Writer Resistance – Roxane Gay

roxane-gay

Roxane Gay

According to Wikipedia, that most questionable but oh-so-convenient source of information, Roxane Gay is – among other things – “an American feminist writer, professor, editor and commentator … associate professor of English at Purdue University, [and] contributing opinion writer at The New York Times ...”

She is also, apparently, a champion for writers who want to stand up for their beliefs, even in the dog-eat-dog world of publishing.

Gay is perhaps best known for her NYT bestselling essay collection, Bad Feminist. But, she came across many new readers’ radar (mine included) in January when she pulled her upcoming book, How To Be Heard, from Simon & Schuster after learning that the company’s TED imprint, Threshold, had also signed to publish Milo Yiannopoulos’ book, Dangerous.

For those not familiar with Yiannopoulos, he is described in a related Washington Post article as a, “Greek-born, British writer who thrives on the publicity he generates by being outrageous. His incendiary and racist remarks about “Ghostbusters” actress and Saturday Night Live comedian Leslie Jones on Twitter got him permanently banned from the platform in July 2016.” They also note that, “His caustic viewpoints on women, minorities, Muslims and immigrants have made Yiannopoulos a de-facto mouthpiece for the ‘alt-right’ movement, short for alternative right, a small, far-right movement that seeks a whites-only state.”

In a January statement to Buzzfeed, Gay explained her stance and how it was her “putting my money where my mouth is.”

And to be clear, this isn’t about censorship. Milo has every right to say what he wants to say, however distasteful I and many others find it to be. He doesn’t have a right to have a book published by a major publisher but he has, in some bizarre twist of fate, been afforded that privilege. So be it. I’m not interested in doing business with a publisher willing to grant him that privilege. I am also fortunate enough to be in a position to make this decision. I recognize that other writers aren’t and understand that completely.

Yesterday, Simon & Schuster cancelled Yiannopoulos’ book deal. The publisher reportedly made the decision in response to statements Yiannopoulos made about pedophilia on a conservative radio talk show.

Gay posted a reaction to the publisher’s change of heart on her Tumblr:

In canceling Milo’s book contract, Simon & Schuster made a business decision the same way they made a business decision when they decided to publish that man in the first place. When his comments about pedophilia/pederasty came to light, Simon & Schuster realized it would cost them more money to do business with Milo than he could earn for them. They did not finally “do the right thing” and now we know where their threshold, pun intended, lies. They were fine with his racist and xenophobic and sexist ideologies. They were fine with his transphobia, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. They were fine with how he encourages his followers to harass women and people of color and transgender people online. Let me assure you, as someone who endured a bit of that harassment, it is breathtaking in its scope, intensity, and cruelty but hey, we must protect the freedom of speech. Certainly, Simon & Schuster was not alone in what they were willing to tolerate. A great many people were perfectly comfortable with the targets of Milo’s hateful attention until that attention hit too close to home.

.I share this story because I think there are several things we can learn from it and, specifically, from Gay’s words and actions.

First of all, freedom of speech must exist for everyone, even those whose opinions we find abhorrent. Censorship is not advisable as a solution because silencing any voice opens the door to silencing all voices. (Personally, I wish that more individuals and news institutions would stop providing free press and air time to people like Yiannopoulos, but that is – perhaps – an opinion for a different post.) We can, however, find other ways to condemn and cripple hate speech and oppression in all its forms. Gay’s choice to pull her book from the publisher was a powerful way for her to a) exercise her will in the situation, and b) bring wider attention to the story.

I also think there is something important about how far Yiannopoulos had to go before Simon & Schuster drew the line. I haven’t had time to fully digest what it means that, as Gay points out in her Tumblr post, the publisher was willing to look past all kinds of offensive opinions until pedophilia was in play. It makes me think of the quote from Martin Niemöller that begins, “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.”

Finally, I believe that artists – including writers – must very often play the role of canaries in the coal mine. While it is not mandatory that every creative endeavor carry the weight of political opinion, I believe history will show us again and again that artists are often the first line of defense against forces of oppression, in all their hideous forms.


Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. In addition to my bi-weekly weekday posts, you can also check out my Saturday Edition and Sunday Shareworthy archives. Off the blog, please introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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Angela James on Publishing

On May 21, 2016, the New Hampshire chapter of Romance Writers of America will be presenting Before You Hit Send, a workshop on self-editing created and presented by Angela James, the Editorial Director at Carina Press (the digital-first imprint of Harlequin). Last month Angela took some time out of her busy schedule to talk with me about herself, the workshop, and publishing. Workshop details can be found in my earlier post; today, we’ll talk about publishing.

When you think of the background and experience necessary to succeed in publishing, you probably think about a degree in English or maybe business, and maybe an internship at a New York publishing house. That path has certainly worked for many successful people, but Angela James would tell you the most important thing you need to be successful in publishing is a deep love of books and all things related to books, including authors and the editorial process.

Angela’s path to becoming the Editorial Director of Carina Press was not the traditional publishing career path. She grew up in North Dakota, where she learned to hate snow and love hockey, then went to college at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences where earned a Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy.

