Banned Books Week 2017

ALA 2016 Book Challenges Infographic

This is the first day of Banned Books week. It’s a celebration of the right to read. Books are constantly challenged in the context of the right to read them, the right to sell them, the right for teachers and libraries to include specific books in their curricula and libraries. Book challenges and book bans take place far more often than people realize, and often, the books are challenged by adults who haven’t read the books in question, but want to make sure that others can’t.

Most challenges are made by parents who not only want to stop their children from reading a particular book, they want to stop all children. The second largest group in terms of book challenges in 2016 were challenges made by library patrons who wanted to have a book removed from a library’s collection.

The First Amendment is generally seen as the primary protection regarding the right to read. The First amendment to the Constitution reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Increasingly, as you can see from these top ten lists of challenged books, books are challenged (and subsequently removed from school curricula and library collections) because of concerns about reference to sex, or because they include LGBT characters.

Large numbers of books that some people don’t want you to read are classics. Many are children’s books. Increasingly, the challenged and banned books are YA books or books challenged because they feature diverse content, that is:

the work is about people and issues others would prefer not to consider. Often, content addresses concerns of groups who have suffered historic and ongoing discrimination.

The challenged books (and they become banned when schools or libraries remove them from shelves) include books like Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Heather Has Two Mommies by Lesléa Newman, The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros.

Look at the lists of challenged and banned books, to see if a book that’s meaningful to you, or that you loved reading is there; I’m pretty sure you’ll find an old friend or three there, as well as lots of new friends. Consider participating in the Rebel Reader Twitter Tournament, or Absolute Write’s own local contest described here.

You’ll notice a lot of canon novels are considered worth banning; here are just a few. The books on this list are books from the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century that have been the target of ban attempts.

  1. F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Great Gatsby.
  2. J.D. Salinger. The Catcher in the Rye.
  3. John Steinbeck. The Grapes of Wrath.
  4. Harper Lee. To Kill a Mockingbird.
  5. Alice Walker. The Color Purple.
  6. James Joyce. Ulysses.
  7. Toni Morrison. Beloved.
  8. William Golding. The Lord of the Flies.
  9. George Orwell. 1984.
  1. Vladmir Nabokov. Lolita.
  2. John Steinbeck. Of Mice and Men.
  1. Joseph Heller. Catch-22.
  2. Aldous Huxley. Brave New World.
  3. George Orwell. Animal Farm.
  4. Ernest Hemingway. The Sun Also Rises.
  5. William Faulkner. As I Lay Dying.
  6. Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms.
  1. Zora Neale Hurston. Their Eyes Were Watching God.
  2. Ralph Ellison. Invisible Man.
  3. Toni Morrison. Song of Solomon.
  4. Margaret Mitchell. Gone with the Wind.
  5. Richard Wright. Native Son.
  6. Ken Kesey. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
  7. Kurt Vonnegut. Slaughterhouse-Five.
  8. Ernest Hemingway. For Whom the Bell Tolls.
  1. Jack London. The Call of the Wild.
  1. James Baldwin. Go Tell it on the Mountain.
  1. Robert Penn Warren. All the King’s Men.
  1. J.R.R. Tolkien. The Lord of the Rings.
  1. Upton Sinclair. The Jungle.
  1. D.H. Lawrence. Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
  2. Anthony Burgess. A Clockwork Orange.
  3. Kate Chopin. The Awakening.
  1. Truman Capote. In Cold Blood.
  1. Salman Rushdie. The Satanic Verses.
  1. William Styron. Sophie’s Choice.
  1. D.H. Lawrence. Sons and Lovers.
  1. Kurt Vonnegut. Cat’s Cradle.
  2. John Knowles. A Separate Peace.
  1. William S. Burroughs. Naked Lunch.
  2. Evelyn Waugh. Brideshead Revisited.
  3. D.H. Lawrence. Women in Love.
  1. Norman Mailer. The Naked and the Dead.
  1. Henry Miller. Tropic of Cancer.
  1. Theodore Dreiser. An American Tragedy.
  1. John Updike. Rabbit, Run.

There are Absolute Write affiliate links in this post.

Interview: Spencer Ellsworth

SPENCER ELLSWORTH’s short fiction has previously appeared in Lightspeed MagazineThe Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Tor.com. He is the author of the Starfire Trilogy, which begins with Starfire: A Red Peace. He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and three children and works as a teacher/administrator at a small tribal college on a Native American reservation.

Did you have a playlist for Starfire: A Red Peace?

I am one of those awful superfans who has an insane backlog of Radiohead bootlegs. (2006 Bonnaroo, amiright, Head Heads?) There’s something about the layers, the flirtation with epic proggy bits, and especially the trancelike quality of Radiohead’s music that makes it perfect for writing space opera.

What’s your writing process like?

It really depends on the project. When I conceive of a project, I generate ideas in all sorts of ways — sometimes by blocking it out with action figures (Star Wars when available. Calico Critters work too). Sometimes I start by handwriting, and sometimes by writing the scenes that pop into mind first.

Generally I’ll draft something readable in Scrivener, and when I reread the first draft, I know that certain parts lag, or just land with a thud. Sometimes I’ll just have long sections represented by a bracketed words, a la [ACTION SEQUENCE HERE]. So I’ll write whatever new bits I need either in a separate document, or just handwrite them. Then I’ll go through the book and “stitch” the new material into the old.

For me, the key part of any writing is this: keep the inner editor & the inner writer separate. Even when you’re drafting new material, draft it cold. While the inner writer drafts, send the editor off for a (mental) drink. While the editor stitches things together and trims them, let the writer go for a (mental) walk. They cannot work in the same (mental) room together.

Red Peace is the first volume of a trilogy. How do you keep track of reoccurring characters and back story?

This trilogy is short — each book is about 200-300 pages total — which is the first step to keeping track. I don’t have as many moving parts as Tolkien did. I made a list of new words and new names (and missed some; thank goodness for the style sheets my publisher sent)! Once I got a paper copy of the first book, I could stick Post-Its on particular scenes to cross-reference. (Not dog-ear, for that is the way of the heathen.)

I try not to kill too many trees, but there is something about print. It sticks in your head. The brain remembers the solidity!

