Tag Archives: editor

Editorial Cross-Pollination: Alix Reid from Carolrhoda Lab

My recent novel POINTE, CLAW came out the same day as WHAT GIRLS ARE MADE OF, a powerful novel about love and anti-love, female power and self-sabotage by Elana K. Arnold. She and I recently completed a West Coast book tour for these two books. We hit cities from LA to Seattle talking about  Feminism and the Female Body. You can read our notes from the road here and here and here.

Our novels are twins of a sort. Not only did they come out on the same day but both are heart-wrenching and rage-y explorations of what it means to be a girl in a girl’s body at this time and place in history, when the physical and emotional well-being of women is under assault. Elana and I also share an editor,  Alix Reid, the Executive Editor of Carolrhoda Books and Carolrhoda Lab, whose insights shaped our stories.

We asked Alix what it was like to work on these two books at the same time. Here’s what she said:

It was so exciting for me to have two books on my list, POINTE, CLAW and WHAT GIRLS ARE MADE OF, that both dealt with how young women are boxed into narrow definitions of what it means to be female and feminine and feminine “enough.” Although entirely different in content, the themes of each book touched on one another and made me ever more aware of how important it is to speak UP and speak OUT about ways in which girls are put in boxes, are silenced, are made to feel less than.

Both books show how ingrained patriarchy is, buried even in the girls themselves, so that they are the ones who are monitoring their own femininity as much as the outside world. I think that was one of the richest parts of working on these books for me—both Amber and Elana understood that what can pose the most danger to young women’s sense of themselves is that they unconsciously absorb false messages about what it means to be a girl the world around them—that they are they become their own jailers, in some sense, inflicting punishment on themselves if they feel they are not somehow matching an external definition of femininity.

We need books like POINTE, CLAW and WHAT GIRLS ARE MADE OF to show readers the dangers inherent in what continues to be a patriarchal culture, and we continue to need stories of girls who transcend the narrow definitions of femininity that can bind them and restrict them. Books like these two give girls ways of seeing they are not alone, show them how easy it is to get caught up in false definitions of femininity, and give them ways of thinking differently about themselves in ways that aren’t preachy or heavy-handed.

Editing these two books brought back many memories from when I was a teenager, and reminded me of by my own doubts and fears about whether I was a “good girl.” I wish I’d had these books to read back then—I know they would have helped me!

The kindness of book people

IMG_4920This weekend, I was lucky enough to spend three days in beautiful Dumas Bay with book people. I woke today wondering how to capture the SCBWI-WWA retreat in a blog post.

Bald eagles.
A run in the rain.
Cookies and whisky.
Feeling like a giantess in my tiny convent room.
Hilarity and sand dollars.
Open hearts.

How could I give this to you, I wondered, in a wrapping of words that captured falling leaves and infinite mud flats and the way sound carries over water?

Then my writer friend, Kiersi, posted an article about what makes relationships last.

The answer? It is so simple. Kindness. Walking toward the outstretched hand and taking it. Holding out your own.

In one of the sessions this weekend, Sara Crowe, talked about the characteristics of career authors. One of them was to be kind, to reach out your hand to the editors and the assistants, to the published and the not-yet-published, to all you meet along the way. And while he might not have realized it, Andrew Karre reminded us to be kind to ourselves, to shut out the noise of reviews and the market, the expectations of genre, and the general cacophony that gets in the way of turning the multitude of wonders in our cupboard into story.

So this is what I want to tell you about my weekend: It was replete with kindess.

  • The kindness of Sara and Andrew when they talked about their authors and their books written and unwritten.
  • The kindness of critique partners who saw strength in the craft of others and named it.
  • The kindness of writers who shared the stories of their hearts with me and who, in turn, listened to my own. 
  • The kindness of laughing together (and leaving no one behind on the mud flats).
  • The kindness of every moment that honored both the gifts and challenges of this thing we do, this thing we share, the way we strive to bring forth the story only we know.

Thank you, Andrew and Sarah. Thank you, Allyson and Lois. Thank you, compatriots. It was a beautiful weekend.

Me and the Deadline God

The Deadline God by Wylie Elise Beckert

The only thing I like about deadlines is telling people, “I’m on deadline” and watching the impressed/sympathetic look on their faces.

Really, that’s the only thing.

Getting things done as a writer (with all those hours and hours of potentially distraction-filled time) is knowing your own process, especially knowing what is likely to get you bogged down. I have learned to read myself pretty well.

Stuck but almost breaking through the wall feels one way, and it means I need to stay in my chair and power through. Stuck but depleted feels different and means I need to get out of my chair and take a run to recharge my batteries. Stuck and never doing this again requires whiskey.

One thing I know for sure is that I don’t like or need deadlines. I know what needs to happen to get a book done, and most of the time, I like doing it. I plan my time so that there isn’t a rush to finish line. I don’t do my best work under pressure or time-constrained or sleep-deprived. I am not a sprinter. I do endurance best.

On the wilderness canoe trips we take every summer, I carry a very heavy pack (half my body weight) over portages. I am slow but I don’t stop much and I get to the end when I get there. On the lakes, I can paddle for hours–not fast but steady. I’m a long-distance kind of gal.

But sometimes things happen.

In the lead up to the book I turned in yesterday, for example, I had three travel days for work, tax day (with unexpected complications), my daughter’s birthday party, Passover (hosted at my place), and my usual everyday stuff.

So I needed an extra day from my editor, which she was happy to offer, but made me feel like I’d let myself down. (Mantra: professional writers meet all deadlines.) And I had to work in a pound-it-out way that is very far from my natural rhythm.

Now I know there are those of you who love deadlines, who relish the chase and love the hot breath of the Deadline God on your neck. Happy times for you people!

But me…

… not so much.

If you don’t mind, I’ll get back to work now. There are deadlines in sight, and I plan to meet them for a civilized cup of tea.