PBS documentary Thomas Jefferson. In addition to publishing biographies for adult readers, Bober has also written them for young readers, including Papa Was a Poet, about Robert Frost, and Marc Chagall: Painter of Dreams. Bober currently lives and works in New York City. WHAT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU’VE LEARNED ABOUT WRITING? AND HOW HAS THIS HELPED YOU AS A WRITER? As a biographer, I have learned to write nonfiction that is absolutely accurate yet reads like a novel and keeps the reader turning the pages. Since I stumbled into the role of biographer quite by accident, writing lives – and the research it entails – has been an exciting adventure. As I read, interview, travel, and study the work my subjects produced – be it paintings or poetry, personal letters or the Declaration of Independence – trying to build bridges into their minds and their hearts, to see and hear and feel what they did, I never know what I will discover. I must study the past with a revealing searchlight, all the while looking for details. Like a hog digging for truffles, I’m always after those dark, hidden morsels. For a writer to breathe life into people who lived a long time ago, she must eavesdrop across the centuries to find the details that give the past a pulse and that help the reader see it and understand it. It’s the search for these details that is often the most interesting part of the process for me. Indeed, it is the challenge of recreating a life from details and making a story out of the chaos of reality that has kept me on a perpetual treasure hunt. I have learned to think of myself as a portrait painter, but a painter whose palette is words. The painter recreates on canvas the visual appearance of a person. A fine biographer sets her subject against the canvas of history and makes the reader feel the presence of a real person behind the great artist or statesman. The story becomes, then, not simply the life of a subject, but the portrait of an era as well. In this way, biography becomes a prism of history. In fact, biography has been described as the human heart of history. The biographer, then, becomes a historian as well as a portrait painter. But the biographer must be a storyteller as well – a storyteller whose facts are accurate. Research and documentation must be thorough and meticulous. A good biographer is under oath to interpret the material she has gathered honestly, for if I paint a picture colored by my priorities, it is a false one. I must be careful that the biography I am writing doesn’t become just a dull list of facts. The personality of the hero or heroine must shine through. This is where the art comes in. I must select and arrange the details I have gathered in my research into a story that draws readers in and keeps them turning the pages as though they were reading a fine novel. Good writing not only conveys information, it has balance, form, and grace. It becomes a work of art. In writing, I am constantly bewitched by the rhythm and sound of the words, and by the interaction of their sound and sense. I always read my work aloud. It is only then that I can tell if it’s alive. I have learned, too, that in my biographies, I was better able to describe certain aspects of my subjects’ lives as they related to my own. For only when a book is written out of passion will a reader respond with passion. I think of Robert Frost, who said, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.” —Gabriel Packard is the associate director of the creative writing MFA program at Hunter College in New York City and also the author of The Painted Ocean: A Novel, published earlier this year by Corsair/Hachette. WRITING PROMPT RESOLUTE Make a list of 10 New Year’s resolutions for each character in your novel. What do they hope to achieve this year? What have they struggled with in the past? Finally…how good are the odds that they’ll actually keep these resolutions? Use their perceived goals and desires to propel your plot forward. writermag.com • The Writer | 7 WRITER AT WORK BY MELISSA HASKIN Is your home office causing you pain? Learn how to set up your home office in the most ergonomically-friendly way. 8 | The Writer • January 2018 Got a laptop? Get an external keyboard and monitor It can be tempting to work solely on a laptop. For one, doing so means that wherever you go, you have all of your files. But when you use a laptop, a whole host of ergonomic problems can arise. Not only are your elbows often elevated from where they should be, but also your screen is often too low, causing you to either slouch or angle your head toward your screen, putting pounds of pressure on your neck and spine. Tamara James, assistant professor and ergonomics division director at Duke University, says “laptops are really designed for short-term use.” She adds that they’re just not ergonomically designed for long-term applications. With a laptop, everything (trackpad, keyboard, screen) is usually stuck in the position it comes in. This means if you set up camp at the breakfast nook, your arms are likely tilted up and your back hunched as you try to adjust your body to the device in front of you. Instead of doing this, invest in an external keyboard and monitor – you still get the benefits of working on just one Kit8.net/Shutterstock F or a writer, the home office can be the birthplace of many stories and books. But it can also be the place where carpal tunnel starts, muscles become strained, and back pain turns into a chronic, undeniable problem. Perhaps one day a writer sits hunched over the breakfast bar in her kitchen or the next she sits at a desk, with her head hunched forward, peering at her too-close screen. A day of strain in itself probably won’t cause a permanent problem, but having a setup that works for you in your home office can make a huge difference in how you feel. If you work full time, you spend over 2,000 hours at your desk each year. Setting up a workplace that supports your body and fosters productivity takes just a few minutes. So, grab a cup of coffee (or tea, or milk, or wine), take a step back from your workspace and adjust it so it works for you. It’s about time your desk did something for you other than give you aches, strains, and headaches. system, without the physical drawbacks of working on a laptop alone. The best position for your monitor is almost level with your eyes, says Janet Peterson, an ergonomic consultant in the Seattle area who holds a doctorate of physical therapy. You want the top of the monitor about 1 to 2 inches above eye level. This is a neutral position that won’t strain your back. Meanwhile, you want your keyboard just above lap level. This will create a 90-degree angle at your elbows. Most people sit with their elbows about 25 to 27 inches from the ground, says James. However, most desks are 29 to 30 inches off the ground. This discrepancy causes pressure on the wrist. So what do you do? Look for a desk with a pull-out shelf, invest in a short desk, or consider purchasing a desk that you can adjust the legs on, such as cutting them down to size. Adjust your seat So, what about your chair? Can’t you just get a tall office chair that will put your elbows at the right height instead of investing in a short desk? Sure. However, in doing so, you may create new problems. For instance, your feet may not reach the floor if you get a chair that is too high. If that’s the case, you can adjust by getting a box or other footrest to put your feet on. Reaching the floor means you can sit straight in your chair – the best posture for your back, shoulders, and wrists. Lighting matters As a researcher and professor at Duke, James has looked specifically at lighting in workspaces. In her research, she has found that people naturally contort their bodies to adjust to overhead lighting. If you’re working with a document, James says, the best thing to do is to use a task light to specifically illuminate the document on your desk. Don’t move your body to see your document; move your light so you can see STUCK IN YOUR CHAIR ALL DAY? Try these exercises to help relieve tension. 1. Windshield wiper Stand up. Gently tilt the top of your head left toward your shoulder. Move it back to center. Do the same on the right side. As you move your head left to right you should make a motion that resembles a windshield wiper. Repeat five times. 2. Leg lifts Hold on to the back of your chair or another similarly tall object, like a couch. Lift one leg directly backward, keeping the knees in both legs straight. Return leg. Repeat with other leg. 3. Back scratcher Stand up. Reach one arm back so that your hand is resting squarely on your back, like if you were to scratch it. Use your other hand to grab the elbow of the first arm. This should mean one of your elbows is pointed directly up and your other elbow is pointed to the side. Gently pull your upwards elbow with your opposite hand. Count to five. Repeat with your other arm. 4. Overhead stretch Reach up. Interlace your fingers. Position your palms toward the ceiling. Push up and slightly back. Count to five. Repeat. Exercises courtesy of the Duke Occupational & Environmental Safety Office. it from a comfortable position. As far as working on a computer, she says she’s noticed that people who work with overhead lighting often turn up the brightness on their computer to compensate for the bright lights above them. “Turn it off,” she says, explaining that natural light is your friend when working from home. “It’s actually better to work in lower light levels when using a computer.” Excess brightness can strain your eyes. Listen to your body The No. 1 thing you can do for yourself if you work from home is listen to your body. A sore neck or kink in your back is a sign that what you’re doing is wrong. James advises, “If you feel pain or discomfort when you’re doing something, you need to change what you’re doing.” Usually changing your chair position, keyboard position, or monitor position should clear up any issues, and the effect should be fairly noticeable soon after you make an adjustment, says Peterson. However, she says, it may take more time for symptoms to lessen if you’re making adjustments to fix a more chronic, long-term problem. “Since they usually come on gradually, they will decrease gradually as well,” she says. Still stumped? You may want to consider consulting an ergonomics expert. Many consultants will do a one-on-one in-home evaluation of your workspace. If you hire a consultant, Peterson says one thing to ask for is if the specialist has an affiliation with a vendor. You shouldn’t feel obligated to buy from a particular company, she says. “There are nearly always options for the same type of equipment from different vendors.” Melissa Haskin is an Oregon-based food and health writer. Her work has appeared in Men’s Health, Cooking Light, Oregon Healthy Living, and various other national and regional publications. In her free time she enjoys eating, eating more, and bicycle riding. writermag.com • The Writer | 9 WRITING ESSENTIALS BY SARAH VAN ARSDALE Beyond the backdrop Why setting leads to richer characters and deeper plots. 10 | The Writer • January 2018 United States. In the story, a young man comes home after serving in the Army. The story is told from the point of view of his younger brother, who is unsure what to make of the changes in the older brother he’s idolized and missed during his absence. The story was almost working, but there was some deeper underpinning that was missing. I couldn’t see where the story was taking place. I knew it was in a house, and there was a driveway where the older son’s truck had been parked while he was away. I knew there was a lake nearby, because there’s a scene where the brothers go swimming. But is the house a tidy ranch with a neatly mown lawn, or a ramshackle farmhouse comfortably in need of repair? And that Team Oktopus/Shutterstock F iction writers often think of setting as a backdrop to a story, something sketched in just to make it clear the characters aren’t floating aimlessly in outer space. But it can be much more than that: The particular time and place of the story can help the story to evolve and offer insight to the writer about the plot and characters. It isn’t enough to simply decide on the setting and airlift the characters from the writer’s imagination to Arizona, Paris, or a ship at sea. The choice of setting – both time and place – will inform everything that happens in the story. And by fully describing setting, the story builds a foundation that proves integral to the plot; this foundation helps to form the characters. One example of using setting to create story is the brilliant short novel by Stewart O’Nan, Last Night at the Lobster, set on closing night of a Red Lobster restaurant crouched at the edge of a shopping mall parking lot. Corporate headquarters have ordered the place to close. It’s near Christmas. And there’s a blizzard. This setting note gives the story its extra dose of tension and drama. The blizzard allows O’Nan to ratchet up the feeling of isolation and loneliness that are central to the story; the restaurant is an island in the blizzard; there is no crush of holiday diners. Anyone who has lived in a wintry climate knows that what happens during a blizzard is different from what happens any other time. I recently had a very talented graduate student, Kelly Grogan, who was working on a short story set roughly in the present day, somewhere in the STONY BROOK SOUTHAMPTON driveway: Is it a long dirt drive running from a country road up to the house, shaded by elms or maples? Is it identical to the others on the block? Or is there a grand, sweeping turnaround at the top, by an ancient willow tree? As I started asking about the setting, I saw other places where the writer could not only help the reader see the story but also where she could gain more information for herself about her story and its characters. The older brother sleeps late on his first morning home, then appears in the kitchen after the parents and the younger brother have finished breakfast. I wondered what was on the breakfast table – a box of Cap’n Crunch cereal? Granola and fresh fruit? Maybe the father had made French toast for everyone. And why does this matter? Because the reader will imbibe information about the family based on what they’re eating. Some of this will be assumed information: Granola and fresh fruit may be taken to indicate a family with liberal, anti-war leanings. But this thought led me to the next thought, which was that perhaps what was missing in this story was the second storyline, the one that expands a story from the inside out and gives it a second dimension. The second story, or the understory, could be that this family had been virulently anti-war, but the older son had, for his own reasons, decided to enlist. That made me more interested in the primary story of the relationship between the two boys. All this leads to “show, don’t tell.” How do you “show” that a family is anti-war? Maybe the kid’s pickup truck is sitting next to a Volvo with a “EndLess War” bumper sticker. The topic of the war doesn’t have to be directly raised in this family, but the reader can see the tension from the outside, through the setting details. If you want to use setting to help you steer your way into deeper story and character, you have to start with detailed description. Consider all the aspects of setting, including both time and place, from the macro level (what is the decade? what country are we in?) to the micro level (what time of day is it? what kind of house? what room in that house?) Choose a day of the week; think about whether there’s a holiday near. Choose the weather. And then describe it in detail. You’ll likely find that as you describe the setting, you learn about your characters. Put a character in a rainstorm without an umbrella. Shift the story from a Monday to a Sunday. Give a character an ancient VW instead of a late-model Prius – the VW could very well break down, and that will create action. (The Prius also could break down, creating a different kind of action.) The very best stories are those that touch our common humanity, regardless of where they’re set. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half A Yellow Sun is set in late-1960s Nigeria, and much of the story could only happen in Nigeria; it’s that setting-specific. The feelings of the characters, their struggles and triumphs, are universal, and yet that universality can only be achieved by providing very specific details, many of which are about setting. Our lives are lived in setting; we remember important events by the way the light played on the water or the glitter of the falling snow. It’s the setting that gives our lives – and our stories – their shape, and that allows the reader to enter fully into the fictional worlds we create. CHILDREN'S LIT CONFERENCE JULY 11-15 “If you're dreaming of becoming the next J. K. Rowling, we've got the perfect place for you—the Southampton Children's Literature Conference.” – School Library Journal CHILDREN’S LIT FELLOWS 1-YEAR CERTIFICATE PROGRAM “I signed with my #1 Choice Dream Agent, and I attribute that 100% to the Children's Lit Fellows program. Thank you!” – Jake Rideout, 2014 Fellow http://stonybrook.edu/childrenslit Stony Brook Southampton 239 Montauk Highway Southampton, NY 11968 Sarah Van Arsdale is the author of five books, including the novels Toward Amnesia (Riverhead, 1995) and Blue (winner of the 2002 Peter Taylor Prize for the Novel). Her most recent book is a narrative poem with her illustrations, titled The Catamount. She teaches in the Antioch/LA low-residency MFA program, at New York University, and with Art Workshop International. writermag.com • The Writer | 11 SHOULD A WRITER EVER WRITE FOR FREE? WRITERS, EDITORS, AND TEACHERS SPEAK OUT. By K. L. Romo W mystel/Shutterstock hether we should ever write for free is a hot topic in the writer community. Is it ever OK to put our own projects and careers ahead of the greater good? Does it depend on whether we need the money to pay our bills or whether we’re just starting out? Does it matter if we rack up bylines without pay while journalism outlets still make money from our hard work? Personally, I believe there are times when it’s OK to write for free. If it’s your own blog or website, you probably won’t get paid (unless, of course, you have a huge following and are able to make money from ads). If you’re just starting out, need bylines for your resume, and can’t find any paying gigs without clips, go for it. If you feel passionate about a topic or situation and want readers to become aware of it for the good of society, by all means. If you want to donate your time and talent to a nonprofit organization or cause, write away. But otherwise…writing without pay just to get a contract is probably not the best way to help the industry and would be detrimental to those freelance writers who depend on paychecks from their articles and essays to pay the bills. But that’s just my opinion – what about the rest of the writing community? Nearly every person I contacted was more than happy to put in their two cents on this controversial issue. Here is what more than 20 writers, editors, and writing instructors have to say in answer to the question: Should we write for free or not? k I usually tell people not to write for free – I think it’s a dangerous trend that devalues all our hard work. But once in a while, it makes sense. For example, right after a new book of mine came out a few times, I’ve given away excerpts to get publicity. I’ve also done blogs for Huffington Post and Psychology Today to try to reach a bigger audience, which seems to have worked. But I think a millionaire who got rich from a divorce settlement shouldn’t make more money from a website that doesn’t pay her writers while hypocritically pretending she’s helping other women thrive. k There are a couple of circumstances under which writing for free are understandable, like if you’re just starting out as a writer and have zero clips, or if you’re contributing to a nonprofit project that you feel really passionate about. But in general, the practice of agreeing to work for free, or for that insidious nothing compensation “exposure,” only contributes to the cycle that allows outlets to exploit the labor of creatives who have been brainwashed into thinking that having their work published is a compliment for which