Tag Archives: Writer

I’m Going To Do a Book

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I have been writing a manuscript for almost 8 years.

When I write that sentence, it is only slightly less embarrassing than when I say it out loud.

Some writers pop out books every other year.

Not me.

I used to joke that I felt like I was giving birth to twin elephants; the gestation period for one pachyderm is 2.5 years so I allowed  time to double it; after all, when I started writing my book my son was five years old. He was active, building LEGO creations and dancing and leaving goldfish crackers all over the house. He went to school under 3 hours a day. The nap had evaporated. I had my hands full.

But here it is — seven years later — and I am wondering what is wrong with me? Why won’t this baby come out?

Kristen Lamb (author of We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer) once suggested it is possible for some writers to get stuck “rearranging the chairs on the Titanic,” and I wondered if she was talking about me.

Was I that crazy woman adjusting the furniture when the ship was going down? I could hardly bear the thought of my baby sinking.

Rather than despair, I decided to remind myself that I am surrounded by greatness, and I figured I’d plug some people who I know in real life who have written and published some good stuff.

1. Michael Wexler: The Seems • Young Adult

2. Pam Sherman: The Suburban Outlaw • Non-Fiction Essays

3. Cynthia Kolko: Fruit of the Vine • Fiction

4. Betsy Petersen: Dancing with Daddy: A Childhood Lost & a Life Regained • Memoir

5. Chet Day: The Hacker • Thriller

6. Steven Mazie: Israel’s Higher Law: Religion and Liberal Democracy in the Jewish State • Political Science

7. Jeffrey Hirschberg: Reflections of the Shadow: Creating Memorable Heroes and Villains for Film and TV • Film Theory

8. Victoria Wasserman: Damage Control • Fiction

9. Rebecca Etlinger: To Be Me: Understanding What It’s Like To Have Asperger’s Syndrome • Picture Book

10. Janet Goodfriend: For the Love of Art • Fiction

11. Wendy Vigdor-Hess: Sweetness Without Sugar • Cookbook

*SOON TO BE RELEASED!*

12. Rebecca Land Soodak: Henny On the Couch • Fiction • 

And if that isn’t enough, I also have some cyber-budddies who have recently landed agents after attending writing conferences, so I keep writing and telling myself my time will come.

So now I’m looking into getting my ass to a writing conference.

Stat.

All these people keep me inspired, as I try to remain optimistic that a book I have authored will — one day — make it on a shelf where I can see my name, written sideways on the spine, sandwiched between other legit authors.

That is if there are still bookstores with bookshelves by the time I’m done with this book that is sucking a piece of my soul.

Once I asked an author friend of mine about what I could do to help move my baby towards the birth canal.

She suggested that I stop whining and just push the kid out and see how he fares in the world.

I said he wasn’t ready yet, that he still needed time in the oven.

But she is right.

So I am dilating.

Seriously.

Right now I’m about 2 centimeters, and I need to move things along.

It is time to get this alien-monster out of my belly and into someone else’s laptop.

Okay, that was a metaphor fail.

What I’m trying to say is that I’m working hard on revising.

And when all is said and done, if my baby is dull or no one thinks my sweet thang is sparkly or bedazzled enough, well, I can bundle him up and tuck him in a folder called Manny Manuscript, age 8.

I can wax nostalgic about how much fun I had creating characters and setting and symbolism and sub-plots. I can laugh about how Manny kept me up at night and wouldn’t let me to sleep until I’d written down what he wanted me to say. I can talk about how much paper he ate, that crazy Manny.

But honestly, if Manny is never going to be a real-book, well… Manny has a sibling who has been patiently waiting to be born.

And maybe it’s her time now.

What keeps you inspired when you don’t feel like you are moving forward? More importantly, what is your favorite part of that video clip? And why do I want to throw the cheese?

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Hey! Why Is It So Quiet in Here?

I have my best listening ears on!

I have been gaining subscribers for a year now. I have this cool, little dashboard that tells me how many people have viewed my blog, which pages they have checked out, what words they searched to find me, and a whole lot of cool information. My lice post is still the number one most frequently viewed post and, if you Google search “drag needle splinter twit,” you will find this.

Here’s what I don’t understand. Every day, more people are visiting my site. Which is totally excellent. And I am grateful to everyone who comes to check me out. And I’d like to take this opportunity to say to the folks searching for “psicologia: esconderse bajo la cama”: I’m sorry I couldn’t be more helpful.

But here is what I’m pondering:

Why do so few people who read blogs actually leave comments? I mean I have my regulars, the folks upon whom I can rely on to say something. They are the people with whom I have come to know and have developed cyber-relationships. Through these online exchanges, I have met so many smart/interesting/funny people. Some cyber-friendships have progressed to emails; some to phone calls. Heck, I’m playing concurrent games of “Words with Friends” with Jessica Buttram and Ironic Mom.

