Episode 101: Summer Reads and Other Good Advice

On June 27, 2020, Kasie went solo in the studio and talked about a hodge podge of things. Here are the show notes:

Theme for the day

The Summer Read

Agenda

  • Patreon is how you say you Love.This.Show.
  • What is a summer read?
  • Who recommends summer reads? 
  • What can you do with the summer reads on your list?
Photo by EYÜP BELEN on Pexels.com

Link to podcast

Segment 1

So we’re officially into our June Patreon membership drive and we’re offering a special deal! Become a Patron in June and get the critique, the 30-minute Zoom chat, the story, and the author interview on our website.

Our patrons also get behind the scenes content and access to our course, Short Story Basics for free. So there’s that.

We’ve been fortunate to welcome some new patrons this month and I want to reiterate that signing up at any level in June will get you the WHOLE membership package. After this, we’ll go back to the tiered-membership things, so you know, JOIN NOW.

So reading recommendations have cycles. You have the “Best of Last Year” and the “Best Books to Read Next Year” and “Must Read for the School Year” and “Get Ready for Sport/Holiday Season” lists. But none is more rampant than the “Summer Reading” list. Why?

We believe people have more time in the summer. We think they’ll be vacationing, and laying by the pool, and generally fucking off, so they need a book. Or five.

The kids are out of school so the library and the school district give us their summer reading list to get them ready for the next grade, to close the gap in skills and keep them sort-of-studying. How many of your favorite books came off a summer reading list?

This blog talks about the origins of the “beach read” specifically how publishers have launched books specifically for this sub-category of commercial fiction called the “Beach Read.” Every summer when we go to the beach my family first visits the bookstore to get each of us a text and then the puzzle store to get something to occupy the downtime.

The beach read is a cheap paperback that can get wet and sandy and you won’t mind. You can walk away from it and not care. You can leave it on the pool deck and not lament the fact you didn’t finish it. So it’s superfluous, or “light.” It’s not going to change your life.

Can you see why authors hate the sub-category for their book? Wouldn’t you rather be writing the book that will change the reader’s life?

My friend Kris wrote The Hashtag Hunt and she told me she just wanted something fun, something easy and entertaining. I was stunned. And Rex likes to say the primary reason for reading and writing is entertainment. Is it?

During this week’s #wschat when I said Richard Ford and I talked about the purpose of writers being to engender empathy in readers, Twitter folks told me that, no, that wasn’t the purpose of writers. So, okay, what is the purpose?

Segment 2

We all know why we write. Maybe it’s to metabolize serious stuff, maybe to make sense of things, maybe to purge the unnecessary trauma and discomfort. And maybe, just maybe, we’re looking to connect with others.

The Beach Read does not have this ambition.

Here’s the New York Times recommendations for Summer 2020. We have been “idle” for a while, have we not? There were dozens of COVID reading lists and then, with Black Lives Matter back in the news, books like White Fragility, Just Mercy, and I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown have been on the top of the Richland Library’s reading lists for awareness.

Business gurus all have their lists like this five by Bill Gates. My business books list includes The Outstanding Organization and Where the Jobs Are.

According to this blog, Stephen King thinks you’re a pretentious fool for reading serious novels over the summer. It’s time to play, according to the king of horror, so okay. Maybe it’s because magazines that don’t usually care what you read, like Good Housekeeping, offer their suggestions for the summer.

Let’s talk about the fluff. What makes the fluff worthy? It’s entertaining. It’s diverting. It’s escapism.

Have you read a book that didn’t keep you engaged? That you didn’t care if you finished? Because that’s the worst.

Segment 3

So that just about covers the summer reads, hopefully. With some comments/shout outs for my favorites. Let’s look at some other questions from the #WritingCommunity on Twitter. Who’s got inquiries?

From my pal Arthur Turfa on Facebook: “What advice (do you have) for writers when events (festivals, signings, et al.) are canceled? How can they sell? Thanks.”

  • I took my events online. I’m getting better at the video, the webcam, the recording, and even the editing of those events. I also suggested to the OLLI group at PCLC that we go online and that’s been well received. Fairfax County Public Library put me on Zoom and it went well, though we had fewer people that we expected.
  • Events these days can also be asynchronous — meaning forums, Facebook, and Instagram where people will scroll and browse and “stop by” so consider putting up a post or a series of posts that promote your work.
  • I’m leveraging multiple platforms to distribute my work, one of them is Bublish, which gives me a chance to add a “director’s cut”-like note to a specific passage from the book. I love the format so it’s easy for me to engage there but every bubble is like a mini-event, ya know?

From SCWA member Patricia Gaddis Brandon: What are the best avenues for writers of historical/southern fiction to follow to secure an agent/publisher?

So you can try this link or this link. In general, I’d say the path to getting an agent has multiple origins. 

  • Many writers meet agents at events, which is difficult right now, but not impossible. There are virtual events you can attend. 
  • If there’s a specific writer you admire and would like to get their agent’s attention, consider leaving Amazon reviews for that writer; I understand agents read those and a well-written review can demonstrate your ability as a writer. 
  • There are agents on Twitter and some are really nice about you following them and liking their tweets and will let their followers know when they’re accepting queries. Some are jerks, but you’ll have that with any profession. 
    • Twitter does have #pitmad which is a regular event wherein Agents are said to be following that hashtag looking for interesting ideas.
  • I really like the idea of sharing your book(s) with a reader or writer who knows an agent and will share the book with them. Networking is the best way to secure business relationships of any kind, in my opinion.
    • All you writers with agents out there, do an indie a favor and read their work. 

Segment 4

A few other things that have been rattling around in my head:

  • Pitch your story
  • Give your author bio
  • Respond to a question as a panelist

In 30 seconds or less. We really, really need to work on how to deliver the most important, succinct information as quickly as possible. It starts with a few humility lessons:

  • No one cares that you wrote a story
  • They’re all reading your bio in the program
  • Listen to the question.

When we create something, we get excited about it and want to share it with others. But how many times has someone asked you what your book is about? Those are the people who want to know. The ones who didn’t ask, don’t care. Writers are bad about volunteering their book information, their story, their characters, etc. when, really, no one cares.

Being introduced via bio just sucks. You stand there, awkwardly, while someone reads your bio aloud and others are probably following along in the program or on the slide, or, worse, looking you up and down and thinking, “He’s shorter than I expected him to be.”

So many panelists just talk without actually responding to the question that was posed. Listen to the question and try, just try, to give an answer that will satisfy the asked.

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