She paid her dues in that field and eventually landed her dream occupational therapy job working on the East Coast at a state psychiatric facility. A lifelong lover of books and avid reader, she took on side work as a proofreader and copyeditor “just for fun.”

When she gave birth to her daughter, she left OT to be a stay at home mom, but quickly discovered she needed more interaction so she stepped up her freelance editing. By then she was working with authors like Jaci Burton and Mandy Roth. When Samhain Publishing opened its doors, Angela was recommended for an editor position.  While at Samhain, she moved up the ranks to Executive Editor, but she kept up her certifications and training credits because even then, she thought she’d go back to the occupational therapy field. Then Harlequin came knocking with their newly-minted Carina Press and Angela’s place in publishing was cemented.

It’s about the book and the reading experience. It’s about giving readers an amazing experience because books are awesome - Angela James with an ocean background

Angela loves new ideas and being able to make plans and take action on those new ideas. The constant change of the industry inspires her to continually develop ways to find new authors, improve things for their current authors, and grow the business.

Without that steady diet of change, Angela fears she’d lose her passion for the job and grow bored. Along with her management duties, James still carries a full editing schedule. She’s on track to edit 15 titles this year alone.

However, being responsible for the business success of Carina is equal parts blessing and burden. As much as she’d like to, she can’t just publish a book because she loves it. “When we say no to a book, it’s not always because we don’t think it’s good, or we don’t love it.” There are a multitude of authors the Carina team loves, or would love to work with, but much to her dismay she doesn’t have the luxury of publishing just to publish. It’s her job to publish books that ensure Carina’s continued growth and success. Sometimes that makes for hard choices. In a perfect world Angela wouldn’t have to worry about whether a book would be a moneymaker or grow the business.

Angela James on the future of publishing

I asked for her prediction about where publishing would be five years from now. On the outside she was polite, but on the inside, I had a sense she was groaning. “It’s hard to say where publishing will be one year from now, never mind five.” Her personal desire would be that in five years we will have long moved past the “us versus them” mentality that has taken hold, the idea that traditional publishers (which digital-first is now lumped with) are the enemy. In her experience, there are many people who work in publishing purely for the love of books, and who work hard to get good books in front of as many readers as possible. “It’s about the book and the reading experience. It’s about giving readers an amazing experience because books are awesome.”

This isn’t just talk. Angela tracked her personal reading on Good Reads last year and she read approximately 650 books. Stop for a minute and process that: six hundred and fifty books! This is in addition to the books she read for work. 650 books just for pleasure reading. Yes, she is a speed reader, and to be fair, some of the books were novella length or serializations, but she calculated it, and it worked out to be about 48 million words. That’s lots and lots and LOTS of words. Clearly, this is a woman who loves books; I guess she found her way to the right field after all.

Next time, I’ll share some of the personal side of Angela James, including what she wishes every author knew about publishing.


Lee Laughlin is a writer, marketer, social media consumer and producer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at Livefearlesslee.com. She writes for the Concord Monitor and her words have also appeared in a broad range of publications from community newspapers to the Boston Globe. She is currently working on her first novel, a work of contemporary, romantic fiction.

Time Is Flying!

It was almost two years ago that I signed my contract for the Clock Shop Mystery Series, which I am writing under the pen name Julianne Holmes for Berkley Prime Crime. Last week, on Wicked Cozy Authors, I wrote about how Julianne Holmes came into being. Today, I thought I’d write about the journey of the book, Just Killing Time, which will be published October 6, 26 months after I signed the contract. In a lot of ways, that is a long time. But in others? Yeesh, it is flying, especially since there are three books to write.

Just Killing Time debuts October 6!

Just Killing Time debuts October 6!

Just Killing Time has taught me a lot about the process of writing and publishing a book. Although other journeys will be different, many of the steps will be part of the process. Here’s what the past year has been like for me:

  • Writing the first draft of Book #1 (Just Killing Time). Seems obvious, but until you write the book, which can be a slog, you can’t move forward.
  • Reading, revising, and editing it yourself.
  • Having someone else read it, to see if it is a book. My friend Jason is my first reader. He loves the genre, reads a lot, is supportive, but can also give me tough love.
  • Take those notes, make changes, and polish it a bit more.
  • Have an editor look at it. That person can help in two ways. First, to make sure the story hangs together logically. Second, with wordsmithing, grammar, and other stylistic choices. There are a number of folks on this blog who are freelance editors. Finding one to work with can be tough. You need help, but you don’t need someone to rewrite your book.
  • Work on those suggestions. Polish, polish, polish. Then take a deep breath, and hit send to your publisher.
  • Wait for comments back. This can days, weeks, or in some cases months. My editor at Berkley is incredibly attentive, and it didn’t take long for her to come back to me with her editorial letter. This is the moment where you really need to get out of your own way. I had to do a massive rewrite on Just Killing Time. The rewrite made it a better book, but my ego had to step aside so that the writer could get to work. I also had to put Book #2 aside, so I could work on Book #1. That has been something that I am still learning how to do, keep two projects moving forward at the same time.
  • Resubmit, and wait for the next round of comments. This dance can go on for a while, but at some point the work will be done, and the book will be accepted. Do not, however, lull yourself into thinking the next time you will see it will be when it arrives as a book.
  • Around this time, I got to see the cover. I love it! I was asked for some ideas for the artist, but left it in their hands.
  • Copyedits are the next phase. These edits are from another source who is looking at consistency, making sure you are following the style sheet for the publishing house, and making clarifying edits. At this phase you can add, subtract, change. But it is a dialogue. Again, there is some back and forth.
  • Ask other writers to read it, and give you quotes that can be used in marketing. I will admit, this was a vulnerable moment for me, since I had to let the public see my baby. It all worked out, and was made easier by my Sisters in Crime relationships. Knowing other writers makes all the difference in so many ways. Don’t wait to find those networks.
  • Proofs are the next step. This is what I am working on now–reading the book again, looking for mistakes. This is not a time to rewrite. One great part of this phase is that I get to see how the book will be laid out, how the chapters look, etc.

