Friday, May 14, 2010

Story Zombies- Learning from your Undead Stories

It’s hard to look in your drawers and see stories you poured your heart into just sitting with no future. Like every writer who has been working on the writing craft for many years, some stories just never see the light of day again. I have quite a few of them. I’m sure we all do.

If you’re like me, you feel a pull to try and do something with them.It's as if they've come to life and are calling your name. I call them Story Zombies. The work that just won't die. As the years pass and the dust builds, you think to yourself "Maybe if I just rewrote a few parts" or "If I wrote it in a different tense or for a different audience." I had that very thought just last week. I'm one of those people who tend to remember their stories way better, or more complete than they actually are. That's when I pick it up and start reading. It's good to read them. Rewrite them? I'm here to advise you, don't do it!

Story are like a puzzle, each scene making up a piece. As hard as it is to write a 1st draft, it's that much harder to take an old story and make it into something that it's not. You can fit a corner piece into the center of the puzzle and expect the picture to make sense. In my opinion, it's always easier to take your initial idea, the part that may work for your new story and write it from page one.

There are always exceptions to the rule. I'm sure quite a few books came about from an author re-vamping an old story that sat under their bed for years. I'd love to hear of a few if anyone knows of any offhand.

So, despite my old stories awakening, hoping to be Frankensteined to life once more, I will take what I learned from writing them and apply it to a new fresh set of characters. The lesson was learned. Those stories exist so that I can go back when I'm having a bad day and remember just how far my writing as come.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Virtual Author Visits

As both a library technician (working in a school library) and a young adult author, I've been promoting the benefits of Skype, or virtual, author visits. For libraries, the immediate benefit is financial - authors usually provide a 20-30 minute Skype visit for free or a very small fee. For authors, you may not make as much money as with a live, in-school visit, however, less of your personal time is required - no lengthy travels, driving in crazy weather or flight delays. But you still reach new audiences, get your name and book out there - and you can make your virtual visit as memorable/exciting/unique as your imagination allows.

Through the Writers Guild of Alberta, I've been lucky enough to be paired with another media savy Alberta author, Joan Marie Galat. Joan writes travel books, as well as the very cool Dot to Dot in the Sky series, blending ancient myths relating to the stars, planets, and Moon - a fitting mix with my shapeshifters. ;) Together we are working on a few presentations outlining the dos and don'ts of Skype visits. Hopefully I'll wrangle Joan into my session for the Canadian Library Association's annual conference in Edmonton this June. (hint, hint).

Here is a sneak peek from our D&D list so far:

For Authors


- as with any author visit, prepare your presentation ahead - practice and time yourself

- look directly at your laptop or desktop camera. Joan made an awesome suggestion, put a "look here" stickie note beside the camera as a reminder. I struggle with this one a ton because it feels natural to "look" at your audience (which in a Skype visit, is displayed under the camera and to the viewers, you're always looking down).

- hold your book up to show the crowd - but hold it, Vanna White style, beside your face - not in front of it.


- slouch - it's common to start off your visit sitting nice and tall, but as you talk, or answer questions, you might get "comfortable" and let your posture slide - DON'T - this will lower your image in the camera and detract from your presentation.

- move around too much - as you become animated (because, hey, we're talking about stuff we love - books and writing!) you might begin to use your arms, hands, shift in your seat, lean into the camera, etc. Try to keep your movements as small as possible - even with high quality live feed cameras there will be a certain amount of blur.

As I work the bugs out of my own Skype skills, I find myself watching newscasters on TV - marvelling at how they can remain still, yet be expressive as they stare into the soulless teleprompter. I think I should track down some broadcasting sites for tips. ;)

Speaking of tips, I'm keen to collect feedback on these visits - from authors and schools/libraries alike - please email me (well, my pen name) if you'd like to share your experiences thus far: judithgraves @ ymail dot com