Monday, July 18, 2011

Butt in Chair




There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.
Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith

Once upon a time I was a writer. Not one that made millions off a bestseller as that is such a fluke of nature, unless you're a star or cute politician. No, I was someone who made daily journal entries and did timed writings in a big blank book. I took classes on the craft of writing. I practiced. I joined a writing group. I wrote paragraphs. Essays. Short stories. I wrote a novel. Worked hard. Took it through many, many drafts.

I volunteered at the Writer's League of Texas. Worked on their Programs and Services committee. Ran the annual manuscript contest. Read 100's of first chapters from anxious writers, eager to to discover how their work might fare in an open venue. I studied query letters and wrote a good one which received great response. Sent my book out to 52 agents, 20 of whom replied with a standard rejection letter. The other 32 were kind enough to type a rejection letter addressed to me or in very special cases, a handwritten note telling me my book wasn't for them. I felt pretty good about my rejections.

In the meantime, I sent out my essays and short stories - won some contests, had a few published. Helped spearhead the publication of a book of women's stories and poetry and served as coeditor. In that process I learned along with several other women how to write a book proposal, get an ISBN number, beg authors for blurbs, and ask the lovely Liz Carpenter (may she rest in peace) for a foreword. The generosity of writers is most heartwarming.

When the book was finally in hand, we organized readings at book stores and literary organizations. Coffee shops. Sold books out of our trunks. Donated all the proceeds to NAMI - The National Alliance on Mental Illness. One of the authors in our book had succumbed to depression and we wanted to honor her memory by choosing a worthy charity.

All those aspects of the writing life filled my days when I wasn't being a full-time housewife, civic do gooder, and mother. Having learned tremendously from the rejections of my first novel, I took a few more in depth writing classes and began a second novel. One hundred pages in, I fearfully found work outside of the home due to business not going well in my husband's line of work. The recession sent me back into the workplace, with old, worthless or non-existent credentials. My writing dwindled to crying into the pages of my journal and an occasional timed writing. I edited/critiqued work for others and did some pro bono editing for a few publications. Other than that, my writing mind took on other junkets.

Come to today. My dear friend, ES Carlson, has issued an ultimatum. Emails me that she will no longer send me any of her work to critique unless I send her a new chapter from my novel in progress. A new chapter - due Friday. Bitch.


I just blew the dust off the pages I have. I'll let you know if I succeed.

31 comments:

  1. Whatever the outcome to the ultimatum you were prepared and used your initiative. I wish you luck

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  2. States montage:http://www.epgsoft.com/VisitedStatesMap/

    hope that helps!

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  3. I'm just glad you are dusting off that novel - not only so I can know what happens next, but also because you could have used this as an excuse never to read any of my crazy stories ever again! But Friday's coming up fast - start on a fresh page!

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  4. Ha ha...you are a stitch and a half! Best of luck...you KNOW you're a good writer...it's just a matter of being with the right people in the right place at the right time. Someone will spot you.

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  5. Well, this is good news! No use having an embryonic novel smothered to death under a layer of dust...when it could grow up to be the next best thing to hit the bookshelves! You go, girl!

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  6. Soon as I saw the title to the post, I cracked a big grin. You go, girl!

    And by the way, I am very immpressed by your writerly credentials. You are streets ahead of me, not that making compariosn are helpful.
    What it all means is that you're a writer who's been on hiatus, and needed a kick in the pants to get back to her real vocation. You've got a real friend in Ms. Carlson

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  7. You're succeed. Sometimes all we need is that extra impetus that comes from knowing someone cares and someone wants to see our work. That's a good friend for you.

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  8. Great post! Your story sounds like mine, except you took it further than I have.

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  9. Now that is a good friend Julie, but you do have permission to curse her while completing your challenge (because now I know you will).

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  10. Sending wishes of luck and creativity.

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  11. Oh yes, you are a real writer. Do not leave that chair until you have met Ms. Carlson's ultimatum. She is a true friend!!
    Besides, now you have the rest of us dying to know what your novel is about. Go for it :D

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  12. Maybe it's finally your time and your turn for getting a book published. Best of luck!

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  13. And what a good and faithful bitch she is!!! Good luck
    Hugs
    SueAnn

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  14. Deadlines are good. Very, very good.

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  15. Ooh, I had no idea you were writing a novel...details, please? Or maybe just a hint until it's (hopefully) published?

    52 rejections. Wow. THAT'S depressing. But at least you finished an entire novel and put it out there. I haven't even gotten beyond the third chapter of mine; haven't even looked at it in over a year.

    Good luck!

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  16. Good luck. Get blowing the dust off.

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  17. Sounds like you are trying too hard.

    I went through the list of things you reported doing and still have files of rejection slips.

    One of my first books, a kind of workbook for schools, sold about a million copies. My first order was from a college bookstore for 3,000 copies.

    I have written lots of books and most have been published and are either out of print or seldom seen on shelves at book stores, though I just heard from a lady in Finland who emailed me a photo of her and one of my books she happened to find there in their book shop.

    I don't write for large audiences. I write things I want to write about. If somebody wants to buy it, they can. I try to get the ISBN numbers so I can get them into Amazon and other book sellers.

    Most beginners write about things everyone writes about. Of course they are in competition with everyone else plus all those books already in print.

    Good luck with your project.

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  18. Good for you! But of course you won't read this until next week because right now you are working on the novel, right?

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  19. She loves you and believes in your work! Write!

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  20. You inspire me.

    I am working on a project this summer. And I told myself, it's just for me. I'm not even going to think about outcomes - except finishing the project..

    Wishing you the best on yours.

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  21. Great that you got that motivation from your friend! Sometimes that is all that is needed. Good luck!

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  22. You best get busy... you've got the talent.

    Joey

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  23. Good for her.. and good for you. Best of luck.

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  24. Good luck! It's a tough road, that writing life. But only the tough survive--seems to me like you've got the right stuff to do it.

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  25. You go, girl! Now that's a true friend. I hope this breaks your blockage, but good.

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  26. Hated for your post to end...I always enjoy your writing. I'd buy your book...sight unseen!

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  27. I'm betting on you. Only please, don't open up a vein. Find some other way for the inspiration to flow! XO

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  28. Good for you...on a lot of fronts!

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