Out of the Closet: My OTHER Writing Self

So… you know what I write, right? YA novels that you can’t wait to get your hands on (and give to people you love). What Can’t Wait. The Knife and the Butterfly.

Well. There’s another Ashley.

Most of the time, she lives in a book-lined closet.

That Ashley is an Academic. And she writes Scholarly Stuff. I’ve got a couple of academic publications under my belt, and I’m proud of this work, too, even though it’s probably of interest to about .00001% of human beings. And maybe that’s optimistic. Probably Cervantes–if he were alive–wouldn’t be one of them. (See why this Ashley stays in the closet?)

But it’s writing. And it matters. And I will now tantalize you with an excerpt from my recently published article on part of Cervantes’ Don Quijote. Actually, it’s about a self-contained novella inside of Don Quijote in which two men use a woman (the wife of one, the lover of the other) as leverage in their relationship:

But in the case of “El curioso impertinente”—with the single exception of Camila’s dagger thrust—what we see is precisely the rigorous exclusion of female desire from the closed relationship between Anselmo and Lotario, making Girard’s model keenly relevant. Indeed, even the narrator, whose voice is emphatically male, participates in the restrictive structuring of the concepts through which Camila becomes intelligible to them only as an object and instrument. The men’s relationship to Camila is both parasitic and perverse in its insistent objectification: she is gold to be tested (1.33:403), a fine diamond (1.33:408), an imperfect animal (1.33:408), a relic to be adored but not touched (1.33:409), a snow-white ermine (1.33:409), a beautiful garden (1.33:409). Camila can be all of these things because she is to them a kind of magic mirror (a crystal mirror, Lotario says), onto which shifting images may be projected (1.33:409).

You can read the whole thing here.  If you want. I D-double-dog dare you. And if I’m ever in your town and you can prove that you read this article, I’ll buy you a drink.

And now you know. I live with that other Ashley. And she writes, too. Twice the writer’s block. Twice the revising. Lucky me!

Writers’ Rights: An Open Letter on How to Review Books Safely

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Dear New Author,

You used to like writing reviews, didn’t you? Goodreads, your blog, even facebook: your opinions were loud and proud. But what now, now that you are joining the ranks of the published?

First off, let me say that I know how you feel. Here’s a bit I wrote (trembling) before my first, post-authordom review (of Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s Last Night I Sang to the Monster):

I can’t help thinking about what it’s like to put oneself out there in print, to get naked before the world by publishing…·I don’t quite feel free to be “just another reader,” going off on what gets under my skin. Instead, my honesty needs to come with a sincere effort to understand what the author was trying to accomplish. I think this has pretty much been my MO all along, but now it feels… more urgent somehow.

But you, new author, have it even worse because there’s been a lot of chatter lately about the rights (or lack there of) of writers when it comes to reviewing others’ works–and commenting on reviews of their own work… to the point that you might well feel that the only place you can share your opinion of a book is in the privacy of your darkest closet, where (creepiness alert!) you must whisper your thoughts to a glassy-eyed doll who promises never, never to reveal the truth.

Actually, it’s not as bad as all that. You don’t have to hit the delete button on your opinions just because you’ve got a book out there. What you do need to do is exercise a little common sense and caution. As Nathan Bransford writes in his post on authors and book reviews, “writers give up the right to write casually bitchy reviews.” He goes on to give some common-sense (and crucial) reasons why this is the case before concluding that “writers should require themselves to write thoughtful reviews.”

But what does a thoughtful review from an author look like? How do authors engage in discussions about books that they didn’t·like in a responsible way?

If you want to learn how to review thoughtfully, pretend you’re a librarian thinking about books to add to your collection. Suddenly, it’s not just about you anymore. It’s about who the book is written for–and who it might appeal to. (We are not–gasp!–always the perfect audience for the books that land in our laps.) This means reading not just as ourselves but also keeping in mind the reading experiences of other people who matter.

