Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Why I Think You Should Not Purchase #GoSetAWatchman

There are several reasons why I am not going to purchase and read Go Set A Watchman (GSAW) by Nell Harper Lee. One of those reasons is the crooked agents she's had since her beloved agent, Maurice Crain, died in 1970.   Crain was the one who edited her work, advised her, and helped her develop To Kill A Mockingbird.  

Harper Lee really got the shaft at the agency McIntosh & Otis, particularly by Sam Pinkus, who made all sorts of dirty deals behind the author's back. The whole thing is detailed in Mark Seal's excellent expose at Vanity Fair, aptly titled "To Steal A Mockingbird."  This should be required reading for literary writers, students, and book authors. There should be a quiz on it at cashier counters wherever GSAW is sold. 

Additionally, the article reports the following:
A friend once asked Lee if it was true that she’d never written another novel because she didn’t want to compete with herself.
“Bullshit!” she snapped.
“Why then?” the friend asked.
“Because I wouldn’t go through all the terrible publicity and the strain of what happened with Mockingbird for any amount of money.”
Asked about the volume of Mockingbird sales, she replied, “Well, it doesn’t matter, because I only make 10 percent on it.”
She rarely talked about money and never handled it. Her checks bore the account name of Harper Lee and Alice Lee, and Alice balanced her sister’s books, paid her taxes, and reviewed her contracts.
I feel you, sister Nell; promoting a book is not for the faint of heart. The New York Times reported on the history of the book:
“Go Set a Watchman” would have been Ms. Lee’s literary debut, if her editor had not rejected it. She finished the novel, which takes place 20 years after “To Kill a Mockingbird,” in the mid-1950s. But her editor, Tay Hohoff, told her to write a new version from Scout’s perspective as a young girl.
I must say, I hope no one ever discovers the skeletons of books I have in my closet, completed or not! It is clear that GSAW was a stop on the road toward writing the excellent classic To Kill a Mockingbird (TKAB).

Here are some facts:
  • In 2007, Harper Lee suffered a stroke and moved home to Monroeville so her older sister Alice Lee could look after her
  • In 2011, Alice ended up in a different nursing home in town after a bad fall coupled with a bout of pneumonia
  • Alice Lee died last year, at age 103, and friends reported that Harper was sitting alone at the funeral and talking to herself. She did not seem to be aware of her surroundings
  • Alice Lee's law partner, Tonja Carter, carried on the work on behalf of Harper Lee and was part of making the decision with Lee's agents to publish GSAW in 2015
  • Tonja Carter also sued Pinkus (Lee's former crooked agent) to get back the rights to TKAM, which Harper Lee had been duped into signing away
  • Tonja Carter is also now Harper Lee's power of attorney and can make decisions for her in the case that she is unable to make them for herself
  • There are allegations that Harper Lee had kept GSAW in a safety deposit box to keep it safe and unpublished (See NYT article about who knew about the manuscript.)
  • It was widely known that Lee didn't want to publish again
  • The story of Tonja Carter "discovering" the manuscript in a pile of papers when Alice Lee was near death is suspect
  • Alabama investigators are looking into at least one anonymous complaint that Ms. Lee, who is now nearly 90 and infirm, nearly completely deaf, and visually impaired, was manipulated into publishing GSAW
For more, read Claire Suddath's excellent article, "What Does Harper Lee Want?" at Blomberg Business. The point here is that after Harper Lee's sister Alice died all bets were off. I think if she'd wanted to publish GSAW at any point in her career, she would have.  That it is being published now is just a bunch of agents and publishers making a bundle off of an old woman who is not able to make her wishes known.  In short, in my humble opinion it stinks of bad juju.

We live in a reality-TV time when everyone wants to know the story behind the story. Many readers will purchase GSAW just to learn about the book that Nell Harper Lee herself called, "The Parent of To Kill A Mockingbird." I don't watch Reality TV. I don't want to know how the magic trick was done. I believe it is the writer's prerogative to share or not share the behind-the-scenes of her wonderful published novel.  Of course, it's your choice whether or not you yourself purchase the book, but at least you know the shady issues surrounding its discovery and publication.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