So imagine my surprise when a friend that I actually know in real life — yeah, I’m calling you out, Aaron — admitted that he has been reading my blog since my blog was born, that he has been there since its infancy, and added that he has really been enjoying watching li’l boggie mature. Now this of course made me all shivery and happy inside, and I immediately gave him a hug Actually, I may have hugged him first and then squealed when he made the comment, but you get the idea.

Of course, I love the idea that people are reading my content.

But later (after the hugging and squealing), I wondered, Why doesn’t Aaron ever comment? What’s up with that? And if Aaron isn’t commenting, why aren’t other people commenting? I decided to create a poll to try to find out. Seriously, I’d love to hear from you lurkers who read but don’t necessarily comment. Please know I don’t have any way to identify about you except the answers you leave here because all the info is collected at Poll Daddy and reported back to me anonymously. You know, unless you put your name in the comment or something.

I love writing and I am working my butt off trying to bring you interesting stuff. Am I missing something? I can never predict which posts people are going to go bonkers over and which ones will be duds. (I mean head lice? Really? Over 200 hits every day?)

Author Kristen Lamb (a woman to whom I refer to as “The Queen”) often writes about how important it is for writers to try to connect with one another in her blog and in her books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . I know not all of my readers are bloggers, but whether you are or not, I would love it if you would leave me a comment. For me, blogging is — of course — about writing, but it is also about creating a dialogue. After I have written something the delicious part is hearing what people have to say about it. The comments are like a fabulous dessert you get to eat — after slaving away for hours making a difficult meal.

If you are writing a blog, you are hoping that someone is maybe (*hopefully*) reading your words. Admit it. It’s true.

And if you are checking out other people’s stuff, you don’t have to feel pressured to write a crazy long comment. Even a short little “Thanks for this!” or “Hilarious!” can really make someone’s day. So don’t be shy. Just say, “Hi!”

Truly, I am interested as to why people choose to be quiet when they could be part of the dialogue. So please, enlighten me. At the risk of sounding like the National Inquirer, inquiring minds really do want to know. Has anyone else given any thought to this phenomenon?

What drives people to comment?  And what makes lurkers stay in the shadows?


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Posts That Shimmy & Shake: Abby Has Issues, Paul Waters & Kristen Lamb

This is the fun part of the show where I get to tell you about some great reads that you might have missed this week. As usual, I try to get one from the chicks and one from the dudes. This week, I even have one from “The Queen.”

From The Ladies: Abby Has Issues is a hilarious blog by Abby Heugel. This week she wrote a piece called My Marriage Proposal that had me considering the concept of a Sister Wife. I decided I really wanted Abby to move in with me – and my husband. Why? Because Abby has decided she would like to be a Consolation Prize Wife, which is not to be confused with a Trophy Wife. Abby’s totally cool with being a consolation prize, and she gives a lot of convincing reasons why you should be too. Let’s just say, she had me at Swiffer Wet Jet.

• • •

From the Dudes: Paul Waters has a very funny post for all you little history buffs in the house. Or for folks who like naughty words that aren’t supposed to be naughty but they totally are. Poor Bastards. His piece is called “Are You SURE You Want To Take His Name When You Get Married?” I can’t say more without ruining the funny. Paul is one of the very first people I met when I landed here in the Blogosphere, and I have been enjoying his writing for a year now. It’s time to stop hogging him to myself. Read more of Paul’s stuff at Blackwatertown.

• • •

From The Queen: If you haven’t yet been introduced to Kristen Lamb’s fabulous blog Warrior Writers, today is your lucky day! Thank goodness for premature button pushing! This week Kristen Lamb, author of We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer  accidentally released one of her dazzlingly gorgeous pieces of brilliance a little earlier than expected. Let’s just say, the unexpected bundle of joy entitled, “Sacred Cow-Tipping: Why Writers Blogging About Writing is Bad”  was received with much head-nodding and agreement that her spawn is, indeed, breathtaking. KL’s post explains why writers should not create blogs that are exclusively dedicated to writing about writing.

I am so glad I did not make the mistake about writing about writing. But I almost did. A teacher for 20 years, when I decided to start blogging, I figured I’d write about writing. My son (age 10 at the time) rolled his eyes and said, “Mom, that’s so boring. You don’t have to always be the teacher. You can also be the dumb one.” And he was right. I have so many stories where I am the Chief Twit-in-Residence, so instead of always having to be Mrs. Smarty-Pants, I can also be the wisenheimer. So instead of being locked in to talking about commas and semi-colons, I left room for options. Which is one of Kristen’s points. They don’t call her “The Queen” for nothing. (Well, they don’t. But I do.)

Before you check out these amazing writers, can you explain what’s up with that cat?

