5 Tips to Write Your Way Out of Writer's Block

Congratulations! As of today, you’re halfway through NaNoWriMo. How are you feeling at this point in the process?

 On November 1, you began this project with enthusiasm and a solid resolve to hit your daily word-count goals. You felt inspired and empowered, knowing so many others were climbing this mountain with you.  

But it’s November 15, and maybe you’re getting a little tired and bogged down. Maybe you’re even thinking about throwing in the towel. But don’t give up now! It may sound counter-intuitive, but one of the best ways to overcome writer’s block is to write. Encouraging those wheels to keep turning can give you the horsepower you need to get over that creativity curb. If you feel like the novel-writing truck has gone off the highway, here are some tricks to get your brain back on track.

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Switch it up

If you’re writing on your computer, switch to pen and paper, or vice versa. Go to a different room to write. Change the style of music you’re listening to. Try anything to jar your brain out of its rut. Physically changing your environment can break your brain’s patterns and give you a new perspective.

Freewrite

It’s a classic because it works. Move away from your book and write about something completely different—something for your eyes only. Freewriting can keep your brain cells warmed up without requiring a readable finished piece. Write about anything that’s on your mind, including your writer’s block. Use simple language, and focus on feelings and senses instead of story and structure.

Limp through the rough patch

Keep working on your novel. You can come back to the parts you’re struggling with now and rework them later. Don’t worry about grammar or maintaining the level of brilliant creativity you’ve produced thus far; just get words on the page.

Skip ahead

Do you know exactly what you want to write in the next chapter? Start on it now. You don’t have to write your book from beginning to end. If you can, try to outline the basic components of the part of the story you’re stuck on, then move on to the next chapter (or even the ending). Eventually, you’ll get that lightning bolt of inspiration to fill in the gaps.

Go easier on yourself

Maybe you’ve been dreaming about writing this book for a long time, and you want it to be your masterpiece—the project that plucks you from obscurity and changes your life forever. But that’s an awful lot of pressure to put on yourself. You are not defined by every word you put down on the page. The only way to become good enough to get noticed is to write, write, and write some more.

Allowing too much anxiety to creep into your work can be one of the quickest ways to halt your progress. Remember, rewriting is a thing. Editing is a thing. For now, just write.

 

What tips do you have for getting through writer's block? Leave us a note in the comments below!

The Top 5 Genre Trends in Publishing Today

As the second week of NaNoWriMo gets under way, authors everywhere are likely wondering whether or not their book will be one of the lucky ones. Does it have what it takes to make a publisher take notice? While there are always exceptions to the rule (and plenty of publishing trends not mentioned in this blog post), these five are among the most popular with agents and publishers this year and likely for years to come!

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5. Realistic Fiction Based on Current Global Affairs

Remember when vampire romance was the biggest trend in YA? Teens couldn’t get enough of the sparkle-covered, still-hearted heart-throbs. Their popularity seemed unstoppable, melding into paranormal fiction, until suddenly, it wasn’t just vampire romances that had us all hot and bothered, but werewolves and shapeshifters as well.

Then the dystopian universe took over, with its brutal truths and harrowing acts of heroism against isolation and unknown adversaries. And just when we thought we were all alone, contemporary realistic fiction shone through, bringing with it a more hopeful light at the end of the end-of-the-world tunnel. In the span of just a few years, we went from Twilight to City of Bones to The Hunger Games to The Fault in Our Stars, and now, that landscape is shifting once more.

Given the unsteady footing of today’s political atmosphere, it’s no wonder authors are compelled to write about the events we see unfolding on the news every day. Forget the heroes of the future—nothing could be more soul-clenching than an older sibling guiding their family through the war-torn Syrian landscape. Today’s novels are taking on the refugee crisis in Africa and Europe. They’re taking on America’s black book of things we’d rather not discuss around the dinner table—topics like mass shootings, racism, and police brutality.

Looking to write a novel that takes on the topics of today? Check out these 2017 novels: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and A Land of Permanent Goodbyes by Atia Abawi.

4. Middle Grade

For years, middle grade has been the “old reliable” of the publishing industry. But over the last few years, middle grade novels have really blossomed, showing off a new degree of thoughtfulness and beauty. Authors like K. A. Applegate have taken the middle grade market by storm with best-sellers like The One and Only Ivan and Pax. Adults who haven’t cracked a middle grade novel in years are reduced to tears by these heart-felt and stunning reads.

If you’re new to the children’s book scene, it may be worth your time to check out some of these particularly notable middle grade novels. Averaging around 15,000 to 35,000 words, middle grade novels may be easier for a new author to stomach, and (hint, hint), one could easily be finished over the course of NaNoWriMo.

3. Co-authored Fiction

One of the best-known writing teams, at least in middle grade fiction, has to be Kate Cary, Cherith Baldry, Tui Sutherland, and Victoria Holmes (plus a couple others now and again) who all come together under the pseudonym Erin Hunter. All told, the team has completed over 100 books since 2003, including several series and manga titles.

Of course, while the beloved Erin Hunter may be holding the wool over the eyes of most of her kiddo fans, no one could hold a flame to James Patterson, perhaps the most successful co-author of all time! According to a February 2017 article by Thought Co., James Patterson has co-written books with nearly twenty different authors. As the article reveals, Maxine Paetro has been his most successful partner. The two have co-authored twenty-one books so far, including more than twelve best-sellers.

According to this 2016 post by Libby Fischer Hellmann, James Patterson is not alone in this practice of co-authorship, and the trend is far from over. Co-authors enjoy the perks of having a partner who drives them and helps them brainstorm tough scenes. Plus, when writers split novels, chapter for chapter, there’s the added benefit of having someone else to shoulder the work of an 80,000-word novel and preach a little motivation when the writer’s block sets in.

Of course, such a close relationship also demands a certain personality. For co-authors working with a more well-known writer, there are many opportunities for conflict; for instance, managing creative goals with the need for consistency.

Whether you’re looking to write with a well-known author or strike out with a friend or family member, co-authored fiction isn’t going anywhere.

2. Diverse Books

Similar to No. 5, diverse books often take on the marginalized citizens of the world. The main difference here is that diverse books can refer to a broader range of subjects and people, from LGBTQ romance to novels featuring a protagonist of color. Publishers looking for diverse books (which is pretty much everyone), are looking for books written by non-white or minority authors. This trend makes a lot of sense, as publishers, librarians, and booksellers have taken a long look at the books on the shelves over the last couple of years and realized that the vast majority of humans are not being represented among the pages.

Recently, the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks was born, and with it, WeNeedDiverseBooks.org. The organization aims to “[Put] more books featuring diverse characters into the hands of all children,” writing that their vision is “A world in which all children can see themselves in the pages of a book.” To them, diverse books don’t just reflect skin color or sexual orientation; diverse books include “gender identities, people with disabilities, [and] … religious minorities.”

There has never been a better time to explore the world from a different perspective, and for minority authors, the stage is set for a positive response. Looking for a few truly wonderful diverse books? Check out How Many Letters Are in Goodbye by Yvonne Cassidy (featured on the 2017 Rainbow Book List for YA), The Closest I’ve Come by Fred Aceves, and The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (read the NPR review here).

