Saturday, December 17, 2016

Short review: Shirley Jackson biography

I just finished Ruth Franklin's marvelous biography Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, which would make a great gift for writer-mamas.

Best known for her short story "The Lottery," Jackson wrote six novels--one of which was nominated for a National Book Award and another made into a movie--five story collections, four children's books, and two hugely popular comic memoirs about her family. She managed all of that while raising four children in the 1940s, '50s, and '60s with little support from her husband--in fact, her writing income supported the family for many years. (Her advice? Do less housework.)

Franklin engagingly weaves aspects of Jackson's personal life with summaries of her work and its critical reception. I particularly enjoyed the head-scratching from critics who didn't understand how the same writer could publish funny stories about her kids and literary fiction that explores the human capacity for evil.

Fascinating and inspiring, Franklin's book ought to reinvigorate interest in Jackson's work; her titles are on my wish list! (I'm already obsessed with We Have Always Lived in the Castle... just look at that cover!)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Books, books, books

Checked out a stack of recent goodies from the library...

Looking forward to settling in with a cup of tea and Mom's crocheted afghan! (I'll let you know which ones keep me up all night...)

Friday, December 9, 2016

My Multicultural Children's Book Day book is coming!

Excited! Got an email saying my MCBD 2017 book will be matched sometime this week!

I signed up to review a book and share my impressions on Multicultural Children's Book Day, January 27. On that day blogs and social media will be buzzing with information about new books that celebrate multiculturalism.

Why is that important?

Here's info from the founders:

Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day holiday, the MCBD Team are on a mission to change all of that. This event has also proven to be an excellent way to compile a list of diverse children’s book titles and reviews for parents, grandparents, educators and librarians to use all year long.
Check out a list of sponsors already signed up: 
Our very first Platinum Sponsor, Scholastic, has signed on and we are beyond thrilled to have their support. Other Medallion Level Sponsors include heavy-hitters like Author Carole P. RomanAudrey PressKidLitTVCapstone Young Readers, Author Gayle SwiftWisdom Tales PressLee& Low BooksThe Pack-n-Go GirlsLive Oak MediaAuthor Charlotte Riggle and Chronicle Books.

Can't wait to find out what my book will be!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Sixfold contest results

The results are in! I participated in one of Sixfold’s reader-voted writing contests, and I found it a fascinating experience.

Unlike most contests, each entry is judged by other entrants in three rounds of voting. After I submitted my batch of poems, I received an email telling me when voting began. Then I was able to read six collections of poetry, rank them 1 – 6, and share comments.

Two more rounds followed, each a week apart. Just today, the final results were shared. The first-place winner was a collection that I had read and ranked highly, so that was cool to see!

My own ranking was lower than I had hoped—somewhere in the middle—and I received a few comments, some helpful and some not-so. (Respectful, just not specific enough for me to use in revisions. Though one was glowing, so that was nice!)

I really liked the experience of a peer-reviewed contest, and I thought the winners deserved their prizes. It’s a different feeling to see how other writers in similar circumstances receive your work, and to have the chance to read and comment on other submissions. I like the egalitarian aspect of this system very much.

If you’re new to submitting your work, I suggest doing something like this to give you the opportunity to read and critique other writers’ efforts. It’s incredibly helpful to recognize the strengths and weaknesses in someone else’s writing in order to improve your own—not to mention sharing insights with others.

At the same time, it was a bit of work, and I didn’t receive as much helpful commentary as I had hoped. Next time, I’ll try to choose a submission time when I’m not feeling so under the wire (the holidays have enough going on!).

Curious to discover other egalitarian-based and/or peer-reviewed literary journals or contests. Do any build into a real community of writers and reviewers? Which ones have you tried?