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A Bridge From Cyber Chaos to the World of Words

The Facebook Man. Facebook is celebrating its ...

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I am forever trying to make sense of how to balance the world of books (which sit quietly, unobtrusively on tables) and the world of screens (which flash and bing and ping noisily for our attention). To me, they are like two different kinds of children.

Today, I was reading Madame Librarian’s Blog, and I saw that she had stumbled across something wonderful that struck a chord for her, and also struck that same place in me! She found a quote from an interview with Jonathan Franzen where he says:

I think novelists nowadays have a responsibility—whether or not my contemporaries are actually living up to it—to make books really, really compelling. To make you want to turn off your phone and walk away from your Internet connection and go spend some time in another place. I’m trying to fashion something that will actually pull you away, so I’m certainly conscious of the tension between the solitary world of reading and writing, and the noisy crowded world of electronic communications.

I continue to believe it’s a phony palliative, most of the noise. You have the sense of “Oh yeah, I’m writing in my angry response to your post, and now I’m flaming back the person who flamed me back for my angry response.” All of that stuff, you have the sense, “Yeah, I’m really engaged in something. I’m not alone. I’m not alone. I’m not alone.” And yet, I don’t think—maybe it’s just me—but when I connect with a good book, often by somebody dead, and they are telling me a story that seems true, and they are telling me things about myself that I know to be true, but I hadn’t been able to put together before—I feel so much less alone than I ever can sending e-mails or receiving texts. I think there’s a kind of—I don’t want to say shallow, because then I start sounding like an elitist. It’s kind of like a person who keeps smoking more and more cigarettes. You keep giving yourself more and more jolts of stimulus, because deep inside, you’re incredibly lonely and isolated. The engine of technological consumerism is very good at exploiting the short-term need for that little jolt, and is very, very bad at addressing the real solitude and isolation, which I think is increasing. That’s how I perceive my mission as a writer—and particularly as a novelist—is to try to provide a bridge from the inside of me to the inside of somebody else.

Franzen goes on to discuss how people who love books love to hold books, the whole experience of a book. I, personally, am a sloppy margin scribbler. I turn back corners and make notes. I underline and star things. No one wants to borrow a book after I have read it, and if I have ever borrowed someone else’s book, I usually have to buy them a new copy. Not because they wouldn’t take back the marked up copy, but because I simply can’t give back the book once it has become part of me.

This is probably partly why I have resisted getting a nook or a kindle, even though numerous people have told me I would love it. That I could still make my marginal notes; they would just be typed, and all my comments would appear in chronological order and be easily found. I understand all of this. It’s just, well . . . I just finished reading a book called The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future by Mark Bauerlein. And frankly, it caught my attention. The premise of the book is that parents and educators have been sold a bad bill of goods, promising that computers will help make learning easier and more enjoyable for students. They have also been promised that their children’s test scores and literacy will go up as a result of this new technology: that the whole world is at their fingertips.

The author points out, however, that this is not the way teens use the Internet technology that is available to them. Teens don’t independently look up information about history or art or follow politics or listen to any music except popular music.  Young users have learned to upload and download, surf and chat, post and design, play games and buy things online, but they haven’t learned to analyze a complex text, store facts in their heads, comprehend foreign policy, take lessons from history, or spell correctly. They require teachers, parents, religious leaders and employers to teach to pull them from their adolescent ethos towards a more mature ethic which will expose them to the idea of serious work, civic duty, financial independence, personal and family responsibility.

And as ironic as this is going to sound coming from an online blogger, I am trying to minimize my screen time. Yes, I will continue to blog, but I’m trying to live a little more unplugged because I truly believe (and now have well researched and documented support, thanks to Bauerlein) that all this screen time is leading us down the path to a place of incivility that breeds incompetence in school and the workplace. I see people losing their ability to connect to each other. And, as a teacher and a writer, I want to be that bridge, so I have to work on being that bridge.

Franzen’s interview came at the right time for me. As I continue to write on a manuscript that has been like birthing an elephant. And by that I only mean it is taking a really long time. One day, I would like to hold that book in my hands, and I would like to dream that somewhere, someday, someone might write all over it. Underline. Make stars. Question marks. Pen, “This sounds like me” in the margins.

I want to be a real (metaphoric) bridge, though. Starting Wednesday, September 8, 2010, I plan to help my undergraduate students figure out how to pull their own stories from out of themselves and put them on paper; show them that the conventions of Modern Standard English matter, that an outstanding vocabulary can help them get ahead.

I don’t think it is possible to be a cyber-bridge. You have to really be present to help people make their journey, especially when they are scared. And, believe me, when you ask 18-24 year olds to put away their technology — even for just 50 minutes — they are scared.

So I will gently take their hands and pull them away from their addictions and try — for 15 weeks — to get them to let me be their bridge.

