Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Rereading 'Prisoner of Azkaban'

This past week I printed out the first draft of my WIP to read and make (abundant) notes on. While I was doing that, I decided to reread Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban for I think the 7th or 8th time. This time I decided to read it very slowly--it took me almost a week and a half to finish it. I really wanted to take the time to look at the book from a technical standpoint, as in sentence structure, plotting, literary devices, etc.

Here a few things I picked up this time around:

- J.K. Rowling actually uses a lot of ellipses in her writing! (I do too--although I've been trying very hard to use less of them in the WIP).

- Cho Chang, Cedric Diggory and the Quidditch World Cup are all mentioned very briefly in the book (with Cho even causing Harry's stomach to do some "flips"). They all, of course, play vital roles in Book 4. Just in case I needed reminding how carefully Rowling planned out the story as a whole.

- There are a lot of clever ways for Harry to gain vital information. Since the book is told strictly from his point-of-view (third person close narrative to be exact), Rowling reveals info by using devices like an overheard conversation between Fudge and some teachers in Hogsmeade (which Harry had to sneak out to get to and therefore was hiding during). The chapter starts out as we follow Harry on his fun, rule-breaking venture and ends up giving exposition while still propelling the story along.

- This is not something new I noticed, but it's amazing how much I am blown away by the intricacies of plot every time. All the minutest details come together in the end in the most unexpected way. It's something I'm very much striving to do in the new WIP and it reminds me of something one of my favorite screenwriting teachers used to say: "You want to make your ending inevitable yet unpredictable." Which, as you might imagine, is SO. HARD.

- J.K. Rowling is a genius. This is a totally new discovery and not something I spend every day of my life ruminating on, I swear.

Let me just say that Prisoner of Azkaban is one of my very favorites of the series (along with Order of the Phoenix and Deathly Hallows). I distinctly remember reading it for the first time almost exactly 10 years ago. It was the book that made me realize that there was something much, much more happening in the series than just a couple of really entertaining, page-turning books.

So now I just have to revise my WIP and make it, you know, that good. I'll see you guys in four, maybe five, years or so.

Friday, May 27, 2011

21st Century Author

There are many things about being called an author that are wonderful...not the least of which is that I share a job title with some pretty profound people. But lately, I've been wondering things like, what if Charlotte Bronte had debuted in 2012? What, for that matter, if J.K. Rowling had? Would they all have blogs, Facebook fan pages and Twitter accounts? Would William Faulkner be vlogging away on his YouTube channel? Would Truman Capote be running giveaways on Goodreads?

I say...yes. Probably. Though not every debut author I know has those things, the truth is that most do. Technology and social media have changed everything, most especially marketing. And, of course, publishing itself has changed. There are so many ways for authors (and artists of all sorts) to connect directly with their fans now. And a lot do. Especially those of us who are just starting out in the business and trying to get our names out there.

So what would the internetz look like if all of the authors on your bookshelves where debuting next year? I've got an idea! (Click on the images to make them bigger.)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Proofreading: A Tale of Horror

You guys, there is something really, really scary lurking in my house right now.




That pile of pages is my typeset manuscript. It's been edited, it's been copyedited, it's been formatted and now...IT WAITS...

...for me to proofread it.

I haven't read this book in about three months. Truth be told, I haven't even thought about this story much since I've been immersed in writing the first draft (shudder) of another one. And this is my final chance to read and change anything before the ARCs go to print.

Let me just reiterate the terrifying words in that expository paragraph: final and first draft. Did I mention FINAL?! For a notorious reviser like me (hello 26 drafts), I can't even imagine the horrors of what I'll find in there. What if I hate it? What if I want to change Chapter 2 for the 14th time? What if I realize that by this time next year this will go out into the world and I will have to go into hiding from mortification?

I think I might have to pull a Joey Tribbiani and put this puppy in the freezer for a little while.

Although, I did stop screaming long enough to snap this shot of the first page. Look at the cool crop marks and other indecipherable printer's notes (not to mention the lovely design and font which I still can't get over).



