Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

I wish each and every one of you a joyous Christmas.  Gather with friends in front of the fire this evening or cuddle with your kids on the couch.  Whatever your tradition may be, celebrate the eve of Christmas with love and expectation in your heart.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Confessions of an Aging Writer (re-post from Feb/12)

Please do not think less of me. I lie. No, not about everything. My age mostly. I have always lied about my age. Way back when, it was such a kick the way I looked older. That was so cool. Little did I know that after I turned thirty, looking older than my age was not so cool.
Dressed to go out−makeup applied and hair freshly shampooed−I am convinced I don’t look too bad. Then again, I am getting very near sighted. If not for the extendable magnifying mirror, applying my makeup would prove challenging. On the positive side, my ever-multiplying age spots would not be as noticeable.

Since this is a confession, I might as well be brutally honest. Glancing in the mirror can still catch me off guard. Pausing to study my reflection, I pull back the loose skin on my face. I pull tighter until my jowls disappear. That makes my eyes look slightly misshapen but my face looks more like the face I remember.
It is the weight gain, of course. It is easier to believe that gaining weight in middle age is inevitable than it is to trek to the gym each morning. We should be comfortable in our own skin. I just never realized that I would have this much skin. Like Bette Davis said, Getting old ain’t for sissies.

A blonde since my teens, I had this crazy urge to discover the true colour of my hair. My friends were horrified at the very thought. As I explained to them, it takes a lot of energy to be a perky blonde. It was the conception for years that blondes have more fun. Well, I wasn’t sure if I needed all that fun anymore.
My stylist, unable to change my mind, hacked off my hair to a spiky length to ease the transition. To my surprise and delight, my hair grew in TOTALLY GREY. Everyone was shocked. I liked it! No one else liked it. Not my friends. Not my co-workers. Not my husband. I asked my son if he liked my new colour. He looked at my hair before saying, Why? Did you change it? So much for that.

Many months later, my husband still had not accepted the grey. I could tell. I went to a new hairdresser. My trusted regular had moved out west. I asked for a few dark streaks for interest sake through my grey. The grey hair that I loved. She nodded her head as if she understood what I wanted. She didn’t have a ##$% clue.
She unveiled my new do. I would have shrieked in horror had my throat not been paralyzed with shock. I could not even cry. My face in the mirror paled and then became red and blotchy. With shaking hands I pulled my debit card from my wallet.

The car made the trip home on autopilot. My husband and son stopped talking when I walked through the room. They looked at me. I know they looked. With instinctive self-preservation they did not speak. My expression alone stifled their comments.
Streaks? What streaks? The near black hair was too awful for words. I could not get rid of the colour. Even washing my hair three times a day did not reveal a trace of grey.

Let me tell you the worst of the situation. I had lectured every woman within earshot that grey hair was natural and beautiful, and women should not obsess over a younger image. It was far better to age gracefully with shining silver hair. We were middle-aged women, after all.
Naturally, horror stricken with my dyed hair, I could not look anyone in the eye. I felt like a traitor. I had actually influenced some of the women to go au naturel. How could I face them?

I wore hats and scarves each time I left the house. I apologized for my look to absolute strangers; cashiers at the grocery store, the receptionist at the vet’s office. I was utterly traumatized. Only another woman would understand my anguish.
Returning to the hair salon, I demanded my grey hair back. The stylists stood around my chair looking from one to the other. They told me there was nothing they could do. They pooh-poohed my contention that it would take years to get rid of the colour. Having finally settled into a longer hairstyle that I loved, chopping my hair short again was not an option.

Finally, after months of trimming (at a new hair shop), exposing my dark locks to the sun, and daily shampooing, what remained were streaks of different colours−with grey roots.
My new hairdresser, Giulia, understood my nightmare with the almost-black hair. She suggested lowlights. The results were pleasing. I finally had the subtle streaks of interest through my hair that I had requested back on that devastating day. This time everyone loved the new look!

Perhaps I look a bit younger now. I know I feel younger. I continue to lie about my age. Only this time I add a few years. They gasp and squeeze my arm before gushing, “You look marvellous, dear.”

