Why Age Matters

There’s a number of small presses and publishers looking for younger poets and writers.  It’s always disappointing to me, infused with experience and wisdom, to see an age limit on a submission form of a literary journal or publisher.

age-woman-aging-benefit-cosmetics-ecards-someecards.pngI know that America, and much of the world these days, has no respect for age; however, there was once this school of thought that there was some value in life experience.

Publishers want to discover the bright new star or hang on to someone who has a long and bright future ahead of them.

Instead of what, I assume, they mistakenly believe will be a one hit wonder leading to a quick and timely death.

That is why age matters to them.

HOWEVER – age does not matter. Many great poets and writers were “discovered” well after their 29th birthday: Toni Morrison, J.K. Rowling, Janet Fitch, Billy Collins, among many, many more! Cute-Funny-Baby-Laughing-Picture.jpg

You are not too old to learn the craft, you’re not too old to start writing, you’re not too old to submit, you’re not too old to publish.

When vexed by the youth, I remember that I can read a mapbook, I can light a fire, I know how to address a letter for post. If all technology were lost, I’d be able to survive.

To Publish or not to Publish – is that really a question?

To some people it is.

I have a friend who picks and chooses where he wants to be published so carefully that he submits maybe once or twice a year at most. He hasn’t been published in maybe 6 or 8 years.

He’s an extremely good writer. Better than I.  colllins

He says, he wants to only be published where his name will be seen, where it will matter.

I took this to mean he didn’t approve of my many publications with small presses, some of which no one has ever heard.

What do you value and why? Ask yourself.

Billy Collins, btw, began publishing in what he refers to as fly by night or small presses of which no one ever heard.

 

Rejections – how not to punch someone!

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Rejections are the worst…..

or they used to be.

Once, a long while ago, I received a letter (snail mail) from a publisher. I let it lay on the table, unable to take what I thought would be yet another rejection.

When I did finally open it – I was quite pleasantly surprised by an acceptance!

And then…. a little annoyed with myself…. I needed to sign the contract and return it and I’d almost missed the deadline.  That taught me – open immediately.

These days, most of these things are done through email or digital submissions. So, now, on a regular basis, we get rejected by just opening our email.

However, rejection, in all forms, tells us something.  We are doing our jobs!  That job is writing and submitting.

All editors have their own values. It may not mean that our work is bad, but that it did not fit the needs of the publisher or the values of the editor.

Rejections are nothing to be ashamed about, not to be feared, and not to be avoided. We should rush in with open arms.

I read the rejection, see if there is any valuable information. I’ve received some very nice rejections with some editors telling me to resubmit or offering advice.

If I have a piece which gets rejected too often, I go back and take another look at it before I send it out again. But it will go out again. And I will keep submitting.

Don’t let rejections get you down, don’t let it stop you. Publishers can not take everything they receive, but one day they will say yes to you – if you’ve actually submitted something!

A Tribute to Poe on his Birthday

January 19th, is the 210th anniversary of Poe’s Birth.

poe4Although many people are content with the reason of Poe’s continued relevance in our society is the stereotypical tortured artist.  There is no doubt he was tortured, and for reasons of which we are all familiar; he was an orphan who lost every women he ever loved.

His battles with alcohol, I believe, are highly exaggerated. But it makes for a good story. I’m not saying he never drank – he drank to excess plenty of times, he may have officially been an alcoholic as we understand the word today; however, it was not a constant. There were many years through his marriage to Virginia that he did not drink or drink to excess. Before his death in 1849, he’d joined the Sons of Temperance Movement – to get people to stop drinking.

The reason Poe has remained relevant throughout the years is his work touchespoe our deepest fears and deepest desires. He has continued to inspire other writers

 

 

 

 

 

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He wrote far more than what we, today, consider horror. He wrote essays, literary analysis, investigative pieces. He wrote about street paving, Stonehenge, and he was inspired by what he read in newspapers.  Berenice and others were inspired by stories of grave robbers in local papers.

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The famed portrait of Edgar Allan Poe was taken three days after his suicide attempt in 1848.

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And, Eddy, my imaginative fiction, was inspired by that suicide attempt. He bought two bottles of laudanum on a cold winter night meaning to do himself in. He’d lost Virginia and felt he had no one. (Laudanum contained opium and derivatives of morphine and codeine.)

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For Poe’s Birthday, I offer an excerpt from the novella:

   He stumbles from the pub, slips, and falls on the iced over bricks of Boston’s November streets. Save for the muddled voices beyond the closed door, the street is quiet as his body thuds to the ground. His breath billows in front of him as he gasps and grumbles and struggles to his knees, then his feet, to regain his drunken balance.