These are all the book steps I’ve gone through so far. Next up will be marketing, getting ready for the launch (figuring out what that will be!), and hitting send on Book #2 by July 15.

These days there are lots of paths to publication, but the steps are going to be very similar. I am one of the lucky ones. This is a lot of work, but it is a dream come true, and it is getting more real by the day. Now, back to the editing of Book #2…

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J.A. Hennrikus writes short stories. Julie Hennrikus is an arts administrator. Julianne Holmes writes the Clock Shop Mystery Series. They all look alike.

Weekend Edition – Spouse or Lover Plus Writing Tips and Good Reads

Are You Better Off Treating Your Writing Like a Marriage or a Love Affair?

face love noteAs 2015 broke open with the dauntingly pristine blankness of a new notebook, writers swore fervent new promises of commitment to their writing. Whispered in secret or emblazoned nakedly across the digital landscape, writers everywhere renewed their vows with craft and muse.

Not being one for resolutions, I sat on the sidelines of this annual frenzy of fealty, but it got me thinking about the kinds of relationships writers have with their writing. For most of us, writing is not our primary profession. It is more avocation than vocation – more a calling than a career. In my case, though I do make my living as a writer, the words that keep a roof over my head and books on my shelf are not the words that stir my dreams as I drift off to sleep each night. Though, technically, the work I do each day is writing, it is not Writing. (You understand.)

How many times have you wished that you could catch a break and (finally) be one of the lucky few who earns an actual, sustainable living from creative writing? How many times have you fantasized about a life in which you are free to spend all the hours of your days (and nights, if you like) writing what you want to write?

But, is that really what you want?

You have heard, I am sure, the many stories about lottery winners who end up cursing their winning tickets. I wonder if writers who win the proverbial publishing lottery sometimes end up feeling the same way. After all, it’s hard to transition from a life in which writing is something that you do because you are passionate about it, stealing minutes and hours to connect with your creativity and your keyboard, to a life in which writing is something that you must do because you have deadlines and contracts and commitments.

Like a marriage between two people, a marriage between a writer and writing is a union with a delicate alchemy. On the one hand it can provide a strong foundation for your creative work by providing structure, support, and a certain confidence. On the other hand, there is a reason we say that familiarity breeds contempt. What was once a joyful pursuit becomes a tired obligation, hitting your word count is suddenly (and sadly) more a routine slog than a passionate dance with the muse.

Perhaps if you were married to your writing, you would no longer taste the inspiring sweetness of illicit interludes with your imagination. Perhaps, you would realize that your creativity was fueled in part by the need to fight so hard for what you thought couldn’t have. Perhaps, gods forbid, you would begin to take the privilege of writing for granted.

I recently watched a wonderful movie called The Hundred-Foot Journey starring, among others, the marvelous Helen Mirren. Mirren plays the pretentious owner of a high-class French restaurant that she runs in memory of her deceased husband. In one scene, she castigates her kitchen staff over the sub-par preparation of some asparagus. Holding up a limp spear of the offending vegetable, she says, “Cuisine is not a tired old marriage, it is a passionate affair of the heart”

Indeed. And so it should be with writing as well.

But, maybe you don’t have to choose wedded “bliss” or forbidden affair. Maybe there is a middle ground. Aren’t there relationships that are true and strong even without the binds of official sanctions? Couldn’t you create an enduring relationship with your writing, one that is deep and vulnerable, without someone else’s blessing? I think you could.

The artist’s relationship with art should never be defined by rules, limited by expectations, or judged by traditional standards. You are the writer – the artist. You create things. You can create your relationship with your art in whatever way best serves your artistic endeavors. And that freedom of choice, whether you choose to pursue betrothal or an endless courtship, will keep the fires of inspiration burning in your writer’s heart.

 

What I’m Learning About Writing:

For those of you who are regular readers, I’m replacing the “What I’m Writing” section of the weekend edition with this new “What I’m Learning About Writing” tid-bit. I hope you like it! 

Last night, I had the pleasure of attending the local concert of a musical group called Project Trio. Featuring Peter Seymour on double pass, Greg Pattillo on flute (and beat boxing!), and Eric Stephensen on some kick ass cello, this unique and delightfully entertaining collection of world-class musicians have a sound that Downbeat Magazine calls “Packed with musicianship, joy, and surprise!” I couldn’t agree more. Here’s a little taste:

Isn’t that fun?