they should be grateful. —Susan Shapiro, writing professor and NYT best-selling author/coauthor of 10 books, including Unhooked, Lighting Up, and Only as Good as Your Word —Lilly Dancyger, deputy editor, Narratively k If a publication isn’t offering payment, I think you need to figure out what you’re getting out of it and if it’s worth it. Exposure can be worth a lot or a little, depending on the publication. If apprentice writers want to break in that way, or if professional writers want to promote their other work that way, it’s up to them. k I agree with Samuel Johnson that “no man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.” So, in general, authors should never write for free. That said, if you’re starting out, you need to publish frequently and widely. If that means doing things for little or no money at first, then by all means. But don’t get caught in that trap for long. Believe in the worth of your work, and ask for that worth in payment. —Daniel Jones, Modern Love editor, New York Times —Mark Sullivan, author of Beneath a Scarlet Sky writermag.com • The Writer | 13 k I think writing for free can be valuable in certain instances. For example, a debut author attempting to establish herself might want to take every opportunity to put her name out there, particularly on literary websites or print issues that are reputable and well read, even if they are unpaid. Certain places can’t afford to pay, and, for a new author, it is still a great opportunity for exposure. I do think at a certain point, a writer should be compensated more often than not, but even that is not always accurate or feasible. It is true that some writers don’t know how to go after and expect being paid for their work, and they should go after it and expect it. But not everything valuable pays, so it is not a hard and fast rule. So, I think a writer should go for a balance between the two, sometimes being unpaid for a quality article and sometimes only accepting paid assignments. This includes speaking engagements, too. —Taylor Larsen, author of the novel Stranger, Father, Beloved k Everybody’s different, of course, but it strikes me that it depends where you are in your career. When you’re starting out, most any publishing credits are good, but after you’ve been around for a while and have enjoyed the feeling of getting paid to write, you get more choosey. There’s only so much time, you know? It’s tough enough for a writer to make a living, so you gotta be strategic. If your goal is to build a literary reputation, submitting stories to leading literary journals, which pay either little or nothing, [this strategy] is smart, and can pay off down the road, with book contracts, teaching, or speaking gigs and the like. If your goal is to write movies or video games with stories, you write scripts on spec. I write my blog for free every week, and I haven’t directly monetized it yet, but meanwhile, it helps me connect with readers and friends. The final judgment: Can you justify free work because it a) could lead to paying work, or b) is a worthwhile promo/marketing strategy? If yes, maybe you do it. If no, get something else going that will work for you 14 | The Writer • January 2018 both artistically and financially. —Elizabeth Sims, author of nine novels and dozens of articles on the art and craft of writing and story writing instructor at Ringling College of Art and Design k As a professional writer, my first response is no, no, no! What do editors think we live on, air? Plus, it’s also an issue of respect. I have worked hard to learn how to write well. I make sure to deliver quality content and meet deadlines. Why, then, shouldn’t I be afforded the respect of getting paid for supplying my prose to the publication? All that said, I do make exceptions – if the publication is new or a literary journal, and I appreciate its mission; if someone I like needs a favor; or if I have a story I am eager to see published in a media outlet with national scope. But even then, if that site doesn’t pay, I hesitate. This situation just happened about two months ago, when I had an essay from a new book I’m working on accepted at a major online publication. I know all about how selling individual essays from a book-in-progress is supposed to enhance my platform and boost my author profile, and goodness knows I need help in both those areas. But I’ve yet to sign the contract the editor forwarded to me because I’m stuck on the fact that I won’t see any payment for this essay that took me several months to write. And while it’s only a secondary point, what goads me further is knowing the publisher is ridiculously rich, the publication is quite profitable, and it touts the quality of its content. Hmm? All that said, I wouldn’t be having such a rigorous internal debate about signing that contract if I was a newbie writer. If that was the case, I’d be much more receptive to writing for free to accrue bylines and experience. Regardless, I still caution writers, don’t give too much away. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid about the benefits of exposure. Exposure is good, but sooner rather than later you deserve to get paid for your work. —Joni B. Cole, essayist and author of the new book Good Naked: Reflections on How to Write More, Write Better, and Be Happier k For me, it comes down to two issues. What do I intend to accomplish with that writing? Does the publication truly respect its writers? The article I wrote for the WFWA Write On! [e-zine] was free. Pay didn’t matter because WFWA [Women’s Fiction Writers Association] is a nonprofit support association. Helping my friends and the organization I love was my primary intention. Many people feel the same way about literary journals. They’re willing to accept payment in copies because those publications celebrate literature that wouldn’t be published elsewhere. When I went looking for homes for a personal essay, I only approached publications that paid. —Michele Montgomery, writer and screenplay analyst k Writing for free makes sense…IF there’s potential value. For example, when I moved to Sarasota in 2008, I sent out letters to all three glossy regional mags. By way of introducing my work to them, I offered to do one piece gratis. SCENE magazine asked me to do a 1,000-word advertorial on a local travel agency. They loved the piece and asked me to write two for the following month. At that point, I explained what my professional rates were. Now here we are, seven years later, and I cover my mortgage (plus some) by writing two columns and two to three other pieces per month for SCENE. Was it worth giving two hours of my time for free back in 2008? You tell me! —Ryan G. Van Cleave, author of 20 books and professor at the Ringling College of Art and Design k The bulk of my writing is writing I do for pay. And I always go into every project with the expectation that I will find a home for it that will pay me. But sometimes that doesn’t work out, and if I feel like I’ve pitched that project or essay or short story to the best of my capability, then I’m happy with wherever it lands. (My debut novel’s publication came without an advance, for instance, although the royalty scheme is generous and my publisher has provided incredible value.) There’s also a complex, as-yet-to-be-fully-clear system of balances in my head: IF I have placed a story or an essay somewhere for pay recently, say, THEN I “get” to submit someplace else “for free.” No telling what tips the scale. I also do a large amount of pro bono work for the disaster-relief agency I volunteer for. When we deploy to areas of disaster, we’re expected to send home news stories and reports, but that’s kind of a given: When we’re deployed, our time and whatever work we generate there is on behalf of the agency, so that’s one bucket. But the other bucket is fundraising strategies, letters, and work on behalf of the agency, and that can easily go above and beyond my strict remit as an in-field volunteer and fundraiser. But your question was: is it OK? Yeah, it’s OK, within reason. Does your eco-system, your personal eco-system, allow you to write for free? To wit: Have you earned enough this month for the necessities? Do you want to call yourself a professional writer? Are you at a point in your craft where you can afford to publish for free? (There is a difference in the editing process, sometimes, between publications that pay and publications that don’t pay.) Do you know about what it actually means to work with the editor of a paying publication? If you’ve never worked with such an editor, that’s something you should know about and try. Working with an editor can up your craft game by untold levels – not to mention the professional experience you’ll gain. At the Tahoma Literary Review, for instance, when I go into editing, I am keenly aware that the magazine’s bottom line depends in part on the success of that piece, and that we are paying good money for it, so that adds yet another layer of urgency to the editing. But, ultimately, there will be opportunities that come your way that will not pay. Maybe it’s a volunteer gig that’s close to your heart. Maybe it’s a place to publish that you just really want. Maybe you’ve pitched the hell out of this story; you love it the way it is; you want it to go Somewhere, and you don’t care where, and anyway, publishing in that venue would be a real feather in your cap. Then, yes. Do it. But be responsible writermag.com • The Writer | 15 about it. Writing is a business. It can be your business, if you want it to be. But it won’t be without cash inflow – and output. Your work is the output, your commodity, if you will. What would you like your input to be? —Yi Shun Lai, author of Not a Self-Help Book: The Misadventures of Marty Wu and nonfiction editor for the Tahoma Literary Review k It depends on where the writer is in his or her career, and where the writing will appear. For instance, if one is just starting out and needs clips, writing for free may be a good solution. More established writers may want their work to appear in a literary journal, or [some] other outlet that doesn’t pay, in order to raise their profile. This could be a strategic move for writers hoping to land an agent or book deal. [And] sometimes a writer may simply want their work in a certain publication, for whatever reason (status, personal goal), and that’s a very good reason to write for free. However, those examples aside, I am dismayed by how many outlets (HuffPost, for example) make a lot of money off the backs of writers working for free. Rates for freelance writers have gone down drastically in recent decades, and part of the reason is that so many writers are willing to write for free. I think it’s OK if the writer gets something out of it, if the work is a stepping stone to a goal, but otherwise I always advise writers to try and get paid for their work before giving it away. —Jaimie Seaton, freelancer for more than 20 years in numerous publications, including the Washington Post and O, The Oprah Magazine. itable profession. This is untrue. James Joyce sold tweed jackets to fund his career. William Faulkner worked as a postman and power plant manager. Ken Kesey worked as a night cleaner in a mental hospital. While our civilization has clearly benefited from these individuals using words to express human behavior, our reality demonstrates that this is not always financially compensated. These men needed outside work to create their words. Is the market of unpaid freelance work subverting writing into an uncompensated vocation? Or could it be creating more vehicles for exposure in a field that has never been directly linked to financial gain? History has me siding on the latter. —Nancy Kidder, writer based in Washington, D.C., and adjunct writing professor at American University k I’m not going to say every writer “should” work for free, but there’s no getting around the fact that every writer I know – including myself – did. I know countless best-selling authors who’ve started out by writing the book that made the difference in their spare time because they worked a full-time job. Every media outlet I have written for as a professional freelancer expects to see a “clip file” or portfolio of previously published work. I can provide that now, but, yeah, I started out writing for free. Not because I lack self-respect or didn’t know what I was doing, but because I knew every byline and blog post was a stepping stone to bigger and better things. I didn’t see it as not getting paid, because it was more than that. It was about getting the experience I needed to get to where I wanted to be. —Pauline Campos, writer k The recent growth of online publications has allowed for more writing opportunities and, unfortunately, a larger number of unpaid writers. Many in the writing community are concerned that this is impacting a writer’s ability for financial independence. However, this posits the notion that writing has been a historically prof- 16 | The Writer • January 2018 k When I write articles or blogs for free, it’s intentional to build my personal brand and give back to the writing community. However, it’s important to weigh the opportunity costs of doing so. I consider writing a profession, a business. When we give it away too often, we diminish the marketplace value of our work for all writers. —Nancy Johnson, author of an essay (as a paid contributor) for O, the Oprah Magazine and complimentary pieces for the online literary magazine Women Writers, Women Books and the blog Thinking Through Our Fingers k I have written for free – a blog about life in Beirut that was a public way of sharing how I felt about life in Beirut – aimed at friends and family, but I was happy to share it with a broader audience (amyiswriting.com). And I have written a couple of pieces that I posted on Medium about refugees, because it is a topic dear to my heart, and I wrote them because I hoped that others could also take actions to support refugees. —Amy E. Robertson, freelance writer and editor k Generally, I think writers should always be paid something for their work, but there are times when the benefit to the writer is not monetary, like when it results in exposure. For example, I recently wrote a guest blog post for a writing web site that was unpaid but resulted in a wave of new email subscribers, so that was well worth it. I’m just starting out with my blog and mailing list, so I would have preferred the exposure to the monetary payment. —Sarah Bradley, freelance writer and founder of Pen to Paper Creative Writing Services k I also write for free on topics I’m passionate about and want to get the word out on. For example, I wrote a piece on family biking for a local smart growth blog because I wanted people in that community to think about it. I see that sort of thing as a form of volunteer work. —Shannon Brescher Shea, science, environmental, and parenting writer k I think there’s a case for writing for nonprofit organizations’ blogs for free and sometimes for tak- ing unpaid writing assignments for practical reasons: promoting a book or other project, for instance. —Christine Ro, writer k I have written for free on a number of occasions but rarely do these days. However, I did once recently on a subject that I was really passionate about, and that was not a mainstream topic that I was sure where to place, and I wanted to get the word out there as quickly as possible. —Kate Orson, author of Tears Heal: How to listen to our children k A lot depends on what kind of a writer you mean. A freelance writer who makes a living that way – probably not, except…as a way to begin, learn, then shortly move on. But a writer primarily interested in building publication credits in order to query agents for a novel or memoir – different story. In that case, pubs in non-paying literary journals/sites make sense. So much depends on what the writer wants or needs out of it. —Lisa Romeo, author of the forthcoming memoir Starting with Goodbye: A Daughter’s Memoir of Love After Loss and member of the Bay Path University MFA faculty k My first publishing experience after my personal blog was as a contributor for a small online magazine. I wasn’t paid, but the site’s editors workshopped every single piece with me. They encouraged me and supported my voice. After six months, I was ready to move on, but I’ll always be grateful to Rosewater Magazine. —Rebekah Vineberg, writer, civil servant, and mother of two K.L. Romo writes about life on the fringe: teetering dangerously on the edge is more interesting than standing safely in the middle. She is passionate about women’s issues, loves noisy clocks and fuzzy blankets, but HATES the word normal. Her historical novel, Life Before, is about two women separated by a century who discover they’ve shared a soul. Web: KLRomo.com or @klromo. writermag.com • The Writer | 17 ON THE ROAD WITH David Sedaris After a dozen books, what's still left to know about this best-selling humorist’s life? In a word: Plenty. BY LEE MERGNER IS THERE A MORE POPULAR HUMORIST of our time than David Sedaris, the best-selling author and essayist whose stories about his family and travels have delighted audiences since his appearances in the early ’90s on NPR? The author of a dozen books, Sedaris released his latest, a collection of diary items titled Theft by Finding, in 2017, but he has three more books coming out in the next year or two, including a collection of the art from his diaries; Calypso, a book of recent short stories and essays, most of which take place in Emerald Isle, North Carolina; and the second volume of diary items, A Carnival of Snackery, which will recount Sedaris’ life from 2003 until the present. The author is also unique in that he reads his often hilarious, sometimes poignant stories in public, doing around 100 dates a year at theaters throughout North America, UK, the Europe, and Australia. Before a performance at Wolf Trap in Vienna, Virginia, the gifted humorist sat down with me to talk about his performing life, his writing career, and why you should never admit to getting an author’s work for free. Ingrid Christie writermag.com • The Writer | 19 You’re a very disciplined writer, as your most recent book of diary items well demonstrates. Have you always been that disciplined about your writing? Yes. When I started writing, I started writing every day. I sign books a lot, and I’ll meet people who say, “I want to be a writer.” And I’ll say, “Do you write every day?” And they say [dreamily], “No, when I get in the mood.” And I think, “Well, sorry, you need to wake up every day in the mood.” I still think about that. I think it was Philip Larkin who said something like, until you have children of your own, you’ll always be your father’s son. I’m a son in a way that my brother’s not. I saw my father yesterday, and it can be tricky with him, but it was one of those times when it was just heartbreaking to see him…He was much more frail than the last time I saw him. I thought, “Why couldn’t I have learned to play the piano?” To please him? music or literature, and not just get it free somehow, which makes sense given what’s going on with books and authors. The culture of all content being available for free is getting pervasive. That’s been such a change in recent years. I think that there are 500 places online where you can get my book for free. My publisher will close one down and another one pops right up. A guy wrote me and said that he got a Kindle, and could I send him a list of books to read. I sent him a list, and then he said that, “I got all of them free online.” And I said, “What? I wouldn’t have sent you that list if I thought you were going to do that.” People have no problem doing that. Though I would say it’s a little unusual to tell the author himself. I just got an email from people who I offered to give free tickets to for a show in London. And they said, “We saw you at the BBC and that was free, and then you offered us free tickets to London, and then we got your books for free, and so we haven’t paid anything.” I wrote back, “You Just to see the joy on his face. Nothing would have made my father so happy. That’s what I think about when I listen to music. The other day, I I sign books a lot, and I’ll meet people who was watching a television say, “I want to be a writer.” And I’ll say, “Do show, maybe it was Fargo, and a song of Lambert, you write every day?” And they say Hendricks & Ross was on [dreamily], “No, when