Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Dear SIBA, To Boost Profit Get Behind A Debut Southern Author With A Damn Good Yarn

Dear Lit Loves,

   Oh Lord, my literary loves, the end may be nigh!  I read today on the Publishers Weekly Web site that SIBA's or The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance's executive director wants to boost profit margins for independent southern bookstores by investing in a non-book product that will sell often and well.  And the examples of potential non-book products listed included notebooks, coffee mugs, and chocolates. Say Whhaaattt?!!

After picking my jaw up off the floor, getting a tension migraine from the sheer ridiculousness of this idea, and additionally becoming steaming mad, I decided to write this blog post.  Now, I AM NOT a marketing specialist and I do take pride in saying that I did not major in marketing, but let me just say it does not take a rocket scientist to determine that what is needed here is not a non-book product; what is needed here is an entity that gets behind and supports a fledgling, struggling, southern writer with a good yarn to spin who needs a literary agent and a book deal.  Seriously folks, new blood is needed within the ranks of southern writers.  AND HELLO!  I HAPPEN TO BE ONE OF THOSE FLEDGLING, STRUGGLING SOUTHERN WRITERS who gives a damn about writing a book that is informative, entertaining, and is geared toward a female audience because let us all acknowledge this one truthful, research-backed statement:  the vast majority of individuals who buy the most books are WOMEN LIKE MYSELF. 

Once again, I am an education major and not a marketing specialist (Hallelujahs are presently emanating from my tech guru husband who equates most marketing folks with scum) .  I am not a social media brand or expert and I am DAMN proud of it.  Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, etc. do not appeal to me.  I think those mediums are a way of spreading useless, pompous, and self-aggrandizing information.  I am a Generation Xer.  We do not flinch when our cell phones suddenly freeze and stop working.  No baby, I rejoice when my phone is off because frankly, texting and emailing are no way to attain or sustain any remote quality of interpersonal behavior or skills.  I mean when my cousin recently informed me that he sleeps with his phone, I was overcome with horror and chills.  The first thought that came to my mind was, "Have you lost your friggin' mind, dude?!  Get WOKE and get a life outside your cell phone." Generation Xers like myself, we can handle the truth and we know how to live well and happily without cell phones or any form of social media.  I get tickled pink and start singing Bon Jovi songs when I remember how much I enjoyed and embraced life before the era of social media!  Long Live The Anti-Social Media Revolutionaries!!

Now SIBA executive director, Wanda Jewell:  Here is a well-known fact especially among my peers.  Me and my well-read female peers, sisters, and goddesses are annoyed as hell when we walk into a Barnes and Noble and see all these non-book products like toys, hand soaps, quilts, puzzles, board games, etc. etc.   We go to a bookseller for, wait for it, BOOKS by our favorite authors and some new authors we have yet to discover.  So my opinion is this:  why not give a helping hand to a struggling SOUTHERN writer who truly wants to be published and has a strong book proposal and completed manuscript that both booksellers, publishers, and the struggling SOUTHERN writer can get behind and potentially witness copies fly out of SIBA doors?!!   Wow!  There's a winning idea!


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

It's Going to Take A Gutsy Literary Agent And Editor For This Writer

Dear Lit Loves,

Greetings!  Well dear readers I am querying, querying, querying my life away, looking for a better day, and doing everything except attempting a back flip off the roof of my house to obtain literary representation.  Seriously,  it has been a heck of a week in the literary world for this writer. And to top it all off I discovered over the weekend both my ears are infected and the I additionally have the sinus infection from hell which has additionally caused my throat to feel like its on fire.    In the meantime, publishing imprints are shuttering, some new imprints are emerging, and everyone appears to be holding their collective breath to see if Barnes and Noble can indeed keep its doors open.  What happens when this kind of collective fear takes hold of an industry?  The powers that be in that industry begin to think:  Okay, let's stay with the tried and true authors who are bankable and God forbid, do NOT let any new writers/authors even approach the door much less allow them to enter and stride into the lobby of a publishing house. 

