Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Wrestling With Rising Strong By Brene Brown And Berkley Publishing Issues

Dear Lit Loves,

Recently, a doctor of mine who knew of the grief I had been experiencing over the death of my dad, recommended that I check into books by Dr. Brene Brown, a researcher who works in the Graduate College of Social Work at The University of Houston.  The only information I had on her at the time is that I think I had seen her in a copy of O, The Oprah Magazine.  I was under the impression that she writes about vulnerability, courage, and how we become better people after processing a failure or loss.  I chose to start with her latest book entitled Rising Strong:  The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution.  There is a short note under the title saying, "If we are brave enough, often enough, we will fall.  This is a book about what it takes to get back up."   After examining the book at Barnes & Noble, I thought I would give it a whirl.  She's a Texas southerner.  I'm a southern North Carolinian.  We probably have something we can learn from each other and maybe a few things in common.  I was fine and in agreement that owning our stories and examining them lead us to learn more about ourselves and quite possibly empower us as human beings.  All good.  And then I readily identified with her after she discusses a roommate she was stuck with at a hotel while speaking at a conference.  The roommate, in my opinion, was brash, inconsiderate, and gave the bird to the hotel rules and policies like not smoking on the property.  So Dr. Brown goes to visit her counselor still fuming about the incident.  And her counselor explains that maybe the roommate was doing the best she can or at least that is what she chooses to believe about most people.  Like Dr. Brown, I thought to myself, there is no way on God's green earth that I believe everybody is doing the best they can!  Are you freakin' serious?!! 

This leads me to put down the book and think about what I believe regarding this statement.  I'm still thinking about the statement as I drive to the pharmacy to pick up my medication refills.  I back my Mustang out of our garage and look at the apartment recycling center at the end of the road.  It's overflowing with recyclable goods, some looney tune has thrown his moving boxes over the sides of the gate surrounding the container because there is no more room to put them inside the recycling receptacle, and two people drive up and just throw their plastic trash bags of recycling all over the pavement beside the recycling bin.  Are these people doing the best they can I think to myself.  Hell no is what I think.  First, the property manager should have recognized a long time ago that the complex required another recycling space and receptacle or he should have the recycling picked up more often.  The guy who threw his moving boxes over the fence without breaking any of the boxes down first and just letting them land all over the place and create a junky environment?  No, he's not doing his best.  I think he's just lazy and probably lives in a cluttered environment.  And the two tenants that just threw their plastic bags of recycling over the fence obviously not caring that the bags burst or opened and the contents were sprayed all over the pavement?  Were they doing their best?  Oh, hell to the no!  Honestly, I think they just didn't give a damn and were also guilty of littering. Maybe I should call the police or take down their license plate numbers.

Upon arriving to the pharmacy I encounter a line of people waiting to pick up prescriptions.  I take my place as third in line.  I notice that a clerk is helping people pick up prescriptions at the drive-thru, but no one appears to be helping any of us standing in line inside the store waiting to pick up our medications.  When the clerk finishes assisting the pharmacy drive-thru customers, she returns to a computer and never glances at those of us still standing in line.  Finally, the pharmacist asks the clerk who was working the pharmacy drive-thru to assist those of us inside the store waiting to pick up prescriptions.  Is she really doing the best she can I begin thinking to myself.  No.  I think she's ticked off at having to attend to those of us inside the store as she had asked if anyone else was available to help us before taking on the job herself.  I then notice she appears especially friendly to the two elder folks in front of me when she helps them.  When it's my turn at the register, she is gruff, not at all friendly, and after I hand her my check she begins waxing on and on about how check payments are archaic and no one really uses them to pay for anything anymore.  Oh For Christ's Sake!  Now I'm just standing there giving her the Darth Vader stare and my nostrils are flaring.  I mean, even if you hate your job, is it really necessary to insult the manner in which a customer chooses to pay for their prescriptions? 

I return to my apartment complex and have a woman waiting behind me in a Honda and perched on my bumper.  We live in a gated apartment community and I have to scan the key card to open the gates in order to enter.  Once I do, the driver is riding on my bumper.  I come to a speed bump and she actually pulls her car around mine and also drives around the speed bump and then tries to zoom ahead in front of me.  But wait! Now I've driven over the speed bump, am blocking her path, and literally sitting in my car giving her my laser stare of death.  She doesn't proceed.  Good decision.  People are truly wacko I think as I'm shaking my head and wondering how in the hell anyone can go around thinking that in general, people are trying to do their best.  You know what I think?  I think most people are doing what's in their interests at that moment.  I think they are deciding what will give them the greatest gain toward what they wish to achieve at any given moment.  Now, according to Dr. Brown and her research, the people who answer yes to the idea that people, in general, are just trying to do their best are wholehearted and believe in being vulnerable and value their self-worth.  Those of us who don't believe that in general, people are doing their best have issues with perfectionism and are possibly less compassionate and may not set boundaries well. Okay, at this point I was about to grab a broom, wave an imaginary wand over it, hop on the handle and fly around the room.  SAY WHAT LADY?!  No, No, and No.  First, I used to have a problem with perfectionism until I realized no one would ever meet my own standards so why set myself up for disappointment?   Quickly abandoned that concept.  Point two, does that make me a less compassionate person?  No.  It makes me selectively compassionate.  People can be con artists, abusive, ruthless, greedy, and indifferent.  If a person demonstrates this, I'm probably not going to have a lot of compassion for him or her.  It's that simple.  Point three.  Do I have a problem with setting boundaries?  Laughing hysterically and almost to the point of hyperventilating and rolling off the chaise lounge in the living room, my husband walks into the room.  He asks me what's up.  I ask him if he thinks I have problems with setting boundaries.  His answer, "Christ no.  If anyone has a question on where you stand they either have to be deaf, blind, or incompetent." Thank you.  I rest my case.  I did finish reading the book, but I kept thinking that you know, Dr. Brown, there are exceptions to the data and research.  And I'm probably an exception.  It's okay.  We'd probably have great dinner conversations and debates, though. 

