Thursday, April 30, 2015

No More One & Done...How to Republish Your Work

This is an interesting topic and a wonderful blog post:  “The Benefits of Republishing Your Work,” written by Kelly Martineau:

One particular thing for which I look, thanks to the advice of poet Denise Calvetti Michaels, is ways to republish or repurpose my essays. Why? Republication naturally occurs for more established writers as their work is reprinted in anthologies, writing guides, and textbooks. However, submitting for republication is great strategy for writers early in their career with a small body of finished work because it enables you to leverage that work for maximum outcome. Not only will you gain a publication credit and exposure to new readers, you may also garner payment, an award, or a unique benefit like a reading, a meeting with an editor, or participation in a juried workshop.

I’m not just making admiring sounds because my online journal Redux is mentioned in the piece as a place that accepts (exclusively) previously published literary work (open reading period coming this summer!), nor because I’m quoted in Kelly’s post…but because she’s absolutely right: Try to maximize the ripples of your wonderful work! Don’t just assume that once it’s published it can never see the light of day! I’m also thinking of blog posts about more universal topics, that might be repurposed as republished (though you must be upfront that the piece first appeared on a blog).

Read the rest for a list of places that will consider previously published pieces:

And here is Kelly’s stunning essay “Bounty and Burden,” that appeared first in Quiddity, and then in Redux (which, I believe, means this is a repurposed republishing of a republished piece, or something like that, haha), and which may be on its way to somewhere else!

HungerIn those days, when my parents were still married and we lived in the white colonial on a tree-lined street, I began curling my shoulders forward, wrapping my body so that my chest sagged and became a hollow.  Once, when I was four, I wore a candy necklace—an elastic round punctuated by pastel beads that I could crack with my baby teeth.  My father’s best friend bought the necklace at the grocery when he and my father escaped from their wives long enough to buy more beer on a muggy Saturday afternoon.  Long after the candy was gone, the adults still emptied the cans….

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Tim O'Brien: "What is relevant is the human heart"

I’m doing some research and came upon this speech given by Tim O’Brien in 1999 at Brown University, in which he offers some relevant tips for writing and shares his thoughts on why stories matter. After telling an eloquent and gripping tale of the events that followed in the summer after he got his draft notice (found in a different form in The Things They Carried), he noted:

“…Now, what I have told you is, is a war story. War stories aren't always about war, per se. They aren't about bombs and bullets and military maneuvers. They aren't about tactics, they aren't about foxholes and canteens. War stories, like any good story, is finally about the human heart. About the choices we make, or fail to make. The forfeitures in our lives. Stories are to console and to inspire and to help us heal. Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can't remember how you got from where you were to where you are. And a good war story, in my opinion, is a story that strikes you as important, not for war content, but for its heart content.

 “The second reason I told you this story is that none of it's true. Or very little of it. It's - invented. No Ellroy, no Tip-Top Lodge, no pig factory, I'm trying to think of what else. I've never been to the Rainy River in my life. Uh, not even close to it. I haven't been within two hundred miles of the place. No boats. But, although the story I invented, it's still true, which is what fiction is all about. Uh, if I were to tell you the literal truth of what happened to me in the summer of nineteen sixty-eight, all I could tell you was that I played golf, and I worried about getting drafted. But that's a crappy story. Isn't it? It doesn't - it doesn't open any door to what I was feeling in the summer of nineteen sixty-eight. That's what fiction is for. It's for getting at the truth when the truth isn't sufficient for the truth. The pig factory is there for those dreams of slaughter - they were quite real inside of me. And in my own heart, I was certainly on that rainy river, trying to decide what to do, whether to go to the war or not go to it, say no or say yes. The story is still true, even though on one level it's not; it's made up. 

“The point was not to pull a fast one, any more than, you know, Mark Twain is trying to pull a fast one in Huckleberry Finn. Stories make you believe, that's what dialogue is for, that's what plot is for, and character. It's there to make you believe it as you're reading it. You don't read Huckleberry Finn saying "This never happened, this never happened, this never happened, this never happened-" I mean, you don't do that, or go to The Godfather and say, you know, no horse head. I mean, you don't think that way; you believe. A verisimilitude and truth in that literal sense, to me, is ultimately irrelevant. What is relevant is the human heart.….”

There are any number of interviews with Tim O’Brien all over the internet, but this one, because it was transcribed from his talk, sounds to me the most like I remember him from the several times I encountered him and studied with him at various writers’ conferences. I recommend reading this talk (even with its poor font and formatting!), or, better yet, listening to the accompanying audio.

The man is a genius and is one of the greatest influences on my writing life and that’s the true truth.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Getting Inspired in Arkansas!

I am at a writing residency in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, for the next three-ish weeks, and I’ve organized my notes and sorted them into piles and made a list and paper-clipped tiny notecards and…after lunch it will be time to actually dive in and write.

So how lucky that I came across this very inspiring article by Matthew Weiner, the creator of “Mad Men,” one of my favorite TV shows, about his long, hard road to getting the show on the air:

Read it, and get busy!

P.S. Here’s where I am, the Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow:

P.P.S. Here’s my writing area!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Social Media for Writers...Again!

 This timely article about writing and social media has been getting a lot of play today in my writer-world of Facebook, so I thought I’d share it over here:

"…So if you're a writer who worries as much as I do about online marketing, the best advice I can give you is to chill out and write the next book. To focus your energy on the one thing that's in your control: writing the best book you possibly can. Focus on editing each sentence to make it sing. Focus on helping your publisher craft a great hook and fabulous cover copy. 

"Spend your energy and time being kind to your colleagues, thanking your publishing team, and making new friends with no expectation that you will eventually use them to claw your way to the top. Before you Friend another writer on Facebook, make sure it's because you legitimately want to know them better and be part of their life and not because you're planning on sending them an Event invitation or a link to your book. If they're smart enough to write a great book, they're smart enough to see through that ploy…."

