Writing Advice

I regularly receive requests for advice on writing as a career from friends, family members, former students, and even mere acquaintances. This entry is an open letter to all those so interested.

Dear Aspiring Writers:

It’s great to hear about your interest in pursuing writing as a career. If you’re really a writer, by now you know that writing fiction is not something you do because you want to; you do it because you have to. It is both your blessing and your curse.

I need to warn you that very few people are able to make their living writing fiction. The vast majority of us, me included, write as an avocation, not a vocation. Fiction writing is an incredibly competitive field full of very talented people all striving to earn the same few available spaces on bookstore shelves. The earning potential is nowhere near as plentiful as most people believe, and there are no benefits (at least of the medical/retirement kind). Again, I’d suggest that if you are going to write, do so because it brings you joy or because it provides some kind of therapeutic benefit or opens up imagined worlds better than your own lived-in one. If you are ever lucky enough to profit financially from your writing, consider yourself blessed, and do something fun with the money. You will have earned it.

 As for seeking copyright, that’s an unnecessary step, a waste of time, and sometimes part of a scam. There are many unscrupulous scavengers out there seeking to take advantage of people’s dreams. This is especially true in the publishing world. Once you write it, your work is protected under copyright law without any formal registration.

 As for self-publishing, I’ve done it both ways. My first book was published by Random House in the traditional way; whereas, for several reasons, I self-published my second book. I much prefer the former to the latter. Traditional publishing is very difficult to break into, actually nearly impossible, but it allows the writer to concentrate solely on writing rather than all of the behind-the-scenes necessities of publishing: cover art, typesetting, editing, marketing, etc. If you do choose to self-publish, know that it is very unlikely that it will ever appear on a bookstore shelf. Also know that the typical self-published book sells somewhere between 50 – 150 copies, mostly to supportive or guilt-stricken friends and family, and the vast majority of self-published books do not make money. I’ve been much more fortunate. However, remember I had already built a platform and an audience through traditional publishing. Whatever you do, if you do self-publish, hire a qualified editor (not a friend or family member) to aggressively edit your work. If you don’t, chances are that you will be embarrassed by the product you present to the public, and that is never a good thing.

 Finally, you should know that the vast majority of what I’ve written will never be published. I have written at least five full-length novels that have never been read by anyone but me and that will never exist anywhere except on my hard drive. Those novels represent thousands of hours of time spent at my computer and rummaging around my own head. That’s time that I wasn’t playing with my kids, working around the house, or romancing my wife. Point being: writing is sacrifice, both for the writer and his/her family.

 If none of this has discouraged you, then write on! You truly are a writer.

 Good Luck and Always Love,

Ty

“Say What You Need To Say”

swear words
“Nothing [is] good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” – Hamlet, William Shakespeare.

By the inclusion of the occasional “bad” word in my novels, I have willfully hamstrung my potential sales in the education market. Schools are very sensitive to parental/community overreaction to their children coming across curse words in school-assigned texts; therefore, they are reluctant to purchase books that make use of them. This is true even when the words are accurately reflective of reality. Not long ago, a local school district came under fire for teaching Walter Dean Meyer’s novel FALLEN ANGELS, a modern classic set “in country” during the Vietnam War, because the mostly-teenaged soldiers occasionally use the “F-word.” I somehow doubt those “grunts” said “Darn!” or “Fudge!” or “Poop!” very often. And when they said “Shoot,” it was in an entirely different context.

Father Flanagan, the priest who founded the Boys Town orphanage, is famous for saying, “There are no bad boys. There is only bad environment, bad training, bad example, bad thinking.” I’m not sure that I totally agree with Fr. Flanagan. It seems to me that some people are simply born evil, but the relationship between nature vs. nurture in personality development has nothing to do with this article. Instead, I’m going to share how I have long used Flanagan’s motto to make the similarly-contentious point that there is no such thing as a bad WORD; only words used in inappropriate environments and due to inappropriate training/example/thinking.

