Writerly inspiration at Walmart?

A pre-Thanksgiving protest from 2013. (Photo credit: Benjamin G. Robinson/Wikimedia Commons)

A pre-Thanksgiving protest from 2013. (Photo credit: Benjamin G. Robinson/Wikimedia Commons)

Not a college class. Not a conference. Not a TED talk.

Character, plot, dialogue. All that inspiration may find you.

Yes, even at one of the dreaded Big Box stores.

Yesterday, my wife and I went through a checkstand at the nearby small-town monopoly. (Or, as other friends call it, “The Company Store.” Think Tennessee Ernie Ford.)

The elderly woman ahead of us talked. And talked. And talked!

However, the cashier just smiled, nodded and smiled some more.

When we had our turn, the blue-vested angel whispered, “There’s so many lonely old people. They just want someone to talk to, even for a minute.”

We nodded in admiration of her patience and compassion.

“Will you have Thanksgiving off?” my wife asked her.

The cashier shrugged. “We had our Thanksgiving early. I’ll be working here that day.”

“For time-and-a-half, I hope!” I added.

The worker shook her head. “I am working a double shift, though. If I can help someone else be with their family, it’s worth it.”

A corporate villain. Adversity. A hero.

All these literary building blocks for free? Yep. Just look and listen.

How This Book Was Made: A Picture Book Not Just for Kids

how-this-book-was-made-barnettHow This Book was Made: A True Story is sneaky, subversive fun.

Children may prefer illustrator Adam Rex’s story-within-a-story artwork. While kids might simply see a queen dining on a veranda, adults will read between of the lines as author Mac Barnett describes his New York City editor. “She is like a teacher, only she works in a skyscraper and is always eating fancy lunches.”

After all, as Barnett claims he wrote 21 drafts of his children’s book, adults will remember the subtitle promise that this is a true story.

How true? Adults will guffaw over Rex portraying himself as a leisurely illustrator who needed frequent naps before completing his assignment. Rex packs each page with action, showing a multitude of characters (including King Kong and Ben Franklin) who enjoy cameos in the behind-the-scenes hilarity.

Children who stay tuned for the entire book won’t be disappointed. It turned out THEY are the true stars. How? Barnett reminds us that “…a book still isn’t a book, not really, until it has a reader.”

Published authors and illustrators will giggle over their “been there, done that” reaction to How This book Was Made.

Just be ready to explain your inside-joke laughs with the kids you’re sharing this fun title with!

See for yourself with the book’s official trailer!

Is writing a good occupation for people-haters?

Garbo did not say "I want to be alone." Maybe she really said, "I want to be a writer!"(Photo credit: UCLA Library/Wikimedia Commons)

Garbo did not say “I want to be alone.” Maybe she really said, “I want to be a writer!”(Photo credit: UCLA Library/Wikimedia Commons)

Barbra Streisand sang about people who LOVE people. However….

Rachel Gillett penned a fun “think” piece for Business Insider. What are good careers for people who aren’t “people persons?”

Creative writers. Hunters and trappers. Quarry rock splitters. Jobs like these were ranked for how much time a worker has to spend interacting with others. Also, how often do these jobs require you to be pleasant with others?

I thought everyone wanted to write for fame and fortune!

 

Non-fiction book proposal formulas revealed by agent

nonfictionbookproposalcoverThe Literary Agent’s Guide to Writing A Non-fiction Book Proposal (e-book, $3.99) delivers on its title. Author (and agent) Andy Ross offers a handy step-by-step roadmap in creating what he describes as your book’s business plan.

This game plan is more than the proposal. Ross starts by addressing the need for a persuasive query letter to an agent. Why should the agent represent you and your book proposal?

Ross notes that the most popular subject he teaches at writing conference is query letters. His top complaint about bad query letters? They’re too long.

One tip the author dishes is to avoid “sucking up.” he doesn’t want query writers to waste time talking about an agent’s list, or life. For Ross, some writers want to praise him on Cody’s, his bookstore for years. “Don’t waste words with your query,” he warns.

One an agent is willing to read your book proposal, Ross advocates fast action. Don’t wait a month to send the requested proposal. From prescribing 12 point Times New Roman font to telling you which sample chapter to include, Ross reveals all.

The greatest strength of this book comes from actual proposals he’s used to sell books for clients. The only time Ross strays from the path is when he includes an imagined query for War and Peace from author Tolstoy.

Ross may not be an author who’ll create legions of starry-eyed readers. He mentions that he gets 10 to 20 query letters a day, only to choose 10 to 20 projects to represent in a given year. “We have become the gatekeepers of book publishing,” he writes. “We filter out the bad stuff, and only deliver the best quality projects for publishers to evaluate.”

Nonetheless, such a clear, level-headed attitude means Ross is the right pick for non-fiction authors wanting a good strategy before they battle for publication.

 

Who writes those annoying pop-up box refusals? Ick!

Obviousman and cartoonist creator Wiley "Non Sequitur" Miller are two faves of mine. Look both up on gocomics.com.

Obviousman and cartoonist creator Wiley “Non Sequitur” Miller are two faves of mine. Look both up on gocomics.com.

Imagine “Insulting Your Reader 101,” a college course for all webmasters.

Am I supposed to laugh at the choices given on some pop-up ads? One website I respect has such a “Lady or the Tiger” choice. Just because I didn’t want their e-mail newsletter, I had to choose “No, thanks. I don’t like to save money.”

I’d rather see a juicier non-option. Something like “No, thanks. I like being ugly and stupid.”

I’d like to find each of these smarmy copywriters, summoning them with ringing doorbells and phone calls just when they’ve closed the bathroom door. Then, they’d have to choose “I’d rather sit on the toilet than accept your springboard to fame and fortune.”

For now, each case of online peer (sales) pressure I receive is greeted with a related FLUSH!