Words to Live By from Fiction’s Greatest Father (IMHO)

Yesterday was Father’s Day. In honor, today’s post was to be a commentary on several of my favorite fictional fathers. I mulled it over for some time before deciding to do a post on my most favorite fictional father, and what he represents, not only as a father but also as a human, using his own words. His words are timeless, full of truth, and well…far surpass any of my own in both wisdom and eloquence.

 

I fear my choice is a bit cliché, but I cannot help it. I am a Southerner—Alabama-born—and my favorite fictional father is the epitome of the true Southern gentleman. The book in which he lives was the work of an Alabama-born author, and it has been said that the man and father so beautifully drawn in her book was inspired by her own father. So perhaps in some ways, my choice isn’t all that fictional. Quite moving to consider.

 

I’ll start the list of what this character represents by saying: Lucky, lucky Jem and Scout Finch. They have a father who loves them, guides them, chides them when he must. Most importantly, they have a father who leads by example.

 

Atticus (Gregory Peck), Jem (Phillip Alford) and Scout (Mary Badham) Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)

Atticus (Gregory Peck), Jem (Phillip Alford) and Scout (Mary Badham) Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)

 

 

And lucky, lucky Harper Lee. She must have had the same.

 

Amasa Coleman (A.C.) Lee

Amasa Coleman (A.C.) Lee

 

Fictional or no, Atticus Finch or Amasa Coleman Lee, you don’t have to be a father to follow their example.

 

EMPATHY

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view. …until you climb inside his skin and walk around in it.”—Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird

(If I had to choose one line in all of To Kill a Mockingbird as my all-time favorite, it would be this one.)

 

COURAGE

 “I wanted you to see what real courage, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s knowing you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway, and you see it through no matter what.”—Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird

 

JUSTNESS

 “But there is one way in this country in which all men are created equal- there is one human institution that makes a pauper the equal of a Rockefeller, the stupid man the equal of an Einstein, and the ignorant man the equal of any college president. That institution gentlemen, is a court. It can be the Supreme Court of the United States or the humblest JP court in the land, or this honourable court which you serve. Our courts have their faults as does any human institution, but in this country our courts are the great levelers, and in our courts all men are created equal.”– Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird

(This quote represents Atticus’s opinion, but his words are, to me, idealistic–the way things should be. Reality is all too often the opposite. Even the book’s reality is opposite. Atticus’s words are disproved in Tom Robinson’s case. However, his thoughts on what our judicial system should be are inspiring. Now if we could just get there…)

 

 HONESTY

 “Best way to clear the air is to have it all out in the open.”—Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird

 

INTEGRITY

 “…before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”—Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird

 

Who is your favorite fictional father? Your favorite quote? Feel free to comment and share.

 

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Laura Golden is the author of EVERY DAY AFTER, a middle grade novel about a young girl learning to let go and find her own way amidst the trials of the Great Depression and STANDING TALL ON MULBERRY HILL, another middle grade about Klan uprisings and true friendship beyond color lines in 1949 Birmingham, AL. Find out more about Laura and her books by visiting her website or chatting with her on Twitter.

 

 

EVERY DAY AFTER Paperback Release Celebration!

It’s here at last! EVERY DAY AFTER will officially release in paperback tomorrow. I can’t believe it has been an entire year since the hardcover debuted. It has been one heck of a journey. I’ve learned tons, met phenomenal people, and feel far more relaxed about my second book’s release (scheduled for sometime in 2015) than I did about EDA’s release. I’m grateful. That is all there is to say. So…for my official paperback release post, I’m going to give a wink to the relaxed me, let the serious go, and have a bit of fun.

I was born in 1980, and I admit to being partial to the 80’s. I love teased bangs, leg warmers, and acid-washed jeans. Oversized sweatshirts paired with tight leggings and chunky accessories. Films by John Hughes, music by New Kids on the Block, and books recommended by LeVar Burton on Reading Rainbow. Though I’d rather not dwell on it, the decade is now considered historical, so I suppose that makes an 80’s-themed post relevant to this blog. Oh, my.

So let’s dive right in and have a flashback to the 1980’s! Do you remember…

the original Nintendo?

the original Nintendo?

 

blowing into the cartridges to help them work properly?

blowing into the cartridges to get them to work properly?

 

Trapper Keepers? How about the Lisa Frank variety?

Trapper Keepers? How about the Lisa Frank variety?

 

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Care Bears? I loved Cheer Bear and Friend Bear. Who was your favorite?

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dot matrix printers and paper?

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The Charmings tv show? No one ever remembers this, but I loved it!

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Alphie educational robot? I still remember changing his front cards and the sounds he made when he was “processing” my responses.