One of my favorite librarian reviewers over at Stacked didn’t like my latest novel. In fact, she even said, “I’ll admit, I had a hard time reading this book because this story was not up my alley at all.” But I think hers is still a great review because it highlights the needs The Knife and the Butterfly meets. Kelly calls the book edgy and powerful and weighs in on its “appeal to reluctant readers,” guys, and kids on the fringe:

Never once do any of the issues come across as inauthentic or pandering. These aren’t issue-driven books but involve characters and situations that are relatable to audiences who often don’t have these sorts of stories written for them. Many times these stories are instead written at them.

Read the rest of the review here, if you like, and notice how attention to other readers brings balance to the reviewer’s own reactions. It doesn’t mean that those reactions have no place in the review; they’re still there. But they have some context. And that’s what you want to do when you review, too.

Ask yourself questions like, if I didn’t like this, who might? What elements irked me, and how might these be working toward an effect? Is that effect legitimate for the intended audience?

And be nice. Above all, think about the words you choose. Because now you know that bringing a book into the world–period!–is a tremendous feat.

Happy reviewing… and welcome to the dark side!

Abrazos,

Ash

Holy Carolrhoda Lab generosity! Third Authors for Henryville auction

Carolrhoda Lab and my fab editor Andrew Karre have been hugely generous in offering heaps of titles for the Authors for Henryville auction. Check out these amazing offerings! Bid in the comments for each listing between now and 9 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday (3/17).

Autographed Carolrhoda titlesThe Freak Observer by Blythe Woolston, The Absolute Value of -1 by Steve Brezenoff, and Draw the Dark by Ilsa J. Bickall of which are autographed by their fabulous (and award-winning!) authors.

BFYA Books: YALSA’s Best Fiction for YA list is a go-to resource for teachers, librarians, and readers all over the country. Both Brooklyn, Burning (Steve Brezenoff) and What Can’t Wait (Ashley Hope Pérez) made the list. Bid, read, and find out why. Psst! This copy of Brooklyn, Burning is autographed!

“You’ll Never See It Coming” pack: Like a twist? Get ready!! The Knife and the ButterflyDrowning Instinct, and Ultraviolet (all from Carolrhoda Lab) will keep you guessing until the last page.

Novels of Transformation pack: Transformations can take many forms, as you will see from this trio of novels: Everything I Was by Corinne Demas, In Trouble by Ellen Levine, and What Can’t Wait by Ashley Hope Pérez! 

Unlikely Journeys pack: Road trips and more! Explore three unlikely journeys with these wonderful (and diverse) novels from Carolrhoda Lab: Catch & Releaseby Blythe Woolston, No Crystal Stair by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, and Lost in the River of Grass by Ginny Rorby.

Elizabeth Atkinson – Emma Freke Audiobook: Elizabeth Atkinson’s middle-grade novel, I Emma Freke on audiobook–this is begging for listening on a family road trip or just for fun!

Barbara Shoup: Get your hands on two novels by award-winning Indiana author Barbara Shoup, courtesy of the fabulous Andrew Karre, former editor at Flux. Here’s Everything You Want and Wish You Were Here.

Ouch! Ash bites!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/wwarby/4012242360

For the record, I’m hugely honored to have a guest post over at Bites today. To see what I mean, check out Donna’s HILARIOUS post on “why your emails get deleted unanswered.” From this, authors sound like a pack of frenzied, ill-mannered second-graders shouting, “Me! Me! Me!” I guess that’s not so far from the mark sometimes. But we try to behave, really we do.  🙂

Anyway, check out my guest post on why The Knife and the Butterfly is anchored in Azael’s POV and not Lexi’s. And while you’re clicking around, don’t forget to see the amazing new auction items up for auction at Authors for Henryville.  This serious show of love for a shattered community deserves your bucks!

Psst! A while back, Donna chewed on The Knife and the Butterfly and gave it 5 out of 5 bites in this review.

Don’t make this mistake on Twitter

Twitter is a powerful social media tool, no doubt. And I keep meaning to get better at using it. More consistent, more strategic. But I often feel like my grandmother trying to run a PC for the first time. This is me: “Direct message? What’s that?”

A while back, I stumbled across a post by Angela James telling me 10 things authors should know about using Twitter. Relevant, right? Indeed! Already I discover in item #1 something that I’ve been doing wrong:

1. When you start your tweet with the @ symbol, your whole tweet stream doesn’t see what you’re tweeting.

Starting with the @ creates a reply. Not a broadcast to your tweetstream. So only the person you “replied” to and those who follow both of you will see it. In other words: starting a promotional tweet with an @ is ineffective and wrong.

