RTW: Best Book of March 2012

(Sorry about the lame post title--woke up extra early today and wasn't feeling terribly creative.)Road Trip Wednesday is a "Blog Carnival," where YA Highway's contributors and followers post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on their blogs. You can hop from destination to destination through the YA Highway site and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic: What was the best book you read in March?

This is another month where my reading was pretty light (partly because I had LASIK at the beginning of March and I needed to wait for my eyes to settle down) and most of the books I read were actually for our YA book club. The book club started as an offshoot of our YA crit group, and so far we've covered a mixture of books on craft and some YA novels.

Our March pick was



Story Engineering by Larry Brooks has some great information on story structure--but first you have to wade through quite a lot of throat clearing. His system uses "Six Core Competencies" and he drove me crazy by spending the first few chapters talking about why they're important and why you should pay attention. Once I skipped ahead to the part we were focusing on for our group, I found a lot of "aha!" tips, so it is worth a read. And this is one of the books in the Amazon Prime lending library, so I read the ebook for free.

I also re-read Alexandra Sokoloff's Screenwriting Tricks for Authors (my pick for our February meeting, so I blogged about it here) in preparation for the Left Coast Crime Writer's Workshop with Alex tomorrow. Will need to get up way too early to make it to Sac on time, but I'm really looking forward to it!

But you might be thinking that neither of those reviews sounds enthusiastic enough to rate a Best Book pick--and that's because I was saving the best for last! It's our pick for April's book club:



The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart is a great example of voice and has some truly funny lines for its smart, independent main character. The book description says it better than I could, so here it is:

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 14:
Debate Club.
Her father's "bunny rabbit."
A mildly geeky girl attending a highly competitive boarding school.

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 15:
A knockout figure.
A sharp tongue.
A chip on her shoulder.
And a gorgeous new senior boyfriend: the supremely goofy, word-obsessed Matthew Livingston.

Frankie Landau-Banks.
No longer the kind of girl to take "no" for an answer.
Especially when "no" means she's excluded from her boyfriend's all-male secret society.
Not when her ex-boyfriend shows up in the strangest of places.
Not when she knows she's smarter than any of them.
When she knows Matthew's lying to her.
And when there are so many, many pranks to be done.

Frankie Landau-Banks, at age 16:
Possibly a criminal mastermind.

This is the story of how she got that way.


Intrigued yet? Don't forget to go to the comments on the YA Highway RTW post to see everyone else's answers!

P.S. I made it into Cupid's Literary Connection's Surprise Agent Invasion with my query and first 250 words of Spirits from the Vasty Deep. You can read it here, but the rules are that only agents can comment on the actual post, so crits and support go here.

Sweet Successes

Cake Wrecks does a Sunday Sweets feature (on Sundays, appropriately) and going to that page is part of my Sunday routine (after feeding the cats, of course, because otherwise no one would get any peace to enjoy pictures of luscious cakes).

A while ago they had a roundup of children's book themed cakes, my favorite of which is this one:



Howl's Moving Castle for the win!

But I'd also settle for this one:



Head on over to the Cake Wrecks blog to see the rest, and their archives have some truly great bakery snafus to entertain you. Now I just need to find a gluten-free, vegan bakery to make me one of these for my birthday at the end of May--I'm tired of making my own cakes all the time!

RTW: In the Moment


Road Trip Wednesday is a "Blog Carnival," where YA Highway's contributors and followers post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on their blogs. You can hop from destination to destination through the YA Highway site and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic: A long-awaited kiss, a surprise ending, a character's sudden decision… these are the moments that make us smile, gasp, and LOVE a book for the rest of our lives.
What is your favorite literary moment?


All the specific examples I could think of for this were too spoilery (the squiggly red underline said spoilery is not a word, but I flashed it my literary license), so I had to think in more general terms.

What came to mind is Christopher Moore's mastery of absurd humor that turns expectations on their head. I love all his books, but the one that best demonstrates it is A Dirty Job. The MC is Charlie, who lost his wife just after she gave birth to their child. As if that wasn't dark enough, Charlie has just been recruited as a Death, one of many reapers that hold onto souls until they move on. Only he doesn't know about his new role right away, and his grief over his wife is interrupted and complicated by all the weird things happening to him now.

My favorite scene is when Charlie goes over to a home to assess some clothing for his thrift shop. An elderly man takes Charlie into his late wife's closet, where in his own grief the old man says he wants to die. Charlie can absolutely sympathize--he still misses his wife, who "still occupied that place in his heart, and when he turned in the kitchen to say something to her and she wasn't there, it took his breath."

