Sunday, July 24, 2011

A World Without Borders

I went to college at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. In 1993, a little independent bookstore beckoned with warm, cozy lighting, secluded corners where I could curl up with a book, and packed shelves. This was the first Borders--before the Rewards program, before the sidelines and the music/videogame sections, before the store became a corporation.

When it reopened as a bigger store, Borders kept its small feel by hiring knowledgeable staff who had to pass a literary test to be hired. I know, I took one when I applied for a job there. Where would these books be shelved in the store? Where could a customer find these top award-winners? Who wrote these five classic children's book titles? Questions like these ensured Borders employees would handsell books to readers, be able to answer more than just average questions about books and authors. The early Borders stores embodied the spirit of literacy and reading for pleasure with its book clubs and author readings.

It was frustrating and disheartening to watch this company's slow, steady decline away from its original identity. Bestseller and sideline tables assaulted customers as they entered the doors, distracting them by shiny popularity rather than encouraging a reader's natural scavenger hunt for hidden gems of storytelling.

Perhaps it's for the best that this store has met its end. True independent bookstores have one fewer competitor. And this may herald one more step in the movement away from big, unwieldy, indifferent box stores who don't care about cozy lighting, reading nooks, and the magic of books.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Shifting Landscape of Books

That things are changing in the dynamic world of books is news to no one.

Books are going digital, turning into artwork, redesigning a library, helping others, and going mobile in more ways than you can imagine. Stories are being told, in all kinds of new ways--breathtaking, inspirational ways.

And the need to tell stories, the need to share and exchange information--fictional or otherwise--is still ingrained in our culture.

What's your story? How will you choose to tell it? What is the future of story beyond the physical book?

From Gizmodo, June 27, 2011
Find article here.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Musing on Revision

Last night was the SCBWI Great Critique. I was fortunate enough to be a group leader, and I enjoyed listening to six different, wonderful stories in various states of revision. Each story had its own voice, its own direction and imagination, its own flavor.

One group member asked me, how do you know when it's the right time to submit? How do you know when are you done revising? Excellent questions, ones I'm not sure I know the answer to. I think revision could last forever, if the author felt paralyzed enough and so insecure he or she could never submit. I certainly have plenty of stories that are, in my opinion, ready to go, and plenty more that feel to me like they're half-done. Would that I had a toothpick to stick into the plot and find out if the story is done. On the other hand, we all hear stories of editors and agents frustrated by authors who submit before their stories are ready and polished--full of loose ends and typos and continuity errors.

What do you think? Have you submitted your work? When do you know it's done and ready? What is your oven timer? I'd love to hear your thoughts!


Monday, December 6, 2010

Wintry Evenings

So PiBoIdMo is over, and the holidays are in full swing. What are you reading these days? What are your kids reading? Are you finding time to snuggle up with a book amidst gift-buying, tree-decorating, and cookie-baking?

I'm reading Spindle's End, by Robin McKinley and loving her voice. I'm also enjoying A Garden for Pig, by Kathryn K. Thurman. While Robin's prose is full of wonderful details and description, Kathryn's writing is tightly evocative and delightful to read aloud.

Happy holiday reading, everyone.

Liz and Madge

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Thankful Post

Greetings, readers.

Believe it or not, it's snowing here in Seattle. And though this wet white stuff makes driving frustrating and slow, this emerald city has put on a wintry coat that shimmers in the cold air. Pine trees lining the highway are particularly beautiful, frosted in a dusting of snow.

So in these days leading up to Thanksgiving, I'm offering a post of thanks.

I'm thankful for...
a warm house
good friends
great books of all kinds, all lengths, and with all kinds of stories
authors and illustrators
editors and agents
inspiring music--music that inspires you to be creative
coffee and cocoa

What are you thankful for?

Liz and Madge

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

We're back...with advice and renewed energy!

October was a whirlwind of crunching leaves, chilly mornings, book signings, and school visits. While it was incredibly fun and intoxicating to promote my book, I'm glad for the quietness of November, when I can sit for a bit and think...and write.

So in anticipation of more regular, involved blog posts, I'm sending you, dear readers, off to a few more blogs for some great instruction and insight.

The host site for PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) has an excellent post about picture book layout. Read this and follow the dummy diagrams, even if you're a writer. Each page turn should be meaningful and build story suspense until the end.

The following two sites offer opinions and suggestions on how to succeed as a freelance illustrator. I want my site to have relevant information for both writers and illustrators--the collaborative genius behind every picture book.

Best wishes to all of you, and Happy Writing!

Liz and Madge