Thoughts From the Editor

thumbnail_Trishabiopic3Today I’m interviewing Trisha Faye, the editor of the newly released anthology In Celebration of Sisters.

Me: How did you come up with the idea for In Celebration of Sisters?

Trisha: This newest anthology, In Celebration of Sisters, is a follow-up – or companion – anthology to In Celebration of Mothers: Reflections Celebrating Motherhood, which I published last year. Last year, my mother was turning 80 and I was searching for something different and unique for a special birthday present. She certainly didn’t need any more knick-knacks or blankets. I thought of writing a book, but was looking at a fairly short time frame and didn’t think I could write an entire book by myself. So I put out a call for submissions to other authors and produced an anthology. My mom loved having a book dedicated to her, with an early picture of her and me on the cover. A year later, I think she’s still floating on air. A book honoring sisters seemed to be the perfect second anthology.

Me: What was the biggest or most unexpected challenge you had when putting together the anthology?

Trisha: By far the biggest challenge is narrowing down the submissions! There were so many excellent stories and poems submitted, I wish I could have accepted far more than I did. Unfortunately, I had a set budget I had to stay within, which limited the number of tales I could purchase first rights for.

Me: Any ideas for future anthologies that you’re ready to share?

A third anthology is underway for release in March 2018. Mothers of Angels is a collection of stories and poems about the grief of losing children. Stories have already been submitted for that and we’re in the midst of the selection process. I thought that was going to be the last anthology…but then, yours truly (Lida, the blog host here) threw out an idea that got the wheels spinning again…

Me: I look forward to seeing what you come up with next! All the best for your future projects, Trisha.

Visit Trisha’s website at http://trishafaye.com

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It’s Here!!

Hi, everybody. I’m delighted to announce that In Celebration of Sisters, the anthology that includes my essay about my sister, Mary, is now available. If you have a sister you love, or know someone who does, it will make a unique gift. I got a real kick out of writing the essay, and I’m glad the editor, Trisha Faye, liked it as well. Next week, she’ll be visiting this blog for an interview. So, I’ve started the New Year with a bang. I also sent off my first submission of the year on Jan. 2. While I don’t necessarily believe the rest of the year will be as stellar, I’m happy with a job well-done so far. All the best to all of you as the new year unfolds.

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The Artist In All Of Us

martha grahamAt the end of the year, many people take stock. Artists do, too. For us, this self-assessment can take various forms. Did I create new work this year? Did I have any successes? Did I keep my vision for my work in sight? Are my skills better than they were a year ago? Do I have more confidence? Am I any good at all? In response to my own questions and to others, I can do no better than to quote Martha Graham.

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. … No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching . . .”

My own tally for the year looks like this: 3 poems and one essay accepted. 45 blog posts published. 32 submissions to a variety of publications. Attendance at one local author’s fair. Attendance at Bouchercon in Toronto. Those are the visible examples. There’s also a draft of a memoir, along with drafts of poems, essays and stories. A presentation in the works. With the new year only a few days away, I look forward to a continuation of the “blessed unrest” that keeps me marching.

 

 

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The Other Thing . . .

sphere binary. . . that I’m most grateful for, in addition to the writers groups that offer so much substantive help is: electronic submissions. I remember looong ago, at writer’s conferences, you always could tell a raw beginner when they would ask, “What’s an SASE?” Now that acronym is once again becoming mysterious. And thank goodness. During this time of year, when standing in line at the post office is an accepted, but wearying necessity, I remember the old days of trudging to the post office to mail manuscripts. I was constantly juggling multiple sizes of envelopes, getting them weighed for correct postage, taking extreme care that they were postmarked by the rigid deadline. Then worrying that they got delivered and that the usual rejection also didn’t go astray. And yes, there were cases where manuscripts got lost behind some editor’s radiator. If you wanted to submit to a foreign market, you had to buy IRCs in the correct amount for that country’s postage. (IRC=International Reply Coupon.)

It’s true that online submissions have their own headaches. Back in the day, we had pretty much one format for all submissions. Now, each market has it own unique requirements as to spacing, font, paragraphs, contact information, cover letters, bios, and whether to strip the file of identifying information.  But, as long as one is careful, these can be met. The other potential drawback is that if your internet connection goes down at the last minute, it can stop your submission in its tracks. But those issues are far outweighed, in my opinion, by the standard practice of getting an immediate acknowledgement that your piece has been received; that you can often check for updates on its progress through the editorial maze; and that, if you get turned down, you can send the manuscript to some other market without re-typing those old, crumpled pages. If an editor likes your piece, but wants a few changes, that, too, can be accomplished without a long back and forth through the mail.

