Blog Hop: Una McDonnell–The Whole Yummy-Messy Smash

Thanks to the lovely Tess Fragoulis for including in me in the Blog Hop, and letting me hop right onto her blog to do it!

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Una McDonnell

What am I working on?

I’m working on a book of short stories I started during an MFA in Creative Writing with the amazing Zsuszi Gartner, who taught me how to unleash my own voice as a short fiction writer. I don’t know whose style I was trying to write before, but it was some safe, bland compilation of a “literary” voice. For the first class, I’d written this truly horrible last line in a story, involving one tenacious leaf hanging from a winter branch. Zsuszi and the gang—we later named ourselves “The Tenacious Leaves”— facilitated that breakthrough moment in which I could finally see how I was getting in my own way as a writer. Once I kicked the nasty self-imposed critic, with all her “shoulds,” off my shoulder, the writing and my enjoyment of it opened up. That’s the book I’m working on now, The Hard Problem of Consciousness.

In the title story, I was interested in that particular problem of consciousness in which there is no logical reason why we should have experience, or a rich inner life, as part of the meat-machine processes of mind. How then do we share our experience? Or as Betty Goodwin asks in one her preliminary sketches, “How long does it take one voice to reach another?” I like playing with that in story—how little of what we mean gets across once its been through the filter of our personality and the listener’s own psychological makeup. The extraordinary capacity of language and its failures. I find I’m always drawn to books and movies with interweaving story lines and characters. I have a triptych in the book that takes place on one night in a small village (very like the one I live in) with three characters in the middle of various crises that draw direct and indirect connections between them.

I also have a mostly-completed book of poems and half a novel and a small business. Starting a business is like pushing a huge boulder off a mountain peak, then getting in front and running. The boulder is slowing down and my legs are way stronger than when I started. So, right now, the stories. I’m learning to focus.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

This is the sort of question I wouldn’t have the first clue how to answer. It’s hard to see my own work objectively. One thing I’ve decided about other people’s art—to dispel that feeling that I’d have to take survey courses covering the whole of human history in every discipline to properly “understand” it—is that if a work engages me on numerous levels, then it’s working for me. A Betty Goodwin mixed media piece challenges me intellectually and visually, cracks me open and gives me goosebumps. That method of engagement with art has a corollary for my own work: that the best I can do is develop my craft and strive to be authentic. The writing I most admire has spiritual grit, and by that I mean, it’s earnest in the best sense of the word, but has its feet on the ground too. It feels elemental, like a brilliant new idea, yet one that resonates in my most hidden self, and I wish I’d written it. I try to write the work that in a parallel universe, I would wish I’d written.

Why do I write what I do?

It’s nice to be asked to talk about writing, and I enjoy reading factual articles and memoirs, but so far, the only kind of writing I love to do is fictional. In fact, I wither under the mental organization of other kinds of writing and of life tasks in general. The regular world, with its exigencies and details makes me tired. I can feel a nap coming on right now…

I write fiction and poetry because those forms engender more epiphanic moments than anything else I could do. So, yup, I chase that feeling. Everyone has had those seconds in the morning mirror, when, for some reason, time slows, and you can see yourself, really see yourself, briefly, from a slightly different angle, as though a veil has dropped, and you think, “My God, that’s me, I am Me.” You are both more familiar and more a stranger to yourself in those moments. Or as one of my characters, an adolescent girl named Tanya, says, (cause, lets face it, my characters know much more than I do), you get pulled “into the big old world and every living thing we share it with, all the animals and trees, rivers and caves, stars in the sky, and everyone, the whole implausible, irreconcilable, yummy-messy smash.”

The specifics come based on whatever gets lodged in my mind or body and haunts me until I let it out.

How does my writing process work?

Before a first draft, I spend a lot of time working when I’m not working. I need to fill my life with the right things in order to write well—time in the world of nature, time to read, and some good old-fashioned loafing about on the couch and staring at the ceiling with a song like Springsteen’s The River on a repeat loop, à la my sixteen-year-old self. Caffeine helps. Sometimes wine. Long drives are good. So is sleeping on it. Once I can feel the story, feel the emotion of the idea, character, or question that’s asking to be written, then I can face the blank screen.

When it gets down to writing the story, I have to say, I have a pretty unstructured mind, so sometimes laying down a structure frees me up to delve into character and ideas. I want the content and the form of the story to work together and I really enjoy playing with that. Revision is my favourite part of writing, where I really develop the characters, the line by line craft, etc. The best I can hope for in a first draft is that I get the voice on the page. Most of it gets cut later, and everything else is re-writing. If my writing process were a poem, it would be Steven Heighton’s Ballad of the Slow Road.

