Sunday, November 15, 2015

Pay-To-Enter #Literary #Book #Prizes: What's Your Beef, Bro?

It's always cool to win a prize, especially when its a book prize. The USA Best Book Awards are mainly for independent books, though I noticed some of the winners this year were from mainstream publishing houses, which is to say, maybe everyone with any kind of cash leftover in the promotional budget enters into what some people like to call "vanity award" contests. It's not an inexpensive proposal: $199.00 to enter a book in a specific category. Still, someone, or some panel, reads the books and picks a winner, so it's not entirely vanity.  ( I mean, if I paid and automatically became a winner, or if I picked my book as a winner, that would be vanity.) So, criticize all you want. I'm never going to win a National Book Award. So I am delighted that Miracle Girls won a USA Best Book Award. And I'm especially happy that it won in the Literary Fiction category. That just makes me happy. What can I say?

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Problem With #Family: A #Literary Dilemma

So, I've written three drafts of my next book based on this essay, but I hated the way it sounded (too whiny), so I started over entirely. Blank page. And now I am on page 234 of the new and improved version, which is from a much deeper point of view, much more internal. I am getting ready to head into the second half of the book, which deals with disinheritance. I have to say I'm a little overwhelmed at the idea of delving a new into such a hairy topic, but here I go anyway. What makes things all a bit unfun is the fact that my family wants me to stop writing about the topic. I think they wish I would shut the F*** up, or fall off the planet, but I have to write this book. I have to figure out what exactly happened to me and why. I've even found a decent literary method for never mentioning any of them by name: I write about my brothers as The Three. How about that for clever? But, whatever. They don't get it, and never will.
     If they had the capacity to understand, I probably never would have been disinherited (by surprise) in the first place. Someone would have warned me. Anyway, they are all seemingly insulted by the essay, which I think is fairly gentle, to tell you the truth, and not even technically about them. There's barely a mention of them, but everybody has a right to his or her own opinion. Mostly, I've heard from them on the fact that they think we didn't have THAT many guns in the house when we were young. (!) (!!) (Huh?!) (What are you loons talking about?!) We had plenty of guns, believe me, more than I ever hope to see again in one place.
     And you know what else is freaking weird? The members of my entire family have all managed to act like the novel I wrote and finally published did not ever exist. No one has said a word about it to me or to anyone else. They must not ever run into anyone from the old home time: like, the English teachers who have written me notes, or my classmates, or my childhood sweetheart's encouraging family who posted a picture of them holding my book in the local Barnes & Nobles. My family must not go to the dentist either, because it was right there in People Magazine next to Stephen King and Annie Lamott. (My novel did exist. It did exist. I know it existed.) Ah, forgive my crazy: I grew up in a family without mirrors. No one ever reflected anything back at me that seemed even remotely recognizable. Maybe that's why they don't recognize my written version of them. Maybe I am actually in the same bind as The Three; we are blind to one another. I wish we could join together to work our way out, but that is just another fantasy I sometimes have on a Monday afternoon when I am feeling a little blue.
     Sometimes all this is a bit of a head trip, as you can see, but I know I am not the only writer who has ever dealt with the literary dilemma of having a family. Anyone want to share some wise advice, or links on the issue, or general thoughts, encouragements, criticism? I guess I'm feeling a little lonely in all this. Hoping there are still some mice out there to respond.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

