Monday, May 14, 2018

Apathetic, Uninformed, And Unresponsive NC State BOE And NC Lawmakers Are Why Teachers Are Coming To Raleigh, Mr. Brody


Dear Lit Loves and North Carolina Public School Teachers,

It appears that N.C.representative, Mark Brody, of Union County appears to think that North Carolina teachers are being irresponsible and petulant for coming to Raleigh to protest on May 16, 2018. Well, Mr. Brody, let me tell you as a FORMER middle school teacher in the state of North Carolina that sometimes it is necessary to make an up close and personal presence to gain the attention and priority of our N.C. state board of education and our North Carolina representatives.  And by the way, Mr. Brody, for your information, teachers are not just protesting pay, but also working conditions, school environments, and lack of teacher resources to properly educate and protect our public school students.  As a FORMER North Carolina teacher, I can tell you this played a role in why I no longer teach in North Carolina public schools.  For your information, I wrote a book on my experiences as a beginning teacher and published it on my on dime.  You might like to order a copy.  It is titled "Brave Soul Rising:  Tales From The Trenches of An Uncharmed Life by Grace Sutherlin.  Amazon is where you can purchase the book.  You might find some enlightenment there and also send a copy to your district representative on the North Carolina state board of education.

I applaud the teachers of North Carolina for taking a day to bring forth the significant priorities and needs of not just North Carolina public school teachers, but also North Carolina public school environments and the lack of teacher as well as student resources.  Bringing forth real change in North Carolina public schools and bringing teacher priorities to the forefront of our state board of education as well as our state lawmakers requires an iron resolve, serious concern, and a brave soul.  So I want you to know that once I wrote my book chronicling my first years teaching in a North Carolina middle school, I sent correspondence to all State Board of Education Members at the time.  I received two responses.  One was from State School Superintendent, Mark Johnson and the other respondent was State School Board Chairman, William Cobey.  None of the other state board of education members responded to my correspondence much less purchased the book.  According to my calculations, that comes to fourteen members or advisors who did not even bother to care, correspond, or read about the troubles and inadequacies of our state's public schools. North Carolina Teachers deserve better.  North Carolina Students deserve better. 

So for all North Carolina teachers who are participating in the protest on May 16, 2018 and for those who would have liked to participate, but could not, I am listing here the members of our North Carolina State Board of Education, their districts, counties and when available, their email addresses and term expirations if possible.

****Point Of Interest:  I contacted The Raleigh News and Observer newspaper about my book via a local reporter who is assigned to the topic of education.  There was no response.  When I wrote the top brass at the newspaper, I was told via email that if no one responded to my education topic suggestion then my story was not deemed important or relevant.  (Take Note Mr. Brody)

The listed members of the North Carolina State Board of Education are here for your perusal.


William Cobey, Chairman of NC Board of Education and Member at Large. 
Email:  william.cobey@dpi.nc.gov
Term Expires:  March 31, 2019

Rebecca Taylor, Member and Representative of NC Education District 1 inclusive of Northeast Education Region or Beaufort, Bertie, Camden, Currituck, Chowan, Dare, Gates, Halifax, Hertford, Hyde, Martin, Northampton, Pasquotank, Pitt, Roanoke Rapids, Tyrell, Washington, and Weldon.
Email:  becky.taylor@dpi.nc.gov
Term Expires: March 31, 2019

Reginald Kenan, Member and Representative of NC Education District 2 inclusive of Southeast Education Region or Brunswick, Carteret, Craven, Duplin, Greene, Jones, Lenoir, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico, Pender, and Wayne.
Email:  reginald.kenan@dpi.nc.gov
Term Expired:  March 31, 2017

Amy White, Member and Representative of District 3 inclusive of North Central Education Region or Chapel Hill-Carrboro, Chatham, Durham, Edgecombe, Franklin, Grenvile, Harnett, Johnston, Lee, Nash, Orange, Person, Vance, Wake, Warren, and Wilson.
Email:  amy.white@dpi.nc.gov
Term Expires:  March 31, 2023