The old man is trying to speak through his own grief to tell Charlie about his wife, and finally gets out, "She was so phenomenally stupid."

They then have an exchange wherein it's revealed the old man's wife died of eating the silica gel packets (yes, the ones that say "do not eat" right on them) and the internal dialogue as Charlie processes this is hilarious. Even if I transcribed the entire scene here, it wouldn't have the same impact, so I guess you'll have to take my word for it or read the book yourself. I highly recommend it!

Don't forget to go to the comments on the YA Highway RTW post to see everyone else's answers!

Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowships


I don't write as much poetry as I used to, or even as much as I'd like to, because I feel guilty not spending my writing time on my novels. But if you're like me and would really like to get back into the poetry game, perhaps this fellowship is motivation enough. Alas, I am beyond the upper age limit since you must be between the ages of 21 and 31, but if you are still in that age bracket, here are the particulars:

"Five Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowships in the amount of $15,000 will be awarded to young poets through a national competition sponsored by the Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry. Established in 1989 by the Indianapolis philanthropist Ruth Lilly, the fellowships are intended to encourage the further study and writing of poetry.



APPLICANT GUIDELINES:

*Applicants must be U.S. citizens.

*Applicants must be at least 21 years of age and no older than 31 years of age as of March 31, 2012.

*Applications must be submitted by March 31, 2012.

*Applications must be made through our submission website, fellowships.poetryfoundation.org, according to the guidelines below.

*Application materials sent via e-mail or standard mail will not be considered.

Go to the website for full details, and the big plus is that there is no application fee--what do you have to lose? They'll want ten pages of poems in your application packet, so get writing, or take another look at those poems in that notebook you used to carry around!

Gemini Magazine Short Story Contest


For the price of a latte, you could get your writing some recognition. Gemini Magazine's Short Story Contest closes March 31, and the entry fee is only $4. Here are the details from their website:

"GRAND PRIZE: $1,000
2nd PLACE: $100
HONORABLE MENTION (3)

All Five Finalists Will Be Published in
The June 2012 Issue of Gemini

No restrictions on content, style, genre or length. Flashes,
novel excerpts, experimental, mainstream, literary, noir,
romance—all types of short fiction are welcome. Simply send
your best unpublished work by email or snail mail.

We publish both new and established writers."

Some people won't enter contests that have an entry fee, but I feel like $4 for a chance at $1,000 and a publishing credit is a pretty good deal! The WOW! Women on Writing Spring 2010 Flash Fiction Contest entry fee paid off for me when my story "Ebb Tide" took 3rd place. Good luck to those who enter!

RTW: Memories and Memoirs

Road Trip Wednesday is a "Blog Carnival," where YA Highway's contributors and followers post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on their blogs. You can hop from destination to destination through the YA Highway site and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic: NAME THIS LIFE: What would your memoir be called?

I was glad to see that other RTWers had a hard time with this one--I've never really thought about if I would ever write a memoir, let alone what it would be called. And I only had about ten minutes for this post before I was due to run out the door, so I kept coming up with stupid ones like "Teched By an Angel" or ripoffs of songs and song titles like "I Get Knocked Down But I Get Up Again" or "The Banana Boat Song".

So I think this space could be better used instead to bring attention to two obscure books:



In case you can't read that full title, it's Horseback Honeymoon: The Vanishing Old West of 1907 Through the Eyes of Two Young Artists in Love Isn't that a great title? Newlyweds Ella and Quincy Scott set out from St. Paul, Minnesota to Seattle, Washington on horseback during the waning days of horses as a main form of transportation. I believe it's out of print, but I would highly recommend checking your library for it.

The other book is still available through the University of Nebraska's Bison Books line:



I read this book in my 20s and was so blown away by the voice and events that I wanted to do a novelization of it (I don't even remember why I thought it needed changing, except that I was a professional storyteller at the time and was very practiced at reinterpreting stories). But in one of my first writing lessons, once I studied the book I discovered there was very little to improve on--it was best left to its natural state and in the author's own voice. This book is a great portrait of a young girl's experience of the Dust Bowl and wider events, and another must-read.

What about you? Have a title in mind for your memoir, or a good biography, diary, autobiography or memoir to recommend? Don't forget to go to the comments on the YA Highway RTW post to see everyone else's answers!