Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Anthology Collaboration – Editing

My collaborators – strangers – probably read my email about edit approval, shook their collective heads, and muttered, There’s one in every group. Hope she’s not going to be a problem.
And on my end, I was cringing a bit myself. There are only so many emojis you can use in an email to convey a light-hearted nature. Hey guys, I’m not a jerk. I’m just slightly anal about some issues. Editing being one.
I insisted on final approval of all edits. I didn’t insist immediately. I threw it out there, sort of. Then I felt a pat on the top of my head. Not literally, of course. But it was as if they were saying, Don’t worry. This guy knows what he’s doing. Understand that I’m writing this without looking back on months of emails. These are my impressions.
I had the feeling they didn’t take my request as seriously as I meant it. Well, later they did. But, not at first. They probably wondered why I would question Steve’s (you’ll meet him later and you’ll like him) qualifications and capability. But I wasn’t.
No, it was nothing like that. I’d been burned badly on edits. How badly, you ask? Well, two years after receiving my submission, a national magazine contacted me. They were going to run my story. No mention of edits. That should have been my first thought – instead of Holy Crap, they’re publishing my story… When I held the glossy edition and excitedly flipped to my byline, the changes they made left me breathless – not in a good way.
Another magazine decided my article was too long. Instead of contacting me, they arbitrarily cut out several paragraphs. I say arbitrarily because if they had read them first, they’d have realized that without these paragraphs much of what I wrote made no sense. Once it’s in print, there’s no fixing it.
Then there was the time I worked with an editor who refused to accept fragmented sentences. You can imagine how that ended.
And another time a publisher missed the last page of my work. The final paragraphs. They actually said they didn’t understand why I was so upset. So, trust me, there are reasons I insist on seeing the final manuscript draft.
On the other hand, good editing has saved me from some serious grammar gaffes amongst other unintended mistakes. Editing is a tedious but necessary job. In my opinion, the editor for this anthology (stay tuned for the title in a future blog) was conscientious and respectful. He knew his stuff, too.

Yes, indeed, a good editor is worth their weight in gold. What do you mean, that’s a cliché?

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Anthology Collaboration - Introduction

The email asked if I was interested in collaborating with four other authors on an anthology of short stories. I recognized the sender as an editor/publisher of an e-zine that had supported my work in the past. I assumed she threw my name into the mix. But I could be wrong.

Intrigued, I agreed to the reasonable monetary investment and I was in. I didn’t know the other authors but there were no formal – or informal – introductions. Like me, the others probably Googled their counterparts. Three of us are from Ontario Canada. Two reside in Wisconsin. Advantageous that our book will be actively promoted on both sides of the border. Was that the idea from the beginning? When I find out, I’ll let you know.

Without much preamble, the process began – send short stories in a variety of genres and we’ll choose from those. I wondered if they were looking for a theme in our offerings. I’m still not sure. Out of the seven stories I submitted, four were chosen for the anthology. They rejected two award-winning stories that I thought would be shoe-ins and chose three stories that had never been published. That pleased me. I’m not sure why.

When I read the other submissions, I was puzzled. With the possible exception of one author, I couldn’t find the common thread. Not for the first time, I wondered how we five were brought together. Our voices, styles, and stories are vastly different. This was becoming a very curious project. Extraordinary, but curious.

An eclectic mix of authors and stories. For me, the appeal is building. So is the excitement.
I’ll keep you posted.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

People Watching…er, Dog Watching at the Beach

I was sitting in the shade pondering and philosophizing when a golden retriever bounded onto the beach. He stopped and checked from left to right, then examined a piece of driftwood before he headed for the water. There he sat, water about shoulder high, his eyes fixed on the long stairway that led down to the shore.
Their voices carried. Soon a small family settled onto the sand and called out a greeting to their dog, Jack. He raced out of the water. Friendly and kind. I could see it in his body language. In the love shown by his family.
He padded back to the water and woofed. Patiently he waited. Then another woof. He was rewarded when a rock sailed through the air. Jack dove into the water and paddled. He swam directly to the spot where the rock sank. Then he turned and swam back. He swished his water-soaked tail and interrupted the conversation on the beach with another soft bark. Then another. A member of the family reached for a large smooth rock and tossed it overhand into the crystal water. Jack leaped and swam out. Barely a ripple could be seen when he got to the spot where the rock disappeared but he knew exactly when to stop and swim back to the shore. 
A most interesting game of (non)fetch. At one point, he picked up a large rock and deposited it next to their blanket. As if to remind them of the game, or perhaps he thought their supply of rocks had dwindled. After a time, he stopped woofing and they stopped throwing. 
He sat in the water. People watching, I suppose. He looked in my direction. I smiled. The same as I would smile at an adorable child. I have a soft spot for dogs and small kids. They melt my heart. 
He left the water and joined his family. They knew what was coming and braced themselves. “No, Jack. No one likes that.” He gave a little shake sending droplets of water over the group sitting on the sand. But I could tell he was holding back. Out of consideration or not wanting another scolding, I can’t be sure.
As they left the beach, Jack let them move on ahead. He sniffed the driftwood the same as he had when he arrived, looked back at the water, and then gave a mighty shake before trotting after them.
I’ve always loved people watching and now it seems dog watching is just as entertaining.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Best Part of Writing Fiction

