Announcements and Reminders

Hello my friends!

I haven’t been over on this blog for a while to remind you that I mostly blog now at Lisa A. Kramer: Woman Wielding Words. I hope you will come visit me over there. If you haven’t yet, I also have some exciting news. I have joined 14 other talented authors (and two fabulous artists) in publishing the first (of many we hope) collaborative anthologies of short stories.

Available NOW for Kindle, and coming soon on Nook and Kobo!

Available NOW for Kindle, and coming soon on Nook and Kobo!

For more information visit my website, or click on the picture, or just wander over and download a copy today (it’s only $2.99 for 15 diverse and wonderful stories).

So You’ve Written a Manuscript . . . Now What?

Manuscript babyDespite my lack of words when it comes to blogging and/or new work over the past couple of months, I have slowly but steadily been working on editing the manuscript of my YA/NA novel that I finished a full draft of last December. Along with that draft I had written a sample Agent Query , a sample Submission Cover Page, and a summary. I sent that (along with a revised chapter) to my Instructor for the course I was taking, all before my father passed.

To tell you the truth, the day after my father passed away, I completed a major edit of  the full document because I needed to focus on something other than my sadness. That may seem weird but it was what I needed to do.

As I waited for a response from my instructor, I sent the draft to some readers, and then did another revision based on their feedback. I finished that completely last week (or maybe two weeks ago, I don’t remember). The response from my instructor came about a month ago, followed quickly with my “diploma” for having completed the course. His comments and suggestions made me feel like I had a solid submission packet ready to go, with a few minor corrections/changes.

Still, it took me a long time to face the process. I kept finding excuses, such as I was waiting for updates on publishers or didn’t have time to find agents, or my office was too much of a mess to work in, or I forgot to bring the notes I needed to make the edits, no matter how minor, or . . .

The real problem, beyond my personal struggle and sadness, is my fear of rejection. If I send it out there and get nothing but rejection, will I ever have the courage to publish it anyway? Or will it lie gathering dust in my pile of discarded dreams, along with the manuscript of Giving Up the Ghosts that I gave up on long ago?

Here’s the reality that we all must face as writers. There are, of course, those of us who write purely for the pleasure of putting words on the page, with no intention of sharing those words. (I have journals and journals of those kinds of writing). However, if you have even the tiniest desire to have someone else read what you write, then  you must do something to put it out there, to have people read it. It does no good sitting in your computer or printed out in a pile of manuscript pages where it does nothing but gather dust.

An unread piece of fiction is nothing more than words without a home.

So what do we do with these manuscript babies?  In our world we now have several options:

  • Find an agent (which means being prepared for many rejections or simply non-responses)
  • Try to submit to traditional publishers on our own (which is hard as so many publishers want agented submissions only, and it also means being prepared for many rejections)
  • Self-publish

I’m not against the self-publishing option, and may end up going that route. However, over the past year or so I’ve read a lot of self-published books. Some of them have been excellent. Many of them could have been excellent if they had a once over from an editor or an outside-eye. It’s difficult to edit our own work, especially for beginning authors. Add to that the pressures of doing layout, creating covers, and promoting our own works and sometimes the work seems to suffer.

I don’t want that to happen to my work.

So, I’ve decided to try the traditional route first. I’m looking for agents. I may submit the full manuscript to one or two publishing houses that accept unagented works. While I wait, I intend to look into formatting the manuscript for a professional looking self-publishing approach and decide on the best platform if that ends up being my path.

All of this, of course, requires a plan and action on my part. Something which I find challenging at the moment, except in brief bursts of focused energy. Yesterday I finally got over my excuses, brought the notes, fixed the edits and prepared the material to submit to the one agent I had already selected. Now I need to buy some ink, and send it off. Once I had done all that, I began to search for other possible agents. I found a couple who looked interesting, who only accepted submissions on-line. The ink excuse no longer worked. So, I cut and paste and submitted. (I also had to write a one page summary which has now been added to the materials I am ready to submit.)

Today I signed up for a writer’s conference this May (I wasn’t really procrastinating on this one, there was a big mess-up with my pay this month so I had to wait until I had some money). I plan on submitting the first chapters for a feedback session at the conference.

Excuses are no longer acceptable.  The book is written, now it needs a home.

Post-Partum Blues: Giving Birth to a Novel

Tweeting the birth of a novel

I tweeted that this morning.

I announced it on Facebook as well. I received a lot of likes, and suggestions for how I should celebrate (many of which included alcohol and/or a massage). One of my friends wrote, “Congrats! How long did it take (don’t say ‘my whole life’)? Do something nice for an old person, to please the gods.”

