Posts tagged ‘publishing’
Editor’s note: This interview is generously cross-posted from Alison Wells’s Head Above Water.
Laura Wilkinson grew up in a Welsh market town and as a child was a voracious reader. She has a BA in literature and worked as a freelance journalist, editor and copywriter. Her first novel, BloodMining, the story of a young woman’s quest to uncover the truth about her origins to save her son’s life, will be published in autumn 2011 by Bridge House. She currently lives and works in Brighton, England.
Tell us about your children, Laura.
I’ve two boys: Morgan, twelve, and Cameron, seven. They’re glorious redheads; I call them Ginger1 and Ginger2, and people comment on their extraordinary hair colour all the time, especially as both their parents are brunettes. You can imagine the comments!
When did your writing begin?
As a journalist, copywriter and editor for many years before the children came along, and then alongside them. Fiction came later, around five and a half years ago, once I was out of the totally sleepless nights period with my youngest. Both my boys were horrendous sleepers! My routine has always been fixed around the major needs of the kids and, so far, it seems to work for all of us.
What impact has having children had on your writing career?
Having the boys focused me. I’d harboured a desire to write fiction for years, but work and other stuff (like going out, partying, and other hedonistic activities) got in the way. As well as fear. After the children came along I became more aware, more centered, and the brevity and preciousness of life hit me, hard. I knew that if I didn’t at least try to write I’d have let myself down, and the boys somehow. Now I use the little free time I have doing something that stretches me, challenges me, surprises me, and I find that really, really exciting.
How do you organise your writing time and space? Read more
Our long-time blogmate Brittany Vandeputte was recently published in the Petigru Review! I stole the following from Brittany’s blog:
Yesterday I received my two free author copies of The Petigru Review. It felt good to hold a big chunk of a book in my hands, flip to the table on contents, and see my name listed three times. The $15 I made in “royalties” felt good, too. It brought the total profits from my writing to date up to $115. What a lucrative career choice I’ve made for myself…
Obviously I’m not in it for the money. It’s more the satisfaction of knowing someone else read my writing and thought other people would like it, too. That feels good. And it also feels good to be published in a literary journal named for James L. Petigru, SC stateman, who famously said “South Carolina is too small to be a republic, and too large to be an insane asylum.” I love my adopted state, but as a born and bred Tarheel, I do snicker (quietly) to myself whenever I hear that quote.
I had hoped that I could brag that it was now available on amazon.com, but it isn’t yet. It is, however, available at a local bookstore, Fiction Addiction.
I’m only doing my due dilligence by pointing out that it would fill a stocking nicely and would most certainly impress all your book-loving friends with its sophisticated, artsy, literary-journalness. Plus, I have it on good authority that you might even persuade one of the contibutors to autograph your copy. 🙂
Brava, Brittany! We’re so proud!
An article in this morning’s Boston Globe picks up rather nicely where we left off last week. On Thursday, Brittany expressed her frustration with the process of finding a publisher and I wrote a rather lengthy comment about publishing in general (which hopefully helps spur our writers to action, rather than prompts them jump out the window). In the Globe, Stephen Bergman wryly illuminates the publishing process in “Five Laws of the Novelist“:
Law Two: Editors Are Ephemeral and Don’t Edit. The editor of my first novel moved to another publishing house for my second. In the middle of my third, at another publishing house, she was fired, and my new editor, after sending me terrific edits, was fired the next day. The editor on my fourth novel, at still another publishing house, said, “I love this novel. I won’t change a word.’’ But when I got the manuscript back she had marked it up with so much red pencil that each page was pink. We struggled. I took few of her suggestions. In our final conversation she said, “You’ve ruined this book. It will get bad reviews,’’ and then she was fired. As one editor told me: “We no longer edit, we acquire and market.’’
Law Three: Publishers Don’t Publish. When my first novel was about to come out, I asked my publisher if it would sell. “No, your novel won’t sell.’’ This startled me. “It’s about medicine, and that’s good, and it’s funny and sexy, and that’s good.’’ Why won’t it sell? “Because it’s a good book. Good books don’t sell.’’ Bookstores can return any book for a full refund, a business model that spells doom for publishing. Only about 5 percent of books pay back their advance. Those hardcover remainders piled up in stores mean that the publishers overpaid, overprinted, and undersold.
