Since the death of Mike Brown two weeks ago, I have been quiet on my website about the fact that I am a Ferguson, Missouri resident. Some of you who have known me longer than this blog has existed will already have known that information, for newcomers, this may be a complete surprise to you. You might even wonder why I didn’t blog about it when I lived basically where the riots and looting were going down.
First, I wanted to put some distance between myself and the events that were going on, and second, I didn’t want to post something that might inadvertently be opportunistic in the aftermath of what was a horrible tragedy.
In the past couple of weeks, I’ve had a lot of family and friends contact me to make sure that my husband and I were okay, offering us a place to “get away for a while”, offering assistance if needed. To those people, thank you for your kindness.
In the years since my husband and I moved to Ferguson, we’ve had two tornadoes, and now, the events of this summer taking place around/on W. Florissant at the Ferguson/Dellwood border, that’s brought national and international attention to our small town.
After spending some time reassuring one friend that we are, in fact, not in the proverbial ‘eye of the storm’, she encouraged me to share my news on my blog, I think because people need to hear good news and straight talk (to paraphrase). So here goes…
Last autumn I reviewed “Anything But Civil” by Anna Loan-Wilsey (review here) for the Historical Novel Society. This week, I discovered that a blurb from my review was featured as press for the book on the author’s website. How fantastic!
I thought you would enjoy a peek and Ms. Loan-Wilsey was gracious enough to allow me to reprint a portion of her website for my readers:
I’m really excited about this opportunity I’ve been given by the St. Louis Writers Guild to talk about one of my passions, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). For those of you who have known me for a while, you know that I am passionate about writing and I’m absolutely thrilled about this opportunity.
If you’re in the area on Saturday, I hope you’ll stop by and say hello. Both topics should be very interesting and there’ll be something for fiction and non-fiction writers alike.
Keep reading to learn more and I hope you all have a great day!
Workshops for Writers: Jumpstart your Novel or Memoir
with Linda O’Connell, Donna Volkenannt, Jennifer Shew, and Lauren Miller
Saturday, November 2, 2013
10am to Noon
Kirkwood Community Center
111 S. Geyer Rd
Kirkwood, MO 63122
Free for Members, $5 for Non-Members
Whether the story you have to tell is a novel or a memoir, November is a great month to start writing it. Get inspired by life writers Linda O’Connell and Donna Volkenannt and novelists Jennifer Shew and Lauren Miller. They will show you how to jumpstart your book.
National Life Writing Month: Linda O’Connell & Donna Volkenannt
Learn about the many different kinds of “life writing”
Find how an essay can be expanded to a memoir
Get the skinny on how an expose` may or may not lead to publication
Discover how to unlock the power of stories to inspire, uplift, and heal
National Novel Writing Month: Jennifer Shew & Lauren Miller
Learn how to get started with the 50,000 words of NaNo
Get up to speed on writing socially
Hear one author’s experiences with the local NaNo group
Find out about tools such as Scrivener
Donna Volkenannt believes words have the power to inspire, uplift, and heal. Her personal essays, short stories, articles, and poems have won almost 100 awards, including honorable mention in the national Steinbeck short story competition and nominations for a Pushcart Prize and a Spur award. First place winner of the 2012 Erma Bombeck Global Humor Award, she lives in St. Peters, where she blogs about writing and the sweet mysteries of life. http://donnasbookpub.blogspot.com
Linda O’Connell is a multi-genre writer whose niche is writing personal essays. Her stories have been published in 20 Chicken Soup for the Soul books, and more than one hundred national publications. She is developing an anthology for Publishing Syndicate and is the author of a book, Queen of the Last Frontier, the biography of Emily Keaster. http://lindaoconnell.blogspot.com
Jennifer Shew has always liked to write and read stories, mainly fantasy, because they let her imagination take over. That’s why she was so happy to hear about NaNoWriMo ten years ago–it was like a license to write whatever she wanted. She has been a Municipal Liaison (ML) for the growing St. Louis NaNoWriMo region for seven years. She helps people get started with the 50,000 words of NaNo and host write-ins for folks to write socially. She’s excited to write her 500,000th word this year!