1. New Adult

If you’ve never heard of new adult fiction, you’re not alone. According to this article by Molly Wetta on EBSCOHost.com, this rising trend really got going around 2012. As Wetta writes, “Generally, New Adult fiction encompasses books that feature protagonists in the 18–25-year-old age range (sometimes this is stretched to 30), and many popular titles feature college students in contemporary settings.” Many new adult novels are crossovers, meaning that while the pace and even sometimes the plot fits that of a typical YA, the story’s main focus goes beyond that of teenage problems, into the realm of early adult.

Another potential factor that could age a YA novel up to new adult is sex. While most new adult novels don’t seem to take on the nitty gritties of a sexual encounter, neither are they completely devoid of sensual, and sometimes risqué  content.

As Ava Jae writes in her much more thorough blog post on the difference between young adult and new adult fiction, “Sex is not and will never be a requirement for NA novels.” That said, “Unlike YA, characters in NA novels are very aware of how certain situations or characters make them feel physically. They know when they’re aroused, for example, and they’re not afraid to say it, but the focus isn’t 100% physical, because there are emotional aspects to consider as well.”

For authors looking to take their YA novel to a slightly more mature level, new adult fiction may be the best YA trend of 2017 and beyond. For now, be sure to do your research and check out these new adult novels that may help you get a better feel for the genre: If I Stay by Gayle Forman, The Girl With the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke, and They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera.
 

There are always exceptions to the rule: Vampire books went out of style long ago, but some still make it on the New York Times best-seller list today. That said, by and large, these are the trends making the biggest waves in publishing for 2017 and likely 2018 as well. Have any of these resonated with you recently? Tell us about your latest read in the comments below!

How to Brainstorm for Your Next Novel

If you’ve never written a book, you might think the first step in writing a novel is putting chapter one down on paper. You may be right (writing is, after all, subjective), but for most authors, writing a book is a lot like sex: You’ve got to start with the foreplay. Er … brainstorming.

There are likely some writers out there who don’t need any sort of warm-up. They’re in, they’re out, and voila! They’ve finished … an 80,000-word book. But they’re the exception, not the rule. Face it: Most of us need a little assistance—in the form of lists, timelines, webs, character maps, and notes. These methods of preparation keep us on track, guide us through our writer’s block, and remind us of the happy ending we’re shooting for. Sure, you’re not likely to have all the little details sorted out prior to page one, but thinking ahead to at least chapter ten will help you keep your characters straight.

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If you’re doing NaNoWriMo this year, you’re in good company—so are we! But if you haven’t sat down yet to think about what kind of book you want to write, you’d better get going! It’s not too late to set down a few key notes prior to writing your first 1,667 words. Remember, a good book is built on a solid foundation. You’re going to be spending a lot of time with your NaNoWriMo novel. Having some idea of its beginning and end will help ensure the 50,000 words in between are all moving in the right direction.

Here are our favorite brainstorming tips to help you make the most of your month of novel writing, and remember—if you get stuck, we’re here to help!

Storyboarding

If you’re a visual person, storyboarding may be just the brainstorming strategy for you. Imagine, for instance, you’re writing a 1920s mystery novel. Your job is to cover a wall in pictures that will bring your story to life. Group them however makes sense. Photos or drawings of people who look like your main characters over here; sketches of clues and red herrings over there. If you have some visuals of the main plot points, use thumb tacks and a piece of yarn to string the whole thing together like in The Flash and Riverdale—you know, like real detectives do. The objective here is to get more than just a mental picture of your book.

Interested in putting together a storyboard? Check out some more tips and tricks in this article for Writer’s Digest.

Story Web

This is another more visual form of brainstorming, though I would argue it’s more writing than drawing! It’s possible you learned this tool in elementary school, in preparation for those fussy DWA essays. The best part about webs is they can have as many threads as you want. Your only limitation is the size of your paper. For me, I like to put my first circle in the middle, filled in with the unofficial title of my book or chapter. Then, I work my way out. Maybe I draw three circles around the first and label them beginning, middle, and end. Then around each of these, I draw several smaller bubbles, each noting a key plot point for that section. From there, I can draw connections between bubbles in various places on the page to show how a plot point in the beginning might come back in the end, or how one character might be linked with another.

For more tips on story webs, check out this post from The Pen & The Pad.

Timeline

For very linear thinkers, timelines make the most sense. Essentially, it’s exactly what it sounds like. The simplest method is to turn your paper hot-dog style and draw a horizontal line across the page. This is your timeline. From there, jot down a few notes about the major plot points you’ve thought about for your book, placing them along the timeline in the order that they’ll occur. If it’s helpful, make a note between the points regarding how long each gap should take. Some books, like One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich or The Sun is Also a Star take place in the span of just twenty-four hours. If Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn or Nicola Yoon were the types to outline by timeline, the time between plot points would only be minutes or hours. Given how much story is packed into each of these amazing reads, such an outline likely would have been helpful, reminding the author what’s already happened, what’s still to come, and what the rest of the world is likely doing simultaneous to the characters’ actions, given the time of day. In books spanning months or years, this kind of outline is particularly essential.

Of course, timelines don’t have to look like the back page of your high school history report. As published author Mindy Klasky writes in her blog, some authors go so far as to create detailed spreadsheets.

 

Whatever your organizational style, the main takeaway here is to give brainstorming a try! Chances are, you’ll find that the more notes you take, the more story you’ll uncover. If your idea is truly a good one, that story web will almost write itself.

Already done with your brainstorming sesh? Tell us your tips and tricks below!

5 Horror Books That Are Even Better Than The (Great) Movie

Halloween is less than a week away, and this is that rare time of year when even the faintest of heart are willing to curl up with a copy of Dracula and a pumpkin spice latte, or even become brave enough to sit through a viewing of Halloween. Then there are those of us who can’t get enough of the frightful fun, whether book or movie, no matter the time of year. Whichever camp you fall into, there’s a horror book out there to help you get the most out of the Halloween season. And while many movies based on horror books are truly great, yep—you guessed it—the books are even better! Here are five of our favorites.

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The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde (1890)

A spooky, but relatively tame classic for those of you who don’t consider yourselves horror fans, Oscar Wilde’s 19th-century masterpiece was the only novel written by the poet and playwright. Stunningly handsome Dorian sells his soul to stay young and beautiful forever, while his portrait, hidden away where only he can see it, bears the proof of his age and every sin of his life of debauchery. The 1945 film adaptation earned Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress (Angela Lansbury—yes, THAT Angela Lansbury—almost makes this film worth a watch just to see the Murder, She Wrote star as a young actress) and Best Cinematography (well-deserved—it’s an absolutely gorgeous film).

The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson (1959)

A revered author among horror fans, Shirley Jackson’s seminal ghost story was a runner up for the National Book Awards in 1960. Two film adaptations have been made—the 1963 cult classic The Haunting and the let’s-just-pretend-this-never-happened 1999 adaptation of the same name—and a highly anticipated (by yours truly, at least) Netflix series is set for release in 2018. If you read this book and feel it falls victim to horror tropes, think again—Jackson wrote the book (literally) on those staples of ghost stories you’ve read and seen many times since.

