Monday, July 28, 2014

BLOG HOP: WHAT AM I UP TO?

BLOG HOPPING ALONG!
I’m bloghopping again! It was just a few weeks ago that I was tagged by one of Sucker Literary Volume 3 writers, Kristina Wojtaszek to jump on a blog tour for writers of various genres. Take a look at that post here.
But many months have past, and I am an ever-evolving and changing Gemini, so I found that I had something new to say about my work, and myself—even just 5 months later.
I want to thank Sarah Towle, fellow sister-chick at Hen&ink Literary, for inviting me along with coopmate Pen Avey on the tour. Pen is posting today too, so check her out here. I think our bloghop started when Sarah was tagged by another sister-chick, author/illustrator Wendy Wahman. Wendy also tagged our agent Erzsi Deak.
Keeping it all in the family. Cluck, cluck! 
First, a bit about Sarah Towle:
Sarah Towle writes creative nonfiction histories that bring the past to life through first-person storytelling and interactive games. Her concept combines the traditional power of narrative with the latest in technology and represents a new direction in digital publishing. Sarah’s debut StoryApp, BEWARE MADAME LA GUILLOTINE, A REVOLUTIONARY TOUR OF PARIS, is a bilingual treasure hunt to the French Revolution guided by murderess Charlotte Corday. It launched in July 2011 to raves, especially among teachers, warranting publication in formats used in libraries and schools. It is now an interactive eBook for iPad, and—just last week!—the print edition went live on Amazon. Sarah is currently offering a FREE pdf of the book in exchange for a review. CLICK HERE to request your copy. You can learn more about Sarah at her author website. Also, her burgeoning twin digital imprints, Time Traveler Tours & Tales, are now open for author submissions.
Don’t go yet! I’ve got some updates on my new, steamy NA book. Read on to hear about my writing.

What am I working on?

…a steamy NA story involving four different point-of-views. I wrote it feverishly back in Nov ‘12 for my first (and so far, only) NaNoWriMo. Originally, this novel was part of  another series, which is YA, that I finished writing not too long ago. I wondered what happened to them 4 years after high school and thus, the inspiration for the book.

I sent some of this to my agent (who is part of this blog hop!) after polishing it up (back in November of last year) and her first response was… can you change the character names?

He advice wasn’t about the names, per say. Strategically speaking, I understood what she was suggesting. For years I have been writing a YA series that involve a specific set of characters. My agent’s suggestion was maybe try to start fresh. Though I felt all kinds of heartache over the decision, I wanted to grow—heck, isn’t that what we want as writers? So I came up with new names for the characters and did a revision. She read it and what became clear to both of us was that I needed to decide if this was a book from the series I had been writing or if it wasn’t. More importantly, changing the names wasn’t enough. Kind of like when Axil Rose tours now with what he calls Guns N’Roses but the people on the stage, they aren’t the players of the Guns N’Roses I knew growing up. In other words, this version of the book was trying to be something it really wasn’t.   

So I decided to take a leap of faith and create all new characters, which meant a lot of off-the-page work, with character interviews and charts and plot sequencing and changing back-stories, etc.

But guess what? IT WAS FUN!

Though, at first, it felt like a betrayal, like I was replacing my whole family or something…like I had left my husband and children and then replaced them with new ones. I felt guilty, my inner Jewish mother was clutching her hanky and crying, “Oy vey, my babies!”

However, as I did the off-the-page work, I felt the freeing sensation of writing something brand new, and instead of feeling as though I abandoned another set of characters (or my entire family) I came to the stunning and mature realization that my creativity is not about the way I live my real life! And, THAT’S THE POINT OF FICTION! Characters are not family or children. They are us (we, to be grammatically correct), slices of ourselves imagined into scenarios we create. This is FICTION. LET IT GO!

And I did! The new version was met with MUCH enthusiasm by my agent. I think she said this was the best I’ve written so far.

Right now, I am doing another revision that’s all about uping the voices of each character and fleshing out one in particular who was lacking against the others.

And that’s what I’m doing now.


How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My intention is to reveal the full dimension of characters and to not censor relationships or the shadow side of the human condition but I try to leave my readers with a sense of hope.  

Why do I write what I do?

It’s fun. Seriously, I've answered this all kinds of ways in the past. Poetry to writing, love letters to writing, etc. Don't get me wrong, I journal because I have to let out the shit that gets stuck in my brain and causes me to tweak and freak. But I write fiction because it is FUN and a perfect escape from everyday, adulthood life. I used to write to right the wrongs I felt I had in my life as a teen or young adult. Now, as an adult, I write about those years, but it’s more for the fun of it. Not to mention my day job as tutor and coach to teens really gives me great copy!  

How does my writing process work?

