Monday, September 18, 2017

Anthology Collaboration – Authors

If you’ve been following my posts, you will already know that there is an anthology due out this year. A special anthology. Not just because I have four stories in the book (although that helps) but because it is the brainchild of author, Frank Sikora.
It is also special in that it brings together five authors who would otherwise not personally know each other. Five authors from two different countries. That’s another unique feature.
I’m proud to be sharing ink with (imagine a drum roll, if you will) Nancy Kay Clark, Michael Joll, Steve Nelson, and, of course, mastermind Frank Sikora.
Through this collaboration, I’ve come to know personal bits and pieces about these writers. I’m a curious sort and hope to know a lot more about them soon. I’ll pass along their bios along with a fun Q&A over the next few blog posts.

In my next post, we will begin with the man who is making his literary dream a reality – Frank Sikora. 

Friday, August 25, 2017

Anthology Collaboration – The Mastermind

I’ve begun to hum the Rodgers and Hammerstein show tune ‘Getting to know you, getting to know all about you, Getting to like you…♪♫♪♫’ And now you’re humming it too. Funny how that works. Sorry.
My last two blog posts informed you of a project I’ve taken on – or more like entered into. Sort of mysterious at first as I mused in Anthology Collaboration - Introduction. Why me? Why them? Why now?
The answers are slowly coming forward. For instance, I now know ‘who’. By that, I mean who of the other four was the brainchild behind this anthology. His name is Frank Sikora. You don’t have to google him because my next post should be filled with info about the mystery man.
He responded after he read my post, Anthology Collaboration - Editing and has allowed me to quote him:
“I enjoyed your editing article. I was hoping for more, a blow-by-blow detail of how you worked with Steve. I, myself, am not so involved. I accepted all of Steve’s and Nancy’s suggestions. Steve caught a couple of logistic oversights, and he tightened up a few of my paragraphs. He only took out one or two lines I felt should stay in. I usually give carte blanche to editors unless they really miss the point of the story.” 

Well, Frank, I worried about divulging too much of the behind-the-scenes stuff. After all, what goes on in the editing room stays in the editing room. But if you insist…

Steve (you’ll meet him later) suggested a few – not really changes, more like tweaks – to my stories. Oh, but he did remove a character from one of my stories. He just had a bit part and Steve was right to get rid of him. Otherwise, it was changing a word or two for clarification or moving a sentence around. His changes made the work stronger. That’s the whole idea behind editing. Unfortunately, not all editors know that…don’t get me started.

Steve did suggest title changes for a couple of my stories. Now, having someone suggest a different title for your work is like someone wanting to rename your kid. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. The wrong title can give away too much of the story or it might mislead the reader. One must be careful. Steve and I ultimately decided to stay with the original titles.

Mastermind Frank provided another quote about the anthology:

“Putting together an anthology by committee is inherently a bad/good idea. Everyone should have a say, but I think individuals should have final say over respective parts of the process. Under a different and more traditional scenario, a writer would not have final say over the editing process other than withdrawing his or her work. That wouldn’t work for this process because we all have equal financial and editorial investments. Yet, at some point concessions must be made. With me, I handed over story selection and editing to Nancy and Steve. To Marketing, I concede all final decisions to you. (Yikes, that’s me.) 

Artistically, Nancy (You’ll meet her, too) and I have worked together quite closely, and I have made changes based on her suggestions because as an art director I have learned to balance trusting my knowledge and experience with the good judgment to listen and consider another person’s opinion (but not everyones!)” (Got it! Not everyone has a valid opinion.) 

I don’t know about you, but I’d like to find out more about Frank Sikora. Hmmm….now for a fun Q & A. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Anthology Collaboration – Editing

