Friday, October 31, 2014

Count Down Day 11: A Pub Date is A Pub Date is a What?

Received this observation from an LROD Reader, pointing out the availability of my novel for a month and the laughability of this count down:
Today I searched for and found a paperback edition of your book in Barnes and Noble (actually, there were two copies).

For some reason the book wasn't in the New Fiction or New Paperbacks sections of the store, but in the Fiction and Literature section.

I figured no one would find it, because so many people browse the newer books areas to find a good book, so I casually dropped a copy on the New Paperbacks table. It probably will be put back where I found it by store staff, but hopefully someone will discover your book before it's moved. I've noticed before that B and N puts books on shelves before the official publication date.

Good luck with your book!
I have to admit it's kind of true: The books shipped early and are available online everywhere. But I am holding fast to my November 11th date because that's when I will receive the hard copy, and that's the date by which early reviews will need to be in. So far, I have received a Kirkus review, which was exceptionally nice, but that is all. So, we'll see. But here's to the fake countdown anyway.!And many thanks to the nice LROD friend who sneakily put my book in a more prominent position. Please feel free to face my title out anytime you can; I do that for my friends' books too.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Count Down Day 13: Publisher Says My Job Right Now *IS* to Freak Out

I've had a few moments of panic lately as the time draws nearer to release: less than two weeks. No take backs. I have at least figured out a way to read the first section in public, which is to edit it slightly. I wonder if other writers have that issue. There is such a difference about what sounds good to my ear aloud and what needs to be on the page for the reader. So, I'm just going with it. (At least I don't want to die anymore when I think about having to do readings in public.) I'm still working on the scheduling of events and signings. Things are pretty different these days. The last time I published a book, I didn't have to arrange the readings myself; I could just show up to a full crowd or an empty bookshop (only happened once, but still).  Anyway, time is marching forward, and if you pull the camera our for a long view to the spinning orbit of this planet, my tiny book drama matters very little. It'll all be fine. As the publisher says that my panic is exactly on schedule. There's something comforting there.

Friday, October 24, 2014

You Are Free To Go by Sarah Yaw (Count Down Day 18: "Acceptance is Traumatic to Your Self-Doubt," Yo!)

I love myself a fiesty author who speaks her mind about literary rejection and everything else. Therefore, I present to you Sarah Yaw, author of You Are Free to Go (Engine Books, 2014).  What she has to say will make you re-think your concept of literary acceptance, a refreshing change of the convo around these parts. Also, buy and read her book, please.  Here are her thoughts on the subject:

