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"Glee" Actor Talks Writing with Fans

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The other day, I was writing an article about Chris Colfer, the Golden Globe-winning actor from "Glee" who published a fairytale that was released this week, "The Land of Stories," when I stumbled upon a live podcast Colfer was hosting via the book's website.

“Glee” fans tuned in from as far away as Holland, Scotland (“Why are you talking to me? J.K. Rowling lives in your neighborhood—go visit her!” he teased one fan from Scotland), Italy and Rio de Janeiro to ask Colfer, who plays Kurt Hummel on "Glee," questions about "The Land of Stories."

Colfer, whose mother used to read fairytales to him, began writing “The Land of Stories” when he was 10. It’s the story of twins whose grandmother has given them a book of fairytales—and who end up entering a land where the fairytales they’ve listened to all their lives are real.

Goldilocks is an outlaw, wanted for crimes of burglary and running from the law. Red Riding Hood has her own kingdom. Jack of beanstalk fame is in a love triangle with Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks. Meanwhile, the Evil Queen has escaped from prison and is after the twins. Finding their way out of this magical place will take courage, luck, and a whole lot of magic.

Colfer, 22, has dreamed of publishing “The Land of Stories” since he first began writing the modern-day fairytale. “It’s a promise that I made to myself when I was 10,” Colfer told fans during an online chat on Wednesday. “I wanted to create a fairytale that didn’t have to end, because I didn’t want them to end when I was a kid.”

“Snow White” and “Sleeping Beauty” were his favorite fairytales as a child because they featured spells, a handsome prince, and a happy ending in a castle on the horizon. “If you don’t love (these stories), you don’t have a heart,” Colfer told fans, adding, “I’m just kidding. You do have a heart. It’s just not very large.”

The final version of his story is not much different from his original draft, Colfer told fans. The biggest change he made was to keep from killing off the grandmother: “I thought that was way too much—way too much sadness,” he said, especially because the twins’ father has already died when the story takes place.

Is Colfer afraid the quality of his work as a whole will suffer, now that he’s acting and writing? “No—I’ve never thought of that, to be quite honest,” he said. “I didn’t rush the writing; I made sure I was giving each project the right amount of time.”

The sequel to “The Book of Stories” will feature fairytale favorites that did not make an appearance in the first book, such as Mother Goose, “Because I love feisty old women, and that’s what she’s going to be,” Colfer says.

Colfer encouraged fans who are writers not to hold back in bringing their own stories to life. “Get it out on the page—that’s my best advice,” he said.

Happy Friday! Happy writing!

Sunday Inspiration

"This is impossible."

"Only if you believe it is."

--"Alice in Wonderland"

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Carl Lewis on Turning Dreams into Reality

“Happiness is a choice, but success comes from dreaming bigger than you can even imagine." 10-time Olympic medalist Carl Lewis

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I had the opportunity to hear Carl Lewis speak a couple of weeks ago at an event my company hosted, and there were a few things he said that inspired me as a writer. Here is the article I wrote for my workplace about his keynote speech: http://bit.ly/MksGi8.

Happy Friday! Happy writing!

Wordless Wednesday: Nose to Nose



Happy Wednesday! Happy writing!

On Book Blogging

Liz Burns of School Library Journal wrote an interesting commentary this morning about book blogging entitled "The Importance of Being Nice" (http://bit.ly/M9ZeWv). In it, Burns discusses Jennifer Weiner's speech at BEA, in which Weiner says she appreciates the opportunity to share the love for debut novels she is passionate about with thousands of her fans--so much so that she now reviews only the books she loves, rather than posting negative reviews of the books she isn't crazy about.

Weiner hosts contests where she offers free copies of her own books to fans who purchase the debut novels she promotes via Twitter (twitter.com/jenniferweiner) and on her blog (jenniferweiner.blogspot.com). At BEA, she said she enjoys the opportunity to "be the one sprinkling the fairy dust."

"I’m not saying never write bad reviews, or that there’s no place in the world for some well-deserved snark. I’m not saying not to be honest. But there’s something to be said for talking up the things you love instead of talking down the things you hate," Weiner said in her speech. (You can read the speech on her blog under the June 4 heading: http://bit.ly/5OVuCt.)

Should all book bloggers take this approach? Burns says no--and her stance is one of respect for "the work that went into making that book."

"It takes time and effort to write a review, even a negative one. It takes no effort at all to say nothing. So really, which response is less respectful?" she says in her commentary (http://bit.ly/M9ZeWv).

I find the discussion interesting for a number of reasons. Weiner is a best-selling author, and her praise for books like "Heft" by Liz Moore and "I Couldn't Love You More" by Jillian Medoff (which I read based on her recommendation, and loved) has dramatically increased book sales for these authors and introduced a number of new readers to their work. Burns is an excellent reviewer who provides thoughtful and intelligent commentary about the latest children's books (I particularly enjoyed her review of "Inside Out & Back Again"). But Burns is a professional reviewer, and one could argue that she has an obligation to write both positive and negative reviews.

But what if you're not a professional reviewer?

What if you're an aspiring author, and you know that if you publicly criticize a book by a beloved author, you could potentially destroy your chances of working with an agent or an editor before you've even had a chance try to build a relationship with that person?

