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Latinidad – 2/12: Book Reviewing

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    Latinidad – 2/12: Book Reviewing Contents: 1. Saludos 2. Q&A: Mayra Calvani 3. Workshops: Unicorn Writers Conference 4. Resources: Cosmo Latina Magazine
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 10, 2012
      Latinidad – 2/12: Book Reviewing

      1. Saludos
      2. Q&A: Mayra Calvani
      3. Workshops: Unicorn Writers' Conference
      4. Resources: Cosmo Latina Magazine Seeks Submissions

      "Marcela Landres has been instrumental in me getting from
      `aspiring' to `published' writer."
      —Charles Rice-Gonzalez, author of Chulito

      Ready to work with a professional editor? Visit
      1. Saludos

      Every year the space devoted to book reviews in magazines and newspapers
      seems to shrink while the number of books published explodes. More than
      ever, good reviewers are needed to perform the critically important task of
      spotlighting worthy books, thereby connecting writers to readers. While
      reviewing is rarely lucrative, it offers many benefits to writers, especially
      those seeking publication of their own books. To learn more, read this
      month's Q&A with Mayra Calvani, author of the authoritative and
      comprehensive The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing.

      Helping Latinos get published,
      Marcela Landres

      2. Q&A

      A native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction
      for children and adults. She's had over 300 stories, articles, interviews, and
      reviews published both online and in print, in publications such as The
      Writer, Writer's Journal, Acentos Review, Bloomsbury Review, Mosaic, and
      Multicultural Review, among many others. A reviewer for more than a
      decade, she now offers numerous book reviewing workshops online. She
      also offers workshops on the art of picture book writing. She's represented
      by Mansion Street Literary and Savvy Literary. Visit her website at

      Q: How can published authors benefit from writing reviews?
      A: If you're an author or your goal is to become one, the benefits of book
      reviewing are enormous:

      You learn about the craft of writing because you get to identify both the
      weaknesses and strengths of a book. You learn what works and what
      doesn't, and eventually you become more apt in avoiding amateurish
      mistakes when you write your own books. You can do this because you're
      able to look at someone else's book objectively, something that it's hard
      to do with your own writing. In this sense, reviewing can make you a
      better writer and a better judge of literature. This comes very handy if
      you belong to a critique group or serve as judge at contests.

      Your writing becomes easier and better. Reviewing is writing, after all, and
      the more you write, the better it gets. Reviewing helps to hone your skills
      as a word builder.

      You become familiar with publishers and the type of books they publish. This
      is especially helpful if you review in the genre that you write in and if you're
      looking for places to submit your work.

      You become familiar with agents and the type of books they like to represent.
      How do you know this? Most authors thank their agents in the
      acknowledgements page.

      You develop an online presence, a platform. If you have an attractive blog
      where you post honest, intelligently written reviews, eventually you'll build
      a good reputation as a serious reviewer and readers, publishers, authors,
      and publicists will want to become your followers. Having lots of followers will
      instantly make you more attractive in the eyes of a publisher when you submit
      your book for consideration.

      Q: Which newbie mistakes should aspiring reviewers avoid?
      A: Giving away spoilers. Nobody likes to be told the ending of a movie before
      having watched it. The same thing is valid for a book. If you give spoilers in
      your review, not only do you lessen the reader's reading experience but you
      also risk being sued by the publisher or author.

      Using clichés. Stay away from clichés like "A real page-turner!"
      "Un-put-down-able!" It's a pity, but even big newspaper reviewers
      sometimes use these expressions. You see them on the back of paperbacks
      all the time.

      Using the past tense. Be advised that the most commonly preferred tense
      when writing a review is the present. Past tense is okay in the evaluation if
      the reviewer uses first person.

      Redundancies. Have a thesaurus handy and don't use the word `book' a
      hundred times in your review. Replace it with novel, story, narrative, tale,
      etc. The same rule applies for adjectives you use in your review.

      Q: Alternatively, what top 3 tips should fledging reviewers embrace?
      A: Be honest. Honesty is what defines your trade. Without it, you're doing
      nothing but selling copy. When you give facile praise or sugar-coat a book,
      sooner or later readers will take you for what you are: a phony.

      Be tactful. Just as honesty is important, so is tact. There's no need to be harsh
      or mean. A tactfully written, well-meant negative review should offer the
      author insight into what is wrong with the book. Instead of saying, "This is a
      terrible novel!" say, "This book didn't work for me for the following reasons . . ."

