Tuesday, September 18, 2018

When Will Publishers And Literary Agents Discover The Value Of Memoirs Written By Relatively Unknown Writers??

Dear Lit Loves,

Ah well, I am beginning to discern that publishers (traditional and independent) do not see any value in publishing memoirs written by female writers who are not social media powerhouses or celebrities.  It's quite disappointing; particularly, when you have friends, book club members, medical specialists, and acquaintances ask you about how the publishing quest is progressing and as a writer you want to say, "Maybe it is just the sad reality that publishers and literary agents just do not place a priority on books that communicate the often valuable experiences of everyday women."   There are most definitely literary agents making requests for memoirs, but only IF you have a GINORMOUS platform.    Platform meaning you are a leading university professor, medical specialist, award-winning journalist, or have somehow amassed a gazillion social media followers.  When did this become the manner by which literary agents and publishers decide who does and does not get their book published?  I mean, do any of these folks remember that memoirs were once published and many did exceptionally well when we did not have any forms of social media?  For instance, when Mitch Albom published Tuesdays With Morrie and Jeannette Walls published The Glass Castle - they were not social media stars.  I know we did not have the too numerous social media networks we have today, but those books did really well and someone did see potential in those writers and their material. 

Today, as a writer you will rarely receive a response from a literary agent if you are not a highly acclaimed professor, a celebrity chef, a spiritual guru, or someone who has amassed the abundant attention and following of individuals due to Youtube video makeup tutorials or crazy stunts involving having someone make a video of you jumping out of a car and trying to dance while the car is still in "Drive".  Let us all be real here:  ignorance is not my jam.  Honestly, I do not participate in most social media because frankly my dears, I do not want people all up in my business, stealing my personal information, or harassing me by wait for it - "unfriending me".  Are you kidding? This is not eighth grade, folks!  Nor do I trust Mark Zuckerberg to not sell my personal information or prevent unknown entities from sending me political propaganda.  Seriously?!  You might locate me on the book fanatic site known as Goodreads because I like books, majored in teaching writing, love the book giveaways, and am delighted to discover other new writers, authors, and reviewers.  Does this mean though that my manuscripts about surviving domestic violence and thriving as a teacher in an inner-city school or navigating our discombobulated medical system are not valuable, informative, and entertaining?  Heck no.  To me it means someone has yet to uncover the diamond in the slush pile.  It means the publishing powers are putting too much of a priority on the number of social media outlets authors utilize and not enough value on the content, voice, and craft of the writer and his or her ability to connect with readers.  And that is a sad reality for the world of publishing presently. 

And then there is the truly hysterical part of all this publishing chaos my friends.  Most of the memoir writers that are being allowed through the holy gates of publishing DO NOT EVEN BOTHER TO RESPOND TO THEIR READERS.  How do I know this?  I read non-celebrity memoirs quite often and when I write or email these authors, many do not respond.  On the Goodreads book site about fifty percent of authors will reach out to you, but the sad reality is that many do not.  And believe me when I say if an author is not willing to respond to a reader's inquiry or connect with a writer colleague professionally then I will not buy that author's book.  Or if I receive a review copy of that author's memoir and I have expressed an interest in their book via email, Goodreads, or LinkedIn and that author has not bothered to even respond then when I go to review the book on a five star scale, the book is already diminished.  And that my friends is what is eluding many a literary agent and publishing house:  The author they chose to represent and publish is not doing their part to respond in a genuine way to their readers which means I most likely will not buy any of that author's future books much less recommend it to the book club I attend or librarians who ask my opinion of the book.

So here is the real deal:  when it comes to memoir the evaluation of the author and the book should be based on content, voice, craft, and responsiveness to readers and NOT ON THE NUMBER OF SOCIAL MEDIA OUTLETS UTILIZED OR THE NUMBER OF SOCIAL MEDIA FOLLOWERS.

And besides, I am way too busy writing, editing, reading and living to spend my time worrying about how many social media outlets I have utilized or how many people are "following" me.  I associate following me with potentially stalking me, but maybe that is just due to me being a part of Generation X.  As a proud member of Generation X, I can honestly say that I am SOOO glad I did not grow up with a cellphone practically becoming a permanent attachment to my body.  And I am really glad not to have grown up in the age of social media where everyone and anyone feels entitled to give their two cents about every little aspect of life when it most likely does not amount to a heal of beans anyway.


Till my next post,

Grace
(Amy)



Thursday, August 23, 2018

Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, You Can Fire A Doctor Or Other Medical Specialist

Dear Lit Loves,

Oh wow, am I reading the best memoir presently about an ordinary woman who was going about her day.  She had the flu, was in the midst of a divorce, and rushing around trying to make a brunch date with a friend in New York when she crossed the street and had a McDaddy coughing spell that caused a tear in her dura mater (membrane surrounding brain and spine).  Guess what?  She then starts having excruciating headaches to the point that she is unable to sit up straight for five minutes at a time.  What was the cause of all this?  She had a tear in her dura mater in the spinal region and her cerebrospinal fluid was leaking into her body.  Upon having this medical matter investigated, she was given tests, seen by a neuro-opthalmologist and referred to an Ear, Nose, and Throat surgeon.  The ENT surgeon was only trained and skilled in treating cerebrospinal fluid leaks that occur in the nasal and head area. Spontaneous cerebrospinal leaks can happen not just in the face and skull, but also in the spine.  When the ENT surgeon entered the examination room and found this woman lying down, he told her to "Get up."  Then he proceeded to belittle her symptoms, tried to get her to lean forward to obtain any cerebrospinal fluid leakage from the nasal area, and thought she must be making up this medical issue because he could see no signs of the type of spinal fluid tear he treats.  He did not admit that there are other locations where a tear in the dura mater can occur and that a tear in the spinal region of the body would cause a patient to exhibit the symptoms this nice woman was trying desperately to explain to him.  In fact, he did not even treat her respectfully until her husband, who is an attending physician at the same hospital, entered the exam room and started debating him about his wife's medical symptoms. 

