Student Post: Embracing the Golden Age of Publishing

by Rosalba Ugliuzza 

We are currently in the “Golden Age” of publishing. With the inventions and popular sales of tablets, apps, and mobile devices, this “Golden Age” is more than just holding the power of a red pen in your hand. It’s more than just the text in a book or magazine.

I grasped this knowledge after attending the “Trends in Digital Publishing” panel discussion on Monday, March 24. Moderated by director Anne Converse Willkomm, the featured panelists were some of the most extraordinary intellectuals in today’s publishing industry: digital content producer and Rosemont graduate faculty Thomas Hartmann, digital publishing consultant Scott Chappell, writer and Wild River Review social media director Don Lafferty, and Publisher’s Weekly senior news editor Calvin Reid.

I enjoyed the panel discussion so much that halfway through the seminar, I stopped taking notes so that I could absorb the words of wisdom. Their background and experiences are different yet extraordinary. They provided very insightful, informative, and thought-provoking opinions about the digital content and the future of the entire publishing industry. They took turns defining content and who owns it. On a social media outlet, you are a partial owner of what you write. Content is all around us. It’s a delivery vehicle. A book can be a combination of many things, not just a solid object.

The panelists were profoundly optimistic that change in the publishing industry is a good thing. Traditional publishers are joining the bandwagon of applying the digital aspect to their business model. Not only will digital publishing help the consumer masses grasp up-to-the-minute information with one easy touch, it will also encourage the well-rounded producers – such as authors – to come up with more than one way to publish their latest work. For example, if an author opts not to use or gets rejected by a traditional publisher, he or she can still publish work through Amazon, social media outlets, or blogs.

With the latest changes and upgrades, we must not be preoccupied or scared. Curiosity is the key to educating ourselves in order to stay on top of the publishing game.

Student Thoughts: Managing Stress

by Laura Crockett
Scribbles & Wanderlust

For as long as I can remember, my schedule was packed. From music lessons to rehearsals, school and after school activities, honors societies and work, I was constantly on the go. Somehow, some way, I managed my stress just fine in those days.

But graduate school is a whole different ball game. The classes are fun and interesting, so the workload doesn’t feel like a burden. Working 40+ hours per week can be exhausting, but if you’re like me and you love your job, you don’t mind the hours. I blog for Quirk Books whenever the idea actually makes it to a word document and is sent to their editors. And this semester, because I’m always curious about writers and their word babies, I’ve edited and looked over two manuscripts for our MFA students.

The thing is, I love doing all these things. I love learning, I love working, and I love editing. So why does graduate school feel so much more stressful than any other time of my life? Well, I don’t have the answer to that, but I can certainly help you figure out how to manage it!

We all need some prescribed ice cubes.

We all need some prescribed ice cubes.

Remember: You’re Not Invincible
Everyone has their limitations. Once you start realizing you’re losing sleep, not eating properly, and on the verge of some sort of mental breakdown, it’s time to cut back on things in your life. What’s absolutely mandatory? What can be made more flexible? What can wait till the winter holidays?

Find a Way to Express Your Stress
Whether that’s wailing into your pillow, all woe-is-me and making your neighbor very concerned, or calling up your parents and listening to their voices, or even writing it all down in a journal, notebook, or on a sheet of paper — vent your stress. Talk to someone. You don’t necessarily need them to solve your problems. What you need is a way to get all those thoughts out of your head and in the open. You’ll feel lighter, liberated, once you’ve expressed yourself.

Make a Happy List
This sounds so cheesy, but it’s immensely comforting. Create a list of things that make you happy, things that aren’t related to school or work. Finger painting, rolling down a hill of leaves, a nice hot meal at a restaurant, watching a movie with a friend, you name it! Write it down — then go out and make it happen. You deserve that mental break.

