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Forsythia Blooms by Neetu Malik

February 26, 2020 by in category Poet's Day by Neetu Malik tagged as , , ,

Forsythia Blooms


We meet here again
but I am alone

shielded by forsythia
behind memories
forged and forgotten
in fields that have
seen snow and rain

lain desolate 
before seasons change
and drifting winds carry
sounds of birdsong
to end winter's silence.

We meet again but
I am alone

with golden bells that
chime your presence
as they rise from the earth
warm once more.
 
 
© Neetu

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Everyday People by Veronica Jorge

February 22, 2020 by in category Write From the Heart by Veronica Jorge tagged as , , ,

While there is so much concern and controversy over climate change, I am more fearful about the future of our own environment: that of words, writing and speaking.


Nowadays, it seems that one must be a meteorologist; able to gauge and predict social climatic conditions, because you never know who you might offend if your views run contrary to the prevailing winds. A particular topic might heat things up. A storm rages. The dissenting voice is silenced.


It seems we are still living the lyrics to the popular 1968 song by Sly and the Family Stone, Everyday People:


“…There is a blue one who can’t accept the green one
For living with a fat one, trying to be a skinny one…

The news, social media, college campuses, and politics will most likely continue their tug of war. But I hope that the writing community will elevate itself above that fray and be able to provide a safe haven where every voice lifts up on the wings of freedom, and where every voice is welcomed and heard.


See you next time on March 22nd.
Veronica Jorge


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Sensitivity Editors, Yes or No?

February 21, 2020 by in category Featured Author of the Month, The Extra Squeeze by The Extra Squeeze Team tagged as , , , , ,

Each Friday in February we’ll be featuring The Extra Squeeze Team.

Ever wonder what industry professionals think about the issues that can really impact our careers? Each month The Extra Squeeze features a fresh topic related to books and publishing.

Amazon mover and shaker Rebecca Forster and her handpicked team of book professionals offer frank responses from the POV of each of their specialties — Writing, Editing, PR/Biz Development, and Cover Design.

Have you a question for The Extra Squeeze Team? Send them to us by using this handy link.

Today’s topic for The Extra Squeeze Team came from this article in the Chicago Tribune.

Dear Extra Squeeze Team, Sensitivity Editors, Yes or NO?

Rebecca Forster | Extra Squeeze

Rebecca Forster 

USA Today Bestselling author of 35 books, including the Witness series and the new Finn O’Brien series.

When I was a new author, I received a letter from a reader accusing me of being racist for using a certain adjective to describe a character of color. I was disturbed because I had offended the reader but upon reflection, I came to believe I had done nothing wrong.

I take my craft very seriously, choosing every word carefully to create a deeply visual reading experience and to express various points of view. If sensitivity editors become the norm, I will begin to second guess those words and the result will level a playing field that should be filled with intellectual and emotional obstacles. I believe it is better for a reader to close a book and to reject a writer’s work than to hobble the creative exploration of the world around us.

Jenny Jensen | A Slice of Orange

Jenny Jensen

Developmental editor who has worked for twenty plus years with new and established authors of both fiction and non-fiction, traditional and indie.

Part of editing is sensitivity — to the tone of the book and to the needs of the market.  I’ve worked on manuscripts where the content is offensive. I ask myself, is that offensive to me, or to the market?

I’m not in the business of censorship; my personal sensibilities are not the point. However, as a story editor it is my business to point out when the narrative is boring, adds nothing, or employs language that is likely to offend the intended market.

‘Sensitivity’ is relative. To edit only for insensitive material blurs, to near invisibility, the line between editing for good writing and suppression of open expression. A good editor will point out insensitivity. It is up to the author to accept or reject the edit.

Robin Blakely | The Extra Squeeze Team | A Slice of Orange

Robin Blakely

PR/Business Development coach for writers and artists; CEO, Creative Center of America; member, Forbes Coaches Council.

I am in the business of promoting author brands, so my interest in the trend of hiring a sensitivity editor is focused on the impact such a thing can have on author PR and book publicity.  To cut to the chase, I’m not a fan—yet.

Here’s why… For many readers, a book can help reflect what is wrong in the world even if the author was not trying to paint the picture of the world that the book ultimately reveals. Straight up, I think most readers are smart and I know they deserve to be treated with honesty and extreme care. From a PR perspective, it is important to me that the reader always meets the real author—no masks. That means reader/writer relationships must be authentic to the writer and genuinely tied to the writer’s real work.  Readers trust real and I trust that most writers are sensitive enough to choose words that accurately reflect their point of view and their reality.