My rough drafts are fast and furious without censorship or edits. Then I let it sit, let it gestate, let it breathe. Then I take it back out and read and mark it up with what is wrong. Let it sit. Go into each section that I’ve marked up and revise those areas first. Let it sit. Then reread the whole thing for final-ish revisions. Send to agent and she says AWESOME : ) The last part is my prayer.

Up Next On The Tour Is...

Thanks for reading! Now check out Whitney Stewart, who I've tagged for the next stop on our blog tour. Her post will be live on August 4th!


Whitney Stewart has been writing children's books since 1990. She wrote her first two young adult biographies after she interviewed the Dalai Lama in India. She followed up with biographies of Sir Edmund Hillary, with whom she trekked in Nepal, and Aung San Suu Kyi whom she interviewed in Yangon (Rangoon) in 1995. Whitney also writes fiction and nonfiction for younger children. Who Was Walt Disney? (Grosset & Dunlap) is one of her most popular books. Her latest picture book is A Catfish Tale (Albert Whitman), a bayou retelling of the Grimm brothers' A Fisherman and His Wife, illustrated by Gerald Guerlais. Look for Sky Wide Mind: Meditation for Kids, illustrated by Sally Rippin, coming in 2015 (Albert Whitman).
Whitney also write for adults. Her current "Finding Reiner" series, about her adventure travel search for a missing WWII soldier, is gaining speed on TravelGumbo.com: http://www.travelgumbo.com/blog/finding-reiner-disaster-to-discovery

For more about Whitney, follow her on Twitter at @whitneytewart2 or check out her website:http://www.whitneystewart.com.


Sunday, April 06, 2014

Parental Discretion Is Advised.


DISCLAIMER: The following material contains adult subject matter. Parental discretion is advised.
  
I’m serious. Tell the kids under 18 to leave. 

Okay, here is what has been in my head lately:

Literary masturbation=Self-publishing

I did not come up with the GENIUS analogy, that self-publishing is akin to masturbation. That credit belongs to John Winters in one of my favorite articles called “I’m aself-publishing failure”. Read the article. Very helpful. Very inspiring.

I mentioned the idea of literary masturbation and referred to John Winter’s article in a recent blog, and I can't stop thinking about it.

GET OUT OF THE ROOM, CHILDREN! This is about to get very adult.

I republished MSW recently, and it felt awesome. A self-induced pleasure, of the publishing kind. There was that build up that goes on while revising and editing and proofing and then—bam—I hit "publish" and a rush of sensations and emotions went through me. I was left with a sweet calm inside, a satisfied contentment.

See how this analogy is PERFECT?!

Doing this act of self-pleasure is so, so much easier today and so much more acceptable than 10 years ago when I self-published MSW the first time. Though, some still say it is something to be ashamed of. But we will get to those hater-folks later. 

Self-publishing is EASY, and it FEELS GOOD (most of the time, but more on that in another blog post). It’s faster than regular publishing, and you have all the control (see how this analogy really is perfect?). Regular, traditional publishing, however, is not analogous to any kind of sex, at least not in my experience.  

A-hem.

Simply put, it's a hell of a lot easier to get laid than to get published. I think all of us in the biz can agree with that.

DISCLAIMER: This is based on MY experience. SO no HATE MAIL from people who have had an easy, swinging time with their book deal.

So, people of earth, listen up, ALL of you. Yeah, you who just finished that first or second draft of a manuscript and are combing through The Writer's Market   or Agent Query, and, yeah, you, too, writer who has received numerous positive rejections from a major publisher. And you, who have an MFA and have been published in several anthologies and magazines and have an agent and are on your sixth manuscript, even YOU, you need to listen and listen carefully.

Getting that book published will be a nearly impossible feat. Traditional publishing is like to getting into Brown, 8.9 percent.

People, NINE F*$KING PERCENT!

ACTUALLY, hold on. I just googled this, and it's a whole lot worse than that.

"Statistics?  I've heard that only 0.03 percent of all manuscripts submitted in the publishing industry in the United States each year actually get published.  That means out of every 10,000 manuscripts which are submitted, only 3 are actually published." 

So, BAD NEWS, folks. Getting published is a whole lot harder than getting into BROWN.

Everyone reading, take a deep breath. I’m sorry to have killed that buzz you had from all of your accomplishments as a writer and all of your efforts climbing the hill towards a book deal. I share that buzz-kill myself.

I know this news is devastating to a writer. Any writer. Newbie or seasoned vet. It devastates ME!

We writers crave to be heard and seen, and we NEED that release of publishing. Our words released to the public. It’s a rush. It’s fantastic.  