Oh law, I know how this feels.  And let me tell you that just because someone has an M.D. beside their name and a business card with a medical specialty written on it, does not mean they graduated best in their class nor does it mean he/she is a doctor with a professional bedside manner.  Trust me, I have come across plenty of chauvanistic, arcane, and highly suspect medical specialists.  I sometimes think they make a beeline straight for me. 

For example, all of a sudden my migraine neurology office coordinator calls to inform me that the neurologist I had been seeing for my tension migraines no longer works at the facility.  No explanation whatsoever.  Then I find that I have been reassigned to another neurologist in the same practice.  The red flags are already waving for me medically and personally.  I figure I will give the new neurologist a try while I attempt to discover why my previous, well-qualified and highly professional neurologist is no longer at the facility.  So I go see the new neurologist who happens to be Chief of Migraine and Pain Management.  I wait fifty minutes and the man enters the exam room, does not introduce himself, sits down at a computer, and proceeds to stare at the computer and ask me about my medical history.  He then says, "I don't really treat migraines."  

Hold up, buddy.  I am now just down right flabbergasted.  "Wait," I say rather calmly I might add, "you are the chief of migraine and pain management and you don't treat migraines?"
"No," he returns,"I rarely deal with migraine patients."
"Well," I reply, "if YOU don't then please tell me who does so I can stop wasting my time here."
"Oh," he replies, "I've seen enough cases and talked with enough migraine specialists that I can probably help you."  So he changes the dosage of one of my two migraine medications, finally turns around to address me face to face, compliments my dress, and then leaves. There was no physical exam performed whatsoever.  I know what you are thinking because it most likely is exactly what I was thinking right then:  What the hell?!!

So I give this neurologist one more chance.  At the next year's annual appointment I wait for an hour and twenty minutes.  Nurses and technicians keep coming to my exam room saying the neurologist is having difficulty with the patient ahead of me.  Finally, the neurologist's resident strides into the exam room, asks how I am doing, sends refills of my migraine prescriptions to my preferred pharmacy, never does any kind of physical exam, and then walks with me down to the copy machine room to retrieve my visit summary notes.  Guess who is sitting in the copy machine office with his feet up on a desk and hands behind his head?  The neurologist that was supposed to be examining me and performing my annual migraine exam.  The resident informs him that she has taken care of my appointment today.  He does not acknowledge her nor does he see that I, his former patient, am standing right there behind him.

So I called the facility's patient advocacy department, inform them of this doctor's extreme negligence, and complete a complaint summary which I then email to the patient advocacy coordinator.  I also detail that I am firing this neurologist and give a list of reasons why.  Luckily, my previous neurologist who DOES treat migraines has now opened her own practice.  I obtain a referral to her and am once again in great hands when it comes to my migraine management and treatment.  But heaven help the suckers who continue to see the neurologist that I wrote a complaint about because hi is still practicing at the same facility.  And to my knowledge, migraine patients continue to be referred to him to this very day.

Ladies and gentlemen, do not accept substandard care from anyone in medicine.  If they belittle you, disrespect you, give you a reason to doubt them, or act like they are God's gift to the universe, my advice is to GET THEE TO ANOTHER MEDICAL SPECIALIST QUICKLY.  And do not be afraid to report any kind of mistreatment or negligent care on the part of any doctor or medical specialist when it comes to your medical care or the medical care of a family member, friend, or acquaintance.  Your life and someone else's most likely depends on you being the best medical advocate possible. My advice:  ADVOCATE LOUDLY AND OFTEN!!

Till my next post,
Grace
(Amy)

Thursday, August 16, 2018

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Find Out What It Means To Me

Dear Lit Loves,

I just wanted to give my heartfelt admiration here online to the queen of soul, Aretha Franklin.  I was just informed she has died at the tender age of seventy-six.  She was the first woman inducted into the Rock n'Roll Hall of Fame.  She stood up for civil rights and feminists with her song, RESPECT.  I remember singing it as a little girl with my best friend;  we were inspired and fired up.  And frankly, I think respect is what most of us are looking for these days when it is so hard to come by with all the vitriol and hatred in the world today.  I hope I do as much as I can to spread Aretha Franklin's message.  And I urge literary agents to also give new writers a chance to earn a little RESPECT by signing a little-known writer who could perhaps continue to carry on a legacy of teaching RESPECT in a world gone wild.  Rest in peace, Aretha Franklin.  I will always remember you and your inspiration.

Best,
Grace
(Amy)