Saturday, April 27, 2013

Publishers! Editors! Where Art Thee?!

Dear Nonfiction Literary Loves,
Hear ye, Hear ye!  Grace Sutherlin has acquired a computer wizard to design her website!  I am now sketching the home page and all the other pages to go along with the site.  I am also taking photos to utilize on the site as well.  This means I must hit the Lilly Pulitzer Spring/Summer 2013 collection soon.  Since I am waiting to hear from various publishers, I must say I've devoured quite a few memoir blogs recently.  As you well know I sent my memoir manuscript to a well-known publishing giant and was dismayed when she felt my writing content was too similar to a memoir she had already successfully represented.  Honestly, I hadn't read the memoir in question, but it seemed a fair response from a publishing bigwig.  That is until I read the actual memoir in question.  Oh. Dear. Lord.  What. In. God's. Creation. Was. She. Reading.!!!  The two books couldn't be more different.  The writers' lives couldn't be more opposite.  I was shocked that the memoir had received such rave reviews.  I mean, this writer's memoir revolved around major life transition, but I really didn't understand why she made some of the poor choices she did and I really didn't understand some of her actions.  The writer had great prose and was quite talented at description, but hell if I saw how my memoir and this one had any similarities other than great memoir revolves around the transitions in our lives and the transitions others important to us are also undergoing.  And Lord Knows There Was A Heck Of A Lot Of Transition In My Memoir Which Didn't Center Around Me. 
I read one memoir blog post where the expert claimed that great memoir revolves around being compassionate in your writing to those who shaped your life experiences.  Compassion? I'm not about to show compassion for certain folks featured in my writing and life because if I did I would seriously think I need my head examined.  For example, I'm not going to show compassion to someone who abused me in any way, harassed me on the job, treated me in a condescending manner, or intentionally hurt my family.  Are you kidding me?!  I say exactly what I was thinking or actually saying to that person at the time like "I seriously wanted to drop kick his rump out the third floor CEO's office window".  That's what I like most about memoir:  when the writer lets you in on what she's thinking, feeling, and perceiving.  Never let it be said that I write in some kind of wimpy manner; my motto is go big or go home.  So I tell it like it is and I don't pull my punches.  I've been through enough hell as it is....glaucoma, Meniere's disease, Cogan's syndrome, skin cancer, etc....God forbid someone tell me to lay low, be gentle, walk softly though the night.....I feel like this publishing process is more like a title bout and am left wondering how many rounds will it go, will the book be a ko or a draw, and what or who is my next challenge. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Publishing Plans

Dear Fellow Literary Lovers,
I absolutely can't wait until someone agrees to take on my memoir manuscript.  I'm not sure anyone is going to be able to contain either me or my excitement.  I always knew that I had a book in me, but ten years ago I knew I hadn't come across the life experiences yet that would magnetize female memoir readers.  I knew I had some experiences that would provoke discussion, but not nearly enough to fill a memoir.  It wasn't until 2009 when my dad called me while I was vacationing in Hilton Head Island, S.C. that the bells and whistles started.  He had called to ask me about some symptoms he was once again experiencing.  Dad had already successfully fought a rare lymphoma diagnosis in 2003.  When he informed me he had swelling, redness, and itching in the very same area where the first lymphoma was found, it was like a pair of cymbals clanging.  I knew my dad's lymphoma was back and this time we were in for a real knock down drag out fight.  It occurred to me at that moment that this was the beginning of the journey I would take that might lead me to uncovering the experiences necessary for an incredible memoir.  I wasn't mistaken or at least I don't think I was.
Dad's Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (rare) came back with a stage four diagnosis. For those not initiated into the cancer experience, this means you are at the end game; it's serious; get your affairs in order; and hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.  Even though he required chemo, he would also need a stem cell transplant.  This meant six weeks in a stem cell transplant hospital.  At the same time, my mother had been diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ and had undergone surgery to remove the area of breast cancer.  She had also endured thirty four rounds of radiation.  She delayed telling me about it because I had just encountered my fourth eye surgery to try and slow the progression of Uveitic Glaucoma and losing my eyesight. 
On top of all this, my sibling identified as transgender.  She was in the process of becoming a he.  It threw our immediate family for a real loop.  And the kicker is that no one else in the family knew what was happening.  So I was dealing with my dad having a stem cell transplant inside a university hospital for six weeks and family and friends attempting to come by and see him; however, my sibling was there and he was dodging all these visitors.  It was a nightmare.  To make matters even more intriguing and stressful, my husband was liberated from corporate America while I was at the hospital with my dad.  No kidding.  He took the bus to work one Monday and was told he wasn't needed anymore.  Talk about a kick to the teeth.  He had informed the CEO that the hair-brained product plan some engineers had hatched was not conducive to the laws of Physics.  He offered another product plan that would be cutting edge, doable in a reasonable time frame, and profitable. He wasn't about to support a plan for product development costing thousands if he knew it was dead in the water from the start.  He wasn't going to waste investor money on a plan like that either.  And presto!  He was canned.  Typical, greedy corporate America.  He went on to start two companies of his own and they have both been successful, but it was gut-wrenching.
So my memoir doesn't lack for drama as you can tell.  I'm just waiting for a publisher to identify with it, get behind me as an author, and let's get this party started.  This dixie diva author is ready to rock.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Anxieties Of Publishing

