Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday Roundup

Here we go:

Agent Rachelle Gardner blogs about the difference between Craft, Story and Voice

Two very interesting blogs about gender and hypocrisy, and holding women (both fictional and not) to ridiculous standards: one about characters within books from Sarah Rees Brennan, one about female writers from Diana Peterfreund

An old blog post from 2005 by author Tobias Buckell: Author Advances Survey

Some deeply pragmatic writing advice from author Patrick Rothfuss

Here is a fantastic link to a video of a wonderful poem about Speaking With Conviction (as opposed to, like, you know, ending each, like sentence with an upward inflection, and like, you know, adding, like and you know, to like, you know, every sentence)

An honest essay from the Los Angeles Times "A Writing Career Becomes Harder to Scale". As you guys know, I'm a fan of positivity when it comes to dealing with the book world, but even though this article paints an unfortunate picture, it's not bleak, and the information within it is very interesting and useful to know. However, if you aren't in the mood to deal with the issues of being an author in today's market, maybe skip this link for now.

And to cheer everyone up, a demonstration of a true Canadian athlete: gold medal winner of men's skeleton John Montgomery apologises (without anyone asking him to) for getting excited he won.

Lastly, here's a fun video for any LOST fans (of which I am one). Some staff members from Newsweek are shown clips of LOST and asked to explain what's going on. Oh how we shall laugh at their false assumptions watching clips that utterly do not relate to each other from a show that's now six seasons long and requires a vigilant attention to follow and is not always comprehensible to people who've seen it on multiple viewings. Those fools.

Seriously though, it's pretty funny.
Publish Post

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Where Have All the Genre Authors Gone?

Last Thursday here in Toronto the Toronto Public Library Foundation had their annual fundraising gala The Book Lover's Ball. It's a rather posh event that usually features a fashion show, a banquet, and an auction. And it's a truly lovely idea considering books seriously need some love, especially these days.

But I noticed something odd about this year's author invitation list, and as I investigated further, I felt a need to write about it. Please understand that I am in no way condemning anyone in particular with this post, and that I fully admit to not knowing the reasons behind any decisions and could very easily be wrong. My conclusions are drawn from observation, not from any conversations with any insiders or anything. I'm hardly an investigative reporter.

I'm a children's book author with probably a few too many opinions than is good for her.

I also think it is very important for The Book Lover's Ball to exist, and I understand they need to invite people to their event who will draw in sponsors and donations. I get that. I do.

So. With that caveat.

Out of the 54 invited authors this year, two can be said to be writers of SF/Fantasy, and both of those were for children. Not a single adult genre writer was invited. The closest I suppose to genre it got were a couple thriller authors. But true adult SF/Fantasy authors? Not. A. One.

This really struck a chord with me. And I'll tell you why. There has been in general, a feeling that SF/Fantasy books are somehow considered less worthy writing than other kinds. Here's an excerpt from a very interesting article specifically relating to SF books:

Considered by the literary establishment, and frequently by non SF award-giving institutions, to be trashy, pulpish, commercially driven lightweight gutter fiction (only a slight exaggeration, believe me), it’s no surprise that very few works of science fiction have won major literary awards. Recent notable exceptions include Cormac McCarthy winning the Pulitzer Prize for The Road (arguably science fiction), and Ray Bradbury receiving a special citation from the Pulitzer Board in the same year. On the whole though, the accolades are few and far between.

In an article about the death of science fiction author J.G. Ballard in the New York Times (April 21, 2009), Ballard’s American editor at Norton, Robert Weil, said “His fabulistic style led people to review his work as science fiction. But that’s like calling Brave New World science fiction, or 1984

Apart from demonstrating that Robert Weil is amazingly silly, this quote highlights the problem: if you’re a famous writer in the literary world who writes a science fiction novel - and Huxley’s Brave New World and Orwell’s 1984 are clearly science fiction works - then you’re not writing science fiction as far as publishers and the literary establishment are concerned. Great literature can never be science fiction. When established “great” authors are writing it, it’s something else entirely. No wonder science fiction is always viewed as second rate. Anything good or even above average is simply reclassified.

It isn't just the amorphous "establishment" that makes the above reclassifications, but well known authors themselves, who have dabbled in genre, have also famously denied that their work is such as if that is the ultimate insult.

Anyway. Back to the ball.