Literary rejection has meant nothing to me. The times I’ve been rejected have not been formative experiences. You might read that and think, what an asshole. Or she has very healthy self-esteem. Or she’s high. But the truth is, rejection of any kind can only mean something to you if you have some hope of acceptance.
            Ten years ago, I couldn’t get an interview in my college English department because I didn’t have the right degree. As a writer, I didn’t have the right to teach writing. That hurt. That stung like I imagine getting a rejection from an agent might sting for someone who believes they have the right to have an agent.  At the same time, I was realizing my fears about not being able to have a baby. I’d never been careful. If it were going to happen easily, it would have happened by then. I knew this. But it wasn’t until I declared: I want this; I deserve this, that each month, each test, each trial, each humiliation burned in me the way, I imagine, rejection burns in someone who thinks they have a chance at selling a big book might burn. I wouldn’t know.
            While I was living that job and family life, I was writing a book. Just one book. Nothing else. No blogging. No short stories. I was writing a book I cared about a lot. But I wasn’t sending anything out into the world and if I had, I would have not only accepted rejection without much of a ripple, I would have expected it.
            Then, one day, I finished my book, sent it out to a contest and found a publisher. I didn’t have an agent. I’d hardly made an attempt to look for one. You see, that’s what people do when they believe their work is valuable, they look for agents and then they expect that agent to take their book to publishers and they expect to be accepted and they are disappointed when they aren’t accepted and fulfilled when they are. I mean, this is what I imagine. This is the caricature I’ve created for the writer who isn’t me. The one who sailed into the English department, who got pregnant easily, who knew exactly how valuable her work was when she finished her book.
            Rejection has never been the problem for me. Acceptance, however, has.
            “Why do I keep experiencing acceptance like some kind of trauma?” I asked my friend.
            “Because,” she said, “It’s traumatic to your self-doubt.”
She’s smart, I thought. But I didn’t want to think I was that deeply flawed.
Keep your expectations low, I believed, and you’ll be OK. Don’t ask for too much, you won’t be disappointed with what you get. In my more spiritual moments I told myself that I learned valuable skills from disappointment.
If that self-talk all worked the way it was supposed to, I’d have been pleasantly surprised by my success. But I wasn’t. I was upended, as if everything I thought I knew about myself was completely wrong. I could catalog the fears this inspired and the chronic suffering, the syllogistic nightmares in which my children suffered because I got what I wanted, but I won’t. I’ll just say that literary rejection never had a chance to register on my scales. It would have meant admitting that I wanted to succeed as a writer. It would have meant believing that I deserved that success. It would have meant fighting for it and thinking I was actually in that game.
            I’m in the game. I have a published novel, an agent, a second book well underway. I’m scared shitless, of course, because this is what I think will happen now: From here on out, I’ll believe I have a chance, I’ll probably fight for what I want, I’ll have hope, and literary rejection will sting like holy hell.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Count Down Day 19--Uncool Agent Delivers An Electronic Kick in the Nuts to This Outraged Writer

I am interrupting this regularly scheduled count down to post a rejection sent in by an LROD reader today. It's a particularly weird one, both overly personal and dramatic, and yet kind of insincere. The first line also might mislead a hopeful writer into thinking that "it's finally happened" means that his/her book is being chosen for representation. Uncool, if you ask me, or maybe just insensitive, but you decide for yourself. Here it is:
Dear Author,

Well, it's finally happened: after over thirty years of answering every query letter that has ever come my way, I've been forced to finally acknowledge that a new era is upon us all.  Before the arrival of e-mail submissions, I used to receive perhaps one hundred queries a week.  That was a lot of queries but it wasn't frankly unmanageable.  The Friedrich Agency now receives more than twice that on a daily basis and it's becoming impossible to attend to much of anything else!  I'm so sorry for the impersonal response, I hate to do this.  Writing a good book or a good proposal is among the hardest things in the world to do; I promise, we're not unsympathetic!  You have our word that we are reading every single query letter that comes our way, but from now on, we're only responding personally if we're sufficiently curious and would like to read further. Please don't take offense at this Draconian measure-- there is undoubtedly a wonderful agent out there for whom your book might just be the perfect match. Toward that end, we wish you all the best!

Take care,
Molly Friedrich

As the receiver of this rejection said: "I mean seriously, starting a pass with, 'Well, it's finally happened,' is a real kick in the nuts. As if anyone's gonna celebrate an agent switching to electronic form rejections. C'mon, man."

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Count Down Day 20: Things Are Shaping Up in My Little World of Novel Promotion

It's always the hard part to shift from being a writer alone in a room having a love affair or fist fight with words, plot, characters, story to being what amounts to a snake-oil salesman in a matter of minutes.  Once a book is sold, edited, proofed, and out the door, you kind of become a one-(wo)man*-show, a busker, a hawker, a magician. It's disconcerting. That said, I have lined up at least a dozen readings for the fall and winter, have sent out my book for first-book award contests variously, have planned a couple of book launch parties in different locations that I think of as home, and have written guest blog posts and had interviews all around the World Wide Inter-webs. All this, while holding down a full-time writing job in corporate America, which has funded me to write the novel in the first place and is a good source of book buyers, as it turns out. It's all very exhausting, but it's what we strive for, isn't it, Mice?

