Peg Herring's Blog – November 2007 Archive (22)

A Hard-working Author's Daily Schedule

I start work early, being an early riser. By 7:00 am I'm at the computer, planning a full day's writing. Here's how it goes.

7:00am Check email, write blogs and post

8:00 am Still trying to think of what to write on the dumb blog.

8:15 am Got it! Now to answer the email.

9:00 am Sent email to publisher and several businesses. Also replied to friend in Chicago, sister, daughter, daughter's friend, people at church, and one fan.

10:00 am Down to work. Read…

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Added by Peg Herring on November 30, 2007 at 10:33pm — 1 Comment

Read This or Else!

Yesterday I wrote on perspective and how my own writing career has changed how I judge a book. One reader of my blog commented that we must keep reading, both to learn and to refuel. I certainly agree. Reading is key to writing. Extending that thought, both reading and writing are key to thinking, and we as a nation lose ground with each non-reader who graduates high school. By non-readers I don't mean people who can't read; I mean people who consistenly choose to do something…

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Added by Peg Herring on November 29, 2007 at 10:34pm — No Comments

It's All About Perspective

I used to be a generic reader, one of those people who read cereal boxes and pamphlets in the doctor's office about male urinary tract infections. I'm still voracious, but I find that the more I write for myself, the more critical I am of what I read. I can no longer finish a book if the author doesn't create characters I respect, and by that I mean characters who ring true to me. Even with some authors I admire greatly, I find myself asking, "Oh, come now, would a straight-laced, uptight…

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Added by Peg Herring on November 28, 2007 at 10:26pm — No Comments

Don't I Look Like Myself?

In novels, characters are often defined by their physical appearance. The man who frowns all the time is negative and irritable; the woman whose conscience is clear shows it in her relaxed demeanor. It's a useful tool, and it may often be true that our natures are betrayed in physical manifestation. But I don't think that's always the case.

I direct a choir of some fifty people, and if their expressions while singing were used as a judgment of their mental state, one would conclude…

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Added by Peg Herring on November 27, 2007 at 11:10pm — No Comments

What's She Got That I Haven't Got?

I was having lunch one day a couple of years ago with an author who'd sold not one but two series of three books each. I was as yet unwanted by any publisher, and I listened carefully to everything she said, hoping to get a hint on how to get a break in publishing. I admit I was a tiny bit jealous of her success. Not that she didn't deserve it, but what am I, chopped liver?

To my surprise, she commented along the lines of what I was thinking. "I used to be so jealous of people who got…

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Added by Peg Herring on November 26, 2007 at 10:36pm — 1 Comment

Defending Teachers, Final Episode

Today I'm centered on high school teachers, perhaps the most maligned of all. We hear that these people kill the love of reading and turn young people away from reading in general. Let's take a look at a few arguments from a (retired) high school teacher's perspective.

"The teacher's assigned material made me hate reading."

I doubt that anyone or anything can make a person who likes to read feel any differently about it. Reading a book you hate does not make you stop reading…

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Added by Peg Herring on November 23, 2007 at 10:30pm — No Comments

Defending Teachers Part II

The last post concerned elementary teachers who read to their classes. Today I'm thinking of those who teach middle school.

Research has all sorts of things to say about the middle school brain, but anyone who's worked with kids that age knows the basics: they're fluttery. They don't often sit still, they are anxious about themselves and how they fit in with others. So how does that fit with reading?

The most successful teachers I've known in middle school English let students…

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Added by Peg Herring on November 21, 2007 at 10:31pm — 1 Comment

Defending Teachers

There have been several posts lately on a forum I belong to concerning why kids don't read. Several people lay the blame at the feet of teachers who assign "boring" books and kill the love of reading. While I can't defend all teachers and certainly recognize the type, I have to say a few words about the other end of that spectrum.

There were teachers who read to me/us all through elementary, who made books seem as fascinating as I discovered them to be once I could read them myself. I…

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Added by Peg Herring on November 21, 2007 at 10:09pm — No Comments

We Are a Merry Crew

Picture yourself taking off in a Conestoga wagon, heading for an unknown destination in the West. Or maybe you're starting across the Sahara, hoping to find treasure or happiness or simply a better life. Maybe you just need to know what's out there.

Anyway, you start on this trek with some trepidation. The territory is foreign, it's scary, and you don't know the dangers so it's hard to watch out for them. But suppose you meet people along the way who tell you, "Here's something you…

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Added by Peg Herring on November 20, 2007 at 9:45pm — No Comments

The Dreaded Information Dump

It happens right in the middle of a book you're enjoying: the story stops while the author tells you everything he or she knows about ark-building, quantum physics, or blind cross-stitching. If you're really into that particular subject, you nestle into your chair and think, "Cool!" If you're not, you let your eyes roam ahead to the spot where we get back to the story. We've all had the experience of reading a book where everything stops while two characters sit down and discuss some topic…

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Added by Peg Herring on November 19, 2007 at 11:08pm — No Comments

How to Make Someone Want to Buy Your Book

Just kidding. I really don't know. Here are some thoughts, though.