I did a very very unscientific test and looked at the lists of author invitees for the last three years that is up on their website. It's pretty clear something odd happened this year.

We begin with exhibit A: Robert J Sawyer. He arguably is THE top SF writer in the country and just this year got probably the biggest demonstration of recognition of his awesomeness - his book FlashForward was turned into a television series (you know you've made it when Hollywood takes notice - and Joseph Fiennes (yum) is your leading man). From what I can see on The Book Lover's Ball website, he was invited the previous two years. But not this year. What's changed exactly? Certainly not a lack of recognition nor a lack of books being published. Guy Gavriel Kay, again, arguably the premiere Fantasy author we have, the exact same thing: two years of invites, not again this year.

Don't tell me the inviting committee was getting bored with these authors and wanted to shake things up. I noted other authors who appeared on those previous years' invites lists, and were invited this year too.

I don't know whether something happened this year, whether this is just a coincidence that isn't worthy of me spending time blogging about it (and I really hope it is), but when you spend your time in a genre that has to fight so consistently to be recognised, you do tend to take note of situations like these.

Side note: I talk about SF/Fantasy as being not very well respected in the literary community. But don't even get me started on the poor maligned Romance category. Which, though I know little about, I do know gets even less respect than SF/Fantasy. What's even more deeply disturbing is that Harlequin has got to be one of the most successful Canadian enterprises internationally, and still evidently the books they produce aren't worthy of being included in a celebration like this.

Now I'm sure there are some of you who are shaking your heads and thinking, "Adrienne, come on, would you have written about this had you been invited? You're probably just bitter is all."

Well yes and no. I'm certainly not bitter. However, I might not have written this post had I been invited (though had I been invited that would have helped with my issue in the first place, my presence would have helped make up for the lack of genre authors). But I would not have written this blog post simply to whine about my lack of invitation. We all know I don't do that sort of thing. Nor am I at all the kind of author who thinks she deserves to be invited to every event (though, I mean, who wouldn't want me at their event, I'd be fabulous darling! ;) ).

My lack of invitation made me curious to see who had been invited. And it was upon investigating this, that I realised something wonky had happened to the genre fiction authors. And that was the reason I wrote this blog. Had something wonky not had happened to the genre fiction authors, I wouldn't have felt a need to say anything. After all, I wasn't invited last year either, did you hear a peep out of me then?

I do realise that such an event is a tricky one to organise, and that not every Canadian author can be invited. I also realise we have some amazing authors who are staples in this country and who really do deserve to have an open invitation. I can appreciate a star system as much as the next person. But this lack of genre writers really does make me cock my head to the side and go, "Huh?"

I guess what I'm trying to say is, for an event called The Book Lover's Ball, it'd be nice to see all books loved and celebrated. As they have been at past galas. Something happened this year, and it should be noted. That's all.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"Timothy and the Dragon's Gate" nominated for an Audie!

Like the title says, Timothy was nominated in the children's titles category (ages 8 - 12) for an Audie!

The Audies, for those who don't know, are awards for audio books, and I am very excited that Timothy has received this nomination. Mostly because Christopher Lane, who narrated the book (and Alex as well) is just so fantastic. He brings a whole new dimension to the work and does some wonderful voices (and considering how many characters I like to put in my books, he does a remarkable job at keeping track who is who). So I'm really thrilled for him to say the least.

And okay, I'm also thrilled for me :) .

For a full list of nominees click here. And to visit the Audio Publishers Association website (the organisation responsible for The Audies) click here.

For those of you unaware that Alex and Timothy were available as audio books, and for those of you interested in purchasing copies they can be found online at

Alex and the Ironic Gentleman - Audio Book
Timothy and the Dragon's Gate - Audio Book

Monday, February 15, 2010

I have a new agent!

I am finally able to share some news with everyone that is both good and bad. But ultimately good.

I have a new agent.

But, Adrienne, how can this be? The way you have spoken about the Darley Anderson Literary Agency and your agents, first Julia, then Becky, would suggest you all rather got along.

Ah, Adrienne, you are so right. But the publishing industry is a strange beast, and things can, for want of a better word . . . change.

In this case my agent Becky decided to move on to a new job at Random House UK (with which we must all wish her the best of luck). Such was the situation that the head of the agency, Darley, who was unsure when exactly they would replace her, did not want me to sit languishing as they went about the very difficult task of finding someone new.

