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Friday, February 28, 2014

Fixing The Novel Loop Controversy

This weekend, I am going to proof the novel-to-be. I really stressed over the opening this week, which was a surprise, since I'd worked on it for, oh say, 15 years, and it was down pretty pat, but then there was the loop controversy.  The loop went like this: opening scene introducing the main character, section looping back to the past and leading up to the opening scene, then narrative moving forward in time. Certain readers were confused, didn't like, felt betrayed, by this loop. I agreed to simply start in the past and move forward in a straight narrative line, and I lived with it for a few weeks.  Other certain readers were unmoved, didn't like, felt betrayed, by the new straight forward opening. All this made me kind of anxious, and uncertain. Finally, I figured out a way to work the loop into making sense: thank you future verb tense of the English language; you solved my problem. So I am back to the opening the way I like it with a few minor adjustments. I hope it's the right decision.  I don't know. I think you need the most compelling opening you can possibly create these days. Who has patience for a book that doesn't draw you in. Seems like any excuse to put a book down could lead to its demise, especially these facebook days. I did feel enormously relieved to have made the decision and found an answer to the problem. That must be a sign, right?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Pre-Pub Freakage

I don't know exactly why this happened, but when I saw a galley and the actual inside layout of my book, I freaked a little. Maybe it's that the 15 years of emotions that went into getting this thing to happen, or all the ups and downs, or the traumatic years of rejection, came rolling back to knock me on my ass. Or maybe I just needed to get my insanity on for a few. And I'm also not totally discounting the idea that the font being used simply is too, too small for the page. People say your book never does end up looking like what you imagine while you're writing it, and yet, it's impossible to actually pinpoint what the hell it is you are imagining. People say that publishing a book is an emotional time, and the exposure is sure to make you bonkers. I've always thought they should just shut up and be happy. Publishing a book is an amazing time. It totally is. But....okay, so I freaked for a min and wanted to lie down in traffic. What can I say? Sue me. I'm human too, which by the way I hate.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Rejection from a Year Ago

Bad news: she didn't get the tingles:  
Thanks for giving me a peek at [title of manuscript]. I think it's clear that you're a wonderful writer, and I like the energy of your emails. But it comes down to this: In the end, I just didn't get the tingles about this one. And in this ultra-tough marketplace, I've got to be head over heels in love with something in order to take it on. I'm sorry I don't have better news, but I'm glad to hear you have others looking at it, and I hope someone falls in love with it soon. Best of luck, and take care. Regards, Danielle
Good news: someone else did, and it's going to be a book in November. Suck on that, fizzle.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

So Many Conclusion from So Few Pages

Not long ago, I entered a novel contest and received some comments from the judges.  There were three judges offering critiques.  Above is some of what the third judge had to say. Here's my question:Whatever happened to settling in and letting things evolve? Do you really need to know everything on the first few pages...this isn't facebook, is it? Oy.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Final Edits Back With the Publisher

So, it's done. After all the years of revising and rewriting and reshaping and rethinking and going back to the drawing board to rewrite, reshape, rethink, the final version is finally done. It's a little odd to live with something in formation for so long, only to suddenly have it no longer be in formation. Oh well, that's the kick of it, right? I ended up with a new opening after all, not quite as dear to me as the original, but interesting just the same. In words rarely uttered by writers the world round, I'm happy, mice. For just this moment, I'm truly, truly happy.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sitting Pretty?

It's probably a bad idea, but I'm changing the opening of my novel based on comments from the publisher's final edits, confirmed by my writer's group. Had the other opening for eons, but trying to be flexible and believe in the problem that's being pointed out as such. Solution is coming along. It's tricky listening to other people's opinions about fiction. What a weird job this is.

