A publishing contract – oh, my!

I now have a contract with Lucky Press, LLC to publish my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On. Our plan is to have it on the shelves by Mother's Day 2011. Before I get into all the details on how Lucky Press and I connected, I want to tell you a bit about my wonderful publisher, Janice Phelps Williams and her publishing company. From the LP website: Lucky Press, LLC is a traditional, independent publishing company located in the beautiful Appalachian foothills of Athens, Ohio¦. its original aim to publish books about ˜characters, real or imagined, who overcome adversity or experience adventure,'  So, I feel that Lucky Press is a perfect match for my book. From the minute she read my query letter Janice understood exactly why I wanted to tell the story of my oldest son's bipolar disease, his suicide, and how I and my husband, Bob, and son, Ben, survived. My goal is to tell people that it is possible to survive the loss of a child and how I did it. And Janice got it im … [Read more...]

Progress report

I have to admit I've been a little lax this week. But, like all slackers, I have an excuse. My laptop was stolen and I had to replace it, download umpteen hours of software on to it, and then figure out where I left off. I had backed up my stuff up to two days before the theft, so I only lost a few pieces -- a journal entry, a poem, a piece for Red Room, and about a day's worth of novel work. I have since rewritten most of it, so I'm in pretty good shape. The scary part is that there is someone out there with all of my writing. I hope the thief just cleaned off the hard drive before he got rid of it (I know it was a he). As a result I've learned some lessons: put my name and contact data on every piece of hardware I own, backup continuously (I'm now using Mobile Me religiously), and install a security system on every traveling computer (I have LoJack on my new laptop). But all is not entirely bad in the writing department. This weekend The Survivor's Chronicles, an online zine … [Read more...]

A new bucket list focus – my writing projects

Now that I'm a week and a half into my retirement it's time to lay out a plan for my writing projects. I've identified five so far: My novel. First of all I need to begin by opening the files that have laid dormant for over a month and see if I can rejuvenate my interest in it again. Then, I commit to writing 300 words a day. This really doesn't seem like a lot since I can type away for 10 minutes on my journal and I'm already at over 400 words. Two chapbook submissions. My Jazzman and The Emerging Goddess poems. I have a good foundation here. I have the current My Jazzman manuscript. However, I've decided to take out the non-Paul related poems and add some of the earlier and later poems I've written about him. That will take a little work -- deciding which ones to add and then revising as necessary. The goddess poems are what they are. I think they'll make a nice collection for a small chapbook. The memoir revision. This task is more daunting. But, I've already begun the work … [Read more...]

The dreaded envelope arrived

The dreaded big envelope was waiting for me in my mailbox when I returned from doing a morning of errands. The small press publisher sent back my manuscript with the thanks but no thanks message. At least she wrote in long hand what she thought of the book, though she didn't give me any suggestions for how to fix it. She admits that she wouldn't know how to write it another way. She did say she thought the book doesn't know whom it's written for, and that it's written a little too carefully. I'm not sure I know what either means. So, if I am going to continue with this project I need to find an editor who can give me suggestions on how to fix these problems. But not right now. I need to let this rejection sink in for a bit. I really had some high hopes for this one because she sounded so optimistic after reading my query and other material. At least she said she liked the poems in the book. That gives me encouragement to submit them as a chapbook. I'm going to submit "The … [Read more...]

No more new poems published here

Because of the possibility that posting can make a poem considered "published" in the eyes of some publishers, I have decided not to post anymore poems on my blogs. And that could very well cause the end of my blogging career since so much of what I post are my new poems. I guess I'll have to be more creative about what to blog in the future, i.e., only published poems, career and family news, and reports about what I did on my summer vacation. Or I'll need to go back to the original premise of Choices my bucket list and confine my Red Room blog to posts about my writing progress and insights. I can't even post my poem a day challenge poems to that website for fear of being rejected from having those poems published in the future. I really am very much discouraged to find that so many calls for poetry submissions preclude poems posted on the web including those posted on personal blogs which to me is not really publishing. But, here is a typical submission guideline in … [Read more...]