#Publishing A #Novel: What To Do When The Future Is Behind You

As you may know, dear mice, the effort to get my novel published has been a long and grueling, sweaty workout. I have spent many, many years looking ahead to the time when the book at last would have its day. Today, approaching the year anniversary of the novel's launch, it occurs to me that now all the forward-looking is behind me now.
     This is unexpected, friends.
     It's not that I am light on understanding the temporal and linear nature of the physics of time, or anything; it is, instead, that I am just so used to looking forward for glory, not backward. 
     It's all a bit disturbing to realize the thing I have toiled over has already come to fruition, had a lovely day in the glare of media attention, been read by several people in the world, and is now a thing, separate from me, and in my past.
     Now what?
     I need to look forward to something new. I am writing the memoir, but it's different--maybe just knowing that another book will not be the magic answer to all my human woes makes it so. I invested so much shiny hope into the novel; I believed so whole-heartedly that it would change my life once and for all!
     But no one ever tells you about the year after you publish your first novel. No one ever tells you that seeing the light of your first novel getting published will bring you to a sad realization. And the realization is that there is no actual "it" just around the corner that's going to change who you are and how fantastic your life is. Publishing a novel won't do it, nor will all the fame and fortune in the literary world. (And I'm guessing here based on a tiny, tiny taste.) Nothing does that. So you might as well get right with yourself as you are.
     This is one of the many secret they don't tell you.
     But I will tell you, oh rodents, because here I am, living proof that I am still I, still here, still the same with all the same issues and problems.
     I find this realization both comforting and depressing. I also know that you will not listen to me until you have gone through the experience yourself.  But when you get there, I hope, at least, you'll be a little more prepared for this cold splash of water in the face than I was.
     Peace out, for now.

Friday, September 4, 2015

#REJECTEDBOOKS.COM: A Call For Your #Rejected #Books (Sort Of)

Got an email from some enterprising young Swedish fellows, announcing a need for YOUR rejected book titles:
Established as well as unestablished authors from across the world are invited to contribute to the art project Bibliotheca Non Grata — an imaginary library of rejected and thus non-existent literature — with titles of their own literary works that have been rejected by a publishing house or an institution and thus have not been published.

We call for titles of rejected literary works in any language and of any writing genre, fictional as well as nonfictional. All submitted titles of rejected works will be included in the public online catalogue of Bibliotheca Non Grata. A selection of submitted titles of rejected manuscripts will be printed on the spines of 365 hardbound empty book covers—one for each day of the year—which form the physical representation of the rejected and thus non-existing literature which constitutes Bibliotheca Non Grata.

Titles can be submitted on the project's website, where you can also find more information about the art project.  Find out more on facebook
Bibliotheca Non Grata is a public art project by artist Måns Wrange and architect Igor Isaksson, commissioned by the city of Umeå in Sweden, in memory of journalist, activist and author, Stieg Larsson’s work for democracy and free speech as well as against discrimination and racism. The artwork Bibliotheca Non Grata will be placed in Umeå city library in the newly constructed and the Kasper Salin architecture prize awarded cultural centre Väven. 

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 USA Best Book Award in Literary Fiction
  • 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!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

#Miracle Girls Won A Gold Medal #IPPY Book of The Year from @IPPYmag



The Independent Publishers have honored #MiracleGirls with a Gold Medal #Ippy! Who knew? In other news, #Miracle Girls won the Spiritual Category at the Amsterdam Book Festival, the Paris Book Festival, and the San Francisco Book Festival, too!  That's pretty amaze balls, right?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Today's Special Guest #Essay for #Publishers and #LiteraryAgents

 

REJECTION CAN BE FUN!*

Sensitivity training for publishers and literary agents   

by Kevin Dawson


Perhaps you remember the “Peanuts” comic in which writer Snoopy’s sidekick Woodstock made him a quilt of his rejection slips (this was the 1970s, children, before email). Even older, of course, is the classic advice Write What You Know. Well, having my writing rejected is what I know. If I had saved all my rejection notices, printing out the ones received electronically (often for good and sufficient reason, since some of the things I’d submitted really weren’t very good), Woodstock could have made me something that would make the AIDS Quilt look like a tea towel.

The most striking of many common threads of the form rejection are the misguided, often clumsy attempts at soothing the sting of rejection. Most of these are about as conciliatory as an upraised middle finger.

The first error is sending the rejection too promptly. When the Submission Guidelines warn not to expect a response for weeks or even months (if at all), it’s a little disconcerting to receive the rejection notice the next day—as in the line from "My Sister Eileen," referring to the heroine’s rejected manuscripts: “Unless I take the subway, they beat me home.” As everybody who ever applied to college knows, the earlier the response, the worse the news. (Submission Guidelines have their own little snafus, but we’ll leave those for another day.) Waiting a respectable length of time before responding creates the illusion that the submission has indeed received due consideration, even if it got deleted, or filed in the paper shredder, almost immediately upon receipt.