I just hope they don’t walk all over me. Or that they, at least, tread lightly.

Interview with Janet Goodfriend • Author

When my old summer camp friend, Janet Goodfriend, decided to self-publish her own book, For the Love of Art, my ears pricked up, and I took notice. There are differing opinions about self-publishing. Some folks feel that it is the kiss of death for an author but  others swear that if sales are brisk and reviews are good, it can springboard an aspiring author’s career. Here is a little bit about Janet’s new book.

Tell me a little bit about yourself, where you grew up, etc.

Born in Rochester, New York where I spent most of my early childhood along with fading memories of Fort Devens Massachusetts, our family eventually settled in Ithaca, New York — the setting for my first novel, Straight Up. After earning a B.A. in English with a teacher’s certification from Fredonia’s State University of New York, I made my way to the Boston area and picked up a Masters in Literacy and Language Arts from Framingham State as I began my teaching career. The last several years have been devoted to raising a family and pursuing the dream of becoming a novelist. Though successful on those fronts thus far, selling a book in an extremely down market is an entirely different story. My hope is to be just success enough to allow me to continue to do this crazy thing called writing.

How did you develop an interest in writing? Did you go to school for writing?
My debut novel, For the Love of Art, is dedicated to my grandmother (a school librarian) who first passed down her profound fondness for literature and education. With a mother who kept me immersed in books and a father who nurtured my interest in poetry, it is no wonder that writing became a favored activity. After being editor of my high school literary magazine, I went on to pursue writing for my college newspaper. There, I was reprimanded before the entire newspaper staff because my journalistic style of reporting was considered “overly creative.” Though I concurred, the dreaded task of  reporting “just the facts” sent me packing. I have written poetry and prose over the years and, now with three novel length manuscripts, I find myself pining after a fourth. If only the business of publishing were not so all-consuming. For now, I will just have to be content for now to let that next book percolate among my thoughts a while longer.

Author, Janet Goodfriend

Who is your favorite author and what is your favorite book?
I am so not good with favorites. Always reading something, I often find myself having “I’m-not-worthy” moments as I amble my way in awe over the pages of another author’s cunningly lucid descriptions. Though I do have a penchant for contemporary fiction, I read all kinds of things. This year my favorite novels are The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay, Shelter Me by Juliette Fay, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski, and The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry. If I had to pick favorite books that truly stand the test of time, my mind would dance over everything from The Lorax to Catcher in the Rye, to anything penned by Shakespeare, to The Diary of Ann Frank before comfortably landing on To Kill a Mockingbird.

What is For the Love of Art about?

A novel of hope, this literary mystery is about three mothers (one a writer/teacher) vacationing sans children, on Martha’s Vineyard, who become embroiled in an art heist. Their escape ironically turns into a pointed quest giving the reader an intimate look at some of the locals. The cast includes love’s lost painter, a visceral and passionate sculptor, a besieged poet, an introspective detective, an art teacher, a salacious reporter and a homeless man. It is my hope that people will not only be entertained but better value what seems most basic in life, recognize their part in tending our earth, raising its children and ultimately feel compelled to preserve art that moves us and validates our worth.

Where can people buy your book?
Currently my book is for sale on www.janetgoodfriend.com via Amazon. However, the publishing company will donate $5.00 per book to your school if purchased directly through Painted Wood Press, P.O. Box 1006, Upton MA 01568. Just send a $20.00 check to Painted Wood Press along with the shipping address. Price includes tax, shipping and a $5.00 donation to the education fund or school district in your town toward its Arts fund. In a book club? Consider Skyping me into one of your meetings! Contact Janet at: janetgoodfriend.com for more information.

What words of advice or wisdom do you have for aspiring authors?
With so much negativity about the economy and dooming words about how print is dying, it is nearly impossible not to absorb such stifling chatter. In spite of the stone cold anonymous face of the publishing industry, if writing is in you, you must do it because you love to write and have something to tell. Only after you have completed your masterpiece, should you agonize over how to go about piercing a market clad with impenetrable locks and barriers. Upon your final rejection  — and you’ll know it’s the last one because you will have stopped keeping track of the rejections, and feel as though your manuscript might actually combust inside your computer from the continuous fingertip friction upon the keyboard or, worse, you will be ever aware of your inner-quakings due to the punishing silence from publishers and agents who simply cannot respond personally to the 300 plus queries they receive on a weekly basis.) That said, you can polish your work as well as a professional editor and publish it yourself. We’ll see how it goes. Ask me again next year.

What are your plans for the future?
For the Love of Art is my debut into the bursting at the seams world of print. With any luck and sustained support for this title, I plan to bring Straight Up to the press in 2012 and follow it up with Surrender Flash.

Be sure to check out Janet’s website as she adds more books to her repertoire!