Was Santa Nice to Your Muse?

December 30, 2009 at 1:44 pm | Posted in Gadgets and Good Stuff | 21 Comments
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By now, you’ve unwrapped all your Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa gifts, played with all the cool stuff, and braved the Russian-bread-line return areas in your local mall to get store credit for those gifts that missed the mark. So, let’s take stock of the leftover booty (not to be confused with the ever-expanding booty from eating holiday dinner leftovers).

Did your family and friends stick to your meticulously prepared wish list? Did you receive a stack of gift cards, so you can choose your own gifts? Or did they shop from the heart and buy you a light-up globe/music box/ decorative plate combo thingy covered with airbrush-painted ceramic and glass dolphins because you once mentioned you like dolphins?

For Christmas ’07, my Danish Prince (aka, Santa) gave me a MacBook Pro (my favorite writing-related Christmas gift, ever) which I dearly love—both the prince and the laptop. I just have to say, if you’re in the market for a new computer in 2010, or want to put it on your wish list for next Christmas, I highly recommend an iMac and/or MacBook Pro. They are definitely worth the investment.

This year, my Wonderboy (aka, The Elf) gave me a gift certificate to Brighton. And he checked off a practical item on my wish list: a backup battery for my MacBook Pro—for those extra long hours I’ll be sitting in the sand on Hollywood Beach while I compose my next great American novelty. And, to help remind me to actually move during the day (so my computer-chair-shaped ass is bikini worthy), The Elf also gifted me with a BodyBugg digital display—another practical, wish list item. It’s a great motivation tool to be able to see how many calories you’ve burned (or not) during the day.

Hubby calls me Gadget Girl, and I have to admit, I do love my tech toys, but I took two of the hottest Christmas must-haves OFF the list he made for me for this year: the iPhone and the Kindle DX. I’m at home on the computer too much for the iPhone to be useful. And I want to wait to see who comes up with the best eReader. Call me skeptical, but I’m not an early adopter who got stuck with Beta instead of VHS. So, Santa, knowing me like he does, gifted me with a Nikon Coolpix s70. Now, I can capture great pictures at events, book fairs and signings, writing conferences, etc., without lugging a chunky camera around like a Disneyland tourist. And, as a bonus, it’ll be easier to take spontaneous snaps when I’m around the house.

My gifts this year weren’t as “writerly” as they have been in previous years, but I did receive a pretty Vera Bradley pen and pencil set from one sister-in-law. My other sister-in-law gave me a gorgeous pair of Brighton silver earrings—not at all writerly, but what girly-girl doesn’t love jewelry?!

And, as a special gift for my muse, I bought a book to tickle her creative fancy: Taking Flight: Inspiration and Techniques To Give Your Creative Spirit Wings. I’ve always wanted to try mixed media and collage art, so I thought I’d indulge my latent artistic desires. Yes, this is my new “Hey, what’s that shiny thing over there?!” writing distraction.

But even more than being a gadget girl, I’m a bibliophile and information junkie, so I’m eagerly awaiting my best gift of all: the Writer’s Digest $50 gift certificate from my honorable mention in the life stories category of WD‘s 2009 Self-Published Book Awards. The notification email said it would be sent out “toward the end of the year”—so, hey, that’s tomorrow, right Jessica?

I’ve already chosen the books I want:
The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters by Karl Iglesias (Because who doesn’t like reading tips from multimillion-dollar writers?)
On Writing Horror by Mort Castle (Because everyone has that one coronary-scary story they want to tell)
On Writing Romance by Leigh Michaels (Because it’s the best genre for writing fog-your-eyeballs sex scenes, and combined with the horror-writing techniques, I can write about my dating experiences)
Bullies, Bastards, & Bitches: How to Write the Bad Guys of Fiction by Jessica Morrell (Because I think I exhausted all the personality traits of my exes and exBFFs in my book The Break-Up Diet:A Memoir)

Maybe it’s a Gemini curse, but there are far too many interesting things to learn and try and pursue and experience and do. I guess it’s good I have another 40+ years to try it all!

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Ok, dear readers, it’s time for you to join the show and tell. What are your favorite writing-related, practical or muse-inspiring gifts? Share the details of gifts you’ve received and/or gifts you gave to yourself (or your favorite writer).

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SPECIAL GUEST: AUTHOR GEORGE SINGLETON

March 8, 2009 at 11:46 pm | Posted in Special Guests | 23 Comments
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I’d like to welcome Writer’s Digest Book’s author George Singleton to Annette’s Paper Trail. George is new to the blogosphere, but brave enough to jump in with both feet! He is just gaining momentum on the blog tour for his latest book. Today, George offers his sage advice about staying current with literary trends.

peptalksIn Pep Talks, Warnings & Screeds: Indispensable Wisdom and Cautionary Advice for Writers, acclaimed Southern story writer and novelist George Singleton serves up everything you ever need to know to become a real writer (meaning one who actually writes), in bite-sized aphorisms. It’s Nietzsche’s Beyond Good & Evil meets Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. It’s cough syrup that tastes like chocolate cake. In other words, don’t expect to get better unless you get a good dose of it, maybe two.

