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Month: May 2017

Have you ever read a Deep Fried Oreo?

Have you ever read a Deep Fried Oreo?

At the start of 2016 I planned to give up desserts for one month.  After three days I was doing awesome, and feeling super confident in my dessert resisting abilities.  Sitting across the dinner table from my husband I looked to him and said “I could do this all year!”  He had enough wisdom not to respond with laughter, but his face still told me he thought I couldn’t do it.  I took his disbelief to be a direct challenge.  Hubby thinks I can’t give up desserts for a whole year, I will prove him wrong.  It’s now a couple of months later and here I am dessertless until 2018.  

Without sugary confections to fill my belly – I’ve been turning to books to add some sweetness to my life.  Have you ever read a story, or watched a television show, that you knew was terrible, like junk food for the brain, yet you absolutely loved it and could not stop yourself from reading or watching?  If not try giving up desserts for a year, your brain will seek out some desserty entertainment.

I recently read a book series that from page 1 I knew was not the most well crafted story.  The writing, and characters and ideas were all just…okay.  It wasn’t awful, but it shouldn’t have been something I enjoyed.  To my surprise, I did not just tolerate this book, I became OBSESSED with it.  

There were 3 books in the series and I gobbled them up like I’ll be gobbling desserts on 1/1/18.  Why did I love these stories?  The characters were frustratingly dim witted, the ending was predictable, and the plot twists weren’t really twists, but rather sharp turns that didn’t make sense.

Wondering if I was going insane, I turned to reading reviews on Goodreads to see if any other readers were experiencing the same phenomenon I was.   It turns out that many readers loved the books without question, while others simply hated the stories. I found one review that fit my emotions to a T.  This reader found the writing and style as lackluster as I had, and the more she read the more frustrating it became, but she could not stop reading.  In the end she compared the stories to deep fried Oreos.  Wonderful in the moment you are eating them, but quite regrettable in the digestion process.  These books were literally brain dessert.

 

Just like deep fried Oreos are lacking in nutritional value, sometimes stories lack substance and depth, but we still enjoy consuming them.  If I didn’t enjoy this book for the writing, then what was it that appealed to me so much?

The answer: these books had something special, something I wasn’t getting from other (more well written) books.  And the true magic of this series is I can’t even tell you what that something special was.  It could have been the lure of royalty, beautiful dresses, and great wealth. Or the drama of the back and forth romance.  Perhaps the joy of a rags to riches story?  The somewhat dull protagonist who allowed the reader to insert themselves into her place and picture themselves in the same situations?

I don’t know.  To be honest these books had many things I  usually hate reading about.  Love triangles, females who need to be saved by men, females who aren’t confident in themselves for no apparent reason, multiple love triangles, endings that don’t actually solve the problems going on in the world, and did I mention love triangles.  Yet, far from being turned off by these features, I looked past them because I was captivated by the story.

Along with making me question my judgement, these stories give me hope.  I know my writing is far from perfect, and there are some things I wish I could do with my story that no matter how many times I rewrite it I can’t seem to get right.  But, I still believe my writing has value, that someday it will be worth reading.  These books were proof that I’m right.

Were these books impeccably written?  No.  But they made sense, one of the key steps to being able to publish a book.  Was the plot layered, intricate and rich with symbolism and depth of meaning?  No, but it felt like all the elements the author wanted to include were there.  Were the characters well done and the plot without holes?  No, but there was something special about the way the characters interacted with each other and their world that made me unable to put these books down.  I craved these books and when I had to wait three days for the final book to come in from the library I thought I was going to die of impatience.  And I’m an adult, I should be able to wait for a deep fried Oreo.

So take hope, your stories will be beautifully flawed, but they will also be special and though there will be readers who hate them, there will be others who love them, even if they know they shouldn’t.  Don’t be afraid of writing a deep fried Oreo book, be afraid of inventing the deep fried Oreo and then never sharing it with anyone.

What are some of your guilty reading pleasures (don’t be shy I know you have them).  Or tell me about a book you thought you were going to hate, then ended up loving.  
Stay Amazing my Friends,

Indie First! Buy Books Local

Indie First! Buy Books Local

Independent Bookstore Day is a one day national party celebrating indie bookstores and local book culture. Every year on the last Saturday in April indie bookstores open early and play host to author appearances, live music, doughnuts, costume contests, readings, temporary tattoos, and…literary condoms. That last one is a real thing.

