I ran two courses simultaneously. Each had 3 participants who all submitted roughly 5o pages of their manuscripts. We had a 1-hr introductory chat in which I offered an organized method of approaching critique and outlined what I wanted to see from them. Here's the nitty gritty:
- everyone submitted 50 pages and received 50 page samples from the others in the group (100 total pages for them, 300 total for me);
- we took a week to read and draft crit letters, which were then submitted to me;
- I reviewed, critiqued, and returned those letters to the authors for revision (a total of 12 letters for me);
- the participants revised and resubmitted based on my comments;
- I reviewed the revised letters before releasing them to the group and made both revised and pre-revised letters available to all participants for review.
The participants all seemed to walk away with a different (broader? more complicated? more pointed?) understanding of what critique can be, and I certainly saw immense improvement between the drafts of letters. So, I'm gonna go out on a limb and call this trial run a success.
I'll definitely be repeating the adventure. In fact, I already have ideas for how I'll improve the course next time around, so keep an eye on this space if you're interested. I have Plans.
INDELIBLE is about a girl, Joy Malone, and how she gets entangled with members of the Twixt, the last vestiges of magic that exist in our world. Her introduction comes in the form of two Goth-looking twins, Indelible Ink and Invisible Inq, whose jobs are to mark humans that are claimed by the Twixt. Ink's marks are meant to be seen while Inq's marks are invisible. To qualify for this latest giveaway, *YOU* get to marked by one of the Twixt!
Send me a photo of yourself or your favorite unsuspecting sleeping person with the words "Ink Was Here" written anywhere on the face/lips/cheek/ear. (Please use eye pencil or face paint or something other than magic marker so your parents or S.O.s don't yell at me.) Purists might want to know that my preference is the ear for reasons that will become obvious once you read the book! Email the photo along with your mailing address to me at Dawn.Metcalf on gmail for a gorgeous INDELIBLE temporary tattoo!
Oooo! Ahhhh! WANT!
Keep that camera handy, ladies & gentlemen--there's more...
This tattoo by Mario S. Nevado is not only pretty and pretty darn cool, but it qualifies you for an exclusive content contest. To enter, apply this tattoo to your shoulder/arm/wrist/hand and take a photo. (Purists may also want to note the left shoulder is the one mentioned in the book!) Email that pic with "Show My Ink!" in the Subject line and you can win an exclusive prize only available to those who participate! Details will be emailed directly to you.
This contest is open to US residents and runs from now through June 1st. Tattoos will be available at BEA and also through this (and other) contests! Get writing, get snapping & SHOW ME YOUR INK!
Recap Deets on How To Enter & Win Swag:
1. Draw "Ink Was Here" somewhere on your face with something that won't get me in trouble
2. Email it & your mailing address to me at Dawn.Metcalf (at) gmail.com
3. Get your beautiful INDELIBLE temporary tattoo!
1. Take a picture of your tattoo somewhere on your arm that won't get me in trouble
2. Email it to me at Dawn.Metcalf (at) gmail.com
3. Get your exclusive, participant-only prize via email!
But wait! There's still more going on...
- Did you enter the Goodreads Giveaway going on right now? ARCs available directly from Harlequin TEEN!
- And, bloggers, it may be late May but I Still ♥ Book Bloggers! and you can get arcs & swag by clicking on the link!
- INDELIBLE's pre-order contest is ongoing through launch date, July 30th--send proof of purchase to my email and get a super-secret Thank You prize from me!
Besides the fact that this is evidence that I've eaten a Dove chocolate caramel, what non-addicts might not realize is that there are little fortune-cookie-style messages hidden on the inside of every foil wrapper. Why we need these little bursts of positive self-esteem when we are obviously about to consume a ton of empty calories is the sort of mind-bendy marketing ploy that I can't quite wrap my head around, but that's why I'm in fiction writing and eating gobs of chocolate in the first place. That said, this particular one caught my eye and got the little hamster wheels turning in my brain, because it captured one of the things I think make the best writing: it's the flaws that make a character interesting.
