Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Margaret Atwood

Failure . . .

First, be warned that I’m a true believer in the slipperiness of language use, for mere mortals…

Next, I want to look into what “Success” means.

I’ve delved into what it might mean in a number of contexts in the past…

Let’s look again.

Definition: “The accomplishment of an aim or purpose.”

Word history: “1530s, ‘result, outcome’, from Latin successus ‘an advance, a coming up; a good result, happy outcome’, [to] ‘come after’. Meaning ‘accomplishment of desired end’ (good success) first recorded 1580s.”

Now, Failure.

Definition: “A falling short or cessation.”

Word history: “1640s, failer, ‘a failing, deficiency’, also ‘act of failing’, from Anglo-French failer, Old French falir ‘be lacking; not succeed'”

I think I may have just proved that grabbing one definition of a word and glancing at its history of use doesn’t quite give us what we might need

Certainly, most folks have enough occurrences of both success and failure in their lives to define it for themselves

However, looking at a few accomplished writers’ explanations of “Failure” could throw much light on what “Success” could mean…

There’s an article in The Guardian called Falling Short: Seven Writers Reflect on Failure.

I normally pull a few excerpts from articles to encourage you to read the whole thing; but, the end of this one had a link that led to an imposing form to fill out for “reuse” of the “content”…

There is such a thing as “fair use“; but… well… these days… and, I’m in the U.S. but the article is in an English publication… — So, I’ll give links to the writers involved (in case you need to evaluate your desire for their explanations of success and failure) and hope some of you take the link to the article in The Guardian

Diana Athill, Margaret Atwood, Julian Barnes, Anne Enright, Howard Jacobson, Will Self, and Lionel Shriver.

If you do go to Falling Short: Seven Writers Reflect on Failure, I’d love it if you’d share in the Comments which author(s) drew you there…

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Ursula K. Le Guin ~ New Collections of Her Wondrous Works

This makes the 6th post I’ve done that includes Ursula K. Le Guin.

We may be getting ready to bid her physicality adieu; but, her Spirit will continue to inhabit this planet, in her writings.

And, an article in The Guardian lets us know there are new collections of her work.

From that article:

“Fortunately for readers, two new books debuted…The Unreal and the Real and The Found and the Lost (both by Saga Press). The Complete Orsinia (Library of America) was released 6 September and Words are My Matter (Small Beer Press) was released 19 September.”

The first three books are her fiction, the last non-fiction…

And, considering the genre of literary fiction (which seems to have clung to realism…):

“‘Realism is a genre – a very rich one, that gave us and continues to give us lots of great fiction’, the 86-year-old writer told the Guardian. ‘But by making that one genre the standard of quality, by limiting literature to it, we were leaving too much serious writing out of serious consideration. Too many imaginative babies were going out with the bathwater. Too many critics and teachers ignored – were ignorant of – any kind of fiction but realism.’”

Commenting on her “giving up on writing novels”:

“As I got up in my 70s, stories began coming to me more and more rarely. I finished the novel Lavinia at 78. I no longer have the stamina to undertake a new novel, even if I wanted to. So, here I am, an old writer who loves writing – what have I got left to do?”

A quote from Margaret Atwood:

“All her stories are, as she has said, metaphors for the one human story; all her fantastic planets are this one, however disguised…”

And, Le Guin:

“I wish we could all live in a big house with lots of rooms, and windows, and doors, and none of them locked…”

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#Wattpad Expands Reach ~ Attracts #Publishers

I’ve written about my experience with Wattpad a number of times—the Top Tags widget (down a bit in the left side-bar) shows 23 posts (naturally, this one’s there, too…)Wattpad

In fact, I have eleven Wattpad Author Interviews here

I thought it was time for an update on the phenomenon called Wattpad when their blog had a post called, 300 Million Story Uploads and One Big Thanks.

