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Congrats to both Marcie Colleen and Alison Oliver for their first, starred review for their picture book collaboration, THE BEAR’S GARDEN, from Kirkus Reviews:

One little girl understands that urban spaces need tender loving care.

When a little black girl with her hair in two puffballs looks at her city street, she sees people who rarely slow down enough to imagine the possibilities of beauty around them. But she does…Inspired by a true story of a stuffed bear found in what has become the Pacific Street Brooklyn Bear’s Community Garden, this tale of urban renewal shows how one person with an imagination, a little dirt, and a few seeds can transform a concrete village into something beautiful. Oliver’s endpapers depict maps of the garden site—the front endpapers sans garden and the rear ones featuring [more]

Big congratulations to Brian Broome on the sale of his stunning debut memoir, LIKE THIS, to Rakia Clark at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt!  LIKE THIS is a poetic, uproarious, and raw coming of age story about Blackness, masculinity, and addiction in America’s Rust Belt.

Brian is a Moth finalist and is currently in the MFA program at the University of Pittsburgh. I first heard him perform his work at a reading series in Pittsburgh, and the entire audience just fell in love with him. I know you’ll be just as captivated by him when you read his work!  The book will be out in May 2021.

 

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Congratulations to Upstart Crow client and graphic artist Jenna Luecke!

Jenna’s illustrated humor book, THE BREAKUP HAIR HANDBOOK, will be published by Andrews McMeel publishing in 2020. Part catharsis and part smash-the-patriarchy manifesto, THE BREAKUP HAIR HANDBOOK inspires readers to revolt against societal pressures and take ownership of their hairstyles.

Jenna’s colorful artwork combines old world inspirations with the youthful spirit of punk fashion. Visit her at jennaluecke.com or follow her on Instagram @jennaluecke.

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“When you’re making things, time goes fast.”

Vera B. Williams, Scooter

I’m serious here.

Once upon a time I taught composition and rhetoric, and one of the things I’d tell my students is this: If you’re bored while writing your papers, I guarantee you that I’ll be bored while reading them. But if you are interested in what you’re writing, or even having fun—why, that quality will come through in your prose.

It can sound counterintuitive—this idea that our best work comes when we’re playing and having fun—but I’ve always found that to be the case.

If marrying the words “play” and “fun” to “work” sparks scorn, think of it more as showing the sort of keen focus and deep involvement that children show when they are playing hard. In his swell little book Keep [more]

Going into NaNoWriMo, the temptation will be to write as much as you possibly can each day. It makes sense, right? You’re trying to write as many words as quickly as possible, so if you’ve got more fuel in the tank once you’ve hit your daily goal of 1,000 or 2,000 words, why not use it? Get down as many words and as much of the story so that you can meet your ultimate goal.

I am here to tell you not to do that. My advice—and the advice of many, many writers with more skill and wisdom than me—set a target number of words, write until you reach that goal, and then stop. Some stop mid-sentence (see Graham Greene, who stopped at 800 words exactly); others stop in the vicinity of their target, … [more]

Some of you may have written an outline of the novel you will be writing. Some will have sketched out only the barest minimum—starts here; something happens over there; this thing takes place; somehow it all wraps up. Many of you will have no outline at all, but only a premise, a sense of some characters, a handful of scenes, and—if you’re lucky—an insistent voice dictating the telling of a story.

Outliners start with some gas in the tank, but for those of you who write without a certain idea of where you are going, starting can be gulp-inducing. Happily, NaNoWriMo is almost tailor-made for seat-of-the-pants writers. Plunging ahead is a great way to blaze a trail through the dark of an unknown story. Your trail may ultimately turn out to have wrong turns and … [more]

Big congratulations to Sarah Lariviere, on her next book deal for her second novel, TIME TRAVEL FOR LOVE AND PROFIT! This superb novel will be published by Kelly Delaney at Knopf Books for Young Readers, and comes out next year. I adore this novel. If you like to read books that literary love stories, with a speculative twist, this is for you!

Just a bit more about the book…

Nephele is a whip-smart math prodigy who invents time travel in order to re-do a disastrous first year of high school. Unfortunately, Nephele becomes stuck in a time loop that results in her repeating that year ten times in a row.

Now facing yet another freshman year, Nephele knows what to expect. Or so she thinks. She didn’t anticipate that a new teacher would be a … [more]

[Repurposing an old post about writing 1,000 words each day. But calibrated for NaNoWriMo inflation.]

In my younger and more vulnerable years, I was given a piece of advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. (And no, it is not to shamelessly rip off The Great Gatsby‘s opening line; that I do all on my own.) The advice was this: During the month of NaNoWriMo, write two thousand words of your work-in-progress each day. No more, no less. Just a cool two grand.

Here’s the why of the advice:

  • Two thousand words is a fair bit, to be sure. But it’s not so much that you can’t see the end of your target when you sit down to begin. It’s not so much that you can get deeply lost. It’s
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You’ve heard this piece of wisdom a thousand times, from your toddler days right up to this present moment: Many baby steps add up to one giant leap. And you know this, know it down deep, where you don’t even really have to think about it anymore because, duh, it’s so obvious.

But it is precisely that quality of obviousness—that sense of this idea being shopworn and past its prime and thus in a way somehow beneath notice—that requires it be brought up now. Writing a book is all about baby steps. About putting one foot in front of the other again and again, tirelessly, ceaselessly, until thirty days from starting, you discover you’ve written an entire novel.

And that’s part of the genius of NaNoWriMo: It forces you to split the gargantuan task of … [more]

(Samuel Auster, 1940s; The Invention of Solitude by Paul Auster)

Believing that your voice and story matter can be difficult.

No more so than when you are facing an empty page, a blank screen, a yawning expectation that whatever you compose must justify everything: The time you’ve spent away from loved ones, from work, from sleep; the investment you’re asking readers to make in your world and your characters; the cash you’ve spent on your computer, your fountain pen, your bespoke composition costume, on your Word/Scrivener/Final App/what-have-you program, on classes and how-to books and on and on. To prove that you are not a monster of ego, but that you have something to say that the world may enjoy hearing. (The world may well need to hear what you have to say, but that’s … [more]