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Yep, the Indie Bookstore scene in the Twin Cities sure is virile. For the second year in a row the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association has printed an Indie Bookstore Passport for the big day. This year 18 booksellers signed up to be included and book lovers like yours truly spent the day collecting stamps, earning coupons, entering drawings, participating in events, and eating free doughnuts.

Everyone who collected five stamps won a limited edition Twin Cities bookstore map created by Kevin Cannon. Check out this beauty:5e41d9c335802ffc7f0736c8f3da5465

I scored an artsy map, was entered into some pretty sweet drawings, and collected eleven stamps for my passport. That means 11 bookstores in one day with baby in tow. It was a marathon but baby loved it and so did I. We visited many of my favorite shops – Magers & Quinn, Once Upon a Crime, Dreamhaven, Moon Palace Books – and had a blast with face painting, folk dancing, door prizes, bookshop bingo, A Wrinkle in Time read-a-thon (baby loved this especially, that a girl), temporary tattoos, and tasty treats. Besides visiting my favorite places I also discovered a few shops I’d never heard of – Birchbark, Addendum, and Paperback Exchange.

Indie Bookstores aren’t just for in the know hipsters. They stock all the mainstream, pop culture, and YA novel dorkiness you crave. Speaking of which, young adult lovers must check out Addendum. Get this, it’s a bookshop solely devoted to the awesomeness of YA!

If you can believe it all eleven of the shops I visited were within a six mile radius of my house. I am so spoiled. We really do have one of the best literary scenes in the world. Next year baby will be a lot sturdier and I’m hoping to bike us between the shops.

There’s growing public awareness and support for independent businesses. The buzz around buying local is loud and getting louder, but are we being loud enough? Not many among us are willing to call out the biggest threat to local bookstores – Amazon.

Amazon is the evil Empire to the Independent Bookstores Luke Skywalker.

Amazon.com is responsible for a third of online sales, and that number is growing every day. This triumphant success is owed to unfair business and labor practices. I’ve attached an infographic at the end of this post if you want more details.

Melville House was one of the first independent publishers to confront Amazon  over predatory and escalating fees assigned to small publishers, as well as the clandestine war on the publisher Hachette, which it carried out by deliberately delaying shipments and hiking prices. Not cool, Amazon. Melville House is now speaking out against Amazon’s  new physical bookstores, which they take issue with because they don’t employ booksellers. I find Amazon’s aggressive efforts to dodge the collection of sales tax particularly distasteful.

Amazon isn’t your buddy. It’s a giant monopoly that will stoop real low to make a profit.

To avoid sounding overly negative I’d like to be fair and point out some of Amazon’s redeeming qualities. It is the biggest book retailer in the world and they get books to places that people used to not be able to get books. I’m all about books getting into hands! And almost every indie author over the past three years has gone into business online, where they can cheaply and easily publish their work as e-books. I’m all about the empowerment of self publishing! (Shameless plug to please support SS Press’s own indie author Brooke Stewart on Amazon!)

I’m not saying NEVER shop at amazon, I’m just saying shop at indie bookstores MORE. Amazon is wreaking havoc on the book industry and local book culture. It’s a challenging economic climate. If we book lovers don’t support the bookstores than they’re going to disappear.

Independent bookstores are not just stores, they’re community centers run by passionate book lovers who want nothing more than to spread the joy of reading. When you enter an indie bookshop you enter a carefully tended universe of ideas, adventure, and serendipity. They are lively performance spaces, with our Twin Cities shops offering weekly readings, signings, live music, children’s storytime, and family games. Indie bookstores connect authors and readers and foster a book-loving community in a way that Amazon never can and never will.

If we support the local shops then they will flourish, grow, expand, multiply. And that’s the kind of world I want to live in. That’s the world I’ll be voting for with my money.

If you’re journeying into the wild waters of self-publishing consider other options besides Amazon. Did you know that you can buy eBooks at your favorite indie shop? All you need is a Kobo eReading app on your device and you can buy eBooks through many independent bookstores in Minnesota. And when you self publish on Kobo your readers can support an indie shop when they buy. In my experience indie shops are also very open to physical copies. I’ve approached local Moon Palace Books and Boneshaker Books and they’re both willing to take on a short comic or story (in the form of a zine) on a consignment deal. Small peanuts, I know, but it will get my stuff out there and gain me connections with local booksellers, a valuable ally.