#Literary Dispatch from The Front Porch

Mice: I am sitting on my front porch with no more readings scheduled and only a few more possible awards that Miracle Girls: A Novel could win as a long shot. It has actually done pretty well, having been honored with the following awards:
  • 2015 Independent Publishers Book: Gold Medal  (See photo above with IPPY seal)
  • 2015 Spiritual Book Winner at the Paris Book Festival
  • 2015 Spiritual Book Winner at the San Francisco Book Festival
  • 2015 Spiritual Book Winner at the Amsterdam Book Festival
  • Honorable Mention in Spiritual Fiction at the 2015 Los Angeles Book Festival
  • Honorable Mention in General Fiction at the 2015 New York Book Festival
  • An IndeFAB 2015 Book of the Year Award Honorable Mention in the LGBT Book Category
  • An IndeFAB 2015 Book of the Year Award Nominee in the Religious Book Category
  • Lambda Literary Award 2014 Lesbian Fiction Category Finalist 
Anyway, the book and I are resting comfortably with not much else to do. I did find someone to bring it to the Frankfurt Book Fair on the off chance that I might be able to sell some foreign rights, but for the most part, I'm going to think that we are status quo as previously declared.

It's all a little weird.

I am working on the next book (Disinherited: A Memoir), which, honestly, why would I want to go through this again?  I ask that and I had an amazingly wonderful experience! But, then again, what the hell else would I do with myself? Luckily, I've got a bunch of paid work deadlines that will keep me off the streets for awhile.

Monday, June 22, 2015

R.I.P--The Happy Life and Peaceful Death of a Small #Literary #Novel

When I published my first book, which was a short story collection, I was 29 years old. I didn't know that books had a life, and inevitably (for most authors), a quiet and peaceful death (if you're lucky). I thought everything just went on forever: the readings, the interviews, the people who read your book and told you about it. I also thought that there would be a way to build on the thing in order to make the next book bigger, better, and read by more people, which is something that happens for a few people, but not everyone. Because I was dumb, everything that happened with the first book felt like a disappointment, and I missed all the magic.  Youth is wasted....as they say, so what can you do? For most of us, a published book is like an island of ecstasy in an sea of pain. That was the experience I had in publishing when I was young. 

I published Miracle Girls when I was 48, much wiser about life and much calmer about my place in it (thanks to this blog). I know that every book that is born, also will die, and I am hoping for a peaceful ending to this lovely, lovely year. Everything that happened to the book felt like a total miracle, even though I was the one behind all the promotions and basically pulling all the strings. What I learned is that being arrogant and thinking you deserve something from the world is unhelpful and leads to unhappiness. On the other hand, being humble and feeling grateful for everything you get is a much more sustainable and comfortable position.  I had a year that was beyond my imagination with this second book, and I am so happy about it.  Still, though, now it is coming to a close, and I am faced with what appears to be a mixture of sadness and relief.  Mostly, I am glad to get back to writing alone at my computer, where I get to think and not have to comb my hair or look presentable, if you know what I mean.

To write, publish and promote a book well, you really have to have a wide range of many talents: you have to be able to sit alone and dig deep into the painful places; you have to be persistent and wear a bullet proof vest for all the rejections you will get; you have to also be nimble enough to know when you are getting good editorial advice; finally, you have to clean up nicely and do some tap dancing for the media, book buyers, and interviewers. Each effort and accomplishment is exhausting in its own special way. But for now, going back to my book on being disinherited feels like a treat, though it is not an easy topic for me.  (My third book is going to be a happy one, I hope). And when I feel unsure of myself, or beaten down, or exhausted in the writing way, I can still look over at my novel in its pretty pink cover and know that it exists in the world. Maybe somewhere out there someone is reading it.  And that is really and truly amazing, isn't it?

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Photos of #MiracleGirls at #BEA2015 #IT'STHEPINKBOOK

The hosts of the IndieFAB Awards (Foreward Reviews) had a table at Book Expo America this year, and you can see in the photo that Miracle Girls is out front (right corner).  It's the flashy pink one. In other news, I did NOT win the Lambda Literary Award, but the novel that did win is an amazing work of fiction: YABO by Alexis De Veaux (Redbone Press),  I read all the finalists in my category, and when I finished Alexis' book I thought, "This one should win." And it did! So the right and just literary judging occurred, in my humble opinion, even though my novel wasn't the winner. This made me happy. Congratulations @AlexisDeVeaux

Thursday, June 4, 2015

@AWP Podcast of #Rejection Panel I Was On (I'm The #Bossy One)

Here's a podcast of the #AWP2015 Panel entitled "Rejection! Everything You Always Wanted to Know (But Were Afraid to Ask).  Have a listen. See what you think. You'll note that everybody is talking about how they reject and I'm trying to push through the bullshit. 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Anyone Going to @BookExpoAmerica?

Maybe you'll drop by and see #MiracleGirls on display? If so, take a snap shot and send it? Wish I were going to be there myself!