On the links once more


Pebble Beach Golf Links, hole 7I think it says something about me as a writer (or as a person) that I find it more interesting to read about other writers than to write about my life or the writing process. I’m once again in possession of articles about writing that I feel much more obligated to share with other writers than whatever is going on in my own life, writing or otherwise.

I used to read a poem at the end of each biology section when I was a TA. Part of me thought I was crazy, but another part of my recognized the way that good poems work, with parts that each contribute to a larger whole, rather like a human body. And when you have a classroom full of premedical students, well, that just seems like an obvious audience. Glad to say that if I was crazy, I was also not alone: Maybe poetry and science aren’t so far apart after all

Cadena de barco para anclado

Kepayo, cc 3 license

I love Billy Collins – he’s not my fave poet laureate (that honor still goes to Ted Kooser) but I do like his lightness of touch and his ability to speak to basic human conditions. There’s a lovely little interview with him in the Washington Post. What I happened to love best were his thoughts on memorizing poetry; my mother made me memorize many, many poems (a lot of Robert Louis Stevenson’s poems, which I’m afraid have been permanently embedded in my brain, leaving less room for what I’ve done with my car keys or whether I checked out 6 or 7 library books), and I think he’s right about what a gift that is.

An interview with the poetry coordinator of the Geraldine Dodge Foundation, Michele Russo, caught my eye for a couple of reasons. She calls herself more of a hobbyist poet but I recognize many of the signs of having a worthwhile job while still writing some, including joining workshops just to get oneself writing. If you don’t know about the Foundation and/or want to read a charming interview, this is a lovely read for you.

Broad chain closeup

Kepayo, cc 2 license

And last but definitely not least, we move away from poetry. This blog is followed by several people who are “self-published” or “indie published.” A letter by Roger Sutton (editor in chief at The Horn Book) about why he doesn’t review self-published books has been making the rounds on FB and twitter, and I’m curious…what do you all think about his reasons for not reviewing these books? (Here’s what Ron Charles of the WaPo thinks). He says that this is not nearly as much of a problem in other genres of self-published books as it is in children’s lit – do you think that’s right? Do you think we’re missing things by these books not being reviewed, and if so, what?

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5 thoughts on “On the links once more

  1. Sadly, I need to agree. Most of the self-published picture books I have read are lacking in some area–mastery of rhyme without overshadowing the story, problems with meter, weak characters, poor dialogue, telling instead of showing, or telling an uninteresting story or one that has been overdone and not offering anything new. However, there are small percentage that hit the mark.

    As far a YA goes, I’ve only read one self-published and it was okay. I think my daughter would like it but it wouldn’t be her favorite. And I read an adult novel which had promise. I think with the help of an editor it would have been more powerful.

    Let’s not underestimate the power of a skilled literary agent who can help polish a piece to perfection.

    One exception for me is poetry books/chapbooks. I think you find a higher percentage of good ones in this market.

    Of course, this is just my opinion. Everyone has different tastes and standards.

    I am current looking for an agent to market my children’s book. To me, if a literary agent believes in my work, then I feel reassured that I’ve done my job as a writer. I’d rather trust a professional than myself. I won’t self-publish.

    • Interesting. That certainly mirrors my experience of chapbooks. I’ve sometimes wondered if I was biased about self-published fiction books and more critical of them because I know that they’re self-published, but you’ve made a good point that they often get more attention, polishing, streamlining, etc than the average self-published book gets.

  2. In terms of numbers I must also agree that the articles make great points. I also agree that poetry ought to be an exception to the rule. The most curious thing (for me) related to self-published books is just how unprofessionally many of them are laid out (interior design). I’ve helped numerous friends get their self-published interiors properly laid out, and I borrow mercilessly from current trends in interior layout (i.e., I study numerous current books from established publishing houses) to mirror those designs. One subset of the problem, it seems to me (anecdotally), is that many creative writers who go the self-publishing route just don’t have the computing skills required to design a book interior in the first place. The interior design – never mind the content – is the first thing a reader notices. If it’s slipshod, or just “looks” self-published (font size and choice too large/wrong, letting too wide, page numbers different font than page font, and the worst: using boldface text) it affects perspective. To my mind, a self-published book must look just like anything the major publishers design. Like I told someone once, “I can’t guarantee the writing’s any good, but the interior will look fantastic.”

    • Interesting. I know that my mother in law, who’s a well respected author published by several different presses, is asked to spend a lot of time working with the publishers on look and feel because that first look makes a huge difference in sales. If I ever self-publish, I’ll make sure to ask someone who is visually inclined (fortunately, I have several friends who do print design) to put the book together!

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