You ever meet one of those people who seem to be the best at everything? She looks fabulous, dresses at the height of fashion, has tons of friends and a loyal, handsome boyfriend, she gets great grades, does a socially-acceptable sport or has great team spirit, shows ambition and empathy in equal amounts, is talented and family-oriented and dedicates her free time to her religious association of choice and is appropriately socially active. She's Miss Perfect! But here's the hitch: nobody really likes Miss Perfect. (Or at least likes to read about Miss Perfect...with some exception.) In fact, being perfect becomes the flaw on which everyone else can hang their hat as the reason not to like her. Call it human nature or chalk it up to the green-eyed monster, but people like to see how far the mighty will fall.
Of course, we also like to see the underdog succeed.*
In order for readers to root for your character, we have to see the flaws that are inherent in her/him, the ones that get in the way of success and clean communication, the ones that s/he will have to fight in order to overcome and make their way to happiness. These are everything from the "nerds" to the noble tragic heroes, the stereotypical "dumb blondes" to Edward Gorey-esque orphan castaways, we feel for the person who struggles and wince when s/he falls prey to their own shortcomings. But we need there to be shortcomings to make characters seem more human, more sympathetic, more likable, more engaging, and more real. Be sure to counterbalance all the good in your MC with equal doses of not-so-good, some of which may be solved and overcome and some of which may be as constant as Harry's "bit of a saving people thing." Some parts of us are here to stay and will drag us into the mire time and time again.
And we're eager to watch.
Keep this in mind the next time you're reading or writing or enjoying a piece of heavenly chocolate: the truth is, everyone worth knowing is both flawed AND fabulous!
* With the exception of Ferris Bueller. But, then again, the whole point is that he's the exception to the rules!
We thought she had a much nicer song than the one from Estonia in 2010--we can never remember the name of the group because they remind us too much of another Harry Potter character. Instead, we call them Draco and the Malfoys. (The downer lyrics sort of fit...)
My 12YO thought Moldova's lead singer was Gandalf's wife. (Starting around 2 minutes or so...)
Then we have Lithuania, winner of the slightly peculiar English lyrics award. We kind of liked this one, even though the words are full of deep feeling and he's smiling away. But really, when you are giving a declaration of love and singing about how it's because of your shoes...well, that's one of the things that makes Eurovision entertaining.
Croatia had great singers (sort of a 7 Tenors approach) and nice outfits, but there just wasn't a tune to the song. Too bad. They could have really shone with a more interesting song.
Tonight: the second semifinal. Switzerland's entry is the only one I've heard all the way through. I rather like it. Their song won the national choice, but they had to change their name and costumes because they weren't allowed to compete under the Salvation Army name. (Heilsarmee) The oldest performer is 95! See, this is what's fun about Eurovision: you can have opera and techno and metal and folk and bizarre combinations that may or may not work, all back to back. It's like an unlabeled bag of Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans or something. It might be toffee, or you might take a bite and realize it's alas, earwax. It's adventure! And everyone needs some of that now and then...
For anyone out there who might be considering applying to the Viable Paradise Writers Workshop, the application period for this year closes on midnight of June 15th. Class size is twenty-four — with eight instructors on-site for the entire week, this makes for a fairly impressive teacher-student ratio (the nautically-minded among us like to think of it as hitting them with a full broadside.)
Viable Paradise is a one-week† residential workshop held annually in the autumn on the island of Martha’s Vineyard; the focus is on fantasy and science fiction, and the students can submit either short stories or an equivalent portion of a novel for workshopping.
†Why one week, rather than six weeks or a month, like some other workshops? Because not everybody out there in the world can free up that much time in one block. Students can, and people who have already committed themselves to some kind of major lifestyle change, but other people have things like families and day jobs. But almost anyone can hack out a single week — take that overdue vacation from the office, or stock the freezer with a week’s worth of pre-made casseroles and indebt yourself to your mother and your mother-in-law and the teenager next door for the necessary babysitting, and come spend a week with people who actually understand why you’re still obsessing about this writing thing.
In other areas, I've been doing Netflix either as hand relief or when it's been too hot to have the computer on safely (upstairs here retains the heat, abysmally well).
