Friday, August 30, 2013

Getting Published Is A SCREAM!

Dear Lit Loves,
Have I ever spoken about how the publishing world is a real scream and about to drive me witless? The last time I had this much fun I was attempting to teach language arts and social studies to sixth, seventh, and eighth grade inner city middle school students.  This has been a real wicked week particularly because like Freud, the publishing industry seems to shut down during the entire month of August and not return until after Labor Day.  In the meantime, I have read a memoir that annoyed the hell out of me because it was written in a daily journal fashion and the first ten pages made me wonder how on God's green earth this author got published.  And then there was the sinking, nagging feeling of this question:  if a publisher thought this memoir was great, will I ever find a publisher or editor that views my pitches/queries and goes "Yes, Ma├ím!  This is the ticket!" 
And the next thing that happens is I finish my manuscript about teaching in an inner city middle school and all the crossfire that involves.  I would never have gotten through it if not for my team teaching partner.  Speaking of her, she called this week and told me that she learned on Wednesday that her rare form of colon cancer is back with a vengeance.  Of course we were both hoping that maybe what the radiologist found in the lymph node was just a rogue polyp, but not so, for we learned today it is the beast and the beast is angry.  We'll find out next week what her treatment plan is. 
And the really good news this week was that my sibling was a featured extra on the hit television series Under The Dome, Episode 10,  You would have thought I was the featured extra on the show given my excitement.  Even better news was the next big event:  my sibling gets offered a SAG role in a movie that begins filming here in Atlanta in October.  
So while I am waiting to hear from literary agents and publishers who are most likely on vacation and enjoying themselves, I watched the Atlanta Braves and the Atlanta Falcons.  Thank God Jason Heyward was back sitting in the dugout during Tuesday night's game.  I was heartbroken when he got hit in the face by a pitch; it broke his jaw and he had to have surgery that included metal plates. Finally, I watched the Falcons second and third string play the Jaguars last night.  The only bit that worries me is that we have not won a preseason game and no team has ever won the Superbowl and also lost their preseason games.  Now, it is possible.  We have the talent.  And I will feel a whole heck of a lot better when all our starters are playing and remain healthy.  Because like getting published, getting to the Superbowl encompasses a great many factors.  One is luck.  Two is technique.  And three is passion.  And it will never be said that me or my football team do not have passion for what we do.  Let's hope we get properly rewarded for it.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Review: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Dear Literary Loves,
Well fellow book lovers, it's quite hard waiting to hear from publishers and literary agents.  Publishers can take forever to review your work I now realize and literary agents only appear to jump into action when there is a deal involving multiple dollar signs as well as your author name attached to it.  Seriously.  Next, I got royally ticked off that my favorite Braves player, Jason Heyward, was hit in the face by a pitcher from the Mets.  The pitch hit Jason in the face and shattered his jaw.  I was so fuming mad the pitcher wasn't suspended I wrote the MLB commissioner.  Never had any use for the Yankees, Mets, or Nationals and still don't to this day.  Finally, my Amazon book order arrived.  Everybody and their mother has been asking me about my thoughts on this one memoir entitled The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.  I had never read it, but most people know I have a rather eccentric family and also wondered what did I think about her recollections of growing up in poverty.  So the first book I pulled from the box was indeed The Glass Castle and here's what I think:
There were several folks who asked me if I thought Ms. Walls had embellished the memoir.  For the most part, I don't think so.  Why?  Because I've come across people who live exactly like her family lived and I have seen people who suffer from the afflictions of alcohol abuse and mental illness which obviously was a factor with both her parents.  I have to admit, there were times when I wondered how in the hell some of this happened.  For instance, when the family was driving in the desert and Jeannette fell out of the car and her father kept on driving.  She lay beside some railroad tracks for a while before they finally came back to get her.  Or the time the police drove up with her parents in the backseat and the neighbors had called to alert police that kids were firing shots at one another from their residence.  I mean, I think the police would have arrested the parents for possessing a firearm that was left openly available to kids.   And even after finishing the book I still wonder how in creation family and children's services never took the kids away from her parents.  I know they liked to do the "skedaddle", but seriously? 
It's a wonder all four kids survived their childhoods in this family.  And you know I would not want to be the instructor from Barnard that questioned what on earth Ms. Walls knew about abject poverty and homelessness; don't you know that woman feels like an idiot now that this book has been published and has done so well?!  I have learned that you can never really know what someone's reality is unless you've walked in their shoes over the course of their lives.  One time I had a student at a private school tell me he didn't have his homework because the maid threw it in the garbage before he could finish his homework and clean up his room.  She had told him explicitly that she was going in with a trash bag and clearing his room so whatever was left out was going to be demolished.  I thought he was kidding.  I called his house to inquire with his mom.  Guess what?  Yes, the family did have a maid and yes, she had thrown away a bunch of paperwork.  Just goes to show that sometimes your assumptions about people can be dead wrong. 
All in all, I liked this memoir.  The opening sentence grabbed me and I liked the short succinct chapters.  I did not read the book in one sitting.  There were times I got so mad at her mom or dad and their irresponsible, selfish parenting that I had to put the book aside and take a break from reading it.  On the whole, what depresses me most is that I have yet to find a agent who can tackle my eccentric family and all their ordeals which I openly write about in a memoir.  Have we gotten to the point where agents are avoiding some of the tough issues in society?  Have we become a population that just wants to read about vampires and werewolves?  Is anyone still open to the human experience and the whole mystery and enlightenment it provides?  I recently read on a literary agent's site that she wanted good nonfiction narratives, but not ones that included cancer, addiction, asinine husbands, and women trying to get back their groove.  Hell woman, I thought to myself, you don't want to read about the human experience then, you just want to read about a perfect reality that doesn't exist.  Call me in ten years and I'll bet you will have changed your tune.  Why?  Because DRAMA SELLS.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Query Perplexities