There are a number of different religions depicted in Red Peace. What inspired you to use religion as an instigating influence?

I love this question! For some reason, even though religion is a motivating factor in 95% of major human interactions, a lot of people leave it out of their science fictional/fantasy worlds. And even when it’s there, it’s so often played for fundamentalist villains.

The galaxy in the Starfire trilogy is . . .  a rough place. Giant space spiders live in the Dark Zone and will eat your suns and planets, so the intergalactic government constantly need an army to fight said space spiders. The army is made up of “crosses,” genetically engineered soldiers. The government’s line is that the crosses are not sentient. The crosses disagree.

This would cause serious cognitive dissonance with people who genuinely believe in a God who creates sentient life. Did God not create the crosses? Why, then, do the crosses think and feel and demand recognition as sentient life? I knew that various religions would take various positions on this one. The main characters, cross and human, all take various positions informed by their faith.

And of course, there’s a death cult with a giant zombie wasp.1)

One must have a zombie wasp these days (Spencer Ellsworth).

Any advice about how to plot?

Character creates plot, and plot creates character. Once you have a person in your head, and you know how they need to change, and what will force them out of their comfort zone, the plot is just a method of taking us through their journey.

You want to avoid contrivance, but you also want to avoid scenes and activities that don’t change the character. If it has to happen for the sake of the plot, but it doesn’t do anything to advance the character, it’s the wrong scene.

What’s your writing environment like (your work area and tools of choice)?

I have a standing desk I put together from surplus shelving and 2x4s I got when my neighbor disassembled his carport. I have a ton of books, piled on a shelf, on top of each other on the shelf, and on the floor. And way too many Transformers on display.2) Did I mention I like toys (Spencer Ellsworth)?

You work as a teacher, and you’ve got a young children. What advice do you have for parents who want to write regarding time management?

Pick your writing time, and show up. As long as I can write from 5:30 to 7 every morning, projects get done. Also, have a supportive partner — and take care of them. It’s just as important to make sure you’re making dinner, cleaning up, & taking the kids if applicable.

What have you read lately (in the last year or so) that you really liked?

I really loved Michael Livingston’s Roman fantistoricals The Shards of Heaven and its sequel The Gates of Hell. The writing is just absolute crystal clear, and brilliantly powerful and the action sequences OH DUDE THE ACTION SEQUENCES. I love Nicky Drayden’s first novel The Prey of Gods, which is a super-gonzo wild explosion of fantasy and SF ideas, set in near-future South Africa.

Do you have any particular favorite books about writing?

I think every writer only really needs one book about writing. There is a time when you are really ready to learn from one book, and as long as you find a good book, it’ll open up the process.

For me, it’s always been How To Write A Damn Good Novel by James N. Frey, AKA “no, not that James Frey.” It’s got a really clear breakdown of how to map out characters’ journeys and use dramatic tension, clear prose and powerful dialogue to raise the stakes.

You’ve attended several different writing workshops. What advice would you give writers trying to decide if a workshop will be helpful (any workshop)?

I’ve attended several — and been rejected from many more! Shortlisted even, but never got in. Always your bridesmaid, Clarion.

Be aware of two things: most working writers went to some kind of workshop, but they didn’t all go to the cool shiny big-ticket one. A workshop is what you get from it. I attended Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp in 2005 and I’m ashamed to say I really did not get much out of it because I didn’t put much in.

I got a lot more out of Viable Paradise 2010 because I went there hungry and ready to step up.

Is there a question that you’ve never been asked that you’d really like to answer?

I want to know why drywall isn’t reusable. Doesn’t that seem incredibly wasteful?

Okay, seriously, I’d love to be asked about my “low culture” influences. My favorite writers of all time are Octavia Butler & Shakespeare, but I’ve also read every Transformers comic that came out in English since 1984.

What’s your favorite charity?

It’s not strictly a charity, but if anyone wants to help me & my friends and students out, please, please consider a recurring donation to the American Indian College Fund. I work at a tribal college, and we are a favorite target for budget cutters. A lot of students depend on AICF to get their degrees.

Spencer Ellsworth has a Website. Spencer is also on Twitter. You can find his short story “When Stars Are Scattered” at Tor.com.

References   [ + ]

1.

One must have a zombie wasp these days (Spencer Ellsworth).

2. Did I mention I like toys (Spencer Ellsworth)?

Interview: Agent Mark Gottlieb of Trident Media

Literary agent Mark Gottlieb of Trident Media kindly subjected himself to an interview. Here’s an abbreviated bio derived from Mark Gottlieb’s profile at Trident:

After graduating with a degree in writing, literature and publishing, Mark began his career with the Vice  President of Berkley Books (Penguin), working with leading editors. His first position at the Trident Media Group literary agency was in foreign rights, selling the books of clients around the world. He’s worked as thee Executive Assistant to Robert Gottlieb, Chairman of Trident, and as Trident’s audio rights agent. Mark is currently building his own client list of writers. He is actively seeking submissions in all categories and genres.

Did you always want to be an agent or were you tempted by other careers in publishing?

While at Emerson College in Boston, it wasn’t until my senior year studying Writing, Literature and Publishing while in my Book Editing class, that I realized I wanted to be a literary agent. Before then I had always thought I might like the track of a book editor. We were reading A. Scott Berg’s Maxwell Perkins: Editor Of Genius. When I read stories about the famed editor who edited the likes of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolf, I realized that Perkins sounded more like a literary agent than he did a book editor, at least by today’s standards. Passionately advocating for authors the way that Perkins did is what appeals to me the most. I realized literary agents operate on the ground level as some of the first hands to touch the manuscript in the book publishing process.

You’ve got a family connection to agenting via your father, the founder of Trident. How much did that determine your eventual career choices?

I always knew I wanted to work with books in some capacity, having grown up with books all my life. Mentioned above, it was a role as a book editor that initially drew me to book publishing but I soon realized that literary agents work much more closely with authors than book editors.

If someone wants to be an agent, how important is the undergraduate major? What advice would you give would-be agents?

A literary agent should have some real business acumen, rather than merely a degree in the humanities. That’s why I specifically sought out an undergraduate degree in book publishing and was a founding member, then later president, of Emerson College’s Undergraduate Students for Publishing club where I started a small press called Wilde Press, which is still operational and producing four chapbooks/year.