I think if you're going to take the stance of only writing reviews of books that you truly love, it's important to take the time to craft a review that gives readers a solid look at what the book is about; why it's special (providing examples from the book to support that opinion); and thoughts on which readers might be drawn to the story (for example, if it's a dark paranormal novel, is it the type of story that fans of realist fiction would enjoy, too? Why?).

As a reader of authors' blogs, the types of reviews I dislike are the ones that seem to say "You have to read this book! It's so incredible!" without telling me, specifically, why. The reviews I love best are the ones that have the potential to make me consider a story in a new light--even a story I've already read--or that pull me in with their passion while providing enough highlights from the book that I can judge whether it's one that I might truly enjoy as well.

What qualities do you appreciate most in a book review?

Happy Friday! Happy writing (and reading)!


“I wasn’t crazy enough to jump into Matt Thornton’s wreck for an illegal six-hour trip with a girl who would apparently have fingernails in 10 different colors by then and whose main interest in life was hunting down the spirit of her late father,” 16-year-old Ryan insists in Jennifer Hubbard’s latest novel, “Try Not to Breathe.”

But before he knows it, Ryan is barreling down the highway with a 15-year-old girl he’s only just begun to get to know so he can see Val, the girl he met in a mental hospital months before. The girl who knows his darkest secrets; the girl he can’t forget.

For months, Ryan has tried to close himself off from the world around him. Everyone in his new hometown knows him as the “psycho kid” who tried to kill himself in his garage the winter before. What they don’t know is that for all his preparations that night, Ryan never turned the key in the ignition—so one “lame-ass night in the garage,” as he puts it, will haunt his reputation for the rest of high school.

But the reasons why he stepped into the garage that night are impossible to push away completely, no matter how many therapy sessions he endures. And it will take an unlikely friendship with Nicki—a girl who is so anxious to know why her father killed himself when she was little that she’ll pay psychics to connect her with his spirit—to pull Ryan out of his malaise and back into the world of the living.

Learn more about the novel: http://exm.nr/LnzOro.

Last week, Hubbard wrote a great post on writing realistic YA fiction, and why realistic stories call to her heart more than the fantasies that are so popular. But "to write realist fiction in today's YA world is to feel a bit second-best, a bit out of step," she says. Find out more in this post: http://writerjenn.livejournal.com/301120.html

Over the weekend, I also put together a slideshow of 5 YA books not to miss this summer: http://t.co/muoabtG4 What books would you add to this list?

Happy Monday!

Jeni


'I Couldn't Love You More' by Jillian Medoff is a book that skillfully blends humor with heartbreak--that takes its main characters down a dark path, but also provides so much comic relief in the form of the main character's relationship with her sisters, her mother, and her partner’s ex-wife (whom one of her sisters dubs “The Sculptress”) that the humorous moments serve as both a life raft for the characters and a release from the novel’s most emotionally intense scenes.

At the heart of this story is a step-mother faced with an unthinkable dilemma: If you could only save one of your children—your daughter or your step-daughter—who would you choose?

In “I Couldn’t Love You More,” Eliot, a 38-year-old Atlanta mother who is raising three children with her partner of five years, Grant, makes a split-second decision that will haunt their family forever.

Eliot and two of her daughters—Hailey, 4, and her step-daughter Gail, 7—are at the ocean on a family vacation when Eliot receives a phone call from the man she dated in college, the man she never got over. She turns her back from the girls for a minute—and when she turns around, both girls are bobbing in the ocean in opposite directions.

“And this is what I know: I can swim in only one direction, toward one child—toward Hailey or toward Gail—but I must make a choice and I must make it now,” Eliot says. And with that choice, everything she loves about her life with Grant and the girls is at stake.

Initially, I was a little squeamish about ordering this book. I was afraid the book might be too intense--afraid that what might happen to either of the girls would be too difficult to read. But the way in which Medoff tells this story makes you feel as if she is right there beside you as you read the most terrifying passages. And when you reach that final chapter, you'll find yourself cheering for all but one of the characters (and even that character will be just fine).

Here's the full review: http://exm.nr/K5OJs9. I highly recommend it if you're a parent; if you have sisters; if you love romance or drama or both; and if you're a writer looking for a great example of how a character can evolve throughout the course of a novel.

I'm looking for a YA book to add to my reading list, especially a romance or an after-the-breakup book. What books would you recommend?

Happy Friday! Happy writing!














I found this quote that reminded me of the moon--and the Moonrise Hotel--after these photos were posted:

"Do the work, sweetie. You're not going to hit the moon with a bow & arrow."--Aunt Lola, twitter.com/yourauntlola
"(Artists w passion) are the ones who go deep into the darkness. They avoid the obvious and explore the unknown."
--Joe Perry of Aerosmith, on actor Johnny Depp. Perry and Steven Tyler presented Depp with a generation award at the MTV Movie Awards this past weekend.

Did you know that Johnny Depp is also a skilled guitarist? Before and after receiving the awards, he played onstage with The Black Keys. Here's a clip of that performance.



Happy Tuesday! Happy writing!