Accompanied by more than fifty original full-color illustrations by novelist Daniel Wallace, these laugh-out-loud funny, candid, and surprisingly useful lessons will help you find your own writerly balance so you can continue to move forward.

Read Contemporary, Literary Work If You Plan to Publish Contemporary, Literary Work

By George Singleton

I teach at a school wherein prospective students must send in a portfolio of ten or so pages of their own work, either poetry or fiction. They write an essay, also. Their high school counselors send in transcripts and letters of recommendation. Then, the students show up in February or March for an interview, plus a workshop where they’re given prompts, just to make sure that, indeed, they didn’t pay off someone to write a portfolio, et cetera.

In the interview, my chairperson Scott Gould and I always start with the same question: “Tell us what you’ve been reading.”

There are three camps, at least. There are the students who say, “I love that woman who wrote the Twilight series, and I love Stephen King, and I love Anne Rice.”

“Do you read any contemporary poetry?” we’ll ask. I don’t know why.

“Edgar Allen Poe!” will be the answer.

It’s not like we weren’t warned earlier, what with the vampires, zombies, cutters, slashers, unpronounceable character names, lack of rising action, ghosts, et cetera.

The members of the second group say things like, “I love Shakespeare. I love everything there is by Shakespeare. Shakespeare, Cotton Mather, Hawthorne, the Brontës,” and so on. They’ll name off every writer they’ve had to read in a regular high school English class.

“What about poets?”

What else: “Emily Dickinson!”

And then there are the students—who normally have high grade point averages—who say, “Raymond Carver, Alice Munro, Tobias Wolff, Jill McCorkle, William Gay, Tom Franklin, Dale Ray Phillips, Wendy Brenner, Best American Shorts Stories, New Stories from the South, Flannery O’Connor, John Cheever, Thomas Pynchon, Madison Smartt Bell, Michael Parker, Jennifer Egan, Barry Hannah, Clyde Edgerton, David Foster Wallace, Jonathan Franzen, Stevie Almond, Cary Holladay, Moira Crone…”

We’ve not gone wrong with these students yet. Now, it’s important to know the writers of the canon—especially if you plan on being a contestant on Jeopardy!—but if one wishes to be published at the beginning of the twenty-first century, it might be helpful to know what kind of writing is being published in magazines, journals, and by the publishing houses.

Scott likes to say, “If you go get knee surgery, do you want a doctor who pores over medical journals from a hundred years ago, or one who keeps up with the latest medical technology and procedures?” There’s no better way to say it. If you wish to be published these days, shouldn’t you know trends, countertrends, audience needs, and the like? The only way I know how to fully get a grip on these things is to subscribe to a literary magazine or ten, plus the slicks, plus keep up with something like the New York Times Book Review.

Now, I understand that people are going to say to me, “Hey, that Twilight woman and Anne Rice and Nicholas Sparks make a whole lot more money than literary writers.”

My answer to that is always, “In America, we buy and consume a lot more bologna than we do filet mignon, but that doesn’t mean it’s better for us.”

***

Readers: Where do you weigh in? Mainstream or literary fiction? Would you rather leave your signature in tomes of timeless literature? Or have a million dollars worth of bologna in the bank?

***

george-singleton-lgGeorge Singleton is the author of four collections of shorts stories and two novels: These People Are Us (2001), The Half-Mammals of Dixie (2002), Why Dogs Chase Cars (2004), Novel (2005), Drowning in Gruel (2006), and Work Shirts for Madmen (2007). He has published one book of advice: Pep Talks, Warnings, and Screeds (2008). His stories have appeared in magazines such at The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, Playboy, Book, Zoetrope, Glimmer Train, Georgia Review, Shenandoah, Southern Review, Ninth Letter, and North American Review, among others. He’s had work anthologized in nine editions of New Stories from the South, plus Writers Harvest 2, A Dixie Christmas, They Write Among Us, 20 Over 40, Must Be This Tall to Ride, Love Is a Four-Letter Word, and Behind the Short Story: from First to Final Draft. His nonfiction has appeared in the Oxford American, Best Food Writing 2005, Dog Is My Co-Pilot, and Paste.

George lives in Dacusville, South Carolina with his clay-artist wife Glenda, 11 dogs, and a cat.

Visit his website at www.georgesingleton.com. And pick up a copy of Pep Talks, Warnings & Screeds today!


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