The Shining, Stephen King  (1977)

Jack Torrance, his wife, Wendy, and their son, Danny, move into a massive resort hotel for the winter when Jack is hired as the caretaker for the off-season. While the tortured Jack is steadily losing it, and Danny is dealing with psychic powers he doesn’t yet understand, Wendy is trying to keep the family from falling apart. While Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film adaptation of Stephen King’s third novel (famously hated by the author) is a work of art on its own, few of the movie’s iconic scenes have much to do with the book. The book does have its own incredible, cinema-worthy moments, but most are so fantastical, there was no way to recreate them at the time the movie was filmed. With a much more complex picture of Jack Torrance’s descent into madness—much of it is from Jack’s own point of view—the book is well worth the read, even if you’ve seen the movie a dozen times.

The Books of Blood, Clive Barker (1984–1985)

Clive Barker has cemented himself as a tentpole of the horror genre. His popular books have spawned some of horror’s most iconic movie adaptations (Hellraiser, Candyman, Nightbreed), but it all started with The Books of Blood, a collection of six volumes of short stories (from which several of Barker’s lesser-known movie adaptations were made, like The Midnight Meat Train, Rawhead Rex, and the titular The Books of Blood). His debut offerings quickly became cult classics, with stories that range from grisly (the aforementioned The Midnight Meat Train, about a gory night in a subway car) to the humorous (for example, The Yattering and Jack, in which a demon possesses a Christmas turkey). Read for yourself to see why Barker is considered a master of the genre.

Coraline, Neil Gaiman (2002)

Here at HigleyFox, we are quite fond of young adult books, so we would be remiss to exclude a YA horror offering from this list. Coraline, by beloved horror and fantasy author Neil Gaiman (The Sandman series of graphic novels, Stardust, American Gods) does the job nicely. Coraline Jones discovers a locked door in her home and finds it’s the gateway to a world that seems very much like her own; except, in this world, her parents have very pale skin and black buttons for eyes. These new versions of her mom and dad spoil and indulge her to no end, but their attention eventually turns sinister. Gaiman’s first YA outing was adapted into a movie in 2009, but the book is a bit darker than the film. As is often the case in the book vs. movie debate, the book is subtler and more nuanced, and therefore provides a more effective creep factor. Thankfully, with the success of Coraline, Gaiman has gone on to write many more YA and children’s books.

 

What’s your favorite horror novel? Did we miss your favorite horror book with a great movie adaptation? Let us know in the comments below!

NaNoWriMo: What It Is and How HigleyFox Can Help

NaNoWriMo starts soon—in just two weeks to be exact. You might be a prime candidate for NaNoWriMo if you fit one of these descriptions:

  • You have never written a novel and want to see if you can.
  • You are looking to stretch your creative muscles.
  • You struggle with setting your own deadlines and goals and need an accountability partner.
  • You enjoy working within a writing community.
  • You suffer from writer’s block and need some motivation.
  • You love a challenge.
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To folks unfamiliar with the fall marathon-writing phenomenon NaNoWriMo, this combination of letters might sound like the top-secret name of a CIA mission. In reality, it’s a little less intense than that, but as any seasoned NaNoWriMo writer will tell you—not by much.

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and to authors all over the world, it rules the month of November. In just 30 short days, by writing 1,667 words a day, participants are able to look back at 12:01 a.m. on December 1 and say “I have written a novel.”

Before you pledge your allegiance to the writing gods, however, you may be wondering—why? Why devote a portion of every day of the month of November to writing a book? The answer: Why not?

The Why

Seven-time NaNoWriMo participant and published Idaho author Lorraine Barraras (pen name Mati Raine) says, “NaNoWriMo is a month where you get to write, and abandon that voice in your head that tells you something isn't good enough. Participating feels like riding a bike down a hill with no brakes. There is a reckless abandon when you put words on paper and shut down the editor in your head. It takes a few hours a day to write, at least for me, but on good days, you can get ahead on your word count and just keep going. Some days I've had nothing but a scrap of paper with a few sentences on it I took home after work, and others I had pages ready to go.”

For writers who normally struggle with getting out of their own way, NaNoWriMo may be just what the biblio-doc ordered. “You don't have to force the story to be seamless,” Barreras says. “You just have to write. I've jumped chapters ahead and written what I was inspired to. It's much easier to get past writer’s block because you aren't restrained just by the story at hand.”

Getting in the habit of writing every day, even when sitting down at the computer is the last thing you want to do, is one of the main reasons why you should give NaNoWriMo a try. It takes 21 days to form a habit, which means if you can keep it up, NaNoWriMo can set you up for a lifetime of writing. Whether your dream is to put down your life story or the story of a lifetime, the first step is just putting words on paper consistently.

Perhaps the greatest reason you should consider jumping aboard the NaNoWriMo train is that if you manage to stick with it, at the end of the month, you’re guaranteed to have a 50,000-word novel. What you choose to do with that novel after it’s finished is up to you, but either way, you’re entitled to 50,000 words worth of bragging rights. While 50,000 words may not fill out all the necessary pages for a traditional novel (a YA manuscript should be about 80,000 words, while an adult manuscript should fall somewhere between 80,000 to 100,000 words), it’s at least half, if not more than half of the work, and by the time you hit 50,000 words, it’s much easier to keep up the momentum to the end.

But Has a NaNoWriMo Novel Ever Been Published?

If your NaNoWriMo novel makes it on the New York Times best-seller list, you’ll be in good company. According to the NaNoWriMo website, Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, and Marissa Meyer’s Cinder were all products of this national month of writing. Check out this list from Goodreads, featuring 27 YA novels that started as NaNoWriMo projects. You can also find a full list of published NaNoWriMo novels on the NaNoWriMo website.  

How Can HigleyFox Help?

If you’re excited about the prospect of writing a novel for NaNoWriMo but aren’t really sure what to write about, you may be interested in booking a one-hour brainstorm session with Chantel Fox or Danielle Higley. An in-person or web video consult is just $25.00 an hour, and we’re happy to help you flush out your idea prior to putting pen to paper. Often it’s helpful just having someone there to ask the necessary questions. Is this idea big enough/small enough for one novel? Why this setting? Why this character perspective? What research will need to be done to make this book believable, and is it a manageable amount for the time you have?

Once your book is complete, and after you’ve had some time to revise and put your pages in front of a few beta readers (check out this blog to see what we’re talking about), we’re also here to do whatever edits you deem necessary to get your book ready for submission or self-publication.

We offer three different editing packages, with services that include content editing, copy editing, and proofreading. And, as always, you’re welcome to book that consult with us at any time. We’re happy to discuss your book with you throughout the month of November and beyond, and we’re even available to meet on a bi-weekly or monthly basis if you’d like an accountability partner to read over what you’ve written and act as a sounding board for what’s to come. Just shoot us an email at Queries@HigleyFox.com!

 

NaNoWriMo is an exceptional opportunity to write with purpose. By challenging yourself to take daily steps toward a 50,000-word goal, you can achieve in a month what many people only dream about their whole lives. Be sure to register on the NaNoWriMo website and check out all their resources and tips (they send out some awesome bi-weekly emails you’ll be glad to have when the writing gets tough!). Then, when you’re ready, come on back to HigleyFox.com and sign up for an edit with one of our highly qualified editors! We’d love to check out your NaNoWriMo manuscript!

50 Shades of Nonfiction

Okay, so maybe not quite fifty shades. Not in this post, anyway. There are more types of nonfiction than Christian Grey had riding crops and whips, but for now, we’re just going to focus on a few of our favorite subgenres, why you may be interested in writing or reading them, and a great read for each.