One of the most interesting things about Project Trio is the way they take all kinds of music – classical, jazz, bluegrass, Indian, salsa, rock, you name it – and make it completely their own … which made me think about how, as writers, we can do the same thing with the stories we write.

It’s said that there are no new stories. Every possible story has been told and retold thousands and thousands of times. The characters, setting, and other details change, but the underlying story is the same – boy meets girl or good vs. evil or whatever. The creative opportunity lies in taking these ubiquitous and eternal truths and using them as the basis to create our own reality. Like the musicians of Project Trio, we can take the raw material and turn it into something that is uniquely our own. We can make the old new again, help people see it in a new way.

What stories are you retelling? How are you making them your own?

 

What I’m Reading:

book airbornMy daughter and I just finished a swashbuckling read by author Kenneth Oppel. Airborn is a young adult novel that is part steampunk, part fantasy, and part pirate adventure.  From Oppel’s website:

Matt Cruse is the 15-year-old cabin boy aboard the Aurora, the 900-foot luxury airship he has called home for the past two years. While crossing the Pacificus, Matt fearlessly rescues the unconscious pilot of a crippled hot air balloon. Before he dies, the balloonist tells him about the fantastic, impossible creatures he has seen flying through the clouds. Matt dismisses the story as the ravings of a dying man, but when Kate de Vries arrives on the Aurora a year later, determined to prove the story is true, Matt finds himself caught up in her quest. Then one night, over the middle of the ocean, deadly air pirates board the Aurora. Far from any hope of rescue, Kate and Matt are flung into adventures beyond all imagining. . .

I read this out loud to my daughter at bedtime and I have to say that I often felt it was a poor choice for pre-sleep reading because it was so exciting. I have never had such an easy time getting dramatic with my reading. To say I was swept up in the action is an understatement.

Though this award-winning title has a male protagonist (not a bad thing – at all – but I like to find books with strong female leads for my daughter), I loved that he was paired with a smart and dauntless female character who is largely responsible for the events that drive the story forward.

If you or any young readers you know enjoy well-written adventure stories with a touch of fantasy, I highly recommend Airborn. I’m so glad that it’s the first of a trilogy. We’re starting the second book, Skybreaker, tonight. I can’t wait.

 

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

Finally, a quote for the week:

From AuthorsPublish.com

From AuthorsPublish.com

Here’s to keeping the love alive (however you can), putting your own spin on classic stories, and embracing adventure along the way. 

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Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and – occasionally –  trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.
Photo Credit (love note): Send me adrift. via Compfight cc

Weekend Edition – Freedom of Writing Plus Good Reads and Writing Tips

The Importance of Your Freedom to Write

Artist - Lucille Clerc

Artist – Lucille Clerc

On Tuesday evening I was sitting in a cold, dimly lit indoor riding arena, bundled against the biting cold that arrives just after sundown. As I watched my daughter trot and canter her lesson pony around the ring, I started putting together an outline for this week’s post. I was going to write about the difference between writing as marriage and writing as passionate affair. But then Wednesday arrived and with it news of the fatal terrorist attack on the Parisian offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

I rarely talk about politics or religion. They are not my area of expertise and I have learned that almost all such conversations (regardless of good intentions) lead to misunderstandings and strife. In the case of this atrocity, however, politics and religion are so closely interwoven with art that it is difficult for any artist – writer, cartoonist, painter – to hear about this tragedy without experiencing a shiver of fear.

Here, an ocean away from the site of the crime, my fear is not for my physical wellbeing. My creative work is many times removed from the material published by Charlie Hebdo. Still, though we are geographically, philosophically, and creatively worlds apart, I feel I must stand in solidarity with these writers and artists who were killed for no reason other than expressing their thoughts through their art.

Isn’t that what we all, as writers, do – express ourselves through our art?

Author Salman Rushdie, himself a target of Islamic fanaticism, made a statement (originally published on The English Pen), condemning the attack on Charlie Hebdo:

Religion, a mediaeval form of unreason, when combined with modern weaponry becomes a real threat to our freedoms. This religious totalitarianism has caused a deadly mutation in the heart of Islam and we see the tragic consequences in Paris today. I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity. ‘Respect for religion’ has become a code phrase meaning ‘fear of religion.’ Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.

In her Wall Street Journal piece, Salman Rushdie, Meet Charlie Hebdo, Peggy Noonan recounts the day in 1989 when Rushdie was sentenced to death by the Ayatollah Khomeini because the writer’s novel The Satanic Verses criticized Islam. She goes on to write about other religiously offensive artworks that have been exhibited to the horror of, for instance, the Catholic church, but which never inspired anyone to pick up a gun and shoot the artist. There may have been disgust, but it did not lead to murder. PEN American posted a fitting Noam Chomsky quote on their Tumblr page, “If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.”

I have no plans to create political, religious, or otherwise controversial art. My creative aspirations are not confrontational. But, apart from their sheer brutality, these types of attacks scare me because of their potential to silence the voices of artists. Censorship in any form leads us towards the precipitous edge of a slippery slope that is slick with nuance. Violent censorship gives us an all too terrifying look over that precipice into the dark abyss below.

