Playing by Heart launch! Creativity & NaNoWriMo
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October 2017: In This Issue

(NOTE: This is a Corrected Edition--please ignore the last email.)

  • Playing by Heart launch wrap-up
  • Links to blog posts, interviews, and a recipe! 
  • A HUGE thank you!
  • Coming soon: CatholicTeenBooks Facebook Party
  • What NaNoWriMo teaches us about creativity

Playing by Heart launch wrap-up

     I've had a whirlwind of events to celebrate the release of Playing by Heart just one month ago. I'll provide links to the online events and interviews in the next section. First, I'd like to share a few photos.

    On Friday, October 13, I had the honor of speaking at the Fall Conference of the Wisconsin Chapter of the Catholic Library Association on "The Story Behind the Story of Playing by Heart": 

     On October 19, I gave a presentation to the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators's (SCBWI) LaGrange-Naperville Illinois Network on the topic of "Working with Small Presses." That presentation was based on my own experiences with the press that published my new novel and the research I did for my article of the same name in the recently-released 2018 Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market.

      And just this past Saturday, Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville hosted the official book signing for Playing by Heart. I'm so grateful to Beth, Candy, and everyone at Anderson's who helped make it such a terrific event! Special thanks to all the newsletter subscribers who came out to celebrate with me, too! Attendees included friends, family, former students, fellow writers, and members of my book club, who you can see in the middle photo below. Unfortunately, two book club members left before we took the photo.

    If you're in the area but you missed the signing, Anderson's Bookshop still has a few copies. If you'd like me to autograph your copy before you pick it up, email me and we'll try to work something out. 

Links to blog posts, interviews, and a recipe!

     If you missed any of the online launch-related events, here's a round-up of links you may want to check out:

A HUGE thank you (plus a request)!

     A HUGE thank you to all of you who have bought Playing by Heart! I'm already getting lovely feedback from readers, both privately and via reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Playing by Heart currently has 22 Amazon reviews, with an average rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars

     In case you don't know: reader reviews are crucial to the success of a new book. Of course, potential readers are greatly influenced by the reviews. But the impact of reviews is more far-reaching than that. For example, if you buy books on Amazon, you may have seen ads there suggesting other titles you may find of interest. Well, from what I understand, Amazon's algorithms only promote "other titles" that have at least FIFTY predominately 4 and 5-star reviews

     So here's my request: if you enjoyed reading Playing by Heart, please consider posting an honest review on Amazon and/or Goodreads, or wherever you bought the book. Your review needn't be long--only a sentence or two is enough. And it needn't be a 5-star review--potential buyers get skeptical if they see only 5-star reviews. Plus, I appreciate honesty.

     To show my gratitude to those who take time to post an online review, I'll share excerpts from randomly-selected reviews in my future newsletters. (If you'd rather I not share your review for some reason, just let me know.) 

     Please note: You needn't buy Playing by Heart on Amazon to post a review there. I'd actually prefer you purchase the book at an independent bookstore like Anderson's. Indies do a lot to help support local authors, and when you spend money locally, more of it stays in the community. Not sure if there's an indie bookstore near you? Use the bookstore finder on the Indiebound website

     Here are the links to three pages where you can post a review. (Note: I re-sent this newsletter to correct the links below.)

Coming soon: CatholicTeenBooks Facebook Party!

       The CatholicTeenBooks team is hosting a pre-Christmas Facebook Party on Friday, Nov. 17, 7-9 pm Eastern time (6-8 pm Central time). It's an opportunity to learn more about the books found at CatholicTeenBooks.com,  a site highlighting engaging reads that feature Catholic characters and themes. You'll also have a chance to win some great prizes, including an ebook copy of Playing by Heart and the paperback edition of Rosa, Sola. RSVP today so you'll receive reminders as the date approaches.

What NaNoWriMo teaches us about creativity

    Several writers I know are gearing up for the start tomorrow of National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo. They are among writers from all over the world who will attempt to complete a 50,000-word draft of a novel during the month of November.

     Technically, I've never participated in NaNoWriMo. However, in January 2009, I banded together with a group of fellow SCBWI members to create our own version of NaNoWriMo. We called it our New Year/New Novel project, or NYNN, which rhymes with "win." (I blogged about that experience on our TeachingAuthors website, if you'd like to read more.) I organized the project to motivate myself to finally finish a draft of Playing by Heart, which I'd originally titled "The Second Salvini Sister."

     Prior to the NYNN project, I kept getting bogged down in research. But thanks to the challenging NYNN goal of adding 1612 words per day to my novel, I was forced to let go of researching every single detail. Instead, I focused only on the story. If I found I needed to know something to complete a specific scene, I simply typed my question directly into the manuscript and kept going. For example, I might type something like “Find out what Emilia would wear to the opera and put that in here” or “What kind of trees would be blooming at this time of year?”

     Having to be accountable to the NYNNies group was also a great motivator. And I could turn to them for advice and support whenever I got stuck. With their help, I managed to complete (a pretty horrible) first draft of Playing by Heart by February 1, 2009.

    I know the NaNoWriMo/NYNN process isn't for everyone, but I was surprised to read backlash against NaNoWriMo a few years ago. People were saying things like "Real writers don't need NaNoWriMo" or "Writing under that kind of pressure only produces garbage."

     I have two responses to statements like these:

1.  I don't believe there's anyone "right" way to write a novel.
     Writers need to find their way to tell their story.

2.  Sometimes we need to produce "garbage" in order to free ourselves
     enough to create the good stuff.

Thinking about this reminded me of a creativity experiment one of my instructors told us about when I was working on my MFA at Vermont College. I couldn't remember all the details of the experiment, but I was able to find it quoted online. Apparently, it's taken from the book Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland. Here's a description of the experiment posted on the Excellent Journey website:  

     

     The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality.

     His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pounds of pots rated an “A,” forty pounds a “B,” and so on. Those being graded on “quality," however, needed to produce only one pot – albeit a perfect one – to get an “A.”

     Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

 

     The story of this experiment made an enormous impression on me when I first heard it over 15 years ago, and I still think of it often. I've shared in this newsletter before of how my struggle with perfectionism interferes with my writing process. That perfectionism contributed to my difficulties finishing a draft of my novel.   

     While it's true that the draft I completed for the NYNN project was pretty awful, before that, I didn't have a draft at all! The project enabled me to finally have something I could shape and mold into a real story--one that was eventually published.

     I'm a firm believer that when it comes to creative endeavors, the more we practice our art, the better we get at it. So whether you're a writer, potter, baker, knitter, or any other type of artist, I encourage you to remember:

     

Quantity Yields Quality

 

     That's not to say that quantity alone will produce quality. It's important to also get training and feedback. But that's a topic for another newsletter.

     Meanwhile, to all you NaNoWriMo participants and other creatives
I say:  

Happy creating!

Carmela

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