Tuesday, February 25, 2014


On a kid-lit chat board a writer asked for input on whether a glossary is advisable when writing fiction set in another time or place.

Good experienced writers chimed in, and most were in favor. I was in the minority.

I have nothing against glossaries. Some of my best friends are… er, working on and with them. Most of us, who spent many years in school reading non fiction, are comfortable with them. A good friend is working on an academic project that will yield the definitive glossary to a fourteenth century poem. Let me tell you, it’s a lot of work. Glossaries have my respect.

Glossaries freed us from having to remember a definition after looking it up in a separate book the first time. There was always the Glossary of Terms, in the trusty back of these textbooks. Isn’t it an advantage if literary fiction for children looks more like a textbook, now with the New Common Core standards for Language Arts curriculums?

But that is my reservation. They give a book a textbook feel. Glossaries interrupt pleasure reading. They should rarely be used in trade fiction.

It’s much more challenging to find a way to make the paragraphs vivid, complete, and comprehendible without the easy and neat use of a glossary.

My fun example:

“She left the Shtetl* and never looked back. Her Bubbe** might cry a bisel,*** but she didn’t give bupkes.****”

*Shtetl= a segregated Jewish quarter, typical of European cities and towns until the mid 20th C.
**Bubbe= Grandmother
***Bisl= a little bit
****Bupkes= trivial, little, not much (literally Polish for “beans.”)


All right, the example is flavorful. The equivalent- “She left her childhood home in the Jewish quarter and never looked back. Her grandma might cry a little, but she didn’t give beans” does not have the exact same feel. But the first isn’t fun to read unless Yiddish is your second language.
I had thought about this long and hard when writing The Voice of Thunder, set in another time and place but written for American young readers. I managed to use a little Hebrew and work the English meaning in as seamlessly as I could. I felt I had succeeded when Kirkus referred to the book’s “readable style.” Mazal Tov*- Success!
;=) *Mazal Tov= Hebrew for “Congratulations!” (Literally “good luck.”)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Love and Kisses

I felt a bit remiss for letting Valentine’s Day pass this year with nary a bloggish mention, when I ran into this-

“People who throw kisses are hopelessly lazy.”
                                                                                       Bob Hope

And it occurred to me that expressions of love on electronic posts are a form of laziness, too. Too easy, too casual, too nothing.

This is my excuse for not posting electronically virtual chocolate wishes.

But even if belated, I had to share this image. This is one way the blogosphere excels. It allows me to  throw some art I love your way. 
Because I *do* love you for bothering to stop by, and you deserve at least this much---
©Shelagh Duffett

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


Or- these L-o-o-ng Odds

Everyone knows that the odds of winning the lottery are almost as small as if you never enter.

The odds of being a working actor are not great, and the odds of earning a living from such are frighteningly closer to winning the lottery. The odds of being a traditionally published writer are better- as much as one percent for those who improve, learn and persist in trying for at least ten years. I heard this figure from someone who may possibly know, and even if the number is off, you get the point.
DD is now embarking on a road where the odds are long. How many of the million plus who try every year actually get to have the life of a classical music performer? The odds are not so good.
As a mother, I feel that it’s all right for me to do something where the odds are long, but not for my precious children. You can bang the rubber bat on my head as many times as you feel you must, but not on my children’s heads. I don’t want them to get hurt.

But DD has the right attitude- she is living this life already, working at it and having a spectacular time. I look at her relishing the process, and think about how I've come to look at what I do.
It’s in the process, babe. The odds can go fly a kite.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Must We All Become Marketers?

A few weeks ago I attended a writers’ presentation where the subject was how to make the most of Author Visits.

Author Visits and Author Events are what published writers are expected to do to promote their work. Whether these are readings in bookstores or libraries, school visits, or (for the A-listers of the major presses) radio-TV interviews, all qualify.
The presenter was a charming and energetic writer of many published picture books. She was informative and funny, a winning combination. But-

She also had a background in marketing.

Her day job, something most writers must have, was in marketing not related to the book business. Her approach to establishing a career in writing showed that special training and attitude I have come to associate with publicists.

It had taken me a few weeks to digest her presentation. I had to absorb not only the details I may possibly be able to implement in my own life, but to accept that when it comes to what the world values, it is not about pure merit.

It is about a certain level of competence combined with spectacular marketing.

We all know the tales of the solitary types, the J.D. Salinger writers, who wouldn't give an interview. They are the outliers times ten. Most writers cannot afford to hide. Salinger couldn't either, until he became The Salinger.

I’m still mulling over how I do or don’t fit in. It’s called finding oneself, and it doesn't end when you leave your teens. All matters of this world are works in progress, or the writers’ acronym: WIP.

I hope your WIP are rolling along. I hope you have the energy to market.