Saturday, September 18, 2010

Call for Submissions: Chicken Soup for the Preteen Soul

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Preteens
101 Stories of Inspiration and Support for Preteens

Chicken Soup has extended the deadline for their preteens book until October 31! And they need great stories. Act fast and you could be published in Chicken Soup for the Soul's newest book for preteens, scheduled for publication in August 2011.

Here is info from the Chicken Soup editors:

What was your experience like as a preteen? We want to know. We're still collecting true stories and poems about your preteen years, written in the first person, of no more than 1,200 words. Stories should not have been previously published by Chicken Soup for the Soul or other major publications. These must be your personal stories - things that happened to you or someone you were close to.

Your stories or poems need to be true and about your personal experiences or those of someone close to you. We prefer stories written in the first person and no more than 1,200 words. This book will be published in English so please submit stories in English. Stories should not have been previously published by Chicken Soup for the Soul or other major publications.

Here are some suggested topics, but we know you can think of many more:

* Dealing with tough stuff
* Bullies
* Doing the right thing
* Teachers and coaches
* Family and sibling stories
* Parents' divorce
* Illness and death
* Crushes
* Best friends and changing best friends
* Body image
* Embarrassing moments
* Mean girls
* Making new friends
* People you admire
* Being kind to others
* Church and faith
* How someone helped you or you helped someone else

If your story is chosen, you will be a published author and your bio will be printed in the book if you so choose. You will also receive a check for $200 and 10 free copies of your book, worth more than $100. You will retain the copyright for your story and you will retain the right to resell it.


Select the Submit Your Story link on the left tool bar and follow the directions.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Interview with Gary Murning

Gary Murning is a novelist living in the northeast of England. His work, largely mainstream fiction, focuses on themes that touch us all — love, death, loss and aspiration — but always with an eye to finding an unusual angle or viewpoint. Quirky and highly readable, his writing aims to entertain first and foremost. If he can also offer a previously unfamiliar perspective or insight, all the better.

Gary was born with a form of Spinal Muscular Atrophy, and whilst he has never thought of himself as a "disabled writer" it is nevertheless fair to say that his disability has in many ways contributed to his fairly unique perspective. If you'd like to know more about Spinal Muscular Atrophy, please click here.

Gary's first novel, If I Never, was published by Legend Press and is now available from all major bookstores. Click here to buy If I Never. You can also read two sample chapters of If I Never at Gary's website.

Amazon description: "If I Never centers on the growing love between two 'social misfits.' Clearly 'meant for each other' in a most unusual way, the world and those around them threaten to pull them apart. . . the two are drawn into the complicated lives of friends, consumed by unfolding mysteries and dangers."

How did you get started as a writer? Is If I Never your first novel?

I started writing novels "seriously" when I was about 20. I'd finished sixth form college a couple of years earlier due to ill-health - exacerbated by my disability. I had time to fill and since I loved reading and writing, this seemed the ideal solution. My early attempts, of course, were complete rubbish, but I quickly started to see improvement.

No, If I Never is... well, actually, I've lost count - but it's probably about my 21st novel. It is, however, the first to be published, which sounds terrible, I know, but that's the nature of the business today. I've had years of encouraging comments and close calls and, if I'm truthful, I was probably close to resigning myself to the fact that it might never happen. And, then, quite unexpectedly, I get the email I've been looking forward to for, quite literally, decades!

How would you categorize If I Never? What was the inspiration behind it?

I always have trouble categorizing my own work. My publisher uses the word "mainstream" -- occasionally "light literary" -- which feels about right.

I am finding, however, that some are describing it as a thriller. They all acknowledge that there is rather more to it than that, but that also feels about right, too.

As for the inspiration behind it, I'm still not entirely sure! It was one of those novels that came together piece by piece over a period of time. There was no Epiphany, just a steady drip drip of ideas. I wanted to explore a relationship that existed in some way on the fringes of society - two people who were very much meant for each other but who, nonetheless, had to contend with considerable external influences. Much of it came in the writing. It was very much a roll your sleeves up and get on with it kind of novel!

The narrator of If I Never and his girlfriend both have unusual medical conditions, which you are clearly quite knowledgeable about. I wondered if you have had medical training, or if medicine is a particular interest of yours?

Thanks to the Internet, it's incredibly easy to appear knowledgeable about just about anything, these days! I actually have no medical training - but whilst medicine and medical conditions aren't really particular interests, I do quite often find myself reading about them. I'm a bit of an intellectual magpie, I suppose. I flit from one subject - particle physics, biology, Renaissance art - to another - who's going to win win Strictly Come Dancing or X Factor - collecting anything shiny! And every now and then, it finds a place in my writing!

Are there any particular times of the day you like to write best? Do you have any unusual working habits or routines?

I always like to write first thing on a morning. I try not to do anything else prior to starting on my 1000 words. Looking at news websites etc can be pretty fatal, so I avoid at all costs. It usually takes me about an hour to get 1000 words down (I use voice recognition software, so work quite quickly.) Once I've done this, I read through what I've written, making the odd correction here and there (no major edits at this stage!) and then get on with related work - answering emails, taking care of promotional stuff, annoying people on Twitter, that kind of thing!

What is the one most important piece of advice you would like to pass on to other writers?

Really, I think it's simply a case of reading as much as you can, writing as much as you can and keeping at it. This is a pretty tough business to get into, but the more work you submit the more the odds stack in your favour. Don't expect it to happen overnight, though. It can be a long haul and if you don't love writing for the sake of it I'd seriously consider trying something else.

Gary and I are part of the Virtual Book Tour group. Continue on with the VBT by visiting Maggie Ball’s blog tomorrow, September 17, for an interview with author Brigitte Thompson!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Anna Quindlen and Book Love

Years ago, Anna Quindlen wrote a small book entitled How Reading Changed My Life. I just came across this gem of a book for the first time, and I feel I have found my own personal manifesto in Quindlen's beautiful homage to books and reading.

Quindlen writes: "Those of us who comprise the real clan of the book [are those] who read not to judge the reading of others but to take the measure of ourselves. Who read because we love it more than anything, who feel about bookstores the way some people feel about jewelers."

I read this passage and thought, Here is someone who understands! I don't know about you, but I have had to put myself on "book buying probation" many times due to the stack of waiting-to-be read books beside my bed, even though it is so difficult for me to leave a bookstore without buying anything!

Throughout the book, Quindlen includes quotes about literature from a variety of people and time periods. Here are some of my favorites:

"When I am reading a book, whether wise or silly, it seems to me to be alive and talking to me." -- Montaigne

"My best friend is a person who will give me a book I have not read." -- Abraham Lincoln

"Reading makes immigrants of us all. It takes us away from home, but, more important, it finds homes for us everywhere." -- Hazel Rochman

"A room without books is like a body without a soul." -- Cicero

"Book love: it will make your hours pleasant to you as long as you live." -- Trollope

What are some of your favorite books and quotes about books?