Monday, December 10, 2012

Write On Lorna Pominville (re-post from Feb/12)

Her name is Lorna Pominville. Tenacious and capable describe her. With the advent of her new release, Alpha! Alpha! Alpha!, there is only one word that defines her− fearless!

When you live your dreams
you’re answering your soul’s
request to be heard
...A Fearless Woman quote byJeannine Roberts Royce


At age fifty-five Lorna packed all her belongings in storage, said adios to the family, and embarked on an exciting and eventful ten year employ as a nurse on a cruise ship.

Alpha! Alpha! Alpha! is a wonderfully candid account of her adventures behind the scenes of a luxurious floating palace.

I was impressed and, yes, intrigued when I learned Lorna had worked the cruise ships. Not only because it sounded like an interesting job but also because she accepted this position later in life.

With her family grown and gone from the nest, she was off and running...er...sailing.

Lorna is charming and quick-witted. Always a laugh bubbling just below the surface. It is my pleasure to know her and now having read her book I know her a lot better.

I caught up with Lorna and over an enjoyable lunch and pleasurable glass of merlot, she answered some questions I could not resist asking.



Q:Lorna, in your book you claim to be five feet tall.You don’t appear that tall to me but I won’t challenge you.(laugh)
Lorna:I used to be taller.(more laughter)Until now, I never weighed more than 90 lbs.I remember being thrilled when I reached the 89 mark.
 
Q:I never realized until I read your book what was expected of you physically in your job. Did your size not come into question during the hiring process?
Lorna:No, a nurse accepts the same physical challenges no matter where she works.
 
Q:I couldn’t help laughing when I read about you taking the large lady in the wheel chair down the gangway. I could picture your little rubber-soled shoes lifting off the ground.
Lorna:Oh my goodness, I thought we were going to crash.(laughter)
 
 
Q:Did you expect that being a nurse on a cruise ship would be a different experience?
Lorna:Nursing is different even in different areas of a hospital.I knew it would be different on the ship.For one thing, I needed an ACLS (Advanced Cardio Life Support) certificate.
 
 
Q:Obviously, you enjoy a challenge.What qualities did you have that prepared you for life aboard ship?
Lorna:I enjoy a warm climate.I love to travel.I had done some travelling−not a lot−but I had been to China, Hawaii, Spain.A couple of cruises, as well.
 
 
Q:You were a 55-year-old woman applying for a job on a cruise ship.Was age ever an issue?
Lorna:No, maturity and experience were assets.I was physically fit and energetic.
 
 
Q:That’s a good thing.You didn’t believe in using elevators, did you.
Lorna:No, I was always racing up and down the stairs from one deck to another.That was my exercise.We had a gym facility for crew but it wasn’t practical for me to use it.The minute I changed into sweats and got on a machine I could get a call.We only had five minutes to respond to an emergency.
 
 
Q:There are so many adventures in your book−your camel ride being one that comes to mind.You live life to the fullest and it shows on every page.You mention sampling the different cuisine; were you ever sick from food poisoning?I remember you did not like eating eel.(laugh)
Lorna:No, I was never sick.I was always willing to try something new.Sometimes with the language barrier, I wasn’t sure what I was eating.(much laughter)It was probably better that way.Do you remember what I said about the snakes?
 
 
Q:What struck me most in reading your account, aside from your positive attitude and confidence, was your hardiness.I can’t imagine being alone in a lifeboat with the prospect of scaling a six-foot concrete wall without assistance.I would have packed my bags and gone home long before that episode.Did you ever consider leaving your job?
Lorna:No, never.In that particular instance, it was a drill and the tide had changed.No, I was dedicated to my work.There were times−there are times in anyone’s job−but I knew I could quit at the end of a contract.When that time came, I always looked forward to my next contract.
 
 
Q:What prompted you to write articles for travel magazines?How did that come about?
Lorna:I knew the publisher of the magazine.We’d gone to school together.She heard I was working for a cruise line and she approached me.I thought, oh that sounds exciting.I wrote one article a month for a year and a half.
 