Update:  I changed it back to the original. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Sincere Thank You To The Rejecting Publishing Universe

I've been compiling a list of people in the great big publishing world who rejected my novel along the way during the past 15 years of my trying like a dog to get it published. In the end, despite all the snarkiness I have proffered on this blog since June 2007 (hiatus notwithstanding), I probably should thank them. At the very least, I've been meaning to count them. There were professionals who offered good advice, professionals who said the project wasn't ready and I should keep working on it (which turned out to be true) and even the fine clueless folks who scratched their head at my efforts and  simply stepped aside while I continued on my long march to publication, now scheduled for November 2014.

I am grateful to the first 50+ rejecting agents/editors/contest judges.* Also hats off to their unnamed hired-hands, assistants and slaves who rejected the book in their names so they didn't have to waste time doing it themselves.  Seriously, you are all now part of my story, and maybe I wouldn't have ever gotten here if you hadn't encouraged me, pissed me off, blew me off, or said a sincerely kind word to me:
Agents: Joe Veltre, Charlotte Sheedy, Marly Rusoff, Danielle Chiotti, Bill Contardi, Andrea Barzvi, Elisa Petrini, Priscilla Gillman, Tim Seldes, Ira Silverberg, Susan Ginsburg, Kate Garrick, Julie Barer, Emily Stewart, Mitchell Waters, David Vigliano, Secret Agent Man, Geri Thoma, Douglas Stewart, Christy Fletcher, Kimberly Whalen, Joy Harris, Jill Grinberg, Emma Swinney, Heide Lange, Leigh Ann Elisio, Xanthe Tabor, Amy Williams, Alexia Paul, Kim Witherspoon, Lily Oei, Betsy Nolen, Warren Frazer, Molly Kleinman, Emma Perry, Emily Fletcher, Deanna Handel, Daria Finch, Jane Dystel, Wendy Sherman, Sarah Chalfant, Gail Hochman, Elizabeth Schneiderman, Dan Lazar, Sarah Crowe, Laurie Liss, Michelle Tessler, Erin Hosier, Francis Goldin, Sam Stoloff, Elizabeth Winick, Jenny Bent, Jennifer Jackson
*These are the ones I could find quickly. There are more rejections than this, lady and germs; so I will keep looking and add to the list.

The novel didn't make it to as many publishing houses given the problem I had with agents (see above), but here are some editors who rejected it:
Editors: Paul Elie, Anton Meuller, Becky Saletan, Regan Arthur, Julia Serebrinsky, Beth Adams, Kathy Pories, Daisy Hutton, Ami McConnell, Chuck Adams, Lauren Wein, Tin House Books, McSweeney Books, AWP contest (x5), Softskull books, Tuscany Press, Counterpoint press, (there are three more specific editors, but I can't find the rejections....will keep looking)
Finally, here's to the few kind souls who took the book on for a while, tried to hold my hand or make me see how to fix it, passed it to someone else with all good intentions, or generally tried really hard not to reject the book, inevitable though it was in the end.
Non-rejectors*: Diane Bartoli, Bill Clegg, Leigh Feldman, Kirsten Magnes, Claudia Ballard, Henry Williams, Nan Talese, Ginger Barber.
*Three of these good-hearted people actually tried to get the book published.

Thank you all for your consideration and for the occasion of this blog, which has kept me in great company and I have been told offers hope to others.*

*Though seriously if you can do something other than write fiction (anything else!)--it's a dying art!--step away quickly and do not look back.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Final Edits

This is big, people: my final edits are here. Got them back from the publisher on Friday, and finished up all my paid deadlines for Monday yesterday, so that I can take today, the Lord's Day, to create a last version of this novel, which I have carried around and worked on for so many, many years. It feels exciting and nerve-wracking, and a little bit nauseating to do this, but I am a lucky one, and grateful. So, here goes...

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Anatomy of a Rejection Scribble

This rejection says: "Sorry we didn't find anything here," as if there were no words on the page at all, which is a weird-ass thing to write in a rejection, but I suppose the editors meant "anything here we want to publish." The consolation prize is knowing that "your work did receive additional consideration." I guess they kept looking for something there.  The final kiss off: "Try us again, sucker!"

