Jeff Seymour - Author of Fantasy, Literary Fiction, & c.: May 2012

Mailing List

Thursday, May 31, 2012

For the Locker: Dr. Seuss

After a morning news-a-thon filled mostly with reading retrospectives about Maurice Sendak, I came across this post from an amazing site called Letters of Note that may become part of my daily reading. I am amazed at how very modern 1957 Seuss sounds in his advice and how very pertinent it still seems.

I have often thought that if I find success as an author, I shall get a P.O. box and put its address somewhere online or in my author bios and that I shall endeavor to respond to every handwritten letter that comes to me.

Maybe that's naive and romantic, but I still think it's an ideal worth striving towards.

Hopefully Letters of Note won't mind me reposting their images. Their website is silent on the issue.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

For the Locker: Neil Gaiman on Art

Not much more to say than that, really, other than that this speech is inspiring and interesting, and that the shots of the students remind me that I only graduated from college three years ago. I remember sitting in the audience, sleepless, terrified, and vaguely disappointed, vividly and viscerally. I do not remember a word of any of the speeches given.

Since then, somehow, I have done many enjoyable things. And I have a career that exists at least partly in the arts.

Sometimes I forget what an accomplishment that is.

Friday, May 18, 2012


I am exhausted.

Last week I paddled (well, floated, mostly) down a river in Utah for 45 miles together with 10 other people. We drove four vehicles several hundred miles each way to do it. It was beautiful, but somehow that seems wrong to me.

Since getting back, I have been juggling reading a particularly vexing submission (These, for the record, are the ones that are great in some ways and not-so-great in others, leaving me to try to decide whether I think I can work with the author well enough to create a strong whole. They are not the bad ones. Bad ones are easy) with making up for taking several days off of doing paying work. And I have been looking for a new apartment. I have not been writing much at all.

Somehow a whole week has gone by. I will be gone for much of the next three weeks, with little hope of getting any writing done then, either.

But I have been here.

 And here.
And I have been stealing moments of sleep to re-read Sandman, which feels somehow right and makes me happy.

These are good things, and I shall focus on them while the summer goes by and eventually, my life becomes cold and windy and calmer again in the fall.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Bad Signs in Query Letters

The other week I was rolling through some submissions and noticed the following bad signs in query letters (details fudged to protect the guilty). None of them is enough to make me reject a submission alone, but they're indicative of likely problems in the writing to follow. If you find any of these items in your query, you may want to get a second opinion on your novel from a critical reader before submitting.

1.) "This book can be released as (insert number) books or as one." I want to know that you've thought hard about the structure of your novel and picked the best one for it. This does not convince me of that.

2.) Random punctuation. Learning where colons, commas, semicolons, and other marks go is part of your job.

3.) Boldface. If you don't trust me to find the important elements in your query on my own, how will you trust your reader to do it in your novel?

4.) Repetition ("Dripping with power and wealth, Malcolm has a lot of money and isn't afraid to use it."). Doesn't bode well for same in your novel.

5.) Excessive passive voice. I don't hate passive voice as much as most how-to-write books do, but it has a time and a place, and every sentence in the first paragraph of your query is not it.

6.) "My book is great because it's full of great characters who do great things and have great relationships." If you tell me this rather than show it to me, it bodes poorly for the show vs. tell ratio in your novel.