Posts Tagged ‘writing fiction’
I’ve talked about tea on this blog before. I thought this was a kid’s book blog, you might ask. Well, what do you think keeps me awake while painting said kid’s books? I’m not a huge soda guy, so black tea it is. And it’s great to drink while watching Cold Comfort Farm isn’t it? And while I was in college I worked for a tea importer in Madison known as The Tea Man and spent way too much time learning about tea, painting the interior walls with realistic tea tress and various tea related imagery. And I still babble on about tea when cornered.
Anyway, when it comes to great black teas in bags, not loose, I think there is one that stands way above the others. The Numi brand offers the best bagged teas I had tried. Until recently.
A year or two ago I tried a bag of Steven Smith’s Bungalow No. 47. And hands down it was the best bagged black tea I have ever had. I’ve since kept some around for special occasions. The Assam No. 49 is also exceptional. The Steven Smith teamaker company is based right here in Portland, Oregon. And the man in the title has made a career out of starting tea companies and selling them. Names like Tazo and Stash were his. Anyway, if you like good black tea with perfect astringency that stays bright in the mouth, I highly recommend you take the tim to track this excellent tea down.
Amazing how being sick reminds me how much I don’t like being sick.
And my friend John emailed me just last week saying he was sick. Coincidence? I don’t think so… What I want to know, is how did the germs make it via email?
Posted in childrens books, Chronicle Books, Earthling!, graphic novels, writing fiction, tagged Chronicle Books, Earthling!, writing fiction, Writing for Children on February 6, 2013 | Leave a Comment »
Above is a page from my graphic novel for young readers called Earthling!. One of the issues that haunted me while creating Earthling! was my hope to end the adventure story without a hand-to-hand fight to the death between two main characters.
It is so easy to have your main characters fight to solve the big issue at hand in your story. But with plenty of Hollywood movies providing endless blood-soaked-battles, why do it in a young readers graphic novel?
I ended up with a chase. Laser blasts. Some threats. But for months my ending also had a big direct confrontation between Bud and Principal Lepton. Fisticuffs ensued. But I always thought it was the wrong way to go.
Ultimately I found a way for the tension to be released in an exciting fashion sans punches. It felt resolved and complete. The characters actions were true to who they were and I did it without a big fight. There is, of course, a confrontation, actually several confrontations. And the characters are allowed to see things from new perspectives. But I hope I accomplished that with as few punches as I could.
As a author or an illustrator or a author-illustrator, how can I make my work better? Better can mean a lot of things, but for the sake of this posting and the fact that the word ‘commercial’ is inherent in my job, let’s say better means producing work that resonates with more people.
The New York Times has an interesting article by Camille Sweeney and Josh Gosfield that collects research that examines what successful people and businesses do when they face obstacles. Together with research from Chris Argyris, a business theorist at Harvard Business School, they have an interesting POV on the why/how these high achievers did so much achieving. Generally I’m not a big fan of step-by-step anything books. And books that claim any set of ‘secrets’ to success make me itchy. But I try and keep an open mind.
From the article:
“In interviews we did with high achievers for a book, we expected to hear that talent, persistence, dedication and luck played crucial roles in their success. Surprisingly, however, self-awareness played an equally strong role.”
Go read the article from the link above for all the details, but my first reaction wasn’t one of surprise. Many of the most successful writers and illustrators I know are extremely diligent in judging their work. I feel like I am willing to bring the full-force of self-awareness to my works shortcomings. But as I read on I realized that a lot of what I consider self-awareness with my work isn’t actually helpful.
From the article:
“The successful people we spoke with — in business, entertainment, sports and the arts — all had similar responses when faced with obstacles: they subjected themselves to fairly merciless self-examination that prompted reinvention of their goals and the methods by which they endeavored to achieve them.”
I tend to fall victim to my artistic temperament and if my work doesn’t find the success I hoped for, I just figure my work sucks. Yup. If my work didn’t suck, it would do better. Well, it doesn’t take much contemplation to realize that kind of self-awareness is not constructive or helpful.
I’m not sure the check-box like actions mentioned in the article can help in writing a better book or drawing a better graphic novel page the same way it helps in making a more successful restaurant. And as with any activity done for the marketplace you have the product (a book, a burger, a song) and the marketing and cultivation of an audience. For most writers and artists it’s the second set of issues that cause the most trouble. Perhaps the advice in the article is best looked at as helpful for the issues attached to exposure and marketing. Now back to trying to do some less sucky work.
The question is, how does anyone successfully sell any media creation these days? Other than buying a hundred million in TV, where else can you find eyeballs? So the community and friends centered social media platforms and services morph into a marketing platform, mainly because it’s there and people are there…and of course companies don’t just want friends. They want dollars.
But having a Facebook page can’t hurt, right? If James Paterson can have one, why not you? Social media platforms are just one more, relatively cheap, relatively available place to make noise about what you do.
No one knows what will resonate commercially. Media consumption habits are changing monthly. Traditional marketing is becoming less effective or impossible in new digital marketplaces so what can anyone do? Companies have to continue to try to get their products to resonate with the public. Every publisher has stacks of new books they are trying to sell from ever shrinking shelves…and the best advice is to have your stuff everywhere it can be. It’s that old saying about just showing up.