ME: I won’t say my whole life. The idea for this story has been years in the making, but I officially started working on it in March 2012.

HIM: Excellent, lots of wonderful things gestate in about nine months! I sometimes think it never gets better than this very moment, the afterglow of the first draft. Bathe in it like I know you will!

ME: LOL, I didn’t even connect that it was nine months, but I on twitter I said, “My novel is born.” 😛

However instead of bathing in the joy of the completed draft, I seem to be wallowing in the doubt-filled craziness of what happens next.

When I brought the infant Sarah home, I remember looking at her and thinking, “what do I do now?” She was so tiny, I thought she’d break. I didn’t have that instant bonding moment that some mother’s claim. I mean, sure I thought she was a precious miracle, but  falling in love with her took a while. Struggles with breastfeeding that led to me pumping milk every two hours, so she could be bottle fed with mother’s milk until she was able to get enough the natural way,  made me feel more like a cow than a mother. Nathan was better at diapering and bathing her, because he’d had experience with his sister who is 13 years younger than him. I thought I was on my way to being the world’s worst mother.

Sarah_1

I felt lost in the confusion of what happens next. What do you do to give this tiny creature a healthy, loving, wonderful life? Sometimes I still ask that question, whenever I face a difficult moment of parenting or one of the new challenges come along as she gets older, smarter, and more and more independent.

But, the thing is, even with the doubts and fears that come with parenting, I know that she will go out in the world. She will be recognized for everything that makes her special–her intelligence, her kindness, her beauty, her creativity. She will, someday, become someone in her own right, and go on to do amazing things.

Close up of Sarah

When you give birth to a book, what happens next?

I have to finish the course that was associated with the beginning off this novel. My final assignment asks me to:

  • fill out a publisher (or agent) choice form
  • write a cover and a query letter
  • write a synopsis
  • My instructor also requested I send him the next chapter.

Basically, I will have created a complete submission packet, and will get feedback from someone whose been there, done that.

After that, I’ll need to edit and really make sure the manuscript is as strong as it can be before I send it out into the big, bad world.

I’m terrified. Since I’m still not 100% sure what genre this book is (although I’m pretty sure it is a New Adult novel) I don’t even know where to start looking for publishers. I’m waiting on the newest book of publishers provided by the school, in the hopes that it might contain listings for those who are embracing the New Adult genre.

Or, should I look for an agent instead? Somehow that feels right, but how do I know for sure? How do I find the person who will be willing to work with me?

Is my written child strong enough to be sent out into the dark, scary, competitive world out there?

I always get that what next sensation after finishing a project. I just wish I was better at celebrating first.

How do you feel when you’ve completed a project? What do you do to celebrate a job well done?

Eureka! I’m Writing in a New Genre

I’m writing a book.

Yes . . . yes . . . you’ve heard me say it before. But I’m really writing a book. As of today I’m in the beginnings of Chapter 7 and the word count breakdown of my chapters is as follows (for any of you interested in numbers):

  • Chapter 1:    3673
  • Chapter 2:    3093
  • Chapter 3:    2546
  • Chapter 4:    3714
  • Chapter 5:    2155
  • Chapter 6:    2343

For a GRAND TOTAL (as of now) of 17, 525 words. I think I’m aiming for about 40,000 words.

As some of you may know, I’ve had a lot of book ideas floating around my head for the past few years. I’ve made a lot of false starts and stops. In order to get this far, and give myself the kick in the butt that I needed, I signed up for a course through the Long Ridge Writer’s Group called “Shape, Write, and Sell Your Novel.”  Through the course, you are assigned an “editor/instructor” of sorts to help guide you through the process. I find that, having someone who I have to report to in some way helps me stay focused.

Of course, because you are supposed to wait for feedback, it means that my writing has kind of been random instead of regular. (Not that I listened to the rules completely. I wrote some sections anyway, but I still wanted feedback before I moved too far forward).  But, in general I think having someone respond has helped me shape the novel. I’m finally in the flow of writing and now the biggest challenge is finding time to focus on my other obligations in life.

Except that’s not really the biggest challenge. If you notice, the third part of the title of this course is  “Sell Your Novel.” That means that, now that I have turned in the first three chapters and am onto learning about revision, the next step will be learning about querying and sending to publishers and/or agents.

This is the stuff I find truly terrifying.

Part of the problem, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, is that my novel doesn’t fit traditionally into any specific label or genre. If you’ve been reading me for a while, you know how much I hate labeling in all aspects of life.  But, if I am going to try to get this published through a traditional route (that’s still a BIG IF) I need to play the game like a good girl and label my work.

I, of course, decided to focus on writing a good story and figure the rest out later.