To begin with, I’ve never been a Grammar Nazi who corrects every double negative, incorrect use of “who” or “whom,” or the confusion between “can” and “may” or “I” and “me.” In fact, I find such people pedantic and annoying. Sure, I have a few pet peeves, but for the most part, I try not to nag. I especially believe that there is far more room for loose grammar and blue language in the spoken word than in the written one. But in either case, words are intended to facilitate communication, and as long as a speaker’s words are understood, I believe she is communicating appropriately.

“But what about curse words?” Some would ask. I believe that even curse words are appropriate in the correct environment and context. For example, despite a fairly-extensive vocabulary, I swear like a sailor when I’m with my buddies, but I don’t believe I have ever used a swear word in my mother’s company or in front of children. Another example of the contextual appropriateness of curse words occurs in movies that have been edited for television. In these the curse words have often been dubbed so that a word like “shit” becomes a garbled “shoot.” The replacement word typically doesn’t fit the situation or the character and completely ruins the scene by rendering it laughable. Even the “F-bomb” is acceptable in the proper environment. I’m thinking of that Maroon 5 song “Payphone.” In the unedited version, in utter disgust, Adam Levine sings, “One more fucking love song, I’ll be sick,” and it has punch. On the radio-friendly version, he sings, “One more stupid love song, I’ll be sick,” and it just lacks something. As an extreme example, dirty talk between the sheets would become clinical, un-sexy, and pathetic without the use of so-called curse words (I’ll let you imagine a few lines for yourself.).

The most extreme use of words that are generally deemed inappropriate for public consumption occurs when utilizing those terms that are charged with venomous disrespect for a person’s race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. I would argue, however, that even these – more so for the writer than the speaker – can be used appropriately. The best example, of course, being Mark Twain’s HUCKLEBERRY FINN. I’ve tried to read censored versions in which the n-word (I can’t even type it; I find it so distasteful.) has been changed to “slave.” The conversion ruins the story and lessens Twain’s intended satire regarding the wrongheadedness of racism. And although I do not like the “C-word,” I watched a character in HBO’s THE LEFTOVERS use it in reference to a female rival, and it stung in a way that the “B-word” never could. As a child, I was sometimes chided for using the word “hate.” Adults would say, “Hate is a strong word.” I always thought, “Yeah, that’s why I use it.”

In my classroom, I often compare the words at a writer’s or speaker’s disposal to a handyman’s tools. Although it would be inappropriate and less effective to hammer a nail with a wrench, we wouldn’t label the wrench itself as a “bad” tool. It would simply be being used in an improper context. So don’t let the Grammar Nazis and the language prudes get to you. In the words of John Mayer, “Say What You Need to Say.”

http://www.amazon.com/Goodness-Falls-Ty-Roth/dp/162287529X

W.I.P. until I R.I.P.

A Work in Progress
Authors often refer to their current project as their w.i.p. or work in progess. If you’re a writer, you have at least one. I write books a lot like I read them. I usually have at least two books going at one time; it’s the same with my novels. I almost always have one or two at differing points of completion. This system would make a lot of readers/writers crazy. It’s just what works for me. As a writer, I’m often asked about writer’s block. I think this system is one reason why I can always answer that I’ve never experienced it. If the words and ideas just aren’t flowing with one w.i.p., I can turn to another one.

Today I finished what has to be at least the fifth re-write of my current w.i.p., and tonight I’m starting what I hope will be the last. Each time, the process moves much quicker, the story gets a little tighter, the language more descriptive, and the characters more drawn out. I’d compare it to staining woodwork; it’s just a matter of putting on layers until you get the shade exactly right. For those who know better, trust me, I’ve never stained anything in my life except the front of my shirts, but you get the idea.

