Some Assembly Required

I had a terribly busy week and now Friday is here before I even realized it. I did not have a post pre-planned, and it turns out I am too busy to write one today.

Starting last week, my husband and I have been busy building furniture for a redo of his home office. We have done this many times before but, of course, we are older now. It turns out that repeatedly getting up and down from the ground is pretty difficult and exhausting.

We finished the lateral file on our own, after having to wait for a new drawer rail but the thought of putting the 68-inch desk with seven drawers together was daunting. The boxes with all the components weighed over two hundred pounds.

Luckily, our younger one was able to come yesterday, and we got the desk together. The two pieces of furniture look nice, and I hope the hard labor it took to assemble them will fade, eventually,  from memory. I plan to never to do this again. In the future I will buy already assembled furniture or pay someone to assemble it.

New Year News, Belatedly

I have been late in posting my plans for the new year – a month late , in fact. My main, overriding goal for 2023 is to get a book contract. In my quest to achieve that, I decided to take a class on Submission that Writer’s Digest University was offering.

I thought the class could help me develop my book proposal, so it is more appealing.  One of the class exercises has been to find books that I could use as “comps”, comparable titles, to convince an agent or publisher that my book has marketability.

The teacher set criteria for our choices which were books published two years ago or earlier and having at least 5,000 ratings on Amazon. That ratings number seems astronomical to me since I have seven ratings for Brewing Battles. Don’t judge.

I did find three books that fit the teachers’ rules and when I revise my book proposal I plan to use them.  One is Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez. I am interested in this book because the misogyny that underpins scientific research is the same  misogyny the women I write about faced.

Aside from trying to get Dames, Dishes, and Degrees published, I plan to continue with my other activities – skating, swimming, recorder, and my  Jane Austen book club. I am also trying as hard as possible to stay away from Facebook and Twitter.

If it is not too late to offer, I wish everyone a happy, healthy, New Year!

 

 

Advice From My Inner Sage

Last Friday I attended a writing retreat sponsored by the Five College Women’s Studies Research Center. The first part of the retreat was a workshop led by Cathy Luna and Serin Houston. As part of the workshop, we did some free writing in response to a few different prompts. The prompt I used was “write a letter to yourself from your wisest inner sage.”

The prompt reminded me of a weekly exercise we did when I was either in 5th or 6th grade. Every week someone had to be the class monitor. At the end of the week, you had to produce minutes that detailed what had gone on during that time. When it was my turn to be monitor, I always tried to find interesting ways to present the minutes. One time I wrote them as if I was on the ceiling looking down. For the exercise last Friday, I wound up writing about publishing.

My wisest inner sage gave me advice about my book. She is positive it will get published. She assured me that there are a variety of ways this could happen. After I began writing, I realized I was about to do a hierarchy of publishing like my younger son Alan’s hierarchies of  M&M’s and French fries.

Here is my hierarchy:

The best outcome would be agent to publisher. This doesn’t seem that realistic, but it is something to strive for.

Next best would be securing a contract from a commercial publisher. This is really an outlier because I am unlikely to get a commercial press without an agent. However, if Cynren  would take it after I send them the second draft that would be a score. If I send it to Algora, the publishers of  Brewing Battles, that will also count as having achieved some degree of commercial success.

Third in line  would be Feminist Press. This is the press I always wanted to publish the book, but I recently found out that they are close to submissions at the current time, so it is a no go.

After Feminist Press would be  any academic press. I have queries and book proposals out to several of them, so we’ll see what happens with that.

The next to last in terms of desirability would be hybrid publication. I think my age gets in the way of my considering hybrid because it sounds like a vanity press to me. My Aunt Ruth’s friend Laura paid a press to publish her book about Shakespeare and politics. It is terrible looking with large font. It just doesn’t look like an actual book. I am afraid of getting scammed.

The last possibility in the hierarchy  would be self-publishing but that feels like a lot of work. I am going to talk to both Levelers Press which is local, and Off the Common which is their self-publishing division. It is my fervent wish that my wisest inner sage is correct, and my book is published.

I have written several other posts about publishing. One is recent, from last year. The other two are from  over ten years ago when I had published Brewing Battle and first started working on Dames, Dishes and Degrees. You can read them here and here.

 

Year in Review

In 2022, I completed a second draft of my manuscript, Dames, Dishes, and Degrees. I used NaNoWriMo and a revision class from PVWW to achieve this. Having accomplished that, I am not sure what to do next. I am still thinking about it.

