We Are the World: The Changing Face of Fantasy

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood. And that’s all the Mr. Rogers reminiscing I plan to do. Instead, I’ll start with a little housekeeping to close out this week’s book giveaways.

18159876The winner of Claire Wingfield’s book is

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Shelby Hogan!

Shelby and anyone else, please take note: Claire asked me to tell you about her latest offer:

In honour of all those attempting to write a novel draft in the month of November, anyone who buys 52 Dates for Writers:Ride a Tandem, Assume an Alias, and 50 Other Ways to Improve Your Novel Draft by 1st December and emails proof of receipt plus a short outline of their novel to contact(at)clairewingfield(dot)co(dot)uk will receive a list of questions and prompts to help keep their project moving.

Readers who review 52 Dates for Writers on Amazon or Goodreads before 24th Dec 2013 will be in with the chance of winning a year’s subscription to a writing magazine. Just email your contact details and a link to your review to enter.

16074605The winner of Susan Fletcher’s book is

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Stephanie Stamm!

Congrats to you both! Shelby, please send me the email address used for your Kindle. Stephanie, please send your snail mail address. Here’s the email: lmarie7b(at)gmail(dot)com. I’ll try to get your book in the mail next week sometime.

Now, onto other items.

If the title makes you think of that 80s hit, We Are the World, written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie and sung by a racially diverse group of singers, good. That was deliberate.

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We are the world, but we didn’t sing that song.

The other day I listened to a webcast on the future of epic fantasy, hosted by Publishers Weekly. The guests were James L. Sutter, senior fiction editor at Paizo Publishing, and Marco Palmieri, editor of imaginative fiction of Tor Books. If you want to listen to the webcast, go here. You have to register to listen.

Don’t feel like listening? I’ll give you the highlights. First, they defined epic fantasy. What makes a fantasy epic? The scope of the story—how much is changing in the world; major changes to nations. That sort of thing.

Second, they discussed how the genre is opening up beyond the Tolkienesque, Eurocentric, black-and-white thinking stories to darker, less fairy tale-like stories with fallible main characters. (Please note that these above mentioned Tolkienesque novels will still be acquired, however. The market just wants more variety.) Also, authors have the opportunity to tell “briefer” (aka, shorter, less phone-book sized tomes) standalone stories. Role-playing gamers have a huge part to play, especially those familiar with Pathfinder. (You really need to listen to the webcast.) Above all, diversity is all the rage.

Diversity. New flavors of characters, new settings, new, new, new. The genre’s opening wide and embracing the diverse world in which we live. That’s good news for me, though I’m a fan of Tolkienesque stories. But as far as my story is concerned, let me check the list. Diversity? Check. Fallible main character? Check. Shorter than a phone book? Um, I’ll get back to you on that.

Fantasy is changing. Are you on board with that? What changes excite you? Cause you dismay?

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Um, fantasy might not be this diverse.

Diverse group from ispeakeasyblog.wordpress.com. Cat from LOL Cats.

Check This Out: 52 Dates for Writers

Once again, I am interrupting the Space Series, this time to bring you this awesome author: Claire Wingfield. Claire’s book is 52 Dates for Writers. For those of you who will participate in NaNoWriMo, you’ll find this a great way to stay inspired. One of you will have a chance to win this Kindle ebook. But first, let’s talk to Claire.

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El Space: Four quick facts about yourself?
Claire: I live in the great literary city of Edinburgh—the first UNESCO City of Literature—with my husband and book-loving toddler. I work as an editor and writing consultant, supporting writers at different stages in completing their manuscripts and developing their craft. I studied English Literature at Cambridge University’s Downing College, where writer P. D. James also studied. She kindly submitted an article to a student magazine I launched. One of my first jobs in publishing was as a reader for a book production company, and I remain painfully aware of how mistakes can creep in right until the end of the publishing process!

El Space: Please tell us how you came to write 52 Dates for Writers. How did your background make you uniquely suited to write it?
Claire: The ideas in 52 Dates for Writers: Ride a Tandem, Assume an Alias and 50 Other Ways to Improve Your Novel Draft stem from my one-to-one work with writers over many years. Many of the exercises are those I devised to help writers solve real problems in their manuscripts. I decided to bring the material into book format during a period of maternity leave, and following the suggestion of one of my writers.

10569El Space: At this post about Stephen King’s craft book On Writing (“Stephen King’s 20 Tips for Becoming a Frighteningly Good Writer”), we learn:

Where other writing books are focused on the mechanics of the written word, King shows you how to capture the joy of the craft. You’ll find yourself wanting to write, not because of fame or fortune, but because it’s fun, and there’s nothing else you would rather do.

How does your book encourage the joy of writing?
Claire: 52 Dates for Writers is all about encouraging writers to be playful. Play is so important to creativity, but increasingly there can be so much pressure in day-to-day life that I found even the writers I worked with needed an antidote to this. Each writing date is almost like a workshop environment—giving writers the chance to experiment with different facets of their writing—from voice and style to the format and structure of their piece—away from the screen or written draft, and then return to work with new ideas, a refreshed approach, or simply the desire to keep writing.

The experiences themselves are designed to be fun—from completing a hi-tech treasure hunt to help readers think about the order of revelation in their novel, to climbing a hill or riding a ferris wheel in order to experiment with perspective. There are plenty of simple tasks like cooking a luxurious meal to work on refreshment scenes, which can often suffer from underwriting, as well as many which encourage the reader to try something entirely new.

6867The dates are an invitation to writers to escape their desks and engage in challenging and enjoyable tasks, often bringing new light on an area of their writing. They each provide space away from the daily grind to workshop a particular area of a draft, plus fresh and unexpected inspiration, all backed with rigorous theory in the form of a series of mini essays on the craft of writing. There are also fun examples from well-known novels to accompany the dates, such as the plot of Atonement laid out as a maze.

Those who are new to writing will find plenty of prompts and inspiration, showing there are as many different ways into a fresh piece of writing as there are those of us willing to write.

El Space: What author or authors have you read recently who seem to capture the joy of writing? How so?
Claire: I read a lot with my son right now, and am really enjoying revisiting the stories of Dr. Seuss. So inventive and playful with language. We’ve also just acquired a book by Neil Gaiman called Chu’s Day—about a panda with a very big sneeze, which has my son in fits of laughter, so certainly captures the joy of reading for both of us.

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El Space: What are you working on now?
Claire: I’m currently working on the second in the series—52 Missions for Children’s Writers—Learn a Circus Skill, Go out in Disguise, and 50 other Ways to Inspire your Children’s Novel whilst continuing to have the pleasure of working with a host of talented and committed writers. I’m working on a section called “Eat Jelly for Breakfast” right now—which is proving very enjoyable!

El Space: What writing tip would you offer a writer going through writer’s block?
Claire: 52 Dates for Writers is all about preventing writer’s block, but for starters, try to recall what first sparked your passion for what you are writing, and incorporate something from that into your writing life. If it was a place you haven’t visited for a while, pay it a fresh visit, or if it is a place you visit every day, try varying your journey. If it was a strong opinion that motivated you, try embracing the opposite point of view for a week—the clash of ideas may just get your project moving again. Or take your writing outside and tackle the part of the novel you’re most afraid of—that niggling problem you’ve not got around to fixing, but know you must. Be playful in your solutions—push your story further than you or your reader ever expected.

Thanks, Claire, for being my guest!

You can find Claire at her Goodreads author page here. Claire’s book is available right now at Amazon. One of you, however, will win a copy just by commenting. Since I’m hosting two giveaways this week, the winners will be announced on Saturday, November 1. Thanks to all who stopped by!

Book covers from Goodreads.