 

What I’m Writing:

morning pgs 2013Most mornings, I start my day by writing my morning pages. This practice is a habit I formed after reading part of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way (I must admit that I never finished the book). It is one I hold dear. Sitting in the predawn or early morning light, pen in hand, scribbling down whatever comes into my still sleep-addled head has turned out to be a form of cathartic creativity that never fails to deliver insight.

Part of my ritual for welcoming in the New Year is to sit down with the previous year’s morning pages notebooks and look through them for patterns and themes, threads of meaning woven into my entries. As I write in these journals, I put a small star in the margin next to passages that I think I may want to return to. Most days, there are no stars, just random ramblings that help me clear my head at the start of the day. But, sometimes an idea or a phrase will seem worth marking.

A year ago when I looked back through my entries, I found that most of my stars referenced notes about my marketing business. I was working on plans to evolve it in a new direction. This past year – 2014 – my stars led me to passages that were much more focused on my creative work, on my writing. Like an inked constellation, spreading across the pages of these notebooks, my little stars formed a very different picture this year. Although my outer circumstances do not appear to have changed dramatically (business copywriting still generates the lion’s share of my income), an important shift is happening beneath the surface. This makes me happy … and hopeful.

 

What I’m Reading:

book FGPSometimes, after finishing an especially good novel (like The Little Country, which I finished just last week), I find myself unwilling to dive immediately into another long-form story.  I feel like I need to create some space between my literary experiences. It seems somehow irreverent to glide blithely from one world to the next without even taking a moment to savor the story that has gone before.

So, this week, instead of picking up another novel, I read an anthology of personal essays, the first published by Jennifer Niesslen, founder and editor of the blog Full Grown People. Here is the review I posted on Goodreads:

I am rarely inspired to write actual reviews, but my love for this anthology and the blog that inspired it moves me to pen a few quick words of praise and gratitude.

Jennifer Niesslein’s Full Grown People is an ever-growing collection of beautifully written essays about navigating, as she puts it, “that other awkward age.”

I enjoyed many of these essays when they were first published on the blog, but it was a delicious pleasure to experience them again, curled up on the sofa with a real book in my hands. The Internet is convenient and quick, but there will always be something more intimate about a real book. The collection careens wildly across a vast terrain of topics, lifestyles, tragedies, and discoveries. Each voice is unique, but somehow together they create a beautiful harmony that leaves me feeling both more vulnerable and stronger than before.

Although I have been blogging for nigh on a decade now, and writing a biweekly column for the past two years, I have never considered myself either a master or an aficionado of the essay form. I can say, however, that these are quality pieces of work – honest, piercing, and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. Through their words, these writers give us a glimpse into their world and in doing so reveal the infinite variations that make each life unique and the constant themes that weave all our lives together. At the end, I am reminded that no one is ever alone.

I am grateful to Niesslein for putting this group of writers and collection of stories together. I know I will return to it again and again for solace, inspiration, and perspective.

 

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin camus purpose

Here’s to courage and conviction in your creative endeavors. Here’s to saving your little piece of civilization with your stories. 

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Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and – occasionally –  trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

Weekend Edition – On Art and Money Plus Writing Tips and Good Reads

Money: Taboo Topic or Merely Impolite Conversation

elephantThere’s an elephant in our midst.

I didn’t notice it right away, but a recent conversation with friends brought its hulking, gray-green presence to my attention: the beast known as Money.

Money and art do not typically make good bedfellows. For the vast majority of creative types, there is a fairly substantial (some might even say, “monumental”) gap between The Work and Worldly Compensation. Hence the stereotype of the “starving artist.” The world, it seems, does not appreciate art as much as it appreciates, say, hedge fund investments or large manufacturing operations.

And yet … there are artists (and writers) who have clearly found a way to make a (very nice) living with their craft.

One of the friends with whom I was discussing the whole money issue shared a bit of link bait that was actually quite interesting: 21 Ways Rich People Think Differently. The article is a compilation of excerpts the book How Rich People Think by Steve Siebold. Scanning through the list of observations, I was appropriately horrified to discover that I hold certain unfounded prejudices against money and the wealthy. For instance, the first two sub-heads from the post are:

  • Average people believe money is the root of all evil. Rich people believe poverty is the root of all evil. – “”The average person has been brainwashed to believe rich people are lucky or dishonest.”
  • Average people think selfishness is a vice. Rich people think selfishness is a virtue. – “If you’re not taking care of you, you’re not in a position to help anyone else. You can’t give what you don’t have.”

My not-so-original point is this: If you’re holding a secret grudge against money, maybe you’ve got the wrong mindset for making money. There’s a bit of a guilt factor (something we talked about last week in the context of the writer’s fear of self-indulgence) in play, but there’s also a kind of reverse snobbery that can sabotage your earning ability without you even realizing it. Think about it. If you believe, deep down, that money is the root of all evil and rich people are, therefore – by association – also evil, how on earth could you possibly develop a positive mindset about money?

I am by NO means a money whisperer, guru, or expert. Like most people, I’ve got plenty of baggage when it comes to money. I do, however, make my living with words; and I’m working my way towards making my living with artistic words. I still have plenty of emotional and logistical hurdles to clear, but I’m pretty sure that just acknowledging my knee-jerk prejudice against money is a good first step. And I also think that talking more about money – more frequently, more openly, more truthfully – is also a step in the right direction. You up for that?