However a miracle of blogging and social media has a brought a little clarity into my life. Earlier this week, after I posted my 100 Word Challenge, Sandra Tyler over at A Writer Weaves a Tale asked if I was interested in fiction and if I would be interested in joining a writer’s group on Facebook.  Sure, I thought. it can’t hurt, and it’s something I’ve been interested in for a while. I just have to stop being afraid to share.

So, I went over and joined the group. Sandra asked us to introduce ourselves, and I did that. Then yesterday, I read one of the other introductions, and discovered a moment of clarity. Shall I share? Here’s a cut and paste image of the Facebook conversation

Did you get that? NA! New Adult! It’s a new label for a genre that isn’t quite YA but isn’t quite A. Here’s a link to a post on Misha’s blog (My First Book) called “What’s the Next Big Thing in Genre Fiction” that explains NA in more detail.

So now I can say. I’m writing a book. It’s a New Adult Fantasy/Sci Fi book that questions the role of government and religion over women in a world where power comes from unexpected places.

Anyone interested in reading it?

Riding on the Coattails of Fame

I heard a radio advertisement yesterday that the great  great (great?) grandson of Charles Dickens would be presenting a reading of A Christmas Carol somewhere, creating different voices of all the characters.

Charles Dickens, a former resident of Lant Street.

Image via Wikipedia

Interesting? Perhaps, but it got me thinking about how many people get opportunities to publish, to speak, to act, to . . . whatever,  simply because of their relationship to someone famous. They may not have a single talent in their own right, but a distant link to a distant relative gets their foot in the door like nothing else can.

I suppose the children of writers, artists, actors, great politicians (if there is such a thing), speakers, etc. have it in their blood,  but talent doesn’t necessarily get passed down from generation to generation. They may have access to incredible teaching, and opportunities to absorb the craft of whatever it is through observation and interaction, but that does not guarantee  the same skill and ability will resurface.

Still, in our world of aggrandizing movie stars and putting people on pedestals, talent seems less important than having a famous relative. There are almost too many examples of this, and whenever you walk into a book store you can easily find a book published by a name, not a famous writer but someone who is writing because he/she is famous or related to someone famous.

Perhaps if I could trace my lineage back to someone famous, I too would be able to ride the coattails of fame. Or, better yet, if I could prove I was, indeed the REINCARNATION of William Shakespeare or Charlotte Bronte, or anyone else with creative chops that I admire I could simply walk up to a publisher and say “here is my manuscript, you will publish it errors and all.”

Charlotte Bronte

Lisa Bronte Kramer

Sadly, my grandfather on one side was a butcher and on the other a salesman (insurance I think). I cannot simply use my name for fame.

Now I have not heard this descendant of Dickens perform, and he could be a perfectly talented storyteller. But here is an interesting observation from Louisa May Alcott quoted in the Cheever’s biography I have been quoting from so liberally lately:

. . . [S]he excited went to her Dickens read and came away bitterly disappointed in the man and his performance. “Youth and comeliness were gone, but the foppishness remained, and the red-faced man, with false teeth and the voice of a worn-out actor had his scanty grey hair curled.”

It just goes to show you that just because your name is on the book, doesn’t mean you are the best person to perform it. 😉

I would argue that most actors nowadays get their big break because of their connections with someone else. If you look at some of the new stars of stage and screen, you nearly always find “daughter of so and so” or “nephew of what’s his name.”

It is almost impossible to make it on talent alone.

And that, my friends, is one of the biggest problems with our society. The rich get richer, not because they are more deserving than others or work harder, but because they are related to the original founder of that fortune. People get to write books and have them published traditionally, not because they ar the best wordsmiths on earth, but because they were born to someone famous. Performers get their opportunities to perform because Daddy brought them onstage. A woman whose claim to fame is only a big booty and a lifelong friendship with the daughter of someone rich and famous can keep herself plastered in the news with fake marriages, reality television, as well as “running” her own business (I wonder who really runs it). A man, the son of a former president, maintains a presidency by manipulating a system and leaves chaos in his wake which he then blames on the upstart who dared to step into the presidency without any family connections.

I wish we were in  a world where truly talented individuals could make their marks rather than a world dominated by people riding on the fame of their more talented ancestors. Don’t you?

E-Book Abuse

A Picture of a eBook

Image via Wikipedia

As a writer who dreams of walking into libraries and bookstores to find hard copies of  her own books and getting the occasional royalty check for books sold, I understand the desire to make money off of books. But, when that turns to greed and manipulation I want to scream.

The other day I learned that HarperCollins now plans to make it so that libraries who lend out e-books to readers have to keep buying the books. Basically, after 26 readers the book will self-destruct so that the library would then have to buy a new copy for new readers to read that book. Here’s an article about it that I found.