Dr. Olivia Homes Oxendine, Member and Representative of District 4 inclusive of Sandhills Education Region or Bladen, Clinton, Columbus, Cumberland, Hoke, Montgomery, Moore, Richmond, Robeson, Sampson, Scotland, and Whiteville. 
Email:  olivia.oxendine@dpi.nc.gov
Term Expires:  March 31, 2021

Eric C. Davis, Vice Chairman, Member at Large, and Representative of District 5 inclusive of Piedmont Triad Education Region or Alamance, Asheboro, Caswell, Davidson, Davie, Elkin, Forsyth, Guilford, Lexington, Mount Airy, Randolph, Rockingham, Stokes, Thomasville, Surry, and Yadkin.
Email:  eric.davis@dpi,nc.gov
Term Expires:  March 31, 2021

Gregory Alcorn, Member and Representative of District 6 inclusive of Southwest Education Region or Anson, Cabarrus, Cleveland, Gaston, Iredell, Kannapolis, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Mooresville, Rowan, Stanly, and Union.
Email:  gregory.alcorn@dpi.nc.gov
Term Expires:  March 31, 2019

Todd Chasteen, Member and Representative of District 7 inclusive of Northwest Education Region or Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, Hickory, McDowell, Mitchell, Newton-Conover, Watauga, Wilkes, Yancey.
Email:  todd.chasteen@dpi.nc.gov
Term Expires:  March 31, 2023

Wayne McDevitt, Member and Representative of Western Education Region inclusive of Asheville, Buncombe, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, Polk, Rutherford, Swain, and Transylvania. 
Email:  wayne.mcdevitt@dpi.nc.gov
Term Expired:  March 31, 2017

Patricia Willoughby, Member at Large
Email:  patricia.willoughby@dpi,nc.gov
Term Expired:  March 31, 2017

Mark Johnson, State Superintendent of North Carolina Public Instruction
Email:  mark.johnson@dpi.nc.gov
Term Expires:  2020

Dan Forest, Lieutenant Governor
Email:  dan.forest@dpi.nc.gov
Term Expires with term of office.

Dale Folwell, State Treasurer
Email:  dale.folwell@dpi.nc.gov
Term expires with term of office.

Dr. Freddie Williamson, State Board of Education Superintendent Advisor
No email currently listed.

Roberta Scott, Local State Board of Education Advisor
Email:  rscott@warrenk12nc.org

Vacancy:  High School Junior Advisor
Appointment Pending
Position Not Filled Since 2016

North Carolina teachers I look forward to hearing your rallying call on May 16, 2018 and remember, sometimes you must raise your voice to make sure you are heard.  I am all for a North Carolina teacher strike if necessary.

Your Sister in North Carolina Education and Author of the book, Brave Soul Rising:  Tales From The Trenches of An Uncharmed Life written under my pen name of Grace Sutherlin.

All my best,
Grace
(Amy)


Thursday, May 3, 2018

Maybe There Is No Literary Agent Out There For Me As A Writer

Dear Lit Loves,

I wish I had better news.  I have queried my heart out for a memoir/narrative regarding my own disabling illnesses and how those disabling bad boys taught me to be more of a feminist and a discerning medical advocate, not to mention handle living with the ups and down of rare disorders.  I have no literary representation as of yet.  I am beginning to think maybe literary agents just send out tweets and post lists of various genres they would like to acquire just because those types of acquisitions are what is trending now.  Seriously,  I just received a rejection from a literary agent who said she needed to give her acquisition list a serious overhaul so she wanted nonfiction queries especially those of the #MeToo and #OwnVoices movement and I don't know how you could figure after reading my proposal that those two hashtags do not shine brightly throughout my manuscript.  Wait, that's right, I remember now.  The literary agent never asked for the book proposal and manuscript; therefore, it is not possible anyone could have read my book proposal or my manuscript.  This is frustrating as hell, let me tell you.

Next, I receive a rejection not from the literary agent to whom I sent my query and first two chapters, but her assistant who says the agency has discussed my book and they do not see a story arc and it is hard to sell a hybrid memoir and narrative book presently.  First, they never had the full manuscript or book proposal to be able to ascertain the full story arc so I find that just a bogus excuse.  Yes, it is most definitely hard to sell a narrative and memoir hybrid manuscript, but hell, it's also hard to plant 60 gladiolus bulbs in one hour, but hell, I did it because I wanted to and I knew I could do it.  Maybe we don't have any fearless literary agents who take risks anymore or at least that's what I am beginning to think.  Maybe they all want to cater to the writer who can make them the quick buck. 