Ha! Who am I kidding? The geekout will never end, no matter what HTML says.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Very Late to the Party: Three (Okay, Four) Recent YA Reads I Loved

I have a confession to make. I'm a big reader but up until relatively recently, I haven't read very many YA/Teen books. I read a ton of Middle Grade books when I was a kid and then, once I outgrew those, I pretty much skipped right to adult books. This could have a lot to do with the fact that there wasn't much YA around when I was a teen and that the genre has really taken off in the past decade.

I decided I desperately needed to remedy this situation, so for the past two months I've been playing catch up and reading some books I know most of the YA-reading universe has already read and discovered. Here are three four books I absolutely adored. And, yup, I'm aware I'm super late to all of these parties, but I figure book love is always good to put out into the universe.

Looking for Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
I loved them both! And I appreciated that they were very different from each other and yet both told by such a distinct voice (how on earth does he do that?). Anyway, I found An Abundance of Katherines hilarious and sweet and Looking for Alaska emotional and raw. I'm so looking forward to reading his third book, Paper Towns.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
This one came highly recommended to me and it's plain to see why. This is not your typical romance because Perkins is not your typical writer. The characters are so wonderfully nuanced that the book ends up going much, much deeper than you'd expect it to. It's simply a joy to read through and through. Two companion books are due to come out this year and next and you can bet I shall be purchasing them.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
I realize saying I recommend this book is something akin to saying, "Have you heard of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer? It was good! You should read it!" Speak is a YA classic and a seminal work, end of story. I'm still going to tell you how much I was blown away by it, though. Nothing felt cliched, nothing felt overwrought because Anderson embodies main character Melinda's pain, but also her wit, in such a real way. Just tremendous writing and I'm in awe.

What about you? Is there a book you know "everyone has already read" that you just got around to? Is there one you fell in love with?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Predator: America's Favorite Pastime

You guys, I have managed to snag an interview with THE Graig Kreindler. Baseball artist extraordinaire. In case you don't know of Mr. Kreindler's work, here's an example:

Yup, that's a painting. You can see more here.

The extremely reclusive Mr. Kreindler is known to subscribe to the Salinger/Malick School of Mystique. Yet with perseverance, determination and knowledge of where he lives, I was able to track down the artist for this exclusive interview.

Which just also happens to be my first (and likely last) vlog.

So, may I proudly present: Mr. Kreindler and His Viewing Habits

Tash/Kreindler: The Interview from Sarvenaz Tash on Vimeo.

Tomorrow, Mr. Kreindler has an interview with the YES (Yankees Entertainment and Sports) Network.* After my hard-hitting questions, that is bound to be a piece of cake.

*This is actually true! Wish him luck!

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Adventures of SuperAuthor #1: The First Draft

This weekend I finished a first draft of my WIP. All I can say is:


It took me five months and a whole range of emotions to get here. But instead of telling you about it, how about I show you (classic writer technique, eh)? Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, may I present:

The Adventures of SuperAuthor: Defender of the Written Word, Owner of the Snazzy Neurosis-Mobile

One crisp January morning, SuperAuthor woke up with an idea. Scratch that. An IDEA.
She headed to her computer and began to jot things down.

A couple of days later.
 Three weeks later.

One minute later.
Ten minutes later.

Two days later.

One week later.
In an unforeseen twist of events, SuperAuthor received a visit from her old nemesis, Self-Doubt.

Shaken yet defiant, SuperAuthor calmly assessed the situation and drew up a logical plan to defeat the dastardly foe.

Then, one day, she opened up her laptop again.

She began...


She hated the outline, but she slowly trudged through it. Bit by bit. Scene by scene.

She had a mini-celebration when the outline was done.

Day by day.

Scene by scene.

Until one day...

The First Draft Was Done!

She was happy; she was proud. Self-Doubt can eat it!

She decided to set it aside for a few weeks and revisit it again with a fresh eye...