The best part is making stuff up. To create something out of a figment that flits through your mind so fast that you squint to capture an image. Then take that image – and sometimes it’s just a feeling – and create characters and circumstance. That’s the most gratifying part of being a fiction writer. Exciting, too. It’s the part that pulls you into a zone where nothing else exists but your imagination. And if you’re lucky – and talented – you can pull the reader into that fictional world you created. Make it so real that they want to be friends with your characters and visit their hometown. Or (at this point my brow lifts and my mouth curves into a wicked smile), the reader will double-check the locks and sleep with a light on.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Einstein, right? I don’t think he was talking about writing fiction but it works for me.
When I was a kid, my love of reading took me away from reality. The escape turned me into a daydreamer. That wasn’t such a bad thing. Not for me. Not then. I was constantly scolded. Told to get my nose out of the book and get outside and play. Seriously? Today I still love reading but have learned that being outside at the same time with balmy air breezing my face and the sound of water lapping against a shoreline is the ultimate escape. No better place to read. No better place to write. Give me nature and a laptop. Leave me alone to explore the undiscovered. To make stuff up.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Road Trip of a Writer

It’s all about the journey, my friend said. No kidding.
I had no idea I was embarking on a huge adventure when my wild imagination leaped from the keyboard onto the screen.
 My destination was mapped out clearly in my mind. I would simply send my riveting (lol) novel away to a publisher, be discovered, and live happily ever after (sometimes clichés are the only way to go) in my writing nook pumping out bestsellers. (more laughter)
Actually, amidst the joy of writing I became overwhelmed with angst. Too many damn detours! It was no longer fun. Instead of following my own path, I had ventured onto the most popular roadway. A frenzy of frustration! Too much traffic. Angry congestion. Mistakes. The kind that made my confidence dwindle. I was lagging behind in the slow lane and just wanted to get off the road. And I tried. But the wanderlust was worse than the aggravation. So I merged back onto the highway.
Exhaling a deep breath, I settled in for a long ride. Some folks along the way gave me good writing advice, and others…well, let’s say it was the opposite. At that point, I couldn’t tell the difference. I followed it all like a dog chasing an old pick up.
Each road stop featured nurturing and inspiring people. Norma West Linder, Hope Morritt, and Peggy Fletcher are three of a multitude who gave me encouragement and hope when I was chugging along in first or second gear.
Mentors – too many to name – taught me to follow the speed limit and enjoy the sights. No rolling stops! And that it’s okay to get out and wander around when we need to work out the kinks. When we’re refreshed, hop back in, and rev up.

I accelerated into the passing lane. Getting stories published, winning a couple of contests, taking in a conference, and meeting some of my idols in the bestseller world. But the rules of the road say you can’t stay there forever. I moved to the middle lane. And loosened my grip on the wheel. What’s the hurry when there’s so much satisfaction and enjoyment en route.
It’s pleasurable being a part of the vibrant writing community. Being with others who share the passion! Penning a monthly magazine column and interacting with readers. Sharing fiction with critiquing buddies, socializing at writers’ dinners and events. Being exposed to, and appreciating, all types of literature. Developing a greater understanding of the publishing world. Learning! Learning! Learning! It’s what keeps the adrenalin pumping.
My enthusiasm is strong. My destination is still in focus. My years on the road have been good to me. The detours are filled with surprise and wonder that never cease to be.
Nothing thrilled – or humbled – me more than recently being appointed to the Board of Directors for the Lawrence House Centre for the Arts. The Board was included in the Mayor’s Honour List for 2016! It’s a privilege (thankfully I’m seldom intimidated) to be part of this hugely talented group supporting visual, literary, and performing arts in our city.

And so begins another side trip. One that will push me into overdrive and test my skills. The journey really is most important. After all, when you arrive at your destination, where else is there to go?

