Just loving something seems so impractical. I cannot see the absolutely clear line between love and my own survival, between love and those numbers in my bank account.
The truth of human experience is that everything feels like something.
If you ask those friends or strangers, “How do I get home?” they will begin describing the route they know to the home they know.
Performance demands you be in the present moment.
I always tried to meet people where we agreed, which isn’t so hard when you don’t focus solving the problems of the world.
If my mind isn’t busy with what’s going on around me, then what’s been on my mind quickly surfaces.
The storyteller is in this way reassembling what time and the imagination have fractured.
Making money is a lot like a game we are all made to play.
If I was relaxed, curious, and trusting, not only did good stuff come to me, but I could confidently tell if I was starting to stray off course.
Belief is not complicated or difficult. It is the act of accepting what you already value.
Author Editor-in-Chief Bill Kenower reflects on some recent interviews and what he learned from these fabulous authors about the journey every writer takes. Featuring Elizabeth Rose-Stanton, Andre Dubus III, Graeme Simsion, Willy Vlautin, and R. L. Stine.
Nicole J. Persun is an author, writing coach, and horse caretaker. Her epic fantasy novel, Dead of Knight, won a Foreword Magazine Book of the Year Award in 2013. Her debut women’s fiction novel, The Ingredients of Us, written under the pen name Jennifer Gold, will be released on July 1, 2019; look for her next women’s fiction title in early 2020. Nicole has a master’s degree in creative writing and is a board member of the Pacific Northwest Writers’ Association. When she’s not writing, Nicole can be found spending time with her husband, horses, and two cats. To learn more about her latest work, go to jennifergoldauthor.com.
Erica Bauermeister is the bestselling author of four novels, including The Scent Keeper and The School of Essential Ingredients. She is also the co-author of two non-fiction works: 500 Great Books by Women and Let’s Hear It for the Girls. A founding member of the Seattle7Writers, she currently lives in Port Townsend, WA.
John Lanchester is the author of five novels, The Debt to Pleasure, The Capital, Mr. Philips, Fragrant Harbor, and The Wall, as well as three books of non-fiction, including his memoir Family Romance: A Love Story. He is a regular contributor to The New Yorker and was awarded the 2008 E.M. Forster Award.
Maureen McQuerry was the McAuliffe Fellow for WA State in 2000. She is a poet, novelist and teacher, and enjoys presenting to students and adults. Maureen works with teachers to tailor workshops to specific writing goals. She is also a frequent presenter at writing conferences. Here latest novel is Between Before and After.
Mary Cronk Farrell is an award-winning author of Children's/YA books and former journalist with a passion for stories about people facing great adversity with courage. Her books have been named Notable Social Studies Book for Young People, SPUR Award for Best Juvenile Fiction about the American West, Bank Street College List of Best Children's Books, and NY Public Library Best Books for Teens. Her journalistic work has received numerous awards for excellence from the Society of Professional Journalists and two Emmy nominations.
Gail Carriger writes comedies of manners mixed with paranormal romance (and the sexy San Andreas Shifter series as G L Carriger). Her books include the Parasol Protectorate, Custard Protocol, and Supernatural Society series for adults, and the Finishing School series for young adults. She is published in many languages and has over a dozen NYT bestsellers. She was once an archaeologist and is fond of shoes, octopuses, and tea.
Sheila Bender is a poet, essayist, memoirist, and sought-after writing teacher. She has published over a dozen books on the craft of writing, as well as the memoir A New Theology: Turning to Poetry in a Time of Grief, and the poetry collection Behind Us The Way Grows Wider: Collected Poems 1980 - 2013. She’s taught at colleges, universities and community centers as well as presented at national writers’ programs, conferences and festivals, including the Mendocino Coast Writers’ Conference, Centrum Writer’s Conference, The Whidbey Island Writer’s Conference and low-residency MFA program, the University of Dayton`s Erma Bombeck Conference, the San Francisco Jack London Writer`s Conference, the Conference on College Composition and Communication, the Society of Southwest Authors’ Conference, Field’s End, and Edmond’s Write on the Sound.
