Sunday, February 19, 2012

Great Book Alert: OKAY FOR NOW by Gary D. Schmidt

I loved THE WEDNESDAY WARS by Gary D. Schmidt, but only recently read the sequel (or companion book), OKAY FOR NOW. What I want to know is, what the heck was I waiting for?!

Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

April 5, 2011

Here is the blurb from IndieBound:

As a fourteen-year-old who just moved to a new town, with no friends and a louse for an older brother, Doug Swieteck has all the stats stacked against him. So begins a coming-of-age masterwork full of equal parts comedy and tragedy from Newbery Honor winner Gary D. Schmidt. As Doug struggles to be more than the "skinny thug" that his teachers and the police think him to be, he finds an unlikely ally in Lil Spicer--a fiery young lady who "smelled like daisies would smell if they were growing in a big field under a clearing sky after a rain." In Lil, Doug finds the strength to endure an abusive father, the suspicions of a whole town, and the return of his oldest brother, forever scarred, from Vietnam. Together, they find a safe haven in the local library, inspiration in learning about the plates of John James Audubon's birds, and a hilarious adventure on a Broadway stage. In this stunning novel, Schmidt expertly weaves multiple themes of loss and recovery in a story teeming with distinctive, unusual characters and invaluable lessons about love, creativity, and survival.

How I know this book is great:

1. The protagonist. You can't help caring about him. So much voice, heart, strength, and vulnerability!

2. Everybody else in the book. Seriously. Schmidt's characters feel like real, three-dimensional people without ever feeling overwrought.

3. The scenes have shape. This is something I always strive for in my own work. Who doesn't, right? In OKAY FOR NOW, the scenes feel very natural but they're sculpted. For example, you can feel the scene breaks.

4. I love the way the lines build on each other. Lines get repeated, but it's not for lack of creativity. Sometimes it's for voice--and this book is bursting with voice. Sometimes a line grows in meaning with each use and a scene feels reinforced by the repeated line.

5. History is woven beautifully into the story.

6. The pacing. It's just right.

7. The rhythm of the sentences. I think rhythm matters so much in writing, whether it's in a picture book, a poem, or a novel.

8. The use of symbolism was impressive and lovely.

9. As I read, the words "masterfully crafted" kept floating into my mind. You know when agents or editors talk about wanting to know they're in good hands with storytellers? This is a perfect example of an author delivering a finely crafted work, and you just know you're in good hands right away. I do not mean the author draws attention to himself and his abilities, pulling you from the story dreamworld. He doesn't. But his skill level makes you feel secure as a reader.

10. I wish it had my name on the cover. :)

Have you read any of Gary D. Schmidt's books? When is the last time you loved a book so much you wished you'd written it?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Note to Self: Loosen Up

That's what I've been telling myself lately, again and again (and again). It's kind of ridiculous because I've done this before. Why hasn't my brain absorbed it yet?

First drafts aren't supposed to be pretty. I
know this. I've written about it in past posts. Yet I have to remind myself every time I work through a new first draft.

It helps me to think about Anne Lamott's words in
BIRD BY BIRD and to truly view my draft as the sh**ty first draft. It helps me to remember that I need to get all the clay on the wheel before I can shape it.

How about you? Do you have to remind yourself to loosen up? Or is there something else you have to remind yourself to do?

* * *

This is Thistle reminding me that he needs his ears rubbed.
He often sleeps on a doggy bed behind me when I write, but when I've been working too long (in his opinion) . . .

Look at those eyes, at that face. And he's sooo sweet. Do you see why I love him so much?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

This and That

Every now and then I like to do a post that's a mix of news and other interesting items I want to share. Today is one of those days! Are you ready?

Stephanie Thornton signed with agent Marlene Stringer of the Stringer Literary Agency. Congratulations, Stephanie!! You can read her happy news here!
*Publishers Weekly had an article about Barnes & Noble's recent announcement: B&N won't be stocking Amazon-published titles. Another PW article by Marc Schultz soon followed, saying, "This has all happened before."

*The Intern posted an eye-opening e-mail from an editorial assistant,
cautioning unagented writers. It echoes a super informative post by Editorial Ass that I linked to a while back.

Susan Fields pointed out a new site that's worth visiting. It's called Cupid's Literary Connection, and it's a blog "where an undercover cupid brings writers and agents together to form magical literary connections."

*The Intern had another post you won't want to miss,
Dinner with Literary Agents. It's excellent, really.

*Looking for a blog that's filled with warmth, positivity, and creativity?
Faith Pray's blog is one of the coziest corners of the Internet! Faith is a writer, an artist, and an amazing parent. I was lucky to get to meet her in person last year! She's a sweetheart! If you have not yet discovered her blog, go check it out!
How about you? Do you have anything you'd like to share?
Tell me, tell me, tell me!