Who / what books do you represent?

My client list is available for viewing on our website at this link to my profile page. I represent a mixture of fiction, nonfiction, children’s books and graphic novels.

I notice that you’ve placed several books with Month9. Are you aware of the widely-reported problems at Month9, as described by SFWA’s Writer Beware  and as well as here on this Absolute Write Bewares and Recommendations thread  about Month9 ?

I’m aware that Month9Books has caused problems for authors who were unrepresented, whereas I have not had problems with Month9Books. The publishing house had to cancel contracts on unrepresented authors due to health and financial problems the publisher was having, since that would have a direct impact with the publisher being a small outfit, like many smaller independent publishers. We have not had the same problems with Month9Books due to the quality of our representation and relationship with the publisher.

What kinds of books are you interested in representing currently? Anything you’d especially love to see?

In addition to the types of books I already work with, I would like to build more of the upmarket fiction aspect of my list, as well as fold in some nonfiction from authors with very big platforms, and perhaps do some more children’s books in the YA and MG categories.

Can you offer any advice regarding constructing a query?

I think a good query letter simply upfront in one to three sentences what a book is about in hook sort of fashion where the most salient of information is listed and two or three comparative/competitive bestselling titles may be listed. That’s followed by two body paragraphs, detailing the plot/some of the synopsis without too many spoilers. The last paragraph is best reserved as something of a short author bio, listing relevant writing experience and credentials. It should all fit on one page.

What single piece of advice do you wish writers would pay attention to in terms of submitting to you?

Authors should not be querying literary agents for a fiction manuscript unless the manuscript is fully-written, since fiction can only be sold to publishers on a full manuscript. Fiction is all about the quality of the writing and the author becoming a household name by extension. Nonfiction is different in that it is idea-driven and can therefore be sold on a proposal accompanied by at least three to five sample chapters.

What books can we look forward to from Trident represented authors in the next few months?

This is a short list of some of the books by clients of mine publishing soon:

New York Times bestselling author Kate Moretti’s The Blackbird Season, in which after an accusation of statutory rape, a couple find themselves at the center of a homicide case where the police have one suspect: the husband, and the key to his exoneration lies within diary pages-words of a troubled girl from beyond the grave, which may or may not be the truth (Atria Books, September 26, 2017)

Social media sensation James Breakwell’s Only Dead On The Inside: A Parent’s Guide For Surviving Zombies, styled in the tradition of Max Brooks’s The Zombie Survival Guide and The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook, providing practical advice on how to raise happy, healthy children in the midst of the zombie apocalypse, by joining the genres of parenting advice books and undead survival manuals in an unholy union that is both ill-advised and long overdue—the narrator, an inept father of four young daughters, uses twisted logic, graphs with dubious data, and web comics that look like they were drawn by a toddler to teach families how to survive undead hordes (BenBella Books, October 10, 2017)

TEDx speaker, The Feminist on Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls at the Party, Mashable journalist, MOTH Slam winner, comic and host of the monthly Hello Giggles show at UCB, Ruby Karp’s Earth Hates Me: True Confessions From A Teenage Girl, pitched as the handy Lean In for the Rookie generation, on what it’s like to be inside a teen’s mind, how social media impacts a teenager and what all their “angst” is really about, from an actual teenager offering life lessons (Running Press Kids & Teen, October 3, 2017)

What have you read lately by someone who isn’t one of your authors that you really liked?

I’m currently reading Paul Beatty’s The Sellout and rather enjoying it. The novel was recommended to me since I’m a fan of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.

What question would you really like to answer that hasn’t been asked?

Where do you see the future of publishing going?

I’m sure that many people coming of age in World War II thought that the world was coming to an end, and yet they found a way to go on. I’m sure they never would have foreseen the Pax Americana, directly following the war in 1945. Similarly, book publishing, like many other industries and forms of media, has always been obsessed with predicting its own demise, and yet we’re still here today. I’m sure that when independent bookstores were being eaten up by places like Barnes & Noble and Borders, everyone in book publishing must’ve been thinking that it was all coming to an end. Then when bigger fishes, like Costco and Sam’s Club, ate big book retailers, again, professionals in the industry must’ve though with much doom and gloom. Well now we’re in the age of Amazon and a bigger fish such as the Chinese e-commerce group Alibaba, will one day come along to eat them, I’m sure as it has happened before and history has a tendency to repeat itself.

You can find Mark Gottlieb and Trident at the Trident Media Group Website, on Twitter and on Facebook. You can find Trident Media’s submission page here and Trident Media’s  ebook submissions page here.

Interview: Melinda Snodgrass

Melinda Snodgrass is the author of many SF novels, including the Circuit and Edge series. She also writes for and is the co-editor with George R. R. Martin of the Wild Cards series. She served as the story editor for Star Trek: The Next Generation, and wrote several episodes for ST:NG and other shows. An expert equestrian, Melinda Snodgrass splits her time between New Mexico and California. In Evil Times (July 2017) is the second book in her Imperials series, preceded by The High Ground and followed by The Hidden World (2018). Melinda Snodgrass has a Website as well as a blog, and you can find her on Twitter and Facebook.

Did you have a playlist for In Evil Times?

I have been listening to a lot of Mozart piano concertos and Beethoven cello sonatas and Saint-Saens Piano concertos. I was classically trained singer so I tend to favor classical music though I am beginning to enjoy more pop music now.

What’s your writing process like?

I get up each morning. I look at my outline and I know what is up next to write. I try to write every day, but writers are always writing. Dialog is spinning through our heads, we’re eavesdropping on diners at neighboring tables, etc. The other thing I do is each morning I reread the previous days work, and edit and rewrite. That means I’m fixing as I go and putting myself back in the space where that novel and its characters live. I also can’t jump ahead and write a scene that I know is coming. I have to experience it in real time with my characters.

How different is it from your perspective to write for TV vs writing for print?

I actually write my books using a lot of the tricks from screenwriting. In fact I believe my time in Hollywood has made me a much better novelist. For example, I will cut from a line of dialog and have that line finish in the next scene spoken by another character. I try to have every scene and every chapter hand off to the next one like a relay runner. I almost always start in the middle of a scene rather than do all that — knock, knock, come in, thank you for seeing me captain, etc. And my books are very dialog heavy. I have to remind myself to fill in all that boring description. (fill in gif of irony here)

In your Imperials Saga, you’ve got a society with an aristocracy and lines of inheritance and family inter relationships. How do you keep track of reoccurring characters and back story?

I use Scrivener which is a wonderful program that keeps things beautifully organized. They have sections for characters, places, research. With every book I keep track of any new characters, adding them to the list, and I update the status of returning characters. Okay, so Delia is married and her two kids are now this age and one’s at The High Ground. That sort of thing. Every phrase that is unique to the books ends up in the research section. All the planets, descriptions of them, capital cities are listed in places.

In addition to the human culture of the Solar League, you also have a number of non-human species with their own cultures and history. How do you manage world building? That is, did you work out the world building concepts, for instance the cultures and aliens first, or as you went?

I had a pretty strong idea of the traits of the various aliens. I knew the Cara’ot were master traders, and genetic engineers. I knew the Isanjo were functionally high steel workers, the Flutes are highly skilled in mathematics. Truthfully I cheated a bit though I’m going to have to address this in book four since I have an alien view point character. Because the aliens are a conquered people their own religions, cultural norms, etc. have been suppressed by their human rulers. Most of them claim to worship human gods, particularly the Christian god, they don’t have to accept the limits female participation in business because they are considered less than, but in most ways they try to ape their conquerors. It’s just safer that way.

Although I’ve only read the first two books of the five-book series, it’s pretty clear you have a plan for the journey and a destination. Any advice about how to plot?

Plotting is my favorite thing to do. And yes, all five books are worked out and the final scene of the series is already laid out. I start with a cork board and 3×5 or 4×6 cards and multi-colored pens. (You can also use a white board, that’s what we used on Star Trek but it’s hard to make changes or move scenes. I prefer the cards.) Anyway I put up cards detailing Teaser, and generally 3 acts though some longer books can be 4 or 5 acts. I then assign a color to each major character. I then put down the final scene of the book. Because if I don’t know where I’m going I can’t get there. I then generally put in the teaser. The hook that convinces someone to buy the book. I then put in the final scenes of each act. The exciting revelation that puts the heroes deeper in a well or changes up the game, etc. I then fill in the big scenes that get me to those act outs and the climax. The reason I use different colored pens is so I have a visual cue that I’m losing track of a character or another character needs to be cut back. Sometimes you discover in the early plotting stages that you don’t even need a character because you can’t keep them on the board. For a screenplay I would have every scene blocked out. For a novel I can’t do that, but I lay out all the major scenes or what I call tent pole scenes.

[Editor’s note: Melinda Snodgrass has an excellent post about “the teaser, the hook, the opening scene of a book” on her blog.]

What’s your writing environment like (your work area and tools of choice)?

I hate clutter so my space is very orderly. I love writing from my home in NM because I have a breathtaking view out my window. In L.A. I’m in a cubby hole and I really hate it, but right now my life is lived in two places. I generally have music playing, but not vocal music because I was trained as a singer and I start listening to the lyrics rather than writing. I keep a cup of coffee or tea at my elbow and sometimes a small sweet. More because it gives me something to do with my hands when I’m thinking about a sentence or a scene.

What have you read lately (in the last year or so) that you really liked?

I adore Emma Newman’s Split Worlds series; Django Wexler’s Shadow Campaign series, Paul Cornell’s London Falling books. I have to read a lot of Wild Card stories from our writers who I help edit so I don’t get as much time to just read for pleasure as I would like. I also find myself sick of words by the end of the day so I often play a video game rather than read. Or watch TV because that is homework for me.

Do you have any particular favorite books about writing?

I actually don’t because I sort of stumbled into this. Adventures in the Screen Trade by William Goldman is good. I liked Steven King’s book On Writing, but I don’t agree with him about just feeling your way through a book. I think plotting — being an architect as my friend George R.R, Martin puts it — is essential if you have to write on deadline, and especially in Hollywood.

What’s your favorite charity?

I have a number of them. I donate to Planned Parenthood, I’m an investor making micro loans with Kiva, I donate to Heifer International. I sponsor girls through Child Reach, I’m an ACLU member, The Horse Shelter in Santa Fe. I have a page on my Website called Doing Good. If a reader makes a $25 or more donation to any of the listed charities and sends me proof of the donation I will send them any book of their choice autographed. I pay the postage too.

 

Camp NaNoWriMo July

Image credit: Clean Public Domain

The July session of Camp NaNoWritMo is about to start. Like the April NaNoWriMo Camp, Camp in July is an opportunity to work on projects with word count goals between 30 and 1,000,000. Writers can work on any project they’d like, including new novel drafts, revision, poetry, scripts, and short stories. A lot of writers use the July camp to sketch out and plan for NaNoWriMo in November, or concentrate on editing and revising the previous NaNoWriMo draft. Camp is very flexible, so your project is completely defined by you—even non-fiction is ok at Camp. This post about the April Camp has some suggestions about what you can do at Camp.  Don’t miss this page of resources for Campers, writing fiction or non-fiction.

Now is the perfect time to sign up for NanoWriMo Camp in July and to find a cabin—your cadre of fellow sufferers writers during Camp. A cabin is a group of up to twenty writers; you’re placed into a Cabin based on your Preferences settings in your Profile once you’ve signed up for NaNoWriMo Camp. If you’ve got writer friends who are also Camping, you can set up or join a private cabin with them. (There’s a thread on Absolute Write for people looking for cabin mates.)

Interview: Alice Loweecey

Baker of brownies and tormenter of characters, Alice Loweecey recently
celebrated her thirtieth year outside the convent. She grew up watching Hammer horror films and Scooby-Doo mysteries, which explains a whole lot. When she’s not creating trouble for her sleuth Giulia Driscoll or inspiring nightmares as her alter-ego Kate Morgan, she can be found growing her own vegetables (in summer) and cooking with them (the rest of the year). Her fourth Giulia Driscoll Mystery The Clock Strikes Nun will be released on May 30. You can preorder now at Amazon or B & N.

Did you have a playlist for The Clock Strikes Nun?

For The Clock Strikes Nun, I discovered white noise on YouTube. Those sleep recordings that mask outside noises. Did you know there are more than a dozen haunted house white noise recordings? They have crackling fire, thunderstorms, ghost sounds, howling wind. They’re great atmosphere. Plus they really do mask things like rugby on the TV. I like sports as a kind of white noise, but haunted houses were perfect for this book.

How did you become interested in fascinators?

Alice Loweecy with fascinator

I’ve always liked vintage fashion and jewelry and I’m fortunate to be able to wear hats. Except baseball caps. I look awful in those. When I turned 50 I decided I wanted to try a fascinator. I spent a week or so on the black hole that is Etsy and found my first one. I was going to wear it as a confidence booster for my first-ever Bouchercon panel (9 am) and take it off afterwards. But everyone started recognizing me in it and I loved wearing it. Thus a style was born. I have five now. Chiki Bird Hat Studio is amazing! I tell her the theme of my current book and she creates a hat for me.

Do you start out knowing “who did it,” or do you discover it as you write?

I write gigantic anal-retentive outlines, so I usually know who did it, but characters are ornery creatures and sometimes they take over the story. For The Clock Strikes Nun I knew who did it from the start. For the next book in the series, I wrestled with the outline for at least a week longer than usual until I realized I was trying to make the wrong person the villain. Once I let that go, the story fell into place.

What’s your writing process like?

Every single free minute is either at my keyboard or at my trusty three-ring binder. I work full-time and deadlines don’t care if you’re tired or want to watch a Saturday night horror movie. Even fifteen minutes is enough to write a few paragraphs or edit a page. I learned this years ago when I was shuttling my kids to soccer games and band practices.

How do you keep track of reoccurring characters and back story?

Excel spreadsheets are my life. Each book has a giant spreadsheet with multiple tabs. Character charts, research, backstory, outline. I also use Scrivener for its corkboard and web page cache features.

Any advice about how to plot?

I’m a tactile writer. I work best with pen on paper or fingers on a keyboard. I always start with a character. My first step is to open a blank spreadsheet and brainstorm. There’s no pressure this way, and my characters reveal all kinds of personal information as I type, especially the villains. They love to talk. Doing this in a Word doc is probably easier, but I started out this way and it frees my mind because my fingers go into auto-pilot.

While I firmly believe the best way to plot is the way you’re most comfortable with, I’ve recommended my method to several new writers as a jumping off point.

What’s your writing environment like (your work area and tools of choice)?

It depends on the season. We have a small koi pond in our back yard. In the summer I sit out there as much as possible with a three-ring binder and a fountain pen. When Buffalo weather does its thing, I plant myself on the couch with either the binder or my laptop. If the words aren’t flowing, I switch from one to the other.

Enquiring minds want to know; whats in your binder?

In the front of my binder is a hard copy of my outline. Then 30–40 blank pieces of paper. At the back are hard copies of all the character charts and any backstory. Everything I need for an extended stay in the sun.

What have you read lately (in the last year or so) that you really liked?

A Line in the Sand (Jesse James Dawson #5) by K.A. Stewart. I’ve devoured every one of these in a single sitting and am salivating for book 6.

When Falcons Fall by C.S. Harris. Another terrific series, with a riveting antihero.

There’s also manga, which I read for relaxation. The current series I’m reading are Bungo Stray Dogs and The Ancient Magus’ Bride. So much fun!

Do you have any particular favorite books about writing?

Save the Cat! (Blake Snyder)
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers (Browne & King)
Zen in the Art of Writing (Bradbury)
Writing the Breakout Novel (Maass)
Eats, Shoots & Leaves (Lynne Truss)
The First Five Pages (Lukeman)

Save the Cat! is a screenplay book, but it made me look at characterization in a whole new way. When I read Maass, my takeaway was his advice to think of the worst thing you can do to your MC, and then do it to them. I applied that to my then-unpublished horror novel which had piled up an Eiffel Tower of rejections. It changed the MC’s motivation and made her darker and more obsessed. The book sold.

What’s your most memorable fan mail?
Fan mail is the best, but this one stood out because I could practically hear its tone of voice. It began, “I want you to know I don’t like to read! I finished all three of your books in one weekend. When’s the next one coming out?”

I replied “Sorry not sorry” and named a character after this fan in the next book. I smile every time I tell this story.

What’s your favorite charity?

A local organization, Buffalo City Mission. They’ve been helping the homeless for years. They also have a women’s shelter.

Alice Loweecey has a Website. You can also read more about her books on Facebook and Goodreads. Sometimes, she Tweets

 

Reading for Writers

Matthias Stom painting of a young man reading from c. 1630
“Young Man Reading by Candlelight” Matthias Stom ca.1630. National Museum. Stockholm

I’m one of those writers who came to writing from reading. I never had any intention of “being a writer,” or writing for a living. I wanted to read books. I still love reading, not only the kind of reading where you inhale the pages out of pure narrative lust, but close reading, the kind of reading that is bread-and-butter to any reformed humanities liberal arts graduate.

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”—Stephen King. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft 

It is always a bit of shock to me to meet writers who identify, strongly, as writers, even writers of fiction or poetry (and I am neither), who say they don’t read. I’m not the first person to notice this trend, as this piece in 2011 piece in Salon makes clear. Writers who don’t read aren’t a 21st century creation, so I don’t think it’s the fault of social media, as the Salon piece suggests; I think rather, what seems like a startling increase in the phenomena of writers who don’t read is perhaps more noticeable because more people are interested in writing given the increase in viable self-publishing options.

That said, writing without reading strikes me as problematic. I’ll go out on a limb and say I think it’s mandatory for writers to read if they want to be read. I’m not referring to writers who don’t read while they’re concentrating on writing a particular book, I mean writers who don’t read. Sometimes non-reading writers say they’ve not read a book since leaving school. Some say they never were much interested in reading. Some say they haven’t time to read. They may not read for a variety of reasons, but time and lack of interest are the two reasons for writers not reading that I’ve heard the most.

I’m going to quote Stephen King from On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, again, because I think he’s on the money here:

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut. . . . It’s hard for me to believe that people who read very little (or not at all in some cases) should presume to write and expect people to like what they have written, but I know it’s true.”

We work from models; we learn from models, in terms of learning other crafts and how to be adult humans; why should writing be any different?

Close Reading: Reading Closely

That doesn’t mean, as Chuck Wendig notes, that simply consuming text will make you a writer. When I say reading, I’m referring to thoughtful reading, reading of the sort that used to be called close reading. Close reading, or for the French, explication de texte, means reading carefully, analytically and thoughtfully. It is the antithesis of speed reading. Speed reading is about consuming. Speed reading is about eating as much as you can and swallowing it rapidly, even if it makes you queasy. 1) Woody Allen quipped “I took a speed reading course where you run your finger down the middle of the page and was able to read War and Peace in twenty minutes. It’s about Russia.” See also: Speed Reading: I Was Able To Go Through ‘War and Peace’ in 20 Minutes. It’s About Russia

Close reading means looking at the language, looking at how the words function in the sentence, how the sentences function in the paragraph, and the ideas and concepts conveyed by the language. It means looking at the language, at the text, in terms of rhetoric, the way idioms and metaphors and tropes and schemes and figures are used to emphasize ideas, feelings and concepts. In other words, the techniques that you probably use when you read and think about poetry will work for any text, whether it’s the back of a cereal box, an article in Newsweek, a novel by Agatha Christie, or Ursula Le Guin, a poem, or a book review. Read as if it’s all important. Wendig puts it this way:

You don’t learn to write through reading anymore than you learn carpentry by sitting on a chair. You learn to write by writing. And, when you do read something, you learn from it by dissecting it — what is the author doing? How are characters and plot drawn together? You must read critically — that is the key.

Reading critically; reading actively, are key. That doesn’t mean you can’t read for plot or for sheer enjoyment, it does mean you need to pay attention as you read (or after) in terms of why you enjoy it (or don’t enjoy it). What’s stimulating your narrative lust? Why do you want to turn the page?

If I had a nickel for every person who ever told me he/she wanted to become a writer but didn’t have time to read, I could buy myself a pretty good steak dinner. Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” — Stephen King. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Find time to read.

We spend a fair amount of time waiting. Waiting at the doctor’s office. Standing in line at the DMV. Those ten minutes or half-hours while you’re waiting for something else are perfect for reading.

Even if you can only read half an hour a day before you go to sleep, that’s several books a year. Reading allows you to think about words and writing without having to be responsible for them. You can discover how to write as you work on understanding what someone else has written. How does it work? Where does it not work for you, and why?

“Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it.
Then write. If it’s good, you’l find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.” — William Faulkner—University of Mississippi, 1947

Read Widely

I’m not one of those who advocates reading “only the best,” or “only canon literature.” I think writers should read widely and voraciously. Take a book and a notebook (or use an ereader app and a note taking app on your phone) everywhere you go.

As we read, whether it’s fiction, or poetry or non-fiction, our brains are paying attention to words and sentences and themes and language. We are absorbing and integrating as we process; reading widely educates our writerly palate just as trying a wide variety of food or wine educates our more conventional palate.  Writer Susan Wittig Albert, in suggesting new writers follow Faulkner’s advice notes that “There’s a trick, though. You do need to read to ‘see how they do it’—something like taking the watch apart to see how it ticks, rather than using it to tell time.” That’s a good reason for re-reading books you’ve read before, even many times before.

“If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” — Oscar Wilde  

Reading a book for the second (or the nth) time allows us to see it differently. While the text before us is the same, we as readers have changed. We have read other things. We have had new experiences, so that the text we read now is not, exactly the same to us as we re-read. We are not the readers we were. Sometimes that means the suck fairy visits, but more often, re-reading exposes an even more interesting and intricate text.

Cressida Downing notes that

If you want to write, and get your work read, you need to know about the process of reading, about the excitement and fascination a reader can get out of a book, you need to learn about that connection.

Read widely, and read attentively. Ask yourself why a writer chose this word or that, notice the patterns, whether patterns of language or thought, or structure. What makes you want to continue reading? What makes you want to stop?2) I freely give permanent dispensation to readers who want to stop reading a particular book; and try it again later, if they want.

If you want to get back to reading, the first thing to do is make sure you always have something nearby to read. Books are portable, even printed (perhaps especially printed books). Consider an AW reading challenge. Read and discuss Vernor Vinge’s Hugo Award winning SF novel A Fire Upon the Deep  along with other AWers (discussion starts June 1; grab the free ebook now). There are always book reccs in AW’sBook Club forum. AW’s SF/F readers post about What we’re reading. If it’s been a while since you read a book, consider a book you loved in years past as a re-read.When you read something good, a book, a poem, an essay, an article or a blog post, tell others about it. Start tracking your reading in a book journal, or a book lover’s social site like Library Thing, BookLikes or GoodReads.

References   [ + ]

1.  Woody Allen quipped “I took a speed reading course where you run your finger down the middle of the page and was able to read War and Peace in twenty minutes. It’s about Russia.” See also: Speed Reading: I Was Able To Go Through ‘War and Peace’ in 20 Minutes. It’s About Russia
2. I freely give permanent dispensation to readers who want to stop reading a particular book; and try it again later, if they want.

Poetry Manifesto

Poetry is the philanthropy of the illuminated mind to the dulled wits of those immured in the tragedy of mundanity. —Aero Gantz of Pampa City.

Poetry is the truest literary, spoken and visualized form of communication. Whether sonnet, haiku or that apex of wit, the limerick. Only the poet can fully immerse themselves in the creative world, from ordering in rhyme at a restaurant to wearing the beret required by Our Muse. Poetry must flow throw your veins, and serve as your soul’s breath. Poets give us words like these noble verses about the Magdalene’s eyes:

Two walking baths; two weeping motions;
Portable, and compendious oceans.

Narrative is the realm of the banal, the pedantic halfwit who thinks himself wise, yet lacks meter and rhyme. Naked prose is harsh, crude and uninspiring, without the adornment offered by poetic figures. True masterpieces speak the language of poetry even when clothed in prose:

Her cheeks were almost as red as her hair already, like red Delicious apples under green leaves which were her eyes and the dark pupils were like little curled up caterpillars in the middle—Travis Tea

Poetry speaks to and from the soul. It tickles and caresses the mind as one mulls over the next word or phrase to imbue the reader with a kaleidoscope of images that flow from each precious verse. Only the poet can engender true rapture in the reader, such that

My ear is open like a greedy shark,
To catch the tunings of a voice divine.

All writing is poetic, to the truly sensitive soul. Never in the history of mankind ever has there ever been a more perfect, more inspiring or more nobler form of communication than poetry. One must aspire to exalt the noble art to its highest incarnation; to bring joy and bliss to the world with wit, rhyme and the perfection of the 5/7/5 haiku, or, in the highest form of poetic art, the limerick.

Pity those unable to grasp and embrace the rich visual beauty of the spoken sonnet. Mourn the barren souls of those bereft of the lyrical gift of rhyme. Know that deep down frankly, you are more perfect, more better and more refined than the mouth-breathing, knuckle dragger who hears a couplet and thinks, that’s it. Buffoons.

If you have so earth-creeping a mind that it cannot lift itself up to look to the sky of poetry . . . thus much curse I must send you, in the behalf of all poets, that while you live, you live in love, and never get favour for lacking skill of a sonnet; and, when you die, your memory die from the earth for want of an epitaph.

Happy April 1. Now go read some good poetry in honor of National Poetry Month.

Camp NaNoWriteMo in April

Writing in the woods.
Photo by Doug Robichaud

You probably already know about National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo. It’s all about writing a novel in a month. But twice a year, in April and July, there’s a version of NaNoWriMo called Camp NaNoWriMo. The basic idea behind the April Camp NaNo is that you spend the month of April working on a specific writing project, one that can be anything from 30,000 to 999,999 words, hours, lines, or pages for your project.

What’s more,  “project” doesn’t have to mean “novel.” In the official Camp NaNoWriMo FAQ regarding What genres can I write in? Can I write non-fiction or poetry? it says that Camp NaNoWriMo welcomes

open-ended writing, including scripts, poems, and more! You can specify the category of your work on your Project Info page.

People write novels, memoirs, humor, scripts, poetry, outlines . . . pretty much anything. You set your own goals for your own project, and can track them via the NaNoWritMo Camp website.

Another thing that differentiates Camp from NaNoWriMo is that participants are assigned to a “cabin”: a group of up to 20 other writers who serve as a mini community to cheer you on (and commiserate). Think of cabins as an online writers’ group; you can even create your own private cabin for you and your Camp participating friends. Cabins include a small message board for cabin members only.

You can join Camp NaNoWriMo here. Right now is a great time to start thinking (and planning) what you’re going to write about during NaNoWriMo Camp. You can jot down random idea, write a detailed outline, start gathering inspiration in the form of pictures and character descriptions . . . If you look at the list of resources compiled by the Camp NaNoWriMo staff (scroll way down to the section under Non-Novel projects and you’ll see that people have taken advantage of NaNoWriMo Camp to write all sorts of things. There’s even a resource guide for people writing non-fiction during Camp NaNoWriMo.  Some people use NaNoWriMo Camp to research and plan, with the goal of writing a detailed outline.

I’m thinking hard about giving Camp a try, since non-fiction is OK. It’ll be my first time at NaNoWriMo Camp, so feel free to offer suggestions. Any one else planning on camp next month? I know there’s a thread about Camp NaNoWriMo at the Absolute Write NaNoWriMo forum.

Bullet Journals for Writers

There’s a high probability that you already know what a Bullet Journal is, in which case you can skip ahead. If you think a bullet journal is for gun enthusiasts, read on.

What’s A Bullet Journal?

Image credit: Mike Rohde

As originally designed, the Bullet Journal is a minimalist system relying on a notebook and numbered pages. You use short codes to tag kinds of data and tasks. You create your own pages to suit your personal needs and style. A bullet journal (BuJo for short) is an efficient way to track your time and goals, and other data that you use for short-range and long-range planning.

If you’re completely unfamiliar with the concept, a place to start is the original bullet journal video Bullet Journal – YouTube by Ryder Carroll. I’ve also linked to some useful pieces about how to create, customize and use a bullet journal in the Resources section below.

Bullet Journals for Writers: The Basics

Because a bullet journal is so very flexible, many writers use a BuJo just for managing their writing time and tasks. I find a bullet journal especially useful in terms of tracking multiple projects and deadlines.

The Index

The first thing to do when you start using a bullet journal is to number the pages. (Some notebooks have pre-numbered pages, like the Leuchtturm1917 notebook, but it takes mere minutes to do it by hand).

The second thing to do is reserve the first three or four pages of your notebook for your Index. The Index is a list of pages and what’s on them; it makes finding your information very quick.

Tobias Bucknell, SF/F author, has written a helpful post about his experience creating, using, and customizing a BuJo for use by a writer This is how I Bullet Journal | Tobias Buckell. Bucknell says that for him the Index was a key point in making a Bullet Journal personally useful:

But creating an index, that was interesting. Because now I suddenly, like a light bulb going off, realized I could create not only daily to-dos, but project to-dos, and flip back and forth. Even better, while I used a variety of to-dos via digital software, some projects of mine were getting so complex that I needed a way to glance at the 30,000 foot view quickly.

Bucknell’s post provides a wealth of information about customizing the basic concepts and practices behind bullet journals with lots of specific suggestions about how writers might want to use a bullet journal.

There are lots of writers of every sort using bullet journals; some of your peers are likely using bullet journals, and may very well have some specific tips. In the meantime, here are some suggestions about ways to use bullet journaling as a writer.

The Key

Image credit: Mario Valdez

One of the primary techniques behind bullet journaling is what Ryder Carroll calls “rapid logging.” It means making brief notes about tasks, events and ideas, marked with identifying symbols to make it possible to tell what kind of a note you’ve made, and whether it’s a completed task or event or re-scheduled, at a glance. There’s an “official” Bullet Journal key; it looks like the image to the right. People customize the symbols they use all the time.

Collections are Powerful
A bullet journal Collection is a collection of data; that data can be lists or images or mind-maps or sketches, or trackers (more about trackers later). These are some possible Collections for a writer

  • Backstory and plot notes
  • Character notes (and sketches)
  • Setting notes (and sketches!)
  • Scene or Chapter breakdowns
  • Brainstorming—ask yourself questions about your WIP (why does Whitney go to the barn? What does Simon need? What does Simon want?)
  • Inspirational Quotes (See Tobias Bucknell’s post on starting with a motivational quotation)
  • A list of those words, you know, the ones you can’t spell without having to look them up.
  • List special character and place names, or special spellings of standard words, archaic words, idioms or invented words that you’ll want to submit to your editor so they won’t get changed.
  • Your personal style sheet; leading and trailing spaces before and after em-dashes, or not; spaces before and after ellipses, or not; preferred spellings of words that have options. Sure your editor and publisher may have different opinions, but if you standardize the way you do it, they’ll be much easier to change later, if it’s necessary.
  • Patricia Wrede has some great questions for fantasy world building that are useful to answer in a bullet journal as part of your backstory.

Trackers

Trackers are a visual method of tracking repeated events or habits. They’re often used for things like tracking sleep or miles walked, or water imbibed, or pages read, or words written. Technically, trackers are a subset of Collections in official Bullet Journal terms, but they’re endlessly flexible.

  1. Trackers can be as simple as M T W Th F S S to represent a week.Draw a line through the letter to mark the days on which you met your daily goals.
  2. Use a row of boxes with numbers for tracking monthly goals. Cross off or fill in the boxes on the days you met your goal.
  3. If you want to track multiple daily habits for a month, create a simple graph; habits or tasks across the top of a two-page spread, and numbers for the days of the month down the side of the left-hand leaf. Use a filled- in square or dot or X to mark the task (or habit) you completed under the column across the top. (Here’s a tracker example from Heather Haft).

You can get colorful of course, and there’s lots of advice and models about using trackers in your bullet journal. See for instance Bullet Journal Habit Trackers from Productive & Pretty. Lots of people use trackers to track good habits and health.

Migration

Migration in bullet journal terms refers to an event or task that wasn’t completed when you planned, so you migrate it to another day. In other words, you move it from Tuesday the 6th to Friday the 9th (or whenever). The official Bullet Journal Symbol for migrating something is >; lots of people use other symbols. Part of the point of migration is that you have to write the thing down again every time you migrate; if you find yourself doing this repeatedly, it’s an indication that you really don’t want to do the thing, or, that maybe, it doesn’t really need doing. As Ryder Carroll, the inventor of the Bullet Journal says:

You can reduce the amount of things you have to do by transferring things by hand. If a task isn’t worth the time to rewrite it, it’s probably not important. Spend time with things that are important and be mindful of how you spend your time.

Plan to Write

As writers, we all struggle with time management; with finding time to write. One way that a bullet journal habit can help with that is that you can plan not only the time but what you’re actually going to write.

By reducing the time we spend in non-writing activity in our writing time, we can actually get writing done. Those collections with questions, and character notes, and plot points can be springboards, specific starting points for your daily, nightly or weekly writing time.

Tip: A particularly useful technique in terms of tracking your narrative and writing progress, is to make a note when you end a session about where to start the next session

Bullet Journals are Analog

We’ve got Google Calendar, and iCal and all sorts of ways to sync data between our phones, our computers and our tablets. I’m still using them. But there are some advantages to writing by hand on paper.

  1. Handwriting aids retention.
  2. Handwriting allows us to use the parts of our brain that we don’t when we keyboard; there’s a thing that happens when we’re doodling or brainstorming with a pen in our hand where we solve problems, whether of plot, narration or character motivation, or planning. Some of it is perhaps not conscious, but as we write, we formulate a solution.
  3. Because of the way we concentrate on what we are doing and because it is slower than a keyboard, writing by hand gives us time to think.
  4. There’s something to be said for having a single place to track our time and ideas, especially when we write on a digital screen. Think of the journal as a portable extra screen, one that doesn’t require switching windows or apps.

A Note On Aesthetics

Lots of people spend a great deal of effort on prettifying their bullet journal; if you’ve got the time and skill that’s great. There are some incredibly beautiful BuJo’s out there. Me, I have neither time nor talent. I started my bullet journal in stumbled-upon blank page notebook, using a mechanical pencil and my travel fountain pen.

Bullet Journal Resources

Getting Started
There’s the video that Ryder Carroll made, of course, but these are some particularly useful guides to getting started using and customizing a bullet journal to suit you.

For a quick intro see Buzzfeed’s WTF Is A Bullet Journal And Why Should You Start One? An Explainer

It’s worth signing up to the once-a-month newsletter at Ryder Carroll’s  official bulletjournal.com site to download a copy of the free .pdf starter guide. It’s a cheat sheet for getting started with a bullet journal.

The best starter guide (full of practical suggestions for customizing) is How To Bullet Journal: The Absolute Ultimate Guide from the Lazy Genius Collective. Lots of useful pictures, and down-to-Earth advice.

Kim at Tinyrayofsunshine.com has an excellent Thorough Guide to the Bullet Journal System. Her pictures are very helpful and there are some excellig ideas about simplifying and customizing.

Bullet Journals for Writers

Writer’s Edit’s The Complete Guide to Bullet Journaling for Writers has some excellent suggestions about getting started, tracking submissions and using a bullet journal to plan and to manage NanoWriMo.

Victoria of Something Delicious has more specific tips for writers using bullet journals in Bullet Journaling for Fiction Writers. (Scroll down past the introduction to bullet journaling to see specific tips for writers).

Belle Cooper has some great practical suggestions for using a bullet journal to track freelance writing.

Supplies

There’s a section in the Absolute Write Amazon Store for Bullet Journal supplies; but you might want to try bullet journaling first before making an investment in pens and notebooks.

According to Bullet Journal inventor Ryder Carroll “All you need is a notebook and a pen . . . ” Consider using something you already have to start with (I did!). If you don’t have a blank page notebook (notebook paper isn’t really suitable) consider something like this Amazon Basics Classic Notebook, in either blank or “squared” (graph paper lines).

If you’re sure you’re game, consider using a notebook that has either a square grid (like graph paper) or a dot grid; they’re easier to use for charts, and they make it easier to write legibly.

If you already use a BuJo, let us know how you use it. What tips do you have for those just starting out? What do you suggest in terms of bullet journaling for writers?