Dori Hillestad Butler is a chapter book series and mystery author who is eager to share her love of story with readers of all ages. She’s written magazine stories, educational materials, plays, book reviews, characters for a board game, and by the end of 2019 she will have published 54 books for kids, including 10 that were “ghostwritten.” She’s been nominated for children’s choice awards in 19 different states, her King & Kayla and the Case of the Missing Dog Treats was named a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor book in 2018, and her Buddy Files: Case of the Lost Boy won the 2011 Edgar Award for the best juvenile mystery published in 2010.
Cat Rambo is science fiction and fantasy writer and editor. She was co-editor of Fantasy Magazine from 2007 to 2011, which earned her a 2012 World Fantasy Special Award nomination. Her short stories have appeared in such places as Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine and Tor.com. In 2012, her story "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain" was a Nebula Award finalist. Her first novel, Beasts of Tabat, was published in 2015; the second in that quartet, Beasts of Tabat, was published in 2018. She is also the author of Moving From Idea to Finished Draft.
My father died recently. He was eighty-five years old and died in his sleep. When we arrived at his house, the police officer told us we could look at the body if we wished. The emergency care workers had laid it on the floor in his bedroom. After some time, I walked up the steps and peered in from the doorway. There it was – covered with a sheet – and the first thing I thought was how very small his body was – much too small to have housed him.
All that intelligence; he was an idea-, word-, movie-, book-loving, writing, teaching, leading director of all sorts with an unrelenting persistence and stubbornness. Everything I knew about my father, which was certainly not his totality, must have streamed through his physical self but couldn’t have been contained in it.
It made me think of neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor’s 2008 TED Talk in which she describes suffering a hemorrhage in the left hemisphere of her brain. Her language-centers, memory, and logic gradually went “offline.” She describes being unable to define the boundaries of her body – seemingly blending molecularly with her environment and losing her personal identity. She says she knew a great peacefulness. “I felt enormous and expansive, like a genie liberated from her bottle . . .. I remember thinking there’s no way I would ever be able to squeeze the enormousness of myself back inside this tiny, little body.”
Freelancing is often described as a constant hustle. It can be, but it doesn’t have to be a struggle. By finding ways to make your work go further, you’ll save time and make more money. You may even recharge your freelancing career.
Here are four ways to turn your pitches and posts into money-makers.
1. Pull New Ideas from Each Original Pitch
From every post idea, create at least five others. This is idea generation at its easiest. Instead of scrambling to find completely new topics to write about, simply take your pitch and make a list.
For example, a post about inexpensive places to eat while vacationing in Barbados could inspire these topics:
Great places to eat with your kids in Barbados (a parenting blog)
How to throw an island wedding bachelorette party on the cheap (a bridal blog)
How to find appropriate meals and snacks on vacation if you have diabetes (a health magazine’s front-of-book section)
Caribbean getaway deals for long weekends (an in-flight magazine)
How to find authentic, but inexpensive, souvenirs made by local artisans (a travel guide for college students)
Another benefit of this tip is that your research is done. You’ll want to find another expert to talk to, but finding one should be much easier now that you’ve done preliminary research.
As this year’s PNWA conference rolls around, and as other wonderful writers’ conferences continue throughout the year, I think it is the perfect time to offer a refresher course on pitching to agents and editors. Over the years, as an editor, I’ve heard hundreds of pitches. Excellent ones, good ones, bad ones, and “please, please stop speaking” ones. Now, you don’t want to find yourself in that last category, so listen up, pitchers, and learn to be an ace so you can nail down a victory and avoid the standard bush league plays (yes, I’m on a baseball bender, so sue me).
