Wednesday, October 29, 2008

on reliable feedback and semicolons

A few nights ago, I sent a chapter from my nonfiction manuscript to my twin brother for his feedback. He returned it, and I read the comments this morning.

Awesome. I mean, right on the money. Love that.

I had felt pretty good about what I had written, but when I read his feedback, I realized it was far from finished. And I refer to the entire manuscript, not just that chapter. I believe in the project and what I'm writing, but it still doesn't feel like my best work, and I really need to change that before the deadline, which is fast approaching. I'm going to send him the rest of the manuscript this evening, and hopefully he'll be up to the task of responding.

Granted, my twin brother isn't exactly the "spiritual self-help" kind of guy, but he's an excellent reader because he asks the questions that I need to anticipate from my audience. Moreover, he knows and gets storytelling, and since half of this book consists of narratives, well...
And I just plain trust him.

Perhaps the most helpful feedback was my wombmate's pointing out just how obsessed I've become w/ semicolons; he admonished me w/ this: "'Don't use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites signifying absolutely nothing. All they do is show you've been to college.' -Kurt Vonnegut, Jr." (did you see what I did there, btw?) Better yet, he got so fed up that he wrote "Kill it! KIIIIILLLL IIIIIIT!!"

On that note, I must face my day, which is challenging me to squeeze in more car repair, grading papers, and more manuscript writing, among other things (would have loved to have gone to the Obama rally, but apparently you need tickets for that?).

Sunday, October 26, 2008

a shift in thinking

Yesterday I attended the QRB Write2Publish event -- the panelists included a literary agent and an Algonquin editor, and the attendance was excellent. I always enjoy attending such events, and I almost always run into someone I know, which is even nicer.

The discussion was interesting, as always; but as I listened, I found a series of thoughts going through my head: I'm doing ok. I'm right where I need to be.

I'm the first to admit that I don't know a whole lot about the publishing industry, or the business side of writing. But it seems to me that the face and dynamic of the industry has changed drastically, thanks to technology, but those in traditional publishing either haven't noticed it or haven't figured out what to do w/ it. There are so many more ways to be published now, in a variety of media; and yet, the industry is clinging to the idea that traditional is still the only way to go, that it is the only avenue that carries any sense of value or credibility. Months ago, I would have agreed w/ that. Today, I'm not so sure.

I agreed w/ Chuck as he described his love of books -- not just reading them, but the tactile pleasure. Oh yeah. I know that -- just holding a book in my hand, smelling the pages, seeing them lined on a shelf, or stacked on a table... ooooh, feel my happy pulse rising! "Tactile" books are still alive and well, but the gap between author and audience has closed, thanks to You Tube, Facebook, podcasting, and other such outlets. I was happy to hear that Chuck gave a thumbs up to Lulu (although the agent opined that publishing fiction through POD was not as viable as nonfiction; I disagree, and not just because I'm publishing my novel this way), but he seemed stymied about technology's place in 21st century publishing in terms of "solutions."

When the discussion ended, many attendees scrambled to talk to the panelists, no doubt to give a quick pitch, or hand off a card, or something. I had come armed w/ a stack of business cards, yet they never left my purse. Instead, I opted to talk to my friend Susan, and went to Caribou Coffee afterwards to do some writing and catching up w/ her. Some may think I gave up a big networking opportunity, and maybe I did, but I simply didn't feel the need.

Maybe it's because I've been aligning my thoughts w/ my intentions, but I'm feeling satisfied w/ my current path. And this is not to say that I won't consider an agent in the future, especially when my current manuscript is query-ready. But I'm no longer convinced traditional publishing is the only way to make it as an author. In fact, I probably have less confidence in it than ever. Still, I was very appreciative of this particular panel, as I'm sure many were.

I didn't get much writing done at Caribou (but I did figure out what I wanted to write for the chapter); but last night I finally uploaded the corrected PDF file on Lulu, and am awaiting yet another test copy of my book. In hindsight, I wish I could've better formatted the book to minimize pages and cost. Depending on how the test copy looks, and the opinion of a manager at QRB (I've gotten to know one of them well), I may have to change it again; but I'm hoping it won't come to that. I'm really, really looking forward to finally releasing my novel to the public.