I couldn’t agree more! I learned from my days working at the Arlington Chamber of Commerce that sales is all about PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS, not banging people on the head with a hammer or your brand/product.  Your customers—readers—do not view themselves as a nameless mass but as individuals. Treat them that way…and please be loyal to those who do likewise to you.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Where I'll Be at AWP

Things are shutting down here for a few days as I head off to AWP, the annual writer convention that attracts nearly 13,000 writers (and, apparently, $28 million for the host city which is Minneapolis…how much of that $$ is spent at bars, I wonder?).

If you’ll be at AWP, you can find me:
--trolling the bookfair
--wandering the bar/s
--squeezed into panels
--conversing wildly in a corridor
--at the end of a long line, glaring angrily at random people ahead of me
--selfie-ing at the Mary Tyler Moore statue
--headed to the secret bathroom no one else knows about on the convention floor that I locate first thing
--peering at nametags, too vain to wear my glasses
--lugging a totebag jammed with books and journals and stickers
--targeting the bookfair booths that are serving bourbon
--squirting Purell on my hands two seconds after shaking hands with the coughing poet
--splitting a check 15 ways at lunch
--all in all, having an amazing and amazingly overwhelming time of it!

And, reading at the following off-site (but not distant!) events:

Friday, April 10
11:30am - 6:00pm
Minneapolis Convention Center: Room M101BC
[below ground level]

The Third Annual HEAT Reading, HEAT: Hotter Than Hell, will take place at the Minneapolis Convention Center in Room M101BC (1st Floor). It is a free, fiery offsite event MC-ed by the fantabulous Antonia Crane. Indulge in our cash bar. Make your $5 contribution to VIDA (if you can). Win gift certificates to Powell's you can use online.

The Breakdown:

Leslie Pietrzyk
Anna Leahy
Ben Tanzer
Janée J. Baugher
Robin E. Black
Bonnie West
Jane Neathery Cutler


April 10, 2015
6:30 PM ~ 8:00 PM
Sponsored by The Sun Magazine
Open to the public
Minneapolis Central Library
Pohlad Hall
300 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, MN
[10 mins from the convention center, via free public transportation]

Sy Safransky
Krista Bremer
Joe Wilkins
Leslie Pietrzyk

Thursday, April 2, 2015

What's in a Name?

My husband was reading a draft synopsis of my novel-in-progress and he made many helpful suggestions. But one of his questions was, “Why is the character named X?” (I’m not using the real name…I’m not Kafka, naming people after letters…not that there’s anything wrong with that!) He didn’t think the name sounded appropriate to the time period.

I hadn’t expected this question, and yet: I was able to explain that I had looked up the 50 most popular baby names in the United States for the year this character was born and this name was on this list, not in the top ten (which I also consulted), but somewhere in the 30s.  I explained that I wanted this character to have a name that would be a little bit unusual for this time period, but not too odd.  I wanted her name to be a nickname that was slightly gender-ambiguous, a name that perhaps she had given herself to set herself apart from the name her parents had given her.  I wanted a name that was one syllable, that had a chopped-off sound without sounding harsh.

I explained all this just off the cuff, without having thought about this name for at least a year.  After that conversation, I knew that the name was exactly right—not FOR those reasons, but because I HAD all those reasons.  I had thought it all through early on, and the name wasn’t randomly chosen. 

Please don’t chose names at random! I hate when I’m reading the work of a beginning writer and a twentysomething man in New York in contemporary times is named Bob. I mean, it’s not impossible, of course…but it just sounds like a random name for that time and place.  Wouldn’t Noah be more likely?  Or Jason?  Or Adam?  Or when everyone’s names sounds sort of the same: Linda is the grandmother, and Lisa is the mother, and Carol is the grandchild. Those three names all sound like they come from the same generation.

And if I haven’t persuaded you, let’s go to the master, John Gardner, from The Art of Fiction:

“Subtle details change characters’ lives in ways too complex for the conscious mind to grasp, though we nevertheless grasp them.  Thus plot not only changes but creates character: By our actions we discover what we really believe and, simultaneously, reveal ourselves to others. And setting influences both character and plot:  One cannot do in a thunderstorm what one does on a hot day in Jordan.  (One’s camel slips, or, from homesickness, refuses to budge; so the assassin goes uncaught, the President is shot, the world again is plunged into war.)  As in the universe every atom has an effect, however minuscule, on every other atom, so that to pinch the fabric of Time and Space at any point is to shake the whole length and breadth of it, so in fiction every element has effect on every other, so that to change a character’s name from Jane to Cynthia is to make the fictional ground shudder under her feet.”

My emphasis. 

P.S. The name I chose is Jess. I also happen to like names that begin with J, but we don't need to mention that to my husband!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Baseball Fans Can Spell

The Grammerly team reviewed the most recent news articles posted to the fan websites of top sports organizations then collected 150 of the most recent reader comments on these articles and assessed them for spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Among the findings:

Spelling in Sports? It’s Hit or Miss
  • Baseball fans are nearly batting a thousand when it comes to spelling, with only 1.6 mistakes per 100 words.
  • Wrestling fans are the worst spellers. An average of 9.2 mistakes per 100 words puts them down for the count.

With Opening Day fast-approaching, I’m so proud to see that baseball fans are looking literate! (I’m also rather proud of hockey fans, who come in second.)

Read more about the Grammarly findings: [OOPS...THEY MADE ME REMOVE THE LINK FOR SOME REASON...SORRY!]

(Is it any surprise that cricket fans are among the chattiest, given how long those matches or games or pitches or wickets or whatever they are last?)


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.