I get in the mood.” it. And I thought, “Why don’t I have any of their And I think, “Well, sorry, you need to music on my computer?” I wake up every day in the mood.” downloaded one of their albums, and it had Night in know, I would not have told me that. And I hope Tunisia on it. I was walking around Emerald Isle, that maybe when you do come to a show in LonI bet I listened to that song 30 times in a row that don, that would be a really good opportunity to day, imagining it was me playing the saxophone buy my new book, and I’d be happy to sign it for and my father’s in the audience, and he would be you.” Why would they tell me that? so moved, and he would be so joyful. I thought, “Why couldn’t I have done that? The genre of memoir has exploded in the last Why couldn’t I have made him happy and proud decade or so. While working on your diaries, did in a way that he understood?” He doesn’t underyou go through a period when you were reading stand writing. He said to me before that some diaries or memoirs? neighbor of his has a 24-year-old daughter who I always liked biographies, even when I was a kid. wrote something but hasn’t written anything I love it when they’re a kid and they don’t know before, and could I get it into The New Yorker. I they’re going to be famous, and you’re saying to said, “No, The New Yorker is a magazine for writthe book, “Don’t worry about it, you’re going to ers.” He said, “Well, you’re in it.” be famous.” They don’t know. They’re just chopOne thing that I admire about you is that you ping wood, they don’t know what’s in store for always want to pay for the work, whether it’s them. But it made me think, that could be me. 20 | The Writer • January 2018 And I don’t know it. I’m just chopping wood. What do I know? Well, it’s interesting, because I could say that I could write your biography, but everybody knows your story already. What’s left to tell? You don’t really know yourself. They could go to people around you. I talk about this agent I had in New York. He was old when I met him. We went out for lunch, and he said, “I was with Jerry Salinger, and we’re in the Village, and we’d go hear Billie Holiday and then…” The stories. “I’m representing Lillian Hellman because she’s doing this production of Little Foxes in Russia.” You’re a young man, and you’re with this man, and everyone knows his name, and he’s telling you these stories, and you don’t know that he’s going to be telling these stories over and over again. That’s my story about my agent. But there was an agent before that, who I let go of because he got me a contract with a small gay press, and it wasn’t what I wanted. I was going through with it even though it wasn’t what I wanted. And then the press went out of business. Somebody from Little, Brown called me and said, “Do you have a book that we could publish or that we could look at?” I thought, “Well, they called me.” So I brought them the book, and then when they said they would take it, I went to the agent and said, “I’m going to go with somebody else for this.” Because I didn’t want to be tied to him, because I didn’t feel anything for him. If someone were writing a story of my life, they could talk to Mark Silverberg, who would say, “Oh, he’s an asshole, and he screwed me over.” Ingrid Christie You could probably make that list yourself – the people you don’t want to be interviewed about yourself. I’m guessing we all have that list buried in our subconscious. Then there are people who you didn’t even think about. You’ve forgotten about them, but they remember you. When I first moved to New York, I did this reading, and there was this guy who read as well. It was nothing, really, what he read. And he came up to me and said, “So I heard you told so-and-so that you were the best one on stage that night.” And I thought, “Yeah, I was. But if you can’t see that, well, I don’t know what I could do for you. Did you really think…” But it does sound like something I would say – that we did the reading last night, and I was really the best. I don’t like to admit it, but I can hear myself. Well, you know the difference at this point. When you get your ass kicked, you think, “Wow, I have a lot to [work on].” I was saying to Hugh earlier, that 30 years ago if I had this show tonight, I would have stayed up all night last night. I’m grown up now, so you don’t really write a brand-new story in one day. You can do a draft, but it’s not like you’re going to get up and read that in front of 2,000 people. I worry about that sometimes, because 30 years ago I would have stayed up all night. Now I’m like, I have that one new story and I’m still worried about it, but… How do you prepare to read for a show like this, with thousands of people waiting for you? Do you isolate yourself? I think part of it is…you have to trust your instincts. You can put a playlist together but know well enough that when you get up there, I’m going to go with Plan B here. Don’t stick with Plan A just because you have it written down, because it’s not necessarily going to work every night. Lee Mergner is a Content Director at Madavor Media and oversees JazzTimes and BirdWatching magazines. writermag.com • The Writer | 21 SETTING the TONE How to handle VOICE in your FICTION. By JACK SMITH 22 | The Writer • January 2018 In real life, we often speak of tone of voice: “What’s with that tone of voice?” Perhaps because it sounded impertinent or disrespectful; we picked up on an attitude we didn’t appreciate. At any rate, we know that the way words are said matters just as much – if not more – as the words themselves. In fiction, as in real life, we listen carefully for voices: both the author’s and the characters’. The authorial voice is the voice we hear when we’re reading the author’s prose, whether it’s exposition, narration, or description. Think of the difference between a Hemingway narrative and a Faulkner one: Hemingway’s prose is lean and stripped down, whereas Faulkner’s is intricately and richly embellished. Characters also clearly have distinctive voices that establish personality, attitudes, and disposition. Think of Huck Finn, Holden Caulfield, Moll Flanders. A character’s voice can be apparent in both thought and speech. And speech in fiction, as in real life, clues us in to a character’s take on self, others, and the world at large. As a writer, you may have been urged to find your voice. The idea is that once you do this, something “clicks.” You’ve found the right voice for your narrator or your protagonist. Maybe initially your voice sounded amateurish, bumbling, uneven, wrong for the story or wrong for the characters, but now it’s got authority, it’s just right, it’s tuned in. But how do you find that voice? And what about from project to project: Should you work toward creating a consistent voice, one that readers will recognize as uniquely yours? mystockdesigns/Shutterstock THE NATURE OF “VOICE” Walter Cummins, former editor of The Literary Review, emeritus professor at Farleigh Dickinson University, and a short story writer, points out that a voice’s sound is created by such elements as “sentence rhythms and patterns, word choices, enunciations, syntax, and pauses.” Voice must work in tandem with key features of a character or story: “In addition to sound, the details that a writer chooses to note imply a distinct worldview. There’s also an attitude toward people and places, situations and events that emerges.” writermag.com • The Writer | 23 It’s a complex process, says Cummins, especially since fictional voice consists of both the basic authorial voice and the occasional, or contextual, voice, which depends on the particular story elements. “I consider the voice underlying the occasional voices [to be] one that develops unconsciously, but a writer can be more deliberate about adjusting that basic voice to one that suits the narrative situation,” he says. For instance, in his own work: “As far as I’m concerned, I just write in a manner that’s natural to me. But people have commented on what they find are distinctive sentence patterns and rhythms, a voice I hadn’t intentionally planned and didn’t realize I had.” Consider the opening of his short story “Someone Else,” from The End of the Circle: “You’re traveling alone, aren’t you?” she said. Mark nodded at the large young woman standing over him in the train aisle, then turned back to watch people move in and out of the station. He hoped that was the end of it and she would go away. But she dropped her backpack and sat on the seat facing his. He pretended to be intent on searching the crowd, as if expecting someone. The woman’s image reflected in the window of the coach, flat and transparent, a double exposure over the great mountains surrounding the town. “Look at them all running around like idiots.” She gestured with an abrupt sweep of her hand. “Who?” Mark followed her pointing to see if she had noticed something unusual, but nothing seemed to have changed, just people hurrying with luggage and knapsacks. “Like they’re desperate to get to someplace that mattered.” Despite the insistence of her words, her voice was toneless, a straight line on a graph. We feel a restless need on Mark’s part to be free of this woman who has imposed herself on him. “I see certain tics of mine, a tendency to add on phrases after commas, an uncertainty in the protagonist, metaphoric analogies, seeds of an as-yet unstated tension,” Cummins says. While these techniques have now become unconscious or subliminal in his writing, Cummins has deliberately adjusted his voice to the narrative situation. So the language itself, the rhythms and the use of figurative language, all help create the restive voice of his protagonist. Robert Garner McBrearty, author of several story collections, likens voice to the style of a good actor. “Somehow with the great actor, we’re feeling not only the acting style but the ‘voice’ of the actor,” he says. Everything about this 24 | The Writer • January 2018 actor’s performance, says McBrearty, reveals an authentic style/voice: “The delivery of the lines, the facial expressions, seem called forth from some deeper, authentic place, as if the actor has become the character rather than simply pretending.” In fiction, a distinctive style and personality must come through as well. McBrearty goes for the comic mode. In the following passage from “The Hellraiser,” from A Night at the Y, he presents Scooter, an aging troublemaker, at once humorous and sad, at odds with his old friends, who have settled down and given up the youthful fast life: It’s New Year’s Eve and I’m raising hell. I’ve driven my truck into town and tried to call the boys together. But each year there’s more guys settling down, getting married, dulling out, and this year I’m down to Leon and his tag-along little brother Sam. And, a bit later: All afternoon as I was driving in from Irving, I was getting in a crazy mood, wearing my hat with the deer antlers, honking my horn at any girls I passed on the highway. Sometimes the girls would laugh and wave. It seemed to take the chill out of the day. For a while. I was thinking maybe I’d meet a girl at a roadside park, a gas station, the Stuckey’s, the Colonel’s Kentucky Fried, you never know. But mostly it just seemed like the cows were watching me, standing behind the barb-wired fences, wondering if they were going to get rained on. Cows always look depressed and lonely and like they’re hoping you can do them a favor. I grew up in the country. I hate the country. While certain elements here are outright comic – Scooter’s wearing a deer antler hat and honking his horn, laughing and waving, meditating on the psychology of cows – McBrearty plumbs his character for a deeper voice, one that is “primarily a plaintive, sad one.” It’s the deeper layers where we discover the real character, says McBrearty: “We know that Scooter isn’t really happy, even if he pretends to be. The real Scooter, the deep down plaintive Scooter, is where I hope his ‘voice’ comes through.” For McBrearty, it’s essential that voice, whether it’s first person or third, convey this deeper level. The voice that suits Alex Cavanaugh, a sci-fi novelist, is also a comic one, well-suited to readers who aren’t into the technical side of science fiction. He goes for “light humorous passages, especially those with a more rapid-fire delivery.” The following scene from CassaFire, the second book in his CassaSeries, reveals this fast pace, which helps create a snarky voice, typical of Cavanaugh’s fiction: Byron peered into the cockpit. Athee now sat in the co-pilot’s seat, her harness in place and eyes scanning the control panel. Concerned, he entered the cockpit. She looked up and smiled. “Your controls still amaze me,” she said, her eyes reflecting childish wonder. “So much information to process.” Hesitating, Byron grasped the back of her seat. “You’ve been in a shuttle before?” “Of course. The previous shuttle pilot even gave me a ride over the valley.” I bet he did! Byron thought, staring at the attractive young woman. “Well, you need to go take a seat with the other passengers.” Athee tossed her hair aside and eyed him expectantly. “I thought I’d ride in the cockpit with you.” “That’s probably not a good idea.” “Why not?” “That’s the co-pilot’s seat.” “Do you have a co-pilot?” “Well, no…” “Then this seat is open.” As we encounter these two characters in their backand-forth, they come alive for us, each with a distinctive voice – the woman off-handed, the man cautious and concerned. Cavanaugh’s tone creates a light-humorous voice nicely suited to his space opera readership. For author Joanna Campbell Slan, voice is “the humanity behind the words that connects the reader to the character on a personal level.” Consider the following passage from her cozy mystery novel All Washed Up, illustrating how voice comes through in the language of the first-person narrator as well as in the dialogue: Poppy raised a caterpillar-shaped eyebrow at me. “That’s where I gotta trust Binky. If she says they can hold out, I gotta believe her. That’s how come we call people like her ‘assets.’ They got experience and smarts, and they aren’t just warm bodies. They’re experts. A human asset to the intelligence community.” My head was beginning to hurt, and the wet fabric of my jeans chafed my skin. “I’m not sure that’s your decision to make. Or hers. As a mother, I can’t imagine putting my child at risk. Sure, you say that Binky has it covered, but what if she’s wrong?” “She ain’t.” The two voices here are those of Poppy and his granddaughter, Cara Mia Delgatto. The two have just come back from a stakeout where they waited for a signal from a retired CIA agent, Binky, who has been captured along with her grandson. Poppy’s sentences are clipped short, says Slan, because he’s “not concerned with feelings or emotion.” The only reason he’s talking to Cara is that “she’s worried.” But Poppy, says Slan, “isn’t.” The voice that comes through for Poppy represents his narrow-minded thinking: “Everything with him is black and white, like it or be damned.” For historical novelist Stephanie Cowell, voice has to do with capturing the deepest recesses of her characters’ emotional and spiritual lives. Her protagonists are people with great stature, with profound artistic potential. What are the wellsprings, the inner life, of a character like Monet, fiercely driven by his art? In the following scene from Claude and Camille: A Novel of Monet, Cowell tried to capture the voice of her protagonist following a fight he’s had with his wife. Notice how Cowell reveals his deep passion for painting: Outside, he turned away from the sea toward the farms inland. He walked down the road resolutely, his scarf blowing, slowing a little. The field in front of him was covered with snow, as was the dark wood, rough-hewn fence. He set up his easel, fixing the canvas to it. A few lines in charcoal marked his boundaries. The snow was so many shades of white. Now that he painted he could breathe a little. It didn’t matter that it was cold. Damn the cold. The fence was no longer empty. A single black magpie huddled there, contemplating the field. Claude painted it swiftly. It might have taken a few minutes or more. The bird turned its head and stared dark-eyed, then leapt into the air; it took flight and was gone. Yet now as he finished, painting a bit more slowly, a calm returned to him he had not felt in weeks. He had told the canvas what he could not tell her… Cowell says she wasn’t conscious of herself, as author, when she wrote this passage. What drove this scene was her visceral sensing of Monet’s great need to be off by himself – and to paint, which gives his life substance and meaning. Notice how she captures his emotional state: “He walked down the road resolutely, his scarf blowing, slowing a little.” The word “resolutely” suggests his anger after his fight with his wife, his stiff-necked bearing. “Damn the cold,” because he will paint, regardless of the weather. Having found solace in his art, he begins to calm because his painting has allowed writermag.com • The Writer | 25 him an audience that his wife could not. The voice of this passage connects us with the deepest feelings of Monet, and it’s handled with the characteristic subtlety of a literary novel. FINDING YOUR VOICE So how can you find your own voice in a particular work? Cavanaugh believes if you want to find your voice, you must discover a unique way of telling your story. This may take years of practicing the craft. One problem beginning writers must overcome, he says, is the tendency to write with “proper language,” making one’s work “correct” according to the rules of formal grammar – but if you write like a schoolmarm, your fiction will be lifeless. Cavanaugh says it’s best “to just throw it out there with no inhibitions.” With practice, “eventually your personality will start to come through.” In her own work, Cowell wants to be sure that the personality that comes through is her character’s only, never an authorial voice. “I’ve never really tried to find my voice because I’m not in the story, except that I am making the characters come to life on the page, but I never feel they are mine. I feel they come to me as a child is born to you, and you do your best to shape that child to go into the world.” Slan says finding your voice takes trusting your abilities as an author. She recommends writers do a lot of reading and have plenty of life experiences. “It’s a maturation process,” says Slan. And then, at some point, you’ll experience an “‘aha’ moment when you find your voice.” “I like to think of a musician tuning an instrument with a tuning fork,” she says. “Until the pitch of the instrument and the fork matches, there’s a discordant vibrato. When the instrument and the fork are perfectly in tune, they create one pure, unwavering sound. That’s what I aim for, creating a pure sound that resonates with my readers.” Like Slan, McBrearty also suggests reading a lot. “Notice when you find something distinctive about the 26 | The Writer • January 2018 Within a given genre, you can maintain a voice that is relatively consistent, and hopefully one that comes natural to you. Always remember: IF YOU FORCE IT, IT WILL SOUND FORCED, NOT AUTHENTIC. writing voice,” says McBrearty, something that makes it sound “authentic.” Whenever you’re in the midst of the creative process, he recommends “getting in touch with your deepest thoughts and emotions, even if they are never directly stated on the page.” In fact, he says “what is unsaid” might be “what is authentic.” Authenticity is equally important to Cummins. As a professor of writing students, he says, “I get a sense of an inherent voice from my first readings of their work. Yet they haven’t shaped that voice at this early stage. They may even want to emulate someone else’s, a successful writer they admire. But while they can learn elements of craft that way, they can’t force a voice that isn’t inherently their own.” Finding their own voice comes, says Cummins, from “pruning excess, developing scenes and characters, finding the hearts of their stories.” Once writers improve and understand the writing process, they will gain confidence. “Then their true voice will start to emerge,” says Cummins. It’s a misconception of voice, he believes, to think of it as something separate from everything else in a story. “It’s one aspect of a whole, one revealed as a writer finds how to master other aspects of story writing.” HANDLING