And this kind of fear of the "new"in publishing breeds a total shutdown of new voices, varying prose, relatable subject matter becomes overlooked, and all the prospective talent never gets a chance to even get to a starting line with a pen and a damn good, real story.  Hello?  Ring any bells??  Even the small presses appear to be hunkered down and no longer answering the door.  I mean, seriously?  One small press in the last two months has never even bothered to answer emails that I have sent to their sales department and founding publishers.  They say they want the bold, the challenging, and the empowered women writers, but um no, they really do not because well, no one appears to even be commanding the ship.  For crying out loud, get out from behind the damn rock and try discovering the talent that is standing right before you!

And would someone please enlighten me about when there became a rule that editors at big traditional publishing houses or editors at small to mid-sized publishing houses could not connect or consider speaking with or acknowledging potential new writing talent?  Sometimes when friends, acquaintances, or book club members ask me about the publishing process, I feel like saying it's a knock down, drag out, no-holds-barred cage match.  And for those that ask me about potentially seeking publication, I am almost scared the truth of what I am witnessing would cause them to run in the opposite direction screaming.

And furthermore, let me go on the record saying that if you are a published author, particularly in the genre in which I focus my efforts, and I reach out to connect with you via Goodreads, LinkedIn, etc. and you do not even acknowledge me, I will not buy your book and well, when other readers ask me about you as a published author, I am not going to be shy about your lack of a helping hand or ability to be professional and personable.  For heaven's sake, Karin Slaughter's books scare the hell out of me, but she gets props for being supportive and open to those of us who are trying to achieve a tenth of what she has achieved.  So yes, I regularly read Karin Slaughter even though I know I may be scared out of my wits because I have immense respect and admiration for her as she gave me a welcome handshake and not a rebuff and cold shoulder. 

Oh, and let me just say a huge thank you to this new author whose memoir is going to be published in January 2019 called MAID.  Her name is Stephanie Land.  Compatriot, I shall be there rooting for you any and every day of the week as you were a welcoming soul to a struggling writer.   And where are the many others in the publishing world like her??  Which rock are you trying to hide behind, eh??

Till my next post,

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Meniere's Disease And Me: A 30 Year Ride On The Merry-Go-Round From Hell

Dear Lit Loves,

Dear book loves, I am diligently attempting to locate a literary agent for my manuscript about discovering empowerment and healthcare advocacy through my experiences juggling four chronic conditions beginning from age sixteen.  One lesson I have quickly learned is that just because a literary agent professes to be hunting for narrative nonfiction that changes lives or makes a difference does not mean that there are not strings attached such as demanding a ginormous platform (aka you are a household name), you have an MFA from Harvard and you've written for esteemed publications, you currently write for The Times, you blog daily and have ten millions followers, etc. etc.  One essential point keeps running through my mind and that is this:  even before social media unknown writers were writing memoir and narrative nonfiction with success.  Not every writer who holds an MFA is able to write a memoir that a good majority of readers can relate to and walk away from having learned something new.  I am losing faith in publishing, particularly traditional and independent (small or medium) presses.  Literary agents are not at the top of my most loved list as many of them do not even bother to respond to a writer's query or book proposal.  It is truly becoming a sad state of affairs. 

To continue my efforts to educate and explain the various chronic illnesses with which I have been blessed or cursed depending on your perspective, I have decided to write about my thirty plus year journey with an inner ear disorder known as Meniere's disease or technically, Endolymphatic Hydrops.  When I was eighteen and skipping joyfully away from my high school locker for the last time as I was more than ready to leave high school in the rear view mirror, I proceeded down a school stairwell and promptly watched my entire surroundings begin rotating.  Not me rotating, but the stairwell, the steps, the walls, the railing, other people, etc.  Grabbing hold of the stairwell railing in an extreme panic as I tried to steady myself, I actually had no choice but to drop and sit on a step as there was no way I could continue walking without falling down two sets of stairs.  I sat on a stairwell step, clutched my backpack and purse, and closed my eyes.  Surely, I had stressed myself to the max and this was my body's way of revolting.  Fellow students were whining about my sudden stop, but they had no idea what I was experiencing.  After sitting for a couple of minutes with my eyes closed and trying deep breathing exercises, I opened my eyes and the rotation I was seeing began slowing and then stopped. 