Yeah, there are still a few markets that either require or accept paper submissions. These days it seems rather quaint. Even some of them are now answering via email, instead of return envelope. So, thanks to all the programmers and visionaries who’ve made it all possible. My writing life is better because of you.

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Talk About Grateful. . .


gratitude (2)I didn’t write a post about being grateful at Thanksgiving, but now’s the time. I had coffee a few days ago with a friend who has her own business in a different field from mine. She had mentioned she was planning taking a course in “social media” for her particular field. It sounded interesting, as we writers often have our websites, blogs, Twitter feeds, etc. But when I asked her about it, she said she had bailed out. She found out it cost $2000.00!!! Sheesh. So now I’m super grateful for all the groups I belong to, both online and IRL. These include Sisters In Crime, the Guppies sub-chapter of SinC, my local chapter SinCLA, and Short Mystery Fiction Society. Guppies and both the national SinC and my local chapter often offer wonderful classes for what I now realize is a super bargain price. While some are about craft, many deal with social media. Plus, I get newsletters which include how-to’s about social media platforms. On top of all that, the online forums, which are free for paid members, often have threads that provide knowledgeable and thorough tips for handling social media issues. (Not to mention that the memberships include a wealth of other benefits.) I can’t imagine any of us has $2000.00 to spend on instruction, no matter how excellent it may be. So, for all my groups, for all the volunteers that work so hard to keep them running, for all people who step up with articles, advice, support and help, THANKS.

 

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Work?

Mark TwainMark Twain has a wonderful quote in Tom Sawyer after the scene where Tom has seduced his friends into helping him whitewash the fence. “Work consists of whatever a body is OBLIGED to do, and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.” I’m not obliged to write. Yet, I refer to what I do as “work.” A fellow writer questioned this recently. Why did I always say “work” when I refer to my writing practice? She caught me a little off-guard. I had never thought to explain it, but I also thought the answer was obvious. We writers often have to fight for what we need: privacy, solitude, not being interrupted. That’s because most people don’t understand our process. Of course, this is often true for many people who work at home. People think you can drop everything to meet them, pick them up, do them a favor or just chat on the phone. I always hope that by referring to my writing time as “work”, as in “I can’t talk right now, I’m working,” that I’ll gradually train folks to respect it as much as I do. And, I’d say I’ve been fairly successful.

But referring to what I choose to do as “work” is also for my own benefit. I want to not only be a professional, but think of myself as a professional. I want to think of myself as a professional even during spells when I’m not managing to publish a single word. If I don’t think of myself as a professional, how can I expect anyone else to, and therefore treat me as one? I can never think of my writing as a hobby or pastime. Unfortunately, I don’t know of a word in English that is between the two–work vs. play. Calling? Please, what I do is not that exalted. Passion? Only occasionally. So, I’m stuck with work. Technically, I don’t “have to” and nobody gives me a weekly paycheck or assigns my tasks or sets my hours. The obligation is only to myself. But I feel that obligation no less.

 

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Third, Fourth, . . .

try again

I saw a new market call and thought I had the perfect essay in inventory. This short piece had been published in a small local market several years ago, which did not disqualify it for this new market. At that time, the editor had pronounced it “perfect.” The deadline for the new market was approaching, but since the piece was already written, I wasn’t concerned. It might need a bit of format or other tweaking, but otherwise it was ready to send. Or so I thought. BUT–when I finally pulled up the file and printed the essay, I could see how wrong I had been. The essay was too short, shorter than I remembered. It was also not written in a way that matched the new market. I would have to start all over again from scratch. This was a mental blow that it took me a couple of days to recover from, but on the third day, I sat down and re-wrote the material into an entirely new piece. I was pretty happy with it and sent it to my critique partner. Yikes. She pointed out several major flaws, so global that I realized I had gone completely wrong with tone and focus. So wrong that the entire piece would have to be started all over again, for the third time, in order to make it appropriate for the new market. Disheartening for sure. But lucky for me, the call deadline had been extended. (See The Moving Deadline for a related post.) I could, alternatively, drop this project altogether, deciding it’s not the type of work I’m best at. But I won’t do that without giving it one more try.