If the author is heavily censored, overhauled, and cloaked by a sensitivity editor, then the reader is shaking the hand of a gloved stranger. From a PR-perspective, I have encountered authors who need a wake-up call regarding the impact of their voices and their word choices.  Sensitivity editors can offer feedback that broadens the author’s awareness. Or, the sensitivity editor can enable the author to be masked in a way that is unfair to the buyer of the product.

Many years ago, as a young mom, I encountered a parenting handbook that had not been edited by a sensitivity editor. The medical expert was biased against me. The author’s words perpetuated the myth that infertility was a cosmic sign and that chronic childhood illness, particularly asthma, should be largely blamed on the parent, especially if the mom was a working mother.  Luckily, I was not hurt by that book’s lack of sensitivity editing; in fact, I believe I was protected by the lack of it.  The author’s own uncensored words made it easy for me to discern that he was not good enough to offer advice to me about my baby.  I threw that book away and found a better author.

Today, when I am asked: “sensitivity editor or not?”; I like to say: “That’s up to you.”   I remain on the fence. I don’t like censorship…but, I don’t like dumb stereotypes either—especially hurtful stereotypes about young moms, children with chronic illness, people of color, single parents, older adults, immigrants, communities of faith, families living in rural areas, or the inner cities, or the suburbs. When it comes to sensitivity, there are as many stereotypes as there are people.  The real world is not very sensitive.  As a reader and as a PR professional, I like to know exactly who wrote the words I am reading…and if you had to use a sensitivity editor, I would likely wonder why.

H. O. Charles | A Slice of Orange

H.O. Charles

Cover designer and author of the fantasy series, The Fireblade Array


 

I think there are two types of offensive content in this context. One is where the author knowingly intends to shock or set a certain tone by using language that some/many will consider offensive. The second is unknowing offence, where the author – either through ignorance or accident – employs language/story lines that are unintentionally patronising to, or dismissive of, one group of people.

The sensitivity readers in that article seem to be dealing exclusively with the second type, and my initial response is: Great! An editor like that will help the writer produce a contemporary novel that speaks from the social outlook we should be aiming for today (even if we write historical fiction). On the other hand, this sounds like research the author should have already done themselves. If the author is writing about a specific group of people who use language in a manner that is different from their own, then surely that writer should have researched such a group thoroughly already? Perhaps employing a sensitivity reader instead of doing one’s own research is easier now we have the interwebs, and it involves less travelling, so there’s that(!).

 

But the downside is that the writer will be relying upon the opinion and outlook of **one** reader. I do not believe I represent ALL northerners (in the UK, that is), and while I may be worried about stereotypes of people from Yorkshire having low educational attainment, the next Yorkshire person might think it is even worse to be conflated with a Lancastrian! And then there are the Scots, who are technically northerners in the UK too, and could feel the term’s applicability to Yorkshire/Lancashire reflects the Englishman’s arrogant tendency to forget they exist…

 

Another thing worth considering is that the nature of offence changes over time, and in spite of our best attempts, no single book will ever be truly inoffensive to everyone. What we write innocently today may be judged differently tomorrow (let’s imagine, for example, that meat-eating or using gendered pronouns becomes abhorrent to future generations – how would that alter the way you write your characters?!). That’s not to say we should abandon conveying our own sense of morality in our novels, or rejoice in our own ignorance, or that we should aim for anything other than the best book we can write, just that we should be aware that pleasing everyone for all the years to come is impossible.

What do you think of Sensitivity Editors? Scroll down to the comment section and tell us what you think.

If you would like to know more about Sensitivity Editors, here are a few links:

Writer Unboxed

WRITING IN THE MARGINS

Publishers Weekly

Do you have a question or topic for The Extra Squeeze Team? Use this LINK to send us your ideas.

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Writing The Dreaded Book Blurb by Jenny Jensen

February 19, 2020 by in category On writing . . . by Jenny Jensen tagged as , , ,

From Our Archives

The Dreaded Book Blurb | Jenny Jensen | A Slice of Orange

Cartoons by John Atkinson, www.wronghands1.com

 

Writing The Dreaded Book Blurb

 

Every author faces this last crucial challenge. You’ve already spent untold hours researching, writing and editing your book. Your title hits just the right poetic note. You’ve gone several tense rounds to find the perfect cover. All that remains is the book blurb, the opening salvo in the promotional war.  This is the first (and sometimes only) chance to grab a reader and compel them to buy the book. And so, like click bait, you need to lure your reader with an honest but irresistible snap shot.

 

It’s an art, this writing of a synopsis that isn’t a synopsis, this sell copy that isn’t an ad. And for something that isn’t a science there are strict rules: you have to be honest – no misleading the reader. No spoilers or why bother to read it – which can be tough since the spoiler is often the most exciting part of the story.  Keep it at 200 words or less and don’t make it one run-on paragraph. Use the proper keywords for your genre. Reveal something about the antagonist – readers like to know if they can root for the hero. This isn’t the place to relate the entire plot but you have to provide the zeitgeist, the feel of the tale. No easy task.