*Younger readers: You will please excuse my clinging to gender as a worthy construct. I know that the world is changing, and I will too. I'm just a little slow.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Count Down Day 23: Literary Agencies I Have Known and Cursed

I always thought I'd find a literary agent who would be my bestie forever and ever, but, alas, it didn't work out that way. In fact, I've had a series of ephemeral literary representatives who either I fired, or who left the business for a pregnancy, a retirement, a job in another field, a jazz career, or a prompt dismissal because she really hadn't agreed to be my agent in any official way, anyway. The latter is always the most heartbreaking: you work and work on the edits the agent offers and when you can't get it just so, they drop you like a hot potato. "Sorry, I just don't know how to go any further with this," or some such. The kiss off. But, what can you do? Most of these associations were tenuous at best. None of the agents were my BFF, and none of them will probably be that to me. I do still have Secret Agent Man still on my side for the non-fiction book I am writing, but that, too, is taking a long, long time, and who knows how patient he will be with me. Very, I hope.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Count Down Day 24--A Dose of What-Have-You for My Humble Novel

Q: How many journals/markets has your writing appeared in? Over what time period?
LROD: About a dozen when I was writing my second short story collection. I wrote my first collection of stories as a book and it got published when I was in my 20s, before I had a chance to send any of them out to be published in journals or magazines. One of those did get published in an anthology, but otherwise I didn't get started sending stories out for publication until I started writing my second collection (pretty much right away). I would say the best I did was win runner up in the Mississippi Review Fiction Prize, which came with publication, and finalist in the Iowa Review Fiction Prize, which did not come with anything. I won first place in the Seattle Review Fiction Prize ($500) and got the story published in the journal of course. I have also placed stories in a bunch of online journals that are very reputable. Interestingly, the collection (of which almost every single story is published in a journal, magazine, or review) has never gotten published as a book. Everyone said, "Write a novel!" Everyone did not mention how hard writing a novel is.  So it took quite a long time, but I would say I was writing and publishing stories in the late 90s and early millennial years. I was also writing essays simultaneously, and getting those published in anthologies and magazines. I have a collection of published essays, which also has not been published as a book. I'm not complaining though. My main thing for years has been the novel, so I'm very grateful it is going to be a book in the world so soon. When I look at it now; I see that it is really quite a humble little book, and that my expectations for it were grand and grandiose and arrogant.  Life provides the humility one needs, it seems. I got a good dose of it, and none to soon.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Count Down Day 25--Why No One Comments on My Blog

"Man, you're not getting no comments...what's up with that?" was a comment I received just a few days ago. This is from someone who had not been to LROD in about 6 years, according to his count. And, yes, it is true that 6 years ago I might get a hundred and one comments on one blog post, but those were the olden days. Now, there is mostly the sound of me typing and crickets chirping under the blog roll. In a way, though, this brings web-logging back to its ontological form, which is basically a diary for the one who is logging. And so I am not dismayed that most people are Twittering and Elloing and Chatting on Apps, rather than commenting on blogs. Personally, I appreciate the quiet.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Count Down Day 26--What's The Real Deal With Me & Jacob Appel?

Jacob Appel is a prince among male writers. He is also prolific and smart and an interesting guy.  He is the second winner of the Golden Apple of Kindness, or GAK, Award here at LROD. I really have no particular deal with the fine fellow. I just noticed that every time I did not win a contest or award, he did! One day, I will sit at a bar and raise a full glass to the man; I'm pretty sure.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Count Down Day 27--My Obsession with Editor Rosemary Ahern