(P.S. Happy Birthday, Stacey!)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

momentum, and home as a state of mind

So, I did some writing yesterday. Finally! Quite a bit, actually. And it felt really good. I also sort of plagiarized myself, haha! I was writing a narrative on the theme of home as a state of mind. I used to assign this essay to my students when I taught at UMD. The challenge for them was to write an essay about home w/out using the words "home," "house," "comfort," "cozy," "warmth," etc. I didn't restrict myself quite as much yesterday, but I found myself looking to past essays that I had written on the subject. Frankly, it's been a recurring theme in a lot of my creative writing, fiction and non. So I actually took 'em out of a box, found some golden oldies, and made some minor adjustments, excerpting passages, changing the tense and a couple of names, etc. Since this is for my book, I wonder if I have to cite myself. Always the academic, to the very end.

I hadn't read some of these pieces in awhile, and I thought, "Damn, these aren't half bad." One of them was a creative nonfiction piece that was published in the literary magazine Siren at UMD. At the time, it was one of my best, if not the best I had ever written. Hard to believe it's seven years old, and I've since written three novels. It brought back some bittersweet memories, too, although I focused on the good.

Later in the day, when I had finished the draft, I sent it to my writing partner, just for her enjoyment. I wasn't expecting feedback or anything. I wasn't even expecting a response. But a few hours later, she did respond, and was her usual honest, thoughtful self. And she praised it, assuring me that she liked it not solely because it was mine, but because it was good. I was happy to hear from her, and happy that she liked it. And incidentally, when I write, I'm at home.

Mit commented on getting the momentum going, and I hope I've done just that. It's hard when I've got another 50 rhetorical analyses, an average of five pages each, needing my attention and grades. This is the time of year when I get really antsy for the semester to end, when Thanksgiving feels right around the corner and it's a mad rush to fit everything in. And does anyone else want this election over and done w/ already?

And speaking of home, it's finally starting to look and feel like fall around here. That certainly adds to the momentum, not to mention my mood.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

what's next

When I look at the number of posts I've completed for this month, I frown, and I wonder if I've run out of things to say about writing, the craft, publishing, etc. It seemed that when I started this blog I was an endless well, even though I didn't have a fleshed out audience and/or purpose. But that's changed now. I have readers -- far and few, perhaps, but I have readers nonetheless. And yet, now it is the text part of my little rhetorical situation that is scarce, not to mention my time.

What do I have to say these days?

Seriously, I'm sittng here for a full minute, and nothing comes to me.

For one thing, I miss my writing partner. She's even busier than I am, in the final stretch of her education, recovering from surgery, and has little time to enjoy a meal w/ her hubby, much less co-write our delightful novel. And I've had no time to attend to it either. The nonfiction book and Faking It come first these days, and I've been so mentally and emotionally spent from the recent traveling, family stuff, and teaching that I spent my nights vegging out on the couch and watching the previous night's Daily Show, or baseball when I should be writing. I'm thinking, is all I can say.

I miss conversing w/ my partner about our book, about the craft, about revising, etc. And I'm hoping she doesn't read this and feel bad. I know she misses me too. But one of the reasons why she's such a great partner is that she and I trust our process. We know that if we need to put the book on hold for now, it's ok. We trust that it'll be born at the right time, and we both look forward to that day.

I'm so grateful to have the day off today, even though I've got final drafts waiting to be graded, a manuscript waiting to be finished, a novel waiting to be published, a bathroom waiting to be cleaned, a car waiting to be serviced, etc. (Oy vey -- what am I doing writing this silly blog?!) The sun is out, and the choices are endless. Better still, the choices are mine to make, freely. Yay. In that case, I choose to pack up and head to Caribou coffee, put in an hour of grading, and take it from there.

Monday, October 20, 2008

good vibrations

I'm slammin' busy.
I'm so busy I haven't had time to write in my own blog, much less read anyone else's. And I feel bad. I feel as if I've neglected my readers.

But let me tell you about this weekend. Let's just say that thanks to synchronicity and the generosity of a couple, I found myself at the Abraham-Hicks Law of Attraction seminar at the Inn at Biltmore Estates in Asheville, NC this past weekend.

For starters, wowie!! Beautiful area, especially at this time of year.

For those who don't know Abraham-Hicks or Law of Attraction (LOA), I invite you to click here to go to the website and check it out. In a nutshell, LOA states that "that which is like unto itself is drawn." Put another way, when you are in vibrational harmony with your desire, you attract the object of your desire. You may have also heard the expression "what you give out comes back to you." Something like that.