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day, Rosemary Ahern!

What's funny about this post, and about life in general, is that when I started my fantasy riff about the fine New York editor, Rosemary Ahern, it was sparked by this first rejection.  From there I wended my way with many a fictional tale about how she was going to save my literary life by becoming my editrix extraordinaire. As I recall some of you mice thought the whole thing was a bit creepy and overblown; perhaps you were even right. But, here's a truly amazing thing: my agent suggested I get in touch with her fer-realz to help me with my novel, which wouldn't settle down. So I did just that. I paid her to read my novel and tell me how to make it work as an entity unto itself. It was an expensive phone call, but worth every single penny, because she was hugely insightful and made it really clear what the problem was and how to fix it.  In short, it was a matter of cutting back the secondary and tertiary story lines, which were distracting.  The reader didn't know where to focus, and the primary story and characters were getting lost. So, I cut out some serious back story, a good 40 pages if not more.  And then suddenly the story began to float, the novel was working, and I started getting some traction. Shortly thereafter it was chosen for publication by a literary press.  Ironically, if I wanted to I could now pick up the phone or email Rosemary Ahern directly and tell her personally that she is my Literary Valentine. But in the end, though a lot has changed, much has stayed, since I'd rather post my VD message on LROD. Happy Valentine's Day, Rosemary! You are spectacular.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

More Rejection Wisdom From the Virtual World

  • “You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance.” –Ray Bradbury
  • “Every rejection is incremental payment on your dues that in some way will be translated back into your work.” –James Lee Burke
  • “Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.” –Neil Gaiman
  • “This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address’. Just keep looking for the right address.” –Barbara Kingsolver 
  • "Rejection slips [are not]...messages to stop, but rather tickets to the game.” –Anita Shreve 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Philosophical Mood

You know, I've been thinking about this rejection thing. I have truly withstood a lot of people telling me no, nope, nah, not-for-me, negatory, negative, nix-eroo, not-good-enough, right? I mean a lot. Whether I have been subjected to rejection more than other writers is debatable of course. We all have to face the slap. But maybe after 15 years and however many this blog indicates is the number of rejections my novel suffered, a lesser man (by which I mean third-gendered party) may have given up, or turned to another book. And while I have turned to other books, whose rejections are also documented here on this blog, I really felt that the novel should be published, so I kept pushing forward with it until it found a home last month at a literary press. On reflection, I think I was raised to withstand enduring shit storms. Let's just say, I had some practice as a kid. And, perhaps, you will recall the little matter of my being disinherited. People in the family seem to not appreciate my writing about that, or about anything, much either. So, maybe I'm a glutton for punishment or a tree-trunk for art. Not sure which, probably both. But either way, no word from the person in my family I have designated to inform via email of my impending publication. I thought the book being fiction might help ease its way. Then again, what is fiction if not a way to tell the truth?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Awaiting Final Edits

I submitted my revised manuscript to the publisher a few weeks ago, and now I am awaiting a final edit, which is supposed to come in the next couple of days. I feel a little bit like a PTSD survivor, flinching and twitching, since we have been here before with this novel, so, so, so close, and then at the very last minute, the dreaded thumbs down arrives, and it's back to the drawing board. (I speak here in the royal we of course.) I do not think that's the case here (in fact I have a signed contract), but I cannot help flashing back to all those crushing moments.  So many of them.  Yesterday, I told someone that my novel had been rejected hundreds of times, and he raised an eyebrow at me.  "Hundreds?" he said.  Well, maybe not, but I should count. I should spend a day on this blog, trying to figure out how many rejections this poor little novel has suffered, so that I can offer up the official tally whenever asked. Let's see 15 years x 10-20 rejections a year, but maybe not every year. Yeah, the guy was right; it couldn't really be hundreds. But it sure feels that way.