 
Q: Tell me a bit about yourself. Your life before hitting the high seas.
Lorna:I was a professional dressmaker.When all three kids were in school, I went back to school myself.I completed my grade thirteen and went on to nursing school. Then university.I would have liked to pursue a career in interior design or continue with my dressmaking, but nursing contributed more to the household income.I enjoyed nursing.I thought of becoming a nurse from an early age.After working in Sarnia for sixteen years, I decided to make a change.I was on my own, having been divorced for many years, and my children were married. There were more nursing opportunities in London so I moved there.I worked for seven years non-stop and continued my education at Fanshawe. Then I spotted an ad in a nursing journal.The rest is in the book.
 
 
Q:Lorna, what is next for you?
Lorna:Right now, I am promoting my book.I would like to organize some more book signings.A couple of groups contacted me for speaking engagements.That sounds like fun.I keep in touch with a number of the crew that I worked with over the years and they are excited about my book and anxious to read it.I have a request from South Africa that I am filling.I keep busy.I always have a project on the go.I still love to sew.
 
 
Q:What project are you working on now?
Lorna:A bit of woodworking.I am putting mouldings on the door in my condo.(laugh)I just want to dress it up a bit.
 
 
Q:I am convinced there is nothing beyond your capabilities, Lorna.I know everybody is anxious to read about your escapades.Where can they pick up a copy of Lorna Pominville’s Alpha! Alpha! Alpha! Tales of a Cruise Ship Nurse?
Lorna:From the Honey and Locust, 180 N. Front Street in Sarnia, or from me. Contact me at lornapominville@hotmail.comI can send you a personalized copy.
 

Monday, December 03, 2012

Reflecting on a Year of Writing


We were enjoying an after lunch tea before attending the theatre, when we began discussing my blog.  Yes, it’s been over a year since I started The Write Break.  It’s not particularly aimed at writers but is more the thoughts of a writer.  Namely me.

My friend and greatest advocate, Diane, suggested this week’s blog be about my accomplishments over the past year.  Her comment made me realize that I dwell mostly on what I have not accomplished. 

Diane’s nudge, and the ensuing discussion, revealed that even though I didn’t secure that big publishing contract, a great many good things have happened in my writing career over the past few months.

Two print anthologies have included my short stories.  Simone Press, U.K., published one anthology, Indie Trigger Short Stories, which is available on Amazon.  Another two stories have been chosen for a print anthology in the New Year. 

This year my stories have, also, appeared in online journals, as well as a newspaper.  The publication She’s All Around You, an amazing tribute to Peggy Fletcher, included an excerpt from my blog.
 
Bob McCarthy asked me to write the foreword for his latest book, Voices of Lambton−An Alphabet of Stories, which means that my writing is now in the public library system.

In March, I began writing a column, Up Close and Personal, for the monthly magazine, First Monday.  During that time, in addition to sundry columns, I wrote two three-part series. 
 
The inexplicable success of Fifty Shades of Grey triggered the first series. 
The next series, approached in my typical tongue-in-cheek style, covers Obituaries, Eulogies, and Funerals.  This series began in the November edition of the magazine. 

During research for these columns, I interviewed amazing people in the fields of romance and grief.  Hmmm, romance and grief...I never thought of it that way before.

In, around, and between managing The Write Break facebook page, writing a weekly blog, a monthly column, and attending workshops, meetings, and readings, I write novels.  Make no mistake; that is my passion.  Everything else is a means to the end.

Aside from the published work, I’ve connected with wonderful writers whom I’ve met online, at launches, and various gatherings.  There has never been a group more supportive than writers.

Oh, did I forget to mention that I was interviewed by Brian Feinblum from New York for his bookmarketingbuzzblog?

This past year has been quite a journey.  My writing has led me in directions I never imagined.  Barely hesitating at the forks in the road, I trudge on in the hopes that one day my book(s) will catch the attention of an enthusiastic, hard working agent or publisher.

If that never happens, well – hey− it’s been a trip!

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Write Time to Give (re-post from Dec/11)

Have you ever bought a gift for someone and been unable to part with it? This year it was a leather purse. I have had the affliction for a number of years−a great number. Of course, I would always buy replacement gifts for my friends. At least, I hope I did. Yes, I am sure I did.