The other day, I was thinking about that abbreviation, w.i.p., and I thought how much the phrase “a work in progress” actually applies to me and people in general. Whenever my kids fall a bit short of our parental expectations or their own potentialities, I remind my wife that it’s okay because they are still works in progress. I also know that I am constantly “re-writing” who I am. I know that the version currently writing this blog entry won’t be around for long, as I’m still trying to deepen my stain. I always tell my students that when I see them in the future, I hope I don’t recognize them because they will have grown so much from the year I spent with them when they were seventeen or eighteen-years old. I don’t think there are many things sadder than stasis.

In his poem Ulysses, Tennyson, in the voice of Ulysses himself, says “How dull it is to pause, to make an end / To rust unburnished.” I totally agree with Tennyson. Therefore, the title of this article and one of my many philosophies on life. I hope to be a W.I.P. until I R.I.P.
http://www.amazon.com/Goodness-Falls-Ty-Roth/dp/162287529X

What NOT to Expect as a Debut Author

Now that my novel, SO SHELLY, has been on shelves for over six months, it’s time to look back at the past half year and share what I’ve learned about being a debut novelist with a major publisher. I doubt that my actual experiences will match the high expectations that most have. For example, I’m constantly referred to by others as the “famous author” (I wish, then maybe I wouldn’t still be doing my own laundry, cleaning my own bathrooms, mowing my own lawn, etc.), and people often ask how my life has changed? (Answer: Not much.) The reality is that very little of the past six months has matched my idealistic hopes, dreams, and expectations of life after publication. I do believe, however, that my experience is the norm; although, I’m sure there are those lucky few whose first novels skyrocket them to fortune and fame. All I know for sure is that from the high of being chosen by the American Booksellers Association as one of 2011’s top “New Voices” to the low of having not a single person show up for a library reading, I wouldn’t trade a step of the journey.

Below, in bold, are ten experiences regarding which many debut novelists often have mistaken notions. After each is the reality as I have experienced it and my advice for future novices in the world of publishing.

Reviews in national magazines or USA Today: Be thrilled if you are reviewed in trade magazines such as Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Scrivener and to be featured in any blog, hometown newspaper, alumni magazine etc. that is willing to give you the space. If they don’t come to you, seek them out. Sell your publishing success story to them. Those types of publications are proud to report the “local boy does good” story.

A large windfall of income: Don’t quit your day job, especially if your health benefits and retirement savings are tied to that job. After expenditures, I will have spent more money on my writing career this year than I will have earned.

A free editorial pass on your second book or for the writing of it to come easier: It is much more difficult with your second effort to earn an editor’s approval. She knows that for the good of your career, your sophomore effort must be much better than your first, for an underselling second book can be the kiss-of-death for an author’s career. Remember: very few writers are ever given a single opportunity at the publishing plate, and ach swing-and-miss greatly reduces the probability of getting an additional turn at-bat.

To be recognized everywhere you go. If you’re writing for the correct reasons, relative anonymity is what you should hope for. Remember: it’s about the book, not the author. The title of “author-celebrity” should be an oxymoron. I know of very few authors who are comfortable in the celebrity role, and those who are typically pump out trite, formulaic work of transitory value.

Copies of your book in the majority of bookstores nationwide. Bookstores can be very fickle and independent regarding the books they choose to stock. It’s actually very hit-and-miss as to whether or not a bookstore will stock your book, and oftentimes, a single copy is all they have. Be grateful for any and all of the valuable shelf real estate your book may occupy.

Book tours. My in-house publicist all-but-discouraged a book tour – even one of my own arranging and at my own expense. In fact, you must be your own publicist regarding the vast majority of personal promotion. I’ve arranged all of my own book signings, readings, lectures, and book fair appearances, and I’ve purchased the bookmarks and post cards to advertise my novel.

To grace bestseller lists. Anymore, I’m thrilled when my book climbs into Amazon’s top 100,000, even for an hour or two.

Your agent to be at your beckoning call: The fact is that you are, most likely, one among her diverse array of clients, many of whom are at more critical junctures in the publishing process than you, now that your book is out and on shelves. Expect to be in communication with her on an “as needed” basis.

