Sunday, May 27, 2007

Scuba Diving in My Bathroom Sink

This week, another writer on a writing forum I frequent alerted me to an interesting Washington Post article Self Taught: For the Long Disparaged Art of Short Fiction, A Widening Appreciation of the Form

There is one quote in particular from the article that I feel is a very good example of the sort of prejudice short story writers encounter in a culture where novels are central and short stories are often just considered a writer's "warm up" act. Former Book Review editor, Charles McGrath, once compared short story writers to "People who learn golf by never venturing onto a golf course, but instead practicing at a driving range."

Several years ago I encountered a writing professor with a similar attitude. When I turned in a portfolio of short stories as my final writing project, this is what she wrote on my cover page. "The problem I have with short stories is their shortness makes one feel like trying to learn how to scuba dive by putting one's head in a bathroom sink full of water each night."

I guess I'm destined to be shallow, because I'm still writing and publishing short stories in addition to starting my second novel.

No news yet, regarding my near year long search for an agent to represent my first novel. I'm still waiting for word regarding several partials still out there with a few top agents. And I still have not heard back from the editor at Knopf that requested my full. It's been nearly nine months, but it was a wild card query I sent, sans an agent. So while I am patiently waiting, I continue to write, because that's what I do--write and wait. Write and wait. And of course scuba dive in my bathroom sink :-)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Gotta Love a Writer With Spunk

I have to share this Seattle Post Intellegencer article, because I think it gives writers a very good idea of the level of commitment that is needed from authors if they intend to succeed in a grueling publishing environment.

I truly admire Debbie Macomber's commitment and spunk, not just now after she's been published, but throughout the five years when she wrote her first novels on a rented typewriter!

Slated for January 1st 2009 Release . . . Married in Seattle.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

M is for May. M is for Mothers Day. M is for Mothering Mother: A Daughters Humorous and Heartbreakng Memoir.

I read an interesting article online today from The New York Times, Are Book Reviewers Out of Print?

After reading these two quotes . . .

“While I’m all for the literary bloggers, and I think the more people that write about books the better, they’re not necessarily as regionally focused as knowledgeable, experienced long-term editors in the South or Midwest or anywhere where the most important writers come from,” said Sam Tanenhaus, the editor of The New York Times Book Review in a recent .

Also from the same article, there is this quote from Richard Ford, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist. “Newspapers, by having institutional backing, have a responsible relationship not only to their publisher but to their readership,” Mr. Ford said, “in a way that some guy sitting in his basement in Terre Haute maybe doesn’t.”

. . . I was left with an overwhelming urge to post my very first book review. Be forewarned; I am not as regionally focused as knowledgeable, experienced long-term editors in the South and Midwest. And, I am not some guy sitting in his basement in Terre Haute either. But, as Martha Steward would say that is probably a good thing.

Mothering Mother: A Daughters Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir, by Carol D. O’Dell, Kunati Inc. (April 1, 2007)

I typically do not write creative nonfiction, because I can never quite sort through my emotions enough to get them onto paper in a coherent way that would amount to anything of value to anyone other than me. If I try to look back on an emotional event in my life and then write about it, there always seems to be a sense of detachment—a failure to portray my emotions in an authentic way. On the other hand, attempting to write about an emotional event as it is unfolding in my life, usually results in a narrative that is too emotional—nearly inaccessible to others, let alone helpful.

Carol D. O’Dell has no such problems with presenting a very engaging and accessible work of creative non fiction—a moving chronicle of the time she spent caring for her mother in her final days of Parkinson disease and the onset of Alzheimer’s. Remarkably, Mrs. O’Dell wrote her book in near real-time, while the daunting task of caring for her mother was simultaneously churning her emotions and interrupting the myriad of responsibilities she was already juggling as a wife and mother to her own family.

The audience for Mothering Mother reaches way beyond the obvious population of readers that comprise the ‘sandwich generation’, boomers taking care of both their own children and their elderly parents. This moving chronicle of one woman’s experience of mothering her mother taps into the very core of our greatest fears of illness, infirmary, abandonment, and death. It conveys a universal truth about the way people think, act, feel, and it does it with honesty, humor and love, exposing the authors emotional strengths and weaknesses in near real-time. This book is more than a memoir; it is an amazing, accomplished, work of creative non-fiction.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

My Novel Revision Camp Update

After subjecting my manuscript to a lengthy revision process/workshop, I have come to the realization that my novel’s failure to progress all the way through the submission process may be the result of having unintentionally created an unlikable protagonist.

So, in an effort to create more reader empathy for my protagonist, these are the things I assume about people/readers that I hope to infuse into my protagonist’s characterization.

1. People feel empathy for people who are haunted by an unfortunate tragedy in their life, like the death of a parent, a previous illness, or unwarranted misfortune.

2. People feel supportive of people that are at the beginning of their realization that their hardened shells may be their weakness—not their strength.

3. People long to simplify their lives, to become more child-like, but they dislike childish people.

4. People root for the underdog, as long as the underdog is worthy, and making some attempts—however misguided—to fight back.

5. People want to see other people realize happiness, if they deem them worthy and genuine, not winy and smug.

6. People are capable of developing empathy for people who have made mistakes in their lives, as long as the mistakes are not merely a series of bad decisions that seem to indicate that someone is hell bent on self-destruction.

7. People are encouraged by stories of a weak person that becomes stronger.

BUT . . .

People are NOT going to see those things in my story, if I do not shine a narrative spotlight on them.

Interestingly enough, in the book I just finished reading, Little Children, by Tom Perrotta, the 2nd and 5th elements where the only elements of developing reader empathy that I could identify, yet that proved to be enough to keep me reading a book populated with unlikable protagonists.

I am encouraged by the changes I have made in my manuscript, and I just received several new requests for partials from agents I continued to query while undergoing my revision. I should know soon whether I have made the right changes.

COMING SOON . . . M is for May. M is for Mother’s Day and M is for Mothering Mother, my book review of a great new memoir Kunati Publishing A MUST read for members of the “sandwich generation” Boomers taking care of both their own children and their elderly parents.