@angelajames taught me something new about Twitter today (only I and people following both of us will see this tweet. Sad. I want people to know how awesome I am!)

If you absolutely want to start with that person’s name, you can get around this by simply adding a period at the beginning of the tweet.

Really?! Who knew? Not me… Oops. For more dos and don’ts, read the whole post here. There’s also a cute poster here that explains some Twitter basics for the unsaavy.

I think I need to sign up for a remedial course in Twitter. I’m slow but willing to learn. 

Donate to the Henryville cause starting now!

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It’s official! We are ready to raise funds to help Henryville! We are raising money for Red Cross to use specifically for relief efforts in Henryville, Indiana. Click below to connect securely to our fundraising site.

Watch for news of cool auction items on the Authors for Henryville blog, but don’t wait to donate! All donors who tweet their donation amount with the #authors4henry hashtag or email the same information to authors4henryville((at))gmail((dot))com will be entered into a huge drawing of books and book swag donated by authors nationwide.
Check the Authors for Henryville blog to see some of the authors participating–specific details of prizes to come soon.

Want to encourage others to donate? You can embed the secure donation widget above into your own blog or website. Click “embed this on your site” above or see more ideas for sharing this fundraiser here.

Authors for Henryville

http://www.flickr.com/photos/statefarm/6962579897/

Henryville school, destroyed.

Why “Authors for Henryville”? Read on:

On March 2nd, tornados ripped through Southern Indiana, killing 14 people and devastating several communities. Among the towns that were practically erased from the map was the small community of Henryville. Its elementary, middle, and high schools were torn apart, shredded, and flattened. All the books in the school libraries were ruined.

Some students have lost their homes while others have lost loved ones. All of them will have to be bused to various nearby schools in order to finish out the school year. It is too early for us to even know what the future holds for them or how soon the Henryville schools will be rebuilt and reopened.

But, no matter what, Henryville needs help! And so this group of Hoosier authors is inviting writers from all over to help us raise funds to donate to the Red Cross.

from the Authors for Henryville website

I’m living in Paris, but a big piece of my heart is in  our current home state of Indiana–especially since last week. Julia Karr, author of XVI and Truth, is spearheading a fundraiser for the Henryville community. Christine Johnson, Mike Mullin, Josie Bloss, and I are working with Julia to organize this effort, and authors from all over are pledging amazing prizes for giveaway to donors as well as auction items (pssst! Meg Cabot is donating sets of ALL of her series!).

You can see the first wave of authors participating on the Authors for Henryville website. Stay tuned for specifics about where to donate funds, bid for auction items, and enter the fabulous drawing. We are waiting on the Henryville schools to let us know how we can best help.

In the meantime, if you would like to pledge a book to use as a prize or auction item, check out this call to authors (perfect for sending on to author friends, too) or simply email your pledge to authors4henryville(at)gmail.com.

Thanks in advance for your generosity and support. Let’s show this community that we care. The success of this effort depends on ALL of us.

I still like blowing out the candles

Steve Wilhelm: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevewilhelm/2117216634

A lot of people make jokes about how, when you get old, it’s no longer fun to blow out the candles on your birthday cake. But not me. I don’t care if lighting all those candles threatens to turn the icing into a buttery puddle–I want the candles, and I want to make a wish! If I pass out trying to blow out my candles, so be it.

I’ve never been into big birthdays, but at my advanced age (I can hear some people who know me chortling) and in my new role as mother and custodian of Liam’s birthday experiences, I no longer expect fireworks beyond birthday candles. Just a cake of some kind and a little quality time with my boys. 

That said, may I state for the record that a surprise birthday party does NOT make up for pretending all day to have forgotten a person’s birthday. Not that I’m speaking from experience here. I did not walk around with a lump in my throat for 10 hours during sophomore year in college when nobody said “happy birthday,” and I did not buy myself a cupcake, and I DEFINITELY did not cry out of relief (“I do exist!) when the surprise was revealed. Right… it was a little like that youtube video a while back of the girl crying (really crying) when she finds out she’s going to Disneyworld. Only… she was, like, 5. And this DIDN’T happen to me when I was, say, 17.