26 readers!

Imagine that happening with physical books. The 26th reader returns the book to the library and it explodes into a million pieces so that a new copy must be bought. That would add an element of Russian Roulette to the sharing of books.

“Oh, you have to read this book that I got from a friend, its wonderful. Keep it. Read it. And then pass it on.”

The 27th person loses a hand.

Books are meant to be read. Books are meant to be shared. Whether they are physical books or e-books they do no good if nobody reads them. I imagine that if someone reads an e-book and loves it enough, they might even go buy a copy someday. But they need access first.

Libraries are boycotting HarperCollins. People are not going to have access to those books.

Should we boycott them as well? I think I might.

What are your thoughts? Should libraries have to continue to pay for books they’ve already paid for?

Goal Setting and Re-focusing

“Four basic premises of writing: clarity, brevity, simplicity, and humanity.” (William Zinserr)

Sometimes I feel like I can't see the forest for the trees.

Now that I have freed myself of the obligatory blogging I’ve been doing, I feel the need to reflect on and establish some goals for myself in terms of writing and blogging. I started this blog with a purpose that included (according to what I wrote on my About page)

” . . .  a place for me to explore life and practice writing. It is a motivator for myself to sit down and write as often as possible. It is also a place to explore ideas, issues, and questions. Sometimes it is a place to vent. Sometimes it is a place to cry. Sometimes it is a place to laugh. To me, it is a sacred place, so please treat it with respect.”

I think that still holds true, but now the blog has become so much more. It has become a place of community and support, where I am meeting wonderful people who boldly express their dreams and trust that this environment is a safe one where dreams will not be mocked. It is a place where I have discovered my inner artist, my hidden poet, my passionate advocate, and my angry rebel.  It is a place where I have learned to recognize my strengths as a teacher, a mentor, a mother, an artist, and a friend. It is a place where I have discovered the parts of myself that need strengthening or changing; the darker parts that I do not love but I need to accept. It is a place where my dreams have begun to shift and reform so that I see more possibilities instead of only obstacles.

So now the question becomes, what do I want next? Where do I want this blog to go?

I’m not sure yet, but I do have a few goals:

  • I want to continue writing daily, but not just blog posts. I want to get back to writing stories or articles and working toward publication.
  • I would like to find a way for this circle of wonderful people to support each other in their publishing goals, a way that somehow bypasses the bureaucracy of traditional publishing and allows us to nurture each other toward success.
  • I want to continue to write about things like arts advocacy, arts in education, challenging social injustice, and creating a more peaceful world.
  • I want to continue to nurture the relationships I have started as well as develop new ones.
  • I want to find the balance between writing, reading, responding and growing as a writer
  • I want to do research on and perhaps start writing two projects that have called to me for a long time. One that reflects on women’s voices through some form of historical fiction or drama, as I discuss here. And one that shares stories of people who have fought through no guarantees to thrive and grow and create their dreams–a story which I’ve begun to explore in my other blog, Living Life Without Tenure

But, despite that list, I’m still struggling with focus. So I have some questions for you, my readers. I feel a little lost in confusion and would appreciate some help clarifying my focus.

Which posts or topics do you find the most interesting to read about on my site?

What do you think Woman Wielding Words is really about?

What Makes me Lucky

My daughter is going to be writing an essay in school today that explains what makes her lucky, so I thought maybe that is something we should all do.  I’d like to ask all my readers, the billions of you out there of course :),   to make a list below of things that make you lucky.  Here is mine:

  • I’m lucky because I have been able to follow and complete many of my dreams (directed plays, acted in plays, wrote a book, travelled the world, learned different languages).  Of course I haven’t gotten completely where I’d like them to go (I really want to find a publisher) but I’m still lucky to have done so much.
  • I’m lucky that I have lived in some interesting and beautiful places.  I may not have found home yet, but I have been really lucky in the places I’ve searched.
  • I’m lucky to have met so many wonderful people in this world. Some have become true friends, some where just a passage in my story, but I’m lucky to have met them all.
  • I’m lucky to have an intelligent, sweet, beautiful daughter who is going to rock the world someday.
  • I’m lucky to have a husband who cares.
  • I’m lucky to be able to wake up every morning and write, even if nobody every reads my words.
  • I’m lucky to have two fuzzy, annoying dogs because they ultimately give me the most unconditional love (although it is improved if they are provided with extra carrots).
  • I’m lucky that I am an intelligent, creative woman, who can take on any challenge in this world.

I’m sure I could keep writing, but I’d love to hear some of the things that make you feel lucky!

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