How does Mr. Ocax fly?
How does Mr. Ocax fly?
How does Mr. Ocax fly?
I am not a fan of e-books. They make books ugly. It follows then, that I am not a great enthusiast for Amazon’s Kindle. That said, I own one. Being someone who occasionally wakes up in the middle of the night, I reach for my Kindle, and read, usually setting the reading level to low light. A twenty-minute read, and I’m back asleep. Takes a while to read a book that way, but there it is.
Just recently, however, I discovered something I had not noticed on my Kindle. I knew it had a setting for font type (as well as for size of font). Thus there is “Baskerville,” “Bookerly,” “Palatino,” and so forth. What I belatedly realized is that among the typefaces is what is called “OpenDyslexic.”
The typeface is designed so that each font letter is variously weighted, that is to say, there is no uniform thickness. I am in no sense of the word an expert on dyslexia, though I have dysgraphia, and have been interested in such fonts. Moreover, though dysgraphia has been with me all my reading/writing life, I cannot make any claims as to whether this font helps or not. What I can say is that when I normally read my Kindle screen, my eyes tend to slip over the text, as if there was a Teflon factor. When I read my Kindle with this “OpenDyslexic font,” my eyes stay better glued—so to speak—to the text. I read better.
Dyslexia is often a recognized problem in readers. Dysgraphia much less so. Students who have this condition—such as I was—are continually criticized for sloppy work, not paying attention, and being lazy. I was thus. It’s not true, but being continually accused of such has consequence. Last week I met a fifth grader who has dysgraphia. He wanted to meet me knowing I went through the same frustration he does. He wanted encouragement.
Among other things, I mentioned this font to him and his mother.
Will it be helpful? I don’t know. Is it worth trying? I think so. I have a grandson who is dyslexic.I intend to get him a Kindle like mine.
Note: Not all Kindles are the same. Check to see if a particular model has this feature.
I just received my first copy of The Most Important Thing [Candlewick Press]. Though it is my seventy-fifth book, it’s always an exciting moment.
Perhaps you have heard of publishing parties, a celebration of the publication of a book. In all my years of publication, I have had only one such party. It was in 1984 and it was for my fourteenth book, Devil’s Race, published by Lippincott, a publisher that no longer exists. It may have been my only such party but it was most unusual.
Devil’s Race is a ghost story, and tells the tale of a boy who has an evil alter-ego who is pursuing him, trying to take him over. The boy’s name is John Proud. Ultimately, John must embrace his evil half to conquer him. Simple stuff. But fun.
The idea for the story came about when I was a member of a Pennsylvania back-packing club. One of the places we often camped was a state forest park called “St. Anthony’s Wilderness,” a most wonderful name, and a most fascinating place. In the 18th and 19th century it had been populated. Now, all that remains in the forest are ruins. And an abandoned cemetery.
In that cemetery there was a lopsided stone that caught my attention. It read, “RIP John Proud.”
Hence my idea for the story (it is set in St. Anthony’s Wilderness) and my protagonist’s name.
Some friends in that backpacking group learned that I was publishing the book and said we must have a book publishing party. So we did, each of us packing in a small bottle of champagne. Thus we hiked into St. Anthony’s Wilderness, and sat around John Proud’s stone, drank a toast to his soul, and to my new book.
My only book publishing party, but a memorable one. I hope it made John Proud, well, proud.
There is, reputably, an old Hemingway suggestion: That you should stop your day’s writing right in the middle of some plot excitement or crisis. It’s not that you can’t go on. The point is you can instantly go on when you return to your work the next day. Instead of staring at your text and asking yourself whatever should happen, you know instantly what that next event is, and you insert yourself right in the flow of your narrative.
It is useful advice, and I’ve followed it any number of times. But I would frame it in a slightly different way. When you feel you have been writing well, it is always wise to go back and rewrite what you have done. You will inevitably discover that it wasn’t quite that good—there will be gaps, glitches and stumbles—and by working on them you can enrich the character, situation, the story as a whole. When rewriting that way you are not stretched so tightly about moving your plot forward, and you can be more leisurely in the subtler aspects of your story.
The energy of your text often comes from the first draft. The quality of your work comes from the many subsequent drafts.
There is no more crucial and creative relationship in the book making process than that which exists between writer and editor. Note my blog of February 11, 2016, for an appreciation of my most important editor, Richard Jackson. There have been other fine editors in my writing life as well. When the communication and work input is high—on both sides—good work can and is created.