Monday, February 10, 2014

And You Thought You Had MFA Troubles

This article entitled "How Iowa Flattened Literature" published today in the Chronicle of Higher Education is a hot mess and yet kind of fascinating. I'm not even sure I understand where it *is* going, even though author Eric Bennett writes in the middle of it, in his super confiding tone, "I'm sure you can see where this is going."  Also, confusing: the the article seems to be a mash-up of a personal essay about being a student at the Iowa Workshop published in an anthology entitled MFA vs NYC: The Two Cultures of Fiction in America and the author's new historical book entitled, Empire of Workshop, about the CIA and communism at the heart of the prestigious MFA program's inception. The latter is published by guess who? University of Iowa Press. So, it is a criticism? Anyway, though I have my own set of torturous topics, I am glad the cold war and questions of greatness are not among them. Check it out.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Idea Has Been Done Before

Essanay Film Management Company from Chicago, IL, took the easy way out of rejecting screenplays and scripts back in the day.  Love the list, especially "Overstocked," "Not Interesting," "Improbable," and "Robbery, Kidnapping, Murder, Suicide, Harrowing Death-Bed and All Scenes of An Unpleasant Nature Should be Eliminated."  Indeed!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

What's Your Lifetime Creative Earnings?

Today, because I'm a little bit anal and overly responsible, I'm pulling together my taxes, and realizing that in the year of our Lord 2013 my business writing earned enough income to sustain life (just barely), and my creative writing earned zero dollars and zero cents (zero sense). This is pretty much the same as it is every year, except for the occasional bonanza of a grant, fellowship, or lit prize with money attached, which due to the goodness of God falls in my lap once in a great while.
     If I had to tally my lifetime earnings for my creative writing over these few decades of my time here on earth, it would add up to about $44,000.00, and I'm counting a local library poetry prize from my long-ago youth. So that is an actual lifetime tally. The sad thing is, I am surprised by how much it is; not bad for a hack! By the way, has anybody seen that one 1099 from that company with the funny name? I can't find it all of sudden. How is it that papers can evaporate like that into thin air?  It's disturbing.
     Anyone else care to share their lifetime total earnings for creative writing? I don't tend to egg-on blog comments, but I thought that might be an interesting thread.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

We Don't Know How Old You Are, But You're Probably Too Old

One of the good doctors over at Psychology Today has put together this self-made "improved" rejection slip, which he suggests enclosing with submission manuscripts.  It's a nice idea: putting the manner in which you receive rejection back in your own control. Check it out; he has an article with some other thoughts for your consideration. In my opinion, there is plenty of room in the world for more psychiatrist/detectives!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Pink is the New Black

Speaking of chick lit, my book cover is going to be bright pink. However, it has a large type treatment of the title taking up all of the cover. The publisher wanted it so because "mostly only men get bold type treatment covers." The above is the one that comes to mind: no comparison intended, of course.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Question of the Month: "Chick Lit"

I just read this New Yorker article about Jennifer Weiner's complaints concerning how her books are (mis)treated. She makes a noble and worthy argument on the state of books by women, which are ignored and often belittled, but then slightly confuses matters by comparing apples to oranges. No one is in fact comparing her to Chaucer, nor should they, and elite male authors do often seem to be held in esteem as if they were the father of poetry himself, which is irritating, misguided, and often absurd. But there are different categories of fiction in the world, and to make an accurate comparison of a commercial fiction book with a literary fiction book is not necessarily a cogent argument for gender inequality. Wouldn't Weiner do much better to insist on parity with the likes of Stephen King or Dan Brown--she should be treated like those highly successful, very good, male writers of commercial fiction. She should be compared favorably in the category in which she writes, and c'mon, of course she should be reviewed in the New York Times Book Review! To ignore her is ridiculous. But why maudlin Franzen would even occur as her likely comparator is a mystery to me. Your thoughts on the matter?