To submit or not to submit; and if I do, what’s next?

I submitted three poems to a fairly new journal on March 2, thinking its vision definitely fits the kind of poetry I write. Well, was I ever wrong. I received a lengthy rejection letter from the editor in chief yesterday does he have nothing better to do than write long rejection letters? Certainly I appreciate the time he spent in writing the letter and certainly I know that the poems I submit might not fit the subjective point of views of those who make the publishing decisions, but the way he characterized the critique criteria in his email to me boggled my mind: Content was good or lacking; quality was good or deficient. My questions were: lacking in what, deficient in what, and even good in what? And I felt so strongly about it I actually wrote the editor back. And then he wrote another lengthy letter back to me and again I ask doesn't he have something better to do? And, of course he turned it all around. He thinks I am complaining about his decision not to publish my … [Read more...]

Choosing not to take no for an answer

Lee Daniels, who directed the movie Precious, refused to take no for an answer when he received one no after another when he tried to get financing. No one wanted to support a film about an obese Harlem girl who had been raped by her father, abused by her mother, impregnated, and afflicted with H.I.V. But he persisted and this movie that he wasn't sure America was ready for has become enormously successful. Well, I'm not sure America is ready for my book about madness and suicide, but I'm encouraged by the success of Precious to keep on pushing. I won't take no for an answer either. … [Read more...]

Another sign from the light

I got word today that two of my poems were accepted for publication in Perigee: Publication for the Art's October 15 issue. I'll post the link as soon as they appear. Here's what Perigee said: "Your work was among the very best, and we are pleased to inform you that we would like to publish both "Demolition" and "Reaching for a Star" in our upcoming issue. You are to be commended on your craft and should be proud of your work¦.We are so pleased that you submitted to us, and we hope to see more of your work in the future. We also hope you will take pride in your achievement: these are the successes which make the creative act all the more rewarding. Thanks for making Perigee a part of it. Congratulations. WOW that was a real shot in the arm to get my creative juices flowing again. I've been very dormant lately, and with that and the signs I've been getting re resources for submitting my work, I feel like I have to get going with my writing and submissions. Another agent's name … [Read more...]

Writers beware

About two weeks ago I decided to query a literary agency that I found online. It asked for answers, plugged into an online form, to typical questions like what's the book about, how long have you been writing, what have you published, etc. To me it looked like nothing out of the ordinary except for one question I had never been asked before: would I be willing to publicize my book through a blog tour. Well, I jumped at that one because my blog had just hosted another author on her blog tour. I thought, great. Technology is finally influencing the publishing field. Then, much to my surprise I got a positive response. In view of my answers to their little questionnaire they wanted to see my manuscript and answer three more questions. A couple of the questions were repeats of the previous. The one that was different was: was my book professionally edited, if so by whom, and if not, would I be willing to have an editor look at it. To that question I answered yes, my book had gone … [Read more...]

A big drumroll — Here’s Stephanie Riseley

I'm thrilled to welcome Stephanie and all of you WOW followers to my blog today. Here's what she has to say about writing to heal, getting a memoir published, and of course, it's all about "choices." Writing to Heal Choices. Yes, life is all a series of choices, all made one choice at a time. Some of them, however, get made without your conscious consent, don't they? If you go to my website, www.StephanieRiseley.com and click on the picture of my book Love From Both Sides, you can skim through the first four chapters. And that will give you a sense of what writing to heal is all about. You'll understand that I had no choice I had to write this book. Here's the first page: FREE AT LAST! I had my hand on my husband's heart when it stopped beating. To feel his big, strong heart come to a complete and utter stop under my hand was so shocking, I didn't have time to even think or react. Because just as his heart stopped, I felt him whoosh through me like a wind, and then f … [Read more...]