What I’m Writing:

typewriter royal conwaySo this past Tuesday I finally made it to the Fiction I Grub Street class that I had to miss last week due to my daughter being home sick. Though Grub Street is based in Boston, this particular course (taught by the lovely and very helpful KL Pereira) is being held in the writing center’s “satellite” location at The Salem Athenaeum. And what a satellite it is. The place absolutely reeks of literature. (Next time I will take pictures to share.)

Although I haven’t begun the actual writing yet, I learned on Tuesday that I will be submitting two pieces (complete or partial, up to 25 pages each) to be workshopped by the class. Although this discovery made me wince a little (mostly on the inside), I know that this fabricated deadline combined with forced participation is just what I need to motivate me. There’s nothing like the risk of embarrassment to inspire me to spring into action.

Complicating matters slightly is the fact that our submissions are meant to be short stories, a genre I’m not all that familiar with. As a matter of fact, until this class, I could likely count the number of short story collections I’ve read using only my ten fingers. But, I’m learning – through reading and follow-up class discussions – just what makes a strong short story, and I’m ready to start experimenting with my own.

My biggest challenge at the moment is trying to choose which story to work on. I have a couple story ideas from years ago, and a few more from recent musings. I’m just not sure which one to pick. I’ll be mulling that over this weekend.

Meantime, while KL is full of all kinds of great information, explanations, and examples, I think I’ll save the bulk of those for other posts. I would, however, like to share a great resource she mentioned: The Fiction Writer’s Character Chart by Rebecca Sinclair (via Eclectics.com). This is similar to  (but a bit more categorized than) the 90 Things to Know About Your Characters Before You Start Writing post I shared from Kathy Temean last week. In either case, I challenge you to complete either (or both!) of these questionnaires for your main character and see if you don’t get tripped up. My lesson of the week: I need to know a LOT more about my characters before I really KNOW them.

What I’m Reading:

book diving bellesThis week’s short story reading assignment from class was “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor. While I realize it’s a classic piece of American literature, if I’m being honest, I didn’t enjoy it. I hear O’Connor is an acquired taste, but I don’t expect to be clamoring for more of her stories any time soon. Or ever. The whole experience made me feel like I was back in some college lit course.

Still – I can see the value in reading and studying well-written stories, even ones you don’t particularly like. Class discussion about last week’s read (“Moving On” by Diane Cook) included analysis of character, conflict, and context – the basic building blocks of any story, short or long. I was particularly intrigued by “context,” which is an element I have not read about as much as I’ve read about character and conflict. (More on that later.)

In addition to my “homework” reading, I’m also enjoying (though slightly baffled by) a collection of short stories by Lucy Wood. The tales in Diving Belles are eclectic to say the least. Loosely based on Cornish folklore, Wood has played with the traditional characters, themes, and elements of these ancient stories to create new, sometimes twisted, always interesting versions.

As someone interested in magical realism, this collection appeals to my desire to blend the fantastic with the everyday. I’m only a few stories in, but I can already sense that this will be a book I will return to for inspiration.

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin get the money

Here’s to developing a healthy mindset about wealth, writing even when you’re scared, trying new things, and getting the money. 

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Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and – occasionally –  trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

Weekend Edition – Life Without Regrets plus Writing Tips and Good Reads

Dan’s right. It is later than you think.

paris clockDo you ever feel like the Universe is conspiring to send you a message? I do. All the time.

This week, the theme was “Life is Short.”

I began the week with a little getaway that was inspired by the truth of life’s brevity. Along with my beau and my daughter, I headed north to the elegant and enchanting Mount Washington Hotel – an idyllic, turn of the century hideaway in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Knowing how quickly the next few years will pass (and how, soon, my daughter may be less inclined to spend quality time with her dear mother), I took my fifth grader out of school for the three days so we could revel in the delights of slightly forbidden joys. We went on a horseback ride, hiked to a waterfall, and she and my beau spent hours performing aquatic acrobatics in the pool while I sat nearby, reading. It was a wonderful, if brief, escape from the hustle and bustle of the daily grind.

On Friday, as I was wrapping up my short work week, Dan Blank’s newsletter arrived in my inbox. In It’s Later Than You Think, Dan relates the heartbreaking story of a late blooming author who passed away suddenly, leaving so many projects unfinished. In his retirement, this writer had finally begun to see clearly what his true life’s work was, only to have the opportunity to pursue that work snatched from him by an unkind fate.

Later that day, I came across a tweet linking to a Time article called Happy Thoughts: Here Are the Things Proven To Make You Happier. The piece, written by Eric Barker, includes a list of the five regrets people are most likely to have right before they die:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

With all of this swirling around in my head, I’d like to ask you …

What does a life true to yourself look like?

How can you work less and enjoy life more?

How can you find the courage to express your feelings?

Who can you reach out to today so you can keep in touch?

What makes you happier and … can you find it in your heart to allow more of that into your life?

What I’m Writing:

What do you do when your intentions come off the track?