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Pound Puppies?

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any of these cassette tapes?

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the Get-Along Gang? I kept three Get-Along Gang books that are currently sitting on my sons’ bookshelf. I kid you not.

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Teddy Ruxpin? I even had a Teddy Ruxpin VHS tape that came with a chocolate chip cookie recipe. Hey, what’s not to love about that?

Atari? I remember playing Pac-Man and Pole Position. What about you?


Thundercats? Epic.

Thundercats? Epic.

 

He-Man Master of the Universe and She-Ra Princess of Power? Also epic.

He-Man Master of the Universe and She-Ra Princess of Power? Also epic.

 

I have oodles of memories I’d love to post, but I’ll stop here. I was young during the 80’s, and if you were born before 1980, I’m sure you remember completely different things. What are they? I want to know! Let’s reminisce together. 

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Laura Golden is the author of EVERY DAY AFTER, a middle grade novel about a young girl learning to let go and find her own way amidst the trials of the Great Depression and STANDING TALL ON MULBERRY HILL, another middle grade about Klan uprisings and true friendship beyond color lines in 1949 Birmingham, AL. Find out more about Laura and her books by visiting her website or chatting with her on Twitter.

 

 

 

 

LIZZIE & I: The Flaws We Share

During a recent conversation with the wonderful Linda Urban, we agreed that we’ve developed main characters that display traits and characteristics similar to our own. Though we have never experienced the same trials as our protagonists, we feel what they feel and understand how they react to those trials because part of us would react in the same way.

Lizzie is a just-turned-twelve-years-old girl navigating the tribulations of the Great Depression alone. (Or so she believes…) By contrast, I am a just-turned-thirty-three-years-old writer navigating the trials of Authordom with the aid of many kind souls. (Thank goodness for that!) So what in the world could we have in common?

It just so happens that the same personality flaws that hinder Lizzie on her path to stop herself and her mother from losing everything, including each other, are the same personality flaws that I struggle to overcome as I traverse the path to publication and the drafting of my next book.

I know, I know. I’m not supposed to believe I have any flaws. But truthfully, I’m painfully aware of my flaws from sunup to sundown, day in and day out. What are they?

I am:

1. a perfectionist.

I pick apart each tiny thing that relates to my writing. For example, I am an unrelenting pre-plotter. Why? Perfectionism makes me a control freak. I must know what is going to happen and when (at least the large plot points). I have to see it outlined, study it, critique it, ponder it, and then, and only then, can I begin to write actual words. I need to know my characters, hear their voices, see them walking around and interacting with one another inside their world.

I’d give anything to be one of those blessed writers able to take a concept and produce a first draft in a matter of weeks. But I am not. I hammer out a first draft over the course of a couple of months, each day returning to what I wrote the day before to polish sentences and clarify themes and motivations. It is a long and arduous process fueled by perfectionism.

 

2. stubborn.

This can be good or bad. Before Every Day After was acquired, my stubborn personality was good. I refused take no for an answer. I believed in Lizzie’s story, and I wasn’t about to give up on it. End result: perfect editor and impeding publication.

But now that I’m working on Book 2, this characteristic has displayed its ugly side. Once I get an idea or a character inside my head, I can’t give up on it until it has been fully realized. I feel like giving up on an idea would be a type of failure. Again, the whole perfectionist bit.

Recently my editor and I had a phone conversation during which we mutually agreed that it would be best to put my then WIP aside and work on a book more like Every Day After. I had been pulling out hair and teeth in desperate attempts to make the project work. The project had wrestled me into a severe case of writer’s block. Now that I have moved on to a new project, I feel a renewed passion for story and writing. Still, before I hung up the phone I told my editor that after I’d completed this manuscript, I would try to tackle the difficult one yet again. I’m too stubborn to let it go. It bothers me. There’s a challenge to be had in making it work, and I intend to come out the victor.

 

3. self-critical.

I am my worst critic. Occasionally, this causes me to shut down. Perfectionism also feeds self-criticism. I want everything I do to be perfect, and I get frustrated with myself when it’s not.

Anne Lamott talks about silencing our inner editor in her brilliant book Bird by Bird. This is something I struggle with each time I sit in front of the keyboard—whether in pre-plotting or actual writing. Every decision, each word, is up against Ms. Self-Critic. Shutting her up is a full time job.

 

Lizzie displays all these traits—many spurred on by her father. (Note: my own father was not this way.) She refuses to let herself fail, and in so doing she becomes hyper-focused on her own problems, just as I do more times than I would like to admit, because once I finally make it into “writer mode” it becomes all too easy to tune out family and friends. Sad but true.

