Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Getting My Groove On

I was cruising through some blogs the other day, when I came across this post on Tammie's site, which is all about how music influences her characters and her writing. And I asked her if I could raise that subject here because I think it's such a cool and relevant point.

I'm a big music-phile. (Is that a word? Probably not.) I'm completely and hopelessly addicted to my Napster to Go subscription and always devote at least a bit of time each day seeking out new bands and singers who strike literal chords within me. So after reading Tammie's post, I took some time to think about how music influenced my own writing and scene setting, as well as how much it's influenced my own life. I'm sort of someone who - at the risk of sounding like Ally McBeal (yipes!), has always had various soundtracks for my life, contingent on my mood or what phase I was currently in. More so than melody, I've always related to lyrics, and if the lyrics impact me in some way, you can bet that the song will be on rotation in my house for months or years to come. Right now, I'm sort of in this self-evaluation phase, and I'm digging melodic mid-tempo singers like Chantal Kreviazuk, Sara Bareilles, Mandy Moore, Mat Kearney, Brandi Carlile and the like. I listen to their songs and get lost in them, as if they're personally speaking to me.

And in some ways, I very much do the same with my characters. My heroine, Jillian, in Time of My Life is helplessly lost between two lives and two loves, and desperately trying to find her way back to what feels right, and so, when I hear Vanessa Carlton's "Home," it resonates and helps me dig into Jillian's mindset - it really transports me to the scenes in which Jill's trying to figure out what feels like "home." Ditto Ben Fold's "The Luckiest", which is all about how someone comes to appreciate how fortunate he is for the love he has in his life. And Five for Fighting's "The Riddle" speaks to Jillian's love for her child, even when she doesn't quite know her place in the world. I could go on like this for days: Dashboard Confessional's Stolen, Mandy Moore's "Most of Me," Snow Patrol's "Open Your Eyes," The Weepies' "The World Spins Madly On," even "Skid Row," from Little Shop of Horrors, which sounds random I know, but every time they launch into the last verse:

Someone show me a way to get out of here,
'Cause I constantly pray I'll get out of here.
Please won't somebody say I'll get out of here,
Someone gimme my shot or I'll rot here.

Show me how and I will I'll get out of here,
I'll start climbing up hill and get out of here,
Someone tell me I still can get out of here,
Someone tell Lady Luck that I'm stuck here.

Gee it sure would be swell to get out of here,
Bid the gutter farewell to get out of here,
I'd move heaven and hell to get out of Skid,
I'd give I don't know what to get out of Skid,
But a hell of a lot to get out of Skid,
People tell me there's not a way out of Skid,
But believe me I've got to get out of Skid row.

I'm always moved by the tenacity behind the lyrics and the fight in the voices behind them, and damn if it doesn't give both me and my characters a kick in the butt. (Yes, I love show tunes, so what?) :)

So, I'm always looking for music suggestions. Who or what inspires both you and your writing? Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving!!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Stuck in the Stone Age

Question of the week: Why do some agents insist sending queries by snail mail with a SASE? It seems so old fashioned not to mention wasteful in a few different ways. I recently sent a query letter, synopsis, 75 pages of my story, SASE etc. only to have it ultimately rejected. A trip to the post office, the cost of postage, not to mention printing out all those pages could easily have been avoided if I could simply send it all via email. So...what's up? In an age where we all are trying to conserve (gas, ink, paper, time, stamps) this practice seems archaic and old school.

Just a quick update to last week's post: I am officially in like with Facebook, much more so than MySpace. For promotional purposes, MySpace definitely wins - I'm "friends" with hundreds of people whom I really don't know, and I can blast out a note to all of them if need be. But on a more personal level, I'm really enjoying Facebook - I've found friends from high school and life whom I'm happy to be back in touch with, and what I like most about the site is how it alerts you to all of their updates - when they've added new pictures, when they've connected with someone new (and who that person is) - so I'm always kept in the loop about their pages and yes, their lives. I dunno. I think it's pretty cool. It doesn't serve a promotional purpose for me at all, but hey, so what?

Anyhoo, on to the above question. You know, I don't have the foggiest idea why agents still insist on the SASE or why, quite frankly, anyone would insist on receiving snail mail queries. Actually, that's not true: I'm sure that for some agents, it's much easier to read these queries while on the train or the bus or whatever, and why should they have to go through the trouble of sifting through their already clogged inbox and then printing any queries that grab their attention? I do, I suppose, understand the practicality of it.

But that said, yes, it seems completely archaic and outdated, and for me, at least, it was also a criteria with which I eliminated agents while in my agent hunt. I wanted someone efficient, on the cutting edge, and who used email just as often as I did (which, um, is always and for everything), so whether it seems reasonable or not, I didn't submit (with one exception) to any agents who refused email queries and required that dreaded SASE. (I do realize, of course, that just because someone requires snail mail queries doesn't mean that he or she isn't hyperly-efficient, but I think you get my idea. I'm just saying that I wanted someone who I felt would be most compatible with me and my working style...I hope that makes sense.) Before you jump up and down and say, "But everyone says that they don't accept email queries," let me interject that yes, I know that agents say this, but for the most part, they say this because they don't want to be inundated with queries, not because they won't accept them. Yes, it might annoy a few, but the vast majority of those who list "no email queries" on Agent Query or wherever will, indeed, take 'em.

Which means that you can kiss that pesky SASE goodbye.

(Btw, please do realize that everything I post on this blog is my opinion and mine alone. Well, okay, I do have some writer friends who usually agree with me, but what I mean to say is that you are welcome to disagree and discard my advice. I know that at times, I'd read Miss Snark and completely disagree with her, and hey, that's cool. It didn't take away from what she was trying to do and how she was trying to help people. I hope blog readers here understand this and feel the same.)

Anyway, so...did you guys query with SASEs? And why do you think that agents still insist on using snail mail?