Still querying

So, this is going to be another agent the soul of a gnat rant. From last Sunday to last Wednesday (my birthday) I thought I had a real nibble from a real agent. She is someone my son referred me to whom after hearing what my book is about and said yes she was interested, and whom after she responded to my follow-up query said yes we should talk and that she is extremely impressed with my material, decided to pass after all. And, the excuse she gave was, and I quote: We are concerned about being able to find a publishing home for your memoir. Our past experience has been that very few books of this nature can make it through a publishing committee unless there is someone famous involved. Regretfully and after much consideration, we must take a pass at this time. Okay, I can accept the reason for the rejection. I can understand that in this publishing climate, upbeat subjects and famous people are a better publishing risk. However, what I can't accept is that she didn't tell me … [Read more...]

Blog tour

I'm very excited that my blog will be part of the Women on Writing (WOW) blog tour. That means another author, Stephanie Riseley, will stop by to chat about memoir writing and specifically, writing to heal and the road to finding representation and a publisher for your memoirs. So, please check in. She'll be here on June 12. Stephanie Riseley is a writer, teacher, and hypnotherapist. Her book, Love From Both Sides: A True Story of Soul Survival and Sacred Sexuality, tells the story of her husband dying in her arms and coming back to chat. In it she shares the deeply emotional and powerfully physical story of the continued relationship between her and her husband Dan after his sudden death. Exploring the ways in which love and forgiveness can transcend the boundaries of life and death, the book intends to change perceptions of the emotional and spiritual relationships two people can share. Problematic marriages and challenging relationships will take on positive new … [Read more...]

More about goddesses

A shopkeeper new in our area is all involved in goddesses and Buddhas -- a woman after my own heart. Every month she has a goddess night in her store -- a way to drum up business and to celebrate the goddess in all women. So, pushy person that I am, I told her about our book, The Emerging Goddess, and after seeing more information about it on the book's website, she agreed to take some to sell at her store. My book partner is researching self-publishing a few for the store, and who knows, maybe some other venues as well. Here's another goddess poem: Aging Goddesses The crones our mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, old friends, and teachers walk arm in arm in pairs, each one supporting the other on the old cobble-stoned streets. They are squat, stout with veiny legs and thick ankles, their bare feet in flat sandals showing jagged toenails or clothed in thick hose and wide oxfords. Some move slowly barely able to walk, clutching each other for support. They are … [Read more...]

Book news

Needless to say I got a rejection from Sentient Press -- in just about one week's time. But my conversation with Connie, the publisher has continued because she didn't return my manuscript with the rejection letter. So she offered to pay for my printing costs. Once she got the amount she said she would send me a check in a day or two. Then she wrote that the check was sent unsigned. Here's what she wrote: Now I'm really embarrassed. We sent the check out to you, but I don't think it got signed. You're going to think we're completely incompetent, and I guess I wouldn't blame you. The person cutting the checks has not been well for the past few days, and I think he sent out two checks without signatures. He went home sick today, so I can't ask him about it, but I'm pretty sure your check wasn't signed. The bank won't take it, of course, so I'm going to need for you to return it to me to be signed, if it isn't. I apologize again, and I'd like to offer you a free book for your trouble. … [Read more...]

Another choice — there’s no end to them!

I have to decide what to do about submitting my manuscript to Alice and Richard's publisher. I'm still inclined to pass on it. I feel like it's already a rejection. For this publisher to air out her prejudices before even seeing one word of my manuscript I find unconscionable. Here's what she said: She can go ahead and send it to me, but there's not a huge chance I'll want to publish it based on this description. I've received lots of submissions written by mothers or spouses of deceased people, mostly written to honor the deceased it seems, and they are almost never strong enough to warrant publication. But maybe this will be the exception, so I'll take a look. I don't think I want to subject myself to a rejection in the making. Had she just left it at have her send it to me without any negative comments, the outcome may be the same, but at least I'd have thought I was getting a fair shot. But, then Alice says I could be the exception, and what do I have to lose except t … [Read more...]

Query on!!

