Monthly Archives: January 2021

SAVE YOUR DOCUMENTS!

By Rondi Sokoloff Frieder

I started working on this blog a few weeks ago. I picked a topic, made a list of what I wanted to say, did some research, and pounded out a first draft. Then, last Tuesday, I fleshed it out, cut it here and there, and added new content. At the end of my writing session, I saved it to my Desktop and put it in a file in Word. I planned on giving it another read-through on Thursday and posting it on Friday. Everything was right on schedule. Or so I thought.

That same Tuesday night, I took the laptop into our bedroom. Normally, I leave it in the kitchen to charge for the next day. But since I would be skiing on Wednesday with my older son and his friends, I wanted to clear out a few emails before going to bed. It seemed like a good idea. Except for one false move. I put the computer on the nightstand. 

The next morning at breakfast, I opened it up. It was Inauguration Day and I wanted to watch the early morning festivities. Only when I clicked on the start button, nothing happened. The screen was black. Had I really used up a full charge the night before? I didn’t think so. But we needed to get going so I plugged in the computer for another charge and headed to the slopes.

It was a perfect morning – blue sky, fluffy snow, and NO LIFT LINES! Skiing with my son  (who was visiting from New York) was a total delight. After a few hours of enjoying the fresh powder, I went back to the house for lunch. I couldn’t wait to see the swearing in of President Biden and Vice-President Harris. I made a salad, sat down at the kitchen counter, and flipped open the laptop. The screen was still dark. What???? I pressed the “On” button. Nothing. No flashing lights, no chiming boot-up sounds, no sign of life. I picked up my phone and googled “What do I do when my MacBook Air won’t start?” 

I clicked on a video and did everything the guy said: “Press Control/Option/Shift for 7 seconds, press the start button, plug in the charger for 10 more seconds, repeat.” No change. I was beginning to panic so I googled more articles. One stopped me in my tracks. “We’ve bought a baby humidifier for our daughter who lives in our room. And I have my desk with my MacBook nearby. Can this damage my computer?” The answer was a resounding YES!!!!! Alarms began going off in my head. The humidifier in our bedroom was extremely close to the nightstand. Colorado air can be dry, especially in  winter, and I love having hot steam waft around me while I sleep. Unfortunately, this has the opposite effect on a computer.

After blasting the MacBook with a hairdryer and leaving it overnight in an air-tight plastic bag with rice, the possibility of water damage was becoming a serious reality. The next morning, (Thursday) I called Apple Care. “Oh yes,” said Ariana, the cheerful tech-support person. “A humidifier could do that. But don’t worry, I pulled up your account and you have insurance. Would you like to bring it in today? I have an appointment near your zip code at 5:15.” Except the zip code she was referring to was attached to my Denver address. I was in the mountains. “Sure,” I said. “I’ll drive down.” That’s when I remembered the blog. I always back up my longer projects on the Cloud and save them to a flash drive. But this was a shorter piece and it was going to be posted and saved on the Internet in only a few days. I had NOT backed it up. It was most likely gone. 

I drove down to Denver for my appointment at the Park Meadows Mall. Whoa, talk about culture shock. I hadn’t been inside a mall in close to a year. And the Apple Store I remembered no longer existed. After waiting on a socially distanced circle in the hall, I was ushered into a narrow room of white counters with plexiglass coverings and assigned to counter #4. The guy behind the plexiglass had a microphone wrapped around his neck and spoke to me through the speaker on my side of the partition. He scanned the appointment barcode on my phone. “Water damage, right?”  I nodded, feeling like I was in a hospital emergency room. “Well, as you can see, this isn’t a typical store right now. I’ll need to send the laptop out to the diagnosticians. They’ll call you with their findings within 24 hours. Is that alright?” I nodded again, signed something, and left feeling like I had just dropped my child off at preschool for the first time.

The tech assigned to my case called the next morning. “There’s a lot of damage, but we can fix it. Should be ready in four or five days.” Five days? I took a deep breath. “Okay,” I said. “By the way, do you think any of my files can be saved?” There was  a brief silence on the other end. “Hmm, probably not. You could pay extra for a data retrieval, but that will take longer.” “Oh,” I said. “Never mind.”

Part of me was relieved. My beloved MacBook Air could be fixed. And I had insurance, although there is a somewhat substantial deductible with this amount of damage. Still, I could carry on for a week with my old computer, even if it only holds a charge for two hours and heats up like a stovetop. But it wasn’t as bad as I had originally thought. Still, I was unnerved. Finally, the truth dawned on me. I was, like most of us, emotionally and physically attached to my electronic devices. And the main source of this affection was that gorgeous rose-gold MacBook Air.