      Focus on the evaluation, not on the summary. Some fledgling reviewers write a
      long blurb of the book and a very short evaluation—or worse, completely leave
      it out. The evaluation is the most important part of a review. A summary of the
      plot is not an evaluation. Saying, "I really liked this book" is not an evaluation.
      The evaluation tells the reader what is good and bad about the book, and
      whether or not it is worth buying. The blurb is the easy part. The evaluation is
      the hard part because it takes keen perception and articulation.

      Q: Do Latino book reviewers face particular challenges or opportunities?
      A: I don't think so. The same rules of review writing apply to Latinos. What I'd
      like to see are more Latino book bloggers writing reviews of Latino books. I
      don't see too many Latino review sites out there. It's a pity, because I think
      Latino literature could really profit from more exposure. I've come across
      several Latino entertainment online sites that don't even have book review

      Q: Other than your superb guide, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing, what
      other resources do you recommend to folks who want to learn more about
      becoming book reviewers?
      A: Thanks for your kind words about my book! Here are a few books related to
      book reviewing (there aren't many):

      Faint Praise: The Plight of Book Reviewing in America, by Gail Pool
      Book reviewing, by Sylvia E. Kamerman
      From Cover to Cover: Evaluating and Reviewing Children's Books, by
      Kathleen T. Horning

      Then there's the National Book Critics Circle, http://bookcritics.org/

      I also have a free e-book, Reviewers Talk about Their Craft, a series of
      interviews I conducted with about 25 reviewers (including Gail Pool), for
      people who join my mailing list at http://mayracalvani.com/.

      And, of course, read reviews. Read different types of reviews both in print and
      online to get a feel of what a review should be like. Soon you'll be able to
      differentiate the well-written reviews from the mediocre, and you'll be able
      to decide the type of reviews you'd like to write.

      Q: Do you have upcoming projects that my readers should have on their radar?
      A: I have a nonfiction proposal (Latina Authors and Their Muses), a
      middle-grade novel, and a picture book manuscript doing the editor roundups.

      As far as writing, I'm currently working on a YA novel, the first of a 4-book
      romance fantasy series—and no, it isn't about vampires, werewolves, angels,
      fairies, or witches. LOL. I'm incredibly excited about this novel and hope to
      finish it by the end of spring. Then I have to prepare the proposal. My goal is
      to sell the series based on the first book and outlines of the next three. It's
      an ambitious project, so we'll see what happens!

      As far as workshops, I have two coming up at SavvyAuthors.com, one on
      reviewing and another one on writing picture books. More information can
      be found here:


      I also offer these workshops individually. Details can be found on my
      website, http://mayracalvani.com/

      3. Workshops

      Before You Send It Out Workshop/1-on-1 Manuscript Reviews


      Before You Send It Out Workshop
      Agents and editors don't have time to read entire manuscripts. So how do
      they choose which writers they want to work with? Proposals. Regardless of
      whether you have a book for adults or children, in fiction or nonfiction, you
      need a strong proposal. But while many writers invest a significant amount
      of time, energy, and money in crafting their manuscripts, few know how to
      compose a proper proposal. In this class, you will learn:

      * Why 90% of submissions are rejected based on the cover letter alone
      * The single most reliable—and free!—resource for finding a good agent
      * Three common, yet easily avoidable, mistakes writers make
      * A proposal's true purpose (hint: it's not to demonstrate talent)

      1-on-1 Manuscript Reviews
      Marcela Landres will read (but not edit) a sample of your work, then meet with
      you for a one-on-one, 30-minute session. SPACE IS LIMITED.

      WHEN: 4/28, 10:15 a.m. – 11:15 a.m./ 4/28, by appointment

      WHERE: Unicorn Writers' Conference, Saint Clements Castle, 1931
      Portland-Cobalt Rd., Portland CT, 06480

      REGISTER: http://www.unicornwritersconference.com/

      List of upcoming workshops:

      4. Resources

      "I read How Editors Think in one sitting and was engaged from beginning to
      end. It is well written, highly informative, and humorous—I found myself
      laughing out-loud in a few spots! Thanks for sharing the secrets of the trade."
      —Mayra Lazara Dole, author of Down to the Bone