Dear Literary Loves,
Well bookworms, I finished my second manuscript and was ecstatic!   So while a publisher has the first manuscript and is evaluating it, I begin querying literary agents for the second book.  To query is to basically send literary agents a one page concise letter telling them a short synopsis of the book and your qualifications as a writer.  You have to grab them from the beginning and hook them on the concept of the book; make them want to read more.  I can tell you that my query has gotten a whole lot shorter for this second manuscript.  I'm now a veteran query writer so to speak.  It's a difficult process and a waiting game because you hope you connect with the agent through a couple of paragraphs and it could take a while for the agent to get back to you about their interest or non-interest.  Some agents (few and far between) get back to you quickly and are courteous.  Other agents can take as long as ten to fourteen weeks before answering a query.  I actually did have one literary agent who responded almost a year after I sent the query. 
It can be frustrating querying literary agents.  Most will send a form reject with an opening paragraph with "Dear Author" which to me is impersonal and somewhat hypocritical in that most agents want you to have researched them through and through before you query them; God forbid you ever send a query email that begins with "Dear Agent".  Major no-no.  Next, you get either a request for a partial of the manuscript or a request for the full manuscript which you hopefully get to send via email.  There are agents that still require you to print the whole manuscript and mail it to them which can be costly.  In relation to rejections, an author can be told many things such as, It's not right for my list; I'm not the right agent for this work; We're not taking on new clients; This work is too similar to another one I represent; or I didn't connect with the book concept.  I have been through this so many times that I now think if an agent does sign me I probably will not have the excitement I might have had if I had found an agent who offered representation at an earlier time in my writing career.  Presently, I am to the point of feeling "Let's Get On With The Show!"
I do want a literary agent that looks out for my career as a writer, takes care of me editorially, gives me extensive feedback on what works in a manuscript and what doesn't, and helps continually guide me through the publishing process.  I don't expect this process to "be a walk in the park". I do expect a first class, dedicated agent who is ready to hit the ground running cause you know what?  I've been ready for a long time and have several manuscripts in the pipeline.  Here's to hoping a literary agent sends me good news soon, and that it's the right agent for me.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Smoltz's Bio, The Falcons, And My 2nd Manuscript