Constant kudos from your editor/publisher: Similar to your agent, your editor has a stable of authors she represents. They are the most overworked and underappreciated cogs in the publishing machine. Don’t expect frequent updates on sales of your book or a steady stream of congratulatory notes. My advice is always to let your editor make first contact. Like your agent again, she will share any news to which you need to be privy. Trust me, she is not keeping secrets.

That’s one writer’s experience. I suggest you file it under “For What It’s Worth.”

 

Promoting Your Book

A major misconception held by many aspiring writers involves the amount of promotion a first-time author can expect from the publisher. Many dream of book tours and media appearances, or they expect their agent to act as their publicist. Although I’m sure that does happen for a very small number of debut writers, I can assure you that the vast majority of us must do the bulk of our own public relations work.

Consider my experience. I signed a two book deal with Delacorte/Random House and received an advance well above the average for a debut novelist. I was assigned an in-house publicist, who in addition to my novel, SO SHELLY, was responsible for promoting the work of a stable of authors. Her efforts were primarily and properly directed towards gaining prominent space for my novel in industry catalogs and at promoting it at domestic and international book festivals with her target being those who purchase in large numbers, not the individual readers who purchase books in stores and online. Like it or not, except for the writer who has a large and built-in audience or who has a pre-established media platform, it will always be the author’s responsibility to market himself and his work to individual book buyers. The question is how to do so.

In the six months since the release of SO SHELLY, I have tried and continue to experiment with a number of marketing strategies. The easiest, least expensive, and most utilized is social networking. For me, Facebook, much more than Twitter, has translated into sales. Facebook friends are much more often actual friends or people with whom I have a shared present or past. These friends sincerely want to see me succeed and to be part of that success. Though much appreciated, my Twitter contacts tend to be those with their own interests in mind and products and services to sell.

Book store signings have also proven successful for me, but on each occasion, I’ve had to work the floor, offering book browsers insight on various authors and books and often making recommendations other than my own. I’ve even steered potential buyers away from my novel if I felt it didn’t match what they’d shared with me as their preferred style of reading. Don’t expect to sit at a table with a line of book buyers waiting for your signature.

I’ve done a number of library readings with varied success. In the days immediately following my novel’s release, a local bookstore sent a salesperson directly to the libraries to make sales. These early readings were well-attended and quite a few sales were made. However, after a few months, the attendance at my library readings has dwindled. I actually had an appearance to which no one came. I didn’t regret it at all. An occasional humbling is beneficial, and I just think of all of the superstar musicians who tell stories of playing in empty bars for years before ever playing an arena show. I still will never turn down a library reading. I have found, however, that it has helped to change from doing a reading from my novel to doing a presentation on the publishing/writing process in general. This draws from a much larger pool than the genre in which I write.

A practice I’m committed to that many will find uncomfortable for themselves is personal signings. I’ve met a number of my readers at coffee shops, bookstores, even in my home for a conversation and to sign their book. In the process, I have reestablished relationships and made new friends. These personal signings have not resulted in a single negative experience. Just think how powerful of a champion those readers have become for me and my book out among the reading public. The positive word-of-mouth these champions generate is priceless.

In recent months, I’ve been featured in the alumni magazines of both my high school and my university. One sought me out; the other, I contacted. I actually appeared on the cover of my high school’s magazine, which may sound trivial; however, it was a direct mailing into literally thousands of homes across the country, as was the college publication. I couldn’t afford to buy that kind of publicity, but I got it for free. I have also done two local radio appearances for which a surprising number of people stop to tell me they heard me on the radio then went and bought my book.