I first noticed this eccentric glitch when I purchased an address book for a long-time friend. The moment I saw the book, I thought of her. Without question, I had to buy it. It was beautifully illustrated and had Friendship quotes throughout. I leafed through the book, stroked the cover, wrote down some of the quotes, and then tucked it in my desk drawer. No, I could not let it go.

 Now on the positive side, each time I looked at the book I thought of my friend. However, I did feel a slight tug of guilt. Well, it was not as if I actually used the book. I did not write phone numbers or addresses in it. I did look through it often though.

 After several years, I came clean. We met for lunch and I had the book wrapped in tissue inside a gift bag. It was not an occasion: it was time to part with the book.

 I explained what happened. I never worry about my friends thinking I am weird. If they have not figured that out by the time we establish a close relationship, then ...yes, I am sure they have figured it out.

 Anyway, she was very good-natured about my misgivings and thanked me, saying she had been meaning to buy an address book. There, I felt better. I still think of the book and remember some of the quotations. They remind me of the childhood friendship we shared.

 Then, of course, there was the year I bought the snow globe− the one with the mahogany base. Each year that I take it from the decoration bin and unwrap it, I think of the friend I purchased it for. We have not seen each other in over ten years. And you see, I have never forgotten her. The globe is special to me. I place it on my dresser. It is there for me to look at each morning and each night throughout the winter season. Yes, I think of her often. I am certain she would have liked the snow globe.

 Ah, I can’t help remembering the Christmas book. It was too long ago for me to recall where I bought it or the circumstances surrounding the purchase. It was an appealing combination of stories and recipes. A red satin ribbon bookmark attached to the spine. I knew she would appreciate the quality and content. But, I just couldn’t give it to her.

 Each year I opened the book and reverently turned the pages, thinking of my friend and remembering all the good times we shared over the years. Our friendship was synonymous with this glossy covered book, the jacket still in pristine condition. Yes, I took special care of this book; the way one would a cherished friendship.
 
She visited one day and leafed through the book herself. Do you like it, I asked. It’s beautiful, she replied. I knew you would like it, I sighed. I bought it for you years ago. Her snorting laugh was about what I expected. My closest friends knew.

 Last year as I was packing away the Christmas decorations, I sat on the floor with my treasured book, slowly turning the pages, admiring the font, the stories, remembering the recipes, and I decided. It was time. I wrapped it in tissue and delivered it to her. I could not wait until the beginning of the next Christmas season. No, I had to give it to her then. She could put it away and have it for next year. I had to give it to her right away.

 This year when I took out my Christmas books, I missed the ritual of sitting cross-legged on the floor re-visiting the pages of my friend’s edition, but knew I had done the right thing. I hope that she enjoys the book as much as I did over the years.
 
The leather purse I bought this Christmas will remind me of the intended recipient forever. I don’t think a purse is something I would gift after I have used it, but just the same I will remember this person each time I slide open the zipper or catch my keys on the exquisite lining. Each time someone compliments the stylish handbag I will think of her.

Who could ask for a better friend?
 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Writing on the Run


I was composing a death scene.  The setting and characters were in place and the dialogue was writing itself.  That’s when I saw the cops.  A cruiser was coming up behind me.  I instinctively checked the speedometer and eased my foot off the accelerator.

Up ahead, two cruisers had stopped on the overpass and an officer was looking over the rail at the highway.  Two more police cars were merging from the ramp to my right.  Over in the eastbound lanes, another cruiser was approaching.

Beyond the overpass, flashing blue and red lights drew my attention to the side of the road.  Two cruisers each had a car pulled over. A uniformed officer with a blonde ponytail was outside her vehicle and approaching one of the cars.

My exit was just beyond this spot.  No longer on the highway, I rounded the first bend in the road and encountered another set of flashing lights.  A heavyset cop was returning to his vehicle and the woman he had pulled over was signalling to enter the flow of traffic. 
 
My death scene would have to wait. My interest had shifted to the extraordinary number of police patrolling the area. 

As I arrived at the gym, a suspicious looking character was standing on the outskirts of the parking lot.  His shoulder length, wild, frizzy hair, and tangly chest-length beard caught my attention immediately.  Aside from his disheveled appearance, he carried two or three faded cloth bags filled with Idon’tknowwhat, and was eyeing up a Hummer parked in the lot. 