Self-Care Days Are Important
A friend of mine is getting her PhD and she told me last year that I must schedule a day of the week for self-care. “You’ll go crazy without that one day,” she said. Last year I made sure I had everything done by that one day of the week I didn’t have to work or go to class. And on that day, I was reading for fun, chowing down on nachos and popcorn and cookies, watching BBC dramas with friends, catching up on TV shows. I forgot to do that this semester, and immediately felt the effects. It’s not a happy place, folks. Schedule that day of rest, that day of fun. You’ll feel so much better for it!

Learn to Say No
You’re brilliant, intelligent, hard-working, and wonderful — everyone can see that, everyone admires that. So of course, they think you’re invincible (I repeat: you’re not) and pile on more favors. “Could you edit this? You’re so great at it!” “I love your design — could you help me with mine?” “My manuscript needs some development. Could you look at it?” You want to help, you really do, and you’re interested in these tasks — but you’re overwhelmed. Say no. It’s kind of like turning down a date: It may break your heart at first, and you may feel really guilty initially, but say it anyway. Tell the person you’d love to but can’t, you’re already swamped with other things. They’ll understand. The world won’t end. One day you may find time to help them and maybe they’ll return the favor — but that day is not today.

How do you handle stress? Any tips and tricks you’ve learned over the years?

Student Thoughts: DC’s National Book Festival

by Emi London

Among the politics, traffic, and National Treasure references, sometimes it’s easy to overlook the fact that D.C. is home to one of the largest libraries in the world. But the National Book Festival is exactly what it sounds like: a festival hosted by the Library of Congress, dedicated to celebrating the written word.

The National Book Festival started in 2008 by former First Lady Laura Bush. Once a year over 80 authors, poets, and illustrators are invited for lectures, book signings, readings, and interviews on the grounds of the National Mall. Last year over 200,000 people attended. After experiencing the crowds this year I wouldn’t be surprised if that number doubled, especially with superstar names like Margaret Atwood, Terry McMillan, and Joyce Carol Oats scheduled to take the stage and speak.

But because so much happened over the course of two days, I’m going to split up my first experience with the festival into two parts.

national book fest

Tents and booths at the National Book Festival. Photo credit: Emi London.

PART 1: SATURDAY

This year, the festival took place over two days—September 21st and 22nd. White tents pitched like kingdoms shielded the kings and queens of the represented genres as they stood up and spoke about their recent work, influences, or about the publishing industry in general.

Unsure of where to start, the other publishing students and I split up to meander between tents and buy books before taking our place in line to wait for Veronica Roth’s book signing. I managed to catch Patrick Ness at the end of his signing, and proudly showed off my new copy of More than This.

There were so many people that shortly after we settled in to wait they began to separate and number us into rows. It figures that they cut off the line before getting anywhere near us (after all, Veronica was only supposed to sign books for half an hour), but the extra time allowed us to run and snag decent seats for her talk, which in some ways was even nicer than walking away with a signed copy of Divergent.

The talk turned out to be more of a Q&A, with the host and audience asking questions about Veronica’s thoughts on writing and finishing the Divergent series. Veronica was very animated, especially during her discussion of the difference between writing “strong” female characters (characters who are complimented by being compared physically and emotionally to men) and strong female characters (characters who write their own definition of strength and react to situations like an actual human being might). Soon it had started raining, driving the crowds from the Mall as soon as the talk was over. We were among those huddled under umbrellas waddling our way towards the Metro with one last concern—keep the books dry.

PART 2: SUNDAY

I drove back down and stalked the children’s and teens tent all afternoon to ensure that I had a seat to see the one author I desperately wanted to see: Tamora Pierce.