My younger son would call this a “first world problem.” He would also tell me that I should be using GoogleDocs (which I am using right now) for all my writing. It automatically saves everything. Granted, my three novels and assorted picture book manuscripts are saved on flash drives, the Cloud, Scrivener, and PRINTED OUT and stored in binders. They have also been emailed to critique partners. But I was still upset about the lost blog and began moaning to my always supportive husband. He smiled and said, “Why don’t you write something about not putting a computer near a humidifier?” I laughed. But after speaking with a fellow writer who said, “That’s a really important topic. I don’t back up everything.” I decided to go for it. So here’s my advice if you haven’t gotten it already … BACK EVERYTHING UP ALL THE TIME. Seriously, even your smallest documents. And although I know it goes without saying-   KEEP YOUR COMPUTER AWAY FROM A HUMIDIFIER! 

Update: The computer has been repaired and no files were lost. Whoop, Whoop!

 

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Filed under Back up your documents, Computer water damage, Rondi Frieder, Uncategorized

Mentor Texts and Comp Titles

By Susan Wroble

The Story Spinners critique group has a long tradition of having retreats. In 2020, when Covid-19 made meeting in person impossible, we weren’t willing to abandon the tradition. We each picked a topic to present to the others in our first (and perhaps only) virtual format. I choose a topic I needed to learn more about—mentor texts and comp titles.

Author Tara Luebbe defined the difference between mentor text and comp titles in her blogpost for SCBWI Southern California’s Kite Tails last January. The same book might be both a mentor text and a comp—the difference is in how you use it.

 

MENTOR TEXTS COMP TITLES
Are all about… Craft Sales
Can be in… Any genre Same genre as your work
Published… At any time Within the past five years
Serves as a… Template A way to “get” your story

 

Mentor texts are the books that you use to learn how to do something. Perhaps you need help on POV, or pacing, or story arc. Mentor texts are the books you use as guides to learn a writing skill. In contrast, comp titles are books that show where your story belongs in the market. They help identify the target audience and where your book will fit on the shelves.

How to Find Them: So now that you know the difference, how do you find mentor texts and comp titles? Hint: the answer is not to start by broadcasting for help on social media!

To start, spend some type analyzing what you need before you begin the search. For mentor texts, are you looking for help with the humor, with rhymes, with a character arc…? For comp titles, what are the identifying features of your manuscript—its genre, subject matter, formats, type of writing, and tone?

Now that you know what you are looking for, you can begin finding the books. While the way you use mentor texts and comp titles is very different, the process of finding them is similar. Some of the common ways to search include:

  • Children’s Librarians
  • Booksellers
  • Goodreads
  • Amazon, especially the features
    • “Customers who viewed this also viewed”
    • “Sponsored products related to this item”
  • Pinterest lists (these are surprisingly helpful), and
  • ReFoReMo lists (my favorite for picture book comps!)

Using the ReFoReMo Lists:

If you are writing picture books, I highly recommend the free “Reading for Research Month” held each year in March. This month-long picture book study was founded to help PB writers understand the form, market and craft of writing through the reading and study of current picture books. Registration for ReFoReMo typically opens in mid-to-late February, and one of the many benefits of ReFoReMo is their private Facebook group. Searchable lists—perfect for finding mentor texts and comp titles—are in the lists section of the ReFoReMo Facebook files.

Here’s an example of how to use the files: My work-in-progress WHAT’S IN YOUR CAULDRON? is a rhyming and lyrical nonfiction picture book with transformational change (witches to healers). Sometimes, the categories in mentor texts and comp titles will overlap. I might want to look at rhyming books for both mentor texts and comp titles.

I start by going to Facebook, and the ReFoReMo Page:

On the left, near the bottom of the list, you will see “Files.” Click on that. You get a (searchable!) long list, that includes things like:

  • How-to
  • Rule Breakers
  • Cumulative Structure
  • Unexpected Twists
  • Longer PBs
  • Universal Themes
  • Tough Topics
  • Wordless
  • Contradictions in Text vs Illustrations
  • Free Verse
  • Grief and Loss

From here, I will search for rhyming texts. “Rhyming” gets me nothing, but “Rhyme” leads me to this file: Rhymers

From this list, I might look at Elli Woollard’s THE DRAGON AND THE NIBBLESOME KNIGHT. The copyright date of 2016 means I could use this as a comp title, as it has been published within the past five years. Heading over to Amazon, I can use the “Look Inside” feature (it’s not on all books, but if it is there, it is just above the picture of the book cover). Like my work-in-progress, I can see that THE DRAGON AND THE NIBBLESOME KNIGHT is written in rhyming couplets. But the tone, the meter, and the arc are very too different; it is not a good mentor text in any of those areas. However, it might be a good comp.

A further search on THE DRAGON AND THE NIBBLESOME KNIGHT gets me a full reading via YouTube, and I can see that the dragon and knight go from being enemies to being friends. The combination of both a structural match (rhyming) and a thematic match (transformational change) makes this a potential comp title for my manuscript.

Success! And I hope that this post brings you some understanding and success in your search for mentor texts and comp titles as well.

 

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Filed under Revision process, Susan Wroble, Uncategorized