And finally dear literary loves, I noticed that Berkley Books is having problems.  First, Berkley was combined with NAL and Leslie Gelbman was removed.  Almost a month later, I'm reading that though it hasn't been confirmed, Berkley is now being combined with Putnam and Dutton and possibly four more editors were let go.  Hmmmm.  I look back over what memoirs were published by Berkley Books last year.  There was one that I read about a guy who survives the UCLA paramedic program.  I read it because I'm fascinated by medical issues, but the vast book buying public is made up of women and I don't see them having a whole lot of interest in the book.  So I try to find what memoirs Berkley Books is getting ready to release in the near future.  Well, there's a memoir getting ready to be released about a couple who undergo forty tasks to determine if they are marriage material and if they can't pass the tests then the wedding is off the table.  And some of the tasks they endure include swapping credit cards, speed dating (why?), having lunch with their exes, spending twenty-four hours handcuffed together, and trying to imitate famous television/movie sex scenes.  Are these people for real?  You're kidding me, right?  Wait, are these two millennials? That would potentially explain a lot right there. I'm tired of these gimmicky memoirs.  I know what it takes to find the right life partner as I've been married eighteen years and when you've been through job loss, interstate moves, skin grafting surgery, caring for elderly parents, losing vision to glaucoma, family quarrels, and the death of your parents then talk to me about how you go about determining if someone is marriage material.  Otherwise, I won't bother buying your book because I don't find it interesting, funny, enlightening, or worth my hard-earned dollar, okay?  Berkley!  Call me!  I've got the riveting manuscripts!   If not, it's okay.  I'll self-publish and go my own way because I know my genre, target market, and I know what sells. 

Till my next post,

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

When You Are Unable To Find A Literary Agent, Become A Red-Headed Renegade Writer

 Dear Lit Loves,

Well, along this journey to score a traditional publishing deal, it has become sharply apparent to me that maybe I wasn't meant to secure a literary agent.  I've always been a radical independent soul.  Some would even dare to call me a loner and I wear that with a badge of pride.  I don't like city living (too many people).  I like the open country and two lane winding roads that just might end in a bean patch.  Seriously, you can ask my husband; this happened on one of first vacations together.  That's probably why I'm heavily drawn to Chapel Hill and blue heaven as opposed to Raleigh and its often rude, obnoxious, and non-law-abiding citizens.  I'm specifically speaking to the guy who almost ran me over on a two lane road in downtown Raleigh where I was observing the thirty-five mile per hour speed limit in front of a school.  The same driver yelled obscenities at me once I turned off the road and he promptly sped off to his obviously more important life than mine.  Now that I think about it, he most likely was a Millennial as I'm good at judging a person's age and he also seemed to have a cell phone attached to his face.  Puhhllleeessseee, don't get me started.

And getting back on a literary track, I must say I haven't corresponded with any literary agent who I felt truly understood and connected with my writing.  I've corresponded with one who wanted me to write more like Joan Didion.  Say what?  Lady, I'm most sure Joan Didion and I live on entirely different planets.  Plus, I like my own style and manner of writing and as I've always advised my writing students, Don't Be A Copy Cat!!  Next, I had a literary agent who basically said she didn't represent memoir authors who don't have a national platform.  Basically, I took this to mean that I'm not Meryl Streep, a renowned academic, or a magazine journalist.  Talk about taking body blows to your self-esteem.  Well, if the agent wants to wait around for Meryl Streep to call and offer her a chance to represent her memoir, I guess she can afford to wait till hell freezes over, but I can't.  And by the way, Meryl will most likely utilize a literary agent from a ginormous famous agency who is really going to fight to get her a damn good deal because she's that good and she has those kind of connections.  I would if I were her.  And here's a news bulletin/flash:  academics and journalists do not necessarily have the market cornered on readily being able to connect and identify with the everyday or more independent-spirited women in the world.   And finally, there is the literary agent who informed me she wanted to represent quirky memoirs.  She really didn't want to tackle a memoir author who addressed serious women's issues such as domestic violence, chauvinism, corporate inequality, counseling a friend through a terminal illness, or tackling caring for elderly parents when you are their healthcare power of attorney.  A memoir addressing serious women's issues of the everyday variety?!  Oh God!  Let's all run for our lives or hide!  Yeah, that's going to get you places fast my little literary friend.  Lord. Help. Me.  I don't have the patience for this, I swear.

So, I thought about these recent exchanges and correspondences.  And I said to myself, "Oh, The Hell With You!  I'll Just Go Damn Well Do It Myself!"  And that's just what I plan to do.  And as my husband says, "Watch Out For That Red-Headed Renegade Writer!  She's chewing nails and spitfire mad!"

I'll keep you updated,