Monday, January 31, 2011

Readers, queries, and critiques

Since my instructor gave me a thumbs-up, I've sent out my manuscript to a dozen people who have never read it before. I'm looking for critique on all counts- plot, character, the way the historical and cultural details weave through, etc. I've gotten two readers' feedback so far (thanks, Brian and Judy!), and their input has been valuable and supportive. I'm looking forward to more feedback so I can get the ms in the best possible shape before I send it out.
Meanwhile, I'm working on a query letter. That's a one-page introduction which serves multiple purposes: hook the editor, summarize the plot and characters, give my biographical info and writing credentials, and offer to send more of the ms. A tall order, and very hard to write.
And get this, the faculty for the Pocono writers workshop has been announced. Dianne Hess, the Executive Editor of Scholastic Press, will be there. Her profile says she acquires and edits many kinds of books, including middle-grade that cross over to YA and history. "It is important to me that a book has an authentic emotional and spiritual resonance, and that it gives readers a richer understanding of their world." How amazing would it be to get a critique slot with her.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Stories of those who were there

I've read a number of first hand accounts of the Nazi era in Germany, but none fascinated me more than "Frauen: German women recall the Third Reich" by Alison Owings. The point of view shared in this book is rare in American literature on the era. And the perspective of women, being homemakers, wives, and mothers in that time and place, is completely different than the perspective of victims or soldiers whose stories have been told more frequently.
Ms. Owings is an American, quite fluent in German courtesy of college semesters abroad, who collected the personal stories of over two dozen German women whose husbands, brothers, sons, and neighbors fought during WWII on the side of Germany. Like any other cross-section of people, these women occupied all parts of society and varied by education, economic background, social status, and community type. Some took part in resistance, others looked away in fear and voiced their shame in the book. Some exaggerated their activities and others minimized them humbly. Still others seem to not understand the lessons of history, blaming the Allies for bombing their cities and forcing them to sleep in the basement with wailing children while their homes crumbled over their heads. Fascinating.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

What's gotta change

I'm such a slacker. It's been two months since I blogged, and here I am saying I want to become a writer! But enough with the self-flagellation. It's a new year and this is as good a time as any to begin to do things right.
For 2011, I plan two things. One is to create a log of sorts of all the books I read, sort of like making the food diary I made when I did Weight Watchers. I want to make sure I take in good stuff so I don't waste time and energy reading the literary equivalent of Twinkies. And reading good stuff has got to improve my own writing. The second thing I plan is to get Sophie's story off my computer and out into the big world. I'm revising the second half of the novel now and researching publishers and editors who like historical fiction. Since the publishing industry is in a state of flux, the whole submission process will be quite an adventure.