Sunday, June 30, 2013

Submission:Step One - Preparing for Submissions

The quest to submit my manuscript is teaching me how to step out the process. Now some of this may seem very basic to many of you. My submissions in the past were products created for someone else. They were assignments to make someone, someplace, or some event look good. The road to creative writing is a different plane from my old writing endeavors. Much of my writing in the past had to be succinct, void of emotion, instructional, and often just plain informative. I wrote in a world of "turn around" deadlines, proofreaders, corporate style guides, and final sign offs.  Working on my own in the creative writing field is like landing on Mars and it's filled with land mines.

First of all, the ideas are mine. They do not attempt to be aligned with any corporate goals. They are the product of my imagination.   My fiction and poetry tries to entertain or evoke emotion. I want to give the reader a place to go that is different from their current space. The process of submission for a contest, a query for an agent or publisher, or even sharing my work with a critic group is a lot scarier.

I've been told editors and proofreaders can be hired, but if you are a beginner like me your budget is limited. So I thought I'd share my process with you, my readers.  So perhaps those of you who are more experienced could share your tips. 

Preparing for your submissions: No it is not a typo you will have multiple submissions and multiple rejections. Your document has to go through some rigorous edits before you can even send a submission out.

Step 1 - After you have written the entire submission. Print it out.
Step 2 -  Read it aloud. Fix the obvious.
Step 3 - Walk away. Give the document time to cool.
Step 4 -  Make a list of what to edit: consistent tense, locations, and make sure the characters' names are spelled correctly throughout the work. Check the point of view. What voice are you using?
Step 5 - Start second edit. Some writers start from the last line and work their way up the document. Each writer has their own method. The operative word is method. Create a process that works for you.
Step 6 - Progress slowly though your of second edit. During this process think about a 30 second elevator speech you would use to describe the story consisting of no more than three or four sentences.
Step 7 - Send  your manuscript to someone you don't know very well.  You want someone who loves to read. You don't want a proof reader. You want a book lover who will be honest with you. Here are some questions I send with a manuscript:
  • Did the characters seem real to you?
  • How did the story read? Which part was the clearest? 
  • Which part needs to be flushed out more? 
  • What would you like to see explained in the story?
  • What would make the story seem more realistic to you?
Give your beta reader a firm deadline. The deadline needs to be reasonable depending on what you are sending (short story vs. novel). Be sure that you and your beta reader get together to discuss your story. Plan for enough time so you can listen to all the information and have enough time for additional questions.

If you, my readers, have additional comments to editing a submission, please feel free to share with all of us. If you have found some some way to make the process less painful, let us know.

My next blog will give you a report on my adventures on Query Tracker. This is a great step to take while you are editing or your beta readers are reading your work.

    Thursday, June 20, 2013

    Writers@Work Conference Elevates Writers

    Photo Credit:
    When my friend Brandon asked if I knew about the "Flash Fiction" panel being sponsored during the "Writers@Work" Conference, little did I know his question would take me to new heights, literally. The conference was held at Alta Lodge. It was four days of reintroducing me to the "awe and wonder" of my soul as a writer.  If the altitude or the scenery didn't make me "heady," the energy of the participants and presenters elevated my thoughts about writing and about being a writer.

    The faculty and participants were diverse and generous. "We are writers. We work in a solitary setting. We need to come together." (John Dufresne) This was the culture of the conference. The mix of small group workshops, faculty panels, and readings. There were repeat participants and newbies like me.  Local writers and out of state participants made the atmosphere electric with enthusiasm and energy. Here were artists from multi-genres of prose and poetry. Writers with multi-skill levels opening their minds and sharing experiences to help each others.

    Those of you who know me know I am not shy or fearful of a new experience. But, I never have read my work in public, well not outside a classroom and certainly not in front of a group of experienced writers.  There I was, sitting in the lobby, preparing my work when the lovely woman who checked in at the same time as I asked, "Are you choosing something for your reading?"