And finally, there's the literary agent who rejected my query in fourteen minutes.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Quick turnaround time, but obviously no real thoughts given to the substance and motivations for writing the book.  I'll remember that and not query that literary agent ever again.  Never.  That's it.  You handle my query like that and as my good friend says, "Ya dead to me!  Understand?!!"  Honestly, querying to find a literary agent is like dealing with the mafia or better yet professional wrestling.  I actually had a dream where I was in a cage match against a literary agent. Last person left standing wins.  I won, but since I've watched so many cage matches and know so many wrestling moves, the literary agent was unconscious at the conclusion of the match, but survived; however, he/she refused to represent me because he/she was afraid I would not take refusals or constructive feedback well when my book proposal or manuscript was evaluated!! 

And finally, there is the literary agent who is OPEN to submissions. I query him/her.  I receive a rejection because he/she has too many current clients to even consider much less seriously read my book proposal and manuscript.  Straight up, hand on my father's grave, that is what the email rejection he/she sent me read.  I was like, well, why the hell do you keep yourself OPEN to submissions if you are too busy with your current clients??  Try closing to submissions till you can seriously consider a writer's work.  Really, it's not that difficult.  I do not send you a book proposal or manuscript till it is in its finest shape possible so do I not deserve your undivided attention when you go to read my book proposal and manuscript??

Stay tuned to Is There An Actual Literary Agent That Can Handle Grace Sutherlin?? 

Till my next post,
Grace
(Amy)

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

There Is A Serious Lack Of Diversity When It Comes To Whose Memoir Manuscript(s) Are Traditionally Published

Dear Lit Loves,

This may be one of my last posts on this blog as I am deeply disappointed to report that I believe, based on my on personal experiences querying both literary agents and editors, that I must report that I have come to the conclusion if you are not a female writer who is highly educated, privileged, and phenomenally connected in terms of social media then traditional publishers and literary agents do not appear to genuinely wish to hear much less publish your story.  And that's even if you have a valuable, timely, and unusual personal story to relate in book form. I have come to this conclusion after many weeks of querying literary agents and editors who should, based on their own specified genre interests, have reason to be excited and motivated to sign as me as a potential writer/author.  It most definitely has not been the experience of this memoir writer.

Recently, I have noticed that when it comes to books and in particular memoirs pertaining to health-related experiences, particularly those that target a female audience, if you are not a professor, a scientist, a theatrical director, celebrity, or a media powerhouse then literary agents and traditional publishing appear not to care about much less want to publish your potentially invaluable personal experiences.  It is particularly sad given that as writers and readers we hear from agents and publishers that they want "diverse voices", "own voices", and one powerhouse publisher actually tweeted that the editors wanted to hear and promote memoirs "of ordinary women who have survived extraordinary circumstances".  From my perspective, this is simply not the case and sure as hell is not happening when it comes to this writer and her manuscript.

My definition of an ordinary woman apparently does not match the definition utilized by those members belonging to the realms of traditional publishing.    And it deeply saddens and disappoints me because I think the average female who buys books these days reflects my conceptualization of an ordinary woman as opposed to the privileged woman from an upper socioeconomic class that most traditional publishers and literary agents appear to define as an "ordinary woman".  So that leaves writers like me with manuscripts that will never see a place on a shelf at Barnes and Noble or an independent bookstore.  It leaves writers like me utterly disillusioned with the entire traditional publishing industry.  A writer like me who has potentially not only written an informative, engrossing, and intriguing memoir is left feeling and being treated like a second class citizen in a third world country.   It leaves me wondering why did I even try to pursue or obtain the dream of being the author of a traditionally published book?  Why was I not given an opportunity to see if my book could succeed and potentially make a difference in someone or many people's lives?  It leaves me with the desire to put down the pen, close the laptop, shred my manuscript and book proposal because none of the gatekeepers in traditional publishing gave a damn about me as a writer/author, my experiences, or my manuscript and book proposal.    And for that, traditional publishing and its many inhabitants should be ashamed if that is what eventually transpires regarding my publishing dreams.