Choose local whenever possible. You can bypass big business in favor of local entrepreneurs by: choosing farmers market over target, local cafe over caribou, and family bookstore over amazon.

You don’t have to do it every time, but a little effort from all of us will go a long way.

If you’re tempted by the price at Amazon, check with your local shop, their prices are competitive too. In my experience the local place is never more than a dollar or two over what Amazon is offering. A few extra bucks  from your wallet is worth it when you think of the local jobs provided and the awesomeness of having a corner shop in your hood. And if your local place doesn’t have a book in stock they’ll order it for you. I’m on a first name basis with a few shops and I love that. They treat me like family and I return the favor.

“Consumers control the marketplace by deciding where to spend their money. If what a bookstore offers matters to you, then shop at a bookstore. If you feel that the experience of reading a book is valuable, then read the book. This is how we change the world: we grab hold of it. We change ourselves.”

― Ann Patchett, bestselling author and co-owner of Parnassus Books, an Independent Bookstore for Independent People

I’d love to hear about your favorite bookstores, shoot me a comment with any recommendations both here and abroad. If you’re not sure where to find a store near you check out the Indie Bookstore Finder

Here’s that infographic I promised about the evilness of Amazon:
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An Hour a Day is Better than No Hours a Day

An Hour a Day is Better than No Hours a Day

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Brooke and I are big NaNoWriMo enthusiasts and we write about it a lot here at SS Press…so if you’re sick of reading about NaNo then this isn’t the post for you. Because I’m going to talk about Camp NaNo like the happy little camper I am. Ok, you’ve been warned.

It is day 30 of Camp NaNoWriMo and I just hit the validate project button. Boo-ya.

More than any other NaNo, this Camp helped me start and maintain a daily writing habit. And, yeah, I know I should have developed such an obviously useful and wonderful habitude before now, but hey, better late than never.

I got a lot done this month and the only thing that changed is that I shifted my focus from writing a lot (word count) to writing often (hour count).

My goal was to write one hour a day, everyday in April. That might not seem like much, but that’s the point! One hour a day is only .0416% of the month. The thought was if worst came to worst on a busy day I could always just stay up an extra hour after the family went to bed. One hour of sleep isn’t a lot to sacrifice. I mean, in college I would do anything for an extra hour of sleep but I’ve evolved since then.

Not only did I write everyday, but something magical happened, as something magical ought to do when you plunge into the ocean of imagination, sometimes when I sat down to write an hour…I ended up writing 2…or 3…or 6! Yep, sometimes all you need to do is show up and let the magic happen. And of course there were days when I forced an hour and quit as soon as the timer hit 60 minutes, but more days than not I got on a roll and just kept rolling.

Here’s how it worked. By showing up everyday I developed discipline. When developing a new skill or ability the key is not how much you do it, it’s how often. If you start out spending an exorbitant number of hours in one sitting you’re going to burnout. When a person goes to the gym for the the first couple times, should they A) Workout all day pumping the iron, or B) Do several short workouts a week. B, of course. If this gym newbie gives their wimpy virgin muscles time to heal and grow they’re going to see results, and if they hit the gym a couple times a week and keep that up for a month or two they’ve got a habit. And pretty soon they’re going to be working out for longer stretches and then, voila, you’ve got a Hulk look-a-like.

Here’s advice for those of you struggling to build discipline and form habits:

Don’t write a lot. Just write often. 

Habits practiced once a week aren’t habits. They’re obligations. Like calling your mom. And if you only do something once a week it’s likely only a matter of time before you stop doing it altogether. Unfortunately writing isn’t like your mom. It’s not going to hunt you down and mercilessly attack with disappointed mom face until you are sufficiently guilt ridden and ready to give her as much quality time as her majesty demands. (Mom, in case you are reading this you are an angel and this paragraph is pure FICTION)

Show up, do the work. It’s that simple.

And yeah, it’s also that hard. But I did some amazing stuff this month, and trust me you’ve got an hour per day. It’s only .0416% remember.

Peace & Love, Kayla