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Discussion Questions for Book Groups December 20, 2009

Posted by Ronica Stromberg in Uncategorized.
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After a book reviewer suggested A Shadow in the Dark and Living It Up to Live It Down might spark good discussion in tween or teen book groups, I’ve been rereading the books and jotting down questions. I’ve finished A Shadow in the Dark and posted discussion questions for it under the “Questions for Book Groups” heading on this site. Anyone who wants to use these for a book group or reading group may help themselves. I’m also open to suggestions of other questions or rewordings. I hope to have questions for Living It Up to Live It Down soon. 

It’d be nice if I could get these questions listed at the back of my books, but since the first run of books has already been published, I doubt the publisher will even consider it until I’ve sold through the run. Changes are very expensive in book publishing. Wish I’d thought of it sooner.

Collecting Books and Autographs December 18, 2009

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One of the distributors of my picture book, The Time-for-bed Angel, let me know that it will be coming out in paperback in the United States  August 2010. I’m happy the publisher decided to offer the book in this format to U.S. readers. The book already came out in paperback in the United Kingdom, and it made for some confusion when U.S. consumers tried to order the book online and found the price in pounds.

Coming out soon in paperback!

This news of the paperback put me in mind of the collecting field. Collectors generally prize first edition, hardcover copies the most, so if you’re thinking you’d like to have this book in your collection, now is the time to buy.

Autographed copies of books are also worth more than plain copies. Of course, it’s usually better to have just the author’s signature and date rather than a personalized copy (written to a specific person) if you’re looking at a book as an investment. Some collectors dislike having a book personalized to anyone but themselves. However, if they have the fortune to have the author address greetings to them, they will often go ahead with this. It proves to family, friends, and other collectors that they actually met the author.

Sometimes when I visit schools, children whose parents haven’t purchased books will ask me to autograph a plain piece of paper for them. I usually go ahead, but such autographs rarely hold value. Most autograph collectors want provenance, a clear link back to the author. They have more evidence that an autograph is real when they have a book signed on a specific date. If they say, “The author signed the book at such-and-such bookstore on such-and-such date,” the bookstore signing is a historical fact that can be checked. The book itself and the age/edition of it is also evidence.

Writing Sacrifices December 9, 2009

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Over the years, I’ve read several author interviews in which the author talked about bouncing a baby on one knee while composing a novel on the computer. Recently, I read an interview in which an author said she had served her children popcorn for dinner in order to make deadline. Writing involves sacrifices, but these are the kinds of sacrifices I’ve never been comfortable making. When my children were small and counted on me for care and attention, they came before my writing. I probably could have been far more productive in those years had I taken more than nap time to write (or even taken every nap time), but I don’t regret  my choices. So, I don’t advise other writers to pay less attention to their children than their stories or to try to divide their attention between the two.

This came to mind this past week when I presented at two schools and signed at a bookstore. One of the schools and the bookstore were out of state, so I arranged these visits well in advance, for this past Friday and Saturday. After setting the visits, I learned my youngest child, a 10-year-old, had a Christmas program Friday evening. Next year he goes to middle school, so this would be his last Christmas program in elementary school. I hated to miss it. I couldn’t simply reschedule the bookstore signing because I was the featured author for a school’s book fair being held at the store. I talked with my 10-year-old son about it. He told me to keep my plans, saying he no longer enjoys taking part in the Christmas program and wouldn’t go if he didn’t have to either. I left town, and my husband videotaped the program, but I’m still sad about missing it. That’s a sacrifice for writing I made, but my son did too.

I’m more comfortable with the writing advice to “give up on a clean house.” I’ve always been a neatnik but have let some household chores slide to make time to write. My house is still clean, but it’s cluttered. A spotless house is something I’m willing to sacrifice.

My kids? Not so much.

Success by Birth and 10,000 Hours December 1, 2009

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This past Saturday, I signed my latest children’s books at The Bookmark, a wonderful, independent bookstore in my hometown of Fort Madison, Iowa. While I was there, an illustrator, Mark Anderson, stopped in to visit. He graduated from my high school a year before me. My hometown of 10,000 also produced horror writer Tina Jens (graduating the year after me) and movie star, TV actor, and author Hill Harper (graduating a few years after me). People from my hometown keep asking me, “Was there something in the water those years?”

I have yet to figure out why we had so much creativity come out of Fort Madison during those years. But I read from Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers: The Story of Success, while  staying at my sister’s house, and I keep thinking about one thing Gladwell wrote. He suggested that success is largely influenced by when people are born. He noted that a few scattered spurts in U.S. history account for virtually all of our self-made tycoons.  When the Industrial Revolution started happening, a few men born at the right time rose to the top. Same with the computer revolution.

Gladwell also noted that people scoring highest on intelligence tests don’t always achieve the greatest success. He found that people who achieve it, such as The Beatles, put in about 10,000 hours honing their abilities before reaching that level of success. I’m a practical person, so I immediately calculated how many years it would take a writer to achieve success using this as a formula and writing one hour a day.

Twenty-eight years.

I wonder if blogging counts.