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My First Guest Blog: Five Steps to Getting Your Book Published

My First Guest Blog: Five Steps to Getting Your Book Published

pastelcrayonsCheck out The GirlieGirl Army for my first guest blog. Anyway, you should know about the marvelous Chloe Jo Berman, if you don’t already. XOXO

And any Chloe Jo fans from the GirlieGirl Army who’ve made your way over here, welcome. Want to find out more about my upcoming and ongoing classes? Go HERE.

Past blogs will fill you in on tips on getting going, staying good and getting better. My newsletter brings you a monthly writing tip and news of free events, such as my third Thursday free coaching call, Answers and Encouragement for Writers. Sign up for the August 20 call now.

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Jamie Ford Shows You the Best Way to Get An Agent

Jamie Ford Shows You the Best Way to Get An Agent

Jamie Ford, author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

I’ve been recommending this link to a number of my clients who are getting ready to go in search of an agent, and I thought I’d post it for the rest of you who might be heading that direction.

Jamie Ford, in case you haven’t heard of him (and apparently there are folks who haven’t heard of Kafka, so Jamie doesn’t need to feel bad and I’m sure he doesn’t) is a best-selling author. His first novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, has met with all kinds of success. Check it out.

Jamie is also a generous blogger, and one of the things he blogged about was his process of finding an agent. He even quotes his rejection letters (and no, he is neither spiteful or sassy, as he might be under the current circumstances; he’s just humble and professional). He approached the process very well, and he gives some good tips about it. Plus it makes for a good read–suspense and a happy ending.

You can probably troll his archives and find lots of great material. I’d recommend starting with his entry on the Query-Go-Round, and follow through, being sure to stop at I’ve Made Up My Mind, until you see his final announcement. Then of course, you can follow him as he becomes a best-selling novelist. All good fun.

Don’t forget to get back to your own writing, though. Because the number one way to get a great agent is to write an irresistible manuscript, oui?

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Throwing Ideas Around: Writing, Playing, Marketing and Ball

Throwing Ideas Around: Writing, Playing, Marketing and Ball

Yesterday my family played ball together. This sounds trivial, but it was the first time, really, that we’d tossed a ball around: Charlie to Mommy to Mama to Leo to Charlie . . . It took some doing to convince the boys to play. Leo, especially, wanted only to hold the ball, as if it were a teddy bear, and Charlie was willing to throw, but not to Leo, since that seemed too much like handing the precious commodity over to his brother wholesale. In fact, Leo went off to play with sand, and we ended up forming our rhombus around him. Angie and I taught the boys that the great good fun of playing ball is in letting it go, again and again. It seems obvious to adults, now, but why, when there is so much meant to be held close, does this toy create more fun when you keep pushing it away?

As we cheered the throws and attempted throws, it occurred to me that there is a parallel here–as there usually is–to writing. So many people want to write, and I think it is because reading a great book makes you want to toss it–and maybe your own addition–right back into the world. The story exists between the reader and the writer, just as the fun with a ball exists between the players, not in grasping the object itself. Movement, energy, force, intent, connection, misses. Zoom. Leap. Catch. Throw.

It’s a funny thing. People take drawing classes and painting classes without long portions of the time given over to discussions of how to interest galleries in your work or get into the Whitney Biennial. But I don’t think that writers are so much more commercially oriented than other artists. I think the sometimes crass focus on “getting published” has to do with the desire to throw the ball. After all, your family probably wants to leaf through the pictures you’ve drawn in your live nudes class. But do they demand that you read your latest novelistic efforts at the dinner table?

There are multiple layers to the application of this metaphor to writing. You throw the ball when you take an idea and toss it onto the page. You throw the ball when you edit this work and renew it, and again when you show it to someone else, and again when it bounces out and back to various publications, agents, editors. You throw the ball when you blog, too, or comment on a blog. It’s a handy little game of catch, not the World Series, but a friendly back and forth while you chat about what is going on in your life.

I’ve been listening to a book on tape that Angie stuck onto my MP3 when I was going to London. It’s called Book Yourself Solid, and it is amazing if you are a service professional building a business. Maybe someone who hates marketing . . . It’s made me excited about thinking about the language that describes what I do. I work with people who love books and want to write them. I assist in transforming people into writers, ideas into manuscripts, manuscripts into books. I’m interested in clients who have a way with words or an amazing story or a powerful work ethic. If you have any one of these, I can get the other two up and running. If you have more than one . . . watch out, baby.

Okay, this is in the rough stages. Probably too early to share. But I like the bounce that comes from throwing something out into the world. I like the joy on my boys’ faces when they lobbed the ball away from themselves, learning that holding on tight is not the only, or the best, way to play.