Grace
(Amy)

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Would Reese Witherspoon Select A Self-Published Book As A Part Of Her Hello Sunshine Book Club?

Dear Lit Loves,

Greetings book lovers!  Those of you who are Southern women are going to loooovvveeee this post.   I read somewhere recently where Reese Witherspoon selected a memoir for her April 2018 Hello Sunshine Book Club.   So I, being a lowly, self-published Amazon memoir author/writer, started thinking during my most recent book club luncheon that I needed to fire up my laptop and see if Reese Witherspoon has ever selected a self-published book as one of her Hello Sunshine Book Club picks. This does have a point to it ya'll so just hang in there with me, okay?

Driving home from my book club meeting/luncheon that day I thought back to a presentation I made in Calabash, North Carolina when I self-published my first book titled Brave Soul Rising:  Tales From The Trenches of An Uncharmed Life.  When I closed my book presentation someone asked me about the self-publishing process and if I ever thought I might one day be a part of the traditionally published author tribe.  And I answered by saying, "Well, I guess anything is possible.  I mean, the movie Legally Blonde was originally a novel written by Amanda Brown that began as a self-published book.  The novel was eventually published by the book imprint named Dutton which is or was most definitely part of the big five traditional publishers.  And we all know how BIG that movie became for Reese Witherspoon - Hell, it put her on the map!  So who knows?"

I arrive home from my own book club group meeting and luncheon and check to ascertain if Reese Witherspoon has ever selected a self-published book as a pick for her Hello Sunshine Book Club.  Nope. Nada. Ain't Happened Yet.  Wait A Freakin' Minute!  I googled the Hello Sunshine Book Club and what I found which I think is sort of a mission statement is "To tell stories BIG and small and shine a light on female authorship."  !!!!!!!!  Hold the phone, shut the door, and sit thy posterior down for a moment.  An idea popped into my head (this happens occasionally, sometimes for the good and sometimes for naught).  If Hollywood or at least most of it, but particularly Oscar-winning actresses are going to support women in their efforts to "speak their truth" while also encouraging them to "raise our voices and tell our stories," should that not include those of us who've been trying to break through the forces of the literary gatekeepers?  Seriously, I personally feel like I have queried literary agents till the cows have come home and right now, they all are grazing on my deck.  I've been given every reason in the world for rejection including that I am not a grand partaker of social media (Hello, thank God I did not join Facebook as 87 million users have had their private information  stolen and I think Zuckerberg or Zuckerburg and company also allowed advertising that negatively impacted our last election).  How would you feel if after writing a memoir manuscript, a query, a book proposal, etc and then researching literary agents that sell books in your genre, you wrote to those literary agents and received email responses like the following, "Sorry.  Pass., I have determined I am not the right person to rep this book, You have virtually no platform, and last but certainly not least, I don't have the time to devote to this manuscript and memoirs by unknowns just don't sell."  I have received emails from literary agents that said all this and more.  Not to mention, some literary agents never bothered to respond in any shape or form. 

Would it not be great if Reese Witherspoon selected a self-published book as one of her Hello Sunshine Book Club selections???!!!  So I am throwing down the gauntlet (in Southern-speak this means I am putting down my fork of Lexington-style barbecue and placing the glass of mint julep down on the table).  I think it would be fantabulous if Reese Witherspoon selected and promoted a book completed by a self-published author.  And yes, I am going to give the reasons why my self-published book should qualify as a selection.  Henceforth, here is why Brave Soul Rising by Grace Sutherlin should qualify as a Reese Witherspoon book club selection:

1)  It relays the story of a timid, Swouthern gal evolving to become one bad-ass, take-no-prisoners woman.
2)  The book delivers a round-house drop kick to the cruelties of domestic violence and sexual harassment.
3)  It is a book featuring a real world woman who learns the art of how to write about her actual encounters with the realities of inner city public education and overcome the negative stigmas associated with it.
4)  It's a story about a woman rising above the fray when the odds are firmly stacked against her.
5)  Above all, never underestimate a Southern woman with a brave heart and feisty soul.

