Saturday, June 12, 2010

Changing my routine

I'm thinking seriously about changing my routine. For 15 or 16 years, I've written a long journal entry each morning. I get up, use the bathroom, feed the cats, and sit down to a cup of tea and write 3-4 "morning pages" in the Julia Cameron tradition. I use it to ground my day, empty out the trivia of the day before, come to grips with my dreams, record the early morning impressions of weather and health, put down any more emotional or intellectual musings. It is a form of meditation. Then most days, I get dressed and go to the gym, or take a shower and head into my work day.

No matter what my schedule, no matter how early I have to get up in order to have at least a half-hour of writing time, I do it. And now I'm thinking about rearranging things.

If you've been following my other blog, Sober Truths, you know that I'm on an adventure to reorient my relationship with food. And I'm wondering if I need to reorient my relationship with time and my activities as well. What if I wrote on my novel every morning for two hours before I went to the gym? What if I wrote my journal each night after dinner? Would it become an obligation instead of a joy? Is writing two blogs and a long journal entry daily writing enough for me as a writer? Would shaking up my schedule shake up my food habits as well?

I have almost complete control over my time and yet I feel hemmed in by obligations of my own making. I think there's something really central to this last idea. Something to mull over.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Use of a style guide

If you’re writing a non-fiction book, the discipline of your subject may dictate a style guide for formatting, such as APA, MLA, or Chicago. If you’re writing fiction, then it’s best to make some decisions about formatting issues either as you write or on your first big revision. If you have developed a style guide, you can give it to the editor you hire. It will save her time and your money.

Some style issues to consider:

1. Current publishing standards are using one space between sentences and one space after colons. If you prefer two, make a note.

2. The use of a comma before “and” in a series is controversial. Many editors and publishers have rules about this, but prepublication it is best to be consistent (i.e., use it always or never). Include your preference for always or never on your style guide.

3. Most publishers prefer an indented paragraph with no extra space between paragraphs.

4. Use standard 1-inch margins, 12-point type, and a standard font, such as Times New Roman, Courier, or Helvetica.

5. Use colons and semi-colons very sparingly in fiction and never in dialog. Use liberally and correctly in non-fiction.

6. Be sure periods and commas go inside quotation marks.

7. Decide on a consistent use of comma before introductory phrases and clauses (those that appear before the main subject and verb in a sentence). Standard usage is a comma after any introductory clause and after phrases of four words or more. After he left, she went straight to bed. About noon on Friday, the answer came.

8. Use exclamation marks sparingly and never use more than one at a time.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The garage in Kellogg

I loved the creosote smell of the timbers that shored up
The dirt walls of the hillside.
The carton of frames of unsmiling children
1st grade, 1st grade, 2nd grade
The scrubbed, serious faces of 1921, 1922, 1923
The plain serious face of my young teacher grandmother
Off to the side
I loved th breakfront of mildewed books
Their clammy covers, the damp pages of poetry and prose
The stacks of the Evening News bundled in string
My editor grandfather's mouse-chewed archives
Two cardboard trunks, the sides soft and bowed,
A fringe of yellow lace caught in the closing
Carpet sweepers, rows of jars, a box of rusted lids
One small shoebox of report cards--names I did not know
"They didn't come that last day," my grandmother said.
A cradle, doll-size, a tattered blanket in blue, but no doll.
"That belonged to your mother." And I saw my mother
For the first time as a child, a child whose photo
Had not been taken, no birthday cakes flashed oto film
I went back to the carton of frames in search of her
Small face--1st grade, 2nd grade--I thought I saw
Aunt Roberta's round cheeks but I couldn't be sure.
No had written the anmes L to R on the back.

May 2010

Monday, June 7, 2010

Marketing my writing

I spent last Friday working on marketing my memoir. I published it in early 2008 myself after realizing that I did not want an agent or publisher to mess with the story that I had to tell. I was confident of my wriitng ability and happy with the cover art I'd chosen (a pastel I did several years earlier), a clever title, and a carefully edited manuscript. On average self-edited books sell under 25 copies; my book is approaching 900. I feel really good about that and think there may well be a wider interest in my book if I can get it out there. And to be honest, I've only made some efforts to do that.

Even more important to me, my original intent in publishing my stories was to be of help to other women and men who had struggled with addiction or recovery. In the United States alone, that's over 10 million people. I still want my book to make a big contribution.

My hope now is to find a publisher who would like to publish a second printing (or a second edition) and give it the PR push it needs. To that end, I've been talking about it at the Hazelden conferences I've been speaking at and have gotten a few referrals, one to an agent and two to publishers who might be interested.
That sets up warm leads and a foot in the door, and so it didn't seem all that difficult to write some letters and mail some books last Friday.

At the same time, though, my first novel, which is finished, is waiting for me to give it some marketing attention. No warm leads there, just the daunting list of agents and their individual requirements (email for some, snail mail for others, first chapter for some, 50 pages for others, 1-page synopsis for some, 2-page synopsis for others. There's plenty of busy work but it makes me tired just to think of it.

What might be more helpful would be to think of it as a game, one worth playing. Again, as I mentioned last week, I need to stop being in perfectionism and just do what I can do and send them out. Not quite sure why that's so hard.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Ode to the alphabet

When young, I took you up one by one
Huge pencil in tiny hand
Unraveling a mystery I did not know to marvel at.

So many of you, each shape hard to hold, hard to master
Long left, long right, small cross for A.

I knew nothing of your history, of twigs in dust, of sharp stone on earth.
My tablet not of clay but of pulpy wood.

Nine of you in my name, four all the same, so easy
As if the secret of life is repetition in straight line.