Saturday, December 31, 2011

End of Year Book Cleaning Giveaway

I believe it is time for a book giveaway, because these two things are true:

1) it is the end of the year. Ends of the year should result in tidy offices, in a perfect world. This is not a perfect world, but I'm doing my best to make it that way, one tidy office at a time.
2) I have bought a house. I think. I mean, we haven't closed yet, and I'm new to this grown-up thing. But I think I have bought a house. I don't want to move anything I don't really want to move.

So I have this.


They are all duplicates or books I won't reread or ARCs when I have finished copies, etc. etc. Also there is a copy of Linger because I have a lot of them. I would like very much to give these two stacks to a blog reader. Because I'm sure that you're also very busy this time of year, cleaning out your office and living room and basement to make this world a perfect place, my giveaway is not going to be complicated. The way to enter is to pick your favorite post from my blog, talk about it in brief or at length on your blog, facebook, twitter, tumblr, etc., and then post a link back to where you talked about it in the GIANT CONTEST TABULATING MACHINE WEBSITINATOR.

Which is here.

If you don't have a favorite blog post, you aren't eligible. >:D It's going to run for a week, until January 7th, and unfortunately, because of the size of the stack, you can only win if you have a U.S. mailing address. Which means if you have a friend in the U.S. who will accept a large package of fiction, you're still eligible even if you live on Alpha Centauri.

Um, what else? You can only enter once. You can post it on anything vaguely blog like, facebook like, etc., so long as you own the content (so, not a public messageboard). Use your common sense.

I'm going to close this blog post to comments to avoid confusion — I get a lot of confused entries posted to the blog otherwise. It has to be posted in the GIANT CONTEST TABULATING MACHINE WEBSITINATOR or it doesn't count.

As far as finding your favorite blog post, may I direct your attention to the tags on the right side of the blog, which all the major subjects conveniently and slightly obsessively categorized (just like my bookshelves!)

Friday, December 30, 2011

A Not Illustrated Guide to UK Touring, Days 7-13

My. My. My. The holidays are finally over. I know you're thinking: oh ho, no they aren't, Maggie Stiefvater, there's still New Year's. But as I neither drink nor enjoy sleep deprivation, I can assure you that the end of the year will find me watching reruns of either Scrubs or the Big Bang Theory and then going to bed at an hour reasonable to humans. I have other vices, and they are not contained to any one particular day of the year.

Anyway, I am now going to wrap up my UK touring posts. I've been putting this one off as it requires a bit of assembly of the not-illustrated variety. See, after an assortment of school visits and travel in the middle of my UK tour, we finished with a rather impressive pair of events. One in Liverpool (which looks like Liverpool, if you've ever wondered) and one in London, with the assistance of Jonas & Plunkett. Blog readers will recall that Jonas & Plunkett are one of the bands I adore and also that they did a cover of Sam's "Summer Girl" from Shiver. I was revoltingly pleased when they agreed to play both "Summer Girl" and my personal favorite, "Spaceship," for the London event. In all honesty, I do have to admit that Adrian Plunkett did ask me to sing along with them. And I did write harmonies in my hotel room. But in the end, I did what happens whenever anyone asks me to sing in public. Here are the videos for those who couldn't be there (thank you, lovely reader, for video'ing these two songs)!

Sorry, Plunkett. I did actually think I would overcome my dislike of singing in public, but it turns out I'm still more comfortable playing my bagpipes for the entire planet than crooning for a roomful of readers. Rematch? With a harp or piano next time? (Also, for those of you who haven't heard the rest of their incredible music, it's all available on iTunes and you can listen to the studio version of Summer Girl here).

After these final events, the most perfect any author could ask for, I had a few days off to pursue research for MagicalNovel. I met up with my great (and musical) friend Erin Hill and she, my mother, my sister and I

Erin and I in the mist
got lost on the moor (for an hour)

Wistman's Wood
went to Wistman's Wood (which looked like a lost 80s fantasy movie set)

Dartmoor Pony
Found wild ponies! (or maybe they found us)

Glastonbury Tor
climbed Glastonbury Tor (crawled Glastonbury Tor)

Maggie climbing the Tor
Saw the whole world (or at least the pretty parts)

Bough House
Found this crazy Bough House made by a guy in Dartmoor and had it shipped home for Things 1 & 2 for Christmas.

Bough House
(no, seriously, is it not the coolest thing ever? that came in a crate bigger than my car?)

And thus ended my touring for the year. A perfect ending, and as always, I can't wait to go back to the UK. Thank you to all of my readers for reading my books all over the world!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Holidays from YA Writers!

See if you can spot me in this video. Who knew YA authors had such . . . range?

(thanks to the delightful but possibly clinically insane Saundra Mitchell for organizing this.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

I'm just in the middle of reading Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay and chapter 8 is the most perfectly constructed chapter I have read in approximately 1,000 years.

My Name is Maggie, I'm a Perfectionist, and I Never Stop Editing

And I think this is okay.

