In the Interim

I just finished a book! (Thank you! Thank you! I’m patting myself on the back for you!) Edited, proofread, spell-checked and sent off to the agent. Now’s the worst part–waiting for something to happen with it. Trust me, that’s definitely futile. Better off to not think about it for awhile. Please, do NOT look at it any more. I’ve learned if I do, I’ll discover a gazillion more typos, head-hops, tense shifts, and all things that generally give me the yips because I didn’t find them on the last edit. This invariably happens as you’ve grown so close to the thing, it’s basically become invisible to you.  Leading to the point your only recourse is to concede, the book is as done on your end as it’s ever going to get, and the only thing left to do is give it up. So you stop thinking about it, because the bald truth is if you spent 10,000 more hours on it, it still wouldn’t be finished, as it’s never really done until you find it on the shelf at the bookstore. Then what’s a writer to do in the interim?

Well for one thing–celebrate! You’ve finished a book! My own fin-de-libro ritual is to celebrate at a local tomato pie joint with a pair of good friends. We get one large sausage and one large plain, and we gorge ourselves silly along with a bottle of wine. The thing is my girls are pretty strict about enforcing the “must finish the book” rule before we’ll go. And I love these tomato pies so much (thinny-thin crispy crust, handmade, local sausage) it’s incentive enough. See, it’s important to do something special for yourself, even if it’s a night binge-watching all that TV you’ve forgone while you were working so hard. Finishing a book IS a big accomplishment. Why I have students who pale at the prospect of a three-page essay. Three hundred plus is phenomenal. Bask in your glorious achievement!

Because after it comes the real, well…after. At least for me, a kind of quiet falls over my writerly world. The characters in my head retreat to the background, the dust over my imaginary locales settle, all my conflicts resolve, my goals met. The high that had taken me to the end of my journey becomes a low hum until it, too, silences. Leaving me to wonder: now what?

Only you can decide how to transition from one book to the next, because If you plan on taking this writer thing seriously, there MUST be a next book. Very few people are born Harper Lee or J. D. Salinger. If you want to have a career in writing you need to either be working on a sequel or thinking up something new. One thing I firmly believe in is that writers write, and if you aren’t writing, then you better be reading. Attack that to-be-read pile, study your current genre or the one you want to attempt. Pick up a craft book, the latest bestseller, or anything that will keep you reading. It wouldn’t hurt to attend a Writers Conference, or a writers’ organization meeting, or attend a book signing or reading at the local bookstore or college. And here’s another thing I haven’t mentioned: if you’re unagented, it’d be a good time to look for one. Again, if you take this profession seriously, and you want to travel the traditional publishing route (as opposed to self-publishing), you’re going to need a literary agent. So maybe the next writing you should do is a query letter.

But before you do, pat yourself on the back. You’ve just finished a book! Between the time you finished it and the day you sell, you’ll have a lot to do and think about. For now, celebrate your accomplishment. You earned it!

 

NANOWRIMO is about to descend!

Every year I make this promise: I will adhere by the rules of the National Novel Writing Month and get this new novel off the ground. I mean–really, it should be easy. I have it started already, I have it planned out, so all I have to do is write everyday (like I should do anyway when I’m actively writing a book), then log my time and voila! I get to see in–in graph form– just how productive I can be. And seriously, I do start out with good intentions. I write faithfully, amass the set amount of words that I pledge to do, read the day’s words of inspiration, log on my record my wordage, and then sit back with that smug look on my face that says, yes, I’ve done a good days work. This works beautifully for a few days, and then I get distracted by a shiny object or a bowl of gelato and BAM! I’m right back binging the newest drama on Netflix. Bad, bad, writer! Well, not this year!!

Okay, let’s see who makes it to the NaNoWriMo fail first this year. I vow it won’t be me, but then you never know. If you’re certain you’re a better human being than I am, then go here and see if you truly are. Far be it from me to judge.

Happy Writing!

I’m so ready to Fall

I didn’t have the most exciting summer. Didn’t really go anywhere or do anything exciting. Mostly I just worked–teaching, and on my current work-in-progress which is just about ready to be launched off my desk. So mostly, I existed in air conditioning, just plugging away with not even a chance to get to the beach. So, bye-bye to summer, but welcome to what’s actually my favorite season of the year. For one thing the temps will be a whole hell of a lot more bearable, at least what’s been passing as “weather” in my part of Jersey. I’m so over these 90 degree days. But to give a bit of a better insight what I’m talking about, look at these reasons I am so much more about Autumn than I was about Summer (at least this year):

1. Apples – Gala, Cortland, Mac, Granny – sure you can get them at the supermarket all year ’round, but this time of year, you can pluck them right off the tree. And here in the Northeast, there’s no shortage of apple farms. Matter of fact, this time of year there’s no shortage of Apple Festivals, with their accompanying Hard Apple Cider samples. And this abundance of apples leads to the inevitable apple cakes, apple muffins, apple sauce, fried apples, apple fritters, apple dumplings, apple doughnuts, applesauce, apple lasagna…

2. Cooler Nights – Seriously, I have nothing intrinsically against summer, but I also like to get a good night’s sleep. And I don’t care what you say about air conditioning – the only difference it makes to my downtime is I get a bit of Sinus Inflamed Fitful Sleep instead of wallowing the night away in a pool of sweat-soaked sheets. Big difference from leaving the window opened a tad and tucking the covers under your chin. Plus you can snuggle up with the person next to you and not have your skin go phwhuck! from the contact. So much pleasanter. And quieter!