It made sense. One of those "sad but true" kind of situations. So we parted ways. I will admit to being a little tearful at the time. After all there are very few people you can say actually changed your life, but the amazing people at the Darley Anderson Agency did. Before them I was an actress and a temp. After them . . . I was a writer. A path I had never ever intended to take was taken, and my life went on an unbelievable adventure that I could never have anticipated.

So to everyone at the Darley Anderson Literary Agency. Thank you. Thank you so much.

That is the sad news.


I am happy to say that I have signed with Jessica Regel at the Jean V Naggar Agency in New York!

I am very happy to say this, because in the few short weeks we've been working together, I've had edits on two novels of mine, one is currently out on submission, and I have a great deal of hope for the second. I feel very supported and truly lucky to be able to work with such an awesome gal.

If the name sounds familiar, it should. She also represents my good friend Lesley, whom I've mentioned on this blog possibly once or twice. I also actually blogged about meeting her three years ago when Lesley and I went to NY for BEA. Lesley was meeting her agent in person for the first time, and said agent was lovely enough to invite me along to their breakfast meeting. This is what I said about the experience at the time:

Lesley and I meet up at the Parker Meridian to meet with her agent Jessica for lunch at Norma's. Norma's is AWESOME! All breakfast food, but really, you know, good breakfast food. They served us a shot of tropical frozen smoothie, and the best tasting orange juice ever. I had eggs Benedict with smoked salmon, mmmm tasty. And we chatted about writing and publishing and Jessica talked about how much she adored Lesley (and really what's not to adore) and it was just delightful.

This is the picture we took. Left to right - me, Lesley, Jessica

For your interest, since I have talked in the past about Getting An Agent and the steps one takes, I should point out that this time was a little different than back when I was an unpublished author who didn't know anyone in or really anything about the industry. In this case, because I knew Jessica, I asked Lesley if she wouldn't mind giving her a call and seeing if she would be interested in getting a query from me. I was fortunate enough that her response was not only yes, but that she'd always been really enthusiastic about my work and was keenly interested in the possibility of representing me.

I sent her less of a query, and more a straightforward email explaining the situation (what had happened with Darley etc) along with a copy of my latest manuscript.

Two days later (this girl is fast), she had sent it back with edits and an offer.

I was utterly over the moon. I went from the fear of having no agent after so many years, to the joy of having a brand new one in a very short but stressful few days.

I want to now take a brief moment to analyse what happened. As you know, I like to take everything I've learned and share it with you guys. And this whole situation taught me a pretty big lesson. It is important to remember how much things can change in this industry, and how when they do, not to give up hope. It's also important to remember that you never know where someone might wind up and it's probably best not to burn any bridges (I'm so glad, for example, I kept all my horrible opinions about Jessica to myself . . . I kid I kid . . . there's really nothing bad to say about this girl, which is a bit annoying really). Nothing is certain, even when you are a published author. Editors can change houses (I've had this happen to me twice), agents can leave you (again, twice). The one thing you can control is your work and your reputation.

To use me as an example: I already had a good reputation with Jessica. But here's the kicker. . .

I had a manuscript that I was getting rejections for last year. A lot of rejections (I've hinted at this in other posts). I was truly upset about it. But finally I decided I would write something else, something I considered far more commercial. I did. I wrote it in two and a half months which is the fastest I have ever written anything ever, and I still can't believe I did it.

And it was because I now had this commercial manuscript, a manuscript that had yet to be sent out to any publishers, that I was a viable prospect for Jessica. Had I not written this book and had I parted ways with my agency . . . I don't know if I would have received representation as quickly.

So you see: reputation and work.

It's so important to keep that in the back of your mind. Trust me, I don't always do so myself, and having just experienced what I have has really sent this message home for me.

As ever, let us all remember to be professional and thoughtful in this business. I've said it a million times, but it really matters a lot. It's so easy to vent on Twitter, on blogs, etc. It is so easy to wallow that our manuscript isn't selling. But often the most dangerous things are those that are easy.

Anyway, enough lesson learning. This is meant to be a joyful post, though bitter sweet. It's also an interesting way to start the decade. Feels like a new beginning. A new part of the adventure begins.

And as is pretty evident from my books, I do love me my adventures :) .