Wednesday WOLF - Origins of Textspeak

I've got a collection of random information in my brain that makes me an awesome Trivial Pursuit partner, but is completely useless when it comes to real world application. Like say, job applications. I thought I'd share some of this random crap with you in the form of another acronym-ific series. I give you - Word Origins from Left Field - that's right, the WOLF. Er... ignore the fact that the "from" doesn't fit.

Despite a general uproar about the degradation of our language, I don't know anyone who doesn't use text speak - whether typing or verbally. Although I still refuse to LOL or OMG I am very guilty of the b/c, the w/ and the b/f. For example, I can't do anything w/ you Friday b/c I'll be w/ the b/f.

But did you know that people were using something eerily resembling text speak as early as the 19th century? It seems that the East Coast was the place to say "SP" if you wanted to indicate that something was small potatoes, or even "TBFTB" to say someone was too big for their britches.

This might seem hard to believe, but take into consideration the oft-used worldwide expression "OK." That lovely bit of speech originated in Boston in 1839, as a stand-in for saying something was all-correct. So shouldn't it be "AC?" Maybe, but just like how today's business like to misspell words for attention (think Kwik-E-Mart), those Bostonians felt like pushing the enveloped a little and saying "OK" instead.

OK may have faded into obscurity, but it got a boost from Martin Van Buren when he ran for re-election in 1840. Van Buren, a native of Kinderhook, NY, was often referred to as "Old Kinderhook." He adopted the abbreviated version of his nickname to indicate that he was all-correct.

Olivia Cole On Writing Fearlessly

I'm lucky (or cunning) enough to have lured yet another successful writer over to my blog for an SAT- Successful Author Talk. SAT authors have conquered the query, slain the synopsis and attained the pinnacle of published. How'd they do it? Let's ask 'em!


Today's guest for the SAT (Successful Author Talk) is Olivia Cole, author of PANTHER IN THE HIVE, which as released in 2014. Olivia is a published poet and nonfiction writer who has been a storyteller since birth.

Are you a Planner or Pantster?

I’m a Planner who often goes off-plan halfway through said plan. That said, I don’t plan extensively. I like to know where I’m going and will sketch out an idea of what the path looks like, but if I feel the story is leading me in another direction midway through, I have no problem letting my pants lead me.

How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?

The longest it’s taken me is a 13 months. I wrote a young adult novel in 3.5 months earlier this year. It really depends on how inspired I am, if I’m simultaneously revising another project, and how much patience my husband has at the time.

Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi tasker?

I multi-task. This didn’t used to be the case: I could only do one project at a time to avoid the risk of letting the voice of one influence another. For whatever reason, I’m able to compartmentalize a little more successfully now.

Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?

Not that I can think of. Writing has always been the place where I feel most fearless.

How many trunked books did you have before you were agented?

Not exactly trunked, but one. Two, if you count that book’s sequel, which I was working on when I found my agent. By the time I was agented, though, I had decided to self-publish that series and I’m very glad I made that decision. I am Gollum about the Tasha Trilogy.

Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?

Sort of. I started a manuscript and got 70 pages in when I realized the story I had set out to tell had completely transformed ¬– for the better, I would say. So I scrapped it all and started over: same character, very different story. I can’t imagine doing that five years ago: “but 70 pages!” I can hear myself whining. 70 pages is nothing if it means doing the story justice.

Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them?  

Regina Brooks of Serendipity is my agent, and while I met her at BEA in 2012 or 2013, she wasn’t interested in my first project (Book 1 in the trilogy I mentioned above). It wasn’t until 2015 when I won her agency’s Discovery Contest that we connected again. She believed the book that I submitted was publishable, and so she offered me representation from there. 

How long did you query before landing your agent? 

I started querying in 2012 when I was still seeking representation for Panther in the Hive. I sent out maybe 30 queries over the next two years. I wasn’t very good at it. 

Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?

This I can’t help you with. I will say that I think some people’s skills (and story) lend themselves well to querying. This was not true for me. If you’re stuck in query hell, I highly recommend getting out of the hobbit hole and going to conferences/events to meet agents and other writers. I met another agent at the Midwest Writers Workshop who probably would have become My Agent if Regina hadn’t offered representation first. I’ve had great conversations with agents at other conferences as well. Querying isn’t for everyone.