   The gaslamp on the corner offers a wavering yellow glow for the struggling figure on the lonely winter night. Thin strands of hair blow in the chilled breeze; he runs his hands over his head, straightens himself before he pulls at the sagging overcoat and tugs it closed.

     Remembering the tinctures of laudanum pried from the chary pharmacist, he hurriedly shoves his hands in his pockets, retrieves the bottles.

   His heavy breath mounds in front of him and, for a moment, he can’t see; then the luminous cloud of brandy scented air dissipates. The medicines are intact. Relieved, he stuffs them back in his pocket and buttons his jacket.

   “Edgar,” someone calls from the corner; the noise from the pub trails the swarthy figure out until the door slams to a close behind him. “You alright?”

   Edgar waves him off without turning around.

   The thick shadow chuckles as he staggers in the opposite direction.

   The winter is freezing cold, but the snow hasn’t endured. Small white crystals pile in corners and fill the air. The icy rain soaks him before he reaches his chamber on the second floor of the boarding house. The room is small, impersonal, but warmer than the street. An unlit lantern shimmies on the desk as he unsteadily seats himself, glances out the window.

   A barely discernable outline disquiets the otherwise muted darkness on the corner of the street below. He knows it’s the black dog that’s stalked him his whole life. Suddenly angered, he shoves himself forward, pushes the unlit lamp aside and topples the ink jar.

   “Get outta here, you wretched creature.” The incensed command lost in the night.

      Recovering the secreted bottles of opium from his coat pocket, he sets them side by side in front of him. Unsteadily he tugs the lid from one and snorts in a single gulp.

For More Posts on Poe – click this link.

To get the book at 3.99 – this weekend only – click this link.

To get the ebook at .99 – today only – click this link.

 

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Much love and luck.

 

Say Yes to the ReDress

Editor Definition in English Dictionary.In some writers’ groups, when I’ve mentioned that I’d been contacted by an editor who requested changes, there came about a rise of instantaneous resistance.

  • You didn’t say yes, did you?
  • Why are you letting them change your work?
  • You’re not going to let them change your words, are you?
  • Sounds like you’re selling out!

So far, whenever an editor has contacted me about changes, the changes were minor: a comma here, a synonym there, once a nick-name which they ended up leaving in.

One of the these editors worked for The Chicago Tribune’s Printers Row Journal ($1.00 Stories). I believe him to be more experienced editoand credentialed in the requirements of publishable writing.

I willingly listened.

So before your writer hackles rise – listen, consider, then decide. Be polite and professional.

Friday Feature: Kerrie Flanagan’s Two are Better Than One.

Two are Better Than One; Tips for a Successful Co-Author Partnership

KerrieFlanagan_blue_PhotoCredit_SuzetteMcIntyre_CloseupWhen you meet the one, it all falls into place. You no longer have to carry the burden alone. The workload is shared, you encourage each other through the tough times and celebrate successes together. With the right partner, co-authoring can be an incredible experience that fuses the synergy and talents of two writers into creating one cohesive book.

About a year ago, I was talking with my writing friend Chuck. One of us (I don’t remember who) brought up the idea of writing something together. We both got excited and started discussing what we should write. He typically writes fantasy novels and I write nonfiction, short fiction and children’s books. Even our writing styles were (and still are) worlds apart, but that didn’t stop us. We both felt this could work. Not because of what we had written in the past, but because of us. Or personalities, work ethic and most of all our ability to trust one another to get the job done right.

We took a strategic approach when choosing a genre to write and researched the top selling creating cohesive self-published books. According to Author Earnings, in 2017 romance had the second highest number of ebooks sold, right below literature & Fiction. We also learned that romance readers go through books like potato chips, self-published authors in this genre do well and series sell better than single titles. It wasn’t long before we decided to commit to a three-book romantic comedy series, under the pen name, C.K. Wiles, to see what would happen.

We fell easily into a system that works for us. Chuck and I would brainstorm the story Kerrie and Chuckidea together, which is a fun, creative part of the process. Chuck then creates a detailed outline of the story that we then go over together to make sure everything is there. He then takes off and starts writing. After he gets a few chapters completed, he begins sending them to me. I then go through to add more emotion, fill in any holes in the storyline and tighten the writing. Once he has sent me everything, I send the edited chapters back to him so he can make final adjustments and we talk through any areas that need more work. We both read it through one more time before sending the finished manuscript to a copy editor.

While our writing system made the process smooth, we found many components that make a co-author partnership successful.