You also may remember Holden Caulfield’s aversion to the phrase “Good luck!” (Maybe “Write what you know” should be followed by “but go easy on the pop culture references.”) He never explained exactly what the problem is, so I will: the unexpressed, possibly unintended “You’ll need it” hangs in the air like a bad smell. After all, you never say “Good luck!” to someone who just won the lottery, or took gold in the Olympics; it’s generally said to someone perceived as being in a dilemma requiring intervention beyond the person’s meager abilities to overcome. Though no such occurrence is recorded in Scripture, I strongly suspect that just before Judas Iscariot planted that big wet one on Jesus’ cheek, he whispered “Good luck!” in His ear.

There it is on most rejection forms, and even the “We received your query” forms which technically are not rejections (but come on, who’s kidding whom?): “We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.” The rejectee, feeling bruised, may interpret the message as “You poor sad, untalented loser,” even if such an unworthy thought is the farthest thing from the sender’s mind. The other problem with “Good luck!” is that it reinforces the frustrating fact that so much in life is a matter of chance. Upgrading the sentiment to “the best of luck,” sometimes expressed semi-illiterately—from people whose job it is to judge and evaluate good writing, mind you--as “the best of success,” may make the writer feel that plain good luck isn’t enough to raise him from the mire of his own inadequacy. As for success, I don’t know about you, but I’ll settle for generic.

Just as we all want to believe that good is always rewarded, evil always punished, talent always recognized, and hard work and perseverance always pay off, experience and observation teach us otherwise. To be sure, the best and brightest, people of such extraordinary skill that their prevalence is as inevitable as the dawn, are destined to triumph, and this is as it should be. Then there is the legion of mediocrities whose success baffles the unlucky rest of us who wonder what we’re doing wrong, and the answer may be Nothing. In the writing realm, you can offer an impeccable query, a flawless proposal, and get no further than if you’d sent in PLEESE PUBLISH MY BOOK, OK? in crayon on lined paper. (The How-to guides are no help. Editors weren’t born yesterday, and can spot a by-the-numbers job a mile off.) Oh, publishers and agents claim they’re seeking the absolute best (“We’re very picky about what we accept,” a haughty statement which more often than not will not be backed up by their book lists), but are at a loss to explain how so much ill-written crap actually makes it onto the bookshelves. Fickle fate seems the only answer.

Getting back to solace for the also-rans, a big part of it is not to provide too much. Falling over one’s self to offer consolation tends to make it about one’s self, not the person one’s ostensibly trying to console. “Please understand that we receive thousands of submissions, and that we can’t possibly…” begins the consolatory paragraph of the rejection notice, which seems to infer that the sender is the one ironically in need of sympathy. (The solution for submission overload, a quota system, is so obvious that it barely warrants parenthetical mention. Otherwise, it’s like the millionaire who gives 100,000,000 people a penny each and wonders why they’re not more grateful; after all, he gave away a million dollars!) Complaining of the hardships of being so much in demand is best left to popular high school students.


The best rejection form gets to the point. No flowery phrases which sound insincere anyway, no chin-chucking pep talk (do not add “Keep trying!” unless you actually want the writer to continue sending you submissions, two or three a week, until you finally cave in and accept one), no vague “does not suit our present needs” (which are?), no nonsense. Something along the lines of: “Thank you for your submission, but your material doesn’t grab us.”

What else is needed? No rude “I think we’ll pass,” no apologies for the self-evident necessity of it being a form. In any event, as noted earlier, though publishers and agents are loath to admit it, a submission’s acceptance can hinge on something as arbitrary as eeny-meeny-miney-moe; you just weren’t “moe” at the moment. Accordingly, another classic rejection goof is the phrase “at this time,” as in “Unfortunately [there’s that chance thing again], we are unable to accept your material at this time,” which naturally has the writer wondering at what future date they will be able to accept it. And however much the guides stress the importance of correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation; these seem moot considerations in this day of the quasi-hieroglyphic Tweet. The phrase “doesn’t grab us,” while on the casual side (and which went out with pukka beads; but hey, people still say “No worries,” which went out with Crocodile Dundee), at least acknowledges that the decision to pass is based as much on individual tastes as any possible deficiency on the writer’s part.