What do you do when your intentions come off the track?

Sometimes I want to pull this section from the Weekend Edition template. It feels like I have little to share here. However, I have made each of you an accountability partner of sorts. While I realize that life is short and I need to take steps toward accomplishing my own life’s work, day-to-day responsibilities often distract me from the Big Picture.  Though I start the week with the best of intentions, by mid-week I have more or less surrendered to the reality of time constraints and the need for sleep. Coming here on Saturday morning helps me reconnect with those intentions.

I am still waiting to find out if the Fiction I class I signed up for will go forward. They need one more person to register in order to run the class. I’ve got my fingers crossed that some fellow writer will step forward and fill that final slot. Even though a little part of me would breathe a sigh of relief at having those eight Tuesday’s back for my paying client work, most of me would lament the chance to strike a blow for my creative side by stealing those Tuesdays for her sole delight. We’ll see soon enough how things play out.

I’m curious. What gets you back on track when you’re writing intentions go off the rails? Do you have an accountability partner, or is there something else that pulls you up and sets you at your task again?

What I’m Reading:

book spirits keyThis week I had the unusual pleasure of guilt-free reading time. While we were away in the White Mountains, I enjoyed several hours of reading time while my daughter and beau played in the pool. (I have never been much of a water person, so I was grateful that my other half was willing to don his swim shorts and dive in.) I had charged up my Kindle before we left, but had yet to make a reading choice from my seriously overstuffed collection of downloads. In the end, I chose a book that I’m pretty sure I discovered via a tweet from Sharon Abra Hanen (@wellfedpoet), a writer and creative coach whom I met at the last Grub Street course I took.

Spirit’s Key by Edith Cohn is a middle grade novel that tells a unique and beautiful story about coming into your own, “facing your today,” and learning to find common ground. From Cohn’s site:

By now, twelve-year-old Spirit Holden should have inherited the family gift: the ability to see the future. But when she holds a house key in her hand like her dad does to read its owner’s destiny, she can’t see anything. Maybe it’s because she can’t get over the loss of her beloved dog, Sky, who died mysteriously. Sky was Spirit’s loyal companion, one of the wild dogs that the local islanders believe possess dangerous spirits. As more dogs start dying and people become sick, too, almost everyone is convinced that these dogs and their spirits are to blame—except for Spirit. Then Sky’s ghost appears, and Spirit is shaken. But his help may be the key to unlocking her new power and finding the cause of the mysterious illness before it’s too late.

I will be sharing this one with my daughter and hope she enjoys the story as much as I did.

A quick aside – there is a lovely acknowledgement at the end of the book that gave me, as a writer, a serious case of the warm & fuzzies. Reading it, I was once again reminded that “birthing” a book is never a solitary effort. As with a human child, it takes a village.

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin courage to ask

Here’s to being brave, facing our todays, and finding happiness. Happy reading & writing. See you on the other side! 

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Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and – occasionally –  trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.
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Train Track Photo Credit: jjMustang_79 via Compfight cc

A Writer’s Podcast: A Review of Writing Excuses

writing excusesToday’s post is a quickie, but I hope one that you will find immediately useful.

I have written several times about how much I love the writing podcast Writing Excuses, but since the last time I talked about this excellent production at length was nearly a year ago, I figure it’s time for a friendly reminder. You may have missed that post (and all the subtler mentions that followed), and I’d hate to think you were therefore missing out on this fabulous resource.

First of all, for the uninitiated, a podcast is a digital audio show similar to traditional radio, but hosted online and distributed via web-based and mobile apps. I have often talked about my love of audio books (and the fact that listening to a book is not cheating.) Podcasts offer similar benefits in that they are portable and allow for multi-tasking. Though I’m all for immersing myself in restorative silence, I am also all about learning. While quiet and classical music have their place in my routines, when I have a physical task that needs doing (running the vacuum, collecting and hauling the trash, folding laundry, etc.) there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll find me listening to an audio book via Audible or a podcast via either Stitcher or the native iOS podcast app.

Writing Excuses is currently only available via the iOS podcast app. (It’s actually the only reason I still have that app on my iPhone.) Each week, the panel of professional writers posts a new episode that deals with a topic related to craft, publishing, the writing life, and so on. The show’s tagline (“15 minutes long, because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart.”) perfectly encapsulates the show’s vibe. This is a fun, brass tacks kind of show featuring in-the-trenches advice from people who write for a living. (And, for the record, these are not one-time authors, but seriously prolific, serial authors with many titles and awards to their names.)

I should mention that each of the four regular hosts write in genre fiction, specifically fantasy and SciFi. However – and this is important – even if those genres are not your cup of tea, this podcast is still definitely worth a listen. Although there are some episodes that focus on very specific genre issues (such as world building or magic systems), most of the discussions include valuable insights and advice that can be applied to any type of writing. Even the podcasts that deal with seemingly genre-specific topics and tips usually include some higher-level observations that are universal to all writers.

Some of my favorite episodes are the “Microcasting” episodes which feature questions from listeners and fast, to-the-point answers from the expert hosts. There isn’t a single question that this group can’t handle.