Know Your Strengths

Each writer brings his/her own strengths to each book project. Figure those out early and embrace them. This is less about making sure tasks are equally divided and more about working with your strengths to ensure you publish the best book possible. Chuck is a fast fiction writer and not a fan of developmental editing. I am a slow fiction writer, but I love taking a rough draft of a manuscript and molding it into a great story. This works well for us and we can typically get a book finished in a little over two months. When it comes to the publishing aspects, I take the lead on that since I have experience in that area. We hire out the covers and copy editing, but I am able to format the books (print and ebook) and upload them into the various platforms.

 Trust Each Other

Find someone who you respect as a writer and are confident in their skills. Chuck and I knew each other for years and provided feedback and critiques on each other’s work. I value his opinion and suggestions with my writing, so I knew before forming this partnership that I could work with him and vice-versa. When it comes to co-authoring, this trust is crucial. You have to be confident that you and partner have the same goals and visions for the book. Then allow each other the freedom to make changes and adjustments to produce the best book possible. There will be times when you disagree, and that’s ok. Talk through them and come up with a solution you can both live with.

Leave Your Ego at the Door

Curtain Call Romance Series (1).pngWhen you are working with a co-author, you have to let go of your ego. The whole goal is to create a book you are both proud of and you are happy to have your name (or pen name) associated with it. Chuck and I have different writing styles, but with our co-authored books, our writing melds together to create a new, unique voice. It is not about, “this is mine” and “that is yours,” it is seeing it as “ours.” If we got caught up in claiming different parts as our own or not being willing to work as a team to create the best book possible, we wouldn’t get anything finished.

Because of our effective partnership, we achieved our goal of publishing three books in our Curtain Call series. We have enjoyed our co-author experience so much, we are moving forward together with other writing projects as we work to market our series and get those books into the hands of readers. Co-authoring can be amazing with the right person. If this is something that interests you, take the time to find another writer you trust, one whose strengths and weaknesses compliment yours and one who is ok checking egos at the door. Then you will enjoy a synonymous relationship where you can create literary art as one.

BONUS: As a thank you, click here for a free digital copy of, Showtime Rendezvous.

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Kerrie Flanagan is an accomplished freelance writer with over 20 years’ experience. She is thrilled to be writing romantic comedies with her favorite writing partner, Chuck Harrelson. Together, under the pen-name, C.K. Wiles, they are the authors of Showtime Rendezvous, Stage Bound and Bared Secret. In addition, Kerrie is the author of, Writer’s Digest Guide to Magazine Article Writing and 8 other books published under her imprint, Hot Chocolate Press.

You can listen to this episode of the Stark Reflections Podcast where Chuck and Kerrie talk more about their co-author experiences.

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Thanks, Kerri!

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Friday Feature: Snowflakes in a Blizzard, Darrel Laurant’s Project to Assist Writers

Darrel Laurant contacted me some time ago about featuring my book, West End, on his project website. I’m only happy to now have him talk about that project here.

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Completing and publishing a book — any book — is a noble accomplishment. Unfortunately, it’s only half the battle.

Writing, publishing and marketing used to be co-joined triplets, or at least close cousins. Now, though, they have drifted apart into separate entities. As a consequence, the new mantra from publishers turning down a manuscript has become: “We really like your book, but we don’t think we can sell it.”

What you realize, as you skim over the Top 100 best-selling offerings on Amazon or even the hallowed New York Times list, is that “marketability” now has very little to do with what we used to perceive as “quality.” Not that a well-written book can’t be successful, but writing well is no longer a crucial requirement, writing not-so-well no longer a deal-breaker.

The good news is, thanks to current technology and increased self publishing options, almost anyone who really wants to get a book published can now do so. The bad news is, almost anyone who really wants to get a book published can now do so.

The fact that 30 million or so books are now listed on Amazon has drastically changed the rules of engagement. The issue is no longer getting published, but getting noticed.

Writers are obviously the losers in this not-so-brave new world, but so are readers. Books go surging past us like flotsam on a flood-swollen river, never to be seen again. If it was published in 2016, it has already become a relic.

The idea of Snowflakes in a Blizzard, which started three years ago, is to become just one small voice shouting: “Whoa!”

I spent more than 30 years as a newspaper reporter and columnist, wrote a lot for magazines and Websites on the side, published two books that sold over 3,000 copies each locally, and won a lot of writing awards from the Virginia Press Association.

In some occupations, all that would have helped ease my transition when I retired from journalism to write books full-time. In the publishing field, I had to check it all at the door.