James Michener once said, “I’m not a great writer. But I am the world’s greatest re-writer.” Non-writers only see our best, finished work. They often have no idea what we go through to get there. Sometimes when starting a project, I also have no idea what it will take to finish successfully. I do know, however, that I won’t get there at all if I don’t try.

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Time Off? What’s That?

time offI’d like to report that I had a relaxing, peaceful escape from writing over the Thanksgiving holiday. I’d like to, but I can’t. I did have a wonderful day, visiting friends who just moved into a beach house a couple of hours away. I loved getting out of my own neighborhood, loved the tour of their new digs, loved Kathie’s tasty, healthy dinner, loved socializing with two friends I’ve had for decades. But part of me never stops working. Across the road from their house is a vast range of rugged sand dunes, sprinkled with vegetation. I noticed a couple of people, both men, walking (well, trudging, really) separately through the dunes. There were so many hidden gullies between the hillocks, and with so few people about, I thought “what a great place to murder someone.” The surf would cover any noise. It gets cold at the beach and there are plenty of times when any potential witnesses would be cuddled up inside beside their fireplaces. The setting was so picturesque. Now all I need is a motive and a couple of suspects. I’m already describing the characters in my mind. They would have to be fit and young. Those dunes looked pretty daunting. They’re hard to get to, so whoever is there either came in a vehicle or lives nearby. It’s too cold and remote for panhandlers or the homeless to be hanging about. So, the killer and the victim both . . . and on and on.

This scenario might never result in a story. But writers do this unceasingly. Observe, speculate, muse. On settings, people, atmosphere.  I never get tired of that, so I never need a day off. Just as well, cuz my mind never takes one.

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The Moving Deadline

deadline-e1510854304464.pngFor me, deadlines are essential. They keep me moving along on projects, keep me on track, establish a fixed end point. But, sometimes they jump around. Occasionally, a market will extend a deadline, for mysterious reasons. This can be a relief, but it can also cause me to slack off. Other times, a deadline gets advanced. Recently I had a November 15 deadline for an essay. This was not an assignment, but a response to a call for manuscripts, so if, for some reason, I didn’t get it in on time, no one would know but me. On the other hand, I found out about the call less that a week before the cutoff date. I had roughed out the first draft right away, but then, the next day, I got a idea for an upcoming story contest, and spent the morning crafting a first draft of that piece. Now there were only three days left to submit the essay. Suddenly, that night, I remembered that the power company would be shutting off the electricity for an entire day–the day before my essay deadline. Which meant if I didn’t get the essay off the day before that, which was the very next day, I’d be stuck with rushing it off Just under the wire. That’s a dangerous practice. All too often, when I’ve done that, I’ve discovered one more fact I need to research, or my Internet connection goes kerflooey  or some other crisis trips me up. So, my “new” deadline was now two days before the official one. I succeeded in finishing and submitting the essay on the 13th, and was happy with the result, whether the editor likes it or not. It was a reinforcement of good practices. Start early. Factor in other circumstances. Act quickly on new ideas, before they fade. Now to finish and submit my next project–deadline in two days.

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Are You a Hoarder?

pearl in oysterOkay, not a regular hoarder with empty tin cans and decades old newspapers. Think of it this way: do you have pretty underwear tucked away in a drawer, waiting for that perfect romantic date to wear it? Do you have a set of fancy, expensive china that you keep “for good?” That is, only when the most special of occasions warrants hauling it all out? Yet, somehow those occasions never arise, or else, they’re never quite special enough to justify the extra effort. Or is there anything else in your home that’s “too nice to use” and so, guess what, you never use it?

Well, I used to be that way with ideas. Like most writers, I have a pile of ideas jotted down in notebooks or scraps of paper. I would paw through them when I was ready for a new project, seeking something to write about. But there were some ideas that I always passed over–not because they were not good, but because they were too good. I had the irrational sense that they were too good for whatever small market I had in mind. I was saving them for the blockbuster novel or the world-changing essay I was going to write “some day.” Well, I stopped doing that. First of all, I had the equally irrational sense that ideas were limited. They are not. There’s always more coming into my head. Second, it’s not the idea that counts. It’s what we do with it. It’s how we shape it into a poem, essay or other material. Third, I’ve found that a new idea loses it’s appeal to me over time. So now, if I have a good one, I don’t “save it for good.” Rather I flesh it out right away, even if I don’t get it into finished form. And guess what? Using those ideas ends up generating even more ideas. This is not a new concept or one just discovered by me. Just as writing begets writing, bringing ideas to life begets more ideas. Good to know.

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