So, what is a pitch? Well, it’s a short, face-to-face (ack!) meeting with an agent or editor, lasting around ten minutes. The pitch itself is your whittled-down book description, usually about three or four (sometimes five) lines. And you thought writing a synopsis was tough, eh? But how is this possible, you say? My book is so complex, so layered; I couldn’t possibly describe it in less than twenty sentences. Too bad, so sad, I say back to you. Remember that agents and editors have to pitch every single book they buy to their publishers, marketing team, publicists, fellow editors, book buyers, etc., so if you, the author, can’t hone it down, what chance do they have? And if agents and editors can write their own pitches for dozens of books each year, you can do it for one.
My mother was five years old, almost six, when she became so ill she was taken to the hospital in an ambulance; she had contracted polio. It would be another ten years, around 1953, before the vaccine would be made available. In the 1940’s and 50’s, polio was peaking and understandably there was a lot of fear of the risk of paralysis and possibly death. But my mom doesn’t remember being frightened or missing her parents while in the hospital during her quarantine. She felt cared for, she felt safe, and the effects of the polio eventually faded and her body recuperated. Her mother, on the other hand, suffered exhaustion for many months afterwards. The emotional toll had been great. My mother actually lived the experience; while her mother lived through a projection of what might happen – a projection that frightened her so much, it left her depleted.
When I was eight I was so frightened of school the only thing I wanted was not to feel so afraid any more. I locked myself in the bathroom, I hid, I even jumped out of a (slowly) moving car to try to escape going to school. One night I slept under my bed, on the wooden floor, without a blanket or pillow so the bed would appear unused and give the illusion I had left. At age five, my mother had a logical reason to be frightened – separated from her parents, in a hospital by herself. Objectively, at age eight, I did not. Yet I was terrified and she wasn’t. But my mother’s premise was that she was safe, her life was good, and people were taking care of her. I was operating from another premise.
The day has finally come (and if it hasn’t yet, just use your imagination for that special time in the future): you’ve found an agent you love – and more importantly, one who loves your book. Your knight or knightess in shining armor has successfully pitched your manuscript to an editor at a publishing house and you’ve been signed to a two-book deal. The world is your oyster! Now you can tell your cantankerous, idiotic boss to stuff it, put down a large deposit on a McMansion, and sail off into the published-author sunset, sipping champagne at your lavish book party and city-hopping around the globe during your book tour.
Hold up, wait a minute, let us put some reality in it.
There’s a reason that “own voices” fiction is such a prevalent trend in literature right now: people want to see stories and characters from a variety of backgrounds, cultures, and experiences. Of course, authors should always tread carefully when writing about characters from backgrounds other than their own – but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done!
On the contrary, authors can and should include diverse characters in their works. Making them well-rounded and realistic is just a matter of following the right process. With that in mind, here are four crucial tips on how to make your characters realistically diverse.
1. Conduct thorough research before you start
This one should be pretty obvious, but it’s worth stating for the record: unless you are writing about a minority character based on your own experience within that group, it’s critical that you do some research before you start.
I was watching The Tonight Show, and Jimmy Fallon was playing a game in which he and his guest took turns reaching inside a box through slots. The box had one open side that faced the audience so everyone knew its contents except the one playing. As the game began, instinctively the participants’ minds went on the lookout for evidence of danger, attempting to keep themselves safe. Whenever they came in contact with the unknown objects (Peeps marshmallow bunnies, cinnamon rolls, earthworms, a frog), they overreacted and jumped back, certain it was something undesirable. The game was fun to watch, but in day-to-day life, the process of negatively projecting, avoiding the unknown, and fearing what might happen is tiring at best, crippling at worst. When our internal stories are about possible threats, then taking another step, going forward with a project, relationship, or a move of any kind can be frightening, even painful – because expectation and projection affect us so greatly.
In an article I read on pain science, the author included documentation of a builder who had jumped down onto a 15 centimeters-long nail. Any movement of his foot was so painful, that in order to be treated he had to be completely sedated. Once tended, they found the nail had not entered his foot at all; it had gone between his toes. His foot was completely unharmed. But he had been in excruciating pain. The pain was real, but it was also incorrectly informed.