Q: Do you have any idea what happened to Rosemary Ahern? Has she ever contacted you about your good-natured "obsession" with her? 
A: My agent is friends with Rosemary Ahern, and when my novel was flailing last year, he and I conferred about my getting help from someone who has a publishing-view and could edit the book from that perspective. We came up with Ms. Ahern. It was a little awkward given my fantasy life about having her be my editor, but she claimed she really didn't get the whole blog thing I was doing about her.  I said it was all in good fun, and on the phone, I could hear her shrug. Not an issue.  Anyway, I paid her a bit of coinage to read my novel as it was then and to talk to me on the phone for an hour with high level notes about how to make the thing work.  She was brilliant and encouraging, and I have been in touch with her ever since via email. So, in a way, my little fantasy series (in which she coins a nickname for me as Doodles) turned out to be true, though not romantic.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Count Down: Day 28--Why I Have No MFA & Why It Doesn't Matter

Q. Have you ever considered getting an MFA? Why or why not?
LROD:  Ah...the dreaded MFA question! We have had some fun here on this topic, haven't we?  I never got an MFA. Instead I got a degree related to the kind of writing I do to make a living. A place where I worked paid for the graduate degree. My undergraduate degree, though, was in English Literature and Creative Writing. It used to be one of the few colleges with a workshop-style creative writing program, which has now been decimated by the new President of the college who is an economist and a boor. Shortly after I graduated from said college, I applied to Iowa and Brown, but got promptly rejected, so never applied anywhere else again. That just goes to show you how both arrogant and how insecure I was--a bad combination.  After my first book came out, a collection of stories, I started teaching here and there at some fine institutions as an adjunct instructor in English and in fiction writing, so I guess I never felt like not having an MFA was a deficit. I still managed to do what I wanted to do, and to gain the connections I needed by hook or by crook to get my work read. It probably would have been an easier road had I gotten accepted into one of those prestigious MFA programs, but I had to work full-time, and sadly no one was offering to pay my way or give me a nice juicy grant--those came much later. I could have gotten loans, I guess, but I'm more the nose-to-the-grindstone, earn-and save-money type of individual. (I've had jobs since I was 16 years old.)  I guess easy isn't exactly my modus operandi, anyway. So, no. No MFA.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Count Down: Day 29 and The Fictionalization of This Blog

Day 29....and counting.... 

Q. Have you read the book After The Workshop: A Memoir by Jack Hercules Sheahan: A Novel by John McNally, which seems to include a pretty strong reference to your blog? If so, what did you think?

LROD: Yeah. That novel came out a few years ago.  I am friends with the agent representing the book, who knows this is my blog, but we have never spoken about the fictionalization in his author's book about LROD.  I didn't really know what to make of it, so I never really commented on it. I suppose I should be flattered to make it into the literature, as they say.  I find it amusing, which is what I guess the author's intent is, though it seems slightly defensive too, like maybe he is still working out getting a thrashing here at LROD about his point of view on MFAs.  I do feel a little bad that there are people walking around in the world who have gotten thrashed because, as you know, I think politeness is underrated. That said, here is an excerpt of McNally's novel regarding LROD, so that you may judge for yourself:
A year ago, after a late night at the Foxhead, I made the mistake of pulling up a blog dedicated solely to rejections from literary magazines.  The site was called "Rejections Are My Heart Break and Misery," and each entry was about rigged contests or impersonal notes from agents who'd turned down the blogger's novel or the cruel wording of submission guidelines.  One blog entry that I had drunkenly stumbled onto happened to be about MFA programs, a subject that brought the loons out of their closets by the dozens.  Finally, they could rationalize their own lack of success by accusing publishers and writers of being part of a secret cabal, like Yale's Skull and Bones, that refused to let in anyone who didn't know the secret MFA handshake.  The comments on the blog came pouring in, one after the other, the sentiment being that MFA'ers were coddled, that they didn't know the real world, that they were handed book contracts and cushy teaching appointments upon graduation, that they came from privileged backgrounds.  The words "Ivory Tower" appeared again and again.  Although I couln't argue that my own publications weren't born of dubious circumstances, I foolishly decided to weigh in, letting everyone know that I had an MFA, from Iowa no less, and although most of my colleagues had come from backgrounds with money I certainly hadn't.  furthermore only a few of my classmates had received cushy teaching appointments after earning their diplomas; the vast majority pierced together work any way they could.  Lastly, only a modest percentage of my classmates had published books after graduation, and of those who did, only two had managed to achieve the kind of reputation where someone, somewhere, might actually have heard of him or her.     
"You're all so paranoid, I wrote. And then, for lack of a better closing, I wrote, "Good grief!"
I entered my comment, waited a few minutes, and refreshed the page. A man whose nom de blog was "Oscare Wilde and Crazy" responded to my comment with one word: "Bullshit."  
I wrote back, "Bullshit?"
 "I should kick your ass," Oscar Wilde and Crazy wrote. "You have an MFA from Iowa and you dare come here and chastise us? You're an asshole. Furthermore, I don't believe most of what you've written."
The anonymous blogger, who was known as RAMHAM (the acronym for the blog's name), moderated the comments with such speed that it was only natrual to assume that this person had nothing of import going on in his or her life.
"Now, now," RAMHAM wrote. "No name calling.  Keep it civil."
"Are you kidding me?" I wrote back to Oscar. "Why the hell would I be making this up? Who the fuck are you?"
"I know your kind," Oscar wrote.  "I live in Cedar Rapids. I see you Iowa snobs all the time.  You think your shit doesn't stink..."
"Now, now," RAMHAM chimed back in. "Remember what I told you." (p234)
 The novel goes on for a while with the fictionalized exchange. Then there is a section where the two commenting adversaries plan to meet one another at a local diner.  But the protagonist chickens out at the last minute upon seeing Oscar Wilde and Crazy and denies that he is the guy who agreed to meet. This prompts a tongue lashing on the comments section of RAMHAM, in which Oscar Wilde and Crazy calls the protagonist a "chickenshit mama's boy" and a "hack with an MFA."

