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!


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!


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