Long before The Secret (and let me tell you, The Secret was no secret; rather, it was a brilliant marketing plan), there was Abraham-Hicks. And I've been practicing LOA for a long time. I could give you example after example of LOA at work in my life (and others'), but let's get to the point sooner than later. The seminar is really more of a conversation between Abraham (via Esther Hicks) and participants (or, in LOA-speak, co-creators). Those w/ questions raise their hands, and are selected at random to sit in the "hot seat," where they pose their questions in front of an eager audience.

In the days leading up to Sunday, I had formulated a question, an issue to bring to the seminar, and possibly Abraham themself (yes, I know I'm using the incorrect pronoun there, but in their vernacular, it's correct). I didn't know if I would raise my hand, for something in my gut told me that if I had, I would definitely be selected. (Did I mention that there's a video camera recording the event, as well as a microphone for audio recording as well? And that the images were projected on screen the whole time?) Quite frankly, I wasn't sure if I wanted that kind of attention.

My question, or issue, centered around the negative beliefs about self-publishing that I am still clinging to. I've shared them before, and you know them as well: the ones that say self-publishing isn't "legitimate," it's too expensive, won't bring recognition or dollars, etc. I could name them all w/ ease. But where were/are the beliefs to the contrary? Now, how LOA fits into these beliefs (and a belief is nothing more than a thought or series of thoughts repeated over time, and thoughts are vibrations of energy -- can you tell I've been drinking the kool-aid?) is that what I have been attracting has been in response to these vibrational thoughts. I mean, think about it. My book was supposed to be ready for sale back in July. I've had technical difficulty after technical difficulty. Co-incidence? Precisely. Put another way, I've been attracting delay, because I don't fully believe that what I'm doing validates me as a writer.

I can understand how some might find this to be a bunch of hooey, but I've witnessed enough events in my life to believe (there's that word again) otherwise.
I knew I had to change my thoughts (and I've been trying, even through this forum), but I wasn't sure where to start. I wanted a little help w/ that.

Well, I didn't raise my hand. But by listening to Abraham's responses to other questions, I felt more assured that I could take the initiative myself. What's more, the energy in the room was quite uplifting, although I had a dull headache for much of the day; at first, I thought it was fatigue, until I realized that the pain was emanating from the point known as the mind's eye. I then understood all too well that I was experiencing resistance -- in other words, the negative, false beliefs were fighting to stay alive.

And so, knowing that I am a co-creator of my life and all of my experiences, it's time to change my thoughts. I'll start with appreciation and positive aspects.
  • For one thing, I'm a damn good writer and worthy of being published, whether it's through or Simon and Schuster.
  • Second, irony of all ironies, aside from their books, Abraham-Hicks self-publish all their materials! In other words, who's the authority on "legitimacy," and why should I listen to them?
  • Third, self-publishing is giving me the freedom to release my book my way, and I can give myself all the attention I need regarding things like promotion and distribution. I am my best client. And through all the technical difficulties and mistakes, I've learned lessons, used my excellent rhetorical and communication skills (and my former lifetime in customer service/sales hasn't hurt), and given myself an opportunity to practice what I preach about being present, and responding vs. reacting.
Not a bad start, eh?

It's high time we writers start aligning our thoughts to what we really want. We can become bestsellers, we can attract agents and publishing deals, and we can be successful self-publishers, if we so desire. We can make writing our day jobs, the one that brings home the bacon. We are worthy. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. But we need to start acting as if we're already bestsellers, as if the agent is already here, as if the check's on its way. We need to think from the end, and stop listening to the voices in our heads or in the trade magazines or sitting next to us who say it can't be done, or it's too hard, etc. And if you think I'm just babbling a bunch of b.s. or that I'm naive, then of course you're free to think so; but please don't voice that in a Comment. I'd like to use this blog as a forum to practice appreciation and building new and better thoughts/beliefs. You're welcome to join me in this; and my hope is that you'll adapt these higher-frequency beliefs for yourself and your writing/publishing intentions.
I'm so slammin' busy that I haven't attended to making the necessary adjustments for my novel, but I'm going to. I'm going to fix it, I'm going to publish and release my novel, and I'm gonna sell a shitload of books and get rave reviews and follow up w/ my next novel, and the next, and the next. (In fact, I need to get out of the future tense and into the present: It's getting done. It's on its way.) Why? Because I can, and because I am in harmony w/ a universe that supports my intentions.

I think Abraham would agree.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

pep talk?

I must must MUST commit to working on my book for at least one hour per night. I must must MUST meet my deadline. I must must MUST not give in to procrastination, MLB playoffs, Facebook, and other wonderful distractions. I must must MUST not use school demands as an excuse (although let's face it -- next week final drafts of Project 2 are due for grading).