Two excerpts:

“That number [300 million] is more than five times larger than the New York Public Library’s entire catalog and almost double that of the Library of Congress.”

“At Wattpad, we know that everyone has a story to share. It’s why we support over 50 languages and connect storytellers and audiences from virtually every country in the world.”

As a matter of fact, there have been over twice as many readers of my short novel, Notes from An Alien, in the Philippines than in the U.S.A.; plus, it has strong showings in India, the UK, and South Africa (…last count, there were readers in 34 countries…)

A fascinating look into ways Wattpad’s expanding was covered in an article in Publishing PerspectivesCanada’s Wattpad Studios at BEA: A Few Words With Aron Levitz—where it’s said:

“Established authors, of course, have seen value in experimenting with Wattpad, notably Margaret Atwood. More recently, news from The Bookseller’s Charlotte Eyre in London is that British children’s author Jeff Norton has launched a novel, ‘Star Pressed’, on Wattpad. ‘…rather than going down the traditional publishing route, Norton’, Eyre writes, ‘had more than 340,000 reads on Wattpad of an earlier work, ‘Metawars: Fight For the Future’, also published by Hachette.'”

So, they have 45 million monthly readers, loads of writers (at all levels of experience and expertise), and now publishers are urging their authors to serialize backlist books so new ones will sell better

One example of this new trend is detailed in a recent article, again at Publishing PerspectivesMarketing Experiment: A Canadian Publisher Spins an Old Title on a New Platform.

These comments from Dundurn Press‘ publicist Michelle Melski:

“We approached Don Easton about the project, but he immediately jumped on the idea. Since the 10th book in the series is about to come out, ‘A Delicate Matter’, we wanted to do something to mark the occasion and to introduce the Jack Taggart mystery series to new readers.”

“…Don is adding all of the chapters himself. This way he can get to know his readers and respond to their comments. It’s also an interesting experience to have an author get feedback on a book in real time, as someone is reading it.”

“We always encourage our authors to consider using Wattpad as a promotional tool and have posted chapters of books there before, but this is the first time we’re serializing an entire book. Everyone here is excited about the project and we can’t wait to see what we learn at the end of it.”

About all I can add is that I, too, am excited about my project on Wattpad ( 4 books completely uploaded and the most recent book getting a new short story every Saturday you can also read those shorts here every Friday at the Story Bazaar } :-)

The most fascinating thing about Wattpad, to me, is that the readers and writers participating there enjoy the experience for Free

And, finally, a somewhat balanced look at the Wattpad phenomenon
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Author Interview ~ Maaja Wentz

Today’s post makes it 71 author interviews on this blog and 9 Wattpad author interviews

Maaja is a very busy woman so I’m happy to have finally gotten her over here to let you know about a most exciting and humorous book of hers that I was privileged to peruse on Wattpad.

But, there’s more to be said about it and her (plus, some freebie stuff) so let the interview begin!


Maaja WentzSo, Maaja, when did you know you wanted to be a writer? 

First off, I really want to thank you for inviting me to do this interview. You are talking to a writer-in-progress who has always been in love with books and reading. I have had a few things published, and I did win the National Norma Epstein award for my short story You. I have kept a book lover’s blog since 2009, but lately I seem to write more every year. My most recent claim to fame is that I won a Watty award (HQ Love award) for my supernatural thriller, Feeding FrenzyFeeding Frenzy

I was still in elementary school when I wrote my first book of poetry. I didn’t know what a chapbook was; but, I stapled together some pages and decorated the cover with construction paper cut outs, then I filled it with poems. I wrote poetry in high school as well. As an adult my Dionysus poem, Fallow God, appeared in the Urban Green Man Anthology. I’m doing another project starring a Green Man as well, and I’m so excited about the premise; but, for now, it’s top secret.

How do you balance your life as a teacher-librarian and a writer?