Our house renovation finished in the spring, and I am enjoying the new space tremendously. We now park our car in our new garage which is great when it is raining, snowing, or very cold.  We have a lot more room and the laundry being upstairs is a big improvement,

I had 78 blog posts this year. Posting every day in July helped push that number up. As far as Twitter goes, before I stopped tweeting, I was on track to well exceed my rate of one tweet a day. As you know, I stopped tweeting and looking at Facebook about a month ago. I don’t miss Facebook at all, but I do miss Twitter. I particularly miss following Jackie Wong, Rocker Skating.

I also missed being able to comment on political events, tv commercials, and other topical  occurrences. I have been seeing a commercial that encourages tourism to Texas. The advertisement shows groups and families of diverse looking people  enjoying visiting the state. The problem I have with this commercial is that the policies of the state would actually preclude people of color, immigrants, Muslims, and other minorities form visiting Texas. Greg Abbott, the governor is behind the recent transporting of migrants, some dressed only in T shirt to Washington, D.C., depositing them at Kamala Harris’ official residence. I won’t go to Texas until these policies and the people who implement them are changed.

I did a lot of texting to help get the successful results of the midterm elections. I am dreading Republican rule of the house of Representatives, but it is only two years. Hopefully, their do-nothing obstructionist policies and their continuing fealty to Donald Trump will mean that in 2024, we hold the Presidency, regain control for the House and expand our lead in the Senate. A girl can hope.

Next week I will reveal my plans, such as they are, for 2023. Happy New Year!

To Tweet Or Not

On Sunday, after I learned that Elon Musk had reinstated Donald Trump. I started thinking more seriously about stopping my own presence on Twitter. Deactivation of my account seemed like an extreme move and I wasn’t ready for that yet. Instead, using the focus tools I have access to, I blocked Facebook and Twitter 24 hours every day except Friday. My plan is to continue posting about my blog on both sites.

My habit for the past few months has been to tweet my Wordle and Nerdle results every evening after I have played each game. On Sunday, after I completed Wordle in six tries, which is the maximum, I looked for another platform to post my results.

I thought I would try Instagram but it was beyond my technological abilities. While I was googling how to post on Instagram, I came across Charles Blow’s article about his experiences reducing his access to Twitter. Reading it confirmed my desire to disengage.

I am at the beginning of my journey to disentangle myself from social media. I plan to explore other ways besides Facebook and Twitter to promote my blog, Brewing Battles and, hopefully, a published Dames, Dishes, and Degrees. I will let you know what I come up with.

What to Write

Today is Wednesday and I am at Nerissa’s writing group. I have missed a bunch of meetings and it feels like I have been gone for much longer. I most often use this time to write a blog post, but I am at a loss of what to write.

From the third week of October to the beginning of November, we traveled. We arrived home on November 7th, the day before Election Day. I had so much anxiety about what was going to happen during the midterm elections, as well as worry about the relative I visited in Florida, and no sense of what I should do next on my book.

Although we have been home nine days, the first week back was a wash. I had a lot of trouble reintegrating myself into my daily existence despite being thrilled to be home. In Florida, where we spent 10 days no one wore masks, and it seemed like no one cared about COVID anymore. Once we got home, back to saner western Massachusetts, more people were wearing masks and seemed to realize that COVID hasn’t gone anywhere. A cruise ship that just embarked in Australia had eight hundred passengers with COVID.

So far, my husband and I have escaped getting COVID which is amazing. It feels like everyone is going to get it at some point. On the other hand, since my husband has asthma, I have tried extremely hard to protect and prevent us from getting the virus.

Before I left for Florida, I had finished a second draft of my manuscript. I also have a few queries and proposals to some publishers. I had originally intended to do NaNoWriMo when I returned from Florida, but now that I’m back I have decided not to. I didn’t work on the book at all the first week we were back, but two days ago I did start working on the introduction.

Introductions and conclusions – I haven’t written any conclusion yet- are the hardest parts of a book to write. The standard introduction to a nonfiction history book where the author tells you what is in every chapter doesn’t feel like the kind of introduction I want for my book. Having said that, I don’t really know what kind of introduction I do want

My plan is to continue to work on the introduction and then read aloud the eight chapters to see if they hold together as a book. In other words, if a reader finishes chapter one do they feel compelled to go to chapter two and so on. I am also going to try to send out more queries and book proposals in my, as of yet, never-ending attempt to get a publisher. As always, I will keep you posted about my progress.

Book Progress

I completed my second self-initiated NaNoWriMo today. It is a little confusing because I thought I was going to stop yesterday when I set up the counter in NaNoWriMo, but I worked two hours today. NaNoWriMo will not let me add the two hours without creating a new goal, so I am not going to bother.