He stood to the side of the vehicle, looking it over front to back appearing to pay particular attention to the rear license plate.  Aha, I thought, he's looking for the getaway vehicle.  I would have liked to aid in his capture but I was already running late.

In an effort to avoid the empty parking spot in front of the bakery, I circled the lot twice.  No luck - there was no other available opening.  Grabbing my bag, I slammed the car door shut and ignored the entrance to the bakery, hoping I could do the same when I came out.

After the workout, I drove through the parking lot but there was no sign of the dubious vagrant.  I continued to the next stop on my agenda without seeing further police activity. 
 
The death scene that had been going so well on the way into town disappeared from my mind.  Now it was more of a cop chase that ended in a shootout.  I absently licked the cannoli cream filling from the corner of my mouth while imagining this homeless person as the object of an inordinately orchestrated manhunt.  My tongue probed each tooth for crumbs as I began my re-write. 
 
The bank robbing drifter, hair and beard aflutter and carrying cloth sacks bulging with cash, shuffle-walked between the parked cars until he found an appropriate escape mode.  At the last minute, he grabbed an innocent bystander and forced her into the vehicle. He careened out of the parking lot behind the wheel of a hot-wired Hummer.  His hostage pressed her face against the back window as he sped up the road. She looked a lot like the woman from the bakery.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Reading and Writing


It felt strange when my long-term project ended.  To have my routine disrupted was disconcerting and I found myself circling, unsure where to land. 

For those of you who follow my writing updates on The Write Break facebook page, you know that I have finished my novel, Bad Seed.  After the initial wave of euphoria, I slowed to a weary, grinding, mind-numbing stop.  Gradually, I’m recovering. 
 
I will begin sending queries on this psychological thriller in the New Year.  First, I must compose an attention-grabbing query.  Something that will make publishers and agents drop their coffee mugs and shout, Eureka!  That's a bigger challenge than writing the novel!
 
Speaking of challenges, I am working on a series for the First Monday magazine. A rather bizarre (would you expect any less of me) look at the ritual of obituaries, eulogies, and grief. 
 
The second article, It’s Your Eulogy – Get it Write, of the tongue-in-cheek series will appear in the December issue of the magazine. The article, Write Your Own Obituary appeared in the November edition. The link to this Up Close and Personal column is on the facebook page.

Following the advice of those close to me, I am taking a bit of time before diving into a new novel.  An upcoming retreat will clear my head for the next challenge.  The timing is excellent.  Yes, a few days away are always good for rejuvenating the mind and soul.  Naturally, I’m looking forward to the solitude.

In the meantime, I would like to catch up on my reading.  Two writers whom I’ve met online have just released new books.  Audrey Austin, from Elliott Lake, Ontario, just celebrated the release of her book, Ellen and The Hummingtree.  If the initial reviews are to be believed, it’s a winner.  I must order it immediately. 

Terry W. Ervin II just released a book of short fiction entitled, Genre Shotgun.  Couldn’t resist that book after reading about it on his blog, Up Around the Corner.  Keep an eye on future posts of The Write Break for my review of both Terry and Audrey’s publications. 

A Canadian publisher is currently considering my collection of stories.  It could be several more months before I find out whether the manuscript will make their published books list this year.  Fingers and toes crossed! 


I’m still hearing laments that readers can’t leave a comment on my blog.  (I understand, as I have problems at times leaving a comment on other blogs).  Well, my friends, there is a way around that glitch. 

  • Scroll up to the beginning of this blog.  There is a facebook ad on both sidebars.  These links will take you directly to the The Write Break facebook page.  Click on one of them. 
  • Now you are on the facebook page. Click on LIKE.  (It's near the top of the page.)  The Like will change to Liked! That’s it! 

Okay, now you will receive my writing updates on your facebook home page, you can check the site anytime, AND you can easily leave as many comments as you like, post a message to me, or share your thoughts!

It will be awesome to see you there!! 

Monday, November 05, 2012

Wrong Night to Write


Does she see the pill plunger?  She’s not stupid.  She’s runs away when she see it. 