On the heels of being named one of 2011’s top “New Voices in YA Literature” by the American Booksellers Association, I’m currently trying to jump start sales in a number of ways. I ordered postcards with the cover image of SO SHELLY and the ABA’s recognition, which I’m mailing to independent bookstore owners to encourage them to stock SO SHELLY and promote it to their customers. I have also begun to seek inclusion in various book/literary festivals across the country. So far, I’ve been invited to present at one, and I am being considered for several others. A final strategy I’ve begun to employ is the offering of myself as a guest lecturer in creative writing classrooms at local universities. One has offered me the opportunity to do an evening reading and presentation for which they have offered an honorarium.

The reality is that the author must assume the responsibility forreaching readers and selling books. The number of ways to do so are unlimited, and no way is too small or unworthy of the effort. We are all trying to light those small purchase fires that we hope will combine and spread into a conflagration of sales. Borrow promotional ideas from others and try a few of your own. Whatever you do, don’t sit back and expect your book to magically find an audience or for your publisher to do the hard sales for you. If a writer does his side of promotion well and the book is truly deserving of finding an audience, I sincerely believe it will.

Book Signing: Overcoming Fear Itself

Book Signing at Sandusky Borders

In last week’s post, I discussed my nervousness regarding yesterday’s in-store signing at a Borders. My fears included that one, that it was precious time that could be better spent writing; two, that I wouldn’t sell enough books to justify the time spent; and three, that I would sit idly twiddling my thumbs as customer after customer passed by me completely indifferent to me and my book. Post-signing, I’m glad to report that, as usual, I’m a worry wart and an idiot. Reality proved each of my fears to be irrational and false.

My first in-store signing was, by both my own and the store manager’s assessment, a success. Traffic was constant and sales were strong. I credit the article “How to Have a Successful Book Signing” by Mary Janice Davidson (http://tinyurl.com/yzfzqnn), which I found at Writing-World.com, for providing me with the necessary attitude adjustment needed to overcome my fears and make the most of my signing. What I primarily gleaned from Davidson’s
article were two simple pieces of advice that are applicable to nearly every uncomfortable situation with which one may be confronted, whether you’re a writer or not. As I sat in my car in the parking lot of the mall steeling my nerves and preparing myself mentally, I called upon the following tidbits from the article: First, I was in control. If I wanted the two hours to be a positive experience, it would be determined by my attitude. I could either choose to sit glumly, wallow in self-pity, and literally repel potential readers by my own attitude and body language, or I could choose to make eye contact and smile as mall-goers passed my table. Never underestimate the power of eye contact and smiles. Most of us are on the constant lookout for connections, and nothing advertises ouselves as a potential port in the storm of human aloneness than looking another in the eye and smiling. The vast majority of those I connected with in such manner walked right on by, but the majority of those returned my smile. Really, how cool is that? A few stopped to chat about So Shelly, and a few of those chose to buy it and have it signed. And, who knows, maybe a few of those returned later and bought So Shelly on their way out, or ordered it online when they got home, or will pick it up the next time they are in a bookstore. Secondly, in the immortal words of one of my all-time favorite bands, Kool and the Gang, I got my “back up off the wall.” If I wasn’t busy signing a book or chatting with another customer, every time someone entered the YA section, I struck up a conversation about the books shelved there. I asked what genre they or the person they were buying for liked to read. If I knew of any titles, I offered afew suggestions. I also took the opportunity to point out So Shelly and to discuss her. Many of those with whom I spoke actually purchased my book and one or more of those I suggested. So not only did I make sales; I also sold a few books for some author friends (Amber Kizer, author of Meridian, you owe me. I emptied the store’s supply.).

In life, there are few obstacles as plentiful or more difficult to overcome than those we put in our own paths. By far the biggest are forms of fear. Fear of failure, fear of embarrassment, and fear of rejection are the most common, and they were the real root causes of my own trepidation regarding book signings. By recognizing them as self-imposed, I realized that if I was the one creating them, I could also be the one to destroy them. I did so with the help of the Davidson article and with old-fashioned determination not to be my own worst enemy. Now, I’m looking forward to future book signings and hope to book a few soon. Be sure to visit my web page at www.tyrothbooks.comfor upcoming events.