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Memoirs

Memoirs aren’t just for celebrities—not that we don’t love celebrity memoirs (because we really, really do). Your life doesn’t doesn’t need to be glamorous or tragic to be worth telling stories about. Whether your story is about growing up with family members’ mental illness or addiction (Mary Karr’s The Liars’ Club), or raising your kids (Susan Cheever’s As Good As I Could Be: A Memoir of Raising Wonderful Children in Difficult Times), your perspective, your experience, and your way of expressing both are totally unique to you. You have a story to tell that people want to hear. You never know whose life could be improved by being able to relate to something you went through.

One of our favorites: Just Kids by Patti Smith

In her first book of prose, singer, songwriter, artist, and poet Patti Smith looks back on her life with legendary photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in this fascinating, beautifully written memoir. Even if you have no interest in either Smith or Mapplethorpe, in a matter of just a few pages, you’ll find it difficult to put this book down.

 

Literary Journalism

Literary journalism requires the facts of traditional journalism, but not the objectivity. Often written in first person, a journalist relates their experiences while living in dangerous, dire, or unusual situations. Whether the author is embedded with troops in the midst of war—like Evan Wright’s account of the 2003 invasion of Iraq in Generation Kill—or even just a circumstance very different from their own—Barbara Ehrenreich’s attempt to live on minimum wage in Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America—we see news headlines brought to life through the author’s subjective experience.

One of our favorites: War by Sebastian Junger

Between 2007 and 2008, Junger was embedded with an American infantry platoon in Afghanistan. Without any political editorializing, Junger shows us what life is like for the young troops in likely the most dangerous part of the country, with each day spent in mortal danger and living in untenable conditions.  

 

Graphic Nonfiction

Yes, graphic nonfiction, as in graphic novels. As most savvy readers know by now, this medium is no longer limited to the kids’ fare it’s been in the past. Graphic novels can combine stunning, disturbing, or abstract visual storytelling with literature to entertain and inform. And they’ve done it about everything from the atrocities of the Holocaust (Art Spiegelman’s Maus, the Pulitzer Prize–winning account of a son’s interviews with his Holocaust–survivor father) to science (The Stuff of Life: A Graphic Guide to Genetics and DNA by Mark Schultz). There's even a graphic version of everyone’s favorite Strunk and White writing manual: The Elements of Style Illustrated by Maira Kalman.

One of our favorites: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

This graphic autobiography recounts Satrapi’s life growing up in Iran during the Iran/Iraq war. Told in two volumes—the first about her childhood in Iran and the second about her adolescence and young adulthood in both Vienna and Iran—Persepolis won the Angoulême International Comics Festival Prize for Scenario and was turned into an animated movie that won the Jury Prize at the Canne Film Festival in 2007.

A Look at the 2017 National Book Awards Nominees

If you read our blog three weeks ago, you’re likely aware that award season is here. In less than two short weeks, we’ll have our four winners for this year’s National Book Awards. If you’re a little late to the party, be sure to look back and check out our interview with Diane Raptosh, whose 2013 book of poems, American Amnesiac, was longlisted for the National Book Awards.

This week, we thought we’d bring the list to you, along with a brief summary of each book. Hopefully, you’ll be inspired to pick one up for yourself. Or you may decide to dive deep and read them all! If you do, let us know who you thought should have taken home the gold. We’d love to hear about your favorite nominees!

As for who the committee will pick, the winners of the 2017 National Book Awards will be announced on November 15. You can watch the livestream here or at nationalbook.org at 7:40 p.m. EST. Afterward, be sure to check back right here on November 22 for more information!

All synopses below are taken from the National Book Awards Website (they were originally provided by the publisher). Many are incomplete to save space. For more information about the books and their authors, visit http://www.nationalbook.org/nba2017.html#.WdL7iBOPLBJ.

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For Fiction:

Dark at the Crossing by Elliot Ackerman

Haris Abadi is a man in search of a cause. An Arab American with a conflicted past, he is now in Turkey, attempting to cross into Syria and join the fight against Bashar al-Assad’s regime. But he is robbed before he can make it, and is taken in by Amir, a charismatic Syrian refugee and former revolutionary, and Amir’s wife, Daphne, a sophisticated beauty haunted by grief. As it becomes clear that Daphne is also desperate to return to Syria, Haris’s choices become ever more wrenching.

The King Is Always Above the People: Stories by Daniel Alarcón

In "The Thousands," people are on the move and forging new paths; hope and heartbreak abound. A man deals with the fallout of his blind relatives' mysterious deaths and his father's mental breakdown and incarceration in "The Bridge." … And in the tour de force novella, "The Auroras," a man severs himself from his old life and seeks to make a new one in a new city, only to find himself seduced and controlled by a powerful woman.

Miss Burma by Charmaine Craig

Based on the lives of the author’s mother and grandparents, Miss Burma tells the story of modern-day Burma through the eyes of one family struggling to find love, justice, and meaning during a time of war and political repression.

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

Mesmerizing, hauntingly beautiful, with the pace and atmosphere of a noir thriller and a wealth of detail about organized crime, the merchant marine and the clash of classes in New York, Egan’s first historical novel is a masterpiece, a deft, startling, intimate exploration of a transformative moment in the lives of women and men, America, and the world.

The Leavers by Lisa Ko

A vivid and moving examination of borders and belonging, The Leavers is the story of how one boy comes into his own when everything he’s loved has been taken away—and how one woman learns to live with the mistakes of her past.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Pachinko follows one Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them all. Deserted by her lover, Sunja is saved when a young tubercular minister offers to marry and bring her to Japan.

So begins a sweeping saga of an exceptional family in exile from its homeland and caught in the indifferent arc of history. Through desperate struggles and hard-won triumphs, its members are bound together by deep roots as they face enduring questions of faith, family, and identity.

Her Body and Other Parties: Stories by Carmen Maria Machado

Earthy and otherworldly, antic and sexy, queer and caustic, comic and deadly serious, Her Body and Other Parties swings from horrific violence to the most exquisite sentiment. In their explosive originality, these stories enlarge the possibilities of contemporary fiction.

A Kind of Freedom by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton

Evelyn is a Creole woman who comes of age in New Orleans at the height of World War II. Her family inhabits the upper echelon of Black society and when she falls for Renard, she is forced to choose between her life of privilege and the man she loves.

In 1982, Evelyn’s daughter, Jackie, is a frazzled single mother grappling with her absent husband’s drug addiction. Just as she comes to terms with his abandoning the family, he returns, ready to resume their old life. … Jackie’s son, T.C., loves the creative process of growing marijuana more than the weed itself. … But fresh out of a four-month stint for drug charges, T.C. decides to start over—until an old friend convinces him to stake his new beginning on one last deal.

For Evelyn, Jim Crow is an ongoing reality, and in its wake new threats spring up to haunt her descendants.

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Jojo and his toddler sister, Kayla, live with their grandparents, Mam and Pop, and the occasional presence of their drug-addicted mother, Leonie, on a farm on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Leonie is simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she’s high …. When the white father of Leonie’s children is released from prison, she packs her kids and a friend into her car and sets out across the state for Parchman farm, the Mississippi State Penitentiary, on a journey rife with danger and promise.

