Dragonfly Words

When should you find an agent?

July 29, 2010
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This is a question that has been plaguing me for a while – when is it appropriate for me to start looking for an agent. As a first time I author, I have been inclined to wait until the book is complete. After all, if I’m not even sure I can finish it (though I’ve been working a lot harder as of late), how is an agent supposed to know if I’m a waste of time or a sure thing? Not only would the agent be gambling on my ability to craft a good story that people want to read, but they would have to throw into the mix my discipline and whether I could even produce a final product.

But I’ve gotten mixed reviews. I’ve been told that so long as I have three good chapters, I should be good to go, or that I shouldn’t waste my time writing unless I get positive feedback on a query. The following article, Book Writing and Publishing FAQ – Do I Need to Write My Book Before I Try to Get an Agent or Publisher?, made me feel a lot less conflicted. Turns out my initial instinct is the way to go, or at least according to the author of the article. At least that removes the pressure of finding an agent right now and instead allows me to continue focusing on finishing the darn book.

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Do e-books signal the end for Independent booksellers?

July 29, 2010
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One of the biggest losses to the book community is that of small, independent bookstores. I love them so much that one of my dreams has always been to open an independent bookstore of my own. While the fancy coffee drinks and perfectly placed chairs at the large chains contribute to the book shopping experience in their own way, there is a generic feel to them that takes away from the experience. Give me a ratty chair, shelves crammed with books, and good cup of coffee or tea and I would be far happier, even if I am paying a bit more for my books.

The following article from Boston Business Journal, Independent bookseller at ‘War and Peace’ with e-books, questions whether e-books are further exasperating the problem of the loss of the independent bookseller. The conclusion suggests that the average customer of the independent bookseller is not the average customer of e-books. Do you think this is actually the case?

I still love a real book, but frankly I don’t have the space to buy any more unless I find them to be extremely readworthy. The younger generations are growing up storing all of their data electronically.Why waste the space storing CDs, DVDs, or books when there are devices that can hold it all and them some and barely take up any space? I bet if we could store our clothing inside an eletronic device and have it projected onto our bodies, most of the younger generations would buy into it in a heartbeat.

This is not to say that I think e-books will wipe out real books. There will always be those who love real books, myself included. Perhaps, though, the e-books will work in favor of the independent booksellers by shifting the focus of the large chains towards carrying more and more e-books and less and less hard copies. Maybe e-books are actually the resurrection of the independent bookseller. Wouldn’t that be something?


Guide to Literary Agents – Some Tips for Writing a Series

July 29, 2010
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Nice article about writing a series: Guide to Literary Agents – Some Tips for Writing a Series.


News for Kids

July 28, 2010
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In my attempts to enter the minds of kids, I’ve been spending a lot of time perusing children news sources, which are surprisingly abundant. One recent find was an article in National Geographic Kids, Beelzebufo: A Giant of a Find. Talk about great inspiration. After all, what’s cooler than a frog the size of a beach ball?

In other news, a bear in New Hampshire ‘rescued’ a stuffed bear being held captive by humans. Read about it here.

Finally, a boat made out of plastic crossed the Atlantic.

You’ve gotta love the inspiration you can get from bizarre happenings in the world.


When Life gets in the Way

February 11, 2010
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Quitting one job, beginning a new one, and coming down with an awful cold have made writing pretty much non-existent for a little over a month now. Pathetic, I know, but when your schedule changes, it’s really hard to get back into the swing of things. So my new after-work plan is to come home, tidy the house, cook dinner, and then by 7:00, be in front of the computer with my manuscript open. I will then force myself to sit there until 8:00. If words flow out, great. If not, no sweat either. I will at least be imposing a schedule upon myself.

I remember when I got my first laptop and I thought “Great! I can write anywhere.” But looking back on it, I wrote a lot more often when I was forced to sit in the little closet we called a home office in the freezing basement of one of the houses I lived in growing up. I’ve thought a lot about that, wondering whether I was more creative then or just more disciplined. I think the truth of it is, the desktop created a stable environment. That was where I went to write. The invention of the laptop, while it may help some people to write more productively, is a hinderance to me. I was one of those kids in school who had to sit in the same spot everyday, otherwise I couldn’t concentrate. It makes sense, then, that I cannot focus on writing when I am sitting on the sofa or lying in bed, or even sitting in the arm-chair beside my desk.

Someday, I would love to be one of those writers that can write anytime and anywhere. But for now, I think I have to accept that that’s not realistic. The sooner I adhere to a schedule and a set writing spot, the sooner I will achieve my goal.