Thus, that is why the following statistic is not surprising:

Almost 400,000 books were self published in 2012 according to Bowker. And the number of Self-Published Titles Grows Nearly 60% in 2012 according to the website digitalbookworld.com.

AND. . . The number of self-published books has quadrupled from 2007 to now!

Now, about those hater-folks. . . Sure, many people who have solid careers as authors and writers claim that those of us who self-publish are narcissistic animals who don't have the talent to earn the right of a publisher to consider us. I was reading a thread about us no-talent animals and couldn't believe how ANGRY some people are about those of us who have self-published.

And to those people I say, I am not offended by your opinion. What you claim about us is true sometimes and in some cases. But, I would make the same claim to those in the non-self-published category. There are a lot of narcissistic animals who do get book deals and who have ZERO talent and who have definitely NOT earned the right to get published. Can we all say the word “celebrities”?

But this is not a post about being MAD at folks who hate on us self-published animals. Nor is this a blog lamenting the woes of a self-published author. Nor a post about hating celebrity authors. Some write damn fine stuff. Jamie Lee Curtis has a children’s book I really enjoy called, When I Was Little.

This is post about WHY I chose to and still do, to a certain extent, self-publish. . . even though for all of these 10 years that I've been out there I have had an agent, had work published in lit. mags, newspapers, etc. . .even though I have the resume and experience that would indicate a book deal is around the corner. Even though I still very much want and am striving to be published by a traditional publisher. And by the way, there are a lot of us, like me, who have many years, decades into this business and have not reaped the equal and opposite rewards that both experience and talent warrant in EVER OTHER F*$KING PROFESSION.

Yes, I do think I am (somewhat) talented, and finally, I feel and know and understand that talent alone is not what helps you get a book deal. The elusive market is an enormous factor.

 Look, it's been wizards, vampires, and porn for the last decade. My shit doesn't line up with that. But this could be the year of voicey, contemporary YA fiction. A girl can only dream.

Years ago, when I won the first place award from WD www.writersdigest.com self-pub contest a few folks likened me to the next Judy Blume. I thought, wow, my dreams are coming true because (like many YA writers in my age bracket) when I was nine and reading Judy Blume, I felt, in my whole body, that some day I would write books like hers and people would love those books—I would become a real author.

And it looked like I was on that path ten years ago, when I hit publish and sold over a thousand books pretty quickly and got an agent. . .

While I still am on the path and haven't arrived at the destination, I have continued to self-publish.

Why am I replaying this tune on self-publishing? Because I republished MSW as a ten year anniversary gift to myself. The original had a lot of errors, and I wanted to clean it up and make it look prettier. I did this republish solely por moi. The decision is a little like a choice for cosmetic surgery. Like a facelift or Botox. While I haven't done either of those yet, never say never, and I don't judge those who do. I suppose that this choice really was narcissistic. But it also was for the small group of readers who continue to email me about my Maddie books and who are rooting for me. 

The feeling I got when I republished MSW. . .  was good. I mean that good.  Sorry, but it's true. IT felt SOOOO good.

To republish it using ten years of wisdom was very cathartic. No, I didn't rewrite the entire thing like I wanted to, that wasn't my intention. But I gave it a face-lift, so I could feel really good about it being out there. Because, believe it or not, that book continues to sell!

AND. . . That is why, after receiving over 50 rejections for my short story anthology Big, Fat, Broken Hearts a few years ago, I decided to self-publish a literary anthology that would feature my (rejected) short fiction as well as all those other writers out there who were in need of that good feeling that publishing gives.

In just a little over a week, I will self-publish again (along with my staff). Sucker Literary, volume 3. And it will feel DAMNED GOOD!

But guess what, so will getting a book deal. And I don't think that the two are mutually exclusive. 

So keep writing and keep climbing the mountain. But don't be afraid to take care of yourself once in awhile.


Monday, March 31, 2014

BLOGHOP 2014


When I conceived Sucker Literary in 2011, never could I have predicted or even dreamed of the amount of support I would receive from the emerging writers of the YA community. Not only has the support been enormous in terms of the amount of writers who currently make up our staff and the amount of submissions we have been bestowed with, but also the support has reached across the globe and back. So when one of my own Sucker Literary writers or staff members calls upon me to do something, I do it—because this is how we roll.

Kristina Wojtaszek is the author of If It Rains, featured in the soon-to-be-published third volume of Sucker Literary, and she is the impetus of my participation in an author blog hop where participants answer the same four questions (see below) and then introduce some fellow authors.

To learn more about Kristina, check out the links below:

Twitter: @KristinaWojtasz

The Four Questions

1. What the heck are you doing?

First, I will start with what I am NOT working on—a completed but rough manuscript that my agent inspired me to pursue. It’s a steamy NA story involving four different point-of-views. I had worked on it feverishly for a period of time (first draft was back in Nov ‘12 of NaNoWriMo)— and I needed some space. I will be back to it this summer after I finish some course work for my OTHER dream I am pursuing (becoming a licensed mental health counselor).