I’m not sure of its technical name, but that’s what I call the long plastic thingy that holds the pill.  You put it in her mouth and push the plunger.  Voila, the pill is down her throat – or not.  Make sure she doesn’t spit it out.  I was offering suggestions to my husband in the other room; coaching him on how to give the cat her nightly pill. 

Anxious to finish the final read of my novel, I decided to forgo a book launch (regrets) and a writers’ meeting (missed the gang), both scheduled for that night.  

My husband suggested we relax in front of the fire if I wasn’t going out, and then he would finish preparing the roast beef dinner I had started.  I agreed to a timeout, thinking that an hour away from the desk wouldn’t hurt.

After the break, it seemed as if I just started back on the computer when he called me upstairs for dinner.  I’m not sure about other writers, but when I’m denied an overpowering urge to write or work on a manuscript, the thoughts in my head turn to an ache in my stomach.  

Following the post-dinner cleanup, I put off a couple of other evening chores until morning.  I was practically chomping at the bit to get back in my office.  After checking my notes, I found where I’d left off in the manuscript.  That’s when I heard him calling the cat. 

I had asked as a favour if he would give Tiki her nightly pill.  Something he avoids, if possible.  Just sit back in your recliner and she’ll come to you, I called out from the office. 

I read another paragraph of the manuscript. 

No, she ran upstairs, now, he said as he passed the office door. 

I rubbed my forehead.  Do you want me to do it? 

No, no, he insisted, you keep working.

I read the next paragraph only to realize it was the same paragraph.  There was a time when disruptions didn’t disturb my train of thought.  Not anymore. 

At the sound of a crash upstairs, I pushed my chair back from the desk.  What happened?  Are you okay? 

He laughed.  I tripped on the mat when Tiki ran between my feet and I fell back against the stove.  I’m okay. 

Never mind about her pill, I called up to him.  I’ll give it to her when I come to bed. 

I read the next paragraph − at least I thought it was the next paragraph. 

Moments later Marv came into the office.  I gave the cat her pill, no problem.  We both grinned. 

What’s wrong with your arm, I asked, as he dabbed blood with a tissue. 

That’s nothing, he said, it happened when I tripped.

After a goodnight kiss, I wheeled back to my desk and stared at the screen until I found my place.  Phyllis, he called down to me, could you let the dog out before you come to bed. 

I thought of my four-day writing retreat at Thanksgiving.  The unbroken silence.  Days and nights of writing and reflection.

I yawned once, and then yawned again.  The house was quiet.  I scrolled down the screen to ‘The End’.  I scrolled back up.  My sigh told me I wouldn’t be reaching ‘The End’ − not for another day. 

I shut down the computer, turned out the light, and called the dog.

 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Writing About Nothing


My eyes dart around the room.  Or are they rolling around in my head?  Not sure.  How do other bloggers manage to write on a regular basis?  Do they ever suffer from Ihavenoideaitis?  I’m trying too hard.  This has only happened to me a couple of times in almost a year of blogging.  Brain overload or brain freeze or call it what you will, there is a problem.

It’s generally my tendency to look at the bright side of everything.  Even though I haven’t come up with a blog, my laundry is finished, my cat has had her pill, and I’ve said good-night to my husband.  In addition to that, while searching the files for a blog idea, I came across a long forgotten short story and promptly proceeded to edit it.  And, oh yes, I went through an older manuscript and decided it probably needed a complete overhaul.  Unfortunately, through all this, no blog subject came to mind. 

I read my date book, and my happy thoughts book, and leafed through a file box of whatnots...Nothing. 

I checked LinkedIn, Facebook, and my email inbox… Nothing. 

I read the Globe and Mail…Nothing.

I looked through my file of quotes for inspiration…Still nothing.

With the advent of Halloween, I considered writing something scary, something about ghosts.  Do I believe in ghosts?  Most definitely.  Still – nothing comes to mind.

I know!!  How about a story on my childhood memories of Halloween −I do have some good ones − but last week’s blog was about childhood memories and well…I just feel it’s too soon to reminisce again this week.

My eyes drift to the pictures, posters, and submission calls that are hanging on the wall above my desk.  Nothing.  I think about what I’ve written during the week.  Nothing.  Well, not exactly nothing, I roughed in a draft for an article.  That’s something.