Publishers and agents might tend to dismiss this as sour-grapes rationalization. If submission success is indeed more than a roll of the dice (an appropriate metaphor, since both casino and publishing firm have the house advantage, although there are plenty of books out there—“We’re very picky”—purporting to instruct How to Win at Blackjack, etc.), the “more” is being judged solely on a first impression which can be misleading. Even more than the spelling-and-grammar business, the guides earnestly advise Make Your Query Pop! “Your query letter is your best foot forward. Make it distinct! Make it special!” The quality of the manuscript itself seems irrelevant.

This recalls a plot which used to be a staple of “women’s” magazines, and is not unknown to modern audiences: the one where young Anne (whose baked goods baron father made a mint with Li’l Annie Cupcakes--for which his adorable daughter was logo and spokesperson), never at a loss for suitors, has to choose between upright, downright, forthright, but slightly awkward and a bit dull David (who blew the Senior Prom when he emerged from the men’s room with his fly open) and the superficial charms of dashing Roderick (witty conversationalist, grace personified; and couldn’t lose a game, get a flat tire, or catch a cold if he tried). By the end, Anne invariably has come to her senses; wonders what she ever saw in shallow, smug Roderick (who, it turns out, was only after her cupcakes); and settles down happily with solid, dependable David. No such happy ending for most aspiring authors, though, as publishers continue to be seduced by the literary Rodericks.

Submitters commit their sins, too, of course. They don’t do their homework, sending their stuff to houses which don’t handle that type of material: e.g., submitting an erotic romance to the Top Publisher of Christian Children’s Books Since 1974. They don’t follow the guidelines, or pick up on subtleties: “We prefer…” really means “We only look at…” They send more, or less, than what is asked for. They pester and prod for a response. However, the listings in "Writer’s Market" and similar volumes contain so much contradictory information that the writer cannot be faulted too severely for being confused. Still, it’s important for the writer to make sure he’s navigating appropriate waters so that when the rejection form states his manuscript is “not a good fit,” he can respond “It’s not a pair of jeans, it’s a book, and in at least one of your stated areas of interest at that; so if it ‘doesn’t fit’, who got fat?”

About the only rule I’d be inclined to disobey is No Simultaneous Submissions. Are they actually going to call every other publisher and agent and ask “Have you gotten such-and-such from so-and-so lately?” Anyway, considering the exorbitant odds against the author—particularly the first-time or unknown author—making it past the query stage, it’s unfair to demand exclusivity right off the bat. Also impractical, like expecting someone to apply for one job at a time and to wait however long it takes to find out no-go before applying for another.

What’s needed from both parties is a little common sense, remembering that the recipient of the submission has the upper hand, and as such does not need to pretend to be sorrier than he or she is to reject it. All that happened is that dreams and ambitions have been crushed, the fruits of what might have taken years of creative effort and work swiftly and categorically dismissed; nobody died. It’s to unsuccessful authors’ credit that more of us don’t follow up form rejection notices with form suicide notes.
 

Kevin Dawson is nobody in particular.

*If you would like to submit an essay, blow off some steam, tell a rejection story, submit at writerrejected [at] aol [dot] com. Maybe Kevin Dawson is the guy who starts this LROD trend.

Monday, April 27, 2015

A Question of #Literary #Awards and #Politics? #Lammys @lambdaliterary

One of the mice from a recent post (about Francine Prose's comment to me about being nominated for a Lambda Literary Award) had this to say about the value of literary awards:
One of your first impressions about Prose's reaction to Lambda was probably the right one. Namely that she--like most artists--resents being labeled a certain variety of author, or her book being slipped into an ordained category. Award committees and the general public tend to want to categorize--and who wants that? No author does, not when you're attempting to capture life in all its dramatic fullness. "Billy Budd, Foretopman" voted best Homoerotic Historical by Lambda. Oi, Melville would say. But isn't it so much more than that?
AND....
I think many women probably do resent being rewarded for being "women writers," in exactly the same way female physicians resent being lauded as "lady doctors." I love Alice Munro and Anne Beattie equally as much as I love Cheever and Nabakov. And my personal love and appreciation for the last two would be neither diminished nor expanded by their having won the "Best Anglo White Male Award" -- but for many other readers, it might. I think decent authors resent the opportunity for such narrowing and misunderstanding of their work being made possible by award committees. Such categories are fundamentally arbitrary. It's a far profounder compliment to praise an average book as good literature, than to award that same book as superb female or gay fiction. And it's easy to see why. The first is based on its merits as art. The second is sanctioned condescension. I think Prose is objecting to the implications of the award given her, and I don't think she has much choice in that. It's the principle at stake--her book and how its understood--not the award itself.
Thoughts? To view my responses check out the comments section here.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

