Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Free Books! Two Ways to Win!

Who doesn't love free books, right? Well, this week you have two ways to win a bunch of Class of 2k8 books.

Way #1 - The Hard Way (well, only a little...for those of you who like a challenge)
Go to the Class of 2k8's contest page and answer ten questions about characters from this quarter's 2k8 releases. A random drawing will be made from all the correct entries and the winner will receive three of this quarter's books. Deadline is June 30.

Way #2 - The So Easy You Can Do It In Your Sleep Way
Bop on over to the Class of 2k8 blog , where our Blog Moms are interrogating...er, interviewing an assortment of book reviewers. Find out what makes them tick or ticks them off... And enter our drawing by leaving a comment on the blog. Every day we're giving away two 2k8 books. Deadline to comment is June 29.

Improve your chances of winning by entering both drawings, because, as the Scarecrow says in The Wizard of Oz..."Some people do go both ways."

Friday, June 13, 2008

Cross-gender writing

I recently received an interesting comment on my Red Room page that I’d like to offer up for discussion:

“Do the two boys in your historical novel have real-life counterparts? And if not, why did you choose two young males as lead characters, as opposed to two females or a male and female? At the heart of my question is why you would otherwise select young males to write about in depth. Perhaps you had brothers? Granted, children are perhaps more in their own unique class as callow pre-adults than than they are either male or female to any strict degree, but for a writer to readily fathom the soul of a child, a child of the same sex as the writer should be a much easier task.

“Wouldn't you predict difficulties if a woman were to write "Lord of Flies" or a man tackled "Little Women?"

“I'm not being critical. My curiosity is in effect betraying my own doubts that I could credibly write a novel about two pre-teen, or teenage girls.”

It's not as if I'm the first writer in the world to have protagonists who are the opposite gender from their creator, but still, it did make me think.

Now, my feeling is that sometimes writers choose their characters; sometimes the characters choose the writer. For me, the latter is usually the case. Sometimes the characters who choose me happen to be male, sometimes female.

No, I’ve never been a boy (except perhaps in a previous incarnation, if you believe that kind of thing). I’ve also never been an abused indentured servant living in the 19th century, and I’m no longer a child. Does that mean that I had no right to write about these characters? Should I be restricted to writing only about white American females who grew up in the suburbs of New England in the late 20th century? What’s the point of writing fiction if one’s stories must be confined to one’s own life experience? The fun and challenge of writing for me is to try to “fathom the soul” of someone who isn’t like me and explore how that person’s thoughts and feelings are different from mine.

Sure, I did wonder if my male characters would be credible. I tested them out by not using my first name when submitting A Difficult Boy to editors or agents. Some took the safe route and refrained from putting a Mr. or Ms. on their responses (we're not counting the form letters, here, but the ones who really read the story). Several male readers, however, believed the book had been written by a man. So at least some readers felt that I’d gotten the point of view right. I guess you'll have to read the book yourself to decide whether you agree :)

I’ve certainly read books by male authors with female protagonists and thought, “A woman would never act like that.” But I’ve also read some that were totally convincing. Take Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain--I felt that the female characters were spot-on and were actually more interesting than the male characters. And what about Madame Bovary, Anna Karenina, Tess of the d’Urbervilles? Or, on the other hand, what about Ethan Frome, Harry Potter, The Accidental Tourist, Mary Stewart’s Arthurian novels, Dorothy Sayers’s Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries?

