Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award

I’ve been wondering why so far this blog has been almost solely focused on reading, with no posts on writing (something that also interests and binds together both Alisons). In the midst of these thoughts I saw that the time has come for submissions to the elusive Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Elusive, not only because of the incredible prizes, but also because aspiring novelists have less than a week to submit their manuscripts. The start date began yesterday, and you can submit your finished manuscript here until February 5th or until they’ve received 5,000 novels, whichever comes first.

Maybe, I have been living under a rock, because even though this is the award’s fifth year, I didn’t learn about it until last year. At the time, I thought I’d have a finished manuscript by this year … In fact, last night when I saw it was that time again, part of me just wanted to submit what I have, as is. It doesn’t cost any money, so what would the risk be? Then I remembered that I changed the father to an uncle, along with many of the main characters’ names at various points in the word document. Another dream deferred.

But if you are in the position of being an unpublished or self published first time novelist with a finished novel you don’t know what to do with, this might be a great opportunity.  There are two categories, Fiction and Young Adult, and various rounds of elimination. I thought I’d try and explain these rounds here but instead will direct you to this link (which explains the whole thing better than I could).The winners of each category not will receive a publishing contract from Penguin, a $15,000 advance, and publicity from Amazon and other contest sponsors, Penguin, CreateSpace, and Publisher’s Weekly).  There are some downsides, so make sure you read the fine print before you commit to anything. For example, the rules state: Manuscripts submitted as entries to the Contest cannot be actively shopped by agents during the contest period, which runs from January 23, 2012 to June 16, 2012.

That can is a long time to wait to start soliciting agents. It probably depends on your schedule and how much time you’ll have in the next 6 months to researching representation and writing query letters.

I wouldn’t suggest hurrying to finish what you’ve been working on, or, god forbid, starting something new in order to submit it by Feb 5. I thought I’d share this opportunity in case anyone was out there with a finished, polished, but unpublished novel on their hands. I am incredibly jealous, but more power to you. Hurry up and submit before the competition fills up, and let me in on the secret to your success!

Authors as Celebrities.

When J.K. Rowling was on the Oprah show last fall (a perfect union of my two most important emotional education sources) she talked about how crazy her celebrity was, and how surprising it had been. I’m paraphrasing, but she said something like that even in her wildest dreams of literary success she couldn’t have imagined people wanting to see pictures of her in her bikini. Authors are important; they are beloved. But many think they shouldn’t be treated with celebrity. They make their living on their words, not their faces.

Even though it might not be the “cool” or “intellectual” opinion, I am kind of okay with this. I want to see pictures of J.K. Rowling on the beach, and know where she went on vacation …and what she ate for breakfast. I think knowing about Stephanie Meyer’s crazy religious views or reading about Alice Munro’s scandalous first marriage adds to my enjoying their books. I would sacrifice most of my possessions for a detailed and real look inside the marriage of Jonathan Safran Foer and Nicole Krauss.

While, the Internet and blockbuster best sellers, might have heightened this celebrity status, historically readers’ interest in the personal life of their favorite authors is nothing new. London loved to gossip about Mary Anne Evans (George Eliot’s) scandalous relationship with the married George Lewes. In fact, English majors everywhere are still sharing rumors about that one.

Anyways, my newest author-celebrity crush came out of a two=part appearance on the Colbert Report. If you don’t know what I’m talking about watch the video below…and prepare to be fascinated.  And if you have any juicy scandals about the “Where the Wild Things Are” author, please send them my way.

Maurice Sendak on Colbert Report 

Links for a Lazy Sunday

And what a lazy Sunday it has been. Seriously, so lazy that I’ve already taken a bubble bath, and watched 2 hours of bad television without opening my computer to put all these links together. Although, I shouldn’t admit it, I am still not a winner at the internet so most of these links are from Alee and my sister, but, if anything, that makes them more informative, interesting, and inspiring than most of what I came up with. Enjoy!

 If you are not feeling so lazy and are looking for a cozy project to do on a cold winter day look no further than this free snowy day hat pattern from see kate sew or finally make that secret hollow book you’ve always desired.

Some, less strenuous but equally interesting things that we’ve found in the last few weeks for you to check out:

  •  Beautiful Poem by Maya Angelou that makes me more determined to write.
  •  Maybe the most important dictionary you will ever read.
  •  A  new tumblr mixing two of my obsessions Beyonce and Downtown Abbey
  • My new favorite font
I wrote a fews days ago giving some limited information on SOPA and PIPA. Alison L. put together some more links. Educate yourself and take action.
  • A video that explains PIPA
  • A site that gives information about PIPA, lets you contact congress
  • Another site that helps you find the numbers of your local representatives so you can contact them about SOPA/PIPA
  • An infographic explaining SOPA

Who knew the Internet belonged to a Union?

