Am I Famous Yet?
Okay, so not long after I won last year, I was advised by a writer from New York, a person who is actually here with us this morning, (and you know who you are), that, as part of a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for future publishing efforts, I should auction off the naming rights to a character in said future book. Now I have to admit that when I heard this, I just burst out laughing, because, as the people who actually have to live with me know, with all apologies to Janet Jackson, MY middle name is CONTROL, and my confirmation name is FREAK, so there’s just no possibility of God’s green Earth that letting someone else name even the minorest of characters is ever gonna happen. I can’t go for that, no can do.
Well, here we are, one year later. And my hair is finally under control. (Temporarily).
At the recent announcement ceremony for the 2015 Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project, I was asked to speak about how winning the first STBF contest increased the sales of my novel, The Things We Save. Well, it did. Yes, sales of my book, both in print and e-book, increased, both through sales to libraries and the public. But I’d really rather talk about the year itself. Because I have been so nice and sweet all year, which isn’t really me. So I think it’s time to unleash my inner Arya Stark and stick ‘em with the pointy end. (At the ceremony all the committee members started exchanging sidelong glances and mouthing “did you vet her speech?”) No worries, no disrespect shall pass these lips or be penned by these fingers...
I traveled to 7 counties promoting my book. In fact, back in January, between home, work and library visits, I was in 6 counties in the span of 24 hours. Lots of mileage on my old Honda.
This year, besides flashing by so quickly, has been a collection of moments; and since music plays an important role in my life, some of those moments remind me of songs: so I think I’ll do a little David Letterman riff and give you sort of a top five countdown.
The Darryl Hall and John Oates “I Can’t Go For That, No Can Do” Moment:
Okay, so not long after I won last year, I was advised by a writer from New York, (and you know who you are), that, as part of a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for future publishing efforts, I should auction off the naming rights to a character in said future book. Now I have to admit that when I heard this, I just burst out laughing, because, as the people who actually have to live with me know, with all apologies to Janet Jackson, MY middle name is CONTROL, and my confirmation name is FREAK, so there’s just no possibility of God’s green Earth that letting someone else name even the minorest of characters is ever gonna happen. I can’t go for that, no can do.
The Lady Gaga "Papa-paparazzi" Moment
Yes, I have actually been recognized in a variety of public places: my local library, Mariano’s Fresh Mart, the UPS Store. Now, of course, that initially can be very a little exciting. Maybe I’ll have to stop ranting about “celebrity authors.”
But while this type of recognition is a little heady, it’s also definitely walks the razor’s edge of weird. Because when people recognize you, you also start to think that they are not just looking at you, they’re LOOKING at you. Like, with judgment in their hearts. Making a note of the fact that you are binge-listening to all the Game of Throne audiobooks. Eyeballing the contents of your grocery cart. You can read their faces like a talking book. Hmmm, red wine AND the extra large bag of Lindor Assorted Truffles. Must be that time of the month.
And, yes, sometimes they want to snap a selfie with you. Of course, the running joke of this whole year is that my hair is never quite ready for the camera. Because even though my middle name is Control, that’s just something that’s always been and always will be, beyond my control. Except for today. So there’s at least a couple of Facebook posts out there that could qualify as hair-shaming.
The Taylor Swift “Shake it off” Moment:
Got my first 1 star review the other day. Have you all gotten one yet? On Amazon. Under the heading “Waste of My Time:” “This author uses some really wonderful descriptive words. But that is the best thing I can say about this book. The story is just stupid. I just don't care about the main character Claire. There is nothing about her to like. If you don't get me interested in the main character, or even a secondary character, then it's all just a bunch of pretty words.”
Well, there is the consolation that this person also gave Wild by Cheryl Strayed a one-star review. So I have come to the conclusion that she just doesn't like strong but flawed female protagonists who tell it like it is!
And, just like Taylor, I could break into song: “The haters gonna hate, hate, hate and I’m just gonna shake, shake shake it off” .... So, I’ve learned that just like when you go to the beach, the more exposure you have, the more likely you are to get burned. Oooooh, pass me the ointment.
The Most Wondrous Moment of All...