 

A lot of the writers I work with find this daunting and ask for help, which I am happy to provide. I think it’s difficult for the writer to step far enough away from their work to pick out the enticing, salient points and present them with the tension and intrigue that make for a successful blurb. To the author, all story points are important. I get that, but as an avid reader I know what works for me in a blurb. It’s not how much is said, but how compellingly it’s said.

 

I start with a deconstruction approach. It’s possible to distill any story down to bare bones. In his book Hit Lit – Cracking the Code of the Twentieth Century’s Biggest Bestsellers James W. Hall provided the most distilled example I’ve ever seen. This is a beloved tale that we all know intimately: “A young girl wakes in a surreal landscape and murders the first woman she sees. She teams with three strangers and does it again.”  It’s short, accurate and intriguing but would it sell the book?

 

I wouldn’t distill it down that far but it makes a great beginning. What if we knew something about the young girl – an orphan, a princess, a refugee? And what about the surreal landscape – gaping desert, oozing swamp, forbidding mountains? Then the three strangers – female, male, older, menacing, kindly?  Is all this murdering spurred by necessity, thrills, defense, the three strangers or is it unintended manslaughter? And finally, what is the young girl up to – revenge, enlightenment, finding a way out of the surreal landscape? Flesh out those points, add some genre keywords, reference any kudos and you could turn those original 24 spartan words into a 160 – 200 word blurb that would peak curiosity and entice the shopper to buy.

 

If you can step away from the totality of your story and deconstruct the plot to the primary elements, then present those elements in a provocative way you can create an effective selling tool with your book blurb. BTW, that book Hall described? The Wizard of Oz.

Jenny

 

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The Opening Image

February 17, 2020 by in category Infused with Meaning by Kidd Wadsworth tagged as , , , ,

Emotionally Connecting with Your Readers

Kidd Wadsworth

I have three go to books on my writing shelf: Story Genius by Lisa Cron featured in my first blog post, Your First 1000 Copies by Tim Grahl and Save The Cat! Writes a Novel: The Last Book on Novel Writing You’ll Ever Need by Jessica Brody. Yes, I’ve got other writing books, hundreds, but these three are the superheroes, the Avengers, of writing books.


Save The Cat! is about pacing. An expectation, of what will happen when, has been created in readers by television and movies: the sidekick should be introduced in the first quarter of the novel; at the midpoint someone will die; etc. Yes, you can break these rules, if you’re good, very good, but if you follow them, your novel will tend to be more readily accepted by agents and readers alike. The Save the Cat! formula begins with a single scene, an opening image, which should establish an emotional connection between the reader and your protagonist. Below is the opening image to my novel The Dream Seer. Your comments are earnestly solicited. If I don’t get this right, I’ll lose the reader on the first page.


*


I woke with a Cottonmouth hissing and coiling in my gut. The California sun shone all bright through my window—right into my eyes. Outside, in a tree, a little yellow bird decided to serenade me, chirping out happiness. I pulled the covers over my head.


Dad hadn’t called, not for three days. He always called. We had a standing breakfast Skype appointment. Grandfather would even set place for Dad at the table. If he fixed banana pancakes—Dad’s favorite—he’d make an extra stack and sit them right in front of the computer screen where Dad could see them, just to let Dad know that we were thinking about him.


Dad would look oh-so-longingly at those pancakes and say, “Thanks.”


Grandfather said Dad’s mission had probably gone long or the base was on a communications blackout. Guess that had to be it. I mean, everyone knows that its practically impossible to kill a Navy SEAL. SEALs are the most highly trained soldiers in the whole world.


Big feet moseyed down the hallway and into my room. Grandfather gave my hammock a swing. “Time to get up, sailor.”


Underneath the blanket my hands curled into fists.


“Hmmm…, Grandfather said. “I see.”


I didn’t know what he was seeing, but a lump of covers.


“Would you like to talk?” he asked.


“About what?”


“I’m here for you, son.”


“Don’t you need to be fixing breakfast?”


Through the covers he kissed my forehead. Then his footsteps headed for the kitchen. Soon enough came the sound of whistling and a spoon hitting the side of a mixing bowl.


Ding. Must have been heating syrup in the microwave.


I reckoned it was no use. I had to get up, and I had to go to school. That’s what it’s like when all the men in your family are in the Navy. You grow up knowing you’ve got to follow orders, even if nothing about the world makes you want to be living in it.


*


Tell me, do you want to read more?

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