Thursday, August 30, 2012
Painful admission: before I even realized The Netherlands and Holland were the same country, I minored in art history in college. The Dutch Masters were my favorite painters even more than the masters of the Italian Renaissance.
I still believe that with the exception of Michaelangelo, there has never been a greater artist in the world than Rembrandt Harmenzoon van Rijn. Again, I may be a teensy bit biased here since my husband is a descendant of (or at least a distant relative of) the world-famous Golden Age master. My family happens to live near Rembrandt's birthplace of Leiden. The local folks, while proud of their amazing painter who skyrocketed into worldwide fame before the age of Twitter, still to this day seem to take it all in stride.
The building that houses the museum is more than 200 years old (ancient to us Americans!) The museum structure has become such a beloved fixture of the old city of Amsterdam that if it were ever to be removed, the city would never be the same. Somewhere in 2000, it was decided that it was necessary for the building to undergo a massive reconstruction where it has remained for more than a decade.
In spite of the remodeling and reconstruction, the museum has remained opened to its nearly 1,200,000 visitors a year. The grand re-opening is slated to take place somewhere in 2013 with (hopefully) yours truly somewhere near the front of the line.
Along with Rembrandt's famous masterpiece The Nightwatch, visitors can view some of the most magnificent pieces created by Johannes Vermeer, Frans Hals, Jan Steen, and many, many others all combined to create a staggering collection of 900,000 (!) pieces of art.
If you are planning a trip to the Netherlands in 2013, make sure you make time to visit this amazing piece of Dutch history. If you are only passing through The Netherlands, you can see an abbreviated version of the museum at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.
Official web site of the Rijksmuseum: http://www.rijksmuseum.nl/?lang=en
Tuesday, August 7, 2012
Non-fiction writers have their own set of unique challenges when coming up with a stellar book proposal, but when a fiction writer is faced with producing a query letter that will hook an agent or editor, it's enough to make them want to run up the white flag and emigrate to Samoa.
Though most of us writers understand the practical necessity of a query letter, its a bit like asking the guy who invented Godiva Chocolate Truffles to write a letter to the general public to convince people his chocolate is amazing.
Maybe it's just me, but I would think that giving out small samples of chocolate would hook more people than sending them a letter about it or paying for expensive advertising ever would. I mean, if he makes chocolate and that is what he does best, isn't that more of a realistic representation of the product itself than the letter praising it?
It is possible (and highly likely) that a novelist can write a great book but may not be great at selling it. It makes one wonder how many possible NY Times Bestsellers out there were/are turned down and never published due to the fact that the author was guilty only of concocting a lukewarm query letter. In spite of the fact that deep within most of us our subconscious ID rebels against the very idea of formulating a query letter, believe it or not, there are actually some good benefits that can come from creating one:
It could land you that super-fabulous literary agent.
Let's face it -- this is the entire end all, be all for creating a query letter so of course this one's gotta be listed at number one.
It can help you establish the book's genre.
It helps you decide which agents to query.
It helps you decide who are the protagonist(s) and the antagonist(s) in your story.
It helps you to see whether your novel is "done" or not.
It forces you to step back and look at your novel in an objective manner.
It improves your grammar skills.
It helps you develop the all-important elevator pitch.
It can help you make new friends.
It helps you build character.