Friday, March 12, 2010


Greetings from Arizona. We've been visiting my parents for the last week. Being married to an academic has its plusses and its minuses, but spring break makes up for a lot of minuses.

A bit of a theme to this week's posts. I think one of the most important things a writer can do is find herself some kind of community. You need people who understand this crazy life. When you get slammed in the New York Times Book Review, people who are not writers tell you what an honor it is just to be in there and you should be happy. People who are writers never tell you this. They tell you to take the review and tear it up into pieces and stick it in the cat litter. This is advice you can use.

I made two writer friends on an online forum a decade ago and they've kept me sane all these years. One of them writes kids' books too and she reads everything I write before I send it anywhere. These are the sort of people you're happy for when good things happen to them, and when bad things happen to you they spend all their writerly energy detailing for you how worthless the perpetrators are. A fringe benefit of having writer friends: they insult people really, really well.

This is one of my favorite things about Hamline for students--you're giving yourself a community of writers, and that will stay with you. These are people who can read your drafts, who can commiserate with you, who can tell you to let your cats pee on things. These are people who get it. This is invaluable. And I'm excited about getting back to my wolf pack in the summer. (Though things are a little less feral than the analogy implies, at least at the beginning of the residency.)

On another note, here's a link for the fantasy writers on Friday morning from The Enchanted Inkpot: New Fashioned Fantasy: What Does It Look Like? It's a very interesting read, and I agree with a lot of it, though I'm always somewhat hesitant about trend pieces. They are interesting and useful, but not prescriptive. I would agree that contemporary fantasy (beginning in our world) is well outshining the traditional Tolkienesque fantasy. But don't get discouraged if you're writing a good old high fantasy; there are always exceptions. (Kristin Cashore's Graceling, as the article mentions, is a good example.) Just write your book, and write it well.


  1. By the way, how do we get an enchanted inkpot? Ours doesn't do anything cool.

  2. After further research, I have learned that perhaps we need to change our pack metaphor. Packs have a complicated pecking order with lone wolves at the bottom and eventually kicked out. How about a more accurate animal pack metaphor for our Hamline family? Any ideas

  3. Maybe we could be a rat king--a maybe true-maybe not phenomenon where a bunch of rats become joined at the tails. Except instead of spreading plague, we spread...constructive criticism? Writerly cheer?

    Okay, I tried.

  4. How about a gaggle? As in a gaggle of geese. Seems like a more appropriate animal metaphor.

    I read the article/blog in question, and although I agree with some of it, I don't think it is exactly true. What about Allison Croggon's Pellinor Series, Tomora Pierce's ever-popular mass of books, and Shannon Hale's many books? Perhaps there is a larger influx of contemporary fantasy due to Harry Potter, but I don't think the popularity/liking of high fantasy has changed. There has never been a huge amount of high fantasy books. When I was a kid, I had to search high and low for them. Children's sci-fi is even more elusive. (I do differentiate between fantasy and sci-fi for they are completely different genres in my opinion) Maybe I'm wrong, but I just don't remember high fantasy ever being a huge genre to being with.