Well, since I'm still awaiting a verdict on my memoir manuscript from several publishers, I can say that this experience (getting a book published) has been extremely anxiety provoking.  In fact, the last time I felt this much anxiety was waiting in the prep unit of Emory Hospital to be taken back for eye surgery due to Uveitic Glaucoma.  Seriously.  You have no way of knowing which way the tide will turn; in your favor or against you.  I can thoroughly understand now why so many writers are turning to self-publishing; it's easier and they can get on with their next manuscript.  This morning I had a return email on a query I sent to a literary agent dated July 14th, 2012!  I had already deleted the agency from my prospective literary agent list.  In the meantime, I am coping with anxiety by writing a third manuscript about my days spent teaching in an inner city school, sending out more material to publishers and agents, and reading voraciously.  God Speed!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Review: Unwasted: My Lush Sobriety by Sacha Z. Scoblic

Recently, I sat down to read the memoir Unwasted:  My Lush Sobriety by Sacha Z. Scoblic.  I didn't order this memoir because I wanted to see how someone recovers after swirling to the bottom of the barrel or bottle.  I don't drink period because just the smell of alcohol reduces me to dry heaves which is not a pretty picture.  I ordered this book in order to see what types of memoirs Kensington Books is publishing.  I've been trying to reach them regarding my own memoir manuscript, but never receive a response from them.  I find this annoying and rude, but it's their reputation, not mine.  This writer thoroughly examines what happens when your life spins out of control as a result of alcohol abuse.  Frankly, at the beginning of the book, I started to wonder if maybe she had a death wish or something because I was shocked at some of the horrifying situations she described which occurred as a result of the desire for intoxication.  The gal has problems socializing without alcohol; she hangs out with people who don't have her best interests at heart; her work life suffers as a result of alcohol; she finds herself lying and racking up tremendous amounts of debt; some mornings she strolls home at seven in the morning; and her body is really taking a beating all for the love of the bottle.  It's scary.  She does come around to the conclusion that she doesn't like the person she has becomes as a result of alcohol abuse and that's when she makes the decision to go sober cold turkey.  It's not easy.  She passes a host of bars in Washington D.C. on her walk to work each morning; she loses friendships; she finds herself raging at folks who rhapsodize about different levels of alcohol addiction; she comes up against coworkers wanting her to go to happy hour after work; she's invited to dinners where alcohol is not only served but also used in cooking; conventions bring her face to face with social situations featuring alcohol; and she is surprised that AA support groups aren't only made up of bikers with full body tattoo work.  Most importantly, throughout this process she learns she can't accomplish sobriety by herself and she must find a "faith" in which she can believe and rely.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Literary Agent Update

Dear Fellow Literary Lovers,

Wow!  I received 27 hits on my blog post yesterday regarding unprofessional literary agents that I have encountered or heard about recently.  Guess I struck a cord.  I was a bit incensed you could say.  Well, I received another full request from a lovely literary agent yesterday.  Plus, my cat Romeo who has a tumor and was successfully treated for it, is now home.  So my next reading objective is to acquire and read We'll Be The Last Ones To Let You Down by Rachael Hanel and Apron Anxiety by Alyssa Shelasky  My current writing project is going well and I have successfully written 125 pages. Let's hope my accountant fixes the mistakes I found in his preparation of my taxes so hopefully my stress level comes down to more normal levels. 


Tuesday, April 9, 2013


IDear Fellow Literary Lovers,

 I have had a horrendous last five days.  My brother's beloved dog, Rudy, passed away due to oral melanoma after surviving it for well over a year.  He had to make the excruciating decision of letting Rudy be released to a final rest after she began having violent seizures.  Then, my cat Romeo was found to have a tumor sitting atop his small intestines such that he can't properly pass food through his digestive tract.  We had the tumor biopsied and fortunately, it is benign.  Eventually, we will have the tumor surgically removed, but for right now, we need the little guy to get back to some semblance of normalcy before we approach that ballgame.  I even devised a manuscript for this cat entitled How I Found My Purr:  A Feline's A To Z Guide To Happiness.  And I come home yesterday to check my email. I have a literary agent who I queried with this manuscript send me an email saying she failed to grasp the concept of the manuscript and would be forced to pass.  Are you freaking kidding me?  I have kindergartners who grasp that manuscript and can illustrate every page! Such is the case though with some people; they must live for the opportunity to send writers dingy, bonehead remarks.  Now, let's get one thing totally straight:  I am an English teacher and I have a responsibility to call people out when they end their sentences with a preposition or speak using double negatives; if you don't know what this entails I highly suggest googling it. I have zero inhibitions about calling students out on ignorant, vulgar behavior so I have absolutely no problem stating why some literary agents will be out of business soon due to unprofessional, asinine behavior.  These are my top re asons why writers are turning to self-publishing and dropping literary agents like hot potatoes.  Ready?!

