Tag: writing

New York Pitch Conference

Today was the first day of the NY Pitch Conference. I’ve been a workshop leader there for ten years, and it has a very special place in my heart because that’s where I sold my first novel, The Fiction Class. It was a truly life-changing experience. I’d been wading through the publishing waters for some years, trying to catch a wave. (I’ve just been in Monterey and surfing images are in my mind.) I wrote up a pitch and presented it to the first editor, who kindly informed me that no one would ever publish my book because it was about creative writing and no one cared about that. The next editor was much more pleasant, and seemed genuinely interested in my book. Except that he quit publishing that very day and went to work for his family’s logging company in Canada. The third editor was also kind, but she was not the right editor for my book. Then, on Sunday morning, I went in to meet with the fourth editor, read my pitch and she said, “We’re going to want to publish this book!” Even a decade later I can remember how thrilled I was. So now, when I’m […]

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Public Speaking Pro Tips

In less than a month, I will be speaking at a country club about the stories behind my stories. The engagement is a benefit to support services for seriously ill women at Englewood Hospital. I’m the entertainment. In exchange for speaking for an hour, the hospital is giving everyone a copy of The Widower’s Wife. My usual anxiety level is probably around a six out of ten. But this event has put it at an eleven. I want people to have a good time. I want them to enjoy the speech enough that they feel particularly good about opening their wallets to support a good cause. I also am hoping that maybe some people will like me enough to read my books. So I reached out to the MissDemeanors, many of whom speak in front of classes and conferences regularly, to ask for tips. Here’s what they recommend. Alexia Gordon: I just finished one 30 minutes ago. I’m a faculty author at Sleuthfest in Boca Raton this year. Never before have I had to lead workshops at a writers conference. Never before have I been faculty or a “featured author.” I’ve been on author panels, but only as a panel member, […]

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How to Deal with Change

So, after spending a week thrashing around with the new Miss Demeanor site, I think I’ve conquered it, although I notice one of my posts has a red dot that means, “Needs Improvement.” Even the computer is a critic. So I survived, but as I embarked on this week-long journey, I asked my fellow Miss Demeanors how they dealt with change. This is what they said: Paula: The book business has changed more in the past 15 years than it has since Gutenberg. And the sands are still shifting beneath our feet. This is true of publishing in particular and retail in general. That said, it’s never been easy to be an artist. Our best defense remains flexibility, creativity, and adaptability.  Sounds like yoga! Paula: Ha! Alison: This is me grinning. Just got off the mat from my home practice. Yep. Every day is different.  Robin: The only constant is change, right? I actually crave change, sometimes. It’s a big part of what led me in the direction of computers. It’s a fast-changing landscape so I’m always learning and rarely bored. It’s probably also why I love living by an ocean. The beach is the “same” beach but no two waves […]

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Lessons Learned.

 Tracee: What have you learned, or changed as you advance from first to second, or sixth novel? I feel like number one and two were seat of my pants (regardless of actual plotting) in relation to the larger world of writing and publishing. Now I think I am – for better or worse – more Aware of what I am doing or should be doing. Not that I’m necessarily doing it.  As I write, I feel there is more at stake. Honestly the biggest difference for me is a sense of wanting it to be better. Which can get in my head and wreak havoc.  What’s changed for the rest of you?  Susan: I love reading books on Kindle because I love seeing what people highlight. One of the things I’ve come to realize is that while people will highlight some beautiful sentences, and some funny lines, they are mainly marking up sentences that offer some form of wisdom. People are looking to authors to help them interpret the world. If you read a book like Beartown by Fredrik Backman, for example, just about every third line is highlighted. So I’ve become more conscious of that as I work on my new Maggie Dove. […]

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Passion

Every morning I go out for a walk in the woods with my dogs. A couple of months ago, I began taking pictures of some of the things I saw in the woods and posting them on Facebook. One a day. I must have posted 20 pictures of fungi. But mainly I post pictures of trees. I had no particular reason for doing this, beyond the fact that I truly love looking at trees. What has surprised me though is how many people have responded to this passion of mine.    People I barely know will come up to me and say, “Oh I saw that tree picture of yours.” Strangers (and friends) send me pictures of trees, or poems about trees, or books about trees.  What has surprised me is that this passion of mine has found a home with so many other people. Turns out a lot of people love trees, but it’s something I wouldn’t have discovered if not exploring my own passion This is something I think about with writing. I do believe that when you put something you care about on the page, people respond to it. That’s what I want, anyway. To write something that connects with […]

