Archive for January 30, 2012

Fan Mail Wednesday #134: Audiobook Blues

Hello, I am an 8th gr. teacher in Ashtabula, Ohio and I am currently teaching the book Bystander.  I have searched high and low for an audio CD or cassette for this book to use in my classroom because I have a large amount of struggling readers that this would benefit.  Does this book have an audio accommodation?  I would greatly appreciate any information that you would give me.  By the way, I LOVED the book!!  Our school is currently beginning a Bully Week in school, and this is fitting in great with this activity.  I hope my students enjoy it as much as I did. Thanks, Nicole
I replied:
Thanks for your kind words. I have received quite a few requests similar to yours. Unfortunately, an audio component to BYSTANDER remains stuck in the discussion stage. Which I gather means: Nope, never gonna happen. I suspect the book’s timeliness took the audio folks by surprise. Believe me, I’m frustrated too. But to be kind, I don’t think the audio business is exactly booming these days, so they need to be very careful about what they produce and try to sell.
This pains me for the reason you mentioned. This is a book that’s being read in class and, in some cases, entire grades. It’s a novel, yes, but one that ties into and hopefully supports the anti-bullying work that’s being done around the country. Given the importance of this issue, I wish we had an audio companion to offer the students who struggle with the printed word.
I wonder if the new business model is that we (they) produce something inexpensively, and sell it for 99 cents (cheap!) or just give it away. Hmmm.
Ultimately, I’m just the writer, and these types of publishing decisions go over my head.

Fan Mail Wednesday #133: Anger Issues, or, Ray Liotta Writes a Letter

The writer of this piece of fan mail has anger issues. Clearly.

And who can blame him? I get mad at bad books, too. I sigh, grumble, throw them against the wall in disgust, shouting over and over again, “Redeculous! Totally Dumb!”

Which sounds, I now plainly hear, like a spell from Harry Potter. Redeculous. A cousin to those great Don Martin sound effects: Zoink! Splurch!

I digress . . .

I replied to the letter, but my response isn’t not really worth reading.

But the above letter? That right there is awesomeness. A treasure.

And no, it was not written by Ray Liotta.

Ray Liotta did not write the above

letter. But I’d like to think he did.

Fan Mail Wednesday #132: A Plain Person

I’ve heard a lot of positive comments about the “Fan Mail Wednesday” feature, now going on its fourth year. But of late, I haven’t been sharing too many. I’ve been answering mail, doing my duty, just not posting it on the blog. As much as I appreciate the mail, and am grateful for every letter, there can be a sameness to the letters. And my responses strike me as routine, boring.

Other times, a sentence just makes me smile . . .

I replied:

Dear Alex:

Thanks for your great letter, and the SASE, and for — I hope — your patience. I know it took a little too long for my reply. Sorry about that.

Am I a detective or a plain person?

Ah, sadly, I am plain as plain can be, a sorry scoop of vanilla ice cream. A dad, mostly, with three great kids. A husband. A baseball coach, a fan in the stands, a chauffeur, and a lousy cook.

I used to think that writers had to have extraordinary, amazing lives. But I’ve learned that we all have amazing lives — some are quieter than others, of course — but all that matters is how we RESPOND to our lives, our world.

Every day, we should say, at least once . . . WOW.

For a writer, the most important stuff happens between the ears, and in the heart.

My best,

James Preller

For Teachers: 13 Ways of Raising Your Hand in the Classroom

Teachers will like this. All teachers, every one. There will be universal “like” on this little clip.

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

You can find more of her charming, off-beat clips, here.

Uncorrected Proofs, Living with ARCs: One Author’s Perspective

I’ve never been comfortable when people describe themselves as “perfectionists.” Especially coming from writers. It implies that, somewhere down the line, they actually do get it “perfect.”

We don’t, not ever. But many of us — though not all — try our best. And often, our best takes time.

Part of the hardcover publishing process is for publishers to send out Advance Reader’s Copies, or ARCs. These ARCs typically go out for review months in advance of publication to selected bloggers, review periodicals, and influential librarians. To be clear: In most cases, an ARC is what the reviewer reads, not the finished book.

So ARCs are not final, and not perfect. In fact, in the case of my upcoming novel, BEFORE YOU GO, I had/have two rounds of opportunities to make corrections before the book goes to print. These are mostly small details, corrections, not wholesale revisions (and this is in addition to the copyediting process that goes on in-house). So, sure, the ARC is basically a good representation of the final book.

So long as you aren’t a perfectionist.

On the back cover of every ARC I’ve ever seen, it typically reads something like this: PLEASE NOTE: This is an uncorrected proof. This edition should not be quoted without comparison with the finished book.”

I’ve been living with my ARC for about a month now. For various reasons, it came out eight months before the publication date. The ARC does not reflect what I’d estimate to be several hundred minor changes, revisions, corrections. Maybe that’s a lot, I don’t know; and maybe it was all my fault, probably so. It might be because I’m a perfectionist . . . or that I can’t let go . . . or that I should have caught all that before we got to this point. Maybe I’m an idiot. These revisions range from changing a character’s name, to eliminating a comma, to deleting or inserting a single word, to trying once again to get that sentence exactly right. Here’s some examples:

It seemed funnier, changing it to “in the food-service industry.”

I’m adding a hypenated word here, now it’s “like some kind of tree-climbing forest creature.” This revision — everything I’ll show you here, in fact, we discussed with my editor, Liz Szabla. At the bitter end, we roll up our sleeves and talk it out, comma by comma. And I absolutely love that attention to detail. Liz and I will go months without discussing a work — I like to do my own thing for long stretches — but when we do get a change to get down to it, well, for me, that’s pure joy. I don’t understand writers who don’t like revision. That’s the fun part.

Deleting an unnecessary phrase, for speed.

We talked this over and stayed with “fractures.” There’s a great danger at this point, for someone like me, to gild the lily. To over-think.  Sometimes I’ll suggest a change and Liz will say, not unkindly, “I think it’s fine the way it is.” William Wordsworth, you know, rewrote many of his poems toward the end of his life. And the consensus is that he usually made them worse. There’s a point when you’ve got to put down the pen and back away.

I cut two lines, considered some new text, and cut that, too. Actually, I think I revised and inserted that revision into a different moment in the book. There was an idea that I was trying to get to, which resulted in this sentence: “He decided to believe in life.” But this particular paragraph ends, “Jude made a truce with that unknowing.”

Have you deciphered my lefty scrawl?

He forced himself to retrace his blessings, the people and things he would never wish away, yet the exercise proved small solace. Some secret part of him that he dared not confess longed only for annihilation.

The idea of death.

Just a little faster this way.

He’s a strong runner, an able runner. It was only two miles. Jude didn’t need to catch his breath, he wasn’t panting. He needed to find some pebbles to throw at Becka’s window. For dialogue, not “I’m sorry,” but just, “Sorry . . .”

Probably one of the more worked moments in the book. It now reads:

. . . And he reached back to cast that rock as far as he could.

Just to see the splash.


PLEASE NOTE: If you are a reviewer and you are interested in reading the flawed, imperfect ARC to BEFORE YOU GO, please shoot me an email and we’ll see what we can do. I’ve got the perfect book for you. Well, not exactly perfect.