What I Learned at the #AWP

First of all: Literary conferences are overwhelming.
Second of all: I saw a lot of people I know and love, both by accident and on purpose
Third of all: I really like my publishers and their authors, and it was nice to belong somewhere
Fourth of all: I would never go to one of these conference if I didn't have a book already published (too much anxiety). So I was very grateful that after 15 years, it is having its day in the sun
Fifth of all: I hung out with an old friend whose husband left at the same time that my girlfriend dumped me many years ago (they were co-workers, but did not leave us for each other). This friend is now so super famous that we couldn't even take two steps or one sip of coffee without people clamoring to speak with her, and it made me so exhausted. I think it is a very hard life to be in the 1% of recognizable, celebrity writers, and I am glad to be just plain unknown me.
Sixth of all: I spoke on the panel "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Rejection (But Were Afraid to Ask)," and it seemed to me to be better titled "Publishers and People with Literary Power (And Why We're Never Going to Publish You)."  In fact, it made me very depressed to be on that panel. There were lots of false statements made, I thought. And lots of putting a good face on publishing while telling you how "busy I am and why I'll never choose you to be my author."  Ugh. And yet everyone in the audience seemed to swallow it whole and want to know more lies. It went like this:
Audience Question: "What can I do or not to do get published by you?"
Panelist Answer: "Nothing. Forget it. Or blow my socks off...but I can't say how."
Seventh of all: I asked Francine Prose to sign my copy of her new novel, which is nominated for a 2015 Lambda Literary Award in the category of lesbian fiction with my novel. I mentioned this and she looked down upon me coldly and huffed. "If I win that award it's because they didn't read my novel." Which means what? Her novel about a woman-loving Nazi spy and drag car racer who dresses like a man and had her tits removed isn't lesbian fiction? Or maybe she isn't a lesbian (which she is not, if being married to a man counts). Or maybe she meant her book is so, so, so, so much more than merely about a "lesbian," and shouldn't be reduced to labels. Or maybe she is Luke's father? I'm not really sure, but I got a big chill standing there with her, and walked away as quickly as I could. The ceremony announcing winners of the Lambda Award is on June 1st. I guess Prose won't be there, eh. (If you have a kinder or even a more intelligent interpretation, please share. I'm puzzled by the whole encounter.)

UPDATE: I finished reading Prose's novel, and I suppose she meant that no one in their right mind would want to claim her lesbian character as part of their community because she is so lost and mislead, and perhaps one might say "evil," were one to believe in such a thing. I guess the question is: should the LGBT community only claim good characters as their own? Are we beyond that yet? It *is* a book about a lesbian character, after all, and we do claim her as a sister human being, even if some would say she's a monster.  So, I think I'm still confused by the comment. Thoughts?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

#AWP Conference Panel on Rejection! Remember When It Was Just You and Me?



When I first started LROD in 2007, no one was talking about rejection. Now look what we did! Look at all the mice, mice! This was the view from my side of the microphone this morning at the writer's conference session entitled: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Rejection (But Were Afraid To Ask). We've come a long way, babies.

David Baker #Poetry #Editor of #KenyonReview Shares a Rejection at #AWP

David Baker was on a panel with good-old-W,R this morning. He shared this very clever rejection depicting what kind of rejection it was. Looks like someone punched him in the face, right?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

#Writer,Rejected is going to #AWP. See You Suckers in #Minneapolis?

At the AWP Conference, I'm speaking on a panel called "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Rejection (But Were Afraid to Ask), Thursday, tomorrow at 10:30 a.m.  I think the feral mice on this blog probably took the fear right out of asking, say 7 or 8 years ago...but, it should still be fun. Remember when rejection was our dirty little secret, and we got death threats for airing our dirty laundry in public.  Ahhhh, those were they days, my little (anona)mousecycles. Also, I'll be signing my novel Thursday (tomorrow) at 2 pm at the Engine Books Publisher's table, in case you don't want to be seen with me in public. I'll let you know how it goes. Or I'll see you there.

