My novel is finished – now what?

I had every intention of submitting my finished novel to a small press I heard about a few years ago that publishes American Jewish Experience fiction. I kept checking back and kept checking back to see if they were still around over the years. But when I pulled up their website again yesterday, I found a new note pertaining to their guidelines - they will only look a fiction works that are represented by an agent. That of course stopped me dead. Now I am on the lookout for a small press that will be interested in coming of age/immigration/feminist themes and maybe willing to go with the American Jewish Experience theme as well. Looks like a very tall order to me. I'll also make friends with the agents I've met through the Greater Los Angeles Writers Society, whom I've heard on panels many times. Maybe I can persuade one of them to represent me. In the meantime I want to thank all of the people who helped me with the book along the way. The following  is what I wrote for the … [Read more...]

How I created my book and got it published

I belong to a writing organization called  Independent Writers of Southern California. We meet locally in a  small satellite group once a month, and this last month our leader asked me to speak about how I got my memoir published. Here are my notes from that talk. Even though writing is a lonely business, a village of resources helped and nurtured me from the time I started writing my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On. I started with journaling, at first sporadically and later, after reading and doing the exercises in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron (Putnam’s Sons, 1992), I kept my fingers moving across the pages of my journal every day. I still do. After amassing about three years’ worth of journal entries I began to think about turning them into a book – a book very much different from the one that was eventually published. But, I was not a creative writer. My writing experience consisted of writing, editing, and training engineers to produce reports and proposals in the aeros … [Read more...]

I’ve become a revision fiend

I’m sure you’ve heard this before. But I need to tell it to you again. Book revision and editing will be harder and will take longer than the actual writing of your book. So be prepared to stay with it for the long haul before you start. In other words: Make the Decision to Do the Hard Work Before You Start to Write a Book. Here’s a true story. After I wrote the first draft of my memoir I hired an editor who helped me prepare it for submittal to interested agents and presses. This took about a year. Then once I had a book contract, my publisher requested an enormous amount of revisions to that draft. So I spent another six months revising and editing my manuscript with the help of three writing friends who checked my work for repetition, inconsistencies, chapter organization, wording, and typos. Afterward, the publisher’s editor worked another month doing a final review and edit before producing the first hardback edition. After my memoir’s release in May 2011 many readers inf … [Read more...]

Busy times – it’s all good!

For the last ten days I was working in my old technical writer/proposal manager capacity - helping a small business write and deliver a proposal to the National Science Foundation. The proposal was due yesterday, and I'm proud to say we got it in electronically as required with two hours to spare. Within minutes of finishing the proposal work,  I changed modes and started thinking about the Greater Los Angeles Writers Conference happening this weekend. I'm scheduled to appear on two panels tomorrow, and up until yesterday I had done nothing to prepare. This morning I went into my files and found notes from past panels I've appeared on, and  found what I needed to provide some good information on writing a memoir and building a marketing platform, using the social networks. (This blog was the first thing I did to start building my platform prior to the publication of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On.) One more thing that's happening at the conference is an oppo … [Read more...]

How my memoir came to be

I wrote the following piece a little over a year ago for the Women's Writing Circle. I'd like to share it with you now. When I Knew I Had A Memoir I returned to writing regularly when our son Paul was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in March 1993. He had just turned 21 and was a senior at the New School in New York City. Early on during his illness I read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1992), and her suggestion to write morning pages resonated with me. Because I was employed full-time then, I didn’t always write in the morning, but I always finished my three pages before the end of the day. So writing about my son’s bipolar disorder and later about his 1999 suicide death became my therapy. Writing during the most stressful time of my life became an obsession and a balm. It gave me a way to organize my fears, pain, and thoughts. Besides journaling I began to take writing workshops at the UCLA Extension Writers Program and Esalen Institu … [Read more...]

So how was the writing workshop?

Back from four long days at the UCLA Extension Writers Program's Novel Revision Techniques workshop. And when all is said and done, I must say I got a lot out of it. The instructor, Mark Sarvas, was well prepared and he enthusiastically imparted his knowledge of novel revision. It was hard to tell that this was the first time he had ever taught this workshop. As a result I’m very tempted to sign up for his Novel IV class that starts in April. His best advice is: Read Like a Writer He also encouraged us to keep reading novels all the time. The class was really grueling. It included lectures on these subjects: The Many Drafts of the First Draft Revision Tools Structure Scene Character Language The Essential Revision Questions Mark used The Great Gatsby over and over again to illustrate his points, and believe me, he is an expert on The Great Gatsby. He reads it at the start of every year. As much as I like the book – and I like it even better now that I know some … [Read more...]

My UCLA workshop starts tomorrow

I’m scheduled to start a novel revision workshop through the UCLA Extension Writers' Program tomorrow, taught by Mark Sarvas. (He looks like he could be my grandson.) I just hope I’m doing the right thing by taking it. Not that I don’t think my work is any good, it’s just that it might be premature for the stage I’m in on my novel. But I know one thing for sure; it will jump start my work on the novel – something that has been too much on the back burner lately. So to prepare for this class I had to pick a portion of the novel that others could read and critique. I chose chapters three and four. That took up the allotted page count – 15 pages double-spaced. We were also required to turn our selections in by January 22 with a one-page synopsis and what specifically we want help with going forward. On January 23 I received a compilation of the entire classes’ work – or so I thought – and began reading. At the outset we were told that if our material wasnâ … [Read more...]