I’m most productive at writer’s residencies, where I can be locked away in my room with a view, but know that there are great people working near-by, stimulating conversation and a cuppa tea or a pint waiting when I’m ready to leave my bubble. So right now I’m renting a studio with the writer Lesley Buxton in the Farrellton Artist Space in an old, country school housing 20 other artists. It hasn’t produced as much beer-drinking as I’d like, but I’m getting work done.

I’m passing the rabbit’s foot over to playwright, poet, short-story writer, and fibre artist, S.Lesley Buxton, who is currently writing a Memoir through Dalhousie’s King’s College based on her beautiful and heart-breaking blog Fall On Me, Dear. And to poet, Dilys Leman, (who will also post on Lesley’s blog) great-great-granddaughter of Dr. Augustus Jukes, senior surgeon of the North-West Mounted Police during the 1885 Rebellion. Dilys’ new book, The Winter Court (McGill-Queens University Press), challenges the official story about the roll of First Nations in that rebellion through a mix of original poems and reconstituted archival texts.

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Una McDonnell has performed at literary readings and music festivals, on top of café tables (to get a gig), and on one occasion in a boxing ring (she won her round). She attended the 2002 Banff Wired Writing Studio and the 2003 Sage Hill Poetry Colloquium and has a Masters of Fine Arts from UBC. She has published work in Arc, Prairie Fire, Written in the Skin: A Poetic Response to Aids, and Musings: An Anthology of Greek-Canadian Literature.

So You Want to Win a Literary Contest: 10 Tips on Getting Out of the Slushpile

Ah, the promise of the literary contest: the fame, the accolades, the love, and the cash. The rewards are enough to bring every closet scribbler into the light.

But it’s not that simple. Though everyone may indeed have a story worth telling, not everyone knows how to tell it well.

I recently agreed to be one of several readers for a literary fiction contest. As someone who not only writes fiction, but teaches creative writing and literature, you could say that I have a lot of experience reading, which comes in handy when you receive hundreds submissions, from which you must chose the best 5 with only a few weeks to deliberate.

This process of separating the wheat from the chaff is what I assume agents, editors at literary journals or at publishing houses, and selection committees at creative writing programs the world over spend much of their working life engaging in. The latter, of course, are just looking for potential, the diamond in the rough, whereas everyone else is really just after the diamonds.

So what advice might I give contest hopefuls who, most often, are paying to have their work considered among hundreds or thousands of other hopefuls?

  1. Have a great title, something intriguing, suggestive, rather than a cliche or someone’s name. Work as hard on the title as everything else, and try not to include it in your first or last line. A good title gets your story more favourable attention right off the bat. It makes the reader curious about what will be revealed.
  2. Avoid long prologues or epigrams, and especially don’t italicize them. The former is better used in a novel, which has room for a ‘before,’ the latter is often trying to deliver the message of the story, which is the job of the story itself–and by extension the writer. And please leave the introductory poems to the poets.
  3. Make sure that your first few lines are interesting, have a hook, and get the story going right away. There’s no room or need for back-story in a short story. You need to hit the ground running. I want to already be in the weeds halfway through the first page, if not at the end of the first paragraph.
  4. For God’s sake, don’t have typos or grammatical errors in those first lines. If they come later they look like an oversight, but right at the beginning they tell me you’re not paying attention or simply don’t know better.
  5. Actually write scenes so the reader can immerse him/herself into the action. This falls under show don’t tell. I don’t want to read about the story, I want to be lost inside it.
  6. Make sure something happens! This should go without saying, but recent experience tells me that it needs to be said. On a related note, make sure something changes for your characters because of this thing that happens. When did watching someone stuck in the mud become interesting? Don’t we all have enough hopeless friends and aggravating relatives who refuse to change their minds, learn from their mistakes, or do what is obviously necessary in the face of adversity?
  7. Avoid the 1st person. This may seem harsh, but there are too many disguised autobiographies floating around out there, which is the primary cause of the lack of scenes and the dearth of important action. Third person gives you distance and forces you into a fuller storytelling. But if you do write 1st person, or 3rd for that matter, give your protagonist other characters to interact with. That will also ensure something happens.
  8. Try to make your language evocative and interesting. It will bring extra life to your story, whereas mundane or repetitive language will drain it of energy. Use regional accents/dialect sparingly. They become annoying and unreadable, and don’t really help in defining character or place–they are a short cut that doesn’t get your characters or your reader anywhere.
  9. Give your characters names. Why should anyone care about anonymous he’s and she’s? It’s the individuality of characters that make the same old stories interesting. Remember, nothing comes into existence until it is named.
  10. The last line is as important as the first. You can get away with a so-so ending in a novel, but a short story lives or dies by its ending. The standard advice is that it should be surprising yet inevitable.