Monday, March 9, 2015

It's About Time We Get A Little Juice on This #Lit #Blog: Are #BookFest Prizes Fake? And Is There Any Such Thing As #Hormone-Fee #Chicken?

In response to my question about being a sucker or not for entering a major book festival operation, a fantastically tart little mouse, calling himself Stephen Cing, said this:
“Perceived value”. LOL. You paid almost a hundred dollars to have your name drawn out of a hat. Like, “No Hormones Added” on chicken packages. Or air in the bottom of packages. Nice. So yes, if you’re looking to sell prose to those who cannot even read labels, and are instead distracted by shiny stickers, inflating value through illiterate means is the way to go. It’s not a scam, but it’s much like fraction-reserve banking, like a Ponzi scheme. The consumers are idiots greater than the schemer. Seriously, anyone who needs and seeks perceived value will never have enough dignity to make it as a literary author.
Is it true?  Are shiny stickers the sign that a writer will never make it as a literary author? Are chicken packages claiming to have no hormones also a lie?  Please help out and put your two cents in.  Let's have this blog revisit its former glory with a good old fashioned literary debate, shall we?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Anyone Going to the #AWP Conference? I'll Be On a Panel, Thursday, April 9 at 10:30 called #Rejection! Everything You Always Wanted to Know (But Were Afraid to Ask)


@AWPWriter, I'm on this panel with Jill Bialosky,  @robspillman,  @melissa_stein,  and  David Baker. The panel is described as: "Top editors from W. W. Norton, Tin House, and the Kenyon Review join emerging writers (including a literary-rejection blog author) to dish about exactly how submissions are evaluated, what it’s like to rebuff so many labors of love, the mysterious hierarchy of rejection slips, whether and how the best work really gets published, tips to avoid surefire rejection—and how to maintain faith in your work and your voice even when rejections keep piling up. Audience questions encouraged!"  Maybe you'll come by and say hello?

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

#Finalist for A #Lammy Along with #SarahWaters, #FrancineProse and #Anne-Marie McDonald. Who Do You Think Will Win? Hint: #NotMe

 It's cool to be nominated for a prize with people whose work you love. I LOVE the work of the famous writers on this list of finalist nominated for a Lammy Award, and I am going to read all the other books too. It's all very exciting. Three of my all time fav books are Household Saints, Tipping the Velvet, and Fall on Your Knees. So there you have it. I will be delighted to lose to the new novel of any of these wonderful writers. Call me cray, but it's true. I just hope I get to meet them in New York at the Ceremony on June 1st. Congratulations to all the nominees in all the categories too.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

My First-Ever Royalty Check: Do #AnneLamott and #StephenKing Make This Much?



For those of you lovelies out there who are planning on making a million bucks from your novel, here is about the sum of it.  This is my first-ever royalty check for Miracle Girls. Remember my advance for the sale of the book was zero dollars and zero cents. And it costs a bundle to submit to first-novel prizes to try to extend the life of the book. So....I'm basically in the hole. Minus $15.90. Need I say more?

Friday, February 13, 2015

Need Something #Literary To Do the Day After #Valentines Day in #Los Angeles?

In case you are all "hearted" out with Valentine's Day and you live in or near Los Angeles, come to a reading @booksoup in West Hollywood the day after VD, on Sunday, February 15th, at 3 pm. It will not be at all about love, save for that which is divine--and just barely.  Would love to see you there.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Going To #LosAngeles To Read At @BookSoup on Sunday, February 15th at 3 pm. Might You Be There

No chance of snow cancelling THIS reading. I'm going where the sun shines all the day long: West Hollywood, Book Soup. Excited to see all you surfer mice and bronzed rodents. Say hello if you happen to show up.  So far, I've met a few LROD readers along the way.  And that's been very nice.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

READING CANCELLED DUE TO SNOW: Are There Any Mice with Snow Shoes in Providence, Rhode Island?