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

taking the leap

I think I'm finally ready to say it out loud: I have a publisher for my nonfiction book!
I think it's ok to be cautious, but sometimes my "superstition" is really fear-based: fear of things not working out and winding up disappointed, fear of speaking too soon and winding up embarrassed (or the aforementioned disappointed), fear of losing momentum, etc. And while I *still* won't give the specifics of the book (hey, lots of writers share that superstition!), I will say that I am excited about this new venture. Because I am getting the chance to be a co-creator of this little company's vision (and let me tell you, this little company has big plans!), and I am getting the chance to co-create my writing career.

And as I told my good friend C over the phone when I got home from my meeting with my co-creators, I realized how stuck I've been in the negative thoughts and talk that writers can't make a living being full-time writers. I continue to put my writing career, and intentions, on the back burner as if they have less value because they aren't drawing a salary at the moment. Is this practicality at work, or delusions of worthlessness? I'm inclined to think the second. I'm inclined to think that the only thing in my way is that kind of false thinking. No mas! Time to trade up to a higher frequency of thought! Time to stop making excuses! Time to lovingly (and nonviolently, haha) "get aggressive" again.

I mean geez, I am getting my book published!! Two of them!!

Speaking of, I'm still working with customer service to fix the printing problem w/ Faking It. I'm not going to share the latest chapter of that saga (because frankly, it's too easy to get caught up in the complaining aspect, and why go there?), but I will say I'm putting my rhetorical skills to work and thanking my lucky stars I kept a record of dates, emails, etc. This process has been one big lesson, for sure. But man o man, I want the book on sale by the end of this month!!!! Send positive thoughts to both me and Lulu! Send 'em to Faking It! With thanks, of course.
namaste :)

Monday, October 6, 2008


I am still waiting for a response regarding the status of my novel. I am aligning my energies so that this will be resolved in divine right time. And while I do that, I am staving off the cynical voice in my head that says, "yeah, right... it's been how long?"

I'm going home to Long Island this weekend and wish I could take the book with me (maybe I can at least show off the cover). But I will at least have something to talk about.

In the meantime, I'm not getting much physical writing done these days, but there's definitely some mental composing going on. It's "baking." And I sketched out an idea for a companion EBook to go w/ my nonfiction book.

Not too exciting, I know. But more to come soon, I hope. Hang in there with me!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

remember me?

I missed you all.

I am looking at the cover of my novel, Faking It. It's gorgeous. Eye-catching. Definitely makes you wanna pick it up and start reading.
Then I open the book.
The text is printed in these cryptic characters that looks like Chinese at a first, quick glance.

Last month (yes, this has been going on a month), when I ordered the test copy, I went on Lulu's website to check the sample pages, just to see how it looked on the screen. That was the first time I saw the gobbledegook. Of course, I immediately contacted Help via IM and asked if this was a problem w/ the website or if my book was going to come out this way (I certainly didn't want to spend the money ordering a copy if I was going to get a book full of gobbledegook). They opened the PDF file of the manuscript and it looked fine. I did the same: fine. "Phew!" I said. "Make sure you check that out on your site."

After the whole fiasco w/ the package getting lost in the mail (took me at least two weeks, btw, if not more; I lost track), I had completely forgotten about the incident and about re-checking the site.

Sure enough, it wasn't a technical glitch.

I had to IM them again, and they told me to take a digital photo of the pages and email it to them (fortunately, I had recently bought my first digital camera -- I know, I'm way behind the times -- and had been regretting the expenditure until that moment). I took two photos and sent them, along w/ yet another message explaining the problem. That was Wednesday (or was it Tuesday?). I was supposed to hear back in two days. Today is Saturday. I've heard nothing.

I am trying to attract positive energy to the situation and give thanks (thank goodness I had that camera! thank goodness it's taking a few days -- I've been so preoccupied w/ student conferencing! thank goodness for... -- I've quickly run out); I've been ambivalent about taking the self-publishing route all along and can't help but wonder if this is the manifestation of that ambivalence. I'll tell you, though: after seeing the cover, I'm feeling differently. I mean, wait until you see it. It looks like a real book -- Hell, it is a real book!! That's exactly the kind of negative energy I'm talking about!

So at this point, there's nothing I can do, except wait until Monday. If I get no answer by then, I'm sending another email. And in the meantime, send some positive vibes to me, Lulu, and the book world to receive my novel. It's on its way.