Then there was this moment... it happened in the fall at the Chicago Ridge Public Library. Not a lot of people had showed up... four or five. I went through my presentation and was doing my question and answer session... and a woman spoke up... and she said that she had loved my book... that it had made her laugh and cry... and she mentioned that a certain passage I had written had reminded her of her grandmother's house... of the bathroom in her grandmother's house ... of the black and white tile on the bathroom floor of her grandmother's house... and she started to cry. And I can't tell you what that meant to me... how incredibly moving that was for me... as a writer. To know that what I had written, the words that I had written... had made such a powerful connection with this reader. Because that's what writing is all about... making connections with another human being...
And I think that was fame enough for me....
Why the printed book still matters
Ten wonderfully well-thought out reasons why the printed book should never die...
Noted in the ALA Direct e-newsletter of February 6th: Timothy Young writes in the Design Observer: “I recently gave a talk to a library group about why the printed book still matters. I had been asked to address the subject of ‘Books in a Digital World,’ but I chose to focus much more closely on the characteristics of printed objects that are not effectively represented in facsimile. That is, what cannot be captured in a scan. I’ve been carrying this list in my head for years, adding to it one reason at a time. In my profession, as a librarian and a curator, this list (of which what follows is only a portion) functions as an apologia pro vita mia--rational defenses for the continued existence of the printed codex—and my involvement with them.”...
Quick -- think of your ten favorite writers! Write down their names -- and do it quickly... no stopping to hem and haw and weigh their relative merits. Just write down ten names of writers you truly enjoy reading: classic, contemporary, fiction, nonfiction, poetry... just get those names down.
(Musical interlude while I wait -- I am currently listening to Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition...)
Alright, now look at that list of names. How many are men? How many are women?
Here's mine (in the order they came to mind):
Now, on any given Sunday (or any other day of the week, for that matter), this list would, in all probability, be different. I read eclectically: fiction, nonfiction, children's literature. I am always discovering a new favorite author. But these were the ones that came to mind today.
So, my list consists of six men and four women. But I am curious as to what the gender proportions would be on the lists of other readers, both female and male. My guess is that the lists of men would contain far more male writers, while the lists of women would, in general, more balanced, like mine, primarily because females, young, old and "of a certain age," are far more likely to read fiction in which the main character is male than boys and men are willing to read books in which the main character is female.
And just what is the point, you are probably asking?
Well, Grammarly, an automated proofreading platform that checks for grammar and spelling errors, as well as detecting plagiarism, recently released a survey it conducted to determine an answer to the age-old question: Who writes better, men or women?
The poll, which received over 3,000 responses, concluded that overall, based on a variety of factors, women are better writers than men.
For example, according to the poll, women are more likely to create well-developed characters, while men are more likely to get to and through the plot points.
Women are, according to the poll, far more likely to write long, descriptive sentences than men. (Although I am thinking this is a recent development... either that, or Charles Dickens, William Faulkner and Nathaniel Hawthorne were pseudonyms for Cecily Dunning, Wilma Flossbender and Nannette Hairston-Smith.
Now, depending on your mood and inclination, you might be looking for one type of writing or the other. So I am not sure we can ever really come to a definitive conclusion. And 3,000 responses is a minuscule sample of readers; however, it sure makes a fun debate.
I would be interested in seeing if a reader could tell --- just by reading a paragraph or two --- if the author was a man or a woman.
So here goes:
"The baron, followed by the count, traversed a long suite of apartments, in which the prevailing characteristics were heavy magnificence and the gaudiness of ostentatious wealth, until he reached the boudoir of Madame ________, a small octagonal-shaped room, hung with pink satin covered with white Indian muslin; the chairs were of ancient workmanship and materials; over the doors were painted sketches of shepherds and shepherdesses after the style and manner of Boucher; and at each side pretty medallions in crayons, harmonizing well with the fittings-up of this charming apartment, the only one though out the vast hotel in which any distinctive taste prevailed."
"Still she stared into his face with that slow, full gaze which was so curious and so exciting to him. He was acutely and delightfully conscious of himself, of his own attractiveness. He felt full of strength, able to give off a sort of electric power. And he was aware of her blue, exposed-looking eyes upon him. She had beautiful eyes, flower-like, fully opened, naked in their looking at him. And on them there seemed to float a curious iridescence, a sort of film of disintegration, and sullenness, like oil on water."
And one more:
"It was a citified, stylish man with his hat set at an angle that didn't belong in these parts. His coat was over his arm, but he didn't need it to represent his clothes. The shirt with the silk sleeve holders was dazzling enough for the world. He whistled, mopped his face and walked like he knew where he was going."
Care to hazard at a guess at the gender of each writer?
