Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Reading out the storm (and beyond)

First, there was a rush to get freelance work done in case the power went out. There was also some rushed checking of Facebook, which doesn't feel as frivolous when it's bringing news of friends and family in other affected areas.

But then, there was reading.

As the storm upended everything and made us feel that couldn't know what to expect, I read a volume of poetry that did the same in a more positive way. JonArno Lawson's Down in the Bottom of the Bottom of the Box, with papercut illustrations by Alec Dempster, turns words on their heads and uses them to reimagine familiar notions and stories, including Biblical incidents and fairy tales. I was especially pleased to see the collection open with "Our Imaginary Selves," about the fate of the gryphons, dwarves, and elves in the (apparently timely) Noah's Ark tale; JonArno had included that poem in an email several years ago when I queried him about a visual project for a children's poetry class, and it inspired the format for the whole project. (Thanks, Noah's Ark Colorforms!)

Then came a very different read: agent Mary Kole's Writing Irresistible Kidlit. I found myself nodding a lot at her advice, both about craft and about the market, but there's enough concrete, savvy information that I didn't feel like I was just reading a rehash of information I already knew. My litmus test for whether a writing guide is worth reading is this: Does it just tell me that plot and conflict are important, or does it actually help me create plot and conflict? Writing Irresistible Kidlit does the latter, and does the same for many other elements of novel-writing.

There was also Horn Book Guide reading, but I'll save thoughts on those books for my reviews except to say this: only a time travel novel that plays with history can make me hurtle through the story so I can get to the Author's Note.

I hope you and those you care about are safe. I hope you have power and aren't squinting to read this on a tiny mobile device. And I hope you have something good to read.

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