Dear Literary Loves,
Howdy!  This is Grace coming to you from my rockin' office at 12:08 p.m. where I am jammin' out to the to the original INXS.  Hey, I'm reading John Smoltz's bio that hit the national bestseller list and this book is so hilarious and seriously good.  I love it when he calls the local radio station and puts the sports newscaster on the spot about not really being in the Braves' dugout even though the guy is going on and on like he's a player on the team!  I bought this book for my dad, who is like, a MASSIVE Braves fan, for Father's Day this year.  And by the way, GO BRAVES!  LET'S TIE THE FRANCHISE RECORD for most consecutive wins!
Now about the Falcons preseason game against the Bengals.  Okay, I admit, I was having a panic attack with us not having John Abraham as a pass rusher.  We've got to shore up the defensive line which I am most sure will happen when we get our starters playing for a whole game.  Totally NOT worried about the offense as we looked sharp when our first string was playing.  And Hey!  What about the new cornerback Truffant...........he rocks!  I haven't been this excited to see a player since Julio Jones was recruited.  Now, we take on the SuperBowl champs in this week's preseason game so let's get some serious butt kickin' going on and rack up some major kudos and points against them!
Next, I finished my second manuscript.  It's women's fiction and has the most outrageous title which I can't state presently.  Let's hope one of my favorite literary agents picks this one up because I am about to pull my hair out to be published.  I'm serious.  I am going to make some literary agent and me a heck of a lot of money; they just need to recognize it, you know what I mean?  You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.  Don't worry Lit Loves, I'll keep you posted because hey, I really have to have a major publishing debut book party!  Stay Chill and Rock On.....

Thursday, August 1, 2013

On One Of My Favorite Writers Losing Her Edge

Dear Literary Loves,
Well, lots happening on the writing front.  One agent has the full manuscript and now, two editors have asked to review the full manuscript as well.  Here's the thing:  So I'm out having lunch with my husband, The Brewster, yesterday and we are chatting about everything and my mother.  I tell him I am soooooooooo disappointed with one of my formerly favorite authors.  And he's like, "What happened to her?  And by the way, did you hear what happened at one of my former tech companies?"  "Well, no", I say, "But first, I really liked this author when she was living among the cheap seats, barely scraping by, and selling her Gucci handbags on eBay to pay her rent.  THEN, I picked up her next book which had come out in paperback thinking oh, this is going to be a scream".
No it wasn't a scream; in fact, I was mortified because now that she's got a couple of books under her belt, she's becoming Ms. Self-Entitled.  "Really", says the Brewster.  "How?" he questions "Oh, for crying out loud, she's lamenting about her Cadillac Escalade, buying a house in a ritzy suburb, and for heaven's sake, she's hiring people to come pick up her dog's poop in the yard!"  "Damn", says the Brewster, "that's just asinine arrogance".  So I hand over the book to him so he knows which author I am speaking of and he randomly starts reading from the book.  "Well", he says, "she's definitely no-nonsense like you, but really, her pretentiousness gets on my nerves so I see why you think she is losing her edge." "Losing her edge?!  She's not only losing her edge; she's lost the whole damn knife sharpener!" I return.  "Plus", I say, "she's losing her feel for being of the people, by the people, and for the people for crying out loud!"  "Well,"says the Brewster, "she's definitely becoming snarky.  So if she can make loads of sales on books with this kind of stuff, you should have no worries".  I'll believe that when I have an agent and a book deal I think
So then the Brewster is telling me about how the tech company where we met has just laid off another 120 employees.   "That's not shocking", I begin, "because they are headed in the WRONG direction technically and they needed to diversify their product base twelve years ago when you left. Have they done that still? No; therefore, they are seeing their market share circling the drain."  "I couldn't agree more", says the Brewster.  "I tried to help them be open-minded about the need for immense data that people would want via their phones and laptops, but who am I?  Just an electrical engineer with a PH.D who knows the market so really, what the hell do I know?" he says laughing.  "Do you think they will find their way back?" I query.  "Only if they get the right people in the right positions; you can't build quality product without experienced engineers and you ain't getting this experienced engineer without forking over some serious moolah, you know what I mean?" says the Brewster.  I hold up my sweet tea and we toast to being a rebel, an independent, and in my case, deuces are wild. 
So anyway literary loves, I am keeping myself above the hoopla, understand?  I am keeping myself among the people because if you ever get to the point where you think you are so good that you no longer need to be among the common folk, you are probably going to lose your edge in publishing or that's my opinion.  The Brewster asks me about "the author" in Atlanta.  Now we know who "the author" is because that's how we refer to her.  "Well, here's the thing", I lament, "she's a year and a half late on her next book for crying out loud!"  "And how does her editor feel about this?" asks the Brewster.  "I don't know how her editor feels, but I am royally pissed and you know why?  Because in the year and a half that she has been late on her next book, I have written two books and am still awaiting a publisher!"  "Life is so not fair", says the Brewster.  "You are telling me baby because I am on writing like butter on bread; like my Mustang on I-85 north/south, understand?!" I lament.  "No worries", says the Brewster, "you'll smoke their asses once someone does discover you".  "Ahhh, Brewster", I say, "you really know how to make a girl's day". 
That's it from the literary trenches for today lovies!