I received a very brief note from Jennie Dunham of Dunham Literary, Inc. telling me that she is not going to represent me with my memoir manuscript. She characterized my book as too quiet for her. And, thus ended 11 weeks of waiting for a response that was promised happen in about six to eight weeks. She advertised on her web site that she would make exclusive submissions a priority, so I made my submission exclusive. Now, I wonder how long it would have taken if mine had not been exclusive 6 months, a year, whatever? I find that Jennie Dunham's behavior was rude and self-serving. It's as though she is only in it for how much money she can make from trying to sell a book rather than furthering the career of a writer and getting an important book out to the public. Like my friend Maree said: agents the soul of the gnats! I played by all of her rules, not even bugging her when she took way longer than her promised response time, and all I got back was a few lines in a letter. … [Read more...]


Though it's absolutely beautiful outside, the Dow Jones went down almost 400 points, the price of oil rose $10 a barrel, and I still haven't heard from the agent about my book. It's about seven weeks now since she's had it, and I'm getting more and more nervous by the minute actually by the second. My cell phone rang early yesterday morning while I was in my room getting ready for work, and until I looked to see who had called, my first hope was that it was a call from her. That hope is not too farfetched, because it is just about time that I hear something from her. My friend, Ursula was very cute. She sent me a card with signatures of famous authors pasted on it saying they all want me to be published. And, then again, I can't help the stinking thinking. There have been a lot of memoirs out lately on the subject of death of a child and madness. One by Isabel Allende, in particular, is definite competition. She wrote letters to her dead daughter, Paula, telling her about her family. … [Read more...]

Time for an update

I've been working away at a Market Plan which I need to include with the manuscript submittal to my prospective agent, and in gathering statistics for the market plan I learned about the huge number of Iraq war vets who have committed suicide called a silent epidemic because our government wants to keep these facts under wraps. When the news networks began reporting the names of those killed in the war I cried for the poor parents. But to have your child survive the war and come home so badly damaged mentally that the only way to take away the pain is suicide, must be beyond devastating. Even though I've been there to some degree, I cannot imagine how painful this new epidemic must be. Also the statistics show an alarming rise of suicides of children aged 10 to 15 with a greater rise for girls. It's bad enough that children join gangs and kill each other because of gang rivalries, but to turn to suicide at such young ages is a catastrophe. I just don't know how to deal with these … [Read more...]

A foot in the door

Life is always a series of choices. I had to make another one this weekend. But it was a good decision to have to make. I got a positive response from the one and only agent I queried, saying she would be happy to read my manuscript. And, I'm totally stoked! But, one of her conditions is that books she considers must not be under consideration by a publisher. Well, I submitted to a publisher way back in January and still haven't received any feedback. So, rather than gum up the works and have to explain all that to the agent, I decided to withdraw my book from their list of submissions -- unless, of course, they can give me an answer in the next week. I wonder how they'll react to that. In fact, I wonder if they've ever had that happen before. But, I'm sure I've made the right decision. In fact, now that I've looked at this publisher's books over the last years, my book is definitely not a fit. Now is the true test. Getting a foot in the door is great. Can I get a seat in the … [Read more...]

Writing projects

I'm still waiting to hear from Kore Press. In the meantime I submitted 26 pages of poetry to the 2008 New Women's Voices chapbook competition, and I'm getting five poems ready to submit to a poetry anthology written by women over 60. This one is looking for recent work giving full and honest voice to women's lives. So I'll try out a piece I'm working on here. Is is a full and honest voice? Well, that's for you to decide. Invisible They look through me, the brawny young guys flexing their biceps as they reach for the shoulder press. Their eyes fix on the girl in sleek black tights with boobs bursting out of her bra. Strong and slim and self confident she struts past, tilting her head back to take a swig of water. They look past me, the sweaty runners in tank tops, Adidas shorts and hairy calf muscles that form a perfect Vee They see the far away figure on roller blades with flowing blonde hair showing more tan than thong. Fit and firm she moves closer, smiles … [Read more...]