    I raised my head and in my shock at someone even asking me about the idea of doing my very first reading in front of this audience, I softly said, "A reading?  I've never done one. I don't have anything to read."

    "What do you call that on your lap?" She said pointing to a page from my novel. "Pick an exciting page. Sign up for some coaching. You must read.  Everyone must share." Then she sat down and gave me her philosophy on readings and encouraged me. I still was very nervous when I did my reading, but my coach was excellent. I learned that a reading was more than reading the words you wrote. I learned to edit for a reading and much more.

    How did my reading go? Well, I got very good reviews and some great tips on how to do a better job at my next reading.

    This was only one of the many supported big and little actions of new and veteran attendees. The presenters were unbelievable. They called us "fellow artists" and treated us like colleagues. They encouraged us not to see "writing as an aside of our life, but as something that is a part of life, a seamless part of our life." (Michael Mertone).

    The faculty included:
    Katharine Coles:
    •  poet, novelist, and editor  
    • earned her BA at the University of Washington, her MA at the University of Houston, and her PhD at the University of Utah'
    • Awards and honors are a PEN New Writer’s Award, a 2012 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, and a term as Utah’s poet laureate
    •  The Earth is Not Flat, Coles’ fifth collection of poems is available from Red Hen Press in March 2013.

     John Dufresne:
    • graduate of Worcester State College and the University of Arkansas. 
    • author of short stories, novels, plays, and screenplays. 
    • teaches in the MFA program at Florida International University in Miami. 
    • awarded  a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in 2012
    Michael Martone: 
    • attended Butler University, graduated from Indiana University, an MA from The Writing Seminars of The Johns Hopkins University
    • professor at the University of Alabama
    • won two Fellowships from the NEA, a grant from the Ingram Merrill Foundation
    • his stories and essays have been cited in the Pushcart Prize, The Best American Stories and The Best American Essays anthologies
    Christopher Merrill:
    • published four collections of poetry, five books of nonfiction,  his articles have appeared in many publications
    • directs the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa
    • serves on the US National Commission for UNESCO
    • conducted cultural diplomacy missions in over 30 countries
    • appointed to the National Council on the Humanities by President Obama in 2012 
     If I haven't mention it already, the staff at Alta Lodge was incredible. The service, food, and accommodations fostered the sense of community.  This was the most personal experience I have had in stretching my skills and calling upon my muse since my graduate days.  Thank you Writers@Work for giving me the boost and fuel until the next conference. 

    Monday, June 10, 2013

    June: Father's Day

     There are more than 70 million fathers in the United States.


    While researching this celebration for a kernel of new information on Father's Day, it was surprising to find out that a  good portion of the world does have some type of day set aside to spend time with dad and honor him with gifts. Many countries celebrate Father's Day in connection with a religious event and even honor godfathers.

    The United States was slow to make Father's Day an official holiday. The first Father's Day celebration was cited to be orginated in by Sonora Smart Dodd in Spokane, Washington in 1910. She asked her minister to honor fathers because her  father, William Jackson Smart, was a single parent. She wanted him to be treated equally as mothers.

     Woodrow Wilson went to Spokane to speak at a Father's Day celebration in 1916. When he returned to D.C.,  he wanted to make Father's Day an official holiday.  Congress stop him. They argued that declaring Father's Day an U.S. holiday would only add to commercialization.

    Forty years later, Margaret Chase Smith wrote that Congress was errant by not honoring fathers. She accused them of singling out only one parent [mother] and completely ignoring the role and importance of fathers.

     Lyndon Johnson move further than any president in 1966 by getting a Joint Resolution or Congress to honor fathers on the third Sunday of June.  Dads finally got their national holiday in 1972 when Richard Nixon signed the law making Father's Day a national holiday occuring on the third Sunday in June.  

    After going through multiple sights, the history of Father's Day is pretty much like the paragraphs above. The objective of the holiday is to strengthen bonds between a child and his or her father. Make sure your dad knows you appreciate him. If you don't have a dad, hug the man who is your "go to guy."