That's my pitch to Ms. Witherspoon.  And for my limited and select few regular blog readers I just finished reading They Left Us Everything by Plum Johnson and will review it here shortly. 

Till my next post,
Grace
(Amy)

Monday, April 2, 2018

Dear Publisher: We Need More Books Written By Patients

Dear Lit Loves,

Greetings book lovers!  My journey to locate a publisher is a never-ending anxiety attack.  Seriously.  This past week I received one form rejection from a literary agent.  I just love it when I have literary agents preach not to send query letters beginning with "Dear Agent" and then I receive a rejection email addressed to "Dear Writer"!  It makes me want to scream, "Hey, if you can't follow your own query rules then you are most likely not the literary agent to represent me".  Writers often get very little respect and endure a tremendous amount of belittling.  Next, I am somewhat happy to report that another literary agent actually sent me a personalized response indicating she had read my proposal and was impressed; however, she just signed an author writing on a subject similar to mine so she would pass on my work.  I appreciated the knowledge that I could tell she had truly read through the book proposal and specifically noted portions of my story as a patient with four chronic illnesses.  Agents like this give me hope.

So I see there is slow growth in book sales by three of the big five publishers.  I think there are several reasons for this beginning with the point that people are highly distracted these days.  Honestly, individual attention spans do not last much longer than nine seconds!  I read that statistic somewhere in the news recently.  So if many individuals can really only concentrate in nine second segments then books better be about a subject in which the reader has an interest or the book must fascinate, relate or create one damn fine escape for the readers of today.  This brings me to my real point:  We need more memoirs written by patients, not just the medical experts, but those of us who entrust our lives to those who may or may not be medical "experts".  I swear if I see one more book, particularly a memoir, written by a medical expert I may scream while in Barnes and Noble or scream while surfing Amazon on my deck which would totally annoy my neighbors and most likely scare the hell out of my feline.   Did anyone, such as literary agents, editors, copywriters, marketing specialists, etc. ever consider that there are just some patient stories that truly need to be told (published)? 

Now I am a writer with a memoir manuscript in the 92,000 word range chronicling my interactions with all facets of the medical industry while juggling four rare chronic illnesses.  And let me tell you I do not spare the rod when it comes to detailing the highs and lows of searching for the best medical specialists, enduring all forms of tests or torture in one case to determine a diagnosis, learning how to deal with negligent and pompous medical personnel, standing up for my rights as a patient, and discerning how to become my own best medical advocate.  My memoir about chronic illnesses does not involve any form of addiction.  It does not involve turning to alcohol or pharmaceutical drugs to escape what physical illness did and continues to do to my body which also happens to wreak havoc with my life on a frequent basis! My memoir relays my story in a detailed plot without a lot of frilly language. The key to a great memoir to me is the story or the truth put forth in a no-holds-barred manner that gives me something I can take away and apply in my own life as well as a book I can readily say to my friends, "You better not miss reading a copy of this book." 

No, I am not a neuroscientist, pediatric oncologist, editorial writer for The New York Times, or a Nobel Prize winning writer.  I am your slightly above average Jane coping with unusual illnesses, an often dysfunctional medical system and learning to navigate doctors, medical insurance, hospitals, medications, family crisis, a redirected career choice and still live a relatively stable life while daily discovering new sources of happiness and hilarity.  Let's hope that someone in the publishing industry lets me share my little nuggets of relatively controlled chaos soon.

Till my next post,
Grace
(Amy)

Monday, March 26, 2018

Juggling Four Chronic Illnesses And Waiting To Hear From Agents & Publishers

Dear Lit Loves,

I just want to begin by saying that I get the heebie-jeebies each time I check my email these days.  Seriously, I just wrote a manuscript about living with four rare, chronic illnesses that I feel is quite relevant for our times as currently there are 134 million people who have some form of chronic illness and by 2025, almost 170 million people will be welcomed to the world of chronic disorders.  To me, those are staggering numbers.  Heart disease is a chronic illness.  PTSD is a chronic illness.  Heck, to me, even cancer can be a chronic illness these days.  In my experience, you never really recover from a chronic illness; it is more like "continuous endurance" and remaining in a hyperactive state of vigilant awareness that some part of your body may turn on you or force you to sit up and take notice that life is often a never-ending state of expecting the unexpected.

