Tuesday, March 29, 2011

When the authors speak . . .

This past month, the Ovitt Family Community Library in Ontario, CA, has hosted four ZOVA Books authors for a series of conversations on publishing, writing, and women in the book industry. We're sharing a few of the topics discussed with our authors over the course of the month.

On March 5th, Molly Lewis talked with Jeff Sherratt about women in the book industry. As a past board member of Sisters in Crime, LA, Jeff has developed years of experience addressing inequality in the industry. When asked what beginning authors should be aware of when first sending out their work, Jeff counseled them to be discerning about who they share their work with. There are plenty of questionable organizations out there, and it's important to do your research before entering into a contractual relationship with an agent or publisher. Having written multiple books himself, including the first of his film noir mysteries, Detour to Murder, Jeff knows what he's talking about.

On March 12th, Teresa Burrell brought her Advocate series to the library with advice for writers on how to use personal experience in fiction. As a lawyer herself, writing juvenile defense attorney Sabre Brown was an exercise in doing just that. For those whose personal experiences fall short of their story's needs, the key is to compensate with legitimate research. Teresa suggested referencing the experts - from interviewing real-life versions of your characters to hitting the stacks at your local library. A fitting suggestion, considering the setting.

March 19th saw Jenny Bellington discussing the process of writing East to Adonia and the challenges of developing a full-fledged fantasy world. As fantasy literature for both children and adults is such a weighty genre, carrying with it all the traditions of literary giants like JRR Tolkien, Robert Jordan, RA Salvatore, and a host of others, the most significant questions Jenny fielded related to the material that influenced her. How do you let a book inspire you while keeping your own writing unique? Jenny focused on what she didn't see in current fiction, the elements she felt were lacking in her favorite books and series, and developed East to Adonia from those very things. While we cannot help but be influenced by what we have read (and seen and heard and felt and been . . .) the best we have to offer are the things that set our ideas apart.

And on March 26th, Michele Scott introduced her new book, Happy Hour, while giving practical advice on developing a story arc, establishing constructive writing habits, and managing a host of different characters throughout the life of a series. We asked her what sort of writing exercises she does before beginning a novel. One of the suggestions Michele offered was to write journal entries from the point of view of each of your characters. Examining their individual perspectives of the story not only lends depth to each character, but also helps you discover aspects of the story you may not have expected.

Overall, the contributions of each author were informative and inspiring. We have been so excited to be a part of the library's efforts to join published and aspiring writers throughout the month of March, to celebrate the contributions of women in the industry, and to further develop the library as a place for community involvement.

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