Equally as important as the quality content is the level of fun these writers have. They clearly have a fabulous relationship and their camaraderie extends to include their audience. Tuning in to Writing Excuses feels to me like meeting up with writer friends at the coffee shop. There is a lot of good natured ribbing, wild tangents, and a fair amount of old-fashioned tom foolery. Despite being grounded in the hard-earned knowledge of these very respected writers, the podcast has a casual and welcoming feel that is less like a classroom and more like getting to listen in on a really great conversation among friends.

Last, but not least, is the fact that this podcast (unlike most other writing podcasts I’ve listened to) is short. As the tag line promises, each episode is only fifteen minutes long. Can you invest fifteen minutes to learn more about your craft? Listen in the car. Listen while you’re waiting in line to pick your kids up from school. Listen while you wash the dishes or fold the laundry. Listen … well, you get the idea. There is a huge backlist of episodes available (the podcast is in its ninth season), so you’ll never be at a loss for something to listen to.

So, that’s my spiel.

Writing Excuses – an excellent writers resource no matter what type of writing you do (or aspire to do). These guys (and gal) will educate you and inspire you. They will make you feel like one of the gang and give you the kick in the pants you need to do what you need to do. As they say at the close of each show, “You’re out of excuses. Now, go write!”

Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

Live Free or Ride! – Try Your Hand at the Next Installment of the New Hampshire Pulp Fiction

The New Yorker not returning your calls? Likewise The Paris Review? Don’t despair; New Hampshire Pulp Fiction might just be your ticket to fame if not fortune. Okay, when it comes to fame, make that at least a few, local minutes of it.

The brainchild of Rick Broussard, editor of New Hampshire Magazine and George Geers, owner of Plaidswede Publishing, three volumes of NH Pulp Fiction have already been published. Another is due out in February. Their goal is to produce enjoyable, highly readable collections of short stories while providing a publishing opportunity for both established and new writers. All stories take place, at least in part, in New Hampshire.

Having stories in two of the books, Live Free or Die, Die, Die and Live Free or Sci FiLFDDD_02I can testify that the project has been both a lot of fun and personally rewarding. While I had published numerous magazine articles, Murder on the Mountain was my first foray into fiction. It was a thrill to get the thumbs up from Rick and then see the book with my story in the library and bookstores. (The books make great Christmas presents!) The public readings have provided a nice opportunity to get out of my home office and meet other writers. Not to mention, the friends and family I brought along treated me to dinner afterwards to celebrate the achievement.

The next edition of New Hampshire Pulp Fiction was recently announced and Rick is eagerly awaiting submissions. After zombies, detectives, science fiction and romance, it was time to give western pulp fiction a turn. However, it’s hard to ride the range in a state with few, if any, cowboys and tall pines instead of tumbleweeds. Instead of importing Tex and Rowdy to the Granite State, Live Free or Ride only asks that writers include that quintessential vehicle of the Wild West, the Concord Coach, among their cast of characters

For lots more information and Submission Specs, visit the New Hampshire Pulp Fiction blog.

Good luck!

Susan Nye is a corporate dropout turned writer, blogger and teacher. She is a regular contributor to a variety of New England magazines and author of two the NH Pulp Fiction short stories. Feel free to visit her blog Susan Nye – Around the Table for seasonal stories and recipes.  

© Susan W. Nye, 2013

Saturday Edition – What We’re Writing and Reading

Welcome to this Saturday Edition of What We’re Writing and Reading.

We’re taking a little detour on the weekends now to share some of what we’re up to with our writing (when we’re not here) and what we’re into with our reading (around the web). We’ll also pull back the curtain a little to give you a behind-the-scenes look at what went into a piece.

We hope you enjoy this little diversion and encourage you to share your own posts and picks in the comments.

Happy writing! Happy reading!

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headshot_jw_thumbnailJamie Wallace: I hope those of you who celebrate it had a lovely Fourth of July. Having the holiday in the middle of the week sent me all off kilter, though I could just as easily blame my slight unbalance on the heat. I don’t know about you, but the kind of hot and humid weather we’ve been having around here always takes the wind right out of my sails and leaves me day dreaming of crisp autumn days – sweater and boot days, hot tea and toast days, fire on the hearth days. I suppose I should be grateful that I’m not out in Death Valley where the temps have been hitting triple digits to the tune of 129 degrees. You can cook things at that temperature!

Anyway, it’s been a busy week with a large, rush project on my plate – a lovely new client for whom I”m doing rebranding and website copywriting. That has kept me pretty tied up (and will do for the next few weeks), so I didn’t have much time for writing (other than my morning pages); but I did manage to get some reading in. I finished My Name is Mina (affiliate link)  which I mentioned in last week’s Saturday edition. I am working on a post about the book – not a review, but how the way the story was written has given me new inspiration. Really lovely.

Also – as always – I did manage to get some blog reading in. Here are my favorite writing-related posts from the week:

CRAFT & THE WRITING LIFE

PUBLISHING & BUSINESS

INSPIRATION & ENCOURAGEMENT

And – hey – if you are on Twitter and would like to get these tweets each day, follow me at @suddenlyjamie. I have a pretty serious Twitter habit and I love company … especially the company of other writers. 😉 (If you’d like me to follow you back, please @message me!)