Some recent goodies: Indian film Lagaan, which means land tax, but if you think that word is boring, or the fact that the storyline is about sports (in this case cricket), well, it is and it isn't. Ordinarily I think it is impossible to find anyone less interested in sports than I am. But the three hours of this film snapped by because the characters were so compelling, the music so wonderful, the visuals so transcendently vivid. Wow. I think my only complaint is that one really gallant character got shoved into insta-love resulting in a Ruined Life, totally not deserved (nor did I believe said character would be so wimpy), but that is pretty minor.
Another really good one was Tony Palmer's documentary on the Salzburg Music Festival. Another three hours that passed by in a whiz. Rich with interviews with music stars, artists, descendants of same, it details the history of the festival, which was first proposed right before WW I broke out, then carried forward as a way of recovering from the war. When the Nazis overran Austria, they took that over, too, but after they were gone, their long shadow lasted in ways you wouldn't expect. Then there was the modern era (some felt overnight arrival with Karajan's death), and its sometimes problematical ways of making classical music hip, or bringing modern music to modern people.
I'd been wary because I'd once been burned by Palmer's self-consciously 'absurdist' documentary on Peter Sellers, which reminded me of the worst, most self-indulgent excesses of the early seventies. I recollect so much of that attitude kind of formed around the Beatles and the "If I poop on a plate, it's art" vibe. But he'd clearly got past that stage in his documentary making.
Another lovely one was called "Under the Tuscan Sun," a female-made film. The central woman is dumped by her husband who manages to take her house away, too. After the requisite period of shock (some of it is painfully funny) she is given a ticket to Italy by her best friend, who is now pregnant and can't go. So she goes, and ends up buying a wreck of a house, and tries to fix it up. As she does, she collects a family of oddballs, in this glorious countryside--a feelgood film. Wonderful acting.
Yesterday I got to take part in the Festival of Trees for the first time, thanks to The Way We Fall‘s White Pine nomination. Such a fun day!
First, all the nominated authors got on stage with two student volunteers apiece. One volunteer was holding a big sign with our name, while the others went up in turn to introduce us and our books. (My two had come all the way from Ottawa!) And then the authors had to get up and say a few words, mainly about how amazing it had been to be a part of the Forest of Reading program…
After which the winner was announced. Congrats to Jeyn Roberts and The Dark Inside!
Then I did a signing for the many enthusiastic readers who’d shown up. I heard from a lot of teens who’d loved The Way We Fall and were excited about the rest of the trilogy (which I will never get tired of hearing!), and got some great questions. For the many who asked about my tips for aspiring writers, here’s the longer blog post I mentioned to go with the advice I was able to give you in person.
After a tasty lunch, Lena Coakley and I split an hour with two short workshops and some avid writers-in-the-making, and then I got to have a quick chat with a few librarians and industry folk before I had to run off to the day job.
So glad I got to meet so many other authors, and join in the festivities!
(And thanks to my Canadian publicist Melanie for taking the photos!)
Originally published at another world, not quite ours - Megan Crewe's blog. You can comment here or there.
There will be a contest announced next week involving this:
Curious? Intrigued? Can't wait? Stay tuned!
Last chance to sign up to be a part of the arc tour hosted by Wastepaper Prose and PageTurners! Sign ups close at the end of the week (tomorrow) so clicken to join the parade!
If you miss that opportunity, know that my I ♥ Book Bloggers Giveaway is still going on, should you want a chance to get a signed arc, 10 bookmarks and a bit of secret swag. There are arcs waiting to find good homes. While others will be at BEA and GoodReads and Netgalley soon, here's your chance to get Book One of the Twixt first.
I got the following tweet yesterday:
@dawnmetcalf I wondered if there was an excerpt of Indelible yet available. The narration, is it in the first person singular?