I worked for twenty-one days out of the twenty-seven because I had to take a few days off for the Jewish holidays, some other activities, and a personal matter. I worked approximately ninety-eight minutes a day for a total of over thirty-four hours.

I now have a second draft of all the chapters except one. I hope to complete the revision on the first chapter by the end of this month. I am not going to start the official NaNoWriMo until Nov. 9th or 10th and then will work the remainder of November.

Next week I will be attending Skate America which is in Boston so I will not have a blog post Friday, Oct. 21st. Tune in again on Oct. 28th.

Reading Report

I had originally planned to do a post about my summer reading. Because I have been working so hard on Dames, Dishes, and Degrees and just posting about that, the blog about my reading kept getting postponed.

Now it is Fall so I have produced a new plan. I will just tell you about some of the twelve books I read  from the end of June until September 19. The book ranges from the ridiculous to the sublime. My brain is often so full of the manuscript and revisions that, in the evening, when I am trying to relax, I want to read unexacting books.

In that vein, I read a Hannah Swensen mystery, Christmas Cake Cupcake Murder by Joanne Fluke. The Hallmark movie series, Murder She Baked is based on the Fluke books.

As you may remember, a while ago, I watched all of Murder She Wrote with Angela Lansbury. There have been almost sixty spinoff novels that the series inspired. I read Skating on Thin Ice by Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain. Obviously, I picked that one because it was about skating.

I also read Maggie’s California Diaries by Ann M Martin. It is about characters from the babysitter’s club series. These three books were all easy reads and there was nothing unpleasant to think about.

I also read several nonfiction books which were ostensibly more serious and maybe more taxing. Three of them –  They Called Us Girls; Stories of Female Ambition from Suffrage to Mad Men by Kathleen Courtenay Stone, All Stirred Up: Suffrage Cookbooks, Food and the Battle for Women’s Right to Vote  by Laura Kumin and Educated American Women: Self Portraits by Eli Ginzburg and Alice M. Yohalem.

I read these books for insight into how to organize my manuscript into a publishable book.  They Called Us Girls and Educated  American Women were okay. All Stirred Up was terrible. It was a mishmash of recipes and rehashed history. Reading these three books was not that helpful an exercise, so I   have put on hold reading more books for that purpose.

My favorite book from this reading journey was Small Marvels: Stories by Scott Russell Sanders. I loved this book. The writing was particularly good,  and the author conveyed the humanity of the characters beautifully. Both funny and sad, Small Marvels shows that ordinary people can do extraordinary things by the relationships they have and what they do for and with the people in their lives. I could have kept reading more about Gordon Mills and his family. I was sorry when it ended.

28 Days of NaNoWriMo Done

I did it. I completed 28 days of my self-initiated NaNoWriMo. I worked every day from August 14 to today, September 10. This last week I worked a total of 1,351 minutes or almost 23 hours which is over three hours a day. For the 28 days I did a total of 3,498 minutes or over 2 hours a day.

The 28 days were very productive as I produced several organizational schemes and finally have settled on one. I have completed a full second draft of two chapters and I am well on my way with a My process is the one I described in Second Week Progress Report.

I plan to continue with this process for the remaining chapters. I have accepted that this is a lengthy process, and I am giving myself until the end of December to complete turning the first draft into a second one.

Although there were days I dreaded going to work and procrastinated about it, the structure that I set up ultimately provided the motivation for me to start working each day. Because the NaNoWriMo structure works so well for me, I plan to continue to use it.

My idea, going forward is to take a few days off and then start another NaNoWriMo, starting September 19 and ending October 15. Because the Jewish holidays will occur during that period, I am going to build in a few days off. The total working time will be 22 days.Since I won’t be posting every day on NaNoWriMo, there are some badges I will not get but I don’t care. I am using it for me and I have to adjust the process to meet my needs.

Although tweeting every day both in July and for this 28-day period has boosted my twitter numbers, for the next round I don’t think I will do that. I also plan to go back to posting  about other things besides my book and NaNoWriMo. My first post of that kind will be on September 23. Thanks for sticking with me on this journey.

Second Week Progress Report

I have now completed 13 days of my latest NaNoWriMo process this past week. I continued working on my book proposal. One of the presses wants sample chapters so I turned my attention to revising the two I want to send.

I read the chapter aloud, recording it. Then I listened to the recording, making edits on a printed copy. Finally, I added these changes to my Word document. This process went smoothly and revising the chapter was the most focused work I have done far. I cut about eight pages which is great progress.

This coming week I plan to repeat the process on the second chapter I want to send. I will let you know how it goes next Friday. Have a great weekend.