Monthly Archives: February 2009

Publishing Industry Gossip: Absolute Write Water Cooler, Galleycat, and Publisher’s Weekly

If you decide to sell your work, you’ll have to get familiar with the publishing industry.  A few weeks back I blogged about doing a thorough background check of a potential agent or publisher to make sure they’re not a scammer (or just plain incompetent), and forgot to mention the helpful forums at Absolute Write Water Cooler (you have to scroll all the way to the bottom to find the search tool).  Do a search on the forum content using the name of the person or company you want to investigate.  I’ve noticed that the Writer Beware bloggers hang out there on occasion.

To keep up with publishing industry gossip, I find Publisher’s Weekly and Galleycat useful.   You can also sign up for free daily or weekly e-newsletters from Publisher’s Weekly.

My one piece of advice in using these three websites is to wait until the end of your workday to visit them, instead of first thing in the morning. It’s too easy to get distracted or start fretting about the economy when you should be focusing on your writing instead.  Save them as a reward for a productive day.

Storytelling Insights from Peter Jackson and Philippa Boyens

Nuggets of storytelling wisdom can be learned from Peter Jackson and Phillipa Boyens by listening to their interviews about the process of creating the LORD OF THE RINGS screenplays.   These interviews can be found in the appendices of the Special Extended DVD Edition sets for each film.

Peter Jackson has provided invaluable information to fiction writers and screenwriters by having these long appendices created, which document in loving detail the making of each film from idea to film release.  There are also short documentaries on J. R. R. Tolkien and his experiences as a writer.  You’ll get the most out of watching these interviews and documentaries if you have seen all three LORD OF THE RINGS  films and read J. R. R. Tolkien’s LORD OF THE RINGS.

Just to give you an idea of what there is, here’s a list of parts that pertain directly to fiction writers:

FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING Special Extended DVD Edition, The Appendices, Part One

*  J. R. R. Tolkien: Creator of Middle-earth

* From Book to Script

THE TWO TOWERS Special Extended DVD Edition,  The Appendices, Part Three

* J. R. R. Tolkien: Origins of Middle-earth

* From Book to Script:  Finding the Story

THE RETURN OF THE KING Special Extended DVD Edition, The Appendices, Part Five

* J. R. R. Tolkien: The Legacy of Middle-earth

* From Book to Script: Forging the Final Chapter

If you want to write screenplays or direct, watch all of these appendices from start to finish (there are six discs in all).  You’ll get a crash course on the realities of filmmaking from some of the best people in the business.

Savannah Wingo in THE PRINCE OF TIDES (Portrayals of Writers)

We never experience firsthand the mental illness of poet Savannah Wingo in Pat Conroy’s novel THE PRINCE OF TIDES (ISBN 978-0553381542), but witnessing it through the point-of-view of her twin Tom Wingo is bad enough.

Tom heads to New York City after his sister Savannah again tries to commit suicide, and over the course of the novel he unravels, with the help of Savannah’s new psychiatrist Dr. Susan Lowenstein, how Savannah has come to be so injured in mind and spirit.

Conroy explores with brutal honesty how family secrets can mess a writer up inside so badly that she (or he) can barely function. Here’s a scene from Chapter 2 where Tom and his brother Luke have found Savannah during a psychotic episode:

“Is that what you think Savannah’s in there doing?” Luke said, pointing toward her door.  “When she talks to the angels and dogs?  When she drools into her sandals?  When she checks into the nut house?  Is that how you face the truth?”

“No.  I just think the truth is leaking out all over her.  I don’t think she faced it any better than we did, but I don’t think her powers of suppression are as strong as ours either.”

“She’s crazy because she writes.”

“She crazy because of what she has to write about.  She writes about a young girl growing up in South Carolina, about what she knows best in the world.  What would you have her write about–Zulu teenagers, Eskimo drug addicts?”

“She should write about what won’t hurt her, what won’t draw out the dogs.”

“She has to write about them, Luke.  That’s where the poetry comes from.  Without them, there’s no poetry.”

And here’s a scene from Chapter 7 when Tom remembers his childhood with Savannah:

Yet the garden angels did not intervene when my mother burned my sister’s notebook in the wood stove after Savannah recorded a fight between my mother and father word for word.  In a rage, my mother burned a year’s work one page at a time as Savannah wept and begged her to stop.  The words of a child became smoke above the island.  Sentences took wing and fell in black fragments upon the river.  My mother screamed that Savannah was never to write another word about her family again.

The next week I found Savannah kneeling in an exposed sandbar in the river at the lowest tide.   She was writing furiously in the sand with her index finger.  I watched from the shore for half an hour.  When she had finished, the tide was turning and the water began to cover her words.

She stood and looked back toward the house and saw me watching her.

“My journal,” she cried out happily.

This is a painful novel to read–horrible things have happened to Savannah, Tom, and Luke (all characters I came to care about)–but the book provides a catharsis  that I once found life-saving when I first read it.   There is deep sorrow in this story, but there is also hope.

Interviews with Ray Bradbury, Anne Lamott, and more

I was exploring YouTube, feeling a bit of self-pity over not having the money to go to various out-of-state writer’s conferences this year, and discovered an amazing collection of recorded interviews and speeches done at the yearly writer’s conference “Writer’s Symposium by the Sea” run by Point Loma Nazarene University.

The symposium has recordings of two of my favorite writers, Ray Bradbury and Anne Lamott.  I’ve always longed to go to a writer’s conference to hear them speak about the craft of writing (I have their advice books on writing).   I felt like a huge present had just been dropped in my lap.

Here’s a link to the speech by Ray Bradbury, the interview with Ray Bradbury, and the interview with Anne Lamott at YouTube.

You can use search terms like “Writer’s Symposium by the Sea” or “Point Loma Nazarene University” to try and find out what is out there.  So far I’ve discovered talks by: Anne Lamott, Ray Bradbury, Donald Miller, Barbara Bradley, Bill Moyers, Gary Hart, Phillip Yancey, Gay Talese, Peter Matthiessen, George Plimpton, and more.

Good luck exploring!