As a teacher there are endless opportunities to use your creativity with kids. I’ve written, produced, and directed school plays with names like: Invisible Aliens Stole My Gym Shorts, Ydoru in the Bubble House, and Space Brats! Each show would run an hour and include songs and dance numbers; although, I wouldn’t really call them musicals.

How it worked was, I would write the story in the summer, audition to choose the cast before the December holidays, and then rehearse like crazy from January until the show went on in April. The show would run for maybe three days, with 2 shows a day. I would have two for visiting schools, morning and afternoon, and, on closing night, we would add an evening show for parents. Someday, if I get ambitious, I would love to write a book for teachers on how to write and produce school plays; but, right now I’m too busy editing Feeding Frenzy.

I learned how to do kid shows from a fantastic, award-winning teacher named Mike Taylor who was also a visual artist. He always did artwork for custom shirts for the cast and often incorporated art as well. When I did my show, Mozart’s Mystic Flute, I got an artist friend to design the shirt, which has historically inspired silhouettes of Mozart and his violin facing off against a teenage girl with a Fender Stratocaster.

My last school production was a movie I wrote and shot called The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Cyclone. After I finished the show, to make a souvenir for the actors, I published it through Amazon—my first self-publishing experiment. Of course, I didn’t charge the actors for it, and your readers can have it free as well. Join the Loon Lake Reading Club on my blog and respond to the welcome email, which also includes a free short story.

So, Maaja, what’s your elevator pitch?

“Feeding Frenzy is a supernatural thriller which explores our obsession with food. Sweet but chubby Tonya isn’t privy to her town’s darkest secrets, but when campus is overrun by a deadly obesity epidemic, only she can discover and oppose the hidden mind-controlling entity behind it. Loon Lake is a magical town built on secrets. A mysterious man from her aunt’s past threatens the town and forces Tonya to face some uncomfortable truths.”

On Wattpad I call it “a witch’s brew of intrigue with a dollop of comedy, a teaspoon of romance, and a pinch of horror.” When I showed it to my editor, she said the title reminded her of a bad B-movie, and I think that’s part of its shtick but only a small part. Feeding Frenzy isn’t satire. It’s a young woman’s coming-of-age story as a suspense novel, but it does poke gentle fun at the horror movie genre because the heroine’s new friends, The Digital Ninjas, are obsessed with shooting a campus horror movie. 

How do you approach writing on Wattpad?

I like to write many different kinds of things, from drama and spoken word to short stories to novels. Wattpad was a fantastic opportunity for me, because I’m an idea person. It’s hard for me to stop thinking of ideas for new things to write, but I find editing painful because it brings out all the worst of my self doubt. That’s one reason I like drama so much. You put on a show and you can see the immediate reaction of the audience, then it’s over and you go on to something else. Editing poems and short stories for publication is rewarding but editing a book takes months. I have multiple drawer-novels, abandoned before I learned to edit something long and complex. With my editor’s help, I’m finally getting serious with Feeding Frenzy and learning how to rewrite something that long until it’s the very best it can be.

For me Wattpad was a dare to myself to write publicly and have people read it as I went along. No matter what I produced there would be no hiding it away in a drawer because it wasn’t perfect enough. I drafted the story in a month during NaNoWriMo; although, because it was a Halloween-themed story, I posted the first chapter on October 31. From that point forward I got up at five every morning before going to work so I could write my 2000 words a day, plus polish and post one chapter per week. Looking back at it now I think I must’ve been crazy; but, I’m so glad I did it. Feeding Frenzy is a page turner and so much fun to write because I kept surprising myself as I went along. It was the perfect incentive I needed to finish, too, because Wattpad gave me readers who could interact with the story and ask for more.

Discovering the community of readers and writers on Wattpad has been the most exciting writing I have done in years. I started it as a dare to myself and because Margaret Atwood is on Wattpad; so, I just knew it was for me. Since starting, the community and positive feedback I have received, plus winning the Watty award, convinced me to self-publish. I hired award-winning editor Sandra Kasturi to help me make it the best it can be.