Law Four: There Is No Humiliation Beneath Which a Writer Cannot Go. My second novel had come out in paperback, and my wife and I were on a hiking trip in New Hampshire. We stopped in a mom-and-pop store for lunch. There, in a spindle bookrack, were two copies of my novel. I immediately suspected my wife had placed them there, to make me feel good. Nope. I took both books off the rack and went up to the little old lady at the counter, and announced, “I wrote this book.’’
“Oh, you wrote that book?’’ she asked.
I averred yes. I asked if she would like me to sign the copies.
“Oh no, our folks would never buy a book that was writ in.’’
Another standard humiliation: At an author-signing in a bookstore, sitting at a desk near the window, facing a wall of Grishams, watching people hurrying past as if you are a child molester. Not fun, especially if your publisher has overlooked advertising the event.
Law Five: There Is Only One Reason To Write. During a post-second-novel depression, I spent six months, more or less, in the bathtub, trying to give up being a writer. Finally I realized that while I disliked publishing, I still loved writing. But if you want to respect what you write (rather than write for cash), you need a day job. Luckily, decades previously I faced a choice: between Vietnam or Harvard Med. I became a psychiatrist because I might learn about character and story, and could leave mornings free to write. Not as good a day job as my first, working the graveyard shift as a toll collector on the Rip Van Winkle Bridge – you can learn pretty much everything from what goes on at night in cars – but still.
Only write if you can’t not.
Read the full piece here. Then, get back to work!
Recently, on my personal blog, I wrote about my latest rejection from the world of publishing. After asking to see my full manuscript, it was rejected one hour and seven minutes after I submitted it. That stings and I’m grumpy about it. But probably not for the reasons you’d expect.
I’m not one of those writers who thinks everything I write is genius. I don’t shun editing, or even re-writing, when it’s warranted. I like to hear criticisms of my writing (though obviously accolades are more welcome) because I do see writing as a process, and something you are always learning and growing from. So when I submitted my manuscript to this publishing company, I didn’t expect them to trip over themselves in their zeal to offer me a contract. I’m a realist.
But at the same time, I didn’t expect to be rejected so summarily, or so soon. The email I received said that while the “best editor” at the house loved my concept, she just couldn’t deal with the long laundry list of rooms in the house and their flaws and that I should re-work my book with an eye toward keeping my readers’ interest. Ouch. It’s obvious to me that the editor stopped reading at somewhere in chapter 1, at which point she suggested to the publisher, who then suggested to me, that after I reworked my book, I should re-submit it to them.
I got online and whined about my bad luck on Facebook. My friends were split into two camps. There were the ones who said, “Excellent! They’re still interested in your work! Re-write it and re-submit it to them!” And there were the ones who said, “Send it to someone else. If this publisher can’t be bothered to actually read the entire manuscript, they’re big fat, giant poopie heads and don’t deserve to publish your book anyway.”
I can appreciate their reactions, and I agree with them both. But at the same time, I feel very sad. I feel sad for me, the writer, whose three-year work-in-progress isn’t getting published. I feel sad for readers, whose literary choices are controlled by publishers who expect every story to play like an episode of 24. I feel sad for publishers, who are so time and cash-strapped, they don’t have the time to read a novel and examine it through a wider lens. It seems like more and more, novels are going the way of news, where everything must be reduced to a sound bite. What happened to the novels of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, where a reader could get lost in the lengthy descriptions of another world? What happened to our collective attention spans that we can no longer absorb large amounts of information without singing, dancing, and catchy slogans? I remember from my experiences as a teacher that there was an enormous push to make learning fun and entertaining. That’s all fine and good when it’s appropriate, but sometimes, you have to know the basics before you can make the learning fun. People seem to forget that.
I devoted six double-spaced pages of my novel to a description of Alex and Will’s tri-level. It is the central conflict of the book, the “home” in Home Improvement, the place where the vast majority of the action in the book happens, the physical manifestation of all that is going wrong between my main characters. My reader has to see it, has to be overwhelmed with the “laundry list of problems,” has to experience the house the way Alex experiences it. They have to understand why buying this house seemed like a good idea at the time. They have to understand that this is the moment of no return.