On next week's installment of SuperAuthor...The Second Draft

Two Weeks Later

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Blurb Game

When I was in high school, my friend Sharon and I spent a few weekends writing a short story. The story was about 40 pages long and involved a murder mystery, our high school, and very poorly disguised versions of most of the kids in our theater department.

A few years ago, Sharon got married and as a present, I dug up the story, printed it up via Lulu.com and gave it to her. She loved it, of course, and I had so much fun revisiting our silly story and also packaging a fake book.

Check out those blurbs:

Impressive, right?

A few weeks ago, my agent mentioned to me that I may want to think about who I'd like to blurb my book. I have to admit that the very first thought that ran through my head was, "Oooh. It'll be fun to make those up again."

And then I realized, perhaps, that is not what happens when a real book is being packaged. Specifically, when a real book is being packaged by professionals.

Riiiiight. So I have no idea who (if anybody) is actually going to blurb my book. But if I could make them up, this is what they'd say:

"This book made me want to become a stalker-fan of Sarvenaz Tash and visit her theme park multiple times in one year even though I don't really live anywhere near it." - J.K. Rowling

"I could not put this book down! Which is most impressive since my hands have disintegrated for over two centuries now." - Jane Austen

"Some might say this book makes more sense than Tash's previous outing. I say...does it?!" - David Lynch [so awesome that he is a repeat blurber]

What about you? If you could have anybody blurb your book, who would it be and what would it say?

Monday, May 9, 2011

My First-Ever Author Visit!

On Saturday, I was invited to do my first-ever author visit thanks to Sarah Gowrie, who co-leads a program called the Young Authors Club run through the volunteer organization New York Cares.

If you read my Dear Teen Me letter, you know that public speaking is not my thing. So let's just say I was nervous. Sarah and I spoke beforehand about some of the things she thought I should talk about. And then I practiced. I ran through it about four times. My main concern was that I would bore the kids; I just really hoped that they would find any of my ramblings interesting.

Eventually, Saturday morning rolled around and I found myself at the Lena Horne Library at P.S. 76. In front of about 15 fifth-graders and 15 volunteers I talked about:
- what my book is about
- creating characters that are different from you
- putting historical figures in your work
- why I love editing
Apparently, I talk with my hands.
Then I read the first page of my book and I read them the first page of the very first draft of my book. I told them there were 24 drafts in between those two versions (which got quite the reaction).

Afterward, they got to ask me questions and, let me just say, they had some amazing and abundant ones for me. Some of my favorites were how old I was when I started writing (7); how long it took me to write the book (4 years on and off); whether my boyfriend helped me write my book (no); and whether I was a good writer (that's for them to decide!).

To correlate with my visit, Sarah and her co-leaders had designed a writing exercise where the kids had to write the opening page of their own novel. In their work, they had to create a character that was different than themselves and have them interact with a historical or famous figure. I got to work with one of the kids, Aby, and it was awesome helping her to craft and edit her opening paragraphs. We even got started on a second draft!

Before I knew it, the hour was up and it was time to say goodbye. And then, the most extraordinary thing happened. The kids started asking for my autograph. They wanted to take their picture with me. They gave me hugs and they told me they couldn't wait to read my story.

It was unreal and wonderful.

I really want to thank New York Cares, Sarah and her co-leaders Claudia Hindo and Vanecie Delva for having me and for making me feel so welcome. I also want to thank the kids and the rest of the New York Cares volunteers for such a lovely hour. I truly hope they enjoyed it at least half as much as I did.

Oh, and on another note, one of the biggest reactions I got was when I showed my cover to the kids (I told them it was super top secret and I had to get special permission from my editor). They all oohed and aahed and I thought about how much I can't wait to be able to share it with the world. And by world, I mean you.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My Letter to Teen Me

If you could write a letter to your teenaged self, what would it say? That's the conceit behind Dear Teen Me, the awesome site started by writers E. Kristin Anderson and Miranda Kenneally, wherein authors write letters to their younger selves.