You tell me: Should I be flattered or annoyed or simply amused?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

On National Coming Out Day, I Begin a 30 Day Count Down to Revealing My Identity

Mice! This is it! In 30 days, my book will be here, so I thought I'd answer a question a day until the big reveal of my identity, the day I will post the cover feature of my novel with an interview in the feature "Victory over Rejection".  In about 2010, some very nice LROD reader, named Anony-mouse, sent a list of questions s/he thought I should answer. 

So here goes: Day #30--Question #1:

Q: What was your most heartbreaking rejection, and why?
LROD: I haven't ever shared my most heartbreaking rejection on this blog before. I guess it was too upsetting for a long time. But now that I have received my first box of my  published novel via priority mail from the publisher, and am getting ready for a book launch, I can share it. As you know, I have had my fair share of agents who have retired, gotten pregnant, gotten fired, and/or left the business. One particular agent was a woman who worked with me on the book very intensely. We had a meeting after one specific serious rewrite, and she very soberly sat me down and told me that I should put the novel on the shelf; it wasn't working, and she didn't see how it would ever work, or how she could ever sell it. I was not expecting this turn of events; I thought we were meeting to figure out which editors we should try first. In fact, I had traveled all the way to New York to meet with her only to have her say that I should give it up. I remember thinking that I was never going to recover from the blow. I remember being really pissed and really down about it for a long time. But eventually, like a weed, I grew back even stronger and got back to work. When this agent quit the biz, I went on to find another. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

They're Heeeeeeere!

First copies of the published novel have arrived! Release date November 11th! Everything is going swimmingly. One weird thing: Publisher's Weekly has changed its book review submission process from the old fashioned usual way to an online system. Do people know about this?  The new system went live in June and is called GalleyTracker. However, my galley was ready in March, so the publisher sent it the old fashioned way, but now there is some question about whether or not this will create a glitch, and whether or not my novel will get reviewed. My first book (of stories) was reviewed by PW, so you would think that maybe it would normally get a small review, a nod, perhaps a nice little star? But, alas, there's nothing one can do about it. The novel either will or won't be reviewed. Is anyone else having this issue? Just wondering.