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!

Sense and Sensibility

As some of you may know, in conjunction with the Jones Library, Amherst, I run the Jane Austen’s Regency World book club. We meet six to seven times a year starting each February. We have just finished the fourth year. Each year, we read one of Jane Austen’s novels, then we read books by other authors that relate to the Jane Austen work.

This year we read Sense and Sensibility. I decided to structure the other readings around the theme of sisters. The bond between Eleanor and Marianne in Sense and Sensibility is strong and complex. I wanted to look at other authors’ explorations of relationships between sisters. I have a sister and many participants in the club do as well.

For the final book of the year, we read Ladies of the House by Lauren Edmondson. It was not great. I have read several modern retellings of Jane Austen and most of them have not been great. Jane Austen’s novels are both timeless and dated. Her tremendous skill as an observer of human nature and her great writing make the books readable after over two hundred years. The setting of her books in the English countryside, Bath, and London, are specific to the time she was writing, in the late 18th and early 19th century. It is this aspect of Austin’s writing that is hard to update. Ladies of the House transplants the story to modern day scandal ridden Washington DC.

My favorite adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels are those that take an aspect of the book to tell a different story. Longbourn by Jo Baker looks at the servants in Pride and Prejudice. The Clergyman’s Wife: A Pride and Prejudice Novel by Molly Greeley looks at Charlotte Lucas’ marriage to Mr. Collins. Both are particularly good books with original, new interpretations of Pride and Prejudice.

For the seventh meaning of the book club, on January 19th, we will discuss the Emma Thompson version of Sense and Sensibility. It is one of my favorite movie adaptations of a Jane Austen novel. Although Thompson is  almost twice as old as Eleanor is in the book, the movie is a beautiful, heartfelt telling of the story. Next year, we are reading Emma and the other books all have matchmaking in the plot. We will also have a seventh meeting this coming year to discuss Clueless, another one of my favorite Jane Austen movie adaptations.

If you are interested in what we have read in the past, what we are reading this year, or you want to attend the meetings which are on Zoom, please message me.

Happy Holidays!

Happy New Year!

 

 

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.

Angela Lansbury

My original plan for today’s post was to update you about progress on my book. However, on Tuesday, Angela Lansbury died,so I have decided to say something about that today. Tomorrow, which will be the last day of my latest self-initiated NaNoWriMo, I will post about that process.

As my faithful readers will remember, from the end of 2021 to the beginning of 2022, I watched every episode of Murder She Wrote and read a book by Angela Lansbury. More recently, I read a book that had Jessica Fletcher as the heroine.

When Angela Lansbury died this Tuesday, the New York Times ran an obituary which included  a mini documentary about her life. It featured her speaking. Something she said was very meaningful. “I’m an actress not just a pretty face.”

She was a woman of character and immense talent, and I really admired her. You can read my post about Murder She Wrote here.

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.

My First Week of Progress

I have completed six days of my 28 day self-initiated NaNoWriMo. I have worked almost 12 hours or around 2 hours a day. Revising the manuscript is difficult. I have created a new organizational structure for the book which I am hoping will be the last structure I use.

I spent the last two days working on my book proposal, both because this is something I have to do and because it is a break from the tedious revising. Because I changed the structure, I had to change the table of contents in the proposal, and I still need to fix up some of the chapter blurbs. I will continue to work on the book proposal for the next couple of days.

I will post again next Friday when I will have, hopefully,  completed 13 days of this round of NaNoWriMo. Have a good week.

Recap NaNoWriMo Summer Camp

This is the second time I have done something connected with NaNoWriMo. This past November I did the official NaNoWriMo, using it to complete the first draft of my manuscript. I started updating again on the NaNoWriMo site in January but did not continue. This time, with summer camp, I was able to complete it. I posted every day, averaging over three hours of work. This was great production because I had set the low bar of 1 hour every day, and I well exceeded that.

I would highly recommend NaNoWriMo for anyone who is looking for a way to both motivate and structure their writing process. Even though most of the materials are oriented towards fiction writing anybody can take the process and make it their own.

I have given a lot of thought to how to maintain the accountability that NaNoWriMo Summer Camp offered. Although this was the third time that I posted every day for a month, that is not something I want to continue. Once a week for my blog posts is usually plenty.

I hope to continue to work on the manuscript every day going forward but I am first going to take a two-week break. After that, starting Aug. 14, I plan to continue to update my progress on the NaNoWriMo site, and tweet about my output every day, using the hash tag #accountabiltiy. On Sundays, I plan to have short posts about my work production for the previous week. So I do not burden myself with overly elevated expectations, I am making a commitment to work one hour every day, a total of 1,680 words in the four week period.

On Fridays, I will have regular weekly post about a variety of subjects. I will resume this on August 19th. My first Sunday blog about revision will be August 21st with a note about my first week of this self-initiated process. I hope to sustain these activities for four weeks, twenty-eight days, ending on Sept. 10 as far as NaNoWriMo updating is concerned and my final Sunday post on September 11.

This is just a plan, and we will see if I can stick to it. Hopefully all the structures I am trying to put in place will keep me focused and motivated.

Day 31 – Last Day of NaNoWriMo Summer Camp

Today is both the last day of July and the last day of NaNoWriMo Summer Camp. I worked almost 2 hours. A while ago, I had someone read the whole manuscript and they gave me both line level comments and big picture conceptual comments on every chapter.

The last few days I have been going through those comments for one of the chapters. It is a slow process, and I am worried that it will take a long time. Since Summer Camp is over, I will have to figure out how to continue to make progress on the revision of the manuscript.

Tomorrow I will post my reflections about how I feel NaNoWriMo summer camp went and tell you what my plans are for accountability and continued work on my book

 

NaNoWriMo Summer Camp Day 30

One more day to go. I worked for two and a half hours, revising the chapter on activist faculty wives. It is slow going but I do think I am improving the manuscript. Ironically, I am adding as much as I am cutting. That may be an exaggeration, but there are places that need amplification while other parts need shortening or elimination. My revision class teacher, Kate, said that revision is not just cutting, and she was right. Tomorrow, I will continue working on this chapter. I also plan to go swimming. Self-care is important.

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