Little did I know at the time, but that was my first experience with Meniere's disease.  As I proceeded to my freshman year of college, I found myself having these same dizzy experiences while I was driving my 1981 Camaro which landed me in a ditch on a two lane road until the spinning surroundings in my visual field ceased and I could find some help. (We didn't have cell phones back then).  I would be in the middle of a class and the dizziness would commence suddenly.  Naturally, I tended to panic when this occurred thanks to high anxiety and would often try to clutch the sides of my desk until the spinning ceased once again.  Next, I realized that I was beginning to notice the hearing in my left ear would suddenly diminish.  I would occasionally hear shrill buzzing in the left ear and often my left ear would feel like someone had stuffed a water balloon inside it. 

The dizziness only became worse as time progressed.  One afternoon I had just returned home from my college classes for the day when I realized my hearing was off in the left ear, the ear felt full like it was swollen, and I suddenly broke out in a cold sweat with goosebumps.  Oh God, I remember thinking, what the hell is happening now?  All of a sudden as I sat on the couch my surroundings began slowly rotating and then the rotation became faster and faster until I stumbled back to my bed, grabbed a trash can, and proceeded to regurgitate through my mouth and nose.  This definitely had not happened before as I retched for ten hours.  My parents arrived home, became alarmed, and I informed them I thought I had a serious case of the flu and would see a doctor once I survived this hurricane force episode of dizziness.  Ten plus hours later, the room had stopped spinning, I had nothing left in my stomach, found myself to be quite pale and realized I had nose burns from regurgitating so often.  On top of all this, I was extraordinarily weak and profoundly scared witless. 

I called my aunt who worked as a nurse in pediatrics at a local hospital, discussed my symptoms with her, and she referred me to her ear, nose, and throat doctor.  After my appointment with the ENT specialist, I was even more freaked out as he wanted a CT scan completed to rule out a brain tumor?!!  And back in those days, most places including some hospitals did not even have access to a CT scan machine.  So I waited for the mobile CT unit to arrive in the parking lot of the medical village where the ENT specialist was located and kid you not, it was an 18 wheeler decked out with a waiting room, a CT scan machine, and a technician.  This was one of the worst medical experiences of my life essentially because the scan technician had virtually no experience with obtaining a vein from a person who has very little veins and veins that tend to collapse.  It actually took as much time for the technician to obtain one vein in my left arm as it did to perform the CT scan.  I think the guy stuck me six times before getting a vein on the seventh try.  At that time there were no open CT scans, they were all enclosed capsules and I am claustrophobic, but I had experienced so much trauma leading up to the scan I finally just tried to relax, endure the scan and its loud banging noises along with having contrast fluid injected into a vein, and then get the hell out of the truck.  Results?  I had no brain tumor thankfully, but the ENT specialist thought I had an inner ear disorder he had never seen before but had read about called Meniere's disease.  At the time I thought he was full of it, but he insisted I see an otolaryngologist at a university hospital an hour and a half away from his office.  We did not have the internet back then so I had no idea what the ENT specialist was referring to as I could not just go home and google "Meniere's disease". 

So I promptly went home with a copy of my CT scan and medical file from the ENT specialist with a referral to the next specialist I would see at a major university hospital.  That would eventually lead to me and my dad driving to see one of the up and coming medical gurus who had seen and treated patients with Meniere's disease.  And it would also be the beginning of a lifelong need for the best otolaryngologists throughout the course of my life. 

I'll never get all my experiences with Meniere's disease documented in one blog post so until my next uninterrupted period of what I call free-writing, I will close for now.