Evelyn pulled into the driveway of a large brick tri-level with gray siding and cheerful yellow shutters. It sat on an oversized corner lot where several mature oaks and maples dotted the yard. We got out of the car and wandered up the daisy-lined sidewalk to the front door. Evelyn unlocked it and we stepped inside.
From the outside, I expected warm country décor, much like what we’d seen in other houses. But the entryway walls were chalk white, and instead of bandanna-clad cows, the only decoration was a large square of geometric-patterned carpet and a light fixture made of neon squiggles.
“The owners go for those modern touches,” Evelyn observed.
If a twenty-year-old light fixture was her idea of a modern touch, I couldn’t wait to see what else she considered current décor.
“Let’s start on the first level,” Evelyn said, and led us from the entryway, down a short flight of stairs to the family room.
The first level was mostly below ground, except for two small windows that were level with the Indian Hawthorne growing in front of the house. A cookie-scented candle sat burning on the family room fireplace mantle and filled the room with the irresistible scent of baking cookies. The-butter-and-vanilla-scented room was enormous, and looked extra inviting with its large brick fireplace on the far wall. Those were the room’s good points. Unfortunately, the room was crowded with mismatched furniture, and the wood-paneled walls were covered all over in little strokes of aqua and pink paint. After a few seconds, my vision began to blur.
I wandered through a doorway to my left and into the den. A homemade desk took up most of the room and black splotches circled the ceiling. “Is that mold up there?” I asked.
Evelyn squinted at the walls while Will examined the nearest patch. “It’s just paint,” he said after poking it.
Who in their right mind thought faux-mold was a good idea?
I asked the same question when we opened the door to the laundry room. Every surface was covered in pink sponge marks, including the pipes. As I stared at the paint job, Evelyn came up behind me and said, “This sponge-painting is all the rage right now. We just did it in our dining room. It turned out really nice.”
I had my doubts.
I won’t be re-submitting my work to this particular house. And I won’t be re-working anything with so little critique to go on. Again, I’m not averse to re-working my novel, but I have to feel like the changes I make are purposeful. I had purposeful reasons for writing the scene as I did, and I need to find an editor who, at the very least, understands my intent and can support my vision. That’s all I’m really asking for. I think that’s all any novelist can ask for.
The whole publishing experience feels a lot like that poem The Blind Men and the Elephant. Everyone “sees” something differently, and everyone is wrong. I know I still have a lot to learn. The first order of business is hiring a professional editor… someone who is looking at my book for its strengths, rather than its weaknesses. Then we’ll see where I go from there.
Hi all, it’s been a while since I’ve posted. Summer was crazy with teaching, then my daughter, parents, and I spent 3 weeks in very remote coastal Maine and New Brunswick. No phones, no internet, no tv, bliss. Now I’m back in the swing of things, and the textbook is progressing rapidly. I have 20 chapters total, and have submitted 10 of them in final draft form to the publisher. The next 10 are transitioning quickly from rough to final, and I anticipate getting the whole thing in by the end of the year. Yay! It’s been so much fun to write this book, and I feel like it’s made me a better teacher as well.
The frustrating thing is that I don’t feel like my publishing company and editors have been giving the book enough time and attention. The editors keep saying they’re going to be sending along comments soon, but nothing ever comes. I am trying to be patient, as my rough draft deadline isn’t until July 09. They may not have budgeted time this soon to spend on my project. But the other concern I have is that this company doesn’t do the promoting that some of the big companies do. When I told my representative at a big company I do a lot of business with that I am writing this book, she just about killed me for not asking her company to publish it. I think it would sell MUCH more with that firm, but I’ve already signed a contract. Does anyone have any idea how to navigate these waters? Can one get out of a contract?
Also, I’m still running like crazy, last weekend I ran a 5K on Sat and a 1/2 marathon on Sunday. I don’t usually do 5K’s, because my rule is to never run a race it takes longer to get to than it does to run. But this one was sponsored by the University where I’m employed, and it was very close to my house. I ran it too fast, which made the run the next day quite painful. But it is the 1/2 marathon I wanted to write about here. It was the Maine Coast 1/2 Marathon, and only women are allowed to enter. There’s a “significant other 5K” and one man, chosen from a lottery, got to run with us.