First they have to know it exists. Estimates vary, but there are thousands of books released each year. Just having someone hear your title is a plus, so you need to let people know that there is a book. A lot of people.

Second, potential readers have to become intrigued. I've worked on this one, because I tend to be a real self-deprecating sort and, the first time a friend told me he wanted to read my book,…

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Added by Peg Herring on November 16, 2007 at 11:05pm — No Comments

Have You Met Your Protagonist?

Sometimes when a story forms in your head, you jump into writing it before thinking very hard about the characters around whom the story revolves. Plot is a wonderful thing, and certainly we can point to massively successful novels in which we never learn one important thing about the main character. Most of the time, however, readers want a protagonist to be life-like. And if she's going to move on into other novels, she also has to grow in some way.

The best way to get to know your…

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Added by Peg Herring on November 15, 2007 at 10:18pm — 1 Comment

Life's Brambles

Sara Teasdale's poem, "The Long Hill" has always been one of my favorites. She speaks of how she ended up on the other side of the "hill" before she realized it. The reason she didn't notice is "brambles" that catch on her clothing and cause her to look down rather than ahead.

The brambles have been at me today. A mistake in mailing out promotional material, little things that sidetrack me from my work plan, and that worst of bugaboos, computer problems.

What happened to that…

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Added by Peg Herring on November 14, 2007 at 11:10pm — 1 Comment

A Herring by Any Other Name Would...oh, Never Mind!

When I started the quest for publication, the question came up of what name I would use. There are of course two possibilities: use your own name or use something else. I chose to use my own name for the simple reason that I like things uncomplicated.

At conferences where I worked at the registration table, I've met authors who don't know what name they gave when signing up. One gave me four possible names that her agent might have registered her under! I'd rather not clutter up my…

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Added by Peg Herring on November 13, 2007 at 9:26pm — No Comments

Inspiring and Perspiring

Someone asked me yesterday if writing is less fun now that I'm officially in the business of writing (well, sort of). The answer, at least at that moment, was no. I'm at the point in my newest effort where the protag has grabbed me by the shoulder, pushed me to the keyboard, and ordered, "Write down what I tell you."

It sometimes takes a while for that to happen, and then it's work. But when she's talking in my ear, as fast as she can, my job is simply to write down what I hear, and…

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Added by Peg Herring on November 12, 2007 at 10:18pm — No Comments

Desperate Local News

We all know that the news has become a cutthroat business these days, with stations everywhere vying for the attention of viewers. As a result, things have become "newsworthy" that are somewhat laughable when you think about it.

The weather. You'd think that knowing to the half mile where the next rainshower will fall is an essential part of every person's life. We have a whole channel dedicated to weather, of course, but then we have local stations trying to edge each other out by…

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Added by Peg Herring on November 9, 2007 at 9:51pm — No Comments

There's a Book in My Head

It's not necessarily a good thing, but it's the way things happen for me. A book springs into my head almost like the goddess rising fully formed from the sea. I know who the characters are, what's going to happen, and what mood I want to create.

Unfortunately, I have a zillion things to do besides write all that down, and I know from experience that it's an all-absorbing process that takes weeks, even months for just a first draft.

How do authors write while they're marketing…

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Added by Peg Herring on November 8, 2007 at 11:06pm — 2 Comments

How Many Times Have You Read Your Own Book?

I got my ARCs a week ago so I'm reading Macbeth's Niece one more time. My husband is surprised by the number of times it's been read, by me, by amateur helpers, by agents, editors, and who knows who else. (The worst part is that we're still finding things to fix!)

I've had people contact me and say, "I just finished writing a book and I'd like you to take a look at it." I always disappoint them by telling them to put it in a drawer for six months and then read it again.…

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Added by Peg Herring on November 7, 2007 at 10:31pm — 1 Comment

Five Words I Love to Hear

I won't keep you in suspense: "I couldn't put it down."

Now that's what keeps a writer writing. The form varies, of course. Last night it was almost a complaint: "I didn't get anything done yesterday because I had to know what happened." No matter what the tone, the message is the same. The book, my book, grabbed a woman's attention and kept her from other tasks she meant to accomplish. I imagine dirty dishes in the sink, the cat drinking out of the toilet, and leftovers hastily…

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Added by Peg Herring on November 6, 2007 at 9:56pm — No Comments

Home-town Girl Makes...Good?

There are three general reactions to me around my home town since I've gotten published. One is what one might expect, excitement. People want to know when the book will be available, how long it took to write it, how much research I had to do, etc. These people are my favorite kind, even when their questions include, "When do I get my free autographed copy?" or "Do you think your agent would look at some of my daughter-in-law's poetry?"

A second group seems to be afraid that I'm…

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Added by Peg Herring on November 5, 2007 at 9:25pm — 1 Comment

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