We all have that one book or series that changed our life, right? For me, it was Wild Magic. I read it when I was 13, just before my parents announced that they were getting a divorce. Now that I’m older I’m glad that they did it because they’re much happier now, but when you’re 13, it’s a big deal—especially when you don’t see it coming. At the time, Pierce’s books provided a form of escape. I was able to relate to Daine and the other characters in Tortall and find joy in their adventures, so much joy that the books got me reading and thinking about fantasy all the time. They completely changed my perspective, taught me about the importance of courage and friendship, about believing in myself and the everyday magic of persistence. Pierce’s books inspired me so much that by my junior year of high school I knew I wanted to go into writing and publishing. Since then, it’s been a dream of mine to meet her and thank her for writing the books that helped me grow up. For the first time this year, I was actually within driving distance to do so.

While waiting, I listened to Susan Cooper (The Dark is Rising series, Ghost Hawk), Matthew J. Kirby (The Clockwork Three, Icefall), and D.J. MacHale (the Pendragon series, Sylo). Susan discussed the things in her life that influenced her writing, with particular emphasis on place. She also spoke briefly about her education at Oxford and a class she took that was taught by—surprise, surprise– J.R.R Tolkien and C.S. Lewis! “They taught us to believe in dragons,” she stated, subsequently giving everybody in the audience goose bumps. Kirby talked about the use of history in his novels while MacHale read the first chapter of his book to demonstrate how important it is for authors to hook the reader within the first few pages. Needleless to say, he succeeded; I don’t think there was a reader in that tent who wasn’t interested in picking up Sylo when he was finished—myself included.

And then it was time for Tamora Pierce. A hush fell over the tent as seats were traded and readers of all ages took their place to see the award-winning author herself. I’ve listened to interviews before, but being there, seeing the author herself was better experience than anything I could have ever possibly dreamed.

tamora pierce

Tamora Pierce at the National Book Festival. Photo credit: Emi London.

Like Veronica Roth’s talk, the majority of Pierce’s was a Q&A with the audience, except she gave her fans permission to ask about anything. She was hilarious, and the fans asked really interesting questions. They asked about what characters she planned to focus on in the future, her inspiration, which character she thought herself most like, the romantic relationships her characters go through, and even about her tattoos. It was an amazing discussion, concluding with the heartfelt message that it’s important to continue writing about women and minorities because it’s not enough to include them once in your work; as people, they deserve to be treated as more than just a check mark on a writer’s laundry list. I’d be lying if I said my eyes were 100% dry at the end of the discussion.

Learning from our experience with Veronica Roth’s book signing, after Pierce’s Q&A I booked it (pun may or may not be intended) over to the other side of the Mall. Even though I ran, I still ended up waiting an hour and a half to get my tattered copy of Wild Magic signed, but it was worth it. And as I achieved my dream and babbled a thank you for writing the books that changed my life, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Not only for Pierce for sticking around longer than she was scheduled to so she could sign everyone’s book, but for everyone who played a part in orchestrating one of the largest gatherings of book lovers in the country.

So this time next year, if you’re anywhere D.C., take a few days off to attend the festival. Spend more money on books than you probably should. Listen to the writers who write them. Run between tents to get those books signed. Talk to a kid who just read your favorite author’s book for the first time. Because sometimes it’s important to take a break and remember the heroes we work so hard to publish. After all, they’re the reason we’re here, isn’t it?

 

Student Thoughts: An evening with K.M. Walton

by Morgan Hawk

4515355K.M. Walton crackled with energy as she discussed her passions with a classroom of graduate students at Rosemont College on September 16. Already an author of two published books, Cracked and Empty, Walton has many more she is eager to see published, one of which is currently in the works. Although Walton is unable to reveal much about her next story, she is very excited about the novel, an adapted version of a fan’s personal story. Walton was surprised to sell her book quickly based on a one-page summary.

With a lot of ground to cover rapidly, Walton spent her morning before visiting students writing 11 pages for her new book. For Walton, a normal work day starts with checking her social media before beginning to write. But when Walton is on a deadline like she is now, she puts off the social media until she has finished writing for the day. Facebook is a sneaky wormhole for everyone.