Lauren Miller reviews books for the Historical Novel Society and writes for the St. Louis Writers Guild’s literary magazine, The Scribe. Her work has also appeared in publications such as The Poet’s Art and a MMORPG (that’s a massive multiplayer online role-playing game). After five years trying, the historical and spec fiction writer declared her first win last year by completing a 50,000-word novel during National Novel Writing Month. http://www.pocketfulofprose.com
Wednesday night was the single best author event I have ever attended (sorry Gregory Maguire). There I was, a 30-something female reader going solo, surrounded by a large crowd of teenage girls and their parents, teachers, or youth group leaders. Those girls were excited.
Shannon was at St. Louis County Library (SLCL) Headquarters to promote her newest venture, Ever After High, which already has its own line of dolls (ala the Monster High variety), courtesy of Mattel. In addition to answer the slew of questions from her (mostly) younger audience, Shannon treated us to her rap version of one of the songs in Ever After High.
First off, I cannot believe how substantive the questions were coming in from such a young crowd. These girls (as a whole) really knew Shannon Hale’s books and asked some great questions. Maybe we had some future writers in the crowd. 😉
Shannon also revealed that she is a mother of four (including twins) and that (I think) this was her first time visiting STL. Next stop on the list was LA. On a side note, that’s got to be really hard being away from your family that long. If she felt homesick, you’d never know it. Girl brought energy!!!
As a writer myself, I am impressed with her turnout time for novels (Goose Girl was three months, I think she said), and two years for some of her other books.
She spends about three hours a day in her office, during “writer stuff”. Although nobody asked about target word counts, I imagine that Shannon must be really productive when she does get down to work. I think that two years for a book is pretty darn fast.
Waiting in line for the signing, I met some awesome people while waiting in line including some Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) who had met Margo Dill. You may remember that I reviewed Margo’s book, Finding My Place, back in August.
Back to Shannon Hale.
Shannon grew up reading one of my favorite fairy tale authors, Robin McKinley, author of Beauty and Rose Daughter. It was reading Beauty that inspired Shannon Hale to try and write her own version of a fairy tale and answer some questions left unanswered by the original, The Goose Girl.
For those of you who didn’t read The Goose Girl (the original), I recommend the beautifully illustrated copy written by Eric A. Kimmel and illustrated by Robert G. Sauber.
C.S. Lewis once said:
“I wrote this story for you [The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe], but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it.
I think this quote is often taken out of context. In context, it implies that C.S. Lewis’ family member outgrew reading children’s lit during the long process of him writing it. Out of context, it focuses on the idea that fairy tales are something you come back to again and again (although in Lewis’ case, I think he probably meant when he/she was old enough to have children of their own).
Anyway, my point is, some of us never stopped reading fairy tales. I haven’t.
I never really grew out of fairy tales. I remember being a toddler and reading fairy tales and then even as I grew older, I kept reading them. I loved Robin McKinley and Jane Yolen, and then later, Gail Carson Levine and Shannon Hale brought this revival of interest in fairy tales as literature. Both ladies have written fairy tale-ish stories that explore the characters on a much deeper level than the originals. It’s not just a fairy tale anymore.
Beyond the fairy tales, what Shannon Hale brought to SLCL was a little magic of her own (ala the author kind). As I described the experience to one friend, she summed it up best, “Sounds like an author who knows how to treat her fans.”
I think that that’s the important thing to remember. Shannon Hale may write her books for herself, versus a specific audience, but people are drawn to her stories. They buy her books. They go to her signings. They follow her online.
Respect your audience.
Embrace your audience.
Sometimes do both!
That’s the magic I think Shannon Hale brought to STL with her, the magic an author brings when they genuinely appreciate their readers and go above and beyond. She stopped to talk to each person that came to see her. She signed their books. She personalized them for Pete’s sake. Some of us took photos.
My favorite thing she did didn’t even involve me actually. There were some really young girls in the audience and I watched Shannon interacting with one of them, a seven-year-old, and sharing with her some snapshots of her own young children. How cool is that?
If our experience at Shannon Hale’s author event in STL was any indication of what LA can expect, readers are in for a rare treat.
I was disheartened last week to read Jane Friedman’s post (here) at and Writer Unboxed (here) that she will be scaling back her writing advice column. I joined the Jane Friedman bandwagon late but have found her style of writing conversational and appealing.
If you’re unfamiliar with Jane Friedman, she is the former editor of Writer’s Digest, and is now the web editor at Virginia Quarterly Review. It’s partially due to the new job that she’s made the decision to stop offering advice for writers. As someone who’s been a regular reader (if not a subscriber) to her blog, my emotions are conflicted by this shifting of gears.Continue reading “On Losing A Mentor”