3. Better Movies – With the summer blockbuster season behind us, the studios finally roll out their “serious” films, as we get closer to Oscar time. Goodbye car chases, blue screens and dick flicks, I can finally revel in some meaningful dialogue and decent acting. Now if I could only find a theater that’s actually showing  one I would be happy.

4. Boots – Ah yes, for awhile at least, I can toss the sandals and forget about painting my toenails. And I can where shorter skirts with tights as boots look so great with them, and I don’t have to angst about those terrible knees. Boots are just great period.
 

5. Scarves Are Back – Love them. LOVE THEM. They make you look artsy and dramatic, and keep your neck warm at the same time. What other article of clothing can you buy at Target that says so much for so little? Plus they keep the collar of that wool jacket you look tres chic in from itching so bad you’d like to rip your skin off. Ah, the price of fashion…

Let the leaves fall!

 

Tips from the MFA Pit, Part 7 – Author or Writer?

Welcome to the Fall Semester! A little bit late, but excuse me, I’ve been a bit preoccupied teaching actual students! For this edition, we look at one of my students who is studying classic sci-fi and fantasy novels. One of their readings is a Jules Verne, and they had noticed that much of the writing is a bit cliched and dog-earred. Perhaps, but crossing two centuries into 2019, we’re still reading him. That led me to thinking what made this author so popular? Why does his writing still resonate? My observations on that were thus…

We tend to forget, in our sophisticated world of writing and reading, that all writing and reading had to start somewhere. What seemed dated and clichéd was at one time innovative. Jules Verne, when he wrote his tales of (then) high-tech and science was prescient for the times. His stories were forward-thinking as well as fantastic to readers, and the Victorians ate them up. The times were also rife with innovation—think about the technology that emanated from the period. Railroads, telegraph, telephones, automobiles, sanitary medicine, vaccines—and the novel, which was considered the scourge of the masses at the time. But the era that spawned Jules Verne also gave us Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, and Mark Twain—all masterly writers whose wit and wisdom and style are still the standard for excellence in prose. So where does that put Verne? Well, think about it. There are writers and there are authors. 

What’s the difference? Think about the books that top the bestseller list. Many are non-fiction, celebrity bios, people caught up in historic events or scandals, chefs pushing their recipes, diet books, exercise books, or the latest self-help craze. Fiction follows many trends like the ever-popular YA dystopian saga or the once-popular chick lit, or the reliably formulaic genres of mystery, romance, sci-fi, or horror. (Okay, I hear the screaming, but I’m NOT slamming on genre fiction. There’s good, there’s bad, and there’s memorable and there’s horrible. I should know. I’ve written them and I’ve loved them like an old sweater. They’re meatloaf-and-mashed-potatoes-cozy, and the reading world would be a dim place indeed without them). There’s the latest fiction craze that everyone’s following, there’s serials and sequels and authors we can’t get enough of. But just because someone manages to squeeze out a bestseller on a hot selling topic or storyline, it doesn’t make them a writer. It just makes them the originator—the author—of that particular piece of information we all want to hear about.
Writers—real ones that stand the test of time—touch a core of use that goes deeper than topic or storyline. They paint pictures with words, invoke emotional reactions, create memorable characters that we can identify with, empathize with, love, cherish, loathe. The settings of their stories invoke another world, they inspire us, leave feelings that linger within in us long after we read the last word. We become invested in the milieus they create, we pass on their books to friends. We study these writers, learn from them, their words and wisdom last longer than they do. So was Jules Verne, with his sometimes “pedestrian” prose, his formulaic writing, a writer or an author? Hmm…well over a century removed we’re still reading him. That’s got to mean something. We writers should all be so lucky!

Embrace your inner author

One week to the Author-Preneur workshop in Red Bank, New Jersey! Agents! Editors! Writing! Craft! Critique! Food, Blessing Bag stuffing, agents panel, and an attendee mixer afterwards. This is my third year in a row, and I’ve yet to be disappointed.  Go to the Corvisiero Agency for more info!

Remember the day that few can forget

(Getty Images)

Here in the Northeast and little over an hour away from New York City, it’s a bright clear, late-summer day, much like the kind of day it was eighteen years ago.  The memorials came and went this morning, and increasingly, as I meet with my students, there are less who actually remember, even more who not more than infants, if they were even born yet. But I remember. I remember the sign flashed on Route One and the Turnpike that said All roads to New York City are closed. I remember frantically trying to get in touch with my sister who lived there in those pre-cell phone days, the message on my landline …all circuits to New York City are busy. Try again later. I remember the jets flying overhead from the Air Force base three miles from my home, their deafening sound filling the air for hours. I remember seeing the buildings fall. I remember the shock and then the silence. And then just numb.

But I also remember the resilience. The camaraderie. The sense of pride. The flags everywhere because there was no Republicans or Democrats, liberals or conservatives. There was just Americans. And from all that wreckage, we as one people, were never prouder to be one. It didn’t last, of course. The finger-pointing and the ugly reactions to anyone who looked too different came all to quickly. But for a while there, a terrible tragedy brought us all together. Then, as now, I sincerely hope we wouldn’t need another to accomplish the same thing.

Seriously Snark

%d bloggers like this: