Confessions of the Clueless, Part III: If John Green’s Clueless Enough to Write About Articulate Teenagers, So Am I, Thanks

Raise your hand if you

  • have read (or seen) John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars
  • are, or once were, an intelligent, articulate, even eloquent teenager
  • have read John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines
  • are the parent of someone who was formerly an intelligent, articulate, even eloquent teenager
  • have read John Green’s Looking for Alaska
  • believe that teenagers have as much capacity for intelligence, articulateness, even eloquence as adults (and way more than several recent Presidents)
  • are excited about John Green’s latest novel, Turtles All the Way Down.

Me? My hand never went down.

Thinking about the critiques my own books have faced–“Your heroine thinks and talks too much like an adult!”–I’ve found happy solace in this article by Jennie Yabroff of Signature Reads. com, which details John Green’s patient resistance to dumbing-down his teenage protagonists. Here he explains that his characters simply narrate not the way society expects of teens, but the way these teens, these PEOPLE, see themselves:

“The reality of experience is ultimately a lot more interesting to me than what I think is sort of wrongly called ‘objective reality.’ Because I don’t actually think objective reality is a thing — certainly not a very interesting thing for fiction, I don’t think,” he said. Rather, he believes that the way he represents his characters on the page is the way they see themselves in their heads. “Certainly, teenagers don’t sound [like my characters] when they talk to us… But they do sound that way to themselves. And that’s what interests me. I’m not really interested in capturing how they actually sound, because that’s not their experience.”

I say AMEN. Or rather, my protagonist, Jocelyn Burgowski, says that. Even though “that’s not something a teen would say.” Jocelyn is trying, like every other teen, to figure out exactly who she is. Her voice is the voice of the self developing inside her–which we, the readers, are privileged to peek into. So who are we to demand a different voice on the page?

(Orig. photo courtesy high school-aged Brian Whittier)

I prefer to get my books from the library or in paperback from my local bookstore, so I won’t get to read Turtles All the Way Down very soon. But if you do–and I hope you do!–please listen hard, and hear what Green’s heroine Aza has to say. Then apply that listening to the teen nearest you.

Confessions of the Clueless, Part II: Think Outside of the Genre Box At Your Authorial Peril

[*Note: Confessions of the Clueless Part I was my #hashtag rant. Here comes Part II.]

Nothing like working on the cover design of a book to let you know how hard you’ve made life for yourself. I’ve been looking for an image that…

…captures the dark beauty of the Pacific Northwest, without being too beautiful

…suggests the ugliness of the American industrial underbelly, without being too ugly

…encompasses an aerial view, but not from too high

…orients the viewer toward the water, but still keeps the shoreline visible

…won’t involve me in complicated and expensive negotiations over copyright usage

…allows for the addition of text elements in line with the previous books in the series

Turns out I really could not have thought up a more difficult set of requirements. Starting with beautiful vs. ugly: waterfront pictures are generally taken for two purposes, a) to lure tourists, or b) to lure business. The first wants only beauty; the second, only utility. And don’t forget that je-ne-sais-quois whiff of Northwest! Gotta have some dark forest in there. I searched internet images from Oregon to British Columbia. These were a couple of the finalists:

Port Angeles, WA–good on ya!

Or maybe, further north:

Powell River, BC, anyone? Great town.

But the image dilemma is really a stand-in for the difficulty my books face in terms of categorizing. You see, the Flying Burgowski series 

…takes its time to drop its heroine into the action, and said action involves no combat, no werewolves, no vampires, and not a single zombie.

…is fantastical enough to involve flying humans, but otherwise very much real-world (sorry, no parallel universe lurking just behind Platform Nine and Three Quarters!)

…deals with political issues like religious extremism, homophobia, and human trafficking

…has a middle-grades heroine, but one who faces adult themes like divorce and addiction from a very early age

…follows said heroine into her mid-teen years where, guess what? sexual maturity is suddenly an issue.

Let me dwell on that last point a moment. Jocelyn Burgowski’s personal literary hero, Harry Potter, also ages in his series, has a crush, finds a girlfriend. But author J.K. Rowling managed to keep Harry’s physical responses to said girlfriend–his natural teenage lust–safely off the page. Author G.K. Wing was not that unrealistic, or smart, depending on your perspective.

So, bottom line? How would YOU characterize this series? Have I made these books difficult to advertise, or what?

I call the first two books of the Flying Burgowski trilogy Middle Grades Fantasy, and the last one YA Fantasy–because I have to call them SOMEthing. But you know what? I’d really just rather call it a damn good read. Can that be a thing?

 

#Hashtags #makeme #crazy #howboutyou

#hashtags #makemefeellikeI’mbackin #middleschool 

#tryingwaytoohardtobe #cool

#notfullyconvinced #Icanpullitoff

#orevenwantto

#butitstimeto #promotemynewbook #altitude #flyingburgowskitrilogybook3

#ya #fantasy #book #girl #flying = #hot

#comingofage #tothineownselfbetrue #magicvsmaturation #discoveringlifesmorethanyourownlittleproblems = #not

#theysayhashtagshelpyou #jointheconversation

#feelslikeshoutingintoa #crowdedroom

#alreadytooloudinhere

#wouldibuyabookfromsomeonewhosscreamingatme

#dontthinkso

#besidesiloveandhonor #punctuation 

#callmeoldfashioned

Coming soon to a book launch near you…excuse me, #booklaunch #book #launch

#justpleasereadmy #books #flyingburgowski #headwinds #altitude

#ipromise

#theycontainzero #hashtags

PS–check out my Goodreads page to win a free copy of The Flying Burgowski or Headwinds, Oct. 10-Nov. 11

#blatantcommercialism

 

 

Watching Your Writing Role Model Strip Bare: Iris Graville Publishes Hiking Naked

If you’ve published your words in any form, you know the feeling when someone looks you in the eye and tells you they read what you published. It’s not like singing at a concert or displaying visual art. These are YOUR WORDS, your literal, expressed thoughts, straight from your brain into someone else’s. Who is about to tell you what they think.

Now imagine those words you’ve published are your MEMOIR. And imagine the people who are looking you in the eye are your neighbors, folks you bump into at the market, at the post office. 

My friend Iris’s new memoir, Hiking Naked: A Quaker Woman’s Search for Balance, could not be better titled. As Iris tells it in her latest blog post, “Baring My Soul”:

I reel a bit each time someone says something like, “I’m reading your book, and it really speaks to me.” Or, “I was right there with you.” And, “My back hurt just reading about your work in the bakery!” What stuns me is the realization that, as I go about my life each day, some number of people are reading about it. There’s an intimacy in that knowing that I hadn’t anticipated. I’m discovering that the metaphor of “hiking naked” extends to how I feel about others now reading my words.

(Courtesy Homebound Publications)

My own forthcoming book, Altitude, Book Three of the Flying Burgowski series, could not be more different from Iris’s. My book’s a novel. It’s Young Adult (although I’m finding that Older Adults seem to like it just fine). It’s fantasy–not vampires nor zombies nor dystopian archer-warriors, certainly, but hey! my heroine can fly. So, yes. Fantasy enough.

The only thing my book has in common with Iris’s is that she helped “midwife” mine, via critique, while I did the same with hers (both of us with a LOT of help, and in her case, Masters-in-Fine-Arts-level help).

Well, maybe two more commonalities: they’re both set in the northwest, and they’re both about strong females.But that’s it.

So how can Iris be my writing role model? Because she is, to borrow her metaphor, hiking ahead of me on that rocky path called publication. She started years ago, creating her own press to co-publish Hands At Work: Portraits and Profiles of People Who Work With Their Hands, with photographer Summer Moon Scriver.

Then last year she published Bounty: Lopez Island Farmers, Food and Community–which is just what it sounds like, only more mouth-watering.

But all the while, Iris was working on that memoir. Crafting and drafting, re-crafting, re-drafting; pitching, pitching, pitching; writing and submitting short pieces to increase her visibility; keeping her chin up through inevitable rejections…until one day…

You go, girl.

I am still bummed to have missed Iris’s launch party because of some silly plane tickets to Ireland. But now that I’ve heard about it, I’m totally planning to follow in her footsteps at my own launch party in November.

(Not sure who took this photo…but Iris will tell me.)

Iris introduced by her own writing mentor, Ana Maria Spagna? How ’bout Gretchen Wing, introduced by Iris Graville? 

I better ask her, huh?

Why Revising Writing Is Like Caulking Your Bathtub

There’s not much nastier than a grimy old bathtub, right? Who wants to scrub up in something that looks like this?

It's amazing what you can not-see when all you want is a hot shower...

It’s amazing what you can not-see when all you want is a hot shower…

Except when it’s YOUR grime, built up over (let’s not count how many) years, you kinda…how shall I say…fail to notice how grody it looks. It’s just, y’know–your bathtub. Hop in and soak your cares away.

But my parents are coming to visit. And even though Martha Stewart is NOWHERE in my family tree, parents still count as guests. And guests cause my vision to change. As in, “Oh, GROSS! Who bathes in THAT?”

So I re-caulked the sucker.

It was a messy job. As it happens, being deep in revisions of Book Three (of The Flying Burgowski series), I couldn’t help noticing the parallels between re-caulking and re-vising.

Here I am, for example, getting rid of some crusty old adverbs and parenthetical phrases that had built up through two previous drafts and were now gumming up the forward motion:

Away with you, needless exposition!

Away with you, needless exposition!

The old caulk fought back. “But I must be serving some purpose or you wouldn’t have kept me around for so long, right? If you get rid of me, you’re going to have to start ALL OVER! And who knows how many more leaks that’ll cause?”

Sound familiar, fellow writers? Those are the same protestations your words and paragraphs make under your editorial knife. That’s why Stephen King calls revising “murdering your darlings.”

Well, I murdered the heck out of that old bathtub grime. The new caulk felt silky as cake frosting beneath my index finger. 

Can you say "final draft"?

Oh, dear–now I need to bleach all the shower walls. Better, but a final draft this ain’t.

And I’m going to try and remember that smooth, fresh finish as I continue to peel away at built-up prose. 

But I’m also curious–for what other activities does re-caulking serve as apt metaphor? Let me hear.

You’ve Come a Long Way, Daddy: A Personal Evolution Story

When I say Personal Evolution Story, I mean that literally: this story has to do with me and my dad, and with evolution–as in, Darwin’s Theory Of.

My first post-college job was teaching at the school I had graduated from only five years prior. Since it was a private school–woohoo, Carolina Friends School, go Quakers!–ahem, as I was saying, since it was a private school, no certification was necessary. They knew me, they liked me, they hired me, and I trained on the job. Some of the Upper School courses I taught included Lit & Comp I and II, Geography, History of the Vietnam War, Running, Romance and Satire…that’s all I remember. For a brand-newbie, I wasn’t bad. Considering how at home I felt at CFS, that’s not too surprising.

I felt a bit of pride in myself, becoming a teacher. But as a college graduate, I was well aware of my lowly status compared to the rest of my family. Both my sisters had a Master’s; one was working on her Ph.D, the other on her veterinary degree.

Some time during my second year, as I remember, one of the science teachers needed to go on maternity leave. My father offered to step in as a long-term sub.

This is also not surprising, if you know that my father a) was one of the founders of the school and a perpetual Board member, and b) taught Zoology at Duke. As far as he was concerned, science teaching was science teaching. Apparently the school agreed, and they took him on (probably for free). He taught good ol’ Biology.

After the first couple of weeks, he gave a test. Most of the class failed. Dismayed, he came to me with the test: did I think it was too hard? I remember reading it and thinking, “No, this looks like pretty standard stuff.” Still, his next practice quiz–yuck. Again with the failures. My dad couldn’t figure out what was wrong.

To his credit–and my surprise–Dad then asked me to observe his class to see if I could spot the problem. I’ll never forget how proud I felt at that moment: proud of him for having the grace to ask his youngest daughter for help, and proud of myself for being enough of a Teacher that I could teach a tenured professor a thing or two.

The Upper School Head Teacher and I observed Dad’s class together. Minutes into the period we looked at each other and smiled. Bingo.

The problem wasn’t the scope of my dad’s lessons, nor their sequence. The problem was that, in his normal, everyday speech patterns, he rarely used words of fewer than four syllables. Latin phrases like sine qua non or de facto were a dime a dozen. Having grown up with this high-falutin’ conversation, I didn’t notice, but as soon as I heard him through the ears of a hapless 10th-grader…ohhhh. Uh-huh. It’s not your lessons you have to bring down a few levels, Dad–it’s yourself.

Fast-forward to the end of the story: my dad learned to simplify his language, and to ask his students when he needed to rephrase something. His passing rates went up. Biology was learned.

Now, fast-forward another 30 years, to 2014. I publish my first novel, The Flying Burgowski. That is to say, I self-publish. My dad is supportive and proud, but I’m pretty sure that, as the author of a dozen traditionally-published academic books, he’d be even prouder if my book boasted the imprimatur of Random House instead of Amazon’s CreateSpace.

Meanwhile, however, my father and my veterinarian sister have teamed up to write a children’s book about evolution. It’s well written and clear: nice, pronounceable words, not a Latin phrase in sight! Beautiful illustrations grace the text. It’s a gem of a book. I’m excited for them, and for it.

Unfortunately, as with my novel, they can’t find a publisher. So, this past month, they self-publish. Through CreateSpace.

Here’s the result:

51515907_high-resolution-front-cover_6057779

And here’s the link, if you want to check it out or, even better, buy a copy: Darwin and the First Grandfather

And here’s the point of the story, in case it’s not clear yet: for the sake of the science he loves, my hyper-academic father has come a LONG way. From speaking only Academese, he has (with my sister’s help) made himself fluent in Common-Tongue Science. From publishing only with traditional, academic publishers, he has joined the proud ranks of the Indies. 

(Orig. photo courtesy Wikimedia)

(Orig. photo courtesy Wikimedia)

Not to mention–did I mention?–he and my big sis have written a damn fine book, one which fills a need. Please take a look and pass it on.

Take Your Child (Or Just Yourself!) To A Bookstore Day

Okay, I added the “yourself” part, ’cause why should kids have all the fun on National Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day? This Saturday, December 5, run, walk, drive, bike, take the bus or subway or a rickshaw, but get yourself to your favorite bookstore, a REAL bookstore made of, and filled with, REAL materials of bricks and mortar and wood and paper. The only “virtual” things on the premises of these stores are the dreams their books kindle in children’s heads. And I do mean kindle, not Kindle.

Could there be a better National Day, especially in this terrible season of random violence? Books + Children = Hope. I can’t say it better than that.

Here’s the bookstore I’ll be taking myself to this Saturday, A Book For All Seasons in the sweet town of Leavenworth, WA.

Could there be a more adorable bookstore to take your child to?

Could there be a more adorable bookstore to take your child to?

Gotta admit, though, I won’t be taking a child. But I will be signing books for other people’s children! And, since I finally got sent the photo from the Chanticleer Review Awards Banquet from a couple of months ago, this seems like a legitimate place to visually brag on my book, The Flying Burgowski. Here she is, winning Best Contemporary YA Novel:

I know, the picture's me. But the prize is for my book!

I know, the picture’s me. But the prize is for my book!h

And while I’m sending shout outs to myself, here’s one for my own local bookstore, Lopez Bookshop: I love you guys!

So, everyone on board? Show some love to your local bookstore–and a child or two–this Saturday!

And the Winner Is…My Book; Now, How Much Do I Owe You?

What newly-published Young Adult novelist  doesn’t want to see this in her email inbox? 
The DANTE ROSSETTI 2014 AWARDS for Young Adult Fiction Official First Category Winners

dante-rosettiThe Dante Rossetti  Awards recognize emerging new talent and outstanding works in the genre of Young Adult, T’weens, New Adult, & Children’s  fiction. The First Place Category Winners will be recognized at the Chanticleer Authors Conference and Awards Gala held in late September 2015.

The DANTE ROSSETTI FIRST PLACE 2014 Award Winners are:

  • Steampunk: Padgett Lively for Odette Speex: Time Traitors, Book 1
  • Contemporary: Gretchen Wing for The Flying Burgowski
  • CyberPunk: Jesikah Sundin for Legacy: The Biodome Chronicles, Book 1
  • Romance: Roni Teson for Twist
  • High Fantasy: S.A. Hunter for Elanraigh: The Vow
  • Blended Genre: Nely Cab for Fruit of Misfortune: Creatura Book 2
  • Science Fiction: Chris Pawlukiewicz for Dreams of a Red Horizon
  • Dystopian: Scott Smith for  An Outcast State
  • Mythological:  Stephanie Keyes for The Star Catcher
  • Lighthearted/Humorous:  Elizabeth Barlo: Ruth 66
  • New Adult:  Tiana Warner for Ice Massacre
  • Teen Fantasy: Elisabeth Hamill for Song Magick
  • Tweens : Mark Murphy  for The Curse of the Thrax
  • Children’s: Kirsten Pulioff for The Escape of Princess Madeline
  • Manuscript: Ben Hutchins for The Lackawanna Prophecies: Black Shadow  
  • Honorable Mentions:  P. J. Martin for Riding with Crazy Horse (manuscript)

See my book? I highlighted The Flying Burgowski in red just to make her stand out. 

This is great news. I’m totally bragging on myself announcing this to everyone I know.

The email goes on to wish all the winners luck in competing for the Grand Prize, and to invite us to the conference and Awards Gala:

Good Luck to the Dante Rossetti First Place Category Winners as they compete for the Dante Rossetti Awards 2014 GRAND PRIZE position!

The 2014 Dante Rossetti FIRST PLACE category winners will be recognized at the Chanticleer Authors Conference and Awards Gala that will take place in September 2015. The Dante Rossetti 2014 Grand Prize winner will be announced at the Awards Gala.

But there’s a teensy catch: $$$$. I won’t go into details about how much this conference costs, even with the discount given to winners. I can’t fit a weekend conference into my current work schedule, so I’m thinking of just attending the final day, with the cocktail party and awards gala…and even that price tag makes me choke a little. I know, I know, these events are expensive to put on. And I really can’t pass up this opportunity for mainstream exposure for my book. And I’m super excited and grateful for being chosen.