Barren Island by Carol Zoref

Told from the point-of-view of Marta Eisenstein Lane on the occasion of her 80th birthday, Barren Island is the story of a factory island in New York’s Jamaica Bay, where the city’s dead horses and other large animals were rendered into glue and fertilizer from the mid-19th century until the 1930s. …

The story begins with the arrival of the Eisenstein family, immigrants from Eastern Europe, and explores how the political and social upheavals of the 1930s affect them and their neighbors in the years between the stock market crash of October 1929 and the start of World War II ten years later.

 

For Nonfiction:

Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge by Erica Armstrong Dunbar

A startling and eye-opening look into America’s First Family, Never Caught is the powerful narrative of Ona Judge, George and Martha Washington’s runaway slave who risked everything to escape the nation’s capital and reach freedom.

The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America by Frances FitzGerald

This groundbreaking book from Pulitzer Prize­-winning historian Frances FitzGerald is the first to tell the powerful, dramatic story of the Evangelical movement in America—from the Puritan era to the 2016 presidential election.

Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America by James Forman, Jr.

In recent years, America’s criminal justice system has become the subject of an increasingly urgent debate. Critics have assailed the rise of mass incarceration, emphasizing its disproportionate impact on people of color. As James Forman, Jr., points out, however, the war on crime that began in the 1970s was supported by many African American leaders in the nation’s urban centers. In Locking Up Our Own, he seeks to understand why.

The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia by Masha Gessen

Hailed for her “fearless indictment of the most powerful man in Russia” (The Wall Street Journal), award-winning journalist Masha Gessen is unparalleled in her understanding of the events and forces that have wracked her native country in recent times. In The Future Is History, she follows the lives of four people born at what promised to be the dawn of democracy.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann

In Killers of the Flower Moon, David Grann revisits a shocking series of crimes in which dozens of people were murdered in cold blood. Based on years of research and startling new evidence, … each step in the investigation reveals a series of sinister secrets and reversals. But more than that, it is a searing indictment of the callousness and prejudice toward American Indians that allowed the murderers to operate with impunity for so long.

No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need by Naomi Klein

In No Is Not Enough, Naomi Klein embraces a lively conversation with the reader to expose the forces behind Trump's success and explain why he is not an aberration but the product of our time—Reality TV branding, celebrity obsession and CEO-worship, Vegas and Guantanamo, fake news and vulture bankers all rolled into one. And she shares a bold vision, a clear-eyed perspective on how to break the spell of his shock tactics, counter the rising chaos and divisiveness at home and abroad, and win the world we need.

Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America by Nancy MacLean

Behind today’s headlines of billionaires taking over our government is a secretive political establishment with long, deep, and troubling roots. The capitalist radical right has been working not simply to change who rules, but to fundamentally alter the rules of democratic governance. But billionaires did not launch this movement; a white intellectual in the embattled Jim Crow South did. Democracy in Chains … dissects the operation [James McGill Buchanan] and his colleagues designed over six decades to alter every branch of government to disempower the majority.

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein

In this groundbreaking history of the modern American metropolis, Richard Rothstein, a leading authority on housing policy, explodes the myth that America’s cities came to be racially divided through de facto segregation—that is, through individual prejudices, income differences, or the actions of private institutions like banks and real estate agencies. Rather, The Color of Law incontrovertibly makes clear that it was de jure segregation—the laws and policy decisions passed by local, state, and federal governments—that actually promoted the discriminatory patterns that continue to this day.

The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy B. Tyson

What actually happened to Emmett Till—not the icon of injustice, but the flesh-and-blood boy? Part detective story, part political history, The Blood of Emmett Till “unfolds like a movie” (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution), drawing on a wealth of new evidence, including a shocking admission of Till’s innocence from the woman in whose name he was killed.

Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News by Kevin Young

Kevin Young traces the history of the hoax as a peculiarly American phenomenon—the legacy of P. T. Barnum's "humbug" culminating with the currency of Donald J. Trump's "fake news." Disturbingly, Young finds that fakery is woven from stereotype and suspicion, with race being the most insidious American hoax of all. He chronicles how Barnum came to fame by displaying figures like Joice Heth, a black woman whom he pretended was the 161-year-old nursemaid to George Washington, and "What is It?," an African-American man Barnum professed was a newly discovered missing link in evolution. Bunk then turns to the hoaxing of history and the ways that forgers, plagiarists, and frauds invent backstories and falsehoods to sell us lies about themselves and about the world in our own time.

 

For Poetry:

Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016 by Frank Bidart

Gathered together, the poems of Frank Bidart perform one of the most remarkable transmutations of the body into language in contemporary literature. His pages represent the human voice in all its extreme registers, whether it’s that of the child murderer Herbert White, the obsessive anorexic Ellen West, the tormented genius Vaslav Nijinsky, or the poet’s own. And in that embodiment is a transgressive empathy, one that recognizes our wild appetites, the monsters, the misfits, the misunderstood among us, and inside of us.

When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities by Chen Chen

In this ferocious and tender debut, Chen Chen investigates inherited forms of love and family—the strained relationship between a mother and son, the cost of necessary goodbyes—all from Asian American, immigrant, and queer perspectives. Holding all accountable, this collection fully embraces the loss, grief, and abundant joy that come with charting one’s own path in identity, life, and love.

The Book of Endings by Leslie Harrison

The poems in The Book of Endings try to make sense of, or at least come to some kind of reckoning with absence—the death of the author's mother, the absence of the beloved, the absence of an accountable god, cicadas, the dead stars arriving, the dead moon aglow in the night sky.

Magdalene: Poems by Marie Howe

Magdalene imagines the biblical figure of Mary Magdalene as a woman who embodies the spiritual and sensual, alive in a contemporary landscape—hailing a cab, raising a child, listening to the news on the radio. Between facing the traumas of her past and navigating daily life, the narrator of Magdalene yearns for the guidance of her spiritual teacher, a Christ figure, whose death she continues to grieve. Erotic, spirited, and searching for meaning, she is a woman striving to be the subject of her own life, fully human and alive to the sacred in the mortal world.

Where Now: New and Selected Poems by Laura Kasischke

Laura Kasischke’s long-awaited selected poems, Where Now, presents the breadth of her probing vision that notices then subverts the so-called “normal.” A lover of fairy tales, Kasischke showcases her command of the symbolic, with a keen attention to sound in her exploration of the everyday—whether reflections on loss or the complicated realities of childhood and family.

WHEREAS by Layli Long Soldier

None available. You’ll just have to read it :)

In the Language of My Captor by Shane McCrae

Acclaimed poet Shane McCrae's latest collection is a book about freedom told through stories of captivity. Historical persona poems and a prose memoir at the center of the book address the illusory freedom of both black and white Americans. In the book's three sequences, McCrae explores the role mass entertainment plays in oppression, he confronts the myth that freedom can be based upon the power to dominate others, and, in poems about the mixed-race child adopted by Jefferson Davis in the last year of the Civil War, he interrogates the infrequently examined connections between racism and love.

Square Inch Hours by Sherod Santos

Writing from an area outside psychology or personal history, the intensely solitary speaker relates the experience of reengaging with the world. With an adamant attentiveness, he turns his focus to observing reality in its minutest particulars: the expression on the face of a random passerby; the palsied hand of a grocery clerk; copulating flies on a windowsill; a deep gouge, like a bullet hole, in his apartment door. How he perceives is how he reconnects.