Walton began writing while teaching sixth grade. She realized she had always been a writer; it just took some time to realize. “The first day it just flew out of me, and I wrote 12 pages,” she revealed.  After finishing her book, Walton received 148 rejection letters before finding an agent, and two months later had a book deal with Simon & Schuster. She now writes full-time, and it was a terrifying leap for her. “Teaching was my favorite thing besides being a mom. I went in with wings every day,” explained Walton. She loved the challenges of middle schoolers because of the attitudes they were trying out. Now Walton speaks at schools against bullying for her Kindness Matters campaign.

There is evidence for her platform of anti-bullying in both of her books, and the students at Rosemont had a lot to discuss with Walton after reading Cracked. She explained that the idea for alternating perspectives came after attending a SCWBI conference, and started with a simple bulleted list that she still has. The voices of each of the two teenage boys are very distinct, and it was during her second draft, once she had a real sense of her two characters, that she was able to do this. For Walton, her characters become real people. She yells at them, cries for them, wonders about their futures, and wants them to be happy. When asked which of the two boys is her favorite, Walton pleaded for each. “I love those boys equally. Picking a favorite is like picking between my own two sons.”

The group also discussed the acceptance of upsetting endings and rough situations in young adult books. Walton believes young adults are more accepting of the harsher realities because the readers are more open and haven’t learned to be afraid of the world yet. There are definitely some tough situations to bear in Cracked, and Walton confessed that even reading it over 100 times, she still cries.

Walton is never afraid of writing the truth, whether it is bright or dark. However, what she is hoping for with each story is to teach children to look past the labels. To see this at work, take a day to read Cracked or Empty. I promise you it won’t take any longer, because you will not put it down until the last page is turned. Even after, the voices of the characters will still be echoing in your head, as you too become concerned about their lives and future happiness.

Student Thoughts: Book Banning in the Modern World

by Amber Midgett
The creative mind behind Letters From a [Future] Editor and Novel First Sentences

Censorship was never a problem in my house. When I was six, I asked my mom where babies came from; she pulled a book from our shelf and started showing me pictures. I missed the bus. I was reading Nora Roberts novels by the seventh grade. The librarian even had me create Accelerated Reader tests for other students because I read so many titles that weren’t in the school system.

Freshman year of high school, I was thoroughly obsessed with Harry Potter. However, my best friend’s parents sent a note to the school librarian, specifically forbidding her from checking out any Harry Potter book. Lynn’s father was a pastor for a local church, and there was a congregation-wide effort to refuse their children any books “glorifying witchcraft.”
Therefore, every morning, I brought my copy of Harry Potter to school, and Lynn would read as much as possible throughout the day before returning the book to me. When Half-Blood Prince was released, she even risked getting caught, sneaking the book home in her backpack and reading it through the night. By the release of Deathly Hallows, Lynn was a full-fledged Potterhead, and proud. She informed her parents that she was going to the midnight release of the novel, and they had a long conversation about the merits and faults of the series as a whole, specifically the implications of magic.

That is what literature is supposed to do – educate. Open up discussions and learning opportunities. Instead, people are turning important lessons into something to be feared and avoided, ideas that are corrupting our youth and giving them too much knowledge of the world.

Photo taken at Main Point Books in Bryn Mawr, PA.

Main Point Books in Bryn Mawr, PA. Photo credit: Amber Midgett.

Here are just a select few cases of challenges and bans in recent history:

  • An Arizona school district confiscated titles from such authors as Sherman Alexie and Junot Diaz, just because they are Mexican-American.
  • Book challengers are not fans of Maurice Sendak’s work, especially In the Night Kitchen. It was banned on the grounds of being inappropriate sexually – the nudity, free-flowing milky fluids, and “phallic” milk bottle were seen as symbols to imply masturbation or wet dreams.
  • Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl was banned in 1983 simply for being “a real downer” (what with the Holocaust and all). In 2010, it was removed from the curriculum for mentioning vaginas.
  • There are numerous books challenged and banned for the transgression of addressing homosexuality. These include And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, King and King by Linda de Haan, Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden, Heather Has Two Mommies by Lesléa Newman, Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, and The Color Purple by Alice Walker.
  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, which depicts the mental and emotional destruction of a young girl after she is raped at a party, was challenged in 2010 for the “glorification of premarital sex.”
  • Dictionaries were removed from classrooms in California for being “sexually graphic” and “not age appropriate” because they define sexual terms.
  • A school district in North Carolina banned Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison because they determined it “had no literary value.” This occurred last week. 
Main Point Books in Bryn Mawr, PA. Photo credit: Amber Midgett.