So I decided to write about my experiences with chronic illness.  Now I am in the midst of grinding out the wait to hear if a literary agent is going to select to represent me and if there is an editor out there that can appreciate the relevance of my subject matter and the "plain spoken" manner in which I write.  I'm not the writer who went to Stanford or received an MFA from Sarah Lawrence; I am the writer for those who like a feisty woman who doesn't mind telling it like it is and leaving everything about my personal experiences on the written page.  I'm probably not the writer for you if you like lyrical prose that sings operatic notes.  I write about the nitty-gritty of life with a ZZ Top beat and in your face lyrics.  A lot of folks cannot handle that, but what the traditional publishing folks are missing currently is that many of my peers will not buy much less read books written in a high-falutin' manner and tone.  Seriously.  I had several people who read my first book, Brave Soul Rising, and then later said, "Thank God!  A female writer who doesn't bore me to death with detailed descriptions or background information!"  And from other readers I would also hear, "Finally!  A writer whose life and manner of writing I can relate to without having to go consult a dictionary or Google."

So I continue to wait.  Waiting to hear from literary agents.  Waiting to hear from acquiring editors.  Here's the deal though:  I'm not willing to wait forever on traditional publishing.  I will go it alone and publish the book on my own if I have to because I feel it's that relevant and incredibly important.
And I'm hearing a lot these days about literary agents and editors wanting to hear from diverse voices and women who have a #MeToo experience or two to relate.  Is that really the case?  I hope I get the answer I'm looking for soon because it would highly disappoint me if this is all talk and no action.  I want to see traditional publishers - all parts of it- agents, editors, publicity, etc. put their money where there mouth is.  Let's get this party started.  There is no time to waste.

Till my next post,
Grace
(Amy)

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Query Process Is Like A Non-Stop Merry-Go-Round Ride


Dear Lit Loves,

Well folks, I am at it once again.  That would be the querying process for literary agents as well as potential publishers.  As I recently announced, I completed my second memoir manuscript which totaled 305 pages and 92,668 words.  This does not include writing the query (cover letter for the book) and book proposal (book overview, synopsis, table of contents, marketing plan of action, competitive titles, and chapter summaries).  I get exhausted just recalling how much time I have spent completing not just the book, but all the other necessities related to either landing a literary agent, a publisher, or both.

This time around I am being more selective in my choices of literary agents.  If my research does not indicate a literary agent is willing to take on a debut author in nonfiction and memoir, I skip querying that agent entirely.  And this time around I am beginning to look at twitter statements made by literary agents along with perusing the website, manuscript wish list.  I found one agent that I thought might be a good fit for me and then I just happened to take a look at some of the retweets she had been posting and endorsing.  Once I saw the flippant attitude toward feminism and how she publicly and quite negatively dismissed potential queries from other writers, guess what?  I struck her from my list entirely.  So be careful what you tweet. And no, I do not use Twitter because heaven only knows I cannot limit myself to 147 or 149 characters at a time when it comes to communicating. 

If all else fails regarding obtaining a literary agent this time, no worries.  I have now located publishers that will look at my work even though I do not have a literary agent.  Personally, I like the thought of just having an intellectual property attorney look over any potential book contract.  I would most likely take that action with a literary agent contract as well.  No disrespect literary agents, but I have to cover my interests first and foremost. 

One thing I know for sure is that if I am forced to take the self-publishing route, I now have some experience under my belt so it is no longer intimidating.  It's actually a thrill to complete the entire writing, publishing, and book cover design yourself and have it arrive at your door or in your mail.  I screamed the first time I held a book written by me in my hand.  I also tried two cartwheels in the foyer of our apartment at the time, but that did not turn out well and I scared the hell out of my husband.  Next time I'll just clutch the book to my chest and run around our new home screaming for five minutes and most likely alarm all our neighbors, but hey, you have to let some of that excitement escape and be on display at least momentarily. 