When my first novel, “The Kudzu Kid,” went up on Amazon, I was excited. I now had my own little niche, exposed to the world. I had a publisher who, at least in theory, was prepared to spread the word. I had a distributor to transport my books to the far corners of the nation. Smiling contentedly, I sat back and waited for the orders to pour in.

And waited. And waited. Eventually, it dawned on me that since nobody outside of Central Virginia had ever heard of me, the odds of anyone randomly clicking on my Amazon page were infinitesimal. Why would they?

At some point during the mini-funk that followed, aggravated by the winter blahs, I was standing in front of my living room widow in Lake George, NY, watching it snow, when this thought occurred to me: “Getting noticed for a new writer these days is like a snowflake trying to stand out in a blizzard.”

A few months later, I started the Snowflakes in a Blizzard blog.

Each week, Snowflakes highlights three books. They could be novels, poetry, short stories, non-fiction, memoirs or a hybrid. What they have in common are that they are a) unique in some way and b) could use more attention. The “template” for every book is filled out by the author and goes individually to each of our 3,000-plus followers, complete with a few reviews and a sample chapter. It’s a way of getting one-on-one attention.

Also, it’s completely free. I like that for several reasons:

First, it takes the pressure off. Charging for a service is all about making a promise — in this case, pay me and I’ll sell books for you.  I can’t do that, because I have no way of tracking who might have purchased a book because of a Snowflakes post they received.

Second, it makes for a better vibe between me and other writers. They are colleagues, not customers.

Finally, I don’t feel competitive with any other writer-friendly blogs or Websites. In fact, I’d be delighted if a thousand other sites sprang up just like Snowflakes in a Blizzard, because that would still not take care of all the writers who need such a service.

You may have heard it said that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. In the case of the book-buying public, the enemy is our very human tendency to stick with what we know. Early in our lives, most of us have settled in on what food, music, movies and, yes, books we like.

This fact unquestionably drives the book publishing business. It has become a lot like politics — survey the public to find out what they think they want, then give it to them. It accounts for the focus on genres, the reliance on best-seller lists and the dicotomy of wealth between the top one percent of authors and everybody else.

I don’t like to point fingers at the publishing industry, because they need sales to survive. So do agents. I do, however, think that the current glut of books has contributed in many cases to tunnel vision and laziness. What used to be “Wow, this is a great book — we need to tell people about this talented new author,” has morphed into “Oh, too bad — it doesn’t have the right genre for our demographic.”

This genre fixation is one of my major gripes about the book business today. Instead of offering unique work that only they could produce, some authors are “writing to genre,” following a list of pre-prescribed rules in an effort to “fit.” Yet so many of the books that made a big impact upon arrival — think “In Cold Blood,” “The Color Purple,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Roots” — probably would have flunked the genre test.

To their credit, a lot of small “indie” publishers do seek out and nurture talented new writers. Sometimes, they are richly rewarded for it.

My other gripe is the attitude held by some gatekeepers that they are doing writers a huge favor by publishing them. I growl, internally, every time I see this on a Website: “If you don’t hear from us in two months, it means we’re not interested.”

How much time and trouble would it take to type “Thanks, but not for us,” and hit “send”? Or maybe, “We’re thinking about it.”

This lack of communication shows a naked disrespect to authors who, after all, just want to enter into a business deal with them. Think of how you’d feel if you walked into a restaurant, sat down at a table, and were then ignored for an hour before you finally got up and left.

OK, so the creative universe is awash with other books. Publishers and agents can be uncaring, potential book buyers unlikely to try something new, both realities especially hard on new writers who haven’t yet accumulated prior publications, lots of good reviews or a book club fan base.

So what can we do? I make no claims of being an expert (I’ve never had a best selling book, so what do I know?), but I do have some suggestions.

  1. Look at the myriad niches that might be hidden beneath the main thrust of your book. These could include the setting, the occupation of main characters, a societal issue that is addressed, etc. Find some on-line clusters of people who reflect those nooks and crannies and send them a sample chapter. Do everything you can to show a publisher or agent that your book will, indeed, have a ready-made audience.
  2. Don’t forget the local connection. After your book is published (or even before), show up at your local newspaper office, meet the book editor, and suggest a review of your book. Don’t forget the little free papers than have mushroomed everywhere.
  3. Arrange similar meetings with small bookstore owners in your area.
  4. Set up as many book signings as you can handle, including businesses other than bookstores.

I invite you to check out the Snowflakes in a Blizzard site, and perhaps even follow it. Or, you may have a book you’d like to have featured, or know someone else who does.

My e-mail address is writersbridge@hotmail.com, and I love to talk about writing, any time.

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Much luck, Darrell. Thanks!
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