Just another important role that local public libraries play in their communities: serving as warming centers during the times that the Arctic deep freeze ventures south of the Canadian border. Like yesterday and today in the Chicago area.
This January I'll be warming up at libraries all over Northern Illinois:
Tuesday, January 13th - 7 pm @ the Robert Rowe Public Library in Sheridan:
Thursday, January 15th - 7 pm @ the Downers Grove Public Library in Downers Grove:
Saturday, January 17th - 10 - 2 pm @ the Indian Prairie Public Library in Darien for their first Local Authors' Fair:
Sunday, January 18th - 2 pm @ the Barrington Area Library in Barrington:
Those are all actual visits for presentations (if Nature cooperates!)
I have some virtual visits as well. I'll be Skyping with book clubs at the Orland Park Public Library and the Plainfield Public Library on January 20 and 21st.
A very busy month -- but's that's good. I won't have time to think about how cold it is!
November Library Visits
Looking forward to a busy month of library appearances, including:
Sunday, November 2nd at the Forest Park Public Library
Saturday, November 8th at the ISLMA Conference Author Showcase and at the Green Hills Public Library in Palos Hills
Saturday, November 15th at the Eisenhower Public Library in Harwood Heights
Tuesday, November 18th at the Thomas Ford Memorial Library in Western Springs
It's certainly a reminder of one of the things for which I am very thankful: a library in which to wander.
Thank you, Berwyn Public Library!
I had an absolutely lovely time visiting the Berwyn Public Library this past Saturday. Thank you so very much to Becky Spratford, librarian extraordinaire, for facilitating my presentation, and to all the Friends of the Library members who showed up to hear me ramble on about the importance of libraries in our lives. I know I was preaching to the choir... but I hope everyone enjoyed my Snooki snark!
Thank you so very much to the Gail Borden Library in Elgin for hosting me last Thursday night and hugs and kisses to the incredible trio of librarians who facilitated my visit: Denise, Liz and Tish. You made me feel so welcome and comfortable enough to endure The Big Questions from my charming interviewer, Robert K. Elder, writer and editor-in-chief and vice president of Digital Content for the Sun-Times Media Local. Being interviewed in front of an audience must be a bit like having sex in public (not that I've ever done that!): 1) it helps if you're a bit of an exhibitionist and 2) you really feel under pressure to do it right.
And an especially BIG thank you to Rob for asking the questions that made me sound reasonably intelligent!
Thanks so very much to the Niles Public Library and the BIrdies Book Club (aka the Red, White and Read Book Club) of Wheaton for inviting me to attend two lively and absolutely fabulous book discussions for The Things We Save last week.
Attending these discussions has been a mind-expanding experience on how people make meaning through their reading. For example, at a book club, an attendee may make a comment on a situation or character in my novel, and then look at me as if to confirm that his or her answer was “correct.” When that happens, I just shrug and laugh and say something along the lines of “your guess is as good as mine.” Writing a book is like starting a conversation blindfolded and hoping someone will respond, but my intent and the reader’s interpretation don’t necessarily have to match perfectly, because the reader brings his or her own life experience and opinions to the pages. It’s like trying to state that there is a definitive meaning to a piece of poetry; you can’t, no matter what the most learned English professor may say. The writer may “mean” one thing; the reader may “get” something along the writer’s lines or something entirely different.
And either way, it’s okay.
Again, many thanks to Greta Ulrich of the Niles Library and Barb and Bonnie of the Birdies for inviting me to these events. I had a blast!
BTW: Red, White and Read is a reference to the liquid refreshments served that drive the lively conversation!
Two times the happiness!
If happiness is wandering in a library... then this week promises double the joy!
I'll be visiting the gorgeous Niles Public Library on Monday, September 22 to join in on a discussion of The Things We Save and on Thursday I'll be appearing at the beautiful Gail Borden Library in Elgin. There I will be engaging in a conversation with Robert K. Elder, writer, editor-in-chief and vice-president of digital content for Sun-Times Media Local and the host of "The Big Questions" podcast. He's got quite the eclectic list of interviewees, so I am honored and thrilled to be among them. We'll be doing a live recording, so I will definitely have to practice speaking in full sentences before then!
Looks like it's going to be a very curvy week as well!
Happiness is being in a library...
Thanks so very much to the Dundee Library of the Fox River Valley Library System for hosting me last Wednesday... I thoroughly enjoyed my visit and hope all who attended did so as well!
To find out more about me, click on the Not Your Average Jo tab.