It was a busy week with emails, posting pictures to Facebook, and meeting with a grief counsellor (this is the second counsellor in two weeks) to discuss a couple of upcoming articles for First Monday magazine.  There was an entertaining day with my granddaughter, not to mention lunch with a friend.  Of course, there was also Bob McCarthy’s book launch.  And, oh, I took my other granddaughter to a Halloween party at The Book keeper in Sarnia where we were entertained by Jayden the Jester and his wonderful magic.  Hmmm…I could use his magic now to produce an entertaining, educational, or thought provoking blog but…..still nothing.

I also started my xmas shopping this week.  Not that it was planned, but seeing the perfect gift, I couldn’t resist.  It has been a productive week…Except there is no blog.

 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Karen Block on Writers and Publishers


Karen Block, editor with Turquoise Morning Press in Kentucky, enlightened me on the inner workings of a publishing house.
 
Let’s start at the beginning, Karen.  What is the first step for a writer wishing to be published by Turquoise Morning Press, aside from checking out the website www.turquoisemorningpress.com?
We ask for a query and the first three chapters.  The author should state the genre and it is helpful to know the intended audience.  The executive editor then assigns one of the editors that works with that genre to read the sample chapters. 
 
What is your genre?
I’ve been getting young adult, paranormals – which are my favourite, thrillers, and suspense.  All have a level of romance to them but I don’t edit erotica.
 
How important is it to know the intended audience? 
It’s very important, particularly if an editor is reading a manuscript intended for a specific age group and some of the content is clearly not appropriate.  The editor can do a thorough job only if he/she knows the audience the author is trying to reach.
 
So much emphasis is put on those first three chapters.  The rest of the book could be incredibly good but the author choked at the beginning.  I’ve attended writers forums where it is suggested that a first time writer hire someone to edit their book before sending them out to a publisher. 
I get a lot of new authors who hire me to go through their manuscript and help get it into a submittal state. 
 
Actually, a writer is better off having a bad manuscript turned down than published.
I read the first book that one of my favourite authors published and it was awful.  I heard that she’s embarrassed about it.
Sometimes with first time authors, it is necessary to see the full manuscript.  I read the first three chapters, skip to the middle of the book, and read a chapter, then go to the ending to see what happens there.  If there are too many mistakes or if the manuscript is too rough, I decline. 
 
And then?
If the book sounds lame, I write a very nice let-down letter.
 
You don’t use form letters?
No.  Turquoise Morning Press is a young publishing house and there is still a hands-on approach.  A rejection is absolutely devastating and a form letter tells the author nothing about what they’ve done wrong.  I usually give them three or four pages of what went wrong.
 
That’s amazing!  How soon can you tell if it is a good manuscript?
I read enough of the book to get a feel for it but I usually know in the first chapter.  If it has potential, I send a recommendation to the executive editor.  The executive editor meets with the senior editor.  The Acquisitions Committee meets once a month to discuss potential publications.
 
Is that why it can sometimes take months for a writer to receive a reply from a query? 
I think so.  Big publishing houses in New York have thousands of manuscripts coming in.  They have readers that sort through the slush.  I’m not sure but there are probably fifteen of us at Turquoise Morning Press.  Our publishing company has a good stable of writers but it is not as large. 
 
Tell me more about the Acquisitions Committee.
They decide on the submissions to be published and consider possible release dates.  At that point, they give the authors a formal acceptance and a publish date is established.  An editor generally has two months of intensive editing and working closely with the writer to meet the deadline to go to the publisher for galley.
 
Two months isn’t a very long time.  It’s my impression that most publishers want a manuscript that is pretty much ready to go.  Do you agree?
Some writers submit books that are ready to go – almost word perfect.  Not everyone writes that way.
 
No, most manuscripts are not word perfect, Karen.  Your services are very much required.
 
Read Karen Block’s profile at http://www.romancenovelcenter.com/karenblock
For Karen’s Ten Tips to Writers check the September 3 blog http://phyllishumby.blogspot.ca/2012/09/writing-with-editor-karen-block.html
For Karen’s views on writing romance, check the September 17 blog http://phyllishumby.blogspot.ca/2012/09/editor-karen-block-talks-to-write-break.html