MULTIPLE VOICES How many voices can a work of fiction have? And what about the voice of the authorial persona versus the voices of the characters? “The most obvious multiplicity is found in dialogue,” says Cummins, “whether the basic telling is in the first or third person.” And “characters should be distinctive when they speak,” he says. “But if the story is conveyed by one narrative voice – typical of most stories or novels – that voice must be consistent.” Cowell believes a work of fiction can have many voices, but “I think all the voices must be used to expound one major theme or plot.” She uses her novel Marrying Mozart as an example, where she has a total of six different voices: “the 21-year-old Mozart, the four pretty unmarried Weber sisters, and their controlling mother.” This novel consists of “variations on a theme,” with each character’s distinctive voice related to the central issue of the novel: the marriage to Mozart. Slan also strives for a unifying voice in a given work of fiction. “By my definition, there will always be one authorial voice within a book, unless the book is an anthology. However, just as each character has an arc within the arc of the book, so does each character have his/her own voice within that over-arching voice of the author.” CREATING A CONSISTENT VOICE What about continuing voice from story to story, or novel to novel? You don’t want to sound like Stephen King in one work and John Grisham in another. Readers can know you by a voice that is consistently one voice. But how important is consistency in a writer’s voice? “A distinctive voice that carries from one book to another gives readers a sense of familiarity,” says Cavanaugh. “They know what to expect. It will grow and develop over time, and changing genres alters it some, but I think authors should focus more on overall voice.” He suggests practicing to maintain a consistent voice. “A good exercise is to take one written page or passage, and write it completely different. The more times you rewrite it, the more possibilities you’ll see – and the more voice will begin to develop. You’ll start to recognize what is comfortable and natural for you. Plus, you’ll learn how to maintain that natural style even when the subject matter and genre change.” Cummins encourages adaptation. “A writer can and probably should modify his or her essential voice to suit the tone and circumstance of a particular book,” he says. Yet there are limits, he points out: “I recall meeting a British writer who had a successful first novel but felt a need to write in a totally different manner in his next, with a voice closer to that of another writer he longed to emulate. He shared part of that attempt at a public reading, and it sounded strained. It wasn’t him.” When adapting your voice to suit a particular work, Slan suggests listening to recordings. “When I wrote my Jane Eyre books, I listened to snippets of Downton Abbey before settling down to write. This infused my thinking with the cadences of the British accent.” As to changing genres, she points out that your voice must be adaptable if working on vastly different projects: “When I wrote a textbook, my voice was more professorial and removed. When I wrote nonfiction about scrapbooking, I could be more friendly. When I write about Jane Eyre, I have to be more formal and erudite.” And her other fiction? “When I write about Kiki Lowenstein, I’m very much a figure in mom jeans, but when I write about her friend Cara Mia Delgatto, I have to think like a businesswoman. These are all facets of my personality, revised and weighted to shape the message I want my audience to receive.” It’s true that certain genres call for certain kinds of voices. Wouldn’t it be misguided, absurd, even, to adopt your James Joyce style in a company memo? One has to remember audience and purpose. But within a given genre, you can maintain a voice that is relatively consistent, and hopefully one that comes natural to you. Always remember: If you force it, it will sound forced, not authentic. VOICE AND SUBJECT MATTER How do you pitch your voice to the subject matter? According to Slan, “To select the proper variation of your voice, you must first put yourself in the place of your reader. What does he/she expect? Then go on to ask yourself, ‘What does the genre demand?’” But how can you be sure it’s effective? Beta readers can help, says Slan. But do be careful, she cautions: “They must be fans of the sort of work you’re hoping to create, or they won’t be able to discern a misstep.” Cummins sees the matter differently – in fact, oppositely: “The voice should come first and drive the way the subject is handled rather than the subject dictating the voice.” “Shakespeare wrote comedies, tragedies, and histories with very different attitudes toward his stories, and yet the voice behind them is always Shakespeare’s. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby and the social satire fantasy story ‘The Diamond as Big as the Ritz.’ He made both approaches his own. That’s the point,” he says. Whichever comes first – voice or subject – the tone of a story can be way off. “I mean, if you’re stuck with a style where all the world is light and happy, [that] voice will not do to describe a brutal murder,” says Cowell. And so, if that’s your usual style, it behooves you to pick your subject, genre, and characters well. What’s your temperament? What’s your general take on the world? What kinds of characters suit you? For example, “I choose mostly very sensitive characters,” says Cowell. “I think I would not be good at describing the deeds of a serial killer! I have a gentle, sensitive style. It would not be good for thrillers or mysteries or traditional romance or science fiction or fantasy or whatever. It is me, and it suits what I do.” Sometimes it’s possible to take advantage of a discrepancy between voice and subject matter, such as in black humor or farce. “If you are writing comedy, it’s that unexpected fillip that makes us laugh,” says Slan. “If you are hoping to surprise the reader or to keep the reader intrigued, a disparity between voice and subject matter can create interest.” NOW, GO FIND YOUR OWN VOICE An interesting, compelling voice is the engine that moves readers from sentence to sentence, from paragraph to paragraph, from page to page. A flat voice will cause us to close the book. With practice, you’ll discover a voice that is true and authentic to you, and it’s crucial in your journey as a fiction writer. After all, finding your voice in a work of fiction is finding its core, its center, the heart of it. Jack Smith is the author of four novels, two nonfiction books, and numerous articles and interviews. He writes regularly for The Writer. writermag.com • The Writer | 27 THE HERO OF THE STORY Disabled protagonists in children’s and YA literature. by Melissa Hart 28 | The Writer • January 2018 Beth Vrabel remembers sitting in the bleachers at her son’s baseball game when an unforgettable email appeared on her phone. A young girl with albinism had just finished reading her middle grade novel, A Blind Guide to Stinkville, the story of a 12-year-old with albinism and resulting vision impairment. “All of my friends are convinced that you wrote it about me,” the girl emailed to Vrabel, and went on to explain how thrilling it was to come across a protagonist like herself. “It’s a moment you could almost lick the back of and stick to a wall,” Vrabel says. “It’s going to be stuck in my memory forever. There I was, sitting at a baseball game and crying because the letter meant so much to me.” The inclusion of protagonists with disabilities in children’s literature is, overall, a relatively recent development. Nonprofits such as We Need Diverse Books and websites such as Disability in Kidlit emphasize the importance of all children getting to see themselves represented as a story’s main character. Authors of books for young people have called upon their experiences as parents of children with disabilities, and on volunteer work or extensive research, to create characters who reflect the physical, emotional, and developmental challenges that readers and their peers may face. THE STORY IS MORE THAN THE CHALLENGE Vrabel and her husband often tell their two children, “Everyone has a challenge, and everybody has a story. Your story is so much more than your challenge.” Their daughter, Emma, is a person with albinism and mild vision impairment. “If you meet my daughter, you’re going to see an incredibly vibrant, passionate person who happens to be visually impaired,” Vrabel says. “It’s something you tack on at the end when you meet her – it’s not first and foremost.” When she was 12, Emma asked her parents for help in finding a book that featured a child who happens to be visually impaired. “We did a search and couldn’t find such a book,” Vrabel explains. She describes the books they did find: teenage horror stories about albinos taking over the world, graphic novels in which people with a visual impairment are mystical or evil. “To see vision impairment become the centerpiece of every story, or to get that sense of albinos as ‘the other,’ is just devastating,” she says. In the end, Vrabel ended up writing the novel her daughter requested to read. SkyPony published A Blind Guide to Stinkville in 2015. “Most kids do have challenges – one aspect that sets them apart,” she says. “There’s a stark need for awareness and shared experiences within the stories we write. But the challenge isn’t the center of a character’s life – or it shouldn’t be. Too often, we make it so.” She followed up Stinkville with a companion book, A Blind Guide to Normal (SkyPony, 2016), which also features a middle-grade character with a vision impairment. Both books are very, very funny; at one point, her protagonist’s glass eye rolls across a cafeteria floor. “Everyone has their own way of handling things,” Vrabel says. “My approach is to incorporate some humor. Kids have such a unique ability to transition from serious to silly in a moment. If you’re going to write for that audience, you need to embrace this. Humor can get you through anything.” Her latest novel, Caleb and Kit (Running Press, 2017), is a story about the friendship between a neglected tween and a boy who has cystic fibrosis. This time, Vrabel found herself inspired by her son who has asthma and underwent testing as a toddler to rule out the disease. With a journalism degree and seven years of professional work in the field, she began to research cystic fibrosis with the goal of creating an authentic character. “I must’ve read dozens of articles about cystic fibrosis, and watched YouTube videos and talked with people about their experiences,” she says. “I put out a call on social media and got wonderful responses from people who opened their hearts and didn’t shy away from answering painful questions.” Some of these people became good friends. “The closer I became with them, the more imperative it became for Caleb to be authentic,” she says. “This isn’t a book about the disease. It’s about people first, about Caleb and his story. I’m happy to turn the tide in any small way that I can toward great stories about characters going through writermag.com • The Writer | 29 real-life experiences, who just happen to have something else going on, too.” A DIVERSE CHORUS OF PROTAGONISTS As both a reader and a writer, Rachel DeWoskin is eager to experience the world from someone else’s perspective. Before becoming an author and professor of creative writing at the University of Chicago, she spent a decade in Shanghai as the star of a Chinese soap opera – an American woman surrounded by a culture very different from her own. “I accidentally modeled otherness in a very explicit way,” she says. “I’m always interested in questions of insiders and outsiders, of people on the peripheries.” Her young daughter’s obsession with the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, and her own horror at how the little people were portrayed, inspired her to write Big Girl Small (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011). “The ‘munchkins’ are dressed in rompers and licking lollipops, playing something like babies, even though they’re dignified, professionally trained actors, and they have no names in the movie’s credits,” she says. “My daughter – who was a tall 4-year-old – effortlessly identified with Dorothy, and I couldn’t help but wonder what her life – and aspirations – would be like if she were in a different body. If she were a Little Person, she’d still want to be Judy Garland, not a ‘munchkin.’” For her 16-year-old protagonist who stands 3 feet, 9 inches tall, DeWoskin interviewed dozens of kids and read medical books, novels, and social histories about little people. She also reached out members of the nonprofit Little People of America for their perspectives and attended one of their conferences. “People told me their stories, showed me photos, talked about what childhood and high school were like. They showed me tools – the raised pedals in their cars, grabbers for reaching cereal on the top shelf at Trader Joe’s,” she says. “They were very gener30 | The Writer • January 2018 “Finding books that give us insight into experiences that aren’t ours, that offer more than one vision of ourselves in the world, is essential to being a 3-D human being.” ous about sharing their lives.” Most of the fan mail she received after the publication of Big Girl Small came from little people thanking her for making Judy Lohden the protagonist. “She isn’t a prop or best friend or sidekick in the patronizing and unfair way I’ve seen so often – she’s not a ‘mini-me’ – what even is that?” DeWoskin notes that the novel became a story about any girl in trouble, regardless of her size or shape or ability. “It’s about girls on the margins – in other words, anyone who has ever felt she isn’t normal,” she explains. “So, every girl.” Her most recent novel, Blind (Viking, 2014), grew out of a discussion she had with her children about Menena Cottin’s picture book The Black Book of Colors (Groundwood, 2008), in which all of the pictures are invisible, but children can feel them on raised lines and read image-based descriptions in Braille. “It’s a deeply empathic portrayal of the perspective of a little boy who isn’t sighted,” she says. “My daughters and I got into a profound conversation about blindness and what it would be like to read that book as a sighted reader and then lose your sight and learn to read it with your fingers and other senses.” DeWoskin spent a year and a half learning Braille while working on her manuscript about a 15-year-old girl who loses her eyesight in an accident. “I also spent a lot of time thinking of what it would be like,” she says. “The terrible fear and frustration of having an accident that alters your perspective so dramatically that you have to recalibrate literally how you’re going to see, how you’ll make meaning of the world.” These days, she finds that many authors of books for young readers are attuned to the importance of including protagonists with disabilities. One of these is R.J. Palacio, author of Wonder (Knopf, 2012), the story of a 10-yearold boy with a severe facial deformity. DeWoskin and her older daughter chose Wonder for their mother/daughter book club. “That book lovingly and thoughtfully gives them Auggie’s point of view, so when they encounter kids in the world who look different or have some sort of disability, they think of him as someone they know,” the author says. “That book trained my girls to think, ‘That kid looks different and might be having a tricky day, so I’m going to smile and look her in the eye.’” She urges authors wanting to include protagonists with disabilities to craft complex characters and involve people with first-hand experience who can make sure the story is nuanced before it goes to print. She hopes that young people with disabilities will continue to write as well. “It’s time for us to amp up the diversity both of our protagonists and our authors,” she says. “Finding books that give us insight into experiences that aren’t ours, that offer more than one vision of ourselves in the world, is essential to being a 3-D human being.” FLIP THE SCRIPT Brian Tashima is the author of the Joel Suzuki sci-fi/fantasy series. His protagonist is a teenage boy on the autism spectrum in a world where autism becomes a superpower. Tashima’s son is on the spectrum; at 12, he requested a book written just for him. “I’ve been a musician and a songwriter my whole life,” Tashima explains. “I’d never written a book before. But I’m glad he asked me.” He plans 11 books in the series, with the goal of giving children with autism a relatable and empowering literary hero. He’s found that books tend to portray autism as an obstacle that the character needs to overcome to achieve his or her goals. “I wanted to flip the script,” he says. “My character being on the spectrum is a source of magic and power. Even though my son has his fair share of challenges with communication and interpersonal skills, he does amazing things. He taught himself to use a computer before he could speak. He can memorize long strings of numbers. That’s an incredible power.” He notes with gratitude the increase of characters on the spectrum in literature, in television programs such as The Good Doctor and films such as the newest installment of the Power Rangers series (the Blue Ranger is a superhero living with autism). “I want them to just come out and identify as on the spectrum, and then back off and show that the character is just a person,” Tashima says. “We all have individual differences – there’s no need to single us out. Have your character do something unexpected, which will not only break down stereotypes for the good of the community but help your story to feel fresh and different.” Tashima is on the board of directors for the nonprofit Autism Empowerment, which does programs and provides community services for people with autism. “It’s really important to me to make sure my characters are a respectful and accurate portrayal of people on the spectrum,” he says. “To that extent, I immerse myself in that world for my writing and my son.” He also shows the rough drafts of his manuscripts to a “sensitivity reader,” someone who can vet the work for authenticity of voice and experience. Tashima’s reader is the executive director of the nonprofit – a woman who is on the spectrum. “She gives me her feedback on the characters, and if I’m missing the mark, she’ll let me know by saying, ‘I don’t think they would react like this,’ or ‘Your usage of this word isn’t appropriate for the community.’ If the disability you’re writing about is not something that you yourself live with,” he advises authors, “make sure you consult with someone who is personally affected by it before you complete your manuscript.” Tashima describes his work as an adventure series first, with a hero speaks to young readers regardless of ability. In classrooms, when he visits to talk about his books, students thank him for writing stories that make them feel better about themselves and being on the spectrum. “Kids who aren’t on the spectrum read it and say things like, ‘Now, I understand my classmate more. I understand why he acts the way he does.’ I love hearing that. I’m promoting acceptance in the community.” RESEARCH AND READERS ARE ESSENTIAL Corinne Duyvis cofounded Disability in Kidlit (disabilityinkidlit.com) four years ago along with New York Times best-selling author Kody Deplinger, who was born legally blind. The site offers themed book lists, recommended reading, an excellent searchable database, and numerous book reviews. Duyvis is the author of On the Edge of Gone (Abrams, 2016), a YA sci-fi novel about a teen with autism during the apocalypse. Diagnosed with autism herself, Duyvis is hesitant about books with disability as a major theme written by non-disabled writers. “Non-disabled people get to determine the entire narrative around disabled people in real life, in fiction, and in other media; people typically never consult us, or only as an afterthought or curiosity,” she explains. She believes research and sensitivity readers like the one used by Tashima are completely essential when writing about any character with a disability. “We’ve spent four years putting together all kinds of advice for authors who want to write disabled characters,” she says of Disability in Kidlit. “Our reviews can be especially useful if people are interested in seeing how disabled readers perceive existing disabled characters.” Vrabel agrees with Duyvis that writers wanting to incorporate characters with disabilities into their own stories for young people need to find a personal connection and do plenty of research. “Don’t just throw in a disability to add depth to a character,” she says. “That’s going to fall flat, and readers are savvy enough to know the difference.” Contributing editor Melissa Hart is the author of Avenging the Owl, a middle-grade novel with a character who has Down syndrome, based on her brother. Web: melissahart.com writermag.com • The Writer | 31 From promIsing to polIshed Use these revIsion tips to maKe your pICTure BoOk manuscript irresistible. by Anica Mrose RissI So, you’ve written a picture booK manuscript: ConGratulations! Now it’s time to revise, revise, revise, and revise some more. but where to start? The best picture-book texts entertain and delight children, hold up to multiple readings, and make use of elements unique to the format, such as frequent page turns and visual storytelling. A good picture book can make writing one look easy, but of course it is anything but. Whether you’re a picturebook pro or brand new to the genre, here are some tips, tricks, questions, and approaches to keep in mind as you play and experiment with your draft. Cut, cut, cut Many beloved classic picture books have upwards of 1,000 or even 2,000 words, but in today’s picture book market, your manuscript is more likely to sell if the word count falls within the 400- to 800-word range. Like every rule in publishing, there are exceptions, of course – but one of the joys of writing picture books is finding and using exactly the right words, and only those words. Challenge yourself to tell the story as economically as possible. Simplify where you can, and choose words that are vivid and impactful. necessary to the story. Trust your future illustrator and leave room for her to expand the story in ways you might never have imagined. Rhyme for a reason Time after time, we see picture books that rhyme, and that’s fine (see what I did there?), but in the current market, most picture-book editors prefer nonrhyming manuscripts, unless the rhymes are especially clever and inventive, or employed for a specific reason important to the story. If you’ve written your draft in rhyme, ask yourself: Are the rhymes necessary? Have you used rhymes in place of either plot or emotional stakes? Are the rhymes you’ve chosen truly fresh and unexpected? Try rewriting the manuscript without rhyming – or using rhymes only in select moments, such as for humor, surprise, or emphasis – to test whether the story can (or perhaps should) stand without them. Repeat with care Repetition is a useful device in the picture book writer’s toolbox. It can be used not only for humor, rhythm, and comfort, but also for building expectations in the mind of the reader or toppling them. It also can get annoying. Employ repetition well and wisely, but don’t overuse it. Like with rhyming, you might be overusing repetition if your story wouldn’t work at all without it. Super Cat/Shutterstock Leave room for the visual story The words in a picture book tell only half the tale, at most. As you revise your manuscript, ask yourself: Are there pieces of the story (descriptions, actions, moods) you’re currently including that could be told in the pictures instead? If yes, consider cutting them. A strong picture book text leaves lots of space for the illustrator to get creative. Bonus tip: Keep art notes sparse, including only those details that aren’t obvious in the text but are absolutely Use those page breaks Picture book writers often think in “spreads:” sets of two facing pages that, as the book is read, will be viewed simultaneously. Each spread should ideally build toward the climax and the eventual resolution of the plot. Do all of yours? (One way to test this is by asking yourself, “what’s new in this spread?”) Consider, too, how the page turn – a built-in pause and moment of anticipation between each spread – might be used for humor or to build tension or suspense. Raise the emotional stakes Most great picture books don’t merely entertain and tell a good story; they also pack an emotional punch. Does your story contain something for the kid reader to care about, relate to, or root for? What are the emotional stakes related to your plot, and how can you augment those even further? Build expectations…then subvert them From page one of your book, where might readers expect the story to go? (Yes, the first page should contain some hint of this.) How can you build those expectations and then top, twist, or subvert them? Read, read, read Picture books are meant to be read aloud, so read your draft to someone else. Read it to your pet. Read it to a friend. Then ask a friend to read it to you (or, in a pinch, use computer dictation to read it out loud). Are there sentences your tongue trips over? Do the rhythm and pacing still sound and feel as right as they did in your head? Reading and hearing the draft out loud will help you identify beats and lines that aren’t working – and also which ones are. Hide it in a drawer Feeling good about your revised draft? Terrific! Now put it in a drawer (or close the document), walk away, and forget about it. Yes, really. Don’t even think about those words or that story for at least a week, preferably longer. Once you’ve stayed away from the manuscript for enough time that you can no longer recite the words on the page, return to it with fresh eyes and revise, revise again. Anica Mrose Rissi is the author of The Teacher’s Pet and other books for kids. writermag.com • The Writer | 33 Writing is hard. 34 | The Writer • January 2018 Writing a full-length manuscript is harder. How can authors stay motivated to reach the finish line? By Yi Shun Lai writermag.com • The Writer | 35 hen I first started freelancing, I got a piece of advice I’ve never been able to forget. “Write off everything,” said the successful, seasoned freelancer who was my mentor at the time. “Going to the movies? Film research. Developing film? Photo research. Eating out? Socializing with writers. Write it all off.” He was talking about taxes, but he created a monster: Twenty years later, you can name any activity and I’ll carve out some kind of way to relate it to writing. Meandering through the grocery store? Research for a character who’s an amateur gourmand. Perusing notebooks in a stationery store for 45 minutes? Same character needs a specific notebook to jot down very specific ideas in. Re-reading mystery novels? Wanted to get an idea of how genre writers keep readers turning pages. Eating cookie dough from a frozen log in the freezer? Hey, that tweet the day I ate most of that log won me five new followers: Building platform. Looking back, it’s no wonder it took me so long to finish my debut novel. And even now, with some experience under my belt, I’m looking desperately for the finish line on a complete draft of my second novel, a challenging historical fiction utterly reeking with potential for distraction. (What did they eat back in Victorian England, anyway? How long did it take for women to get dressed? Surely YouTube can tell me.) In the end, I had to go back to grade school, or, really, preschool, to find the thing that would ultimately save me from myself and allow me to finish my novel: I made a progress chart. We’ve all grown up with something like this, whether it’s the growth chart your parents etched into the doorframe for you or the thermometer chart your third-grade teacher made for your class when you did that fundraiser for the end-of-year festival. Either way, this is a chart that denotes progress. And who doesn’t love that? My own progress chart isn’t exactly a giant thermometer-shaped piece of plywood; it’s seven or eight pieces of regular photocopy paper, demarcated in thousand-word increments. Every five thousand words, there’s a reward built in, and some kind of goget-‘em platitude. To wit: “New pair of socks!” and “Wow! Great job!” or “You won a day at the aquarium!” and “Really cooking now!” (I admit I could have done better with my rewards this time around, which might explain the stalling.) I completed the final draft of my first novel, the one I took out and shopped to agents and publishers, in a few months. This one’s taking way longer, and weirdly, W having rewards to look forward to is only kind of doing the job. What I really look forward to, at the end of each day that I can log in my progress, is the act of coloring in the blank spaces next to the word count. I wondered why. Is it the visual manifestation of the work I’ve done? Is it the pretty colors? Is it something else altogether? I went poking around: There are plenty of programs out there that help us to eliminate distractions. These programs lock you out of social media sites; some just help you to manage time. There’s even a program that starts erasing words on your screen if you don’t keep typing after a certain period of time.1 And there’s a lot of business-based common knowledge that says we work well for rewards, which is what I thought got me through my first novel (and yes, I admit, I was pretty excited when I could finally re-up my stock of personalized stationery when I reached 50,000 words this time around). But it turns out, despite all of these tools determined to help us be more productive, there’s a ton of research that proves the way we’ve historically used incentives to bolster productivity doesn’t work. As far back as 1949, in fact, researchers were theorizing, and then proving, that people would solve puzzles for the sheer joy of solving puzzles and playing games over rewards. And those same study subjects did worse when presented with rewards. Somehow, that solid research, and the many similar studies with results pointing in the same direction, got swept under the rug in favor of workplaces and management theory that favored incentives and monetary rewards. But in our profession, it’s especially important for us to pay attention to what analyst Daniel Pink has aptly termed “the [Tom] Sawyer effect,” based on that character’s capability to turn the act of painting a fence into a desirable task: Work, as Mark Twain writes in the novel, “consists of whatever a body is OBLIGED to do, and…play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.” I asked several writers how they motivated themselves, or kept themselves going, whether the project be a long one or a shorter one. Some, predictably, said that deadlines were a great motivator. But when I dug deeper, something else became apparent: Writers who love the process struggled the least. Novelist and English professor Ned Huston wrote that he learned the What? You want to know where to find it? Okay, but I’m not responsible for any results: themostdangerouswritingapp.com. 1 lesson from an artist. “If you become product-oriented, and all you care about is producing the product, then you will hate the process because it only gets in the way. And producing product becomes a kind of torture,” he said. Across the board, this seems to be the case. Writers who write to deadlines probably have some kind of monetary motivation to finish projects and a manager to answer to, but when they’re working for themselves, they feel like they can really shine. Novelist and voiceover actor Petrea Burchard said, “I’m especially motivated when I am in love with the story I’m telling. This isn’t always possible in doing work for hire. But when I get to write a story, for, say, a competition or a publication that’s more open topic-wise, I can’t wait to get to work.” Middle-grade novelist Clark Parson echoed this sentiment: “From past experience, I know that I’ll really love [writing] once I get into it. That’s what gets me through the nasty, sticky, painful parts of a project.” And writer Michael Bland put an even longer lens on the hard parts of writing. “It’s a combination of not being a procrastinator – when I take on a task, I become stubborn to finish it – and the great sense of accomplishment I feel when I finish something.” Some of that sense of daily accomplishment must be what’s keeping me chugging along. It definitely wasn’t the promise of a shiny new tube of lip balm that had me rocketing past the 45,000-word mark. In fact, there is a school of thought that says rewards only serve to highlight the inherent negativity of a task, as if it has to come tied to a reward in order to get anyone to do it. But that’s not the way writing works. Anything that’s creative is meant to be rewarding in its own right. That’s what the research and anecdotal evidence says, anyway. Artists, whether literary or visual, are more creative when they make things for themselves. And we also know that tasks that are right-brain focused – you know, like writing creatively – can be actively hindered by such mundane things as rewards. One 1970s study involving preschoolers rewarded some of them for drawing with a blue ribbon. One group was told they would get the reward; one group was awarded after a certain time period with no expectation of reward; and one group was not rewarded at all or even told about the reward. The group that was told they’d get a reward lost interest in drawing way earlier than the groups that were rewarded unexpectedly or not at all. (See? It’s true. Everything we ever needed to know we learned in preschool.) We all know that creativity is the wellspring of our passion for writing. And, it turns out, maybe setting rewards for myself isn’t the answer after all. Because I confess there’s one thing I’ve left out of this description of my progress chart success: I’m a longhand drafter. Each day, I open up a dedicated notebook and write, by hand, the first draft of the novel. So when I get to the actual typing of that draft into my word processing program, I’m effectively working on my second draft. And that’s when the word count really begins to pile up, when I’m revising the first draft on Writers who write to deadlines probably have some kind of monetary motivation to finish projects and a manager to answer to, but when they’re working for themselves, they feel like they can really shine. the fly, adding details to make the characters shine, and polishing actions and scenes so they really count, and add causality to each other. And when I get through each longhand-drafted page after copying it into the word processor and adding to it on my computer, I take my pen and I cross out the longhand page, with great gusto and cheer and a totally outsized sense of accomplishment. So when I finally get to filling in my chart with that day’s word count, the hard work’s effectively been done. The reward? It’s after the fact, icing on the cake of the process, although that cake was a bitch to bake. At least I got a tube of lip balm and some new stationery out of it. Yi Shun Lai is a novelist and editor. Not a Self-Help Book: The Misadventures of Marty Wu is available at booksellers everywhere. Find Yi Shun at tahomaliteraryreview.com, thegooddirt.org, and on Twitter @gooddirt. writermag.com • The Writer | 37 LITERARY SPOTLIGHT INSIDE LITERARY MAGAZINES BY MELISSA HART S’More This new magazine for young girls aims to make science fabulous. S cientist and educator Sarita Menon believes that in order to inspire kids to love science, you must provide them with colorful graphics and a bag of marshmallows. Menon launched S’More, a comic book-style science magazine for girls ages 7 to 12, in 2017. A mother of two, she runs a science enrichment program for young students in Houston, Texas. “Any project we do, we always incorporate marshmallows,” she says. “I can never have too many marshmallow towers or design too many marshmallow shooters.” A magazine lover as a child, Menon wanted to produce a scientific publication for girls that was both informative and entertaining. “Magazines and comics are great for reluctant readers,” she says. “Kids like to read things that are not too lengthy, and they like color graphics. If it’s fun, they will listen, and they will read.” girls involved in science, space flight and exploration, the latest relevant news, and trivia and jokes. The “Science Like a Girl” section highlights the women who’ve used science in unexTone, editorial content pected ways. “She could be a worldConcerned about the lack of women in class chef and use her food science scientific fields, Menon hopes that degree to do something,” Menon says. S’more will inspire girls to “We take away the notion get excited enough about that it belongs in a uniSTEM subjects that they’ll versity or institution, and pursue them in college. “I explain that you can want to showcase female incorporate science in role models,” she explains. designing clothes, learn“Maybe if they see a ing ballet, knowing woman who’s become an where you’re going, cookastronaut, they’ll know ing cool stuff. Tech and they won’t be out there on science are part of everytheir own even if they’re day life.” Sarita Menon the only girl in their comUpcoming issues of puter science class.” S’more include a profile of a femaleThe magazine’s sections include owned fashion design company that simple experiments, profiles of teen uses 3-D printing to make clothes and a 38 | The Writer • January 2018 story about an engineer who’s attempting to grow bones in her laboratory. Contributors Contributors to the debut issue of S’more include science communicator Amanda Baker, graphic designer Olga Gonina, and scientist John Zakour. Clark Newman, aerospace engineer at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, wrote a piece for Issue #1 explaining how scientists launch a satellite into space. “He teaches kids in middle school about math and science, so I knew he was a good candidate to write this article,” Menon says. The debut issue also features fisheries scientist and educator Allison Sayer’s “Meet the Mushroom Messengers,” a lively, illustrated explanation of the relationship between trees and mushrooms. Menon and educator Sarunas Girdauskas wrote and illustrated “Penicillin: a story of a cure from clutter” about Alexander Fleming’s discovery of the world’s first antibiotic. Advice for potential contributors Menon notes that it can be tricky to write science-related material for children. “It’s a challenge to break down a concept and provide an analogy or an example that’s simple enough that a kid can completely understand a concept,” she explains. “It really hones your writing skills, though. If you can explain something to a kid, you’ve understood the topic really well.” She looks for writers who are excellent at crafting stories that hold a child’s attention. She’s particularly interested in profiles of women involved in science – pieces that give insight into the vast amount of work and the determination and passion that fuels their research. The second issue of S’More includes stories by women engineers and scientists about the challenges they’ve overcome to work in a particular field. “When girls read stories like that,” Menon says, “it opens up their thinking, and they become more willing to try new things. We’re making science fabulous enough that our younger generation is going to sit up and take notice. “It’s good to know how the world works,” she concludes. “They’re going to inherit it tomorrow, and they need to figure out how to face the challenges.” Contributing editor Melissa Hart is the author of the middle-grade novel Avenging the Owl (Sky Pony, 2016) and two memoirs. Web: melissahart.com. “Created so that curious girls everywhere continue to stay interested in science and grow up to be confident, brilliant, and successful women in science and technology.” PRINT/DIGITAL. Bimonthly, $50 print, $30 digital. Genres: Profiles, nonfiction science articles. Reading period: Year-round. Submission format: Online through website. Contact: Sarita Menon, S’More. smoremagazine.com. writermag.com • The Writer | 39 CONFERENCE INSIDER BY MELISSA HART Wordcrafters Writers’ Conference Torgado/Shutterstock Writers both young and old come together to talk craft in beautiful Eugene, Oregon. T he office for Wordcrafters in Eugene sits below Skinner’s Butte on Oregon’s Willamette River – a picturesque setting in which to plot stories and share tales of the writing process with like-minded people. “There’s a reason the word ‘craft’ is in our name,” explains Executive Director Daryll Lynne Evans. “We