So I thought I'd answer here:
Alas, unlike every other YA author on the planet, I tend not to write in 1st person POV, but in 3rd. Indelible is not in 3rd person omniscient as I did with Luminous, but 3rd person focused, specifically on the main character, Joy Malone. I have stories which I've written in 1st person, but I was more comfortable with this one being in 3rd. I never thought this was unusual until I started writing specifically for a YA/MG market (something that sprang up over the course of my being a YA to a NA to a whatever-I-am-now [My brain rebels at calling myself an "adult" despite the fact that I have a house, a job, a spouse and two small people who look vaguely like my husband and call me "Mom."]) and people started to remark on it. I guess this makes me stand out in the crowd? Trust me, if you ever met me in person, I tend to stand out anyway.
As far as the excerpt, I'm happy to oblige with this exclusive clip from INDELIBLE:
JOY MARCHED QUICKLY down the hall, leading Inq away from the lunchroom and other people.
“What are you doing here?” Joy asked under her breath. Salted soy butter stuck in her throat.
“Just visiting,” Inq said. “I thought I’d bring you this.” She held up the laminated thumbs-up sign, its key chain dangling off her palm: Mr. Soares’s missing hall pass. Joy snatched it back. Inq grinned. “You’re welcome.”
“Thank you,” she said. Checking the halls and the doors and the wall-mounted cameras, Joy retreated from the more congested parts of the school.
“Isn’t there somewhere you need to be?” Joy whispered.
“Need is such a human word.” Inq pouted. “Want and need are so subjective. I don’t find them very useful.” Joy turned a corner. Inq followed. “Where are you going?”
“My locker,” Joy improvised, hoping that no one could see her talking to herself.
“Well, that does sound important.” Joy bit back her retort. Inq sounded bored, and she was in no mood for bored Inq, which promised to be both dangerous and highly annoying. Inq hadn’t been too happy when they’d last been at Graus Claude’s, and Joy was still feeling emotional after her conversation with Stef. Prolonged exposure did not bode well. Joy picked up the pace, skidding to a halt in front of her locker.
“What do you want?” she whispered over her shoulder.
Inq tipped her pixie face to the side as Joy dialed her combination. “Well, I just thought....”
Joy pushed up the handle and darkness slammed down.
Stunned, Joy glanced around in the heartbeat that followed, the flash in her eye a weak firefly in
sudden shadow. She squeezed the locker handle. It was solid and, presumably, real. She was in her school hallway, instantly transported into night. The world was coated in a thick film of heavy, brooding gray, but it wasn’t nighttime. The few people between classes were stuck where they stood. A dropped pen hung in midair. The hall clock hands frozen at 11:47.
A thick, curving line held a concentrated darkness, as if a circle had been burned with gasoline on the floor. Joy was trapped inside a bubble—everything beyond it as still as a held breath.
Inq struggled to her feet. She looked almost as shocked as Joy felt. Her dark, colorless eyes blinked rapidly as she frowned.
“Joy?” Inq called, her voice warped as if underwater, echoing weirdly although she was barely six inches away. “Are you okay?”
Joy waited for the sound of her words to fade before answering.
“Yes,” she said. Her voice sounded normal to her. “I think so.” She let go of the locker door, but nothing changed. The weight of the gray silence was like a deepwater dive. “What happened?”
“I don’t know,” Inq confessed. The sound seemed mismatched, penetrating the bubble a long second after her mouth moved. “It’s a trap.”
“A trap?” Joy stretched out to grab Inq through the veil, but hit something not quite solid that sparked. Joy hissed, clenching the feeling of electric ant bites from her fingers. Pain lit the fear inside her. She stared at Inq. “Get me out.”
“I don’t know...” Inq sounded upset, worried, for the first time Joy had known her. And now was a bad time to start. “I don’t think I can.”
“Yes, you can!” Joy said. “Get me out! Try!” She held out her hand as if Inq might dare to take it, but the Goth girl shook her head and splayed her fingers as if she were waving goodbye. Joy’s heart thudded wildly. “Ink...”
“Don’t call him,” Inq warned. “He’d appear inside with you, and we need to be sure we can get you both out first.” She glanced over the fiery line, her mouth tight and grim. “Hang on.”
And, lastly, I leave you with this smile for the rest of the day. It never fails to crack me up!
*pulls blankets over head*
*pretends to be a turtle-turtle*