Bless them. If I have been successful as a writer it is vital to understand that I have had good editors. No one writes a book alone.
In the world of publishing, editors establish themselves over a period of many years to high degrees of quality and judgment. Good editors earn their good reputations. Being an editor requires high skills. Specific skills. One should think twice—and a lot more than twice—before rejecting the advice and suggestions of one of these established editors.
But is there such a thing as poor or even bad editorial support? You might as well ask are there marriages that fail. I have worked with many editors during my years as a professional writer, and while I believe I have worked with some of the best, some have not been so good.
What makes for a poor editor?
It can be that since the editor/writer relationship is so personal, requiring deep levels of mutual understanding and trust, the human matchups are just not there.
Writers are not always clear about what they are trying to achieve. An editor can subsequently misunderstand what the writer is trying to do and lead him/her in a wrong direction.
An editor can impose a vision on the book which is contrary to what the writer aspires. Such editorial support tries to rewrite the author’s book. The editor may even be right about this new direction, but it will be frustrating for all, and ultimately the work will suffer. The book becomes work for hire.
Finally, publishing is a business. The relationship between art and commerce is complex and is not often acknowledged or accepted. The writer/editor connection is at the center of these sometimes conflicting values. It is, however, rarely talked about.
It is one thing to talk about writing. It is another to talk about publishing. The bridge from one to the other is the editor. Never forget that.
The Most Important Thing: Stories About Sons, Fathers, and Grandfathers, will be available on April 26th. From now until midnight on April 11, 2016, you can enter our random drawing to receive one of four Advanced Readers Copies (ARCs) of this book. Good luck!
This collection of short stories is a hit with reviewers. The Most Important Thing is published by Candlewick Press and will be available at booksellers throughout the United States and online in hardcover, e-book, and audio book formats.
Thanks to MackinVia for this excerpt from a longer interview I did with them. You can view more of Mackin’s videos here.
If you haven’t already read my mystery Catch You Later, Traitor, here’s more about the book.
Morgan, from St. Augustine FL asks, “What inspired you to become a writer?”
Let me describe where I live: It is in Colorado, in the Rocky Mountains, 9,500 feet up. We are surrounded by mountains. Looking out the front windows I can look down Elk Valley for about seventy miles. We are in the middle of a forest. It is very beautiful. We are adjacent to Routt National Forest, and if you walk due West, you won’t see anyone for a hundred miles. Nearest town, Steamboat Springs, is thirty miles away.
The dirt driveway that leads to our house is three-quarters of a mile long and goes mostly up, steeply, and that includes a hairpin turn at the bottom of the last hill, which some who visit often don’t quite make. The population of Columbine, as the neighborhood is called, is, I’m told, thirteen. I’ve never met them all and the nearest is a mile away.
When I describe this to people they often say: “Isolated! Lucky you. How wonderful for writing.”
And indeed writers often talk of the need for isolation. That famous “room of one’s own” and all that.
There is a lot of truth to that.
BUT…when the writing stops, isolation is not so great.
Speaking for myself, I miss contact with people, even the casual contact, such as when I visit my post office (twelve miles away) to pick up mail. As a human being I thrive in cities, where I see people in their endless varieties, their talk, the way they look. From a writer’s point of view, I need those connections. It feeds my imagination, my vocabulary, my sense of place, my sense of interaction.
Speaking for myself, this writer must live—in part—beyond my mind.
I just came back from The Tucson (AZ) Book festival, a huge event with some four hundred or so writers, illustrators, and others connected with the book world. Thousands of people were in attendance. One often hears these days about the lack of interest in reading. When you go to one of these large events, you see otherwise, and I, for one, have restored faith in the world of the book. It energizes me.
That said, and sincerely meant, there is an aspect of these kinds of affairs that always depresses me. I am often put on the program to talk about how I write, the process, how I began and the like. Happy to do so. But, inevitably, when the time for questions comes, someone will ask, “What’s the best way to start a novel?” Or, “I have written a book. How can I get it published?” “I keep trying to write, but I always get stuck. What should I do?”
I have a number of responses to this.
In my view you can only become a writer by
A fine writer I’ve only recently discovered is Gene Weingarten (a journalist). He writes:
“The art of storytelling is as old as civilization. There will always be a hunger for it. Learn to do it well, and somehow, you will find a way to make it pay … [but) a real writer is someone for whom writing is a terrible ordeal. That is because he knows deep down, with an awful clarity, that there are limitless ways to fill a page with words, and that he will never, ever, do it perfectly.”