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The Third Draft

I’ve been working on my third Maggie Dove book for more than a year. The first draft flowed out of me in a Nanowrimo eruption–more than 50,000 words in a month. The second draft took longer. I had to read through all those words and figure out what the plot was, which did not become clear to me until about word 17,000. Then I had to figure out who the characters were and what they wanted. You would think this would be a simple matter since my protagonist stays the same from book to book, but Maggie Dove is evolving (as am I) and I needed to think about how to reflect that. Then, of course, there are all the murder details, and those take a certain amount of cogitation. Drowning versus falling off a cliff versus getting hit on the head with an ax. I have to choose the right thing to go with the murderer, and oh, about halfway through I decided that the killer was going to be someone else entirely. I surprised myself, and hopefully will surprise the reader, but that meant I had to go back and think some more about what I’d plotted out. By the […]

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3 Things I Know About The Future… From Dystopian Fiction

A critical part of creating fiction is a careful examination of the world. Storytellers, first and foremost, must be students of the human experience. We have to spend time learning about what motivates people, how different personality types tend to form and respond to situations, how various societies react to different stimuli and challenges, how the setting we all share (the earth) responds to our existence. Sometimes this intense study leads to forecasting rather than fiction. Here are three inventions by famous authors that look like they will definitely come true–for better or worse.  #1. Meat won’t come from live animals.  In her book, Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood writes about chicken that is grown in parts by machines. Her ChickieNobs don’t have eyes or beaks, though they have a mouth-like orifice for receiving tubes of nutrients. It’s meat without the animal.  Such “nobs” are not a reality–yet. But since the 2003 publication of her book, “cultured meat” has been cloned from the muscle cells of beef cows. The process isn’t exactly like the blobs with tubes sticking out of them that Atwood envisioned, but when you hear about the “tubes” of muscle tissue that are grown and stacked to create one of these burgers, she […]

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Scandalous! Examining Sex in Banned Literary Classics.

“The material to which children are being exposed in certain classes in Republic Schools is shocking… This is a book that contains so much profane language, it would make a sailor blush with shame. The “f word” is plastered on almost every other page. The content ranges from naked men and women in cages together so that others can watch them having sex to God telling people that they better not mess with his loser, bum of a son, named Jesus Christ.”–Wesley Scroggins, Springfield News Leader The book that Scroggins was suggesting banning from the public school curriculum back in 2010–not in the 1970s, as one might expect–was Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, a classic anti-war novel regularly listed in the top 100 books of the century by literary scholars. Reading his editorial, one might expect to find a graphic sex scene a la Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem For A Dream. In reality, not much happens. The PTSD-suffering hero, Billy Pilgrim, is transported (or believes he has been transported) by aliens into a zoo in which human beings are observed by little green men. An actress is sent there to be his mate. They’re both nude, a detail that is stated rather matter-of-factly in the […]

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To Pee or Not to Pee? How much mundane human activity must an author include for a character to be believable.

 I will probably get myself banned from all future literary consideration by writing this, but James Joyce’s Ulysses did not blow my mind. I read the famed novel as an adult after it was named one of the best books of all time by a panel of experts at Harvard University. However, after I finished it–and I did finish it–what I remembered most was not my empathy for sensitive, cuckolded Leopold Bloom or the profoundness of his musings, but how often the main character had to urinate during the day.  In truth, Leopold Bloom probably didn’t go to the bathroom any more than an average person does on a given afternoon. Really, I think he went twice (though the peeing in the dream sequence clouds it for me). And I get that part of the point of Ulysses is to paint a portrait of a man going about his day. But even being subjected to Bloom’s necessary bodily functions twice in the course of a 265,000 word novel gave the act a relevance that, for me, took away from the larger work (or, at least, distracted me enough that I forgot what point of existence I was supposed to be pontificating upon at the moment). When […]

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What I Learned from Walter Mosley

   I recently had the honor and privilege of interviewing Walter Mosley, who was the Guest of Honor at the New England Crime Bake, which I co-chaired this year with Edith Maxwell. I thought getting to interview Walter was a reward for my hard work preparing for Crime Bake until I realized the man had written fifty-four books in less than thirty years. Time magazine says Mosley is a “writer whose work transcends category.” I learned he has not only written several fabulously successful crime series, including the beloved Easy Rawlins series, but he has also written sci-fi, literary fiction, erotica, a political monograph, and a writing book. And awards, he’s won them all, even a Grammy. In short time, my excitement over interviewing Mosley bordered on terror.            It shouldn’t have. Walter is a very smart, funny, and warm individual. Here’s a few things I learned from him over the weekend: 1. Why you should write everyday.            When I worked day and night as a lawyer, mediator, and adjunct law professor, this writing “rule” infuriated me. Never mind that I worked twelve hours a day and spend the same amount on weekends writing. It didn’t seem to count. I regarded it as […]

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