really want to focus on craft and not on the frenetic business of publishing.” Each year, the organization puts on a three-day conference with a specific theme and a combination of speakers and shared meals. In 2018, it will offer “Fight or Flight,” an event for writers and fans of young adult action and thriller novels. Teens themselves are encouraged to come for the conference and stay for the vibrant and eclectic city that boasts One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest author Ken Kesey as a former resident. “It’s a very literary city,” Evans says, and “we love having young writers in the audience. At our last three 40 | The Writer • January 2018 conferences, their parents have attended alongside them. It’s really cool to see parents supporting the things that their kids are excited about.” What you’ll learn Award-winning science fiction and fantasy author Fonda Lee presents on Friday night and again on Saturday. “She did this amazing talk a couple of years ago on the importance of making your action heroes vulnerable,” Evans says. “When it’s Superman you’re reading about, you’re not worried that he’s not going to win – you have to give him vulnerability. That’s critical in action writing.” Lee, who is also a martial artist, will talk about the physiological responses that characters experience during a fight and how to get those details down accurately in writing for young adults. Participants will learn how to delve laptop. There will be so many opportunities to take good notes and do writing exercises. Be ready to learn a ton of deep information about the craft of YA thrillers and action stories.” She urges attendees to take time to appreciate the scenery outside the conference walls. “Oregon is a beautiful state, and Eugene is a unique town with a lot of interesting arts culture,” she says. “Many of the great science fiction and fantasy writers are drawn to the area. There are world-class murals, arts cinemas, fun and funky restaurants. It’s got all the appeal of a big city, in a smaller city close to nature. No wonder so many writers live here.” CONFERENCE: Wordcrafters Writers’ Conference DATES: Oct. 12-14, 2018 COST: $199 early registration LOCATION: Eugene, Oregon CONTACT: Conference coordinator Daryll Lynne Evans, email@example.com wordcraftersineugene.org into the psychology of their characters and how to use elements of science to manipulate readers in a thriller novel. They’ll also learn about the power of immersing oneself in police ridealongs and other visceral experiences to add authenticity to their fiction. Featured presenters Aside from Lee, presenters include April Henry – New York Times bestselling author of mysteries, thrillers, and YA novels – and award-winning author and psychologist Stephanie Kuehn, who will talk about crafting stories for young adults. Young adult mystery writer Bill Cameron joins YA adventure novelist Jeff Geiger to talk about how real-life experiences have shaped their fiction. The latter found himself inspired – after his car broke down in a remote location – to write the YA adventure novel Wildman, about a 17-year-old valedictorian stranded after a breakdown at a rural roadhouse in the Pacific Northwest. On Sunday, he and other featured presenters offer workshops for young writers. “These authors are their writing heroes,” Evans explains. “It’s invaluable to meet a professional writer whose work you’ve read and found to be important. It adds connection to the writing and so much excitement.” Contributing editor Melissa Hart is the author of the middle-grade novel Avenging the Owl (Sky Pony, 2016). Web: melissahart.com. Advice for first-timers Evans notes that Wordcrafters conferences take place in a casual, relaxed atmosphere. “This is Eugene,” she quips. “Birkenstocks are regulation.” She urges people to leave their fancy clothes and anxieties about publication at home. “Just bring the tools you need to write, whether that’s a clay tablet and a stylus, or pen and paper, or your writermag.com • The Writer | 41 MARKETS COMPILED BY TONI FITZGERALD What’s in a fellowship? Sad but true: Money often stands in the way of a writer finishing the next best-seller. And it shouldn’t. There are many opportunities, including awards and grants, to get extra cash in order to quit your third job and devote more time to writing. Another option, a fellowship, is a bit more unique and intense. Here are some fellowship fast facts: What is it? A fellowship is a short-term opportunity to develop a work-in-progress while being provided a financial stipend and, typically, a workspace. How long? Depending on the program, fellowships can last for a few weeks, a semester, or an entire year. How much? Relative to the duration of the fellowship, a stipend can be delivered monthly or in full. While living the high life may not be an option, meeting all of your daily living expenses should not be a problem. Where can I find one? Many educational institutions offer fellowships, including colleges and universities, libraries, and writing workshops. Some literary journals and national writing associations also provide opportunities. Check local organizations as well as ones far from home. What’s the catch? Though you should read the terms and conditions of each fellowship carefully, in general the biggest commitment you are asked in return will be to teach a class or do a reading. Otherwise, fellowships are about digging in and concentrating on your work. The grants, fellowships and awards here are a sampling of what the industry has to offer. For a complete listing, visit writermag.com. Information in this section is provided to The Writer by the individual markets and events; for more information, contact those entities directly. Subscribers to The Writer have online access to information on publishers, publications, conferences, contests and agents. Go to writermag.com and click on Writing Resources. F = Fiction N = Nonfiction P = Poetry C = Children’s Y = Young adult O = Other F N P O AMERICAN ANTIQUARIAN SOCIETY FELLOWSHIPS FOR CREATIVE AND PERFORMING ARTISTS AND WRITERS Provides fellowships for writers and journalists 42 | The Writer • January 2018 producing imaginative works dealing with pre-20th-century American history. Fellowship projects include historical novels, poetry, plays, screenplays, magazine or newspaper articles, and nonfiction works of history designed for general audiences. Deadline: See website. Entry fee: None. Prizes: $1,850 stipend and a four-week residence at the society, located in Worcester, Massachusetts. Contact: American Antiquarian Society, 185 Salisbury St., Worcester, MA 01609. 508-755-5221. firstname.lastname@example.org americanantiquarian.org/ artistfellowship.htm F N P THE ANISFIELD-WOLF BOOK AWARDS Recognizes works that contribute to an understanding of racism and an appreciation of diversity. Submit five copies of a book published in the previous year. Self-published books and Ebooks are not accepted. Deadline: Dec. 31. Entry fee: None. Prizes: $10,000 awarded to both the fiction and nonfiction categories. Contact: Karen R. Long, c/o Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards, The Cleveland Foundation, 1422 Euclid Ave., Suite 1300, Cleveland, OH 44115. 216-685-2018. email@example.com anisfield-wolf.org F N P O BARBARA DEMING MEMORIAL FUND, INC. Provides grants to women in the arts whose work in progress focuses on women. Submit maximum of 20 pages of a writing or mixed genre sample by online submission manager. See website for full guidelines. Deadline: Fiction and mixed genre Jan. 1-31, 2018; Nonfiction and poetry Jan. 1-31, 2019. Entry fee: $25. Prizes: $500-$1,500. Contact: Money for Women/Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, Inc., P.O. Box 717, Bearsville, NY 12409. firstname.lastname@example.org demingfund.org F BARD FICTION PRIZE Awarded to an American citizen age 39 or younger at the time of application. Applicant must have at least one published book and a project in progress. Deadline: June 15. Entry fee: None. Prizes: $30,000 and appointment as writer in residence at Bard College for one semester. Contact: Bard Fiction Prize, Bard College, P.O. Box 5000, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY 12504. 845-7587087. email@example.com bard.edu/bfp F CABELL FIRST NOVELIST AWARD Recognizes a rising talent who has published a first novel within the previous 12 months in the U.S. Selfpublished novels and books only avail- able in Eformats are not eligible. Submit three copies of the book by regular mail. Deadline: Jan. 14 for books published July through December of previous year, Sept. 14 for books published January through June of current year. Prizes: $5,000 and travel to Virginia Commonwealth University for a reading and reception. Contact: VCU Cabell First Novelist Award, Dept. of English, 900 Park Ave., Hibbs Hall, Room 306, P.O. Box 842005, Richmond, VA 23284. firstname.lastname@example.org firstnovelist.vcu.edu F CATHERINE DOCTOROW INNOVATIVE FICTION PRIZE Open to any U.S. writer in English with at least three books of fiction published. Seeks “fiction considered by America’s largest publishers too challenging, innovative or heterodox for the commercial milieu.” Submissions may include a collection of short stories, one or more novellas, or a novel of any length. Works that have previously appeared in magazines or in anthologies may be included. Translations and previously published or self-published novels and collections are not eligible. Electronic submissions only. Deadline: See website. Entry fee: $25. Prizes: $15,000 and publication by FC2. Contact: University of Alabama Press, P.O. Box 870380, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487. 773-702-7000. fc2.org F CROOK’S CORNER BOOK PRIZE Open to authors whose first novel was published between Jan. 1, 2017, and May 15, 2018. Book must be set predominantly in the American South. Self-published books accepted if they have an ISBN number. Books available only as e-books are not eligible. Deadline: May 15. Entry fee: $35. Prizes: $5,000 and a free glass of wine every day from Crook’s Corner bar. Contact: Crook’s Corner Book Prize, 313 Country Club Rd., Chapel Hill, NC 27514. email@example.com crookscornerbookprize.com P DARTMOUTH POET-IN-RESIDENCE AWARD Open to poets who have published at least one full-length collection of poetry. Seeks poets who are at an artistic and personal crossroads. Deadline: Check website. Entry fee: $28. Prizes: $2,000 and a twomonth residency at The Frost Place in Franconia, New Hampshire. Contact: The Frost Place, P.O. Box 74, Franconia, NH, 03580. 603-823-5510. firstname.lastname@example.org frostplace.org F DRUE HEINZ LITERATURE PRIZE Open to writers who have published a novel, a book-length collection of fiction, or a minimum of three short stories or novellas in commercial magazines or literary journals with national distribution. Self-published and digitalonly publications not considered. Submit unpublished manuscript of short stories or novellas. Deadline: June 30. Entry fee: None. Prizes: $15,000 and publication by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Contact: Drue Heinz Literature Prize, University of Pittsburgh Press, 7500 Thomas Blvd., Pittsburgh, PA 15260. email@example.com upress.pitt.edu N ELLEN MELOY FUND FOR DESERT WRITERS Provides funding for a writing project that “combines an engaging individual voice, literary sensibility, imagination, and intellectual rigor to bring new perspectives and deeper meaning to the body of desert literature.” Encourages emerging, midcareer, and established literary nonfiction writers to apply. Deadline: Jan. 15. Entry fee: None. Prizes: $5,000. Contact: Ellen Meloy Fund. Email from website. ellenmeloy.com F N P EMERGING VOICES FELLOWSHIP Provides new writers with tools to launch professional writing career. Deadline: See website. Entry fee: None. Prizes: Seven-month fellowship, a series of master classes, public readings, and a $1,000 stipend. Contact: PEN Center USA, P.O. Box 6037, Beverly Hills, CA 90212. 323-424-4939. EV@penusa.org penusa.org/programs/emerging-voices F THE ERNEST J. GAINES AWARD FOR LITERARY EXCELLENCE Annually awarded to an emerging African-American author for a book of fiction published during the previous year. Deadline: See website. Entry fee: None. Prizes: $10,000 cash. Contact: Ernest J. Gaines Award, c/o Baton Rouge Area Foundation, 100 North St., Suite 900, Baton Rouge, LA 70802. Email from website. ernestjgainesaward.org F N P O HODDER FELLOWSHIP Seeks writers who demonstrate “much more than ordinary intellectual and literary gifts.” Fellows are selected more “for promise than for performance.” Deadline: See website. Entry fee: None. Prizes: Recipients receive $79,000 stipend each and a yearlong residency at Princeton to pursue an independent project. Contact: Lewis Center for the Arts, Princeton University, 185 Nassau St., Princeton, NJ 08544. firstname.lastname@example.org arts.princeton.edu/fellowships F JAMES JONES FIRST NOVEL FELLOWSHIP Awarded annually to an American author of a first-novel-inprogress. Submit via regular mail or online submission form. Submit a twopage (maximum) outline of the entire novel and the first 50 pages. Deadline: March 15. Entry fee: $30. Add $3 for online submissions. Prizes: $10,000 first place, $1,000 for two runners up. Contact: James Jones First Novel Fellowship, c/o MA/MFA in Creative Writing, Wilkes University, 84 W. South St., Wilkes-Barre, PA 18766. email@example.com wilkes.edu writermag.com • The Writer | 43 MARKETS P JAMES LAUGHLIN AWARD Offered to poets in support of a second book of poetry. Only manuscripts already under contract with publishers are eligible. Deadline: May 15. Entry fee: None. Prizes: $5,000 cash prize, weeklong residency at The Betsy Hotel in Miami Beach and distribution of book to Academy of American Poets members. Contact: James Laughlin Award, The Academy of American Poets, 75 Maiden Ln., Suite 901, New York, NY 10038. 212-274-0343. firstname.lastname@example.org poets.org F JANET HEIDINGER KAFKA PRIZE Awarded annually to a woman who is a U.S. citizen and who has published a book-length work of prose fiction (novel, short stories, or experimental writing) in the previous year. “Particularly interested in calling attention to the work of a promising but less established writer.” No self-published books. Publisher must submit entries. Deadline: Jan. 15. Entry fee: None. Prizes: $7,500. Contact: University of Rochester, Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize, Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies, 538 Lattimore Hall, RC Box 270434, Rochester, NY 14627. rochester.edu/college/wst/kafka_prize F N P O KENYON REVIEW LITERARY FELLOWSHIP Awards two-year, post-graduate residential fellowships at Kenyon College. Recipients will undertake a significant writing project, teach one semester-long class per year, assist with The Keyon Review, and attend Kenyon College cultural events. Applicants must have an MFA or Ph.D. and professional teaching experience in creative writing and/or literature at the undergraduate level. Deadline: See website. Prizes: $35,150 yearly stipend plus health benefits. Contact: Tory Weber, The Kenyon Review, Finn House, Gambier, OH 43022. 740-427-5391. 44 | The Writer • January 2018 email@example.com kenyonreview.org/programs/fellowship F N P O LEEWAY FOUNDATION TRANSFORMATION AWARD Awards women and trans artists in the Delaware Valley region who write for social change. Deadline: May 15. Entry fee: None. Prizes: $15,000 divided among winners. Contact: Leeway Foundation, 1315 Walnut St., Suite 832, Philadelphia, PA 19107. 215-545-4078. firstname.lastname@example.org leeway.org P LENORE MARSHALL POETRY PRIZE Recognizes the most outstanding book of poetry published in the U.S. in the previous year. Self-published books not eligible. Submitted by publisher. Deadline: See website. Entry fee: $75. Prizes: $25,000. Contact: The Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, The Academy of American Poets, 75 Maiden Ln., Suite 901, New York, NY 10038. 212-274-0343. email@example.com poets.org York, NY 10017. 212-755-6710. firstname.lastname@example.org centerforfiction.org/forwriters/ grants-and-awards F N P O MASSACHUSETTS CULTURAL COUNCIL ARTIST FELLOWSHIP Awards fellowships based on writers’ artistic quality and creative ability. Open to legal residents of Massachusetts. Deadline: See website. Entry fee: None. Prizes: $12,000 for fellowship, $1,000 for finalists. Contact: Massachusetts Cultural Council, 10 St. James Ave., 3rd Floor, Boston, MA 02116. 617-858-2700. massculturalcouncil.org F O NEW YORK FOUNDATION FOR THE ARTS FELLOWSHIP Awarded to writers living and working in the state of New York. Writers may be at any stages of their professional career. Genre rotates every year. Deadline: Jan. 24. Entry fee: None. Prizes: $7,000. Contact: New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), 20 Jay St., Suite 740, Brooklyn, NY 11201. email@example.com nyfa.org F N P C Y O MCKNIGHT ARTIST FELLOWSHIPS FOR WRITERS Provides Minnesota residents with an opportunity to work on their writing for a concentrated period of time. One award in children’s literature alternates annually between writers for children under the age of 8 and writers for older readers. Four fellowships alternate annually between writers of poetry and writers of creative prose. Applicants must have published a book in their genre or published at least five pieces of original work in no fewer than three literary journals. Deadline: See website. Entry fee: None. Prizes: 5 fellowships of $25,000. Contact: The Loft Literary Center, Open Book Building, Suite 200, 1011 Washington Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55415. 612215-2575. firstname.lastname@example.org loft.org F NYC EMERGING WRITERS FELLOWSHIP Open to residents of one of the five boroughs of New York City. Applicants must be in the early stages of their careers and have not published a novel or short story collection. Deadline: See website. Entry fee: None. Prizes: $5,000, access to The Center’s Writers Studio, opportunities for readings, and mentorship. Contact: The Center for Fiction, 17 E. 47th St., New F N P NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS CREATIVE WRITING FELLOWSHIP Provides grants in prose (fiction and creative nonfiction) and poetry to published writers. Enables recipients to set aside time for writing, research, travel, and general career advancement. Fellowships in prose and poetry available in alternating years. Deadline: See website. Entry fee: None. Prizes: $25,000. Contact: Literature Fellowships, National Endowment for the Arts, 400 7th St., SW, Washington, DC 20506. 202-682-5034. email@example.com arts.gov C Y THE PATERSON PRIZE FOR BOOKS FOR YOUNG PEOPLE Awards books published in 2017 that represent Pre-K-grade 3, grades 4-6 and grades 7-12. Deadline: Feb. 1. Entry fee: None. Prizes: $500 in each category. Contact: Maria Mazziotti Gillan, Executive Director, The Poetry Center, Passaic County Community College, One College Blvd., Paterson, NJ 07505. pccc.edu/poetry F N P Y O PEN CENTER ANNUAL LITERARY AWARDS Accepts work produced or published in 2016 by writers living west of the Mississippi River. Categories judged for fiction, creative nonfiction, research nonfiction, poetry, young adult literature, graphic literature, translation, drama, journalism, screenplay, and teleplay. Deadline: Check website for deadlines. Entry fee: $35. Prizes: $1,000 and a one-year PEN Center USA membership. Contact: PEN Center USA Literary Awards, P.O. Box 6037, Beverly Hills, CA 90212. firstname.lastname@example.org penusa.org F PEN/HEMINGWAY AWARD FOR DEBUT FICTION Awarded to a first novel or collection of short stories published in that calendar year. Self-published books or e-books are not eligible. Deadline: Dec. 1. Entry fee: $50. Prizes: $25,000, a fellowship at the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming and a residency at the University of Idaho’s MFA Program in Creative Writing. Contact: PEN New England, The PEN/ Hemingway Award, MIT, 14N-221A, 77 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02139. 