Guess what? Today is my turn to be featured!

Incidentally, I've written plenty of letters to myself...but always to an older me. When I was 16, I wrote a letter to be opened when I turned 21. And then when I was 21, I wrote a letter to be opened when I turn 30 (not quite there yet). I imagine I'll keep on with this tradition. It's been a bit like looking into a time machine, seeing my hopes, dreams, and aspirations laid out for me, from me.

But this is the first time I wrote a letter to a younger version of me. Read it here. It features pictures and some thoroughly unforgivable 90s fashion choices on my part.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What's an ARC?

I will readily admit to the fact that up until about three months ago I had NO idea what an ARC was. But the answer to my question above is actually pretty simple.

ARC stands for Advance Reading Copy (though I've also seen a few variations, like Advanced Readers Copy) and basically looks like a paperback version of the hardcover first edition. A limited number are printed up, usually about six months or so before the book's release, and are then sent to reviewers, book bloggers, librarians and the such.

Here's an example of an ARC for The Sweetest Thing by Christina Mandelski.

Front Cover
Note the 'Uncorrected Bound Proofs' warning. ARCs often have some typos and formatting issues in them as they're not the final version of the book. Also, the reason it's 'Not For Sale' is that they wouldn't count in the author's sales numbers nor give them any royalties.

This gives the date of release. (Incidentally, next week!)

Back Cover

The back, I think, is the most interesting. Besides the usual flap copy and author bio, it also gives you some technical info about the book (number of pages, price, ISBN etc.).

And there's a bit of information about the marketing plan behind the book, in this case: local author publicity, author blog tour, etc.

That's pretty much it! You may see ARC giveaways posted (sometimes by the author/publisher and sometimes by reviewers, etc.), so now you know what you'd be getting.

Also, thanks to Christina Mandelski for letting me make an example of her ARC. Her book comes out next week and if you're a fan of Ace of Cakes, romance, and heartfelt family stories, may I suggest you pick it up! (She's actually also running a giveaway here.)

Monday, May 2, 2011

TV I Love: Bob & Rose

After the repeated urging of my friend Jenny, I finally started watching Dr. Who on Netflix a couple of weeks ago. As soon as the title sequence started, I saw a name flash up and I got really excited. The episode was written by Russell T. Davies (who I later found out was the show runner for the first four seasons) and I knew I was in good hands.

About 8 years ago, I was in the middle of moving from my first apartment to my second. I was packing, I was home by myself, and I couldn't sleep. So I flipped on the TV and did some good old-fashioned channel surfing. I landed on Showtime on Demand, read the short description for a British series called Bob & Rose, shrugged and turned it on.

Here is the premise of Bob & Rose: a straight woman and a gay man fall in love. Hilarity and confusion ensues. I think in the hands of anyone lesser than Russell T. Davies, this concept could be anything from trite and unfunny to downright offensive. But Davies has a way of creating lovely three-dimensional characters who speak fabulously heartfelt, yet realistic, dialogue. The show has one of the most beautiful and heartbreaking break-up scenes I've ever seen. Plus--and I think this happens a lot with British shows--I appreciate the fact that the actors are normal-looking people. They're not hideous, but they're not supermodels and I have an easier time believing they're roaming around bars in London, dateless for a night.

Bob & Rose was what the U.K. calls a limited series: one story told in one 6-episode season (kind of like the U.K. The Office). At 2 AM that night, I watched the first episode. My cable was supposed to be disconnected sometime around noon the next day. One guess as to what I was doing into the wee hours of the next morning. In a nutshell, anything that keeps me up with its quality of story--be it a TV show, book, movie, etc.--will always get a gold star in my book.

By the way, I actually really like the idea of limited series and wish there were more of them in the states. Why? Because I think the stories end up being more controlled and refined when the creators/writers know the whole arc from the start.

And, in case you were wondering, I think Dr. Who is pretty fabulous too.