So I have two more literary agents to query and three additional publishers to email with the book package.  So far so good.  Meanwhile, I just read the memoir titled Everything Happens for a Reason (And Other Lies I've Loved) by Kate Bowler which was an enlightening account of her own battle at a young age with cancer.  Presently, I am reading Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain, a Raleigh author, as a book club selection.  She most definitely has Southern style speech patterns nailed perfectly which adds genuine authenticity to the book.

Till my next update, happy reading!

Best,
Grace




Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Coming Soon: My Second Memoir

Dear Lit Loves,

Greetings!  No, I didn't fall off the face of the earth or the back of a turnip truck for that matter.  I have been busy.  Busy with what??  I am completing final edits on my second memoir!  Editing a manuscript is NEVER an easy task.  I do not care what anyone says and that includes English teachers and I was an English teacher for crying out loud! 

You know, I used to think that writing a memoir was the most difficult part of the writing process.  And now, nine years into the whole process I can definitively say, Hell No!  That might have been the easiest part.  I have a different writing process than most writers I know.  Initially, I slam or bang out the memoir with a no-holds-barred attitude and allow grammar and spelling errors to fly right out the window for all I care.  That's right,  just get the story down on paper once I have outlined each chapter.  Now, this is what I call free writing - just get with the program, open the laptop and start typing with no filter.  Seriously.  When I had students who pitched a fit and said they could not write, my policy as an instructor was to always implement free-writing.  Just get the gist of the story down on paper and to hell with the grammatical errors, spelling errors, etc. for now.

Once I complete free-writing a manuscript, you know what I do?  I stuff the manuscript in a saved file on my laptop and I walk away from it.  No lie.  I go do other things like attend my book club meeting, attend another author's meet and greet, go get lost in Barnes and Noble for half a day, visit my brother and solve the world's problems over lunch, and read, read, read other books in the memoir genre along with books chosen by my book club members.  I truly do not think about the manuscript.  And then one fine day I will be reminded of that memoir manuscript sitting in a file on my laptop and I will think, damn, I really should go read what I wrote.

Then I go back to my laptop, pull up the manuscript file and read what I wrote.  While I am reading it I start thinking maybe I should really detail this particular event more so I add to it.  Then I will catch spelling errors, grammatical errors, etc.  I start going over the manuscript with an initial first edit attempt.  And then once again, I save the manuscript in a file on my laptop and I put it away for maybe a week or two while I go visit my mom and help her search for a new car.

When I return for a second edit, I am really going over the manuscript plot in detail.  And I am noticing if I see any errors.  Do I need to rewrite an entire chapter?  Do I need to delete or add a chapter?  I am also editing to determine if I can hear my "voice" in the manuscript as I read it.  Does this manuscript even read like I am sitting across from you at Page Road Grill and relating a story to you?  Are there any southern expressions used in the manuscript that I might need to explain to the reader?  Is the title I chose for this or that chapter appropriate or should it be changed entirely?  This is often when I run downstairs and ask my husband, "What do you think of a chapter in my next memoir with the title: blah, blah, blah.?"  And he will generally ask me what that particular chapter is about and I will give him the short and dirty synopsis of the chapter.  He will either say he likes it and it is appropriate or he suggests I change the title of the chapter entirely.  My husband is unflinchingly honest so that's why I generally consult him in relation to my manuscripts. 

Then I go back one more time and solely edit for grammar and spelling.  Then I will do another edit for spacing and margins.  Now, there are times when I am editing in my home office and stupid circumstances happen.  Like, for instance, when my neighbor and his wife decide a builder should construct a custom-built stone patio and fire pit in their backyard at the end of JANUARY!  They didn't bother to do the neighborly courteous part like give their fellow neighbor who works from home a heads up that this little expedition of theirs will take place right outside the neighbor's home office window for EIGHT DAYS STRAIGHT!!!  So I get really ticked off and go find my noise-canceling headphones.  Only I can still hear the jackhammer and chainsaw and oh yeah, now the construction folks are cursing one another.  AND IT IS ALL SO LOUD I CANNOT CONCENTRATE AND MY NOISE-CANCELING HEADPHONES ARE NOT CUTTING IT.  So my work process is interrupted for only ten days, damn it! 