It can get confusing out there in Publishing Land – so many options, so little time – unless, of course, your compelling novel is about some Girl/Wife/Woman that is Gone/Alone/Lost; a book that is easily marketed within an established, profitable niche by a large, successful, traditional publishing house. But if this does not describe your project – or heck, if it does, but you want to keep all of your spoils and you’re incredibly good at establishing your own marketing, publicity, and a large audience – then you might want to know your options when it comes to publishing. What’s the difference anyway between the Big Five publishers, mid-size and large publishers, and small presses? And stop those same presses: what’s the difference between those and self-publishing? Most importantly, what’s the best option for you?
A bit of background: the Big Five publishing houses are HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, Macmillan, and Penguin/Random House – all based in New York City. Many authors have the goal of being published by one of these five houses, and it’s a fine aspiration; after all, they have money, distribution, power, and prestige. That means you’ll earn a higher advance, get into the big bookstores, have a better chance of reviews, acquire a large print run, and have experienced marketing, art, sales, and publicity teams working for you. Pretty sweet deal, huh? And all you have to do is write an engaging enough book (usually with mainstream appeal) to catch a top-notch agent’s eye, and then get those houses into a bidding war over your groundbreaking tome. Easy peasy! However, on the downside, you might get lost on the huge list of a giant publisher and your publishing pairing might seem less of a supportive, two-way partnership than a mega, hands-off business transaction.
I recently received a book called The Opposite Is Also True: A Journal of Creative Wisdom for Artists. I am a sucker for books with quotes and pithy bits of information that can help expand my creative life. I spend an unholy amount of time on BrainyQuotes, finding inspiration for my students. But The Opposite Is Also True was different. The book consisted of a series of facing pages, each pair suggesting opposing theories or activities to help guide your artistic practice – plan a studio/write anywhere, do one thing well/have a range of talents, find a tribe/ignore everyone. The goal is to help you see both sides of each issue and recognize what sparks your creativity.
This could have been a frustrating book. It was tempting to sit back and say “Is there NO one way? You’re the expert; tell me what to do.” And yet, that is exactly the point. I’ve taught writing classes for decades, and been a writer for even longer, and I can tell you that what works for one writer generally will not work for the next (this also applies to readers, which is a marvelous balm for the ego when someone doesn’t like your work). Some authors write in the morning, others while drunk. Some need solitude; others need noise. I have a friend who writes 90-page outlines. My first three novels were written as they came, sets of stories that connected as they grew.
I was lying in bed the other night unable to sleep. My right leg was aching so intently I couldn’t seem to pull my attention from it. I had injured a muscle, hadn’t realized it was much of anything, but gradually discovered it was something. My leg seemed to want to move, yet any attempt at movement increased the pain. After two hours of trying to fall back to sleep, I decided to get up. Supporting my troubled leg, I hoisted it out of bed, placed it gently on the floor and hobbled from the bedroom, giving into to both the insomnia and the discomfort. The next day, I whined and limped, angry I’d somehow done this to myself, and angry at the condition for getting in my way.
After a couple days spent shaking my fists at the gods as both my mobility and frame of mind became increasingly compromised, I realized I had to give up. Not give up on getting better – give up on fighting. I was mentally flailing, unwilling to give myself a moment’s peace. I needed to stop. In order to allow my body to restore itself, I had to stop interfering; and I came to understand that my mental resistance was the interference.
Free Writers conference and more
Tom Rob Smith, Jamie Ford, Nicola Griffith, Jussi Adler-Olsen, and Stella Cameron on why stories matter.
Ingrid Ricks, Theo Pauline Nestor, Katie Hafner, and Gregory Martin discuss the challenges of writing memoir.
How writing saved the live of Andres Dubus III, Gary Zukav, and Deb Caletti.
Lessons learned from the writing life, featuring Cheryl Strayed, Elizabeth George, Thirty Umrigar, Deb Caletti, and more . . .
Advice and inspiration from Wally Lamb, Clive Clussler, Lee Child, Stephanie Kallos, and more.
Inspiring advice from Sir Ken Robinson, Yann Martel, Gary Zukav, Andre Dubus III, and more.