Monday, October 20, 2008

Reading, Writing Rachel on Reading and Writing...and Also Some Rachel

Okay, so let's get my shameless self-promotion out of the way first, shall we?

First off, since it's in Publisher's Lunch now, I guess it's safe to announce my foreign sales all officially here! So here's the listing from Pub Lunch:

"Foreign rights to Rachel Hawkins's DEMONGLASS, to Editions Albin Michel in France, by Michele Kanonidis at La Nouvelle Agence; to Record in Brazil; and Edicoes Gailivro in Portugal, by Elizabeth Atkins at ACER, on behalf of Holly Root and Farley Chase at the Waxman Literary Agency."

Woo-hoo! France, Brazil, and Portugal, my new favorite countries ev-ah! ;) And, I have to say, filling out a Portuguese tax form was quite the strange experience. I called The Husband and said, "Um... I never at any point in my life thought I'd have to fill out a Potuguese tax form. Life is weird."

There are some other foreign sales in the works right now, too, so hopefully I'll be able to post about those soon and add some more countries to my These Countries RULE Roster.

Also, I'm posting about my Top 10 Favorite YA Novels over at 2010: A Book Odyssey, so please hop over there for more of my signature EXCESSIVE CAPITALIZATION and raving about books that are insane and therefore awesome to me.

And, in Rebel Belle news, we're better. I gave her some extra attention/editing, and she's decided to forgive me. Now hopefull, I can get her finished by December, as that is my goal.

Okay, so last week, I got to go give a talk at Auburn University- convenient, since I live in Auburn now- to undecided Liberal Arts majors about why I became an English major, and what I have done with said degree. It was a lot of fun, and the kids had some great questions, like, "Can you have an actual career as a writer?" (answer: Yep, but it's not a given.) and "What are the best and worst things about being a writer?" (Answer: Best: Being your own boss, doing what you love, etc. Worst: No benefits, mutha-effin' self-employment taxes.) And then of course, "Do you have to major in English to be a writer?"

And that really got me thinking.

I mean, obviously, the answer is no. People with all sorts of degrees, from business to math to underwater basket-weaving, become writers. Successful writers, at that! Some susper successful writers don't have any degrees at all. So, no, you don't have to have a degree in English to be a writer.

But, to quite Stephen King in On Writing, it doesn't hurt.

And I think it's actaully more useful, if you are going to get an English degree, to focus on literature instead of creative writing. I took creative writing classes in college, and I had a wonderful teacher, Judy Troy (who was also Meg Cabot's writing teacher when she was at Indiana! How cool is that!), but I think my literature courses are where I really learned story structure and how to edit, and where I developed an ear for narrative flow. Now, some of my road to publication, as you'll recall, was solely luck, Right place, right time, all that. But I definitely think that the book itself was easier to write because of my background in English, as well as my experiences as a teacher. I graded enough crappy writing in my time (and some ridiculously good, I-think-I-might-cry-this-is-so-excellent writing as well) to be pretty ruthless with my red pen, and that translated to my own writing. My inner editor was pretty well honed.

Now let's talk about reading. One thing that always surprises me about some aspiring writers (usually the really young ones!) is that they say things like, "Well, I'm not majoring in English because I don't really like to read, but I totally wanna be the next Stephenie Meyer!"

Well, guess what? Stephenie Meyer has an English degree. And her books may be about teenage vampires and what have you, but they have pretty literary influences (Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, The Freakin' Merchant of Venice...)Like I said in my talk, I may not be writing the Great American Novel, but I've read lots of Great American (and British) novels. And you can't be a writer if you're not a reader. Period.

There's a lot more I could say about this, but I have a fever and my Top Ten List sucked all the bloggy goodness from me. So I'll turn it over yo you. What do you think? Do any of you readers who a are writers have English degrees? Do you think it helped?


December said...

Portuguese wine is the bomb-diggity. At a wine tasting (ha - that sounds classier then it was. We were sitting around drinking.) I scribbled "I'M MOVING TO PORTUGAL TOMORROW" in the wine journal. In Drunken script.
And I've been a smitten-kitten ever since

Rachel Hawkins said...

December: Ah! YET ANOTHER reason to love Portugal! I'm gonna have to get me some Portuguese wine, then!

Amie Stuart said...

Didn't major in English but one of my fave classes was Ethnic American Women Writers--very eye-opening!

I was an Anthropology major who also loved criminal justice and history and later went on to ... drop out. *ggg*

Carrie Harris said...

Yeah, I've got a bachelor's in English Lit. And I promptly went back to school for a masters in statistics, because I couldn't get a job except for at McDonalds.

Sad but very true. Although now it's absolutely useful. I've read some of the best literature the world has to offer. And also some of the boringest, but that's okay. ;)

Maureen Lipinski said...

I started out as an English major before quickly realizing 4 years of reading required English literature would probably kill me.

So I majored in psych instead. And, to be honest, I think that's one of the most perfect majors for aspiring writers. (Also helps you diagnose crazy family members! Everybody wins!)

But I still think real-life experiences, hands-down, are the most important for a writer.

cindy said...

how totally awesome! i'm so happy for you AND jealous! =D go rachel!!

Lisa and Laura said...

Congratulations on all the sales! My sister and I have been following your successes and love reading all of the latest.

And yes, I'm a writer and an English Lit Major. Of course, my dad also made me major in business so I'd eventually be "gainfully employed," so not sure if that really counts?

Prince Balthazar said...

The foreign contracts stuff must be so weird and cool.Congrats.

I wasn't an English major. Heck, I didn't even go to college. I enrolled in the University of Life, where I earned a degree in drinking, the arts and traveling to exotic lands.

But, I did take an interest in English from the time I was a wee prince.It was always my favorite subject and I excelled at it.