How much input do you have on cover art?

So far HarperCollins has been very good about asking for ideas and recommendations from me. I’ve been lucky in the fact that my editor and I have very similar tastes in what we appreciate in covers, so while it does feel like a dialogue, I also trust them to make good decisions. 

What's something you learned from the process that surprised you?

How chill everything is! I am a deadline-oriented writer, so perhaps this would be different if I had trouble getting things in on time, but the flow of things is very relaxed. This is also because publishing is a grand machine in which things are planned far, far in advance. It feels almost like dealing with the Oracle in the Matrix: everything is pre-determined as far as pacing, so avoid black cats and keep moving forward.

How much of your own marketing do you?  

Since we’re pre-publication, I’m currently doing my own marketing, but that will change when we get closer to launch. And that’s if you can call what I do now “marketing.” I tweet religiously as @RantingOwl, and while I once blogged religiously, I’ve cooled off to focus on my fiction.

When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?

I would say you should be working before. Like it or not, publishers are interested in what kind of following you have and it can help them envision an audience for your work.

Do you think social media helps build your readership?

Yes. So many of my readers come from Twitter. People will like what I tweet about X topic, and then reply saying, “I saw you’re an author: where can I get your book?” While this doesn’t happen every day, it definitely happens. In any case, the function of social networking—online and offline—is mixing with strangers and discussing your life, your work, etc. Twitter is just that: some of those strangers will be intrigued and buy my books. Some will stick around to see if they care enough to do so later. Either way, it’s fun. (Sometimes.)

Portrait Of The Author At Seven

Last week I told you about an experience I had as a budding author in junior high, and how my life came full circle in November as I returned to Atlanta to participate in the NCTE conference - the same organization that gave me one of my first writing awards at the age of fourteen. This week, fellow author and Edgar-nominee Matthew Baker (IF YOU FIND THIS) is hosting my earliest piece of writing to achieve recognition.

My 2nd grade teacher was one of my favorites - in fact, she's still substituting at the school and spotted a typo in IN A HANDFUL OF DUST, which made me just put my head down on my desk as if it was lights out / time out.

She was a big supporter of creativity and one of the things that we did in her class year-round was write our own books. We gave them "hardcovers" of cardboard and choose our cover design from a box of Contac paper... and then (unbelievably) we were given a needle and thread to bind them. During any free time if you felt like writing a book you were encouraged to do it, and I have a plastic container in the attic full of stories by young Mindy.

My teacher spotted me writing whenever I could, so she told me to pick what I thought was my best book and she would enter it into the Young Authors Competition.

I can't say for sure whether it was a contest, a conference, or a workshop. All I know is that I made it. So one Saturday I got up early, went somewhere (I don't know where), and spent the day with a bunch of other kids whose work had been chosen. I met either Byrd Baylor or Peter Parnell (I can't remember which one it was, I just remember this book), and someone had brought a bunch of desert animals for us to touch.

At one point we were put into groups and asked to share our books with one another. This is the moment that has remained clear to me right up to the present day. Each kid read their book out loud, and I thought every single one of them was better than mine. I remember my confidence slipping away as their talent outshone my own. I could tell you to this day what every one of their books was about.

Because I thought they were better writers than I was.

That still happens. Constantly. The curse of being both a writer and a reader is that you can hardly call reading a pleasure activity any longer. If you read something that you think is poorly done yet has sold many more copies than your own work, you have to wonder what they are doing right that you aren't. If you read something truly amazing you are transported as a reader, but the writer side of you plummets into a darkness because you don't think you will ever be as good as they are.

However, I think both experiences are humbling - and being humbled is a good thing for anyone. It makes you try harder, do better, work longer, push forward. If I ever believe that I am the best then I will stop improving, and I will have failed my readers.

I think about that Young Authors gathering quite often, and sometimes I wonder where those other kids in my group ended up. Not because I want proof that I was, indeed, better than them and have made a career out of writing, but because they were good, and I'd like to see what they are doing with their craft now. Because I guarantee you they still write.

My story LISSSSSSS (the trademark sound my fictitious pet dragon makes), is up on Matthew's site today, complete with my original artwork.

Oh, and yeah - the other kids had better illustrations, too.