Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Fall

Last night, the world shifted a bit. Its colors grew sharper, its magic stronger, its capacity for love consuming. As I sat with my 11-year-old son and my beloved husband, I watched the most amazing piece of storytelling unfold in our living room. If you haven't seen THE FALL yet, you must. As a writer, I know of nothing that speaks so perfectly of how our lives are transformed by a story. As a member of the human race, I know of nothing truer than the passion that made this movie possible.

A story is more than words frozen on a page or fallen from the mouth of the storyteller to hang lifeless in the ears of the listener. It is a vibrant, transformative interaction between the writer and the reader, the teller and the listener (and for that matter, the story itself). Once you have read or heard a story, the narrative itself will never be the same. You, the reader, become a part of it, it becomes a part of you, and it is something wholly new. The reader brings meaning as much as the writer, and as Roy discovers in the wonderful movie, a good story feeds the soul—a great one saves it.

This film is so rich with visual beauty, spiritual exploration, and exquisite narrative form. The layers of narrative reach right out of the screen and pull the viewers into the experience just as Alexandria is pulled into Roy's stories. Our hearts break for Roy and for the child. Our desire to save them both and to be saved by their story fills us up in a way that no one could expect.

Tarsem's passion for this tale is evident in every detail. This was the quintessential labor of love. From the vast reaches of endless locations to his joyous unity with the actors to his attention to the most minute details of costume, light, or sound, Tarsem sculpted this story to perfection. The cast was equally devoted and inspired.

Buy THE FALL, watch it with someone you love, open yourself up and drink it in.

I'll say it again: A good story feeds the soul, a great one saves it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cover Me

I can't help myself. As I'm dreaming of that big book contract that's just on the horizon (perhaps a belated Christmas present?), I've been noticing book covers and dreaming of what my own could be. The blue boards hosted a thread about covers, I think, and with Ghost Hunk home, I was able to have a chat with a real live person about the trend in book covers.

Is it true that YA/teen covers tend to be photographs, while MG covers are illustrated? So far, this truth seems to bare out. Mostly. But what do I want for my cover? Hmmm... (that's assuming I could even have any input—but this is my dream, right?)

Here's one of my favorites, which I just discovered today: It's brand new and surprisingly close in tone to my own book—Avi's The Seer of Shadows. I LOVE this cover. (And the book, too!) Now to be fair, the book is about a photographer, so that choice was sort of a given.

Then you have the alluring covers, like the Gemma Doyle trilogy that add a little sex appeal to the historical fantasy. A very different tone, here, but both books deal with historical settings and paranormal or fantastical elements. Libba Bray's book is definitely aimed at a slightly older, more feminine audience, while Avi's is less about the girl and more about the mystery.

What about those illustrated covers? Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book pumps up its own fantastical atmosphere with some fabulous art:
I love his writing, and the art on this cover certainly stays true to his sense of mystical, creepy, beautiful, dark fun. (sorry, I can't help but go all George Orwell with the adjectives.)

I guess part of the cover's job is to set the tone and reveal something about the story—and sell books, of course. Do you get a sense of these stories? I do.

Now, what about my own fabulous book, which has many interesting elements that could adorn the cover. I'm afraid a certain type of illustration will make it seem too campy, but the wrong photographic approach could make it more about the hunk on the cover than the cool ghost story inside. I definitely want the spook factor, but with the proper historical context. For now, I'll keep dreaming about holding that 2-pound piece of my soul when it is final bound and swaddled in its own magical artwork.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Black Wednesday...Silver Futures

No, this isn't a post about the stock market.  But it is a time to take some stock of things in our business.  With all the layoffs at S&S and the shakeups at Random House and so many other reorganization strategies around the world of publishing, it would be easy to start spouting doomsday messages.  I'll just throw on a sheet and stand on the corner in NYC with a sandwich sign about the end of the (publishing) world...  

Actually, no.  It isn't the end.  I won't be so saccharine and cliché to say "it's a new beginning" (hold the gag reflex, please).  But I will say that this is not all bad.  Nathan Bransford has blogged about this topic more than once, like this and this.   And Caren Johnson reflects on yesterday's events in her most recent blog.  Both have a positive perspective on things.  

But add in several of my writer friends in their blogs, on FaceBook...all over.  And one can only imagine what the people waiving their pink slips in the air are thinking.  Plenty of people are nervous.  This could be our Chicken Little moment.  

But hang on.  Can you ever imagine a world without books?  That could be the one thing that would instantly eliminate me from Fear Factor! (shudder...)  Thank you, Ray Bradbury, for your glimpse of such a world in Fahrenheit 451.  

That said, we need to consider what all these shifts in the business really mean.  After all, publishing is a business, as much as we love to think of it purely as an art.  Writing is the art, the craft.  Publishing is the business.  So what does the future hold for us?  

First of all, books might begin to look a little different, but there is simply no reason for them to disappear.  With all the fuss about Kindle and the Sony Reader, digital books may have a stronger foothold in our libraries than we once believed.  Is that a bad thing?  

As Caren suggests in her blog, advances may have to be adjusted—and that doesn't mean you'll get paid less if you write that Printz-winning best seller.  What it could mean is that your advance could be a little smaller, and your royalty check a little bigger.  That's "real-time" money.  Money actually earned out by your book.  As a soon-to-be debut author (I believe, I believe...) my fantasies about a great advance might be dented, but I've always known the cold realities of first-time advances.  That doesn't mean I won't keep dreaming...or keep writing.

So what is the silver in our future?  My guess is a more efficient publishing machine.  Perhaps a broader reading audience thanks to technology and better marketing strategies.  Even a more educated, lit-savvy readership who hunger for more.  

At least, that's what I'm going to hold my breath for...