Writer, with 30+ years' writing and publishing experience, 20+ years' teaching experience. Last book read: Mrs. Lincoln by Catherine Clinton.
Let's scoop Publishers Weekly, which spoke with new indie bookshop owner Robin Theiss for an article about the phenomenon of micro-bookstores, intimate spaces with curated collections and personalized service. In a reversal of a longtime trend, Theiss, a book collector since age 13, moved her online store, stlbooks.com, to brick-and-mortar on November 21. STLBooks, at 100 W. Jefferson, Kirkwood, MO, near St. Louis, already has regular customers and neighborhood foot traffic thanking her for opening a bookstore. It's a cozy space devoted, Theiss said, to her interest in creative expression, so the store carries plenty of literature new and classic, books on art and design, books by local writers (she has read them all), and Theiss loves graphic novels and wishes they had been around when she was in art school in the '70s.
1.An ISBN number. Without this unique number on your book, bookstores can't order your book and Amazon can't sell it. Cost about $100. If you choose a self-publishing company this cost is often included in the price. ISBN stands for "International Standard Book Number." You can see ISBNs on other books; they're beneath the bar code on the back cover. The bar code comes with the ISBN.
Writing dialogue presents a terrific challenge in that no two conversations are alike, even if the words are the same, and no two people are alike, and the words used are only half of it. Crafting good dialogue is part of the art of characterization. Eavesdrop on or watch any conversation you can. You will notice:
a. speech patterns, regional accents, vocabulary and slang, speech impediments, volume. Re "accents": One hint of an accent (incorrectly known as "dialect") goes a long, long way. Do not write at length using misspellings ("Ah cain't make head ner tail o' whatcha' all talkin' 'bout, brutha"); it's hard to read. Your reader will soon give up. Use such things as a spice, not a meal. Better: "I can't make head ner tail of what you're talking about, brother."
b. nonverbal portions of conversations: hand gestures, scratching an itch, punching fist in hand, eye-rolling, "air quotes," and so on.
c. About half the time, people don't talk back-and-forth as much as they talk "across" each other, impressionistically: Person A: "So, how's your husband these days?" Person B: "I can't believe how fast the laundry's piling up."
d. Note the proportions of time taken up by the speakers. Half and half, or does one person talk far more than the other?
e. nonverbal portions of oral communication, such as laughter, hooting, Bronx cheer, making the sound of vomiting, yawning, "Eh?", "Huh?", whistles, and so on.
f. A huge percentage of conversation is "canned" or pre-fabricated phrases: "How are you?" "Fine, and you?" "I'm hangin' in there." Unless there is a reason to include those pre-fab greeting exchanges, don't put them in. Also frequently appearing in conversation are quotations, cliches and advice. Some people often say "It's a dog-eat-dog world," or "As my father always said," or "Garbage in, garbage out,"and so on.
g. People who are acquainted rarely address each other by name except as a strategy, often a selling strategy. Nervous writers do this to make sure the readers know who is speaking. Most of the time if dialogue is between two people we know who is speaking (the more so if their speech patterns are correctly differentiated). We do not say to a co-worker "Good morning, Susan. Say, Susan! What happened after I left last night?" "Marsha, you are just the person I wanted to talk to. You won't believe it, Marsha!" "Susan! Wait! There's a dead mouse beneath my desk! Susan, call maintenance!" "Oh my God, Marsha, I will call right now!"
h. People have pet words and phrases. Some always say "Okey-dokey." Some employ a word or phrase over and over, such as "bizarre," or "twee" or "inappropriate behavior."
Use dialogue only when it's important to do precisely that. Perfunctory or tangential exchanges can be deleted or rendered as indirect dialogue. "She told him she'd waited for the tow truck for an hour."
Okay, now you are educated!
Stress Management for Poets
by Christopher Scribner
Growth in online education is healthy for creative writers. When I say I teach in Lindenwood University's online Master of Fine Arts in Writing program (just named by Wordfocus.com as one of the top ten in the nation), I am often asked:
How do you teach online? We have a dedicated course site open only to enrolled students, and the syllabus, assignments, and workshop discussions are posted there.
Do you ever meet with your students in person? No. But the consolation is that online courses attract students from everywhere: Virginia, Mississippi, California. This wakes up the locals who write "Billikens" or "Lambert" expecting all readers to know what those are.
How does an online workshop work? Students post the current drafts of their projects, and the instructor and all other students post constructive comments and discuss those too. I also personally email each student to discuss issues specific to his or her work.
What do you teach? Advanced Creative Nonfiction, Personal Essay and Memoir, and Poetry Workshop. Other faculty teach fiction writing, prose poetry, narrative journalism, and more.
How good is online instruction? For creative writing, online instruction is excellent, because we communicate only in writing. We have a textbook and get into deep group discussions via a discussion board.
How good is an online M.F.A.?Lindenwood's online M.F.A. program is strictly monitored by an accrediting agency, our faculty is tops, and online courses require serious personal discipline; always good training for writers. Because an online class is open 24/7, students don't have to excuse themselves because their niece's birthday party is on a class night.