Sound like too many things to consider? Then save your entrance fee. Because this is what separates those who have taken the time to consider the art and craft of writing from those who simply know how to line up sentences one after another until they, more or less, get some sort of event or series of events across. And rest assured, if you don’t consider these basics, there will be at least a few people among the hundreds of submissions who have, and chances are they will be the ones to make it out of the Slushpile and into the winners circle.

Bonus tip: Hospital stories, the decline of the aged, accounts of trips to exotic locales, and love stories are often prone to dull, informational writing and cliche. The first two are also inherently depressing, so if you want to write about any of these things, make sure you have a bigger point to make above and beyond the plot. And don’t write them in 1st person (revisit Tip 7)!

Caveat: All rules can be broken, but you need to know them first, and you need to break them so well that readers are blown away, and all they are paying attention to is your brilliance.

All except this one, of course.

Your Secret is Safe with Me–Part 2

Here is the second installment from my collection of stories In Love with the Dead. For Part 1, click here.

A woman of about 35 sent him a yellow envelope with a photograph and the requisite dollar. He stared at her image, at her flawless skin, her troubled green eyes, and her mane of auburn hair that went down to her navel. On the back of the photograph was an note in neat and rounded penmanship: I am pretty and popular, yet I am still a virgin. This took Bruce’s breath away, and though he was aware that it might seem unethical, he contacted the woman immediately and invited her to the house. His purest intention was to offer her a cup of Lady Grey, then show her the stacks of letters from other virgins—male/female, ugly/beautiful, some as old as 93.

Marjorie arrived the next day wearing a lavender dress, white gloves, and a large straw hat. Over tea and biscuits, she told him she was an only child, adopted by a couple who couldn’t keep their hands off each other. They paraded around the house naked, making love whenever and wherever the spirit moved them. They even died in the act on a cruise she was not invited on when she was 14. “Seems they climbed into a lifeboat, which spilled them into the ocean in the middle of the night. I swore I’d never be like them.” Bruce noticed that she related the story without emotion, as if she had told it many times before, but that her bottom lip quivered when she whispered, “I think it’s time to let go of my grudge. Before it’s too late.” Soon after tea, Bruce gave her back her dollar and took care of her problem.
Marjorie quit her job in the listings department of the local telephone company. She had started as a proofreader 15 years earlier, and had worked her way up to supervisor of production, with a staff of 20 beneath her. After a quick wedding at City Hall, she moved into Bruce’s house and became his assistant, taking it upon herself to organize the secrets with the same zeal she had applied to the phone book all these years. “Have you ever seen a name misspelled or a business in the wrong category?” she inquired when Bruce asked her whether she knew what she was doing.

First, she opened all the neglected envelopes as well as those that arrived on a daily basis, then divided the secrets into groups: Physical, Emotional, Spiritual, Sexual, Psychological, Criminal, Edible. At the end of each day, she put on her straw hat, and deposited the dollar bills at Bruce’s bank on Bank Street. Though Marjorie didn’t thrill in the secrets like her husband did, it satisfied her greatly to put some order to them, and as a result, to the house. It gave her the impression that the world could also be ordered, one room, one secret at a time. It was also Marjorie’s idea that the secrets be made public so that people would not feel so alone, as she had for so many years, hiding her virginity in her underwear drawer. “If we all knew each other’s secrets,” she reasoned, “we could never use them against each other.” Though Bruce had his doubts, he nodded pleasantly. Who was he to disabuse her of her naïve notions, especially since they kept her so happy and motivated?

To humor her, he made an appointment with the editor of the Daily Reporter, who wrote a profile of Bruce that was published in the weekend edition. This attracted a few internet magnates, which in turn alerted a couple of magazine and book editors, who drew in a trio of harried television producers not wanting to be left behind. Bruce invited all of them to the conference room of a medium sized-hotel on Visitor’s Lane and told them his story while they took furious notes.