What about you? What traits—good or bad—do you share with your main characters? Do you struggle to overcome in life what you allow your characters to overcome in fiction? If I’ve learned one thing though writing it’s that life is harder than fiction.

 

Laura photoLaura Golden is the author of EVERY DAY AFTER, a middle grade novel about a young girl learning to let go and find her own way amidst the trials of the Great Depression. It will release on June 11 from Delacorte Press/RHCB and can be pre-ordered through your favorite independent bookseller or online retailer. Find out more about Laura and EVERY DAY AFTER by visiting her website or following her on Twitter and Facebook.

 

 

Cover Story: Every Day After

Inquiring minds often wonder: what goes into the process of creating a book cover? Well, as an author I can tell you that I have absolutely no idea. No. I’m not joking.

The closet I’ve come to getting a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the cover design process was this interview with Abrams creative director extraordinaire Chad Beckerman, who happens to be the brilliant mind behind the cover of our own Cat Winters’s IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS. (To read about Cat’s cover story check out this post on the Lucky 13s blog.)

Though I can’t shed much light on the exact evolution of the cover that became the cover for Every Day After, I can share the ways in which I was able to be a very small part of the development process. And that is precisely what I shall do.

A month or so after my editor acquired my manuscript, she emailed over a list of general questions for me to answer regarding cover design. A few examples:

What do the main characters look like?

Who might appear on the cover?

What are some comp titles with covers you like?

How would you describe the mood/tone of your book?

I replied to her questions ASAP, and she forwarded my responses to the art department. Then…silence.

Fast forward a couple of months. It’s early afternoon on a warm May day. I’m riding in the car with my husband down traffic-ridden HWY 280 in Birmingham daydreaming about heaven-knows-what. My iPhone dings. Yay! A new email!  I open my inbox. It’s the email from my editor—the email containing my cover. At this point, I truly don’t know what to expect. I have no clue if the cover will be illustrated, or a photograph, or a mix of the two. I know what I’d like my cover to look like, but it’s possible I’m on a completely different page than my publisher. It’s not an uncommon occurrence.

Now, every author dreams about and obsesses over what their book’s cover will look like. I was no exception. The cover is the most visible thing to readers deciding whether or not to take a chance on our book. The cover grants a reader his or her first impression of our book, and we authors want it to be a good one. I pause for a second before opening the message, trying to savor those final moments of blissful ignorance. Will I love it or hate it? What if I hate it? What if I can’t change it? What if? What if? What if? I settle my thoughts, take a deep breath, and open the message. This is what I see:

everydayafter cvr

If I’m being honest, it wasn’t what I had pictured. But I didn’t hate it. That was a relief. And my editor had said they loved it. And she hoped I agreed. Did I? I didn’t know.

It took a while to process my thoughts on the matter. I had always been in love with covers like those of Hattie Big Sky or Turtle in Paradise where the main character was visible, but not overtly so. Lizzie was a tad more identifiable than I would have liked, but it was something I could get over. I wasn’t a huge fan of a photographed cover for a middle grade novel. For some reason all I could think of when I looked at this cover was the early ‘90s, not the 1930s. But, in regard to the tone, the art department nailed it. The mood of the cover perfectly conveyed the mood of the story. I was thoroughly pleased about that. And in the end, mood outweighed my other misgivings.

After all the pondering and nitpicking, I fully accepted that this would be Every Day After’s cover, and I refocused my attentions on the manuscript itself. Copy edits came and went. Flap copy was written. Author photo and bio were submitted. And then, out of the blue, my editor mentioned that the art department had decided to do a watercolor treatment on the cover they had chosen. They believed the treatment would make the cover more appealing to a middle grade audience. I was ecstatic. I couldn’t wait to see the results. I was getting a second chance to fall in love with my cover. About a month later, another cover arrived. This time I opened the email right away:

EveryDayAfter cvr copy

Hooray! I immediately sent my editor an email letting her know my thoughts. The watercolor treatment was amazing. And the new typography done by none other than Sarah Hoy, the designer responsible for the beautiful typography on the covers of The One and Only Ivan and Summer of the Gypsy Moths, took my breath away. This was an appropriate cover for a middle grade novel—my middle grade novel.

I can’t be sure of the reasons behind the art department’s decision to use this photograph specifically, but as the author, I will say that I see plenty nods to the story in this cover. Lizzie’s mama is severely depressed, and she spends most of her time in a rocking chair on a back porch built years earlier by Lizzie’s father, hence the porch railing. Lizzie is in deep concentration walking the railing, measuring her steps carefully—a not-so-subtle metaphor for the balancing act she must perform in her life since her father deserted the family. And, if you look hard and use just a tiny bit of imagination, perhaps you will see what I see in the background—the wheel of a parked car and the shadowy outlines of a group of people, some of whom want to see Lizzie keep her balance atop that metaphorical railing and some of whom would like nothing better than to see her fall.