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Blog, blog, blog: thoughts on growing in public

To be honest, I had barely read a blog before I got ready to start blogging myself. I was perhaps a bit suspicious of the medium. It’s true that ever since I was a child, with my first Hello, Kitty journal, I could not keep a diary without imagining a future reader. In fairness to the vanity of my young self, the diaries I was most familiar with were those that had been published–Anne Frank, for example. In any case, the blog circumvents the necessity of pretending you are writing for reasons of personal growth, even as you become most aware of your desire to grow, personally.

I have admired writers who are willing to grow in public. Michelle Tea is a wonderful example. She is prolific and talented and has written with a work ethic I envy and then gotten her work out to a growing public (via spoken word tours–the infamous Sister Spit–and publication) since she (and I) was quite young. This means that she’s gotten better, and broader, in front of that public.

Yesterday in the car, Angie played a part of a podcast for me in which the speaker made an important distinction between the natural, healthy dissatisfaction a writer or creator feels towards the work he or she has done and contempt for that work. There is slippage between the two, and contempt does no good, since it casts doubt on the worthiness of everything you do or might do. Dissatisfaction, on the other hand, will push you to stretch, to grow. To try something different. (Although the boys were not interested in (their or my) listening to the entire podcast, Angie tells me that it was from Accidental Creative, which seems like a great group.)

I considered publishing my daily writing of this NaNoWriMo novel that I’ve been working on for the past twelve days (not including today, yet) and which I will be writing for at least the next eighteen days. My idea was to post a sort of blog-style rough draft of this fictional story in installments, much as Dickens published Great Expectations and other of his novels. Then I remembered that I am not Dickens. Actually, I just thought that the pressure of writing a novel in thirty days might not withstand the additional pressure that the novel be readable.

Another part of me, though, longed for the tension, excitement and sheer storytelling demand an audience would create. Shahrazad had no time to erase her efforts and throw up her pages in despair. Shakespeare purportedly scribbled lines on some Elizabethan index cards and handed them to his actors. The ur-storyteller caveman had to create some serious questions in his listeners or risk being tossed out of the cave. And not just Plato’s cave.

In general, I have been guilty of revising for too long, if there is such a thing. I have let dissatisfaction slip into contempt. The problem is, of course, that with each new book (or draft), one learns more, one grows as a writer, and so that book inevitably becomes the product of a younger, less experienced (if also less despairing) writer. I think I made the same mistakes with having children–I waited nearly until the deadline had passed, wanting to get it right instead of merely to get it done. But with writing and children, I have learned that there is much to be said for getting it done as a path to getting it right.

Then, too, watching little people grow in public, it becomes clear to me that nothing can eclipse the brilliance of embracing wherever you are in the moment. I think of Charlie clapping his little hands together in self-approval when he shoots a basket or puts away a toy. I think of Leo’s pleasure in learning to say the “O” in E I E I ____. We delight in them when they can hold their heads up and then when they can play peek-a-boo and then when they can feed themselves a bite and then when they can walk and then when they can say an animal sound and then when they can make a joke and then when they can read a book . . . and they learn to delight in themselves, too. At one-and-a-half (or -quarter), no one is looking back and saying, “Hmmm, I didn’t used to be able to walk. What a loser. I should have stayed in until I knew more.”

Whatever its flaws, reality writing has a lot going for it over its fellows in television. I used to worry that people would stop leaving the kinds of informal, intimate written records that our parents and grandparents left–letters and diaries. Blogs are not the same, of course. But this is what I started out to say: I have become a convert. I read blogs now. At the end of the night, for instance, I check in on the progress of the cutest, bravest little guy and his amazing moms at Simon Lev, and I always read Amy Wilensky’s amazing entry at Seven Hundred Fifty Words. I am learning about organization and Serenity for the Self-Employed from Heather Boerner, about How Not to Write from Jamie Grove, and on and on . . . Words have always been my medium, and it is a great pleasure to find this living stream of them at this time when I am most house-bound.

I would love to know: what blogs do you read?

Posted in Blogs, Mastery, Models, Momentum, Writers and Other PeopleComments (3)

Related Sites

  • 1st Books: Stories of How Writers Get Started See my blog about the wonderful Meg Clayton. The blog is guest authors’ tales of their tales
  • A Bit of This, A Bit of That Prolific, intelligent and quirky blogger and lover of all things bicycle . . .
  • Jamie Ford: Bittersweet Blog The author of The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (2009) shares the journey; lots of fun.
  • Koreanish A wonderful, helpful blog by the great writer Alexander Chee
  • ReadingWritingLiving Susan’s Ito’s wonderful blog on “trying to do it all: reading writing momming daughtering spousing working living” plus great insights into adoption and other stuff
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  • Towers of Gold Frances Dinkelspiel’s engaging web site about California history, economics and other important ideas.