Don’t Call Us Dead: Poems by Danez Smith

Don't Call Us Dead opens with a heartrending sequence that imagines an afterlife for black men shot by police, a place where suspicion, violence, and grief are forgotten and replaced with the safety, love, and longevity they deserved here on earth. … Don't Call Us Dead is an astonishing and ambitious collection, one that confronts, praises, and rebukes America … where every day is too often a funeral and not often enough a miracle.

Afterland by Mai Der Vang

Afterland is a powerful, essential collection of poetry that recounts with devastating detail the Hmong exodus from Laos and the fate of thousands of refugees seeking asylum. Mai Der Vang is telling the story of her own family, and by doing so, she also provides an essential history of the Hmong culture’s ongoing resilience in exile. Many of these poems are written in the voices of those fleeing unbearable violence after U.S. forces recruited Hmong fighters in Laos in the Secret War against communism, only to abandon them after that war went awry. That history is little known, but the three hundred thousand Hmong now living in the United States are living proof of its aftermath.

 

For Young People’s Literature

What Girls Are Made Of by Elana K. Arnold

When Nina Faye was fourteen, her mother told her there was no such thing as unconditional love. Nina believed her. Now she'll do anything for the boy she loves, to prove she's worthy of him. But when he breaks up with her, Nina is lost. What is she if not a girlfriend? What is she made of? Broken-hearted, Nina tries to figure out what the conditions of love are.

Far from the Tree by Robin Benway

Being the middle child has its ups and downs. But for Grace, an only child who was adopted at birth, discovering that she is a middle child is a different ride altogether. After putting her own baby up for adoption, she goes looking for her biological family, including Maya, her loudmouthed younger bio sister, who has a lot to say about their newfound family ties. Having grown up the snarky brunette in a house full of chipper redheads, she’s quick to search for traces of herself among these not-quite-strangers. And when her adopted family’s long-buried problems begin to explode to the surface, Maya can’t help but wonder where exactly it is that she belongs.

All the Wind in the World by Samantha Mabry

Sarah Jac Crow and James Holt have fallen in love working in the endless fields that span a near-future, bone-dry Southwest, a land that’s a little bit magical, deeply dangerous, and bursting with secrets. To protect themselves, they’ve learned to work hard and—above all—keep their love hidden from the people who might use it against them. Then, just when Sarah Jac and James have settled in and begun saving money for the home they dream of near the coast, a horrible accident sends them on the run. With no choice but to start over on a new, possibly cursed ranch, the delicate balance of their lives begins to give way—and they may have to pay a frighteningly high price for their love.

You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins

This elegant young adult novel captures the immigrant experience for one Indian-American family with humor and heart. Told in alternating teen voices across three generations, You Bring the Distant Near explores sisterhood, first loves, friendship, and the inheritance of culture—for better or worse.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

An ode to Put the Damn Guns Down … Jason Reynolds’s fiercely stunning novel … takes place in sixty potent seconds—the time it takes a kid to decide whether or not he’s going to murder the guy who killed his brother.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez

Perfect Mexican daughters do not go away to college. And they do not move out of their parents’ house after high school graduation. Perfect Mexican daughters never abandon their family.

But Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. That was Olga’s role.

Then a tragic accident on the busiest street in Chicago leaves Olga dead and Julia left behind to reassemble the shattered pieces of her family. And no one seems to acknowledge that Julia is broken, too. Instead, her mother seems to channel her grief into pointing out every possible way Julia has failed.

But it’s not long before Julia discovers that Olga might not have been as perfect as everyone thought. With the help of her best friend Lorena, and her first kiss, first love, first everything boyfriend Connor, Julia is determined to find out. Was Olga really what she seemed? Or was there more to her sister’s story? And either way, how can Julia even attempt to live up to a seemingly impossible ideal?

Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder

On the island, everything is perfect. The sun rises in a sky filled with dancing shapes; the wind, water, and trees shelter and protect those who live there; when the nine children go to sleep in their cabins, it is with full stomachs and joy in their hearts. And only one thing ever changes: on that day, each year, when a boat appears from the mist upon the ocean carrying one young child to join them—and taking the eldest one away, never to be seen again.

Today’s Changing is no different. The boat arrives, taking away Jinny’s best friend, Deen, replacing him with a new little girl named Ess, and leaving Jinny as the new Elder. Jinny knows her responsibility now—to teach Ess everything she needs to know about the island, to keep things as they’ve always been. But will she be ready for the inevitable day when the boat will come back—and take her away forever from the only home she’s known?

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia

Clayton feels most alive when he’s with his grandfather, Cool Papa Byrd, and the band of Bluesmen—he can’t wait to join them, just as soon as he has a blues song of his own. But then the unthinkable happens. Cool Papa Byrd dies, and Clayton’s mother forbids Clayton from playing the blues. And Clayton knows that’s no way to live.

Armed with his grandfather’s brown porkpie hat and his harmonica, he runs away from home in search of the Bluesmen, hoping he can join them on the road. But on the journey that takes him through the New York City subways and to Washington Square Park, Clayton learns some things that surprise him.

American Street by Ibi Zoboi

On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie—the good life. But after leaving Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud, American cousins—Chantal, Donna and Princess—the grittiness of Detroit’s west side, a new school, and a surprising romance, all on her own. Just as she finds her footing in this strange new world, a dangerous proposition presents itself, and Fabiola must learn that freedom comes at a cost. Trapped at the crossroads of an impossible choice, will she pay the price for the American dream?

Making Healthy Habits: How Writing Helps Your Body

If you’re a writer, it may come as no surprise to you that writing is like gifting your brain with a neural massage. Besides enhancing your memory and problem-solving skills, picking up the mighty pen can actually help fight off symptoms of depression and encourage feelings of well-being. But what about the physical benefits? Can pumping lead and ink actually lead to a healthier body?

The answer is yes! In fact, numerous studies have shown that writing—particularly expressive writing, though copywriting has some health benefits as well—can actually improve immune function, organ function, and more!

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In 2016, PsychCentral.com published an article titled “The Health Benefits of Journaling.” While the article mostly focuses on the mental benefits of writing (it “[clarifies] your thoughts and feelings,” helps you to “know yourself better,” “[reduces] stress,” helps you “solve problems more effectively,” and “resolve disagreements with others”), the study it pulls from points to some real benefits for the body!

Researcher and psychologist Dr. James Pennebaker from the University of Texas believes that writing can enhance immune function. Working with HIV/AIDS patients, Pennebaker found that “patients who wrote about life experiences measured higher on CD4 lymphocyte counts—a gauge of immune functioning—than did controls.” What this tells us is that writing about stress helps us let go of it, which in turn, helps us fight off disease and other illnesses.

One study conducted by Dr. Joshua Smyth of Syracuse University, published in Journal of the American Medical Association, found similar results. As APA.org reports, in the study, Smyth had seventy-one asthma and arthritis patients write for twenty minutes a day, three consecutive days a week, about “the most stressful event of their lives.” Another thirty-seven patients wrote about regular daily activities. After four months, test results showed that the seventy-one patients who had written about their stress had “improved more and deteriorated less” than the control group (the group of thirty-seven).

Now, according to the British journal Advances in Pediatric Treatment, expressive writing (writing about a traumatic or emotional experience) can have some incredible long-term effects, including “reduced blood pressure, improved lung function, improved liver function,” and “improved mood.” This resulted in fewer hospitalizations due to stress, as well as better attendance at work and even improved grades and athletic performance.