“As many people as there are willing to divulge their darkest secrets, there will be that many more who will pay to hear them,” he said, fanning a dozen unopened envelopes on the table before them. The publishers cleared their throats, the TV producers scratched their double chins, and the internet magnates drummed stubby fingers on the table. They were all used to making decisions based on statistics and market research and 30 page proposals written in legalese by experts, not on the sentimental and hyperbolical claims of a man who looked like a schoolteacher. But they were dying to know the secrets contained in the innocuous envelopes spread before them. Like rabid squirrels they descended upon them, tearing them open as if they contained a million dollars instead of one. And as they passed the hand-scrawled notes amongst themselves, they laughed and they wept, felt repulsed, afraid, and finally relieved. “There is nothing more tempting, more satisfying than a secret,” Bruce told them in closing, and the businessmen nodded solemnly and shook his hand.

A thick, glossy magazine featured an interview and a photo spread of Bruce and Marjorie at home receiving the bags of mail on their front porch from a smiling postman—not Murray, who was mildly offended. Though reluctant at first, Marjorie even gave permission for her secret to be included with the article after Bruce convinced her it would set an example. Hers was a story that everyone could get behind, he said, a love story and proof that telling your secret improved your life in ways you could not even imagine. Marjorie nodded and sighed, and went into the stacks to find her secret. After the article was printed, a support group called United Virgins of the Lower West Side wrote to Marjorie, declaring her their spiritual leader. She wrote back that although she was honored, she had no time to attend their meetings as there was far too much work for her at home. In addition, as she was no longer a virgin, she was uncertain whether she had anything to contribute. She had other secrets now, but these she kept to herself.

For the most part, Marjorie was thrilled that her initiative had been met with such enthusiasm, and was even willing to give Bruce all the credit for it. But she had one concern. Despite her general trust in others (all those years as a virgin had shielded her from the most unpleasant of humankind’s neuroses), she was worried that with all the publicity, too many people now knew where they lived.

Part 3

Other People’s Secrets: The Stories I Won’t Tell

Once a week I volunteer at an active listening center, where I lend an ear to people in distress. In my eight months there I have spoken to people with Asperger’s Syndrome, with schizophrenia, with bipolar disorder, with borderline personality disorder, with depression, anxiety and paranoia. There also have been closet cross-dressers, frustrated poets, and at least one female masturbator, who kept me on the phone for 45 minutes–until she was done, I guess. Far from being depressing, I find it fascinating to talk to and listen to these people. I am a person addicted to stories, and their stories are more surprising, have more depth, pathos, strangeness and humor than most of the things I read. In other words, these people are the perfect characters, who willingly reveal themselves to me. But I am sworn to secrecy (one regular caller ends every conversation by asking me if our talk is confidential).

It is said that Dostoevsky stole the epitaph from his mother’s grave for a story. I have used incidents from my life, along with versions of the characters that have populated it for my stories and novels, and I have been called on it more than once. I have even abandoned a story more than once because it would probably get me into trouble. Dostoevsky’s mother was already dead, so he had nothing to answer for. As for the characters in my stories who recognize themselves, they are there because I am–my story couldn’t be told without them. But these anonymous callers are just passersby in my life, though I speak to a few of them at least once a week, know their first names in some cases, have heard the details of their life-altering story–the one that sent them to the hospital, that keeps them up at night, that no one else believes–more than once.

When I teach creative writing, I tell my students that every character has a secret that motivates or hinders him/her, and whether the writer reveals the secret in the story or not, he/she must always be aware of it. It is the secret that makes the character interesting, and the way it manifests that makes the story unique. My callers are dying to get their secret off their chests, to have it understood, untangled, justified, and most importantly, to not be judged for it. At the end of a good call, they will thank me profusely, bless me, tell me they love me or even adore me for the simple reason that I listened, responded, took interest, and possibly even helped them–at least in the moment. A bad phone call will end pretty much in the absolutely opposite manner, but luckily I don’t have too many of those. Unless someone is being pushy and disrespectful, I respect them enough to believe their distress, even if its cause is transparent to me. Carl Jung taught me long ago that psychological reality is that person’s reality. We all count on our brains to tell us what is real and how to react to it, and this is as true for person whose brain is not absolutely reliable.