Additionally, I am currently working on finishing up Sucker Literary III and also republishing a little book from back in 2006 called My Summer Vacation. Though I think that I am a better writer and my current work (the first three volumes of Sucker Literary and all my manuscripts my agent has) is much, much stronger, I still believe in the first set of characters I fell in love with. I still believe in the series I created way back when. . .  a series I still believe someone out there will eventually connect with. . .  someone, as in, a major publisher (Entangled, do you here me?). So, I am on a quest to republish the second one in the series right now. Just like the first one I recently re-released, I won’t heavily edit it (though I will want to) but just tighten it up a bit and redo the cover. There are two more Maddie books, Fear of Falling, which is available in digital and print on Amazon, and an unpublished fourth manuscript, trying to find a publisher as we speak.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I do not hold back in my writing just like I try not to hold back in my life, which is what makes me different. I also don’t like to over describe the way a character looks, and I tend to be very heavy on dialogue, of the very authentic kind. I write from a voice-driven place and like to tackle the emotional inner life of my characters. I don’t lead with the plot when I write, but I love a juicy one, though I believe that a juicy plot comes from the complex inner workings of a three-dimensional character.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Because I can’t stop.

Characters float into my head innocently enough, and then I can’t get rid of them, and so I let them it out. Entire novels and short stories come to me when I fall asleep.  If I don’t get them out eventually, I get very irritable.

Also, I write because I have a point-of-view that includes no bullshit and no lies and no fairy tales, and I feel this point-of-view pretty strongly and want to tell stories that have all of the above. . .  with a glimmer of hope and faith in oneself.

4. How does my writing process work?

My writing process is exactly like my personality:
Focused, tenacious, and filled with multitasking. Oh, and a lot of Starbucks.

Now, here are some authors that you HAVE to know about!

Kacey Vanderkarr, Young Adult Author

Blurb from her new book Reflection Pond:

Sometimes you find home, sometimes it comes looking for you.

Callie knows a lot more about pain than she does about family. She’s never belonged, at least, not until she falls through a portal into her true home. The beautiful faerie city of Eirensae doesn’t come free. Callie must find her amulet and bind herself to the city, and most importantly, avoid the Fallen fae who seek her life. Seems like a small price to pay for the family she’s always wanted.

Then she meets cynical and gorgeous Rowan, who reads the darkness of her past in her eyes. He becomes Callie’s part-time protector and full-time pain in the ass. He has secrets of his own for Callie to unravel. What they don’t know is that the future of Eirensae lies with them, and the once peaceful city is about to become a battleground for power.

Twitter: @kacimari

Kristen Tsetsi, Journalist, Fiction Author

"Pretty Much True... is about a young woman who has the misfortune of falling in love with a man who is shipped off to war. What I love about this story is that there's nothing the least bit sentimental or saintly about Mia, the narrator. It's a fascinating study of how the casualties of war extend far beyond the battlefield that is also incredibly funny in places. Great book." - Russell Rowland, author of In Open Spaces and High and Inside

Bio: Kristen Tsetsi is the author of the novel Pretty Much True… and the short-story collection Carol’s Aquarium. When not working or writing and filming scenes for “Inside the Writers’ Studio,” a comic-relief YouTube series for writers co-created and co-written (and brilliantly edited) by author R.J. Keller, she takes pictures of things and spends time with her husband.

Twitter: @ktsetsi

Jackie Hennessey, Author and Blogger

Jackie is a Rhode Island mom who understands what other mothers go through. Having worked full-time, part-time, and been a stay-at-home mom too, she sees motherhood from a variety of angles. And thankfully, with a sense of humor. Jackie is the author of the award-winning gift book, How to Spread Sanity on a Cracker, and blogs about being an imperfect mother at http://www.ventingsessions.com.

Jackie earned a BA in journalism from Texas A&M University where she received the “Best Aggie-Life writer” award. She has 20 years of experience in journalism and public relations and works as a pr consultant in Rhode Island. She pens the “Ask Mom” advice column at OnlineRI.com, writes for Barrington Patch, and guest blogs on sites like Scarymommy.com and Bluntmoms.com. Jackie was a cast member of the 2013 Listen to Your Mother Providence show and is a member of the Association of Rhode Island Authors, Rhody Bloggers, Rhody Bloggers for Good, and RI Digital Media Women.

When she's not folding laundry or taxiing her kids around, she enjoys venting with other women and laughing at her imperfections.


Blog & web site: http://ventingsessions.com