If that sounds like a wide circle of healing, that’s because it is! A variety of studies have gone on to show physical improvements in a large number of patients suffering from all sorts of debilitating problems—from chronic pain to cystic fibrosis to poor sleep—and their progress is linked to expressive writing.

At this point, you may be thinking, “Okay, Bill Nye, but my writing is about dragons and knights—not my own experiences.” That’s fine! The magic of all this (or rather the scientific awesomeness) is that the very act of writing can have a physical impact upon the body, as well as the mind. Remember how I said even copywriting can help? Why not take a look at this article by NeuroRelay.com? According to them, copywriting can be just as beneficial to the mind as meditation: “Your breathing slows down and you get into a ‘zone’ where words flow freely from your head. This can make stream of consciousness writing a very effective method for de-stressing.”

So whether you’re copywriting for BodyBuilding.com or building up your body with a daily journal exercise, the good news is, you’re doing a body good. In fact, if you’re looking for the cure to the common cold, why not start with the diary you keep under the mattress?

 

A few tips for expressive writing:

  1. Conduct your expressive writing in a private, comfortable space without distractions.

  2. Try to write for three to four consecutive days each week.

  3. Set aside time in your schedule to make this a priority, and remember it takes 21 days to form a habit. After that, the urge to sit down to write should come more naturally.

  4. Write for 20 minutes each day, followed by 10 minutes of meditation.

  5. Do not feel limited by structure—write in whatever format makes the most sense to you.

  6. Write about your emotions and thoughts. Feel free to explore your relationships (romantic or otherwise) in reference to those emotions and thoughts. Let your writing explore your past, present, and future—who you are and who you would like to be. Don’t worry if your writing stays on one topic for some time. Move on to other topics at your own pace.


 

Sources:

Bridget Murray, “Writing to Heal,” American Psychological Association 33, no. 6 (June 2002).

“How Does Writing Affect Your Brain?” NeuroRelay, August 7, 2013.

Karen A. Baikie and Kay Wilhelm, “Emotional and Physical Health Benefits of Expressive Writing,” Advances in Pediatric Treatment 11 (April 2005).

Maud Purcell, “The Health Benefits of Journaling,” Psych Central, July 17, 2016.

Our Top 10 Indie Publishers for Children’s and Young Adult Books

Going on our second month here at HigleyFox, we’ve been thrilled to work on a couple of young adult fantasy/sci-fi novels. Young adult books have taken the publishing market by storm over the last ten to fifteen years. According to this article from The Atlantic, publishers went from putting out 3,000 YA books in 1997 to over 30,000 in 2009. That’s an incredible leap. Today, young adult literature accounts for over $3 billion in book sales.

One reason so many adults are writing YA likely has to do with the fact that over 55 percent of young adult readers are adults (including us over here at HigleyFox!). If you’re an author working on books for children or young adults, you may be interested in this top 10 list of indie publishers who will actually be excited to see your manuscript in the slush pile!

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1. Albert Whitman & Company

Albert Whitman & Co. brings a large selection of children’s books to the market every year, from picture books all the way up to young adult. They publish a wide variety of genres, but seem to focus more on commercial fiction than literary fiction. Some of their titles include The Boxcar Children series and Pecos Bill, winner of the Newbery Honor. One big reason to submit to them is they don’t require exclusive submissions. That means you can submit your book to them and to someone else (provided they also don’t require exclusive submissions) at the same time. Their submission guidelines can be found here.

2. Quirk Books

As their name might suggest, Quirk Books is a publisher seeking particularly unique YA projects. Most well-known for their best-selling series Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and their New York Times hit Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Quirk Books accepts emailed queries along with submissions by mail. Their yearly list is small—only 25 books—but as an author, that likely means more individual love and attention. Check out their broader list of titles here and their submission guidelines here.

3. Charlesbridge Publishing

Charlesbridge has a great eye for educational children’s books, with fantastic titles like Alexander Graham Bell Answers the Call and Alphabet Trains. They publish forty to fifty titles a year, making them one of the larger independent publishers on this list. The majority of their list is nonfiction, particularly rooted in history and STEM, though they recently launched a new program called CharlesbridgeTEEN. You can find their submission guidelines here.

4. Holiday House

One big reason to love Holiday House is their brief wait-time. Many publishers that accept unsolicited manuscripts ask for a lot of time to review—as many as nine months! And during that time, they ask that you don’t submit your project anywhere else. Holiday House only asks for four months. While they, like almost all publishers, will not let you know if their answer is no, the good news is they will let you know within four months if it’s a yes! That, coupled with their long and prestigious history (Holiday House has been publishing since 1935), means they’re a great option for your children’s book. Check out their submission guidelines here for more information!

5. Chronicle Books

Slush piles can be terrifying, but if you’re ever in need of a slush-pile fairy tale ending, look no further than Chronicle’s Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker (you can read the full story here). Chronicle Books is a large independent publisher located in San Francisco. They publish everything from art books to cookbooks to children’s books. Some of their most well-known titles include Press Here and They All Saw a Cat (a Caldecott Honor Book). Check out their other children’s books, then read up on their submission guidelines here.

6. Entangled Publishing

If you fancy yourself the new Sarah Dessen or Stephenie Meyer, Entangled Publishing may be just the publisher for your YA romance novel. This publisher turns out 30–45 new titles a month and has sixteen different imprints, from Teen Crush to Select Historical to Scandalous. Ooh la la. Their submission guidelines are very specific, which is great for authors who prefer to have all the information on the table, from genre to word count to how graphic a sexy scene can be. Check out their different imprints and submission guidelines here.

7. Persea Books

Writers of prose, rejoice! Persea Books has a wonderful reputation as an independent publisher of thoughtful literary fiction, nontraditional literature, and educational pieces. While they do not publish genre fiction (fantasy, romance, and the like), they do accept “short story collections, creative nonfiction, memoir … books on contemporary issues (multicultural, feminist, LGBT), and literary and multicultural anthologies.” While their poetry department is very selective, they are accepting queries, and it never hurts to ask. Their submission guidelines can be found here.

8. Blaze Publishing

Blaze is new to the publishing game—only in their second year as of 2017—but so far, they’ve managed to carve out a space for themselves and have received some good publicity for their small stack of books. As stated in their submission guidelines, they’re not currently looking for any particular genre—they’re just seeking a “message woven into the words of a well-written, young adult or middle grade novel.” Best of all, their submission guidelines make them actually sound excited to read your book, and they’re even open to publishing previously self-published novels.

9. Lee & Low Books

Lee & Low Books has taken a pledge to “make a special effort to work with unpublished authors and illustrators of color.” They are, in fact, the largest multicultural children’s book publisher in the U.S. That being the case, white authors writing books about white characters might want to look elsewhere, though the website says they accept authors from all cultural backgrounds. If you are an author of color, however, equally interested in bringing more diversity to the literary landscape, Lee & Low Books may be the perfect publisher for you. Lee & Low is particularly interested in working with first-time authors—a major plus—and even holds a New Voices and New Visions award contest each year for the sole purpose of bringing new talent onto the scene. Check out their submission guidelines here.

10. Peachtree Publishers

This Georgia-based indie publisher has been publishing books since 1977 and has had their share of New York Times best-sellers. As stated in their submission guidelines, they are currently looking for everything from fiction and nonfiction picture books to young adult fiction and nonfiction. That said, they have a long list of genres they do not publish, including fantasy, romance, and sci-fi, so be sure to check that out before sending your book their way.