Finally, I resume my editing process and stare down my neighbors in an annoying manner with my best version of a death glare.  Finally, I utilize the editing software I have installed on my computer.  Wait, cancel that last one.  My husband installed that software on my computer.  It takes a while for me to see what that software finds and determine if I need to change anything or communicate a sentence in a different way.  Then I rethink the title and subtitle of my memoir.  Is it catchy?  Will you know what the memoir is about after reading the title?  Is the title too long or too short?

 Then I begin thinking about the image I would like on the book's cover.  I peruse stock images to determine if anything dazzles me.  This takes a bit as I get sidetracked quite easily.  What colors should I utilize on the book's cover?  I then think about the summary that must go on the back cover of the book and do I want to add an author profile and picture?  Do I even have room on the back cover of the book to include an author profile and picture??

And then I turn the whole kit n' kaboodle over to my husband who formats the e-book version.  And then my husband (the tech wizard) helps me upload the manuscript as well as the book's front and back covers for printing purposes.  I wait to receive a printed copy of the book to see if it knocks me right out of my Ralph Lauren loafers.

Needless to say, it is a hell of a lot of work, but it is my passion.  I mean, seriously, if you are not passionate about your book then why even bother??

Looking forward to bringing you readers my second memoir soon!

Best,
Grace
(Amy)


Monday, January 22, 2018

Wait A Minute Cecile Richards! This White Woman Has Been Stepping Up In The Fight For Equality!

Dear Lit Loves,

Greetings, I was incensed to read that my dear "sister" Cecile Richards negatively singled out white women for not stepping up and saving our country from itself when she led a speech in Las Vegas on January 21st, 2018 in relation to the Women's March (which I fully support) and also about women in politics or #PowertothePolls (which I also fully support).  What I am upset with "sister" Cecile Richards about is that I or rather this ordinary, average white woman with a liberal tendency Has Been Doing Her Part To Advance Equality, Feminism And Inclusion, Damn it!! Not all of us have been sitting on the sidelines filing our nails or sitting with our heads in the sand, darling!! I was standing up to chauvinism, sexual harassment and "the good ole boys' club twenty years ago sister, and I continue to stand up to it today by self-publishing my own books relating my experiences.    Just because I am not an activist, organizer or candidate for public office does not mean I have not been doing my part to support those women who are taking on those roles and also attempting to promote the power of the female voice in this country.  And let's be real honest here, I know where my talents lie (writing and teaching) and even though I have been trying to break into traditional publishing by writing about the lack of equality in this country, the abundance of sexual harassment and the profuse degradation of women in our society, I have not exactly had Penguin Random House knocking down my door to sign me to a book deal.  You know why? Because they do not wish to sign those of us ordinary and average white women who have been on the front lines dealing with sexism, harassment, belittlement and pay inequality for much of our lives especially if we don't have prominence in the world and are not extremely well-known with five million Instagram followers.  Jesus and Mother Mary!  God forbid there be a traditional publisher who might sign and promote an unknown, feminist woman from the South who writes from a liberal standpoint about significant women's issues.  I might as well have signed my own death warrant when I decided to take up writing and the endeavor to be published traditionally!  What the heck was I thinking??!!!

You know who the traditional publishing industry wants to sign to write and discuss these particular issues?  People with big platforms such as celebrities, athletes, talk show hosts, business leaders, comedians and anyone who has over a million Twitter followers.  Just because I am not Ashley Judd, Reese Witherspoon or Oprah does not mean I am not doing my part to further the Feminist and Equality Causes.  This average southern white woman has been doing her part via self-publishing and book presentations to talk about how she's faced down some quite vile men and pushed the envelope when it comes to better pay and benefits for women.  Hell, I have even stood up to members of my own extended family, medical specialists, former colleagues, present day acquaintances and friends to promote the concepts of feminism, equality and a spirit of sisterhood.  And I have received backlash for it in some cases, but that did not stop me from speaking, writing, engaging, debating and in some cases arguing for the rights and dignity of women.  So no, we may not all be designed for political office, but that DOES NOT MEAN THIS WHITE WOMAN HAS NOT BEEN DOING HER PART TO SAVE THIS COUNTRY FROM ITSELF AND ADVANCE THE POWER OF WOMEN, MS. RICHARDS!!
Best Regards,
  "Sister" Grace