What I Didn’t Know

 One of the most surprising realizations during the journey toward the publication of my first novel has been the degree to which the onus for public relations falls upon the author. Don’t misunderstand. My publisher has provided me with a great publicist. Every time I see So Shelly in a catalog, available at an online bookstore, mentioned in a blog, or reviewed by a trade magazine, I know she’s spending much of her thinly-stretched time promoting my book and doing everything within her power to ignite a successful launch. If, however, I expect a publicist to devote the majority of her working hours on my project, I should hire my own.

The reality is that in today’s publishing world, authors must be their own publicists. Maybe there was a day when an author could submit his/her novel and let the publicity machine  do its thing, but those days have gone the way of the manual typewriter. And why shouldn’t they? The author is the one who stands to benefit the most from sales, and the ease of modern technology and communication has provided authors with the capability to reach their potential readers without the aid of the machine. So why should the author abdicate to the publisher the responsibility for creating buzz and selling books?

To that end and as I complete the last weeks of the run-up to So Shelly’s release, I have been spending an inordinate amount of my time doing public relations work rather than the writing I’d prefer to be doing. For example, in recent days and weeks, I’ve completed any number of interviews with bloggers, contributed an essay to one blogger and an original short story to another, each day I spend hours on social networking sites in hopes of connecting with readers, I write bi-weekly blog entries to help build a platform and an internet presence, I’ve been helping to plan a rather large launch party, I’ve composed press releases, and I have tried to stay in contact with other debut authors in order to pick their brains and to imitate their strategies for generating interest in my book. I’ve done all of this while trying to put the final touches on my second novel, teaching full-time and attempting to be a husband and a father.

But, trust me, I’m not complaining. What are the alternatives? Don’t be a published author, or be a published author whose book no one reads. In fact, much of this public relations work has actually made me a better person and writer. With each blog article, essay, story, or answers to questions I’ve written, I have improved my craft and my understanding of my own work. Insular by my nature, I have been forced to embolden myself by making first moves. Through Facebook, I have reconnected with hundreds of old friends, classmates, students, and extended family members, while Twitter has generated new acquaintances and contacts. I’ve grown aware of a whole world of very cool bloggers, who devote  a large portion of their time and energy to our shared love of literature and storytelling, and they do it for little more than the opportunity to be a part of the publishing industry and for the sheer joy of reading and writing.

 So shame on the author who whines about the legwork involved and the hours spent in promoting his or her own work and career. Sell enough books, and I’m willing to bet that the publisher will raise its ante in the publicity process with the next project. And before complaining, remember the time, not so long ago, when a book deal of any sort was no more than a dream and be grateful to be an overworked but soon-to-be-published author.

Slow Down!

Today’s article is aimed primarily at readers and writers of novels and confronts a trend in fiction that I find disturbing. I refer to pacing. I’ll give you a few seconds to nod and to express your commiseration . . .  Okay, I know, not the sexiest of blog topics, but one that gnaws at me nonetheless.

 This problem is especially acute in YA literature. The assumption of editors and far too many writers is that readers – due to their constant mouse-clicking on the internet, their incessant pressing of the fast-forward button on MP3 players, and their perpetual rifling through television channels with the remote control – have the attention span of an ADHD-afflicted gnat. They assume that fictional prose must follow suit by constantly pushing the pace of plot at a breakneck speed out of the fear that a paragraph of prolonged description will completely discombobulate our surface-skimming readers. I say, “Nonsense!” Most readers are smart and capable readers. I think that most readers want the depth of understanding that, sometimes, requires a narrative to slow down and provide detail and reflection. Good writing is like good pitching: one must change speeds to be effective. A good hitter then, like a good reader, learns to anticipate and welcome the change of pace.