 

If you’re getting ready to submit your book for publication, don’t forget to check out the editing services offered here at HigleyFox. From content editing to proofreading, we have the knowledge and expertise to help you put that final spit and polish on the page, prior to submission.

It’s Time for the NBA Longlists!

An Interview With Longlisted Author Diane Raptosh

The Grammys celebrate music; the Oscars, movies. Tony Awards are for theatre, and the Golden Globes are for television. But what about books? For those, we have the National Book Awards.

Unless you’re an avid follower of book news, it’s easy to miss the National Book Awards (NBA), an event that deserves as much pomp and circumstance as any Hollywood red-carpet affair.

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According to their website, the mission of the awards and the National Book Foundation is to “celebrate the best of American literature, to expand its audience, and to enhance the cultural value of great writing in America.”

So how does it work?

The National Book Awards, first established in 1950, are put on by the National Book Foundation and recognize the best in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and young people’s literature. The foundation selects twenty individuals—librarians, booksellers, published writers, and others—who are divided up according to their specialty, to act as judges. Some of these are past winners or finalists of the award themselves.

Publishers nominate books they’ve published between December 1 of the previous year and November 30 of the present year. The author must be an American citizen, and writers cannot nominate themselves.

All five judges get their own copy of each book submitted for consideration—somewhere between 150 and 500 books, depending on the category. Each committee or panel then selects ten titles called the longlist. These titles are announced each year in September. This year, the schedule is…

Young People’s Literature — September 12*
Poetry — September 13*
Nonfiction — September 14
Fiction — September 15

*Check out the winners so far here

Less than a month later, the longlist is cut in half as five Finalists from each category are announced (this year, on October 4). Finally, the National Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner takes place in mid-November—an affair much anticipated by all, since not even members of the National Book Foundation know who the winners are. There, the announcement is made, and the winner of each category is presented with $10,000, a bronze trophy, and an honor great enough to last a lifetime. This year’s announcement will take place November 15.

A special interview…

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In anticipation of the coming awards, we caught up with local author, professor, and poet Dr. Diane Raptosh, whose book of poems, American Amnesiac, was on the longlist in 2013 for poetry. Shortly after being longlisted for the NBA, Dr. Raptosh was named Boise’s Poet Laureate and Idaho’s Writer-in-Residence. Be sure to check out her interview with HigleyFox below, as well as a sample from her upcoming publication, Dear Z: The Zygote Epistles. You can purchase her books on almost any online bookstore, including Amazon, and from her publisher, Etruscan Press.

HigleyFox: In 2013, you were among ten authors selected for the National Book Awards longlist for poetry. Did you have any idea ahead of time that your book was being considered?

Diane Raptosh: The editor of Etruscan Press, Phil Brady, told me he was submitting American Amnesiac for consideration for the National Book Award. I thanked him profusely for doing so, and then I basically forgot about it.

HF: Authors cannot submit their own books for the National Book Award, but must be nominated by their publisher. What was it like waiting to see if you would be named on the longlist? Did you have any knowledge of other poetry novellas that you suspected might be considered?

DR: As I said, I basically forgot about the fact that the book had been submitted. I did not even track the date that the NBA winners would be announced. It is dangerous and foolhardy for a writer to wait around to see if she has won a prize. The writing world is highly unpredictable—known mostly for rejections. I did not know what books in any genre were being considered for the NBA that year.

HF: Your most recent book, Human Directional, came out in 2016. What is it like to write a book after having been longlisted for the National Book Award in poetry, not to mention having been named Idaho's Writer-in-Residence and Boise's Poet Laureate? Did you feel pressured? Inspired? Were you still able to write for yourself, without considering what award committees might be thinking?

DR: I felt hugely honored to be Boise's Poet Laureate and Idaho's Writer-in-Residence. They gave me opportunities to serve the communities of Idaho, which pleased me very much. Verse is serve's anagram. I aim to serve as a poet. This fact both pressures and inspires me.

Being longlisted for the National Book Award was the biggest professional honor of my life. I was shocked when I woke up that September morning and checked my emails and found one from them. I did feel a little more fearful than usual about writing anything after Amnesiac. I poured my mind's heart into that book, and it ended up paying off. I did feel nervous about the fact of Human Directional following that mini-opus. But HD is a very different kind of book. It is a kind of dervish dance, a romp through consciousness, a playground of form and content. I see it as a second (and lighter) book in what I consider to be a trilogy that started with Amnesiac. I am working on the third book now. It is more ambitious, like Amnesiac was. It will take on a lot of big issues, which I discuss in #4, below. That manuscript is both serious and playful, as are most things I write.

I never, ever wonder what award committees might be thinking. I stay rooted in the world of the mind and the imagination: the writing world, which for my purposes takes up residence at my kitchen table. I do not write to win awards! I write poetry to survive an increasingly brutal world, to be perfectly honest. I've been studying America closely for a long time, and I could see many of the present American brutalities coming. I began to feel despondent—not so much for myself, but for others, our more vulnerable communities—what Amnesiac refers to as "the we." I had to write my way out of a sense of collective despair. That was Amnesiac. I don't necessarily write for myself, per se, except inasmuch as writing poetry helps alleviate some anxiety—if what I write lifts the veil of social realities and reinvents what seems to want to be there. The greatest—or perhaps the only—hope for homo sapiens lies within the human imagination.

HF: What are you working on now, and what are your goals for this next project?

DR: I am working on a new book of poems, the working title for which is Dear Z: The Zygote Epistles. The last of a trilogy in verse, this manuscript will comprise a series of epistles directed to a newly fertilized zygote—what one of the poems refers to as "the great human maybe." These letters will take on issues ranging from the modes and limitations of production and reproduction to symbolic systems and sentience. They will also meditate on cell lines (for science) and cell phones, speculative life and artificial intelligence. So too, they will consider selfhood, citizenship, and identity—national and global—in the age of big data, white nationalism, and totalitarian capitalism. Along the way, the poems will riff on Moby-Dick and draw on current events as well as meet with some musicians: perhaps Dionne Warwick and the Beatles.

HF: What tips do you have for writers, and particularly writers of poetry, looking to get published or bring their writing to the masses?

DR: My advice for writers is to pay close attention to the world, to watch and, especially, to feel what is going on, to resist the numbness that screens and spectacles and technologies hope will set in. Staying awake and alert is one of the most important things that a poet can do. This takes a lot of time, solitude, and courage. Young poets should not be terribly worried about publishing their work right away. They should instead be paying attention to their instincts and intuitions about how to proceed. They should be feeling how deeply unsatisfying are the marketplace's offerings: what I call in a poem from Human Directional those "frilled lean-tos daily dispensed to us." The young poet's job is to help the world dream a new face for itself. In short, a young poet should set out to rewrite the world. Doing so will naturally, with patience and over time, bring her writing to the masses and into the pages of books.

A sneak peek from Diane Raptosh's current project, Dear Z: The Zygote Epistles:

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Interested in reading more of Diane Raptosh’s work? Check out her published books, Human Directional and American Amnesiac, available at nearly any online book retailer.

Be sure to check back on October 4 for our take on this year’s NBA Finalists and again on November 22 for a recap of 2017’s NBA winners.

Special thanks to Eric Raptosh for the use of his photo of Diane Raptosh.