Overweight Characters in Children’s Books

January 6, 2010
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Is it wrong to make my overweight characters evil and mean? Is this playing into stereotypes? Is this too much of a cliché? Does this teach children to view overweight people negatively? So often with writing it becomes difficult to see past the works of those whose footsteps we walk in so that we can forge our own path. I worry that I will inadvertently play into the stereotypes created by my predecessors, and that my work will suffer as a result.

Certainly obesity is something that shouldn’t be encouraged in children, but children who are overweight, or those with body issues, may become more self-conscious about their weight if characters physically similar to them are villanized in stories. Equally, the kids who would pick on overweight children may feel their behavior is justified through the negative portrayal of overweight characters in books.

The Harry Potter series instantly jumps to mind when I think about negative portrayals of overweight people. Dudley is fat, unintelligent, and a bully. Malfoy, on the other hand, while evil, is intelligent and conniving. He is also thin.

There are many other children’s books that also portray overweight characters in a negative light. Of course, overweight characters are equally portrayed as jovial, yet simple. Rarely do you see a normal, run-of-the-mill overweight character. Rarely do you see an overweight hero (one of the refreshing things about Disney-Pixar’s UP).

But would we want to write an overweight hero? Aren’t we trying to encourage weight loss and exercise? Do we want children to associate being overweight with being dimwitted and/or mean? Or are we inadvertently excluding an increasing population or readers? According to the CDC, 17% of children in 2006 were obese. This is double the amount found in 1980. With these numbers rising, maybe we should not treat obesity in such a negative way. Certainly we can show an overweight character struggling with their weight, or facing obstacles they would not face were they more fit (again to reference UP : Russell faced obstacles brought on by his lack of fitness), but to make every overweight character less than the fit characters may not be the best message to send children.


Writing adolescents in a non-adolescent way

December 30, 2009
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I think many YA writers miss the mark when they write for the YA audience. Just because someone is a young adult, or an adolescent, it should not be assumed that they are uninterested in reading adult constructed prose. Quite the opposite


E-books: The Future of Reading

December 28, 2009
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I am no longer opposed to this new medium for book delivery. If it makes books and literature more accessible, that’s good enough for me.


Books on Writing ~ The Procrastinator’s Tool

December 26, 2009
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Books on writing – you walk into the bookstore and there sit shelves and shelves of books, all promising to make you a better writer. Sitting for hours on the floor of the bookstore, you feel like you are accomplishing something as you peruse the content of book after book. Then you decide on one or two and as you pay for them, a warm feeling washes over you. This book will be the one that works. This book will provide you with the secrets you need to succeed.

Weeks go by and you have yet to finish reading the book, or finish much of anything else. Slowly you begin to realize that this book was not the cure to your writer’s block. It did not provide you with the secret to quitting work so that you could find the time to write. It did little more than provide you with a couple weeks worth of a false sense of accomplishment.

Not all writing books, though, are created equal. For Christmas, I got a new writing book. Whereas the others were how-to writing books full of inspirational stories and writing prompts, this one is nothing more than a reference. As an aspiring children’s book writer (grades 5/6), I felt that Mogilner & Mogilner’s Children’s Writer’s Word Book, 2e would be different than the other books. This book does not claim to provide some secret to success. Rather, it is a thesarus set up to help writers choose appropriate words for young audiences. Writing for adults, any word that naturally comes to my mind should be at the appropriate reading level. Writing for children, though, its hard to say. Looking back on my childhood, I like to think that I knew all the words then that I know now. But deep down, I know that this is not the case.

This book also provides information about what subjects children learn in school at various ages. I must say I was extremely relieved to see that environmentalism (the underlying theme of my novel), was cited not only as one of the big topics from 5th grade on, but also as a topic that will continue to be published for years to come.

In addition to this book, I have also found Karen Weisner’s First Draft in 30 Days to be equally useful. While I have always resisted outlining, her outlining techniques have really helped me to work out some tricky plot points, such as how to end my novel and who the protagonist will be. I was also able to work in some really good subplots. Now all I have to do is sit down and turn those outlines into stellar prose!

Books on writing may be the procrastinator’s best friend, but there are a few gems out there that can really aid one’s writing.


The year of the Novel

December 23, 2009
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As it turns out, I do have something to write about, because this year, or 2010, which is almost this year, is the year that I will finally finish my novel.


Posted in On Writing
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