 I’m often dismayed when I flip through the pages of young adult novels and many works of pulp fiction to find nothing but dialogue and paragraphs of no more than two or three sentences. That model is insulting to readers and limiting to me as writer. This prose style does allow avid readers to pour through an unbelievable number of novels in a very short time, which, I guess, is good for book sales; however, what is lost? I find it hard to believe that much is genuinely felt, that much is deeply considered, or that much is effectively retained by the reader as the result of such a reading experience. We, as authors and editors, do little to foster readers capable of plumbing the depths of serious literary fiction when all we offer them as young readers are “page-turners” and “beach reads.” Then, we bemoan its following the footsteps of poetry on the road toward extinction.

 My final analogy is more adult in nature. The array of fiction should mirror the array of alcoholic beverages available to those who imbibe. Some are meant to be thrown back with a shot glass; others are intended to be and best savored by sipping from a wine glass. The world of fiction, especially YA fiction, is in need of more of the latter.

Interview at Wastepaper Prose

I’m honored to be included in Round Three of the “Author Insight” series at Wastepaper Prose. The Q and A appears one question at a time on Tuesdays and Thursdays over the next few months. Check it out at http://www.wastepaperprose.com/

What are You Reading?

One of the frequent and one of my favorite questions asked of me is “What do you read?” Like those who ask, I am always curious as to what others are reading. The first place my eyes go when I enter someone’s home for the first time is to bookshelves and coffee tables in search of my host’s reading materials. I’m never judgmental; I just like to know. My biggest regret regarding the growing crossover to e-readers is that I can’t look at the book covers of strangers as they read. Over the years, I have been turned on to so many new authors and books by the fetching covers I saw in someone else’s hands. Like most people, I hate to think that I’m missing out on something, especially the latest and hottest authors and books.

So what do I read? In terms of daily, weekly, and monthly periodicals, every day I read my hometown newspaper, The Sandusky Register, either the Cleveland Plain Dealer or The Toledo Blade, and I love, love, love the USA Today. The weekly magazines I read include Newsweek, Time, The New Yorker (on my Kindle), Sports Illustrated and my guilty pleasure, People. Bi-monthly or monthly reads include The New York Times Book Review, Writer’s Digest, Runner’s World, Tennis Magazine, and Atlantic. In addition I have my favorite web pages and blogs: The Huffington Post, The Daily Beast, Publisher’s Weekly, The Guardian, mediabistro, agent Rachelle Gardner’s blog, Eric’s blog at Pimp My Novel, and agent Mary Kole’s blog at Kidlit.com. For clarification’s sake, when I say “read,” I don’t mean every article; I only read those that grab my interest.

As for books, my longtime practice has been to be reading in two books at all times, one fiction and one nonfiction. During summer when I’m not teaching, I pour through anywhere from twenty to thirty full-length texts. I’m not an especially fast reader, and the older I get, the shorter is the duration of my reading periods. When school is in session, I’m usually re-reading classic texts in preparation for lectures; this drastically limits the amount of time I have available for pleasure reading.

Regarding genre, for nonfiction I lean towards biography and memoir. My taste in fiction runs towards the literary rather than bestsellers. I don’t think I’m a snob; rather, I’m the product of my literary training. I prefer character development, themes, and the execution of technique over fast-paced plot, but I always say and firmly believe that any reading is good reading. No one should ever apologize for the books in their hands or libraries. Also, because my first two novels are in the genre, I try to stay abreast with popular YA authors/titles. My personal favorites are John Green’s Looking for Alaska, Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, Libba Bray’s Going Bovine, and pretty much everything by Laura Halse Anderson.

Recently, I’ve read and loved, Karl Marlantes’ Matterhorn, Sam Lipsyte’s The Ask, Joshua Ferris’s The Unnamed, Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin. Currently, I’m making my way through two works: the historical novel Wolf Hall and Ferris’s first novel Then We Came to the End.

Lesson for the day, if you want to be a writer, be a reader first and always.

Check out my author’s page at www.tyrothbooks.com