1) If you are a literary agent and you choose to use the banal, vain platform of Twitter DO NOT
    post portions of a writer's query letter or refer to them by name or manuscript in a facetious or
    derogatory manner.  This will come back to bite you in the ass.  If you do it to me, you will be
    hearing from my raging tort attorney with a lawsuit thank you very much.  If you don't have
    permission from a writer to use their work, guess what?  IT'S PLAGIARISM AND
    DEFAMATION OF CHARACTER!  I know, I should have been an attorney.
2) Even if you think the query letter or manuscript you received from a writer is the most anal
    retentive item since College Algebra, DO NOT send them a response back speaking in a
    condescending "I Am The Queen Of The Literary Universe"manner.  Agents, if you do this,
    you are gaining a reputation, and trust me, writers let others know which agents are running around
    with a chip on their shoulders.
3)  If you are a literary agent and you request a full manuscript or full proposal from me, DO NOT
     neglect to give me the courtesy of a reply.  I don't care whether you want to rep me as a writer
    or pass on the whole she-bang darling, just do the honorable thing and notify someone.
4) If you are a literary agent taking four to six months to respond to queries guess what?!  DEVELOP
5) If you are a literary agent and you have a form rejection letter or email that you routinely send
    PERVERSE DOCUMENT!  It just makes you look so unhip and aged beyond your years.

Are we all on the same page now and reading from the same book?!  And let us all pray that I receive some really good literary news SOON from an agent or publisher AND that my pit bull of a contract attorney likes what she sees.  Because I cover my bases, cross and dot my alphabet letters, and seriously am ready to be published.  Like YESTERDAY!  ARE WE CLEAR?!

Love, Love, Love,
Grace, Amy, Dixie Diva, or whatever cute name you associate with me.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Romeo Has A Tumor

Dearest loved ones, it's been a week.  It's amazing how much your life can do a complete 180 in the space of six or seven days.  For example, this time last week I was ironing my Lilly Pulitzer Easter dress to wear to church services on Easter Sunday, had made reservations at Stoney River for brunch after church, and contemplating who in the NCAA would wind up in the Final Four men's NCAA tournament taking place here in Hotlanta.  Well, on Monday, our oldest cat Romeo, started having all sorts of digestive problems.  By Tuesday I knew something was utterly not right with him so I took him to our vet hospital.  Initially, we thought maybe a urinary tract infection or perhaps he ate something and had an obstruction in his intestines.  He was started on fluids, antibiotics, etc. On Thursday his blood work came back noprmal with one elevated liver enzyme.  The vet advised taking some xrays to make sure there was nothing obstructing his bowels.  She found a shadow that appeared to be a swollen, distended area in between his liver and pancreas.  We then opted to have a sonogram done and then on Friday we received a call to come by the vet hospital and have a chat about the results of the sonogram.  It's never good news when this happens so I called Brewster who was at the office testing integrated circuits and we both dropped what we were doing to get to the vet. By 6 p.m. we found ourselves looking at a long, L shaped white tumor sitting in between Romeo's liver and pancreas.  The tumor is pressing his intestines so much that the little guy can't pass any stool.  Worse, the vet thinks the tumor is probably malignant, but to be sure, she did a fine needle biopsy of the tumor while Romeo was sedated for the ultrasound.  We get the results on Monday.  If the tumor is somehow miraculously benign, we could have a specialist potentially move the portion of the tumor impeding the intestinal tract; if the tumor is malignant, there's really nothing more to do except bring him home because he really would only have a month to live according to the vet.

I swear sometimes I feel like cancer has cursed my family.  I'm serious.  My dad has been through rare lymphoma twice and endured a stem cell transplant.  My mom has had surgery and thirty rounds of radiation for breast cancer.  I was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma skin cancer on my forearm which had to be burned off and then lasered.  (My family is unique.  Trust me, in this I know; I just wish someone would publish my book The Courage Chronicles:  A Memoir so everyone could benefit from all that we have experience and learned.  You would be surprised at the number of people who ask me what I'm writing about or are in crisis themselves and want to know what my advice is or how my family handled all the crisis with which we've been blessed. Romeo is a part of our family too and this is the first time we've had a cat develop a tumor.  This too shall be a learning experience for me of this I am sure.  I just hope the little guy surprises everybody and is found to have a benign tumor that can be removed so he can share our lives for many years to come.