When I teach literature, I give my students a list of hints that a character is unreliable, including explicit contradictions and other discrepancies in the narrative, contradictions between the narrator’s account of events and his/her explanations and interpretations of the same, and a high level of emotional involvement, including exclamations and repetitions. Many of my callers meet the criteria for unreliability, but that makes their stories no less fascinating. They are not stories, however, that I will be stealing for my own writerly purposes, not whole hog anyway. It would feel like I was stealing their souls. Perhaps a detail will eventually work itself into something I write, divorced from the person and his/her whole narrative. I do think the masturbator is fair game since she already used me for her own selfish purposes. But everyone else is too vulnerable, too beaten down and used by their families, their mental illness, the health system, by the world at large. Though some of their stories are heartbreaking, poignant, hilarious, I cannot become one more person who betrays them for my own benefit.

So they remain ephemeral, like the charming songs children make up while they are playing, to be felt, enjoyed in the moment, then forgotten. I do enjoy them immensely as they unfold over the line, and though I won’t forget them, I won’t repeat them either. They have nothing to do with me. They are not my stories to tell.

How do I procrastinate writing? Let me count the ways…

I’ve given myself quite a simple, straight-forward task.  Every Wednesday, write something about anything and post it almost immediately.  The theory is that this will be a freeing exercise, which will rescue me from being too anal about my writing, and from taking myself and the whole pursuit of writing too seriously.  I’ve already written a very serious novel, which took me  upwards of a decade, and let me tell you, after the first 4 years, freedom’s just another word for everything left to lose or toss off a bridge. There’s got to be fun and freedom in writing, right?  Otherwise, who in his/her right mind would keep doing it?

Nonetheless, this self-imposed directive is not as easy-peasy as I’d imagined (isn’t it always the case that life never lives up to the imagined?).  It is almost 2pm and these few words are the only ones I have managed to put down.

It’s not like I haven’t tried to convince myself to just do it. I have made several very attractive bargains with myself:

  1. Write out in the backyard in a little notebook–that way it won’t seem like work.  Excuse: It’s hot in the backyard, and transcribing is a drag, which will indeed turn the exercise into work.
  2. Write after lunch. Who can write when her stomach is grumbling?  Excuse: But who can write on a full stomach, which is sure to make me groggy, in the middle of the afternoon.
  3. Take a nap and then write.  But no napping longer than 20 minutes, or the whole bargain is off according to science.
  4. Recycle an old post from an old blog.  No one has seen those, right? But that’s not writing is it?  That’s copying and pasting. Or self-plagiarizing–a word being thrown around a lot these days, what with the Jonah Lehrer/Bob Dylan/New Yorker scandal.  My view: If I can’t plagiarize myself, who can I plagiarize? I’ve opted to eschew the self-plagiarizing for the moment, however.
  5. Write whatever comes to mind–it will be fine.  But will it, really? If you’ve read this far, you are in a better position to judge the fruits of that bargain than I.  I am a true believer of the magical first draft, and I also know that it is a rarity which comes from writing continuously, daily, passionately.  Under these circumstances–not so much.

Apart from the bargains, I found  a number of other small tasks to complete, before beginning to write, that could not wait another minute:

I wish this was a woman, but the same principle applies…

  1. I removed an old, non-functional doorbell that has not been bothering anyone for the past 4 years.  This involved a lot of thought, then a lot of traipsing from basement to first floor, to second floor to look for proper tools, back to first floor, where the job was accomplished not with the myriad of screwdrivers I’d collected in my travels, but with a hammer, a butter-knife and pliers.  I cut the old, sticking-out wires with at least 80% certainty that I wouldn’t be electrocuted. (Who can write after electrocution?) Really, that doorbell was bugging me.  Quite a feat since it makes no sound. It’s now gone to the doorbell junk-heap at the dump. R.I.P.
  2. I watched 6 minutes of Drop Dead Diva.  It’s not a highly intellectual show, but I like it because there is almost always a happy ending. There was also a part of me that felt it would be a nice accompaniment to lunch and a precursor to the nap, after which all my glorious writing juices would be flowing. As long as I did not oversleep, that is. But why only 6 minutes? Because the doorbell was calling me to take it out of its useless misery. And I probably keenly felt my own useless misery in those 6 minutes.  Watching tv in the middle of the day when I should be writing.  For shame.
  3. I checked my WordPress account, my Facebook, my Twitter to see if anyone was talking about me.  Seriously, there is no better time-waster than social media.  A few people are talking about me, by the way, which is encouraging, but besides the point to  actually sitting-on-my-butt and writing.
  4. I’ve also toyed with the idea of framing and hanging 3 very large prints in my office. I have the frames; I have the prints.  They have been sitting undisturbed by anything but dust since last Christmas, if not the one before. I really can’t remember.  I suppose they would make my office a more colorful and inspiring place, which is why I bought them.  But it’s not my office’s fault that I have nothing of import to write about, is it?