Do you work with collaborators, Maaja?

On Wattpad I have a couple of projects looking for collaborators. One is a non-fiction book called I Wish My Teacher Knew. You don’t have to be a writer to join that one. I am looking for first-hand accounts of what the school system did to help or hinder people’s creativity. Send me a true anecdote about your schooling in an email ( maajawentz [at] gmail [dot] com ) and I will post it as a chapter and credit you for it on Wattpad. I think schools need to be reformed in ways that better respond to student needs and this project is one way I’m gathering research around the question.

The other collaboration project is called Cliffhanger Castle, the first serial anthology of its kind on Wattpad. Imagine a novel where each page-turning chapter is written by a different author who ends their part with a shocking revelation or dire scenario. Chapters are written in the style of individual contributors. So far I have a horror writer, myself, a paranormal writer, a romance author The selection process for contributors is very choosy but, once a writer is “in”, the only rule is to respect the characters and story line that has come before.

A young teen and a university-aged girl must investigate a haunted hotel when the boy’s little sister follows her dog through a hole in the fence and disappears. The story is inspired by the grounds of a real hotel overlooking Lake Ontario. I have included photos, research articles, and ghost sighting attributed to this picturesque cliff side park which has been inhabited since pioneer times. At one point it was an artist’s colony, a military hospital, a posh hotel, an abandoned building full of squatters, and a public statue garden with an outdoor theatre. There is a lot for the imagination to grow on here.

Where can people connect with you?

I would love to connect with people on my blog where I am giving away free copies of my published short story Wild Caving. When you get there just join the Loon Lake Reader’s Club to get free fiction as well as book reviews and a chance to get Feeding Frenzy for a reduced rate as soon as it’s published.

Thanks again, Alex, for letting me do this interview. I really appreciate it.

Oh, my, Maaja, Thank You for such a great interview :-)


And, here’s an omnibus link to all of Maaja Wentz’s Writings… 

If you don’t see a way to comment (or, “reply”) after this post, try up there at the top right…
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Ask This Author Some Questions . . .

Asking authors questions has never been so easy—assuming the author is open to the idea…

GoodReads Ask The Author

Image courtesy of Chris Baker ~

I’m sure readers have questions for authors—about characters, why things happened the way they did, when the next book will be out…

And, authors often have questions for other authors—some exactly the same as other readers—some about specifically Writerly topics—how to, or why to, or when to, or other issues that impact a writer’s life…

It’s one thing to read an author interview or other articles where authors convey information—quite another thing to ask direct and specific questions.

Back in June, I wrote the post, Asking Authors (and Readers) Questions . . .

An excerpt:

“If you could ask Margaret AtwoodKhaled Hosseini, or James Patterson anything, what would it be? Maybe you want to know their writing inspiration, what they read as a guilty pleasure, or you have a burning question about one of their bestsellers. Now’s your chance because these three are among the 54 major authors who are helping us launch an exciting new program on Goodreads—Ask the Author!”

So, since they opened the program up to any Goodreads author, I gave it a try—read that last as “A Big Fail” :-)

I thought I’d activated the Ask The Author program but only succeeded in creating a group I called Ask The Author :-(


I finally figured it all out.


First you have to sign-up as a Goodreads Member (free).

You could stop there and explore all the benefits of the most popular site for Readers…


You could go to my Ask The Author page :-)

I’m open for any and all questions—why I write, how I write, what I read, why I’ve written my books, what’s next…

Be aware, though, if you ask me a question that needs a specific bit of “advice” about writing, I’ll answer it, but in a way that makes you ask yourself a few questions :-)

Also, if you hate Goodreads, just use my email—right down there in Red text…
[Big Secret: I’m working on a permanent Forum for questions, answers, and conversations…]
To Leave A Comment, Use The Link At The Top-Right of The Post :-)
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