It’s just…yikes. That’s a lot of money for one day. And I can’t help but notice that the organizers have misspelled Dante Rosetti’s last name on their invitation. Makes me a little uneasy.

My question for Wing’s World, then, is: should I attend? Anyone have any experience at these events? Worthwhile? Bad idea to miss? Missable? I would love some input here.

Happy Independence Day! God Bless America. Now, If You’ll Excuse Me…

You know that feeling in the swimming pool when you take a deep breath to fill your lungs enough to swim underwater to the far end of the pool?

Right now, that “pool” = Fourth of July Week. The “swimmers” are me and my cohorts at Holly B’s Bakery (where “Holly’s Buns Are Best”). And that “deep breath”? That’s this blog post. My way of saying Happy Fourth! and I’ll see you in a week.

For those of you new to Wing’s World, here are some pix I posted a year ago showing the mayhem pre-Fourth prep in our tiny bakery world:

dough
On a normal July Saturday we’ll sell 120 croissants. On the Fourth, it’ll be nearly three times that. We’ve been making and freezing croissant dough every day for the past two weeks.

cinn rolls

Did I say 15 pans, last year? Make that 21. Who knows what it’ll be this year, now that Lopez Island has made National Geographic’s Top 40 Places list? (#6, yet. Yup. Here they come.)

#1

In order to get all this food out by the time we open @ 7 on July 4 and not instantly sell out, we bakers will be starting at 2 am. Am I going to ride my bike in to work that morning? Yes I am–but from the house of a friend who lives half a mile away. Hey, I’m dedicated, not STUPID.

Because, as on most lovely ocean-y spots, those of us who live here will all be hosting family and friends this weekend. Of course we will! It’s how it ought to be. And I can’t wait to be doing this:

Croissants? Meh. Pass me another s'more!

Croissants? Meh. Pass me another s’more!

and this…

My bakery doesn't make pies. All the more reason for me to make 'em at home!

My bakery doesn’t make pies. All the more reason for me to make ’em at home!

at home, in between bakery shifts.

I will be one happy, tired, but HAPPY puppy. Finishing Chapter 13 of my next book? Won’t be happening. Selling Books 1 and 2 at the Lopez Farmers Market? Nope–not till later this month. And one more thing I won’t be doing, in the upcoming underwater swim through a pool of love & butter–blogging. I’ll catch y’all next week.

The Flying Burgowski will be back after a short break...

The Flying Burgowski will be back after a short break…

So meantime, happy Independence Day, everyone! Let’s love our families, treat our friends, honor the our freedom…and have another s’more.

“This Kid Reviews Books”: You Gotta Meet This Cool Kid

OK, I have a slight ulterior motive in choosing this moment to introduce you to Erik, a.k.a. This Kid Reviews Books: he’s just reviewed mine! But I am totally enamored of This Kid’s approach to literature aimed at his age group, and wanted to share him with you anyway. Here’s what he says on his “About” page:

Hi, my name is Erik. I love books, so that’s why I have this blog . The reason I’m doing this is for parents to approve of a book, and for kids to find an excellent book too! Speaking of kids, did you know that I am one too? I am 9 1011 12 years old. I got the idea for this blog when my grandmom told me she was shopping for a book for me and didn’t know what to buy and a kid in the store told her to get me “The Strange Case of Origami Yoda”. He said it was a good book and that I would like it, so she bought it. Well, it is a good book and I did like it. I thought that if my grandmom would take the advice of a kid maybe “this kid” (me) could help other kids and grown-ups looking for books for kids, find books they like. Plus my Mom is always trying to find “appropriate” books for me so I am going to include some of her and my Dad’s thoughts on some of the books I read.
Don’t you love him already? OK–now it’s time to hear from Erik directly:

This Kid Reviews Books

flyingThe Flying Burgowski

By Gretchen K. Wing

254 pages – ages 12+

Published by Gretchen K Wing on February 25, 2014

Synopsis- 14-year-old Jocelyn Burgowski knew her life was terrible. She actually preferred her flying dreams to her real-life – getting lost in her thoughts about flying. On her next birthday, amazingly, she CAN fly! She just leaps into the air and all of a sudden, her life was perfect! Her jerk of a brother was leaving to live with their alcoholic Mom (on the main land) for the summer, she got his job, and now she really could fly! Perfect… not so much. She finds out that she’ll be going to stay with her Mom too. In the very crowded city! This means little open spaces and no room to fly and right next to all the problems she thought she was leaving behind.

What I Thought- This was…

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