So will Lizzie make it, or won’t she? Perhaps as in life the answer isn’t as simple as will or won’t. Visit your favorite local bookstore on June 11th to find out.

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Laura Golden is the author of EVERY DAY AFTER, a middle grade novel about a young girl learning to let go and find her own way amidst the trials of the Great Depression. It will release from Delacorte Press/RHCB on June 11. Find out more about Laura and EVERY DAY AFTER by visiting her website or following her on Twitter and Facebook.

 

The C, C, & C Revision Plan

Let me start off by saying that I have been plagued by writer’s block lately. This is my fault. To be honest, it is almost a self-imposed form of writer’s block. I am not the sort of writer who is able to write in short snatches of time. Nope. I need long stretches of time, uninterrupted thoughts, and quiet. Right now I am painfully aware that if I begin to write, I will be interrupted. My boys are home on spring break, my husband is in and out of the house, I am distracted by the approaching release of Every Day After and all the nerve-wracking things (trade reviews, promotion efforts, etc.) that come along with that.

This is me right now: I am sitting in front of the computer filled utterly to the brim with a cursed block, knowing I must write a somewhat rational post for this my favorite historical blog. I’m absolutely sure I have nothing worthy to say. Absolutely sure. I am rhythmically tapping my fingers on the keyboard, filtering ideas through my mind at a rapid pace, and tossing them aside one by one. I decide to pull up the actual blog for inspiration. I stare at the title banner at the top of the screen. I think. I ponder. Then, like a bolt of lightning: Corsets, Cutlasses, and Candlesticks! Ha! The very name of this blog is my saving grace. Here these words are used to conjure images of historical items. But each of these could also be used as a metaphor for different parts of the revision process. You need the functionality of these items to carry out a successful revision.

I actually think I might have something to say about this! I hope to be in the revision process on a new manuscript by, oh, I don’t know…by Doomdsday. So bear with me, and my writer’s block, as I dive in to this highly metaphorical blog post that may or may not be rational.

corset

Corset: a woman’s tightly fitting undergarment worn to shape the figure

The first draft of any story is bound to be uneven and/or shapeless, much like me. One goal during revisions is to shape the structure of your story. Well, apply an imaginary corset to your manuscript by creating an outline, then tighten and adjust the laces by moving around events and even entire chapters (you may cut some, add others) until you achieve the most pleasing shape. Eventually you will tie the corset laces, stand back, and admire the final result—a story boasting a drool-worthy shape, unlike me.

 

cutlass

Cutlass: a short sword with a slightly curved blade, formerly used by sailors

Once you have achieved a sturdy structure, draw your cutlass (aka the delete key) and begin to slice and shave off extraneous bits of fat from your prose. Excess fat typically takes the form of unnecessary adverbs, unneeded heavy description, or events that don’t enhance the plot. You may kill a few darlings in the process, but it is all for the best. When you have completed your battle against the bugle, your manuscript will be sleek and polished to perfection.

  

candlestick

Candlestick: a support or holder for one or more candles, typically tall and thin

Whatever you do, don’t forget a source of light to work by. I have terrible eyesight. I’m blind as a bat. I don’t relish the thought of working in the dark. In Revisionland this equates to not having a clue about what your story is genuinely about or where it is heading. To illuminate the situation, I always keep my trusty candlestick close by when I’m revising—my candlestick being my story’s throughline. Identify the throughline before you begin revisions, and never let it go. What exactly is a throughline? It is the backbone of your story, the main plot propelling your protagonist forward on their journey from beginning to end, the ultimate story goal and the path to achieving it. Find it. It will supply brilliant light on even the darkest days of revision.

So that’s it, folks. We’ve reached the end of my Corsets, Cutlasses, and Candlesticks themed revision plan. I am still absolutely sure that I had nothing worthy to say. But I did manage to overcome writer’s block, temporarily anyway. Hey, celebrate every success, right? Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a nine-year-old tugging on my arm, a husband pacing around my office, and a second manuscript to draft…hopefully before Doomsday.

Laura photoLaura Golden is the author of EVERY DAY AFTER, a middle grade novel about a young girl learning to let go and find her own way amidst the trials of the Great Depression. It will release from Delacorte Press/RHCB on June 11. You can learn more about Laura and EVERY DAY AFTER by visiting her website or following her on Twitter and Facebook.