Posted by: Kerry Gans | August 4, 2011

Top Picks Thursday 8-4-2011

Before we get to our usual link roundup:

As many of you have already heard, author L.A. Banks lost her fight with adrenal cancer on August 2nd. Several of our authors here had met Leslie and expressed what a warm, generous, and enthusiastic person and writing mentor she was. J. Thomas Ross wrote about her experiences with Leslie on her blog. The Liars Club, of which Leslie was an avid member, is still hosting their Writer’s Bash, with its awesome auctions and networking opportunities, on Saturday, 8/6, at Smokey Joe’s in Philadelphia. Proceeds from the benefit will go to Leslie’s family, and the Bash will be in celebration of Leslie’s life. Author Chroniclers Nancy Keim Comley and Matt Q. McGovern are intending to go support this wonderful cause, and if you are in the area we hope you can make it, too.

Nancy recalls one of her interactions with Leslie:

“With all the very well deserved acclaim that the late L.A. Banks is receiving there is one thing I don’t want to people to lose track of:  her kindness. 

I attended a Liar’s Club party for the Doylestown Bookstore a couple of years ago with my oldest child. We had a good time but what my child was most excited about was a drawing where the winner got to be an extra in an episode of “It’s Todd’s Show,” a fun, dog-centered show that came out on the web. 

She had fallen in love with Todd, the canine star, and she hopped around with excitement as the name was chosen and called out. She tried to hide her sadness and not being picked but her face fell. We were standing in front of the table where Leslie was sitting and signing books. 

Leslie took one look at my child’s face, got up and went and spoke to Laura Schrock. When Leslie came back she told my daughter that she would be in the episode after all.

 It wasn’t a huge, crowd-pleasing gesture that would get her accolades. It was a quiet act, a decent and kind thing to do for a sad child. So, that’s what I thought about this week when I heard that Leslie had passed away; a woman who would pause in her busy life to make a child she had never met before happy.”

Now on to business:

CRAFT

Banging your head against the wall in search of an “original” idea? Don’t sweat it. Adam Heine explains how to “steal” ideas and make them your own. Once you’ve got that idea, Jerrold Mundis shares tips on breaking through writer’s block permanently. And if you need brain food, Wendy MacNaughton shares the Snacks of Great Scribblers

First drafts can be ugly, but the joy of reaching “The End” that first time is immense. Once you’ve done that, M. Todd Gallowglas suggests 4 tools to hone that first draft further to make the story come alive for the readers. One writing flaw we are all told to beware of (and is often present in that messy first draft) is the dreaded “infodump.” Author Patty Jansen reminds us that information itself if not the enemy. Exposition is necessary to good storytelling—it’s all in the presentation. After several thousand revisions, when you are finally ready to do a final language polish, agent Mary Kole gives 3 simple tips to make your writing exciting at a sentence level.

The essence of most stories is character growth. Author Donna Cummings talks about the necessity of creating setbacks and growth points for your characters, even when you find it hard to be mean to them. Psychologist and author Sarah Fine explains how our own attitude toward emotions can color the way we write emotion in our work—both in the way our characters express emotion and in the way others respond to the emotions expressed.

In a fun blog post, Teri Harman talks about the evolving English language and gives us examples of evocative “dead” words. And in not-so-dead words, Today lists 10 classic books that everyone should read. (I’ve read 8 – how about you?)

BUSINESS

Agent Rachelle Gardner talks book proposals – for both fiction and non-fiction. Most fiction writers are more familiar with the dreaded query letter than with proposals. Cat Woods reveals an epiphany (with examples!) of how to pitch a novel easily, while agent Janet Reid, in her QueryShark guise gives an example of what not to do in a query. And even though all of us in the query stage wish that agents who send form rejections would give us feedback on our query, agent Mandy Hubbard explains why that’s not realistic in today’s market.

And while you’re querying, here are the Top 10 things agents and editors never want to see, from agent Kate McKean. 

Building platform is crucial for any author today, and Janet Friedman offers her 5 Platform Action Plan worksheets (part of her platform workshop) for free! She also explores the resistance that every new technology faces. For those of you just breaking into social media, here’s a lesson in Twitter 101.  Martyn Chamberlin explains that the key to success on the web is not productivity but efficiency.

Author Jordan Dane takes an in-depth look at the trend of agents getting involved in e-publishing. Good idea or conflict of interest? Or is it too early to tell?

Dana Lynn Smith gives 10 tips on how independent authors and publishers can break into the lucrative library market.

Michelle Rene ruminates on the amount of patience writers need to have in this business – and the things that most try our patience.

Finally, Samantha J. Wright provides a roundup of helpful resources for writers; Eric Norton over at the School Library Journal talks YA dystopia in fiction, graphic novels, and non-fiction; Michael A. Ventrlla interviews NY Times bestseller Peter David; and the Dickens Journal Online project seeks to digitize and make public the two weekly magazines Charles Dickens edited throughout the 1850s and 1860s.

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