617-324-1729. email@example.com pen-ne.org N RICHARD J. MARGOLIS AWARD OF BLUE MOUNTAIN CENTER Awards a new nonfiction journalist or essayist whose work “combines warmth, humor, wisdom, and concern with social justice.” Submit at least two articles, published or unpublished, maximum 30 pages. Deadline: Check website. Entry fee: None. Prizes: $5,000 stipend and month-long residency at the Blue Mountain Center, a writers and artists colony in the Adirondacks. Contact: Richard J. Margolis Award of Blue Mountain Center, c/o Margolis & Bloom, 535 Boylston St., 8th floor, Boston, MA 02116. firstname.lastname@example.org award.margolis.com F N P PHILIP ROTH RESIDENCE IN CREATIVE WRITING Open to fiction and nonfiction writers working on a first or second book. Awarded to poets on alternate years. Deadline: Feb. 1. Entry fee: None. Prizes: Four-month residency at Bucknell University’s “Poets’ Cottage” and a stipend of $5,000. Contact: Stadler Center for Poetry, Bucknell Hall, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA 17837. 570-5771853. email@example.com bucknell.edu/stadlercenter F N O STEINBECK FELLOWSHIP IN CREATIVE WRITING Offers emerging writers of any age and background a fellowship to finish a significant writing project. Open to writers of literary scholarship, fiction, drama, education, science, and the media. Residency in the San José area during the academic year (Sept. 1 – May 20) is expected. Deadline: Jan. 2. Application fee: None. Prizes: $10,000 stipend. Contact: Steinbeck Fellows Program, Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies, San José State University, Room 590, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Library, San José, CA 95192. 408-8082067. firstname.lastname@example.org sjsu.edu/steinbeck/fellows F N P O SUSTAINABLE ARTS FOUNDATION WRITING AWARD Awarded to individual writers with families. Applicant must have at least one child under the age of 18. Preference given to residents of the San Francisco Bay Area. Awarded biannually to fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and play writers. Deadline: See website. Application fee: $15. Prizes: Awards of $5,000 to 20 artists and writers in each round. Half go to artists and writers of color. Contact: Sustainable Arts Foundation, 1032 Irving St. #609, San Francisco, CA 94122. Email from website. sustainableartsfoundation.org/awards P WALT WHITMAN AWARD Given to a poet who has not published a book-length collection of poems. Submit 48-100 pages of poems. Online submissions only. Deadline: See website. Entry fee: $35. Prizes: $5,000, publication by Graywolf Press and an all-expenses-paid six-week residency at the Civitella Ranieri Center in the Umbrian region of Italy. Contact: Academy of American Poets, 75 Maiden Ln., Suite 901, New York, NY 10038. 212-274-0343. email@example.com poets.org/academy-american-poets/ prizes F N WILLIAM SAROYAN INTERNATIONAL PRIZE FOR WRITING Two prizes awarded biennially for newly published fiction and nonfiction books. Encourages original, innovative work from new or emerging writers. Book must have been published during 2017-2018. Self-published and electronic books are also eligible. Submit by regular mail. Deadline: Jan. 29. Entry fee: $50 Prizes: $5,000 Contact: Administrator of The Saroyan Prize Committee, Stanford University Libraries, 557 Escondido Mall, Stanford, CA 94305. Sonia Lee. 650-736-9538. firstname.lastname@example.org library.stanford.edu/saroyan writermag.com • The Writer | 45 MARKETS » YOUNG WRITERS Writing contests are a great way to keep writing and hone your craft. And the earlier a writer starts, the better. Here is a roundup of 10 writing contests for young people. Share it with your favorite child writer. F = Fiction N = Nonfiction P = Poetry D = Drama S = Screenplay P F THE CLAREMONT REVIEW ANNUAL WRITING CONTEST Enter up to three poems, three 500-word stories, or one 5,000-word (max) story. Submit via regular mail. Ages: 13-19 years old. Deadline: See website. Entry fee: $20 CAD ($25 CAD for poetry and fiction combination); $20 USD for entries outside Canada. Prizes: In each category: 1st prize: $1,000 CAD; 2nd prize: $600 CAD; 3rd prize: $400 CAD and publication. All entrants receive a 1-year subscription to The Claremont Review and will have their works considered for publication. Contact: Annual Writing Contest, The Claremont Review, Suite 101, 1581-H Hillside Ave., Victoria, B.C. V8T 2C1, Canada. Email through website. theclaremontreview.ca F N P D S DAVIDSON FELLOWS AWARDS Submit a 60- to 75-page portfolio containing three of the following genres: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, drama/ screenplay. Ages: 18 or younger as of Oct. 1, 2017. Deadline: Feb. 18. Entry fee: None. Prizes: $10,000, $25,000, or $50,000 scholarship. Contact: Davidson Institute for Talent Development, Reno, NV 89521. 775-852-3483 ext. 435. email@example.com www.davidsongifted.org/Fellows-Scholarship F FOR TEENS BY TEENS AWARD This prize goes to the best student-created story, which will be featured in the “for teens, by teens” section of the Story Share library. Ages: 18 or younger. Deadline: December 31. Entry fee: See website. Prizes: $200. 46 | The Writer • January 2018 Contact: Story Shares, 2450 17th Ave. #225, Santa Cruz, CA 95062. firstname.lastname@example.org storyshares.org/our-contest D S INTERNATIONAL THESPIAN FESTIVAL Submit an original play on any subject that runs under 30 minutes. No collaborative works, adaptations, or musicals. Ages: High school. Deadline: January 15, 2017. Prizes: Up to four plays will be chosen for play development workshops during the festival, culminating in a reading in front of an audience with talkback. Contact: EdTA, 2343 Auburn Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45219. 513-421-3900. Email through website. schooltheatre.org/itf2018/home P MANNINGHAM TRUST STUDENT POETRY CONTEST States may submit 10 top poems in each division; individual students may also enter. Ages: Grades 6-12. Deadline: March 1. Entry fee: None. Prizes: 1st place: $75, 2nd place: $50, 3rd place: $40, 4th place: $35, 5th place: $30; 5 honorable mentions: $10 each. All winning poems will be published in the Manningham Trust Poetry Student Award Anthology. Contact: Budd Mahan, 7059 Spring Valley Rd., Dallas, TX 75254. 972788-4944. email@example.com nfsps.com/student_awards.htm N P THE NORMAN MAILER STUDENT AND TEACHER WRITING AWARDS Open to high school and college students. Submit creative nonfiction or poetry up to 15 pages, depending on age group. Ages: High school and college. Deadline: Check website. Prizes: $2,500 or $5,000, depending on category. Contact: National Council of Teachers of English, 1111 W. Kenyon Rd., Urbana, IL 61801. 877-369-6283. firstname.lastname@example.org ncte.org/awards/nmwa F N P D SCHOLASTIC ART & WRITING AWARDS Presented by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. Submit in 11 writing categories: critical essay, dramatic script, flash fiction, humor, journalism, novel writing, personal essay/memoir, poetry, science fiction and fantasy, short story, and writing portfolio (seniors only). Ages: Grades 7-12. Deadline: Dependent upon region. Check website. Entry fee: $5-$20, which can be waived under certain terms. Prizes: Scholarships and prizes up to $10,000. Contact: Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, 557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012. email@example.com artandwriting.org/the-awards F N P S SKIPPING STONES YOUTH HONOR AWARDS Recognizes works that promote multicultural, international, and nature awareness. Prose under 1,000 words; poems under 30 lines. Non-English and bilingual writings welcome. Ages: 7-17 years old. Deadline: See website. Entry fee: $5, which can be waived under certain terms. Prizes: 10 winners will receive a certificate, a subscription to Skipping Stones, and five nature and/or multicultural books. Contact: Skipping Stones Magazine, P.O. Box 3939, Eugene, OR 97403. 541-3424956. Info@skippingstones.org skippingstones.org/youthhonor-02.htm D S YOUNG PLAYWRIGHTS, INC. Founded by Stephen Sondheim, hosts under 21 and all-ages play contests. Ages: All ages. Deadline: See website. Entry fee: None. Prizes: Varies. Contact: Young Playwrights Inc., P.O. Box 5134, New York, NY 10185. firstname.lastname@example.org youngplaywrights.org/for-writers F N P D S YOUNGARTS PROGRAM Applications accepted in creative nonfiction, novel writing, play or scriptwriting, poetry, short story, and spoken word. Ages: 15-18 years old. Deadline: Check website. Entry fee: $35, which can be waived under certain terms. Prizes: Cash up to $10,000. Contact: National YoungArts Foundation, 2100 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, FL 33137. 1-888-970-2787. email@example.com youngarts.org Classifieds READERS should use caution when entering into any legal contract with a literary service offering agentingtype assistance; publishers who charge, rather than pay, an author for publication; publishers who require a purchase before publication and contests that charge high entrance fees. The Writer also recommends requesting a list of references and submission guidelines before submitting a manuscript. If you have any concerns regarding the advertiser’s commitment or claims, please contact the advertiser and make certain all questions are answered to your satisfaction. ADVERTISERS We do not accept ads from agents or businesses that charge a reading or marketing fee; Subsidy Publishers: Copy of contract. 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Send Your Ad To: The Writer, Sales Account Manager 25 Braintree Hill Office Park, Suite 404 Braintree, MA 02184 or call (617) 279-0213 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Major credit cards accepted. PROFESSIONAL EDITOR, Award-winning Author (Bantam, Berkley/Ace, others) offers extensive critiques, respectful in-depth editing. Fiction, nonfiction, juvenile/YA. Carol Gaskin 941-377-7640. Email: Carol@EditorialAlchemy.com or website: www.EditorialAlchemy.com EDITING WITH PANACHE. Editor-writer is an acclaimed novelist, biographer, critic, and creative essayist. Fiction and nonfiction. Responsive and meticulous. Competitive rates. Free 10 page sample edit with critique. Geoffrey Aggeler, Ph.D. (805) 966-9728 or e-mail HFPGGBHHFMFS!HNBJMDPN (Website: www.editingwithpanache.com) &%*503*"-"/%$0"$)*/(4&37*$&4'SPNB OVSUVSJOHCVUXIJQDSBDLJOHXFMMDPOOFDUFEBVUIPS #BOHUIF,FZT5IF(SFBU#SBWVSB XIPXJMMIFMQZPV VOMFBTIUIFUSVFGBCVMPTJUZJOZPVSQSPKFDUTBOECSJOH UIFNUPGSVJUJPOJOUIFSFBMXPSMECFGPSFEFQSFTTJPOPS ESJOLEFTUSPZZPVSOFSWF'JDUJPOOPOGJDUJPOTDSJQUT QPFUSZUIFTFT5FOQFSDFOUEJTDPVOUJGZPVNFOUJPO 8SJUFSBE&NBJMKJMMEFBSNBO!HNBJMDPN XXXKJMMEFBSNBODPN HIGH-QUALITY EDITING FOR WRITERS of Fiction. Can be especially helpful to unpublished or firsttime writers. Honest, constructive, meticulous feedback. Free sample edit. New Leaf Editing. www.newleafediting.com or e-mail email@example.com Unlock the potential of your manuscript! Helga Schier, PhD, published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author and editor with years of experience at major publishing houses offers comprehensive, personalized, constructive and effective editorial services. web: withpenandpaper.com, phone: 310.828.8421, email: firstname.lastname@example.org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utting Edge Editing Respect for Your Voice 30 Years Experience $3/double-spaced page email@example.com 9971 Cabanas Ave., Tujunga CA 91042 For more articles, contest alerts, writing prompts, & industry news, subscribe to our weekly newsletter! SERVICES eBookAdaptations :H¶OOFRQYHUW\RXU:RUG¿OHVWRDQ H%RRN%RWK02%,IRUPDWIRU.LQGOH DQGH3XEIRUDOORWKHU(UHDGHUV www.eBookAdaptations.com Bit.ly/thewriternl writermag.com • The Writer | 47 HOW I WRITE BY ALLISON FUTTERMAN Julie Buxbaum J Legal training As a lawyer, you’re trained to use as few words as possible. You’re not allowed to get flowery. You stick to the facts, the bare bones. That’s helped to make me ruthless when it comes to editing. I think that discipline I learned as a lawyer translated into my novel writing. place. It’s less efficient than outlining, but it keeps it interesting. Voice I approach YA the same way I approached adult novels. The process is the same when you’re getting into the head of a character that’s 40 or 22 or 16. I feel like being a teenager has changed dramatically in some ways, such as social media. But the underlying feelings, like you’re on the cusp of adulthood and the world is about to explode open but it feels closed – those are universal feelings. I can’t remember details from that time, but I can remember the feelings so vividly. Starting point It’s different with each book. Usually, I have a character and a voice in mind, and a theme I’m interested in exploring. Sometimes it’s obvious from day one, and sometimes I’ll look back and realize that I was obsessed with something. When I’m in the thick of it, I don’t necessarily see it. I’m not an outliner. I trust the process will take the book where I need to go. You have to really believe you’re going to get to that 48 | The Writer • January 2018 esting to write about the balance between the hardest and the best things in life. Inspiration from real-life suffering I write to make sense of the world. Writing is a how I process what I’m feeling. I write as a form of therapy, and I’m much less happy when I’m not writing. It’s important to write about things that matter to you and scare you. Grief and loss have been a huge part of my life and make me the person I am. I actively try to avoid it, but it shows up in my work. It’s inter- What’s great about YA? While the process is similar, the community is different, and the responsiveness of readers is very different. Readers weren’t as easily accessible when my first novel came out. Teenage readers are smart and engaged, and it’s fun to travel and meet them. What’s next? I’ve had multiple full drafts on my next book, and this one has been a particularly brutal revision process. This is one of the harder ones, but I was due for one because What to Say Next flowed for me. This one has a story that is highly specific. It’s about something that happens to one person, and the specificity makes it more of a complicated story. I want to make sure readers relate to it, in spite of and because of the specificity. It’s also rooted in history. Allison Futterman is a freelance writer based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Indy Flore ulie Buxbaum, a Harvard Law School graduate and former lawyer, decided to step away from her legal career to pursue a career in novel writing. Her first adult novel, The Opposite of Love, was published in 2008, followed by another, After You, in 2009. She eventually made the switch to YA in 2016 with her smash hit Tell Me Three Things, which became a New York Times best-seller. Her highly anticipated second YA novel, What to Say Next, was published in 2017 and was met with much praise. With realistic and well-developed characters and interesting plots, Buxbaum has a gift for creating YA novels that are immensely appealing. She is masterful at capturing the teenage experience with poignancy and humor. Buxbaum’s next YA novel, Picture a Blue Sky, is scheduled for release in May. Subscribe or renew today! Get 12 issues of expert advice and tools for success delivered right to your door for only $28.95. One year for only $28.95 Visit writermag.com/subscriptions to start or renew your subscription to The Writer today! Q R L W D F ¦ L W D U * W WDQ At last! ,QV IRUDXWKRUV DQG)5((+HOSWRR (FUUJOHZPVSCPPLTQSJOUFEDBOCFDPOGVTJOHBOEGSVTUSBUJOH8FSFIFSFUPIFMQ 0VSFYDFQUJPOBM$VTUPNFS4FSWJDFUFBNXJMMBOTXFSBMMPGZPVSRVFTUJPOTBOEIFMQ ZPVUISPVHIFWFSZTUFQćFZMMFWFONBLFNPOFZTBWJOHTVHHFTUJPOTXIFSFBQQSPQSJBUF 8FSFUIFGBTUFTUCPPLQSJOUFSTJOUIFXPSME8FPČFSCPPLTUPSFRVBMJUZCJOEJOHMPXQSJDFTBOENBOZ VOJRVF PQUJPOT iFAST” BOE iEASY” BSF KVTU UXP SFBTPOT UP DBMM PS FNBJM VT UPEBZ We answer our phones, and return emails within minutes. (unbelievable, right?) 5HDVRQVWRXVH +RXU%RRNV 1 )DVWHVW%RRN3ULQWHUVLQWKH:RUOG t1FSGFDU#PVOECPPLTQSJOUFEJOEBZT tSame DayTFSWJDFBWBJMBCMF t)BSE$PWFSBOE$PJMCPPLTQSJOUFEJOEBZT 2 *UHDW&XVWRPHU6HUYLFH t&BTZPSEFSJOH t8FMMIFMQZPVBMMUISPVHIUIFQSPDFTT t8FBOTXFSPVSQIPOFTBOESFUVSOFNBJMTXJUIJONJOVUFT t3FBEPVSindependent reviewsUIFZSFJODSFEJCMF 0 off 5 $ e l tak WRUGH:U l ’ e W UÀUV t code \RXse discoun 18 U er 8 Wdrithtru 3/31/1 vali (see the link on our homepage, www.48HrBooks.com) 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 )UHH%RRNVJGZPVPSEFSPSNPSF H%RRN&RQYHUVLRQ#PUIF1VCBOE,JOEMFGPSNBUT ,6%1DQGEDUFRGHV 8FVTF385DGKHVLYHGPSCPPLTUPSFRVBMJUZCJOEJOH 'HVLJQHU&RYHUV$MPUI-FBUIFSBOENPSF 'XVW-DFNHWVQSJOUFEBOEMBNJOBUFE 'LDPRQG'&RYHUV)RLO6WDPSLQJ /D\RXWDQG'HVLJQBOENVDINPSF 800-231-0521 info@48HrBooks.com UI4U48t"LSPO0IJP extra You can't find this in print. EXCERPT: WHAT TO SAY NEXT CHAPTER 1 An unprecedented event: Kit Lowell just sat down next to me in the cafeteria. I always sit alone, and when I say always, I don’t mean that in the exaggerated vernacular favored by my classmates. In the 622 days I’ve attended this high school, not a single person has ever sat beside me at lunch, which is what justifies my calling her sitting there—so close that her elbow almost grazes mine—an “event.” My first instinct is to reach for my notebook and look up her entry. Under K for Kit, not under L for Lowell, because though I’m good with facts and scholarly pursuits, I’m terrible with names. Partly this is because names are random words completely devoid of context, and partly this is because I believe names rarely fit the people they belong to, which, if you think about it, makes perfect sense. Parents name their child at a time when they have the absolute least amount of information they will ever have about the person they are nam- ing. The whole practice is illogical. Take Kit, for example, which is not actually her name, her name is Katherine, but I have never heard anyone call her Katherine, even in elementary school. Kit doesn’t in any way look like a Kit, which is a name for someone who is boxy and stiff and easily understandable with step-by-step instructions. Instead the name of the girl sitting next to me should have a Z in it, because she’s confusing and zigzagged and pops up in surprising places—like at my lunch table—and maybe the number eight, because she’s hourglass-shaped, and the letter S too, because it’s my favorite. I like Kit because she’s never been mean to me, which is not something I can say about the vast majority of my classmates. It’s a shame her parents got her name all wrong. I’m a David, which also doesn’t work, because there are lots of Davids in the world—at last check 3,786,417 of them in the United States alone— and so by virtue of my first name, one would assume I’d be like lots of other people. Or, at the very least, relatively neurotypical, which is a scientific, less offensive way of saying normal. That hasn’t been the case. At school, no one calls me anything, except the occasional homo or moron, neither of which is in any way accurate—my IQ is 168 and I’m attracted to girls, not boys. Also, homo is a pejorative term for a gay person, and even if my classmates are mistaken about my sexual orientation, they should know better than to use that word. At home my mom calls me son—which I have no problem with because it’s true—my dad calls me David, which feels like an itchy sweater with a too-tight neck, and my sister calls me Little D, which for some inexplicable reason fits just right, even though I’m not even a little bit little. I’m six foot two and 165 pounds. My sister is five foot three and 105 pounds. I should call her Little L, for Little Lauren, but I don’t. I call her Miney, which is what I’ve been calling her since I was a baby, because she’s always felt like the only thing in a confusing world that belongs to me. Miney is away at college, and I miss her. She’s my best friend—technically speaking, my only friend—but I feel like even if I had friends, she’d still be my best one. So far she’s the only person I’ve ever known who has helped make being me a little less hard. By now you’ve probably realized I’m different. It usually doesn’t take people very long to figure that out. One doctor thought I might have a “borderline case of Asperger’s,” which is stupid, because you can’t have a borderline case of Asperger’s. Actually, you can’t really have Asperger’s at all anymore, because it was written out of the DSM-5 (the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) in 2013, and instead people with that group of characteristics are considered to have high-functioning autism (or HFA), which is also mis- leading. The autism spectrum is multidimensional, not linear. The doctor was obviously an idiot. Out of curiosity, I’ve done my own reading in this area (I bought a used DSM-4 on eBay; the 5 was too pricey), and though I lack the necessary medical training required to make a full diagnostic assessment, I don’t believe the label applies to me. Yes, I can get myself into trouble in social situations; I like order and routine; when I’m interested in something, I can be hyperfocused to the exclusion of other activities; and, fine, I am clumsy. But when I have to, I can make eye contact. I don’t flinch if you touch me. I tend to recognize most idioms, though I keep a running list in my notebook just in case. I like to think I’m empathetic, but I don’t know if that’s true. I’m not sure it really matters if I have Asperger’s, anyway, especially because it no longer exists. It’s just another label. Take the word jock. If enough psychiatrists wanted to, they could add that to the DSM and diagnose all the guys on the Mapleview football team. Characteristics would include at least two of the following: (1) athleticism, especially while wearing spandex, (2) unnatural ease with the concept of strapping a hard cup around your penis, (3) being an asshole. It doesn’t matter whether you call me an Aspie or a weirdo or even a moron. The fact remains that I very much wish I were more like everyone else. Not the jocks, necessarily. I don’t want to be the kind of guy who gives kids like me a hard time. But if I got the chance to make some sort of cosmic upgrade—switch David 1.0 to a 2.0 version who understood what to say in day-to-day conversation—I’d do it in an instant. Maybe when parents name their children they do it from the perspective of wishful thinking. Like when you go to a restaurant and ask for a rare steak, and even though there is no universally agreed definition of the word rare, you hope you get exactly what you want. My mom and dad ordered a David. They got me instead. In my notebook: KIT LOWELL: Height: 5 ‘ 4”. Weight: Approximately 125 lbs. Wavy brown hair, pulled into a ponytail on test days, rainy days, and most Mondays. Skin is brownish, because her dad—a dentist— is white and her mom is Indian (Southeast Asian, not Native American). Class ranking: 14. Activities: school newspaper, Spanish Club, Pep Club. tines, not just me. But still. It was nice. Except for the glitter. Because glitter is uncontainable and has sticky properties, and I generally don’t like uncontainable and sticky things.) 