Readers, can you come up with a list of your favorite books written by authors whose gender or race, ethnicity, background, etc., is different from their protagonists? Writers, how do you feel about creating characters who are very different from your own personal background?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Upcoming events for June

Okay, I'm a bad blogger--I should be updating once a week or more, not once a month. But that's because April and May have just been insanely busy months, with readings and book-signings in East Longmeadow, Concord, Worcester, North Easton, Barre, Amherst, Northampton, and Springfield. Add to that a new job as Circuit Rider for Preservation Massachusetts (no, a horse doesn't go with it), and I've barely had time to breathe, let alone blog. A HUGE thank-you to the host libraries, bookstores, and clubs, to friends and family who came out to support me, and to these authors who joined me at several events:

Historian Rusty Clark, author of the Stories Carved in Stone book series about gravestone carvers in Massachusetts and Connecticut

Teen author Amanda Butcher, author of the fantasy novel Lark and the Magic Pencil (this high-school freshman girl totally blew me away with her poise, self-confidence, and articulate presentation)

Fellow Class of 2k8 author Marissa Doyle, whose Bewitching Season combines historical fiction, romance, and magic and is just a total delight

Contemporary author Judith Jaeger, whose The Secret Thief was a favorite of my monthly book group

YA/middle-grade author Michelle D. Kwasney, whose books Itch and Baby Blue follow two girls through difficult situations

YA/middle-grade author D. Dina Friedman, whose book Escaping into the Night explores a facet of World War II history that was previously unknown to me, and whose book Playing Dad's Song shows how a boy copes with his father's death.

Great company, indeed! If you haven't read their books, I recommend them!

Upcoming Events
June looks as though it'll be nearly as busy as April and May, with at least one event a week. I hope some of you New England readers can join me! I'm especially looking forward to returning to my old stomping grounds at Old Sturbridge Village on June 28.

1 Jun 2008: Online interview

6 Jun 2008, 9:30 a.m.: Presentation for Worcester students (open to general public as well)
Worcester Public Library
3 Salem Street
Worcester, MA 01608

6 Jun 2008, 7:00 p.m.: Book signing
Barnes & Noble Booksellers
541 D Lincoln Street
Worcester, MA 01605
tel: (508) 853-2236
fax: (508) 853-9527

14 Jun 2008, noon-1:30 p.m.: Panel discussion on writing with Class of 2k8 writer Marissa Doyle (author of Bewitching Season), short-story writer and teacher Nancy Gardner, poet Teresa Cader, children's writer Mitali Perkins (First Daughter and Rickshaw Girl), mystery writers Catherine Cairns and Leslie Wheeler (author of Murder at Plimoth Plantation and Murder at Gettysburg), and me
Cary Memorial Library
1874 Massachusetts Avenue
Lexington, MA 02420
For more information, contact Catherine Sibert
Or call the library at 781-862-6288

21 Jun 2008, noon-3 p.m.: Book sales and signing
June Strawberry Social
Ramapogue Historical Society
West Springfield, MA

28 Jun 2008, 3:00 p.m.: Book signing and discussion
Old Sturbridge Village
Old Sturbridge Village Road (off Route 20)
Sturbridge, MA

I've also been woefully negligent in congratulating my Class of 2k8 colleagues whose books have been released in April and May, and whose books are sitting in a stack in my office screaming "Read us! Read us!" Make sure you check out these titles:

Shift by Jennifer Bradbury: Best friends go on a cross-country bike trip, but only one returns.

Bewitching Season by Marissa Doyle: While making their debuts in 1837 London a pair of twin witches rescue the soon-to-be Queen Victoria from a dastardly plot...when they're not looking for Lord Right.

Braless in Wonderland by Debbie Reed Fischer: Allee Rosen falls down the rabbit hole and lands in the fab lane when she gets snapped up by modeling agents and whisked away to glamorous South Beach. Will the model life go to her head?

The Lucky Place by Zu Vincent: When you look at growing up through Cassie’s eyes, you see it differently.

The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas: Take the magic and run!

Read My Lips
by Teri Brown: Serena is a a deaf skater chick who uses her amazing lip-reading ability to infiltrate the popular crowd, take down a secret sorority and tame the school rebel.

La Petite Four by Regina Scott: Lady Emily Southwell and her three dearest friends plan to take London by storm until they run afoul of a dashing young lord who may have more up his sleeve than a nicely muscled arm.