The Words of Others

As a writer, I spend a lot of time worrying over my own words. But what I’ve come to realize is that lots of writers (myself included) spend almost as much time worrying over the words of others. It’s hard to send your darlings out for judgment. And I will admit to spending more time than I should reading reviews of my babies on Amazon and on Goodreads. For me, because I’m just starting out, any review is a good review. Okay, well, not ANY review. I kind of feel like unless a writer is clearly a hack, we should just abide by the rule “if you don’t have something nice to say…” you know where I’m going with that. Why tear down a writer who is just trying to get her ground?

The point of this post was not to rail against bad reviews (and I’ve had a few. You’re welcome to go read them….) Instead, it’s to try to tell myself and other writers that it is okay to prefer the good ones. It’s okay to seek validation of your work and to celebrate when it comes. Writing is a lonely task at times, and having someone say, “hey, you’re doing a good job” feels good.

Tonight I spoke at the Charles County chapter of the Maryland Writers’ Association, a group that I support in my local county as well. When I returned home, I sat down to see if any of the pre-read reviews on Redemption Red had been posted at Goodreads yet. Then I wandered over to Amazon because, frankly, I can’t help myself. I like to see my sales ranks. And while there, I noticed a new review for Through A Dusty Window. I cringed…that book is so different from everything else I’ve done. It’s not sexy or easy… it’s literary fiction and it’s short stories, and it’s historical fiction. But I kind of love it. And when the review turned out to be a good one — glowing even — I might’ve sniffled a bit. Here’s my favorite line:

The author writes well, extremely well. Found myself saying, “Wish I had thought of that.” The first words grab hold of you, the last leave you with a feeling of wanting more, and those in the middle put you directly into the scene. Carry on Delancey Stewart.

I’m going to bed now… but that’s going to carry me through quite a few tough days ahead. Thank you to all readers who take the time to let writers know when they’re doing things you like. Good night!

An Interview and a Review…

Through a Dusty Window continues its mad dash around the interwebs!

I’m back over at Oh, for the HOOK of a BOOK! with a fun interview with blogger Erin Al-Mehairi today. Please check it out!

And there’s another wonderful review posted at the Bookworm.

Here’s an excerpt from that review… “Author Delancey Stewart drew me in with her quiet, yet moving prose…The writing kept pulling me along. I enjoyed the way the author captures the time and culture as each story progresses through the years.”

There’s a giveaway at the Bookworm, too, if you haven’t read the book yet! (Why not?)

Poetry in Prose

Like most writers (I assume), I read a lot. Usually three or four books at a time, and usually fairly quickly. I’ve got one going now that I keep taking breaks from. And it’s had me thinking more than any book I’ve read lately. I’ve taken breaks from it because I don’t want it to end, and because the content needs time to sit and simmer in some places.

I’m reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. And it’s been a wonderful experience. It’s a book that has changed the way I think about some things. YA literature, specifically. I grew up reading YA classics, but I didn’t know, at that time, that there was any such thing as young adult literature. I read whatever I wanted, and some of the things I read happened to have characters that were more relatable than others. As a writer, of course, the genre is not unfamiliar, especially with the fairly recent successes of the big ones like Rowling and Meyer. And I enjoyed those series very much. And I think the writing in both was just fine. The stories were what kept me reading. But with the Book Thief, it’s different. The language is what’s keeping me reading.

My former experiences with YA had led me to believe that writers who focused that way were looking for one thing – marketability. The quality of the writing didn’t seem to matter quite as much if the story hit all the necessary plot points and kept younger readers engaged. But Markus Zusak has challenged that idea.

I should say, first off, that I have no idea why this book would be construed as YA, if you want the truth. The protagonist is a “tween”, I suppose… but outside of that… the themes are universal, the setting and action are quite adult (although in this day and age, with kids playing ridiculously violent games and watching blood and gore in movies, maybe there’s no line there anymore).

But I’ve gotten off track. My point isn’t to consider the rise of YA literature or find rules for its categorization.

My goal was to basically GUSH over Zusak’s work. I don’t know if he sits down and worries every little sentence to make them read as they do. I’m guessing it’s a bit more natural to him. And I envy that… On every page is a sentence I wish with all my heart I had written. My husband is getting irritated because as I come across these, I tend to read them out loud, several times. So he’s been woken to me saying things like:

“In fact, on April 20 – the Fuhrer’s birthday – when she snatched a book from beneath a steaming pile of ashes, Liesel was a girl made of darkness.”  A GIRL made of DARKNESS. Lovely.

“It was a Monday and they walked on a tightrope to the sun.”

“She wanted none of those days to end, and it was always with disappointment that she watched the darkness stride forward.”

“The tears grappled with her face.”

“Her wrinkles were like slander. Her voice was akin to a beating with a stick.” That one has been in my head since I read it. Her wrinkles were like slander. I adore this idea.

I’ll let you read the rest yourself if you haven’t done so already.

It’s been a while since I’ve read a book that feels like it was painted with a brush and palette. Thanks, Markus Zusak, for reminding me that literary fiction and YA do not have to be different things.

Acceptance

You read it right! But no, not the novel. That’s still lingering out there in the ether, in the hands of three agents who expressed interest. (More likely, in a pile on the desk of those three different agents.) But that is neither here nor there. (What a strange saying.) What is here. And there, I suppose, is the purpose of this post. Celebration!

I’ve had a story accepted by a small literary publication called The Rusty Nail. It’s a short story, called “Bedtime.” It’s actually a very sad story, and is part of the group of things I did when I set about exploring my greatest fears. I figured that the things I’m most afraid of, if I dared to write about them, might evoke some passion that would be evident on the page. (Since I’m a parent, you can probably imagine what those fears entail.)

Anyway, this is my first publication since I set out to be “a real writer.” I have work in lots of magazines, but that’s all journalistic wine and travel-type stuff (written under my real name.) This is the first fiction credit I can claim, and I’m very excited about it.

Just wanted to share… since these moments don’t come often!