More Americans approve of Communism, polygamy, and pornography than approve of Congress, which hit an all time low in polls this fall with on 9% approval. You’d think this makes Congress’s recent attack on the Internet (which I’m guessing has almost 100% approval) seem like a pretty risky battle for them to undertake. I don’t really understand the Internet, although I do know it’s not a system of tubes, and although I’ve been trying to read up on this issue (when tumblr, wikipedia, and wordpress ask me to do something, how can I not take notice?) I don’t really understand SOPA or PIPA. Congress has proven this week, that it understands both even less – both in terms of how these things work and what they mean in terms of public opinion. It seems remarkably out of touch, even for Congress.  I don’t want to make generalizations that I can’t back up, but it seems to me that by generation and affiliation (liberal, blogger, internet user) I basically know what side I’m on. Still, I will definitely be reading more this weekend, which you can do as well by clicking on the sources of information below.

I’m sure there are more out there. Post things you think I should read in the comments section if you like.

Divergent: Just Another Dystopian Novel?

I didn’t know much about Divergent when I started reading it, except that it had the GoodReads Favorite Book of 2011 by over a thousand votes. In the beginning, it felt so similar to Hunger Games; I thought it would be a sub-par dystopian novel.  Despite this early indifference, and in part aided by I read this last month in my bus days, I ended up reading this novel in about 36 hours.  So, I guess that is basically a recommendation in itself.

Some background on the novel (no spoilers!) Beatrice, later renamed Tris, lives in a future world where society is split into five factions. Each faction is defined by assigned jobs within the community and common personality traits. Loyalty and identity are tied to these categories, more than race, gender, even familial background.  Tris’ world values the ability to conform completely to your group above anything else. The majority of the book is comprised of Tris choosing which faction to join, and then the consequences of her choice.  At 16, she must choose more than her career track, she must choose her personality. It makes the college application process look like a breeze.

I’m not sure exactly what changed throughout the book that compelled me to keep reading. There is a coldness to all the characters, especially Tris, that made it hard for me to connect with her, but became more intriguing as more horrible things happened to her. It was a huge character flaw that instead of being her downfall is her salvation. The book is gruesome, in a way I wouldn’t have been able to take when this would have been an age appropriate book. It makes me wonder, as I think many of the out-of-touch have, why are these dark dystopian novels so popular?

The book definitely holds its own in an overpopulated and increasingly clichéd genre. It’s failure within the genre, and perhaps the key to its teen success, is that instead of accurately critiquing society as a whole, it seems more like a comment on the cliquishness of high school. The “training” to join a faction, has more to do with hazing than acquiring necessary skills or information.

The pacing, and sense of urgency, was also spot on. That, combined with the oh-so-sexy yet broody Four, is probably what kept me up reading late, even though it was a work night. It wasn’t my favorite, but I did enjoy it. I am definitely anticipating the sequel.

For further reading and reviews check out:

I Need Some Motivation…

The new year and last Sunday’s links post have me thinking about what motivates people, more specifically what motivates me. Why do people make New Years resolutions as opposed to, as one of my favorite people to Facebook stalk pointed out, not make March resolutions? What is it about the power of January 1 that makes people think they will accomplish things they’ve failed do throughout 2011, or even throughout their whole lives?

I always make New Years resolutions. And I almost always keep them. This isn’t because of my superior willpower. Instead, I attribute it to my ability to choose either very doable, common sense resolutions or a resolution so vague you have to try not to keep it. To give you an idea of where I’m going… 2005 = answering my cell more. 2009 = drink more water. 2011 = floss and never look back.

When I get specific and think about what I really want to accomplish, whether it be in a year, a month or a weekend, I tend to over promise. Basically I make a list so long that I set myself up for failure.  I will write a novel, get a job, and learn to play the guitar this January, then in February… Then I don’t accomplish any of these things and feel like a total jerk.

This is part of the reason I have a really hard time with setting specific goals when it comes to reading or writing. I abysmally failed my goodreads challenge last year and have extended my “deadline” for finishing the first draft of my current writing project too many times to remember. I think originally it would be finished sometime in 2009 (I didn’t actually start typing words until October 2010).

So if tough love and deadlines don’t work, what does? If I knew, I certainly be charging you all for that information.  When I wasn’t working last fall, I thought I stumbled onto this secret of all writing/weight loss goals. I only allowed myself to eat calories that corresponded to the number of words I’d written so far that day. I had to write 300 words before I could eat my cheerios. Did it work? Kind of, I wrote about 80 pages and lost 5 pounds. Was it crazy? Yes, but I felt much better about myself after reading about a writer who makes himself write 1,000 words before he goes to the bathroom every morning. Talk about motivation.

If anyone else has a good method or funny story about how to stay motivated let me know. Preferably one that doesn’t lead to you almost fainting in your Jazzercise class.