I know a lot of writing advice out there encourages you to kill your inner editor and let your work run free and to release mental possession of your draft. I know this advice is trying to battle the scores of writers out there who cling to their drafts, picking over them instead of working up the courage to send them out to critique partners, agents, and mothers. But I'm not sure I really like this condemnation of continual editing as a universal truth. For a beginning writer? Yes, I think there's some sense to it. You have to learn how to tell when a first draft is done. You have to learn how to give it away. But once you've finished a novel or two, I don't see why writers should be encouraged to think perfectionism is a dirty word. For me, "done" is such an intuitive thing. I can tell when my novels are done when they stop needling at me. When I stop thinking of things to do to them. When the characters are no longer acting out scenes in my dreams. It can't be about the fear that I haven't covered everything. It has to be that feeling that the movie in my head has reached the last reel. Until that happens, I edit and re-read and tweak and move one word three sentences down the page. Though a reader might not notice that you changed "cold" to "icy" on page 47, a word by word attack on a draft can change the subconscious effect of it on a reader.

So yes, I am an unrepentant fastidious editor.

I think this pretty much goes for every element of my life. So it should surprise no one when I say that I edited the recipe for November Cakes. A few months I posted about how I was delighted to have invented a food for THE SCORPIO RACES, and then I added a recipe. Well, it was still niggling at me. They were fine, but FINE IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH. I spent several months turning over possible solutions to my perceived unhappiness with my first November Cakes recipes, and then . . . I edited it.

Yesterday I tried out my fix. Of course it was hugely better. The cakey bit was fluffier, richer, more nuanced. The glaze was gooier and clung to the crevices of the cakes better. The entire consistency was improved. Now you bite through a caramel-honey glaze with a bit of resistance and into a fluffy, sweet dough beneath. That was what I was trying to do before.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that you shouldn't kill your inner editor. Just set up boundaries for her. Also, use this recipe and not the other.

*click for a bigger version
November Cakes Recipe II

November Cakes II

November Cakes II
and, right out of the oven, while the glaze is still melty:
November Cakes II

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Audiobook Winners!

Because I lack the ability to choose only one winner, and because I have my blog split over both Livejournal and Blogger, I picked two random winners:

Colleen from Blogger


Oh she speaks from LJ.

Both of you please shoot me an e-mail with your mailing addresses.

Thank you everyone for giving it a listen and also for giving me your thoughts on the narrators and on audiobooks!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Scorpio Races Audiobook Sampler

I am deeply in love with the audiobook version of The Scorpio Races. I am a little biased, since I got to pick the audiobook narrators (Steve West & Fiona Hardingham) for Sean & Puck, but still, I think it even the unbiased would find it CLEARLY WONDERFUL. However, it's hard to explain this to people without examples.

Well. Here is are examples.

CLEARLY WONDERFUL, yes? What do you think? I'm especially interested to hear from the folks that are non-habitual audiobook listeners. Does this tantalize you, or does it leave you wishing for the printed page?

I just started reading THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND IN A SHIP OF HER OWN MAKING and for perhaps the fifth or sixth time in my life, I have found myself wishing that I had it in audiobook format, because it seems like a sort of story I'd like told to me. Just the way the words look on the paper look like they'd be be better out loud. And I wonder about SCORPIO's translation from print to audio, because I frequently read sections out loud while writing in order to make sure I had them the way I liked them. So I wonder if/ how that affects the reader/ listener experience. Personally, I have a hard time listening to actiony books in audio, because I'm a much faster reader than I am listener, and when someone's going to die, darn it, I want to find out how much blood there's going to be. STAT. But when the prose is nice or when it is a fairytale sort of story, I think I'm getting won over to audio.


I reckon, since I have an extra copy of the audiobook in my office, that I'll randomly pick one of the blog commenters to bestow a copy of THE SCORPIO RACES audiobook on. (I officially just rewrote that sentence three times, with three different verbs, in an attempt to not finish it on a preposition). I'll pick one this time tomorrow (the 8th). 

(for those wondering you can find the audiobook here. and here. and here. and here.)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Five Things About THE NIGHT CIRCUS

Ordinarily when I do my recommendations, I do a “five reasons to read _____,” but I think opinions will be so divided on THE NIGHT CIRCUS that I think “things about” will be more useful.

1. This novel is not what it says it is. Well, back page copy is always a weird thing anyway, as it’s not written by the author. And a weirder thing because it is essentially a glamour shot of the novel. It is not a lie. But it isn’t really what the novel looks like when it’s wandering around in its bathrobe getting coffee and trying to figure out if that smell is coming from the kitchen sink disposal or under the table. The resemblance is always a bit sketchy. THE NIGHT CIRCUS’ resemblance to its cover copy is sketchier than most.

2. This novel is about a thing. It has people in it, too, but it is mostly about a thing, the eponymous circus. It’s told in third person omniscient, which means it sounds like God is narrating the thing, if God decided he really loved black and white tents and fancy umbrellas. The voice that narrates this book is interested in humans, too, but mostly about how humans make the circus and the circus’ magic interesting.

3. This is not a romance. There is a love story in it, which is good, because love makes the world go round, but it is not a romance. If you go in imagining to be swept off your feet from page one, you can keep on imagining. The novel starts before our lovebirds have hit puberty, so you’re going to have to imagine for quite awhile.