My collaborators – strangers – probably read my email about edit approval, shook their collective heads, and muttered, There’s one in every group. Hope she’s not going to be a problem.
And on my end, I was cringing a bit myself. There are only so many emojis you can use in an email to convey a light-hearted nature. Hey guys, I’m not a jerk. I’m just slightly anal about some issues. Editing being one.
I insisted on final approval of all edits. I didn’t insist immediately. I threw it out there, sort of. Then I felt a pat on the top of my head. Not literally, of course. But it was as if they were saying, Don’t worry. This guy knows what he’s doing. Understand that I’m writing this without looking back on months of emails. These are my impressions.
I had the feeling they didn’t take my request as seriously as I meant it. Well, later they did. But, not at first. They probably wondered why I would question Steve’s (you’ll meet him later and you’ll like him) qualifications and capability. But I wasn’t.
No, it was nothing like that. I’d been burned badly on edits. How badly, you ask? Well, two years after receiving my submission, a national magazine contacted me. They were going to run my story. No mention of edits. That should have been my first thought – instead of Holy Crap, they’re publishing my story… When I held the glossy edition and excitedly flipped to my byline, the changes they made left me breathless – not in a good way.
Another magazine decided my article was too long. Instead of contacting me, they arbitrarily cut out several paragraphs. I say arbitrarily because if they had read them first, they’d have realized that without these paragraphs much of what I wrote made no sense. Once it’s in print, there’s no fixing it.
Then there was the time I worked with an editor who refused to accept fragmented sentences. You can imagine how that ended.
And another time a publisher missed the last page of my work. The final paragraphs. They actually said they didn’t understand why I was so upset. So, trust me, there are reasons I insist on seeing the final manuscript draft.
On the other hand, good editing has saved me from some serious grammar gaffes amongst other unintended mistakes. Editing is a tedious but necessary job. In my opinion, the editor for this anthology (stay tuned for the title in a future blog) was conscientious and respectful. He knew his stuff, too.

Yes, indeed, a good editor is worth their weight in gold. What do you mean, that’s a cliché?

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Anthology Collaboration - Introduction

The email asked if I was interested in collaborating with four other authors on an anthology of short stories. I recognized the sender as an editor/publisher of an e-zine that had supported my work in the past. I assumed she threw my name into the mix. But I could be wrong.

Intrigued, I agreed to the reasonable monetary investment and I was in. I didn’t know the other authors but there were no formal – or informal – introductions. Like me, the others probably Googled their counterparts. Three of us are from Ontario Canada. Two reside in Wisconsin. Advantageous that our book will be actively promoted on both sides of the border. Was that the idea from the beginning? When I find out, I’ll let you know.

Without much preamble, the process began – send short stories in a variety of genres and we’ll choose from those. I wondered if they were looking for a theme in our offerings. I’m still not sure. Out of the seven stories I submitted, four were chosen for the anthology. They rejected two award-winning stories that I thought would be shoe-ins and chose three stories that had never been published. That pleased me. I’m not sure why.

When I read the other submissions, I was puzzled. With the possible exception of one author, I couldn’t find the common thread. Not for the first time, I wondered how we five were brought together. Our voices, styles, and stories are vastly different. This was becoming a very curious project. Extraordinary, but curious.

An eclectic mix of authors and stories. For me, the appeal is building. So is the excitement.
I’ll keep you posted.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

People Watching…er, Dog Watching at the Beach

I was sitting in the shade pondering and philosophizing when a golden retriever bounded onto the beach. He stopped and checked from left to right, then examined a piece of driftwood before he headed for the water. There he sat, water about shoulder high, his eyes fixed on the long stairway that led down to the shore.
Their voices carried. Soon a small family settled onto the sand and called out a greeting to their dog, Jack. He raced out of the water. Friendly and kind. I could see it in his body language. In the love shown by his family.
He padded back to the water and woofed. Patiently he waited. Then another woof. He was rewarded when a rock sailed through the air. Jack dove into the water and paddled. He swam directly to the spot where the rock sank. Then he turned and swam back. He swished his water-soaked tail and interrupted the conversation on the beach with another soft bark. Then another. A member of the family reached for a large smooth rock and tossed it overhand into the crystal water. Jack leaped and swam out. Barely a ripple could be seen when he got to the spot where the rock disappeared but he knew exactly when to stop and swim back to the shore. 
A most interesting game of (non)fetch. At one point, he picked up a large rock and deposited it next to their blanket. As if to remind them of the game, or perhaps he thought their supply of rocks had dwindled. After a time, he stopped woofing and they stopped throwing. 
He sat in the water. People watching, I suppose. He looked in my direction. I smiled. The same as I would smile at an adorable child. I have a soft spot for dogs and small kids. They melt my heart. 
He left the water and joined his family. They knew what was coming and braced themselves. “No, Jack. No one likes that.” He gave a little shake sending droplets of water over the group sitting on the sand. But I could tell he was holding back. Out of consideration or not wanting another scolding, I can’t be sure.
As they left the beach, Jack let them move on ahead. He sniffed the driftwood the same as he had when he arrived, looked back at the water, and then gave a mighty shake before trotting after them.
I’ve always loved people watching and now it seems dog watching is just as entertaining.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Best Part of Writing Fiction