3. Eighth grade: After math class, she asked what I got on my math test. I said: 100. She said: Wow, you must have studied hard. I said: No, quadratic equations are easy. She said: Um, okay. (Later, when I reenacted the conversation for Miney, she told me that I should have said that I had studied, even if that meant lying. I’m not a very good liar.) 4. Tenth grade: Kit smiled at me when only our two names were announced as National Merit semifinalists on the loudspeaker. I was going to say “Congratulations,” but Justin Cho said “Damn, girl!” first and gave Kit a hug. And then she wasn’t looking at me anymore. Important Characteristics 1. On cold days, she stretches her sleeves to cover her whole hands instead of wearing gloves. 2. Her hair isn’t curly, but it isn’t straight either. It hangs in repetitive, alternating commas. 3. She’s the prettiest girl in school. 4. She sits crisscross-applesauce on almost all chairs, even narrow ones. 5. She has a faint scar next to her left eyebrow that looks almost like a Z. I once asked Miney if she thought I’d ever be able to touch that scar, because I’m curious what it feels like, and Miney said, “Sorry, Little D. But as the Magic 8 Ball says: My Sources Say No.” 6. She drives a red Toyota Corolla, license plate XHD893. Friends Notable Encounters 1. Third grade: Stopped Justin Cho from giving me a wedgie. 2. Sixth grade: Made me a valentine. (Note: KL made all the boys valen- Almost everyone, but mostly hangs out with Annie, Violet, and sometimes Dylan (the Girl Dylan, not the Boy Dylan). Common characteristics of friend group, with the exception of Kit, include flat-ironed hair, minor acne, and larger than average breasts. For five school days last year, Kit walked the halls holding hands with Gabriel, only occasionally stopping to make out, but now they don’t do that anymore. I don’t like Gabriel. Additional Notes: Nice. Miney puts her on the Trust List. I second. Of course I don’t open the notebook in front of her. Even I know better than that. But I do touch its spine, because having it nearby makes me feel less anxious. The notebook was Miney’s idea. Back in middle school, after the Locker Room Incident, which is irrelevant to this discussion, Miney decided I was too trusting. Apparently, unlike me, when most people talk they aren’t necessarily telling the truth. See for example the Test Lie suggested above. Why lie about whether I studied for a test? Ridiculous. Quadratic equations are easy. That’s just a fact. “So your dad is dead,” I say, because it’s the first thing that pops into my head when she sits down. This is new information that I have not yet added to her notebook entry, only because I just found out. I’m usually the last to know things about my classmates, if I ever learn about them at all. But Annie and Violet were talking about Kit at Violet’s locker this morning, which happens to be above mine. According to Annie, “Kit’s been, like, a total mess since the whole thing with her dad, and I know it’s been hard and whatever, but she’s kind of being, I don’t know, mean.” I don’t usually listen to the other kids at school—most of what they have to say is boring and feels like bad background music, something clanky and harsh, heavy metal, maybe—but for some reason this seeped through. Then they started talking about the funeral, how it was weird that they cried more than Kit, that it’s not healthy for her to keep things bottled up inside, which is a ridiculous thing to say because feelings don’t have mass, and also they are not doctors. I would have liked to go to Kit’s dad’s funeral, if only because he was also on my Nice List, and I assume when someone on your Nice List dies, you should go to their funeral. Kit’s dad, Dr. Lowell is—was—my dentist, and he never complained about my noise-canceling headphones getting in the way of his drill. He always gave me a red lollipop after a cleaning, which seems counterintuitive and yet was always appreciated. I look at Kit. She doesn’t look messy—in fact, she seems better groomed than usual and is wearing a man’s white button-down shirt that looks recently ironed. Her cheeks are pink, and her eyes are a little wet, and I turn away because she is breathtakingly beautiful and therefore very hard to look at. “I wish someone had told me, because I would have gone to his funeral. He used to give me lollipops,” I say. Kit stares straight ahead, doesn’t respond. I take this to mean I should keep talking. “I don’t believe in heaven. I’m with Richard Dawkins on that one. I think it’s something people tell themselves to make the finality of death less scary. At the very least, it seems highly unlikely to me in the angelsand-white-cloud iteration you hear about. Do you believe in heaven?” I ask. Kit takes a bite of her sandwich, still doesn’t turn her head. “I doubt it, because you are a highly intelligent person.” “No offense or anything, but would you mind if we didn’t talk?” she asks. I’m pretty sure this is not a question she wants me to answer, but I do anyway. Miney has put the expression no offense on the Be Wary List. Apparently bad things usually follow. “I’d prefer it, actually. But I’d like to say just one last thing: Your dad shouldn’t have died. That’s really unfair.” Kit nods, and the commas of her hair shake. “Yup,” she says. And then we eat the rest of our sandwiches—mine peanut butter and jelly since it’s Monday—in silence. But good silence. I think. CHAPTER 2 I don’t really know why I decide not to sit with Annie and Violet at lunch. I can feel their eyes on me when I pass right by our usual table, which is at the front of the caf, the perfect table because you can see everyone from there. I always sit with them. Always. We are best friends—a three-person squad since middle school—and so I realize I’m making some sort of grand state- ment by not even waving hello. I just knew as soon as I came in and saw them huddled together talking and laughing and just being so normal, like nothing had changed at all—and yes, I realize that nothing has changed for them, that their families are no more or less screwed up than they were before my life imploded—that I couldn’t do it. Couldn’t sit down, take out my turkey sandwich, and act like I was the same old reliable Kit. The one who would make a self-deprecating joke about my shirt, which I’m wearing in some weird tribute to my dad, a silly attempt to feel closer to him even though it makes me feel like even more of an outcast and more confused about the whole thing than I was before I put it on. Just the kind of reminder I don’t need. Like I could actually forget, for even a single minute. I feel stupid. Could that be what grief does to you? It’s like I’m walking around school with an astronaut’s helmet on my head. A dome of dullness as impenetrable as glass. No one here understands what I’m going through. How could they? I don’t even understand it. It seemed safer somehow to sit over here, in the back, away from my friends, who have clearly already moved on to other important things, like whether Violet’s thighs look fat in her new highwaisted jeans, and away from all the other people who have stopped me in the hall over the past couple of weeks with that faux-concerned look on their faces and said: “Kit, I’m like so, so, so sorry about your daaaad.” Everyone seems to draw out the word dad like they are scared to get beyond that one sentence, to experience the conversational free fall of what to say next that inevitably follows. My mom claims that it’s not our job to make other people feel comfortable—this is about us, not them, she told me just before the funeral—but her way, which is to weep and to throw her arms around sympathetic strangers, is not mine. I have not yet figured out my way. Actually I’m starting to realize there is no way. Certainly I’m not going to cry, which seems too easy, too dismissive. I’ve cried over bad grades and being grounded and once, embarrassingly, over a bad haircut. (In my defense, those bangs ended up taking three very long awkward years to grow out.) This? This is too big for woe-is-me silly girl tears. This is too big for everything. Tears would be a privilege. I figure sitting next to David Drucker is my best bet, since he’s so quiet you forget he’s even there. He’s weird—he sits with his sketchbook and draws elaborate pictures of fish— and when he does talk, he stares at your mouth, like you might have something in your teeth. Don’t get me wrong: I feel awkward and uncomfortable most of the time, but I’ve learned how to fake it. David, on the other hand, seems to have completely opted out of even trying to act like everyone else. I’ve never seen him at a party or at a football game or even at one of the nerdy after-school activities he might enjoy, like Math Club or coding. For the record, I’m a huge fan of nerdy after-school activities since they’ll be good for my college ap- plications, though I tend toward the more literary and therefore ever-so-slightly cooler variety. The truth is I’m kind of a big nerd myself. Who knows? Maybe he’s on to something by tuning the rest of us out. Not a bad high school survival strategy. Showing up every day and doing his homework and rocking those giant noise-canceling headphones—and basically just waiting for high school to be over with. I may be a little awkward, sometimes a bit too desperate to be liked— but until everything with my dad, I’ve never been quiet. It feels strange to sit at a table with just one other person, for the noise of the caf to be something that I want to block out. This is the opposite of my own previous survival strategy, which was to jump headfirst into the fray. Oddly enough, David has an older sister, Lauren, who, until she graduated last year, was the most popular girl in school. His opposite in every way. President of her class and homecoming queen. (Somehow she managed to make something that clichéd seem cool again in her hipster ironic way.) Dated Peter Malvern, who every girl, including me, used to worship from afar because he played bass guitar and had the kind of facial hair that most guys our age are incapable of growing. Lauren Drucker is a living legend—smart and cool and beautiful—and if I could reincarnate as anyone else, just start this whole show over again and get to be someone different, I would choose to be her even though we’ve never actually met. No doubt she’d look awesome with bangs. I’m pretty sure that if it hadn’t been for Lauren, and the implicit threat that she would personally destroy anyone who made fun of her younger brother, David would have been eaten alive at Mapleview. Instead he’s been left alone. And I mean that literally. He is always alone. I hope I’m not rude when I tell him I don’t feel like talking; fortunately he doesn’t seem offended. He might be strange, but the world is shitty enough without people being shitty to each other, and he has a point about the whole heaven thing. Not that I have any desire to talk to David Drucker about what happened to my father—I can think of nothing I’d rather discuss less, except for maybe the size of Violet’s thighs, because who cares about her freaking jeans—but I happen to agree. Heaven is like Santa Claus, a story to trick naive little kids. At the funeral, four different people had the nerve to tell me my father was in a better place, as if being buried six feet under is like taking a Caribbean vacation. Even worse were my dad’s colleagues, who dared to say that he was too good for this world. Which, if you take even a second to think about it, doesn’t even make sense. Are only bad people allowed to live, then? Is that why I’m still here? My dad was the best person I knew, but no, he wasn’t too good for this world. He isn’t in a better place. And I sure as hell don’t believe everything happens for a reason, that this is God’s plan, that it was just his time to go, like he had an appointment that couldn’t be missed. Nope. I’m not buying any of it. We all know the truth. My dad got screwed. Eventually David slips his headphones on and takes out a large hardcover book that has the words Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV on the spine. We have almost all our classes together— we’re both doing the junior-year AP overload thing—so I know this isn’t school reading. If he wants to spend his free time studying “mental disorders,” good for him, but I consider suggesting he get an iPad or something so no one else can see. Clearly his survival strategy should include Mapleview’s number-one rule: Don’t fly your freak flag too high here. Better to keep the freak buried, inconspicuous, maybe under a metaphorical astronaut’s helmet if necessary. That may be the only way to get out alive. I spend the rest of lunch mindlessly chewing my sad sandwich. My phone beeps every once in a while with text messages from my friends, but I try not to look over to their table. Violet: Did we do something to hurt your feelings? Why are you sitting over there? Annie: WTF!!?!?!? Violet: At least write back. Tell us what’s going on. Annie: K! Earth to K! Violet: Just tell me the truth: yay or nay on these jeans? When you have two best friends, someone is always mad at someone else. Today, by not texting back, I’m basically volunteering to be the one on the outs. I just don’t know how to explain that I can’t sit with them today. That sitting at their table, right there in the front of the caf, and chatting about nonsense feels like a betrayal. I consider giving my verdict on Violet’s pants, but my dad’s dying has had the unfortunate side effect of taking away my filter. No need to tell her that though her thighs look fine, the high waist makes her look a little constipated. My mom said no when I begged her to let me stay home from school today. I didn’t want to have to walk back into this cafeteria, didn’t want to go from class to class steeling myself for yet another succession of uncomfortable conversations. The truth is, people have been genuinely nice. Even borderline sincere, which almost never happens in this place. It’s not their fault that everything—high school—suddenly feels incredibly stupid and pointless. When I woke up this morning, I didn’t have the blissful thirty-second amnesia that has carried me through lately, that beautiful half minute when my mind is blank, empty, and untortured. Instead I awoke feeling pure, full-throttled rage. It’s been one whole month since the accident. Thirty impossible days. To be fair, I’m aware my friends can’t win: If they had mentioned this to me, if they had said something sympathetic like “Kit, I know it’s been a month since your dad died, and so today must be especially hard for you,” I still would have been annoyed, because I probably would have fallen apart, and school is not where I want to be when that inevitably happens. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure Annie and Violet didn’t mention it because they forgot altogether. They were all chatty, sipping their matching Starbucks lattes, talking about what guy they were hoping was going to ask them to junior prom, assuming I just had a bad case of the Mondays. I was expected to chime in. I am somehow supposed to have bounced back. I am not supposed to be moping around in my dad’s old shirt. One month ago today. So strange that David Drucker of all people was the only one who said the exact right thing: Your dad shouldn’t have died. That’s really unfair. “You’ve been back two weeks already,” my mom said over breakfast, after I made one last plea to ditch. “The Band-Aid has already been ripped off.” But I don’t have a single Band-Aid. I’d rather have two black eyes, broken bones, internal bleeding, visible scarring. Maybe to not be here at all. Instead: Not a scratch on me. The worst kind of miracle. “You’re going to work?” I asked, because it seemed that if I was having trouble facing school, it should be hard for her to put back on her work clothes and heels and drive to the train. Of course my mom was aware of the significance of the date. In the beginning, once we got home from the hospital, she was in constant tears, while I was the one who was dry-eyed and numb. For the first few days, while she wept, I sat quietly with my knees drawn to my chest, my body racked with chills despite being bundled up in about a million layers. Still, a month later, I haven’t managed to quite get warm. My mom, however, seems to be pulling herself back together into someone I recognize. You wouldn’t know it from looking at her on the weekends, when she wears yoga pants and sneakers and a ponytail, or from the way she looked right after the accident, shattered and gray and folded up, but in her working life my mom is a hard-core boss lady. She’s CEO of an online-advertising agency called Disruptive Communications. Sometimes I overhear her yelling at her employees and using the kinds of words that would get me grounded. Occasionally her picture is on the cover of trade magazines with headlines like “The Diverse Future of Viral Media.” She’s the one who orchestrated that video with the singing dogs and cats that at last count had sixteen million hits, and that great breakfast cereal pop-up ad with the biracial gay dads. Before entering the throes of widowhood, she was pretty badass. “Of course I’m going to work. Why wouldn’t I?” my mom asked. And with that she picked up my cereal bowl, even though I wasn’t yet finished, and dropped it into the sink so hard that it shattered. She left, wearing her “work uniform”—a black cashmere sweater, a pencil skirt, and stilettos. I considered cleaning up the shards of glass in the sink. Maybe even accidentally-onpurpose letting one cut me. Just a little. I was curious whether I’d even feel it. But then I realized that despite my new post-Dad-dying-imbuing-everysingle-tiny-thing-with-bigger-meaning stage, like wearing this men’s work shirt to school, that was just way too metaphorical. Even for me. So I left the mess for my mom to clean up later. Excerpt copyright © 2017 by Julie R. Buxbaum, Inc. Published by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.