Monthly Archives: July 2011

A love letter to my library

*We interrupt this regularly scheduled post about writing and the writing life to express incredulity about the proposed cuts to public libraries in Toronto.*

As part of the city’s business planning process, Etobicoke Councillor Doug Ford is proposing cuts to public libraries across the city, including the closure of branches in neighbourhoods that need them the most. And it’s not going to win him too many votes.

Canadian literary legend Margaret Atwood is raising no small hell about this on Twitter—despite Councillor Ford’s assertion that he doesn’t know who she is. She’s urging Torontonians to sign an online petition to save public libraries: http://ourpubliclibrary.to/

As a writer, reader and lover of the written word, I can’t say enough about public libraries. (I wish I could say that I met my husband at the library, but no, he picked me up at a bar.)

I thought I’d share the top ten reasons why I love my local library:

1)      Free books! Where else can I browse, sample, devour, and skim through as many books as I like, for as long as I like, and even take some of them home with me. Yes, I know our taxes pay for this privilege. I will subsidize libraries, gladly.

2)      Free magazines! I am a magazine junkie. It just doesn’t make sense to pay for subscriptions to dozens of print copies of magazines when I can read them at my leisure at the library. Makes more sense financially and environmentally to read them at the library too.

3)      Free Wi-Fi! While I may not have trouble accessing the Internet at home or work, not everyone is as connected as I am.

4)      Infinite research resources! Not only does the library hold pretty much any reference book I would ever need, it can also help me access online resources (through databases and indexes) and access to books at other libraries through interlibrary loan.

5)      There’s coffee! Yes, many libraries have gone the Chapters route and brought beverage and snack vendors into their branches. And even if your local branch doesn’t have an on-site coffee house, most libraries are located in areas with easy access to fast food and drink.

6)      No judgment! Libraries are long-time champions of freedom of speech. Hearing librarians speak out against censorship brings out my feisty activist side.

7)      Events for writers! My library hosts writing contests, programs for young writers, book signings and readings, and connections to the literary community, all in one spot.

8)      The next generation of readers and writers! That little huddle of toddlers listening to a book being read aloud or planning their Stuffie Sleepover (so cute!)? They’re going to be the readers, writers and reviewers of the future.

9)      It’s not just about the books! Get all your culture in one spot with CDs, DVDs and even movie screenings at the library.

10)  It’s all about community! My local library is a meeting spot, a quiet place to study, a living room, a neighbourhood hub, and the literary and cultural soul of my city.

Chime in, writers—why do you heart your local library?

Maria

7 Comments

Filed under Inspiration, News, Writing resources

Agent aficionado

Pinch me, please. I have an agent!

After many months of queries and pitches, it happened. I received an offer of representation. And not just for one manuscript, but for three of them: a middle-grade novel, a children’s picture book, and a non-fictional proposal. My head is still spinning. Spin, spin, sugar!

Prior to the offer, I received plenty of the standard rejection responses, with the usual one-liner pass. Then I started to receive referrals to ‘other’ agents, invitations to query ‘other’ manuscripts, and even personalized feedback—still in the form of rejection; however, it was some of the nicest, kindest, rejection yet. And for me as a writer, this was truly encouraging. In speaking with these agents by email and phone, I learned that my submission was one of value, even if additional work was required to make it shine.

Then I met Kathy LaVergne of Word|Link USA—and the rest was simple. I said “yes” to her offer of representation and signed, sealed, and mailed the agreement!

I’m thrilled to bits to be represented by Word|Link. In the short time I have worked with Kathy, she has been incredibly kind, supportive, and quick—with all three manuscripts currently on submission, and editor’s comments surfacing in my in-box. I’m fantastically fortunate to be working with an agency that, according to Publisher’s Marketplace is one of the top 20 dealmakers in the United States.

My hubby, the analogy-king, sums it all up like this: “It’s like you’re Danica Patrick, you have a car, but now you’ve gotta go to the races.” He’s right, I’m in the driver’s seat and I’m on my way,  über excited, as I enter this next chapter in my writing life—one step closer to publication.

And I must must must extend a gargantuan thank you to my readers (friends, family, beta testers), and especially my critique group and fellow Restless Writers, for helping me get my manuscript to a level worthy of submission.

Having an agent still means more waiting, more finger-crossing, more cringing, and of course more rejection. But I am stoked. Bring it on!

BJ

14 Comments

Filed under Getting published, Success stories

Beautiful Goodbye

Sherwood Schwartz died yesterday at the age of 94. For those of us who grew up glued to a TV set in the 70s, “Sherwood Schwartz, Executive Producer” may have been the first words we learned to read. He was the prolific writer behind Gilligan’s Island and Brady Bunch, among other things.

Many people judge a successful writer as one who stands the test of time, resonating with readers hundreds of years after publication. I’m not suggesting that the writings of Mr. Schwartz are up there with Ms. Austen; however, my children have just discovered Gilligan’s Island and they can’t get enough of it. It was one of my favourite shows growing up, too. And my mom loved watching it before I was even born.

Mr. Schwartz wrote a farewell letter that was to be published upon his death (source: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com). Here is the letter, which offers his humorous and timeless insights into writing. And living.

4 Comments

Filed under Life and stuff

Only so many songs?

Monkey on a laptopHands up if you love you a little bit of early-90s Canadian punk rock! No, just me? Well, check out this tidbit: “Only so many songs can be sung with two lips, two lungs and one tongue.” I love Nomeansno, but on this point the brothers Wright and I must disagree.

Human beings have been singing their songs and telling their stories for eons. From the spoken word to the first papyrus-backs to today’s e-books, there have been millions upon millions of bits of fact and fiction, turned into content for readers to enjoy, disagree with, cry over, burn and ignore.

It’s a never-ending stream of books, articles, songs, speeches, poems, graphic novels, plays, blog posts and tweets. And we never get tired of it.

Will that stream ever dry up? Will there ever be a time when there are no more stories to tell? Definitely not (although that itself would make a great story). Yes, the themes of human life—love, death, spirituality, growth, forgiveness, existence—these are common to all of us. But our own stories…well, those are as unique as DNA. And that’s what other people want to hear.

If you’re like me, you get a dozen ideas a day. Each one of those ideas has the potential to be exceptional, because you’re the only one who can write it.

By all means, read as much as you can and research your genre and the market. You might want to consider tweaking that sparkly-vampire love story you thought was so amazing, or the friends-with-benefits rom-com you thought was so daring. But never think that just because someone’s written something similar to your idea that you can’t put your unique spin on it.

According to the infinite monkey theorem, given enough time, a monkey hitting the keys of a typewriter at random will write the entire works of Shakespeare. But there is nothing random about a writer’s voice. Applied with intention, your creativity and individual perspective can write a story that no-one else can.

Only so many stories? Don’t you believe it for one second.

Maria

2 Comments

Filed under Inspiration, Motivation