The best part is making stuff up. To create something out of a figment that flits through your mind so fast that you squint to capture an image. Then take that image – and sometimes it’s just a feeling – and create characters and circumstance. That’s the most gratifying part of being a fiction writer. Exciting, too. It’s the part that pulls you into a zone where nothing else exists but your imagination. And if you’re lucky – and talented – you can pull the reader into that fictional world you created. Make it so real that they want to be friends with your characters and visit their hometown. Or (at this point my brow lifts and my mouth curves into a wicked smile), the reader will double-check the locks and sleep with a light on.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Einstein, right? I don’t think he was talking about writing fiction but it works for me.
When I was a kid, my love of reading took me away from reality. The escape turned me into a daydreamer. That wasn’t such a bad thing. Not for me. Not then. I was constantly scolded. Told to get my nose out of the book and get outside and play. Seriously? Today I still love reading but have learned that being outside at the same time with balmy air breezing my face and the sound of water lapping against a shoreline is the ultimate escape. No better place to read. No better place to write. Give me nature and a laptop. Leave me alone to explore the undiscovered. To make stuff up.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Road Trip of a Writer

It’s all about the journey, my friend said. No kidding.
I had no idea I was embarking on a huge adventure when my wild imagination leaped from the keyboard onto the screen.
 My destination was mapped out clearly in my mind. I would simply send my riveting (lol) novel away to a publisher, be discovered, and live happily ever after (sometimes clichés are the only way to go) in my writing nook pumping out bestsellers. (more laughter)
Actually, amidst the joy of writing I became overwhelmed with angst. Too many damn detours! It was no longer fun. Instead of following my own path, I had ventured onto the most popular roadway. A frenzy of frustration! Too much traffic. Angry congestion. Mistakes. The kind that made my confidence dwindle. I was lagging behind in the slow lane and just wanted to get off the road. And I tried. But the wanderlust was worse than the aggravation. So I merged back onto the highway.
Exhaling a deep breath, I settled in for a long ride. Some folks along the way gave me good writing advice, and others…well, let’s say it was the opposite. At that point, I couldn’t tell the difference. I followed it all like a dog chasing an old pick up.
Each road stop featured nurturing and inspiring people. Norma West Linder, Hope Morritt, and Peggy Fletcher are three of a multitude who gave me encouragement and hope when I was chugging along in first or second gear.
Mentors – too many to name – taught me to follow the speed limit and enjoy the sights. No rolling stops! And that it’s okay to get out and wander around when we need to work out the kinks. When we’re refreshed, hop back in, and rev up.

I accelerated into the passing lane. Getting stories published, winning a couple of contests, taking in a conference, and meeting some of my idols in the bestseller world. But the rules of the road say you can’t stay there forever. I moved to the middle lane. And loosened my grip on the wheel. What’s the hurry when there’s so much satisfaction and enjoyment en route.
It’s pleasurable being a part of the vibrant writing community. Being with others who share the passion! Penning a monthly magazine column and interacting with readers. Sharing fiction with critiquing buddies, socializing at writers’ dinners and events. Being exposed to, and appreciating, all types of literature. Developing a greater understanding of the publishing world. Learning! Learning! Learning! It’s what keeps the adrenalin pumping.
My enthusiasm is strong. My destination is still in focus. My years on the road have been good to me. The detours are filled with surprise and wonder that never cease to be.
Nothing thrilled – or humbled – me more than recently being appointed to the Board of Directors for the Lawrence House Centre for the Arts. The Board was included in the Mayor’s Honour List for 2016! It’s a privilege (thankfully I’m seldom intimidated) to be part of this hugely talented group supporting visual, literary, and performing arts in our city.

And so begins another side trip. One that will push me into overdrive and test my skills. The journey really is most important. After all, when you arrive at your destination, where else is there to go?