Monday, September 12, 2016

Remembering where I was on 9/11

Never before had I watched 'live' coverage of 9/11. Last night, I remained glued to the TV. My stomach was knotted with tension and tears fell. It felt as if it were just happening. Fifteen years ago, at the end of a day of sales calls, I was alone in a hotel room in Windsor unable to face the coverage of the tragedy. 
One appointment had been at the Duty Free Shop. It was surreal. This time I didn’t pull up to the fenced lot and ring a buzzer to be let in. I was instructed to drive right up front and give the customs officers my name. They knew I was coming. There were no lanes of traffic. The bridge was closed. I met with my contact, conducted business, and went back to my hotel. It had been an unsettling and unprofitable day. No one was in the mood to think of future sales…or future anything.
That morning, I was already on the road and flipping radio stations when I came across crazy Howard Stern. In the middle of his rhetoric, he asked someone to look out the window and see where all the black smoke was coming from. That’s when the other guy witnessed the second plane crashing into the tower. I thought it was a Stern hoax.
I changed stations again…and again, until I was convinced it was really happening. I called home and talked to my husband.
My next appointment was in Belle River. The owner had a small TV on the sales counter. We barely said anything. I watched the devastation for a few minutes and moved on to my next stop. I think it was a Timmie’s for coffee. I needed to sit in my car for a minute just thinking…trying to absorb what was going on. There was a Bell service guy leaving with a coffee at the same time. He spoke to me. That in itself was unusual. Strangers making conversation in a big city didn’t happen. He said that crazy as it sounded…and it didn’t…he had to drive past his kid’s school. Just see it. Make sure… No, it didn’t sound crazy at all. I had just got off the phone from calling my son at work. To lighten the moment, I teased that if he found himself at the Pearly Gates, Saint Peter might ask when he had called his mother last. He could be in trouble. We chuckled.

At the end of the day, when I checked in at my hotel, I discovered the restaurant had closed early. There were some fast food joints across the road. At any other time it would have been easier and faster to drive up the road a ways than try to get across. That night was different. I stood at the curb and stared at the vacant expanse of highway. Multiple lanes (5 or 6) were empty. No one. No cars. The eeriest feeling in the world. Windsor had turned into a ghost town. I walked across the lanes to an open Wendy’s, and then walked back without seeing any traffic. When I got to my room, I ate in quiet solitude, unable to turn on the TV, and wishing I were with family. The next day, I cleared my schedule and headed back home. It was no time to be alone. 

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Eccentric Recluse or Effervescent Extrovert

The summer is ending. I know because my granddaughters Sophie and Sadie are back in school.
Even though heat and humidity totally kill me, I’m entering the fall season reluctantly. As if I’m being dragged. My heels leaving furrows in the garden soil.
It’s been a summer of chaos and quiet. Friction and harmony. A re-kindling of old friendships and the pleasure of developing new ones. It’s been rewarding and sometimes annoying to be immersed in home and family without the escape my writing affords.
My monthly magazine column kept my toes in the water. And during a relaxing afternoon in my reading nook, the urge to write a story was too strong to dismiss. Words fell onto the pages of my notebook until the urgency passed. The End scrawled across the last line.
Over the last several months, I kept in touch with a few friends from the writing world but distanced myself from critique sessions, book launches, readings, etc.
I logged off Facebook. I was both bothered and relieved. The realizations that certain posts and comments created pressure and stress made me wonder if I’d ever sign on again. Was it worth it? Frustrated by hackers and the quirky glitches of Facebook, I felt as if I’d be better off ignoring this social media. Where would that leave me? Isolated. That’s what came to mind.
People can be cruel—even writers. GASP! At this age, one would think I’d be immune to bullying—but I’m not. Snide comments—even those directed to friends—deeply affect me.
My impatience and candor might be an affliction of an aging mind. But to be honest, I’ve always been so inclined.
My decision is to forgo the temptation to become an eccentric recluse. My calendar is filling up with meetings, dinners, luncheons, writing deadlines, and family commitments. Some of those self-induced obligations will bring pressure and anxiety. It’s unavoidable. I’m an all-or-nothing person. Succumbing to a secluded existence would mean just that. Existing. Surviving. Until death. Eerie thought.
Anywho, it’s unavoidable. I’ll deal with the pressure, anxiety, commitment—bullying…
And I can do it because I know you’re there. Fighting the same battle as we cheer each other on. Shouting encouragement. The support of colleagues and comrades as we leave behind the lazy days of summer (pardon the cliché) is appreciated by all, I believe.
Hose off the garden crocs, dust off the computer, and return to work.
Cheers to an upcoming season!