That’s what social media is about. Showing up. Be there, just in case. It doesn’t create success. But it can amplify success. It can find like minded fans of genres. It’s being open to the age old marketing wisdom that being everywhere you can, can’t hurt.
No one can predict what will be wildly successful in the commercial arts 100% of the time. But in today’s saturated markets where your self published novel sits on a digital shelf next to Stephen King’s new book, you have to try everything you can.
Social media as marketing tool is the topic on the lips of editors, publishers, writers and artists. And marketing executives and owners of Facebook stock. It’s been trumpeted time-and-time again the past few years that you need massive outreach into social media to gain readers. To get attention. To build awareness. This New York Times article examines the long term possibilities of social media marketing.
But at this point in time Social Media seems to work more as an amplifier of whatever has already caught on. Social media is not cause and effect. And as it’s stuck under our noses all the time because of smart phones and tablets and computers and robots…it’s a persuasive amplification.
But I think there is a growing throng of people who have created an industry telling everyone that they need to be involved in social media. I think it’s becoming a victim of circular logic. Everyone knows how important it is to have a presence on Facebook because everyone on Facebook says it is. In the long run is it wise for Pepsi to hand-over their customers to a URL featuring “Facebook/Pepsi”? And who knows what company will own Facebook one day. Coca-cola?
Commercial artists and illustrators face the same rapidly changing world as every other profession. The beliefe that having an active Twitter feed will allow you to better connect with fans or readers or buyers is at its core logical. But is it more important than actually doing good work. Then again, who knows what exactly ‘good work’ really is.
The media landscape offers various ways to get word out about yourself or your product. You could buy TV ads…that would be great wouldn’t it…Here’s one for my Illustration Shack just off Route 42, near the Pillow Mart:
“Come on down to Mark’s Illustration Shack! We’re Illustration-crazy this month. You make a reasonable offer, I won’t refuse it! Want a sketch for two hundred bucks? I can do better… How about THREE sketches for two hundred bucks! Stop by Mark’s Illustration Shack and we’ll make you an illustration deal too-good to pass-up! And no need to worry about eraseing fees. I don’t charge them!”
You could get radio spots to advertise your book. Can you get on a TV talk show? How about newspaper reviews? Hard to get these days. Even local ones. Here in Oregon not a single paper ran a review of my graphic novel but the New York Times did. That makes a lot of sense…
So how do you get word out? How do you SELL anything anymore? We are buffeted with entertainment options. Books? Who even buys books anymore? So how do you market and sell a self published book? Even a book published by one of the big 5 doesn’t mean it will sell more than 300 copies. How do you sell a web comic? Or a collection of short stories? Or prints of your work? The truth is it was never easy to make a living from doing any of these things. Thousands more fail than succeed. So why do we think having a Facebook page will help? What will help?
The answer is – no one really knows. It’s another example of my favorite saying, “No one knows anything.”
I’ll be back in a day or two with the rest of this…
A nice post by Mark Evanier about what it’s like to write for a living. His conclusion is elegantly stated and rings true to my experience as well. Even if I wasn’t getting paid to write and draw, I would still be doing it. Enjoying what you do makes the work feel less like – work.
I’ve been listening to The White Album the past few ‘locked in the studio’ days and nights. Deadlines will do that.
I was listening to Rocky Raccoon and I clearly remember listening to that song when I was very young. My sisters played the album. I remember listening closely to Rocky Raccoon and was surprised and shocked that Rocky, the ‘hero’ who had been wronged, failed in his quest. Raised on John Wayne films this was one of the first times when I contemplated that good-guys can lose. Or at least that the protagonist (to use a word I didn’t know when I was 6 or 7) may not meet the heroic success he was desiring of. Sticks with me to this day. Poor Rocky.
And yes, I listened to Beatles albums when I was 6 or 7. I also learned to play Foosball. It was still really the 1960′s in the early 70′s.
I finally saw The Hobbit. I know, I know… If you know me you would expect that I was there opening night. I wasn’t.
Here’s my review. It was long.
I mean, it was good. Nothing not to like really. But it felt an awful lot like I’d seen it all before. And the filmmakers greasy thumb prints are all over the story as they tuned-it up to make it more visually stimulating and alter the action so every moment becomes edge-of-the-seat and it looks great and the monsters are cool and the lighting is awesome. What’s better than 200 goblins? How about 22,000 goblins! And in the end I found myself caring amazingly little about it all.
Which is sad. I love the book. And I will certainly watch the film again. As I said, it’s not a ‘bad’ movie. But I think we’ve hit the 11th hour in filmmaking. The team of people working on it can craft it, visualize it, I think that’s what they call it, visualize it, and render it and sand it and shine it and perfectly manipulate every pixel and moment and my god, isn’t it a lovely thing. But It’s oddly lacking in an ability to resonate any humanity except for the grandioseness of it all.
It’s like being asked to find a 747 charming. Can you truly say a 747 is comfortable in a meaningful way?
You can admire a 747 as an amazing piece of machinery. And be thrilled with the comforts it provides at 600 miles an hour and at 30,000 feet (Given you can pay for the good seats.). A 747 is the result of brilliant engineers and craftsmen and a victory of human ingenuity and you can marvel at a monetary system that can advance fund such an undertaking… But it isn’t a place I want to live. It’s simply a machine that takes us from A to B. It’s lasting commentary is that humans are remarkably cleaver.
Now I want to watch something I care about.