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Monday, November 22, 2010

Frankly Cosmic

I hearby dedicate this micron of cyberspace as a digital shrine to Frank Cottrell Boyce. He is the ideal children's novelist. His whimsy verges on madness, his jokes ring true, and the tear-jerking love realized by his characters is deeply warm and never sappy.

Come, pilgrim, and join the Sect of FCB. Jump in feet first by reading Cosmic, and you'll never be the right way round again.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Prithee, Why?

I just aborted an attempt to read a novel (which I shall not name) based in "Medieval Germany." No century was specified. Seriously? By the most conservative reckoning, the Middle Ages lasted 600 years. Shouldn't a historical fiction novelist narrow it down a bit?

And then there was the typical problem of language. The novelist had the main character speaking (and thinking, since it was first-person POV) in a kind of Shakespearean knock-off. Remind me, what part of the Middle Ages did Shakespeare live in?

One of the issues my, er, purported publisher has with my medieval mystery novel is that its language is too modern. I have tried to impress upon him that, in early 13th-century England, people weren't speaking modern English at all, but Middle English, the language of Chaucer. And it didn't sound precious and exotic to the 12-year-olds of the time, but as slang-filled and modern as our own language sounds to us. And it certainly wasn't the language of Shakespeare.

I stand by my belief that, so long as historical periods are presented as esoteric instead of normal to the people who live in them, we will limit the way kids can relate to the past and recognize themselves in it.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Happily Out of Focus

I just learned that my first-ever read-aloud story for for little kids will be published in the relaunch issue of Stories for Children Magazine. They're the experts on that age group, not me. Although I liked the story, I wasn't expecting much. Even my former ICL tutor thought that the plot of "Slug and Snail" was too mundane to sell. I'm just delighted to find that I've crafted it into something worth publishing.

While this is good for my self-esteem, it's not very good for my focus. Now I'm wondering whether I should write more for the youngest readers or listeners. Oh, well. One story at at time. (Okay, six stories at a time...)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Absent Laughter

I just read Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness and was, as ever, knocked out by her layered sensitivity to the human character and the endless depth of detail in the worlds she creates. Yet I noticed once again an element missing from her work: humor. This is not to say that every novel I read must make me laugh, only that I am aware of the seriousness, the earnestness of Le Guin's writing.

This struck me, I imagine, because I've been disturbed by a dichotomy in my own writing. I can either write funny fiction or I can write historical fiction. For all my background in history and love of research, I can't lighten up much when I'm re-creating a historical world. But when I'm not burdened with that task and am writing about a contemporary setting, I can let loose with some attitude and raise a chuckle.

Eventually I need to figure out how to combine these skills.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Fictional Commitment

Looking back on old posts, I see that I struggled to walk away from non-fiction work. Since non-fiction is what I have by far the most experience in, it was tempting to turn to writing articles in hopes of getting published.

But now I no longer get that urge. I'm a writer of fiction. That's what I do and, when I'm lucky, that's what I publish.