It was a spectacular race, highlighted by the fact that Kathrine Switzer was the emcee. She has the distinction of being the first woman registered for the Boston Marathon, and many people recall the photos of Jock Semple (race director) attempting to physically yank her off the course once he found out a “girl” was running his race. She’s since ran several marathons, and now organized races and does a lot of event speaking. She’s written three books, and was signing and selling books at this race. I purchased “Marathon Woman,” which was a great book for the first two thirds. By the end, it started to read like the acknowledgements section… too many names, dates, places, and races that stopped being as riveting as the first half of the book.
But Kathrine Switzer is a great example of a sort-of mom (a stepson entered her life fairly late in his teenage years) who is able to balance work, writing, running, and family magnificently. She’s 62 years old and looks about 45. She’s slim, solid, and exudes happiness and grace. She also wrote “Running and Walking for Women Over 40,” which is a great starting book for those wanting to get into the sport. I find that my best ideas are hatched while running, and my best actual writing is done immediately after running… all that oxygen in the brain. If I’m ever stuck on something, even a quick 2-miler is guaranteed to free up any writer’s block.
I have committed significant time each day to work on my young reader novel. Thank you for many of your posts and conversations to motivate me to do such a thing for myself and my book. A very real sacrifice is involved for our family, the fact that I have no steady income. So, I’m dropping a big networking hint: any of you with connections to a youth-focused publisher or agent, please float hints of my progress their way, or their info my way! When the manuscript is nearly complete, I will need to shop it, fairly desperately. I am lousy at marketing. Let me sit in a corner and write all day long, but show it to someone who might put it in production? Yikes! I’m a little over a third into what I hope to accomplish in page count. It is a fun (I hope) nerd overcoming bully story with a science twist a la astronomy with some sub-focus on family and friendships. How’s that for a synopsis without giving anything away?
Last week, I got through some dialogue. Dialogue is easier for me to imagine than to actually write. I hear it well in my head, but how do the characters sound on the page? All like me or the narrator? I hope not. So, it’s slow going, besides all the interruptions. But the good news for this week is, knock on wood, neither of the boys are sick — each stayed home from school a day last week, two different ones, of course. I have no appointments for any of us. The cat and dog have both been deflea-ed, finally, at the vet. Bad news is I planned a picnic at my house on Saturday for my Asperger’s group that I don’t foresee doing much prep for as it is a potluck, but I do need to move a dirt pile, reorganize the desk again, hopefully get through some of my albatross box of papers to be filed, and flea bomb the backyard. That’s right, nature girl is going to intentionally poison the planet. Good news is I am going to write THE SCENE this week. If I’m lucky, THE OTHER SCENE, too. These two scenes are at the heart of the book, upon what everything after depends. They should also advance me to the halfway point. Woo-hoo!
I just finished re-reading an old favorite book that didn’t help my frame of mind for writing a youth novel, but I enjoyed it anyway — Alice Walker’s In the Temple of My Familiar. My next step to move my writing along in the vein of a youth novel is to re-read some Jerry Spinelli, Sharon Creech, and other authors for the age group, whose work I love and whose style is very conversational and very much from the point of view of an eleven- or twelve-year-old. I think that will help my dialogue problem a lot. I should grab some Carl Hiaasen and Gary Paulson, too. A dog figures prominently in the story, and Paulson writes Dog really well. I mention these authors because I believe a lot of the best writing out there now by contemporaries is for the youth market. Go check out the Newbery Medal winners. They are a great lot.
Enjoy! I didn’t know what I was missing until a few years ago, so I really do recommend a trip to your local library youth room. The reads are so quick, too! If you want a really good cry, you must check out Sharon Creech’s The Wanderer or Love That Dog. I’m no crier and I absolutely blubbered my way through those, out loud, in front of a class of fifth graders. If you like disturbing (Lisa D and Christa), check out Spinelli’s The Wringer. I read that four years ago and it still haunts me.
Happy writing, painting, puzzling, knitting, etc this week!