If I had to do it all again (and I will, next Wednesday, if not sooner), I would get up, have a cup of tea and a bite to eat, turn off the phone, the internet, put the do not disturb sign on my door, and hunker down to write something, anything other than a piece about having nothing to write about.  There’s nothing new in that, is there?  Why should anyone care? It happens to all of us, more often than we’d like to admit. Well I’m admitting it.  So there. Sue me.

I’m off to take that nap now.

He is my nap guard, and will also wake me up after 20 minutes.

Reviews Ain’t What They Used To Be

It’s true that it had been a while since I’d published a book.  My first book came out in 1997, my second in 2001, and here I am eleven years later facing a whole new reality when it comes to my new novel, The Goodtime Girl, getting publicity.

Newspapers have cut their book sections to a mere page or two on weekends, Montreal has lost its two alternative weeklies, The Mirror and The Hour, and what reviews do appear are shared amongst various papers under the same corporate umbrella, so the variety of voices and views is very much diminished.

Social networks are supposed to fill in the gaps, give the author more control of his/her marketing, and readers more of a voice in terms of their likes and dislikes.  This is not a bad thing.  A study by Heritage Canada states that the top two reasons people buy/read a book is because a friend recommended it, or because they received it as a gift.  Reviews came in third in terms of book buying, which is probably a good thing at a time when fewer and fewer books are being formally reviewed, but more and more are appearing thanks to wild frontier of e-publishing.  Rankings and reader reviews on Amazon,Likes on Facebook pages, recommendations on Goodreads, not to mention the plethora of other sites dedicated to books, book clubs, etc. are certainly valid sources of information, and I value the time and effort any reader puts into expressing an opinion on my books. In fact, I encourage it.

But it’s a lot of work for an author to maintain a presence on all of these different sites, to remain in the virtual spotlight, to get the word out to others who will in turn get the word out, and so on, and so on…  There are experts who recommend the number of Tweets a day an author should send out, how many contacts he or she needs to make on a daily basis, how many freebies to give away in order to hopefully sell a few other copies of the book.  Granted, this freebie-to-sales ratio is probably no different than when publishing houses send out review copies in order to generate a review and subsequently sales.  So here we are again: reviews let people know your book is out there, and whether they are favorable or not, they start the ball rolling.  Even a lousy review will give at least a bit of plot summary and context for a reader to go by.

But opinions on any form of art are, to some degree, going to be subjective.  I know that when I look up restaurant reviews on Yelp or Urban Spoon, I am not sure who to believe.  The person who deemed the lobster thermidor sandwich the best on the continent or the one who swears the lobster was actually mock crab? And when I check out the reviews after I’ve visited one of these places, I see how my experience  varied wildly from some of these self-appointed food critics.  The problem is familiarity–or lack thereof.  When you get to know reviewers you can gauge your taste against theirs, you can recognize their peeves and their agendas.  If you read a Manohla Dargis review in the New York Times, you know what you’re getting, and from whom.  She is a known quantity, love her or hate her.

One might say that if you follow a certain blogger who reviews books, you also get to know his or her taste, and once again you can make an intelligent decision about whether you want to read a book. This is, no doubt, true, but those stellar reviewers can be hard to find, and if there’s one thing you can say about the more conventional (some might say old-fashioned) venues for reviews, it is that there was oversight, quality control, and consistency. Not to mention that it can be daunting for a reader to wade through the various blogs, opinions, profiles, etc.  I’m an obsessive reader, and I find it difficult.

We used to have common sources, which gave us some common ground for information, for debate.  They were not always inclusive or fair (there are still more men being reviewed by the major publications, and most of the reviewers are also men, which raises the question about the kind of information they are delivering about certain types of books by female authors, but that’s a whole other blog post for another time).  With the internet, we no longer watch the same t.v. shows, listen to the same music, read the same books–we are, in a sense, on our own, both as artists and consumers.  There is definitely more variety, but it is harder to find, and most importantly,  harder to trust.

Welcome to the Queendom of Odd

After a good amount of procrastination and general stuck-in-the-mudness, I have finally begun the process of creating a centralized, on-stop-shopping hub for all that has to to with my books, events, and writing in general.  The site is still under construction, but be sure to pop in now and again, follow me here or on twitter or through my facebook page, and remain in the loop of all the exciting and strange things to come.

Cheers!

Tess