      Inspired by my experience as a former Simon & Schuster editor, How Editors
      Think: The Real Reason They Rejected You reveals what it really takes to get
      published. For more information, visit:
      Early Bird Deadline: February 29
      Deadline: March 31
      The Hudson Prize seeks unpublished collections of short stories or
      poems. The winner will be published by Black Lawrence Press and
      receive a $1,000 cash award. For more information, visit
      Application Deadline: March 1
      Dates: August 15-25
      The Bread Loaf Writers' Conference includes lectures, craft classes,
      meetings with editors and agents, readings by faculty and guests, and
      workshops in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. Writers who have
      attended in the past include Toni Morrison, Walter Mosley, and Julia
      Alvarez. Financial aid is available. For more information, visit
      Date: March 2
      Tarcher/Penguin and Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way, are seeking
      undiscovered writing talent. This competition is open to novel and
      novella-length fiction as well as narrative nonfiction. For more information,
      visit http://www.tarchertopartist.com/writing-competition-details/
      Application Deadline: March 19
      Dates: June 17 to July 27
      The Columbia Publishing Course offers training for careers as editors,
      literary agents, publishers, designers, publicists and more. Graduates can
      be found in every kind of job at major publishing houses. Financial aid is
      available. For more information, visit http://tinyurl.com/27nglpy
      Date: March 31
      If you're serious about self-publishing—whether you have one book, plan to
      grow into a multi-title micro publisher, or hope your sales will get you a
      traditional book deal later on—the Self-Publishing Success Intensive will
      help you achieve your dreams. For more information, visit
      Deadline: April 1
      Kweli, a literary journal by and for writers of color, pays the writers whose
      work it publishes. They seeks stories, essays, and poems inspired or
      informed by the following topics: Celebration of Mothers, Gay Pride,
      Travel/Global, Blue Collar/Labor. For more information, visit
      Deadline: April 15
      Offers residencies to writers of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction.
      Past attendees have included Pulitzer and National Book Award winners;
      some writers who have worked at the Colony are Oscar Hijuelos, Angie
      Cruz, and Alice Walker. For more information, visit
      Cosmo Latina seeks: 1. Your wildest sex fantasies. Have you ever wanted to
      do something so bad it consumed you? And then actually made it happen?
      Yes, you can be anonymous. 2. Sh*t my mami says. Remember all the funny,
      outrageous things your Mami has been saying to you all your life? Now's your
      chance to get even. Share her worst quotes on everything from men to
      fashion. This can also be anonymous. 3. Most awkward party fouls and
      hangover cures. What's the worst thing you've ever done at a Cinco de
      Mayo bash? What weird Latin-American dishes do you swear cure your
      hangover? Please submit all ideas to Editor-in-Chief Michelle Herrera
      Mulligan, mmulligan@...
      Written by Drs. Rosa Gil and Carmen Vazquez, The Maria Paradox is a unique
      self-help guide for Hispanic women and the men who love them. The
      authors challenge the machismo-reinforcing idea of "marianismo," a
      centuries-old belief system that in effect tells Latinas: "Don't forget a
      woman's subservient place; never put your own needs first; sex is for
      making babies." Filled with self-help exercises, this clearly written manual
      offers practical advice on how to build support networks, overcome
      passivity, forge career paths, change or get out of abusive relationships,
      and increase sexual fulfillment. Available for sale at all major online retailers.
      Bethany has hightailed it from the Big Apple to Aussieland where she
      basks in the breathtaking scenery and relishes her newfound baking
      success. If only she could whip up a recipe for herself that helps her learn
      to trust men. For more information about A Safe Love by Eva Maria
      Rodriguez-Marienchild, visit http://tinyurl.com/6m4qdzj
      Please forward Latinidad® widely.
      For more resources, visit http://www.marcelalandres.com/resources.html
      Has Latinidad® been of help to you? E-mail your success stories to
      Want to see your announcement in an upcoming issue of Latinidad®?
      E-mail your postings to marcelalandres@...
      You are welcome to reprint part or all of this ezine; please credit
      Latinidad® and include a link to http://www.marcelalandres.com/
      Visit http://groups.yahoo.com/group/marcelalandres/

      "By and large, the critics and readers gave me an affirmed sense of my
      identity as a writer. You might know this within yourself, but to have it
      affirmed by others is of utmost importance. Writing is, after all, a form of
      —Ralph Ellison

      Latinidad® © 2003 by Marcela Landres

      Marcela Landres
      Author of the e-book "How Editors Think: The Real Reason They Rejected You"
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