4. The circus is not really a circus. This is fine by me, because I actually don’t care for circuses. They smell, the animals always have that look of dubious maltreatment, no, I don’t want to win a prize by shooting that thing off that other thing over there, and also, clowns look a little grubby to me. No, the Night Circus is a circus in the respect that there are tents, and there are performers, and some of them are acrobats. Mostly it is a place where pretty, pretty magic is passed off as illusion so that us muggles won’t be scared by it. I’d go to that circus.

5. This is not a thriller. This is a not an action-packed adventure. It’s not even a simmering revenge or bubbling rivalry novel. It is a novel about a thing, with love in it, and it spans over a decade. If you have a problem with that idea, it’s best you walk away now. But if you like Ann Patchett or Audrey Niffeneggar novels, or if you really thought JONATHAN STRANGE & MR. NORRELL was the bee’s knees, well. WELL. You have just found your next read. Enjoy. I did.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Proper Education

Today, I’m going to answer a question I get asked a lot. Well, I’m going to combine a few variations of it into one blog post. This is the question(s):

1 - “Did you go to school for Creative Writing?”
2 - “Do you have to have a degree in writing to get published?”
3 - “Have you taken classes in writing?”
4 - “Will you be my mentor?”

First, the short versions.

1 - No. I was a history major.
2 - No. It’s one way to get published, but not the only way. Not even the most common way.
3 - No. Well, not technically. More on that in a bit.
4 - No. But thanks for asking. I barely have enough time to make breakfast in the morning, but maybe this blog will count for something?

Now, the long version. No, I did not get a creative writing degree. I did try, once, to take a creative writing class at my college, but they told me my writing wasn’t promising enough and turned me away. I wasn’t crushed. I was a writer and I was going to learn how to write no matter what.

Yesterday, I was having my blood drawn for a physical, and the lady drawing my blood asked me about how I became a writer (because everyone enjoys a little career chit-chat as their life blood swirls into a collection of tubes). Did I go to school for it? Did I take classes? How did I know about the business? Was it anything like the X-Factor? As I tried to explain my process, she grew more convinced it was a happy accident and I realized that it sounded an awful lot like I just decided to become a writer and then got magically published in a cosmic lottery.

This, of course, does not happen.

And I think what I should have told her is this: You don’t need a creative writing degree, but you do need a writing education.

These are not necessarily the same thing.

Warning: For a brief moment, I’m going to get on a soap box. I don’t usually do that on the blog, especially when it’s anything that can be construed as even vaguely political. I don’t like pretending I know any better than anyone else how to solve the world’s problems. I’m just a girl who eats cookies for breakfast and thinks a ’73 Camaro is a perfectly reasonable business vehicle. However, when it comes to this topic, I think I’m qualified to talk about it.

The thing modern education has gotten really wrong is this: ignoring the fact that there are 4,000 ways to competency. 100,000 ways to competency. One million ways to competency. One of the dumbest things ever decided was that a piece of paper with a college name on it made one person’s skill set better than someone else’s.

That piece of paper often means something. But the lack of it often doesn’t.

It’s convenient to put your average muggle through four years of college and expect that they’ll come out the other side equally educated in a specific field, ready to join the workforce. But if you take 50 teens who all want to be history majors, for instance, and put them through four years of college, at the end, you will not have fifty equally-educated graduates. Because some of them will be slackers. Some of them will be naturally talented teachers, but terrible at remembering dates. Some of them will excel at research, but only about 14th century Scotland. Some of them will be great public speakers, but terrible writers. Some of them will be have spent their childhood learning everything that college was going to teach them and will emerge no more clever or skilled than they were at the beginning.

And some people will skip college and go on to be more successful than any of those grads.

How? How!? My sister read and chatted with me about OUTLIERS: The Story of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell. In it, he talks about the 10,000 hour rule — he postulates that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in any field. I think this is key. You need to learn everything you can about not only writing, but reading, and everything you can find out about the industry and business. I would say that 10,000 hours of writing sounds about right. But I think that there are lots of ways to accomplish those hours. You can self teach. You can apprentice. You can take classes. You can workshop. You can get a writing critique partner. You can steal someone else’s brain. The only thing that is standard-issue about a writing education is that it must happen in order to be successful. If you want a piece of paper saying you did it, that’s your business, but no one else’s.

Here is my education. I found it this week while I was looking for my social security card. It was a folder of some of my writing from before the age of 17: each of those pieces of paper represents a novel I wrote back then. I spent several hours every
evening writing, and when I wasn’t writing, I was reading, and when I wasn’t reading, I was living — riding horses, showing dogs, having a band, making trouble. You have to have something to write about, after all.

Writing at 17

I reckon before I post this, I should emphasize that I have nothing against degrees in Creative Writing. If you think you need one to keep you motivated or to structure your education, go for it. But it’s not the way I learn. And I’d wager in some cases it can do more harm to an introverted creative person’s psyche than good. But the most important thing is: they’re pretty much invisible when it comes to getting your book published. Your education, however you manage it, is the process: the book is the result. Agents, editors, readers: they don’t care how you got there, just that you did.
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