My best birthday gift ever? A marriage proposal from my best-friend and now husband, Arnulfo. It’s possible that this was a little overdue (in my opinion) but NO WAY was it preceeded by any tearful, “are we getting married or what?” conversations. (There is a pattern in the non-events of my life, right…)

But that’s history… And anyway, it was worth the wait. I never would have had enough faith in me to put an expensive ring on my finger while standing on a jety in the Gulf of Mexico, but lucky for us all, I didn’t drop it into the ocean. Whew. 

Final sprint and reflections on the race, er, blog tour

I’m a little out of breath, but I’m happy. I finished the race, er, I mean the blog tour for The Knife and the Butterfly. And I had fun. Really. And I did not spend all my writing time for top-secret novel #3 setting up guest posts. I did my writing a little bit at a time–mostly in advance–and, lo and behold, that elephant got eaten!

I’ll admit that for about 5 minutes I thought about the whole blog tour thing as a kind of author obligation (seeing as how–living in Paris and all–I’m not able to do as much live promo stuff). But I grew out of that fast when I realized what a great chance a blog tour is to learn about my own writing, meet great bloggers and fellow authors, and connect with readers. I even discovered a few writing soulmates along the way. 

Speaking of… Tanita S. Davis over at Finding Wonderland did this amazing post all about the blog tour that captures very well what’s important about a blog tour:

The best thing about a blog tour is that it allows an author to think deeply and really talk about their work, and allows readers to ask the niggling, secret, or silly questions they’ve got lurking within them about a work, about an author, or about their process.

You definitely should read Tanita’s whole Big Ideas, Small Venues post.

Okay, so I have lots more to say about blog tours–why to do them, how to do them and handle organization (thank you, Scrivener), and more. But here’s one last blog tour digest to send you spinning out in many directions across the Internet. This time, I’m starting with my favorites…

2/17/12 -·The Edge in Fiction, or: Why Safe Books Are Dead Books·-·Finding Wonderland

I think this is the most important post of the tour. Not a defense of cussing or “mature themes,” but an exploration of why books need to take us to some kind of edge.

2/23/12 -·Excerpt from·TK&TB·plus 6 peeks behind the scenes·Books from Bleh to Basically Amazing

My favorite excerpt from The Knife and the Butterfly.

2/27/12 -·Letter to My Teen Self (including… how I dropped out of high school and found a voice)Dear Teen Me

Definitely the highest concentration of embarrassing stories about me on the Internet. Also… nerdy photos.

Even more fab posts here:

2/17/12 – Review of The Knife and the Butterfly·- Stacked

2/20/12 – Interview (including… my misplaced loyalties, plot twists, and takeaways) – Ex-libris Kate

2/21/12 -·One Houston, Two Worlds (& excerpt)Fictitious Musings

2/22/12 – Two Truths and a Lie ContestMaggie’s Bookshelf·**Giveaway**

2/24/12 – Being a Writer in Paris (with photos!)Confessions of a Readaholic

Click here for links to all 30+ (!) blog tour stops. And thanks to everyone who helped make the blog tour a success–much gratitude!

 

 

Can you keep up?

The blog tour marches on! Check out these delicious posts…

2/10/12 – Interview (including… a confession about the title and research in taquerías) – Chick Lit Cafe·

2/11/12 -·Boobs, Bottles, and Boxes of Cookies: Or, How to Handle Characters and Their Flaws like a ProFiction Folio

2/13/12 -·Top 10 Ways Becoming an Author Changed My Reading·- Roots in Myth·**Giveaway**

2/14/12 – Interview (including… writing about gangs, bringing the lost back, and Ashley as a mud pie)A Good Addiction

2/15/12 – Big Ideas, Small Venues (on blog touring) – Finding Wonderland

2/15/12 – Interview (including favorite scenes, pen of choice, and a Twitter-sized description)  -·One Page at a Time

2/16/12 -·Rewriting the News—and the Rules of My Characters’ World·– Cynsations·

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