Mice: I am reading in #ProvidenceRI on Friday, January 30th at 7 pm if the snow holds out. Anyone out there from the Ocean State want to come out for wine, cheese, discussion, a little reading, and a book signing?  Would love to meet you. Plus otherwise it's going to be me and my spouse, and one friend, which would be okay, I guess. More wine and cheese for us?

SORRY ALL: THE SNOW AND ICE AND TEMPS HAVE CALLED THIS READING OFF. LOOK FOR SNOW DATE COMING SOON. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

How Much Wood Can A Woodchuck Chuck When Applying for Debut Novel Prizes?

Rodent People: I just wanted to let you know something in case you happen to have any delusion that getting published means making it, even getting published and getting coverage as a pick in People Magazine with Stephen King and Anne Lamott. I am lucky to have a day job because not only have I made zero dollars and zero cents on my novel, but I have actually shelled out quite a few clams to make sure it gets submitted to all the appropriate book awards and debut novel prizes. I am talking about anywhere from $35 to $95 in submission fees a pop, not only for each award, but also for each eligible category in each award, plus sending anywhere up to 8 free copies of the novel out of my stash of author's books, not to mention the postage I've paid. Seriously, I am in the hole at least a grand at this point, but these awards are a huge part of getting the novel to have an extended life, and most people consider them an essential marketing tool. Isn't that ridiculous? I think it is because whichever way you turn, the writer is the one who cares about the novel going further than just the original launch push, and so the writer is the one who pays. Maybe it's different in mainstreamed publishing houses; I'm not sure. Can anyone confirm or deny that the writer pays when published by Random House or Harper Collins imprints? I did wonder about this as I coerced one of my advertising buddies to help me make some pretty posters for my own readings at various book stores. I'm like a one-mouse marketing machine these days while still keeping up with the deadlines of my day jobs.  I tell you, it is an exhausting business, which does not favor the writer (or at least this writer) in any way, shape, or form. That said, I am also extremely grateful for the opportunity to have a book that's published and to whose success I am an indentured servant. I am also extremely grateful that I actually have a day job to fund all this craziness. I just wanted to set the record straight for anyone who is dreaming of the cushy life of a published writer these days. I do not think it exists. But, please, if you are out there sitting on your daybed, eating bon-bons, and thumbing a magazine, please do comment with a correction.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Next Readings: NYC! Thursday, Jan 15th at KGB Bar and Sunday at Book Culture (81st & Columbus)

Last Friday at the reading in Cambridge @HarvardBooks, co-sponsored by @Grubstreet, I met a loyal LROD reader, who is a blogger and novelist in her own right, and who is publishing a novel with NAL in the Spring of 2016 called "Modern Girls" by Jenny Brown, so keep an eye out for it.  It was great to meet her, and she fit right in with all my smart, sweet friends in attendance.  I hope some of you in New York will come to the readings this week and introduce yourself. If you have a book of your own to publicize, certainly let me know, and I will put it in a post ASAP.    
 
Next Up on the Schedule of Readings: New York City! You have two choices:
  • Thursday at Drunken Careening Writers at KGB Bar (7 pm) with 2 other writers
  • Sunday at Book Culture on Columbus (btwn 81st & 82nd) (3 pm).  
See you there?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Did You Know Cambridge Was Its Own Place? READING @HARVARDBOOKS THIS FRIDAY @ 7 pm CO-SPONSORED BY @GRUBSTREET

I guess I'm a tiny bit dumber than I ever even knew, since I thought Cambridge was somehow a part of the City of Boston proper, rather than being its own thing.  However, I was given quite a schooling while notifying people of my upcoming reading this Friday (January 9th) at 7 pm at @HarvardBooks in CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS, a separate sovereignty from Boston, and co-sponsored by @Grubstreet.  Excuse me all you beantown and non-beantown friends for the mistake. Anyway, if you're around, please drop by for a little reading, a small discussion and the signing of the books.  I will be so happy to see you and hear what you think about MIRACLE GIRLS, the cold weather, and anything else on your mind.  p.s. In case you think there's a big publicity machine behind me, this is a poster I made with a friend and paid for out of my own clam bucket. If you think my picture is smirky, please tell . I think it will make him laugh.