Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Promote Reading - Break the TV

I love TV. Okay, actually that’s not true. I don’t particularly care for TV. The last two network shows I actually watched with regularity were Moonlighting and Quantum Leap, so I guess you couldn’t really call me any network’s targeted ideal viewer.

But I do love the screen, big and small, and with the advent of VCR’s followed by DVD’s followed by DVR’s, for many a year I have loved my television set. I am a huge movie buff, old and new, and many hours have been spent sitting in front of my tube, being swept away by a great story.

But I love books more. Books allow me to use my creativity to fill in the spaces the author leaves me, to make the stories more personal to me, to let me imagine what a character looks like or feels based on my own personal biases, to get lost in a compelling plot or lyrical prose. Books are, I think, the most personal form of storytelling available.

In this world of 1400+ cable stations, not to mention internet TV viewing and myriad other choices, so many people today take the time to enjoy the simple pleasure of reading. The Washington Post says 1 in 4 American’s didn’t even pick up a book last year.

If you or your family falls into that category, what is one to do?

Break the TV.

Yes, that’s what I said. And it will work.

Don’t believe me?

A few weeks ago, I ran into a 30 year old man I hadn’t seen in quite some time, a good family friend. When he asked what I’d been up to, I told him I’d been writing. He became very animated, telling me how recently he’d began reading again (after more than 10 years of not even sniffing at a book) and then launched into praise for a particular Sci-Fi series he was halfway through. Meaty, 800+ page books for a man I know spends more time in the bar than in the library, and yet here he was (at a bar, yes. What? I can go out now and again, can’t I?) animatedly extolling the virtues of reading.

When I asked him what had started this journey back to books, do you know what he told me?

“Well, my girlfriend left me and she took the TV. I couldn’t afford a new one, so I had to find something else to do.”

So simple. But let’s see another case.

I recently learned that getting rid of the television works on 2 year old boys, too. In our house, I must admit that I’d fallen into the “but it’s educational!” trap, and my toddler was getting a little too much “pre-school on TV”. I really began to feel that if it went on, his imagination development and creativity would suffer. So I put the TV “night night”.

It was hard, at first (although it did produce one very cute moment when I came into the room to see The Boy standing in front of the closed TV cabinet, begging the television to “Get up, TV! Get up!”)

But yesterday, I walked into the bedroom, and there was The Boy, reading aloud (as much as a two year old can) one of his Dr. Seuss books on the floor, his little face alight as he turned the pages…a far cry from the Zombie stare that so accompanied the television watching.

So there you go…it may not be scientific evidence, but it’s true all the same. Break it, take it, or put it “night night”, the best way to promote reading, in my estimation, is to say bye-bye to the TV.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about TV time in your life and family…

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Congratulations MARA Fiction From the Heartland Contest Finalists

This week, my local RWA chapter's contest announced its finalists.

The MARA Fiction From the Heartland contest recognizes the top Ten scores, regardless of category. This year, we had some incredible entries and it was tough, tough competition. It took more than 93% of total points to final in the top ten, so our agent/editor judges should look forward to some stellar submissions!

Six other entries, received at least 90% of total points possible and we thought that deserved some recognition, so we added Honorable Mention finalists as well.

Finalist' entries will go on to an agent and editor, while Honorable Mention Finalists' entries will go only to their respective category editor judge.


Erin Rieber
More Than a Stranger - Historical

Crista McHugh
Tangled Web - Paranormal

Isis Rushdan
Kindred of the Fallen - Paranormal

Diane Burton
The Pilot - Paranormal

Sarah Baker
Saving Captain Brookes - Inspirational

Deborah Gross
Stealing Justice - Romantic Suspense

Sharon Wray
Midnight Guardian - Romantic Suspense

Robin Weaver
Burned Illusions - Romantic Suspense

Rebecca Sampson
Alli’s Playground - Young Adult

Robin Weaver
Deep Speak - Young Adult

Honorable Mention:

Margaret Golla
The Demon Connection - Paranormal

Meredith Conner
Tall, Dark and Furry - Paranormal

Regina Tittel
Abandoned Hearts - Inspirational

Robin Weaver
The Bookstore Connection - Category Romance

Sarah Tormey
Rough Riding Ranger - Category Romance

Shoshana Brown
Squeaky Clean - Young Adult


But also, I want to offer a BIG Congratulations to all who entered. Having entered my share of contests before selling, I know what it's like to put my heart into an entry and wait. I know what it feels like to get dismal scores, to not final, to miss big or to miss finaling by 1 point. I know what it feels like to read judge's comments and wince, or to smack myself for missing this thing or that thing or to smile big because the judge "got me". It takes courage to write and submit something, be it to a contest or to an agent or editor, and each of you should be proud that you put yourselves out there.

Best of Luck to all of our Finalists and Honorable Mention finalists in the Final Round. May the requests abound!

I'd love to hear some of your contest experiences...