Main Point Books in Bryn Mawr, PA. Photo credit: Amber Midgett.

Looking at all of the books that have been banned in recent years, and learning the reasons that people chose to challenge those titles, is more than just disheartening – it is downright devastating. When I think about some of the amazing books that have been taken away from students, I remember my own experience reading so many of them. I wonder how I would be different if I hadn’t had the opportunity to study the classics, or hadn’t been encouraged to pick up problematic titles that addressed important situations I could someday face. There are so many conversations with my parents I might have missed without a book opening the door to it. I wouldn’t have as much knowledge as one should about history, society, overcoming obstacles, realistic struggles, and many other critical themes. I would have missed entirely the lyrical prose of Maya Angelou, the haunting true story of Anne Frank, the beautiful artwork of Maurice Sendak.

Not only are adults ripping good literature from the hands of their own children, they’re ripping it from the hands of all the other children, too.

“Censoring books that deal with difficult, adolescent issues does not protect anybody. Quite the opposite. It leaves kids in the darkness and makes them vulnerable. Censorship is the child of fear and the father of ignorance. Our children cannot afford to have the truth of the world withheld from them.” ~Laurie Halse Anderson

EDIT: As of 9/26, North Carolina reversed the ban on The Invisible Man due to the amount of backlash. 

The Start of Fall Classes…

by Laura Crockett
Scribbles & Wanderlust

Welcome to the program, new students, and welcome back, old students! In a little over a month classes will begin and I’m really looking forward to it!

I am entering my second year in the program, with 24 credits under my belt and a thesis looming over my shoulders. “Looming” probably isn’t the correct word to use, as it’s thrilling to research, read, and write on a topic I’m deeply passionate about, but it will certainly be a large undertaking. After my first year at Rosemont, the thesis will be a piece of cake.

When I first moved out of the Midwest and to Philadelphia to attend the graduate program here, I was nervous, excited, anxious, and eager about everything pertaining to the program and the area. Would I do well in my classes? Would I make any friends? Would I venture out of my apartment and explore? Within a month of classes beginning, I did all these things. The enthusiasm every student brought to the table helped shape the experience of the program.

In the year I’ve been a Rosemont graduate student, I’ve learned how to write and recognize good query letters and book proposals; I’ve learned about the digital and e-publishing industry; I’ve examined the Young Adult genre and its history in detail; I’ve learned to copy-edit properly, using a variety of industry symbols; and I’ve learned how to use the various CS6 programs for design. This coming year I have so much to look forward to as well: marketing in the YA and Children’s industry, developmental editing, acquisitions editing, branding, contracts, and legalities in publishing. It sounds overwhelming, but reflecting upon what I’ve learned in 12 months shows that I — and you, dear reader — am capable of learning something new and applying it to other classes in the program to help with my future career in the industry.

The other students in the program are doing remarkable things as well. Some of us are interning for local publishers in the area, including Lippincott, Running Press, and Quirk Books. Some have created their own webzines, others contribute to local magazines, and others blog for publishers. We’ve received Advance Reader’s Copies of books, mingled with publishers and editors at gatherings, and even hosted the very first Rosemont College Book Festival.

And to think — we were all in an orientation meeting listening